Monday, March 7, 2011

Lent for Little Ones

The season of Lent is upon us! Well, almost. For our Eastern Orthodox friends, Lent begins today, but for the Western church, it will begin with Ash Wednesday - this Wednesday!

As MCM and LCM get older, I am trying to incorporate the seasons of the church year into our home life as much as possible. My desire is that we would lead a seamless life - all permeated by the presence of Christ and the life of the church. I want to create as many opportunities as possible to imitate the life of Christ in our home, so that there is no separation between what we find and feel at church and what we find and feel at home - the domestic church. Lent is one of those seasons where we have the opportunity to make the Gospel come alive for our children, and I want to take full advantage of it!

That being said, this is our first year to really observe Lent as a family, so this is all new to me. I always love hearing what other families are doing in their home to teach their children, so I thought I'd share some links to the many wonderful ideas I'll be copying for my girls this season. :)

First, we're going to bury the Alleluia. MCM and I made a sign almost exactly like the one this link leads you to, and we hung it over the fireplace. Tomorrow (Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday) we'll "bury" it somewhere in the house and pull it out again on Easter morning.

Wednesday we'll go to the Ash Wednesday service at church. I've done my best to explain what this service means to MCM, but I'm sure she'll understand it better on Wednesday. I think this link has some wonderful ideas/crafts for how to teach kids about Ash Wednesday/Lent.

I also printed these Lenten calendars for kids, and we made a purple (the liturgical color of Lent, the color of kings, royalty) cross similar to this one:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-mMfLhBFmy00/TVw_pLG6AjI/AAAAAAAAEx4/qbo34-GTeTs/s1600/lenten+calendar+display.JPG

We'll use this to display our calendars and remind the littles what this season is all about.

I'm also going to make a Jesus Tree for the girls following the designs on this blog:

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I'm doing ours on blue poster board and making felt ornaments for the "tree". If you're not feeling crafty, this sweet mom has 40 daily scripture readings to do with your little ones that all focus on the life of Christ. Simply doing that would be wonderful!

We also have a little jar, which bears the label "Give", in which we'll be putting all of our change and extra money from not eating out (or buying/baking sweets, which she'll be fasting from), so that MCM can learn a bit about almsgiving. At the end of Lent she says she'd like to give her money to the church. She already emptied her piggy bank and filled the jar halfway. :)

I'll also be pulling these out during Holy Week:


I bought these simple, little eggs last year at Hobby Lobby. Each one contains an item pertaining to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The child opens each egg and you share with them the Gospel story. I didn't know if MCM would understand what I was telling her last year (she was only 2 1/2), but I couldn't believe how seeing and holding these symbols made the story come alive for her. Be careful with small children though, because this is definitely a choking hazard.

I have my work cut out for me in the craft department, but it is such a help that there are creative mothers out there posting ideas for the rest of us. May you all have a blessed and fruitful Lent!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

"We read to know we're not alone."

Ah, yes, the old quote from Clive Staples Lewis. If that is so, I must have felt quite alone in 2010. It should have been called "The Year of Shamlessly Not Reading". Honestly, I look next to my bedside table where all my books are stacked. (Only MCM has a bookshelf. I stack, and Leland throws his paperbacks under the bed. Hahaha. No, seriously.) Many lovely books, and maybe 2-3 read last year? I think having 2 children sapped me of the ability to concentrate on anything longer than a half hour reality show. I could literally feel my brain atrophy.


Thus, I have taken upon myself the devote this year to reading. The goal, as you can see on the side bar of this blog, is a book a week. I am a fast reader. I also have the gift of wasting time. I figure if my time wasting can be replaced by reading, a book a week will be nothing. So far, I've been meeting my goal. It's been so much fun. Nerd fun.


If you're on Goodreads, lets be friends. You can see what I'm reading, and eventually I'll review some books here as well. I'm focusing on fiction, because my tendency is to get started on non-fiction rabbit trails that eventually cause reader burn-out. However, I've already begun venturing off the fiction path into the world of biographies and, of course, theology. Here's to trying to stay the course. If you have anything to recommend, let me know!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lazy Chicken Noodle Soup

I'm calling this soup "lazy" because it doesn't involve making your own chicken broth. If you have a freezer full of the stuff, yay you! But, I'm not quite there yet. Still, this soup is delicious, and I've been making it about once a week since the temperature dropped below 50 degrees. Actually, we're having it for dinner tonight. Enjoy!


