Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Christmas Tea Party

 Leah, all dressed and ready for her guests to arrive

As part of my older girls' home economics class, they are required to plan, prepare, and host (and clean up after!) a variety of events throughout the year.  Yesterday they hosted a Christmas themed tea party for Leah and eight of her homeschooled friends.  Olivia and Julie spent several days planning the menu, creating a grocery list, planning the decorations, creating the invitations and place cards, preparing all of the food, and setting the table.

They did a fabulous job!  

The menu was:
chocolate covered pretzels
cheese rounds 
star shaped sugar cookies
fresh pineapple and strawberries
sausage and cheese mini muffins
hot chocolate
pineapple/banana punch

 the table setting

 the delicious food

 the beautiful pretzels

The invitations asked each little girl to wear holiday attire and bring their favorite doll.

 the guests with their dolls

 the dolls sitting patiently while the girls enjoyed their tea party

 the girls waiting to be served by Olivia and Julie


Olivia and Julie fixed each girl a plate and served them either hot chocolate or punch.  They promptly served refills and seconds as the little girls enjoyed their tea party.  The table was so quiet!  I think the girls were trying to have good manners.  They were precious!

After eating, the girls all gathered their dolls and went off to play.  We then let all of the little and big brothers of the guests come into the kitchen to fix a plate of food.  They devoured what was left!  The boys spent their time playing legos and blocks in our schoolroom and playing outside in the freezing cold.

It was a super party!  My girls are wonderful hostesses, and they did an excellent job of cleaning up after the guests had all gone home.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

5 Days of Christmas Gifts Kids Can Make

Today I shared my post about the Domino Christmas Ornaments at The Homeschool Classroom.  The children and I made these cute and easy ornaments last year.  The Homeschool Classroom is featuring gifts that your children can make all this week.  Be sure to check out their site each day for fun ideas.

Olivia and Julie are hosting a Christmas Tea Party this afternoon for Leah and her friends.  This tea party is part of their Home Ec curriculum.  They have planned and prepared the entire party.  I will post pictures and details hopefully tomorrow!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Our Thanksgiving

Last Tuesday, the children and I traveled three hours south to my parents' house.  We spent Wednesday doing some schoolwork and then cooking, cooking, cooking!  Thursday we were joined by Jimmy, both of my grandmothers, and both of my brothers and their families.  It was a day of food and fun.  The weather was perfect for the children to play outside, and some of us even enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner outside on my parents nice porch.

 The boy cousins playing football.

 My grandmother, Momo, and my brother, Ryan.  Just after this picture was taken, Momo through the football a couple of times!  She is 88.

The entire family

 Leah, playing on the bridge over the fish pond.  No one fell in the pond this year!

 Sam, Bounds, and Wesley---all five years old!

 Sam and Wesley

 My youngest brother, Rhett

 The boys playing some more

 Davis, coming through the doggy door.  This is the preferred way to go in and out of  my parents' house by all of the young children.

 Olivia, holding our newest cousin, Johnson

 My daddy with his beloved dog, Holly

All of the grandchildren

Pops and Johnson

Late Thanksgiving day afternoon, everyone packed up and left my parents' house.  Some of us went back to our own homes, and one my brothers and his family went to enjoy another Thanksgiving meal that very same day!

My family traveled north Friday morning to celebrate Thanksgiving with Jimmy's family.  We were joined by Jimmy's brother and sister and their families.  We had another delicious meal followed by football watching and game playing.  It was a nice, relaxing and fun visit.

 Pop and Jimmy's brother, Russ

 Me, Julie, Jenny and Megan playing Rummikub.  We played two or three rounds, and had lots of fun!

The intense game!
Russ came in to watch the fun.

Our Thanksgiving week and weekend was really a lot of fun.  It is nice to visit with extended family and catch up.

Jimmy is off work today too, so we won't get back to work until tomorrow.  I plan to have school for 6 more days over the next 2 weeks, and then we will take off 3 weeks for Christmas break.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Trimming the Tree

We finally have internet again!  I hope to catch up on reading blogs and blogging about our Thanksgiving celebrations over the next few days.  We'll see!

We decorated our tree over a week ago, but here are a few pictures from that afternoon.  

 Leah, dressed in green and red with festive ribbons in her hair for the occasion!

 Clay hanging some of the first ornaments.  

 Julie made this paper plate angel tree topper when she was four!

  A close-up shot of how packed our tree is with special ornaments.  I still buy each child one or two ornaments each year--sometimes the ornament reflects a special interest the child has, and sometimes I just get something that reflects their personality.  Some years I just buy what I think is pretty and that they will like!  We also buy an ornament from our vacation spots--when I remember to do it!

The Finished Product!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'm Still Here!

We have been without internet for several days now, so that's why I have not been blogging!  I can still access the internet via my iPhone, but I can hardly read the screen (I need to keep my reading glasses handy), and there is no way I would blog on that tiny keyboard (if you can indeed blog on a mobile device).  Anyway, I have been busy, busy, busy the last week!

You can tell by looking at this picture of my sweet children, that we have put up our Christmas tree!  And yes, it is a LIVE tree!  Olivia and I bought it last Saturday, Julie and Clay prepared the house for the tree (moved furniture around and brought down all of the ornaments), and Julie and Clay hauled the 10 foot tree inside the house....around to the back of the house, over the fence, and through the double doors.  Sadly, Jimmy was on call, so he did not get to help!  Hanging on the window is one of the grapevine wreaths that Clay made for me using the vines from our woods.  I have six of these beautiful wreaths hanging on my doors and windows.  We did the rest of the Christmas decorating before we even put up the tree....last Tuesday, in fact!