Lazy Chicken Noodle Soup


8 cups chicken broth
1cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 clove minced garlic
2-3 cups chopped, cooked chicken
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup uncooked broad egg noodles (I use a whole cup)
1 teaspoon snipped fresh basil or 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1-2 tablespoons snipped parsley


In a 6-quart Dutch oven or stockpot, combine chicken broth, onion, celery, carrots, and garlic. Bring to boiling, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. (Until vegetables are soft) Add chicken, tomatoes, noodles, basil, pepper, and thyme. Simmer about 8 minutes more or until noodles are tender. (May have to bring to boiling again) Garnish with parsley and serve with good, crunchy bread!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is Preschool Necessary?

I googled that just the other day.


Do you know how many parents are asking that very question? Apparently LOTS. There are an assortment of answers to be found too. From, "Kids who go to preschool are 10 times smarter than their peers." To, "What is the point of being a stay-at-home Mom if you're just going to farm your kids' early education out to paid teachers?" My favorite was someone who said, "Everyone knows that the more time children are surrounded by other children, the smarter they will be." That just struck me funny, because, really? Are 3-year-0lds teaching each other their ABC's?


MCM started preschool in the fall. We're blessed to be able to send her to a precious Christian school. The teachers are loving, patient and clearly enjoy teaching little ones. The environment is fun, non-threatening, and positive. However, from the moment we got the call that they had a spot open for her, I've had major hesitations about whether or not I want to send her off 3 mornings a week. (The issue of waiting lists and the difficulty of finding a good preschool is for another post, I guess!) The time we have with our children is limited. If we send them to school at age 5, that's only 4 full years of time at home with Mom. It pains me to offer up any of this time, even when I know the exchange is a positive one in many ways.


Despite my hesitations, we started MCM to school. It was very exciting for her at first, although she had trouble understanding that it wasn't just a one-time thing. "Nope, you get to go every MWF all year long!" She never cried or had a hard time being dropped off. But, for a few weeks, every time I picked her up, she would come up to me, cross her little arms and put on her best pouting face. When I got her into the car, she wouldn't want to talk about anything they'd done at school. She didn't want to talk at all. She just wanted to zone out from exhaustion. We'd get home, have a snack, a nap, and even afterward, she'd be tired still. I couldn't figure out if she was having a hard time or if she was just worn out. I mentioned it to her teachers, and they couldn't believe she'd been acting strange at all, because she was perfectly happy at school. After a while, this seemed to clear up a bit. So, I powered on. For the most part, I'd say it's been a really good experience for her. Still, I struggle with it.


Last week we had parent teacher conferences at school. MCM's teachers had nothing but sweet things to say about MCM. It encouraged us to hear that she is kind, respectful, sweet and obedient. I shared some of my concerns with her teachers, the main one being that I know MCM is doing okay in school, but I often wonder if I'm not getting the best of her at home. At home she's tired, just wants to "snuggleonthecouchwithwarmmilkandsnuggieandablanketandamovie". (That's one word for her.) When the time comes for me to try to teach her or do something constructive, she's not so interested. She's done with structure and wants to play or relax. What I found interesting is that her teachers didn't argue with me in any way. They didn't make a case for the wonders of preschool. They just said it's a decision every parent has to make. Well, boo. I would've almost preferred thy chastise me for even thinking of trying to keep her home!


We all want our children to get the very best start educationally, socially, spiritually. We want them to learn, make friends, and most importantly, know how deeply God loves them. For some of us, this comes very naturally within the home. I see this especially with friends who are teachers by vocation. They have a well of creativity and usually a well-stocked craft drawer or room to help them. They are the ones who teach as they play, have a structured home environment and usually a structured routine for older ones that incorporates "school time" into the average day. (Come to think of it, maybe I've only read about these Moms on blogs.)


For some of us (myself included), this does not come as naturally. However, my desire teach and inspire my children is usually large enough to overpower my general lack of creativity, and I'm really excellent at copying someone's creative ideas. I'm learning, but I see with MCM she's not as willing to learn from me as she is from someone else. I see that school has helped her take pride in her growing capability and independence. I see that she loves her friends and teachers. Sure, if you ask her, she'll say she'd rather stay home with Mommy and Lucy. But, in the next breath she might say she misses her friends at school. It's just that time of her life - and mine - where a little independence is good...but it's also scary. Neither of us are ready to let go of each other for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. But, for now...this is okay.

Not sure why I'm delving into all this. I would like to post about some of the little things we're doing at home to learn spiritually and educationally. It's nothing impressive, but it's a start for Moms who, like me, are learning as you go.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Christmas 2010

Happy Sisters on Christmas morning!

White Christmas in Alabama - a first? Me: SoVeryTired. MCM: InKidHeaven. This is just before we explored all hills and empty lots in the back of the neighborhood. COLD!! We froze our fannies off!

Showing us her sock gloves. That's right, we didn't own gloves until last week. Oops!

Thawing out after our outdoor adventure.

Sweet family on Christmas Eve. Girls in their Christmas pj's.

Now that it's taken me and hour to upload the pictures I wanted, and they're STILL not in the order I wanted, I have run out of patience for Blogger. Does anyone else think loading pictures on here is a complete pain? Christmas was great. I'm glad it's over. The end.
One tidbit: I baked a lot of cookies this year. Partly because I LOVE sweets. Partly because MCM is a wonderful kitchen helper. She loves to force me to wear an apron every time I cook, and she puts on her apron and one on Lucy, and we go to town. Also, the reward of licking spoons or beaters covered in sugar, butter, and chocolate is apparently quite motivating. This year our FAVORITE cookies were these chocolate cream-filled cookies from Paula Deen's Christmas cookbook - they are in a word: incredible. Think homemade Oreos that are big, soft, chewy, and delicious. At our house they've been dubbed "Santa Cookies" as they were the ones we left out for Santa on Christmas Eve. They will be a tradition. Here's the recipe:


Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Two 18.5-ounce packages of devil's food cake mix
4 Eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup vegetable oil
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, sofened
3 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, and oil. Beat with an electric mixer and low speed until completely combined. The batter will be very stiff. Pinch off pieces of batter and roll into 1-inch balls. (This is the part that kids like! Eat a little, roll a little y'know!) Place 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets and flatten slightly with fingertips. Bake 8-10 minutes, until a slight indentation remains when lightly touched. Remove immediately from the cookie sheets with a spatula and cool on wire racks.
3. In a small glass mixing bowl, combine the cream chees and butter until completely blended. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla and mix at low speed until the icing is smooth. Spread icing on half the cookies and top with the remaining cookies. Store in the refrigerator in large resealable plastic bags.


**This makes about 4 dozen, so half it if you're not trying to make enough to give away!






Christmas Weddings

At the wedding rehearsal. MCM tired but trying to hang in there.

Sweet family. MCM hoping pictures will end soon.

Happy couple!

At Caitlin's beautiful wedding. Pictured here: a groomsman, a bridesmaid, and two precious flower girls!


Even though it's mid-January, I'll regale you with a few tales of Christmas past. This one is about a whirlwind of a wedding - My dear sister-in-law Caitlin's to be exact. It was the week before Christmas - beautiful, festive and fun.


I'll start with pre-wedding sickies:


It started with both girls getting a cold. You know the drill - runny nose like a faucet, low-grade fever, general unhappiness. This lasted for five solid days. Then, MCM showed signs of serious sickness - high fever, lethargy, sore throat, etc. When MCM gets seriously ill she gets this wild look in her eye - hard to describe - but I can recognize it, usually before the sickness sets in. I just see it stirring deep within her! Anywho, turned out it was the flu. The next day Leland came home from work. He had it too. Then it struck me. I kid you not, it came in the night in the form of aches, sudden heat and then chills. I could've sworn death was upon me. I was picturing myself being rolled away on a gurney with my children crying at my side...but it was just the flu. Then Lucy showed all the symptoms. She tested negative twice. Still, she didn't get better, and honestly, neither did MCM. We missed the last week or two of pre-school, and somewhere in there visited the pediatrician about 5 times. The last time (the day we were to leave for Cait's wedding) we found that Lucy had severe ear infections in both ears. Dern those stinkin' ear infections. As if your child having evil fever viruses isn't enough, they usually get capped off by a lingering ear infection. When are they going to start selling self-diagnosis sets over the counter for Moms?


Back to the subject at hand: we went to the weekend of wedding festivities, which was a lot of fun. The girls loved being at Ellie's house and seeing Caitlin's gorgeous wedding dress (Gorgeous ivory lace, cap sleeves, sweetheart neck, fitted with a soft bell at the bottom, keyhole back and a short train. Perfect for Caitlin!) and flowers (which she arranged herself - I wish I had pictures! White, full hydrangeas with white roses, euycalyptus and some sort of berries that which added the perfect bit of color.). Lucy was still pretty crummy, so she missed the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. MCM felt quite grown up being a part of things all by herself. On the wedding day, both girls handled pictures and waiting around like champs. Well, Lucy was a bit on the fussy side. We practically had to wrestle her to the ground to dress her. By the time we were lining up to walk down the aisle, she was in the hallway crying - so ready for a nap. I was sent down the aisle, and the girls weren't too far behind. At the final moment, Lucy rallied! She held MCM's hand and smiled so proudly. A sweet memory! Caitlin was an absolutely stunning bride, and everything was beautiful.

**Random side note:

While we were getting ready at the church, Leland crushed his hand in a folding chair. It was cut deeply and began bleeding profusely. Not only did it hurt like the dickens, but Leland hates the sight of blood and turned white as a sheet! Thankfully, he had the help of his sweet Aunt Emily, who wrapped his finger up tightly in hopes that he could make it through the wedding before having to figure out how badly his finger was cut. At the reception, a friend who is a doctor told him he needed to visit the emergency room right away. So, that's where we went after the wedding! Many thanks to the Vanderbuilt University ER doctors who honestly were the fastest we've ever seen. No stitches, just a bad crush and a good story!















Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Revival.

My how she's grown!



We're all still alive and kickin'!


Typical interaction between two very silly girls.



Minnie Mouse! (And the pumpkin who hung around almost until Thanksgiving. Ew.)

Cinderella! SO excited to be trick-or-treating!

Sweet MCM. Notice the bruise on her forehead. MASSIVE bruise from a head butt earlier in the week.

Well, it seems I've taken quite a hiatus from the blog world. Life. It gets busy. Sometimes there simply isn't time to process everything that is happening (good and bad) - not on a blog, not in real life. I just needed to take a good, long break. I think I'm ready to return. However, I make no promises, no vows. I just kinda want to share some stuff...life...the littles...what's happening.
So, above you see my two girls. Precious blessings. MCM is 3 1/2. LCM is 18 months, almost 19. The time has FLOWN, although at times it has not been easy. I am currently reaping the rewards of having 2 children close together in age. They are best buds. I mean, they truly love each other, and it is precious to watch. They are quite different.
MCM is high-energy, active, super talkative and interactive (as in, "play WIT me, mommy!!"). She's occasionally a bit obsessive-comlpulsive, loves routines, loves people, hates change, and is a go-getter. She's also very sensitive, caring, helpful, and often acts like a little adult. I know it sounds strange, but I would actually describe her as responsible. I know 99% of the time I can count on her to do what I ask in regards to helping, taking care of LCM, etc. She's pretty great. She is still a very particular kind of eater, still precarious when it comes to sleep, and loves to go, go, go.
LCM is chilled out, go-with-the-flow, highly independent, loves people, a goof-ball with a great sense of humor - especially for a baby. She's always trying to make us laugh and is quick to get hysterical over things. (For example, during nap time today, she stuck her hand down her dirty diaper, pulled out some poop and threw it on the floor...she thought it was quite hysterical when I saw it and shared with her that she smelled like poopie. Oh, Lulu...) She can entertain herself for long periods of time - to the point that I have to go to her and say, "Lulu, don't you want Mommy to play with you??" She just loves tinkering with things, figuring out how they work and exploring on her own. She is very emotional, sensitive, and sweet, just like big sis.
Honestly, I feel so blessed by these girls. MCM told me the other day (very emphatically) that she doesn't want to grow up. She doesn't want to go out and be alone in the world. I told her she would never be alone, because Jesus is with her. And, she can always come home to Mommy and Daddy anytime she wants. I just hope growing up doesn't happen any time soon.













Thursday, February 18, 2010

A few pictures...






I uploaded these pictures a week ago, and it's taken me a full week to type a few words and hit "publish post". That's one of many examples of my severe lack of motivation right now. There are soooo many things I want to do, but lately I just don't have the will. It's a daily battle.

Anyhow, here are some pictures of our little snowbirds. We had a fabulous snow for the city of Birmingham almost two weeks ago. Daddy got to stay home from work, and we had a nice few days holed up at the homestead together. The following weekend temperatures reached almost 70 degrees. Go figure. It's one of the small pleasures of southern living. It might be frigid today, but there's always the hope that things could be looking up dramatically tomorrow. Let's hope so, since it was 18 degrees here this morning!


Monday, February 1, 2010

Lucy Laughing



Lucy and I visited with Aunt KK this morning, and Lucy thought KK's dog, Ginger, was pretty hilarious. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We made it.

1...2...3...JUMP!

Into a big bunch of pillows.


Things are looking up around here. The girls are better, and now we're just trying to get back to a sense of normalcy. MCM has been wearing these pj's a lot...as in, we've been having A LOT of pj days. Getting this child out of pj's is tough lately. She wants to be comfy, and I totally get that. These are her favorite - dogs in Santa hats all over them. They're actually from the boys department at Target. The girls version had kittens, and she's really more of a dog lover, you know.

The Beeb is working a lot. We are SO glad for the weekends when he's home. I'm trying to get motivated to do anything around my house besides cook meals, clean up, and prepare for the next meal. Sometimes all I can do is control the mess - keep it from growing too overwhelming rather than actually cleaning the place from top to bottom. Do you ever get that way? Lucy is waking up every three hours at night (teething? ear infection? who knows.), beginning to feed herself finger foods and LOVING IT and enjoying baths in the big tub with her sister.



So, January, we've almost conquered you. Here's to February...one of my favorite months...when we are looking forward to finding out the gender of KK's baby, having visits from dear friends, the season premiere of LOST, Valentine's day, and last but not least, Step-Sing!