That is not our Christmas card picture, I just took a quick picture of the children last Sunday morning before we left for our church service.

I finished my 44 miles of marathon training last week, and now I am in the middle of a 35 mile week.  My last long run before the marathon is 15 miles this Saturday.  The marathon is December 3!!!  I cannot believe that I have (almost) survived marathon training, again.  And it will be a long time, if ever, that I train for another one!

I hope to catch up on my blogging over the next few days....Holiday Hints, pictures of our Christmas decorations, Thanksgiving fun, and more!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Holiday Hint #5

My holiday hint for today is featured at The Homeschool Classroom.  It has to do with counting the days to Christmas, beginning December 1.  You can click here to read this post.

My Christmas cards arrived yesterday!  Hooray!  Today, I plan to buy the pretty Christmas stamps when I go to the post office to mail a couple of packages.  I hope my little post office has the stamps!  Last time I checked, they had not gotten them in yet.  I do know that you can order stamps online, so if the post office does not have them when I am there today, I will be ordering them online.

Also today I am planning to take down my fall decorations.  Gasp!  Yes, as Kelly would say, "I am robbing the Pilgrims"!  It's really ok to me!  I have had the fall decor up since around Labor Day, and we are ready to look at some red and green!  Over the last few days I have replaced our wallflowers with various evergreen and holiday scents, so the house already smells like Christmas!  We celebrate Thanksgiving at both my parents' house and Jimmy's parents' house, so it's not like we will be eating turkey and dressing while looking at the Christmas tree!

Last year Clay made me some really pretty grapevine wreaths, using the vines from our woods.  I am planning to replace my regular greenery wreaths with his handmade wreaths across the front of our house this year.  I bought some balls and ribbon to put on them.  I am not craftsy, so I hope I can make them look right!

Don't forget to visit The Homeschool Classroom to read my hint for today.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Parable of the Sower

In Mark chapter 4, you can read the parable of the sower.  After Jesus tells this parable, he explains it to His disciples.  Recently when I read this, verses 18 and 19 stood out to me.  I would like to think that my attitude of God's Word, my obedience to it, and its working in my life is like the good soil, but more often than not, I must admit that I succumb to the thorns.

18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

These are some of the notes I made as I pondered this passage.

Things that can choke out the Word of God in my life
The cares of the world--running our household,
homeschooling, training for a marathon, cooking, cleaning, running errands, Christmas shopping. All those things that take up so much of my time.

The deceitfulness of riches--thinking that things will make me happy. I don't think I struggle with this as much, but all of my needs and wants are more than provided for. What would my attitude be if I lived in poverty in a foreign county? What if Jimmy lost his job and we had to seriously downsize?  I need to be a good steward of God's physical blessings in my life, and make sure that my happiness is not tied up in things, the pursuit of them, the maintaining of them.

The desire for other things--other things could be praise,
worldly recognition. An other thing could be anything that is distracting my service to God. Even the desire for appreciation and praise from family members. Validation for my hard work. I should be content to serve God quietly with my life, without any affirmation from man. Just do the right things because they are right. Not to seek a reward.

All of these things can choke the Word. Take my time away from reading and studying my Bible, praying. God's Word will prove unfruitful in my life if I don't make it my top priority to read it, study it, apply it, live it. If I am going to live a life in faithful service to the Lord, then that must be at the forefront of my mind. It should affect every decision and choice I make. My attitude towards my daily life and my interactions with my family and others will be influenced by my conscious attention to serving God. Living a life that is pleasing to Him.

I must be aware of the thorns of this life. Even if they don't look like thorns, they can very quickly choke out God's Word and it's fruitfulness in my life if I am not vigilant. I am going to purpose to watch out for those thorns, and diligently work on being good soil.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Last Long Run Before the Marathon

Yesterday I ran my last long, long run before the St. Jude Marathon, which is three weeks from yesterday.  The tapering begins today!  I was joined by Jimmy, Lynn, Kelly, Esther, Heather, and Dorothy.  We had such a fun day!  Yes!  Running long distances can be fun!

We combined a local half-marathon race with our 9 miles to get a total of 22 for our longest long run before the marathon.  We met 2 hours before the half-marathon start time yesterday morning, and ran around East Tupelo for 8.9 miles.  Lynn and I stayed together the entire time, and we finished our 8.9 just as a lady was singing the National Anthem.  She finished, the gun fired, and we were off!  Nothing like beginning a half-marathon already hot and sweaty!

Lynn and I were pleasantly surprised by our 8.9 mile run pace (we stopped at 8.9 because the half-marathon distance is 13.1, and we only wanted to run 22 miles, not a step more!).  Our average pace was 9:46, which is pretty speedy for us for a long run.  I think we were motivated for two reasons.  1.  We were running with our fast friends.  2.  We were trying to get all 8.9 miles in before the race began.

By mile 5 or 6 of the half-marathon (which was mile 14 or 15 of our total run), I was wiped out.  Really tired.  Running at the pace we had earlier had taken its toll on me.  But we kept on!  I choked down two mint chocolate gus during the race, and I think the second one at mile 10 perked me up.  Jimmy and Heather (who finished the half-marathon around 1 hour, 40 minutes) ran back to help Lynn and me finish.  It is ALWAYS encouraging for me when Jimmy runs the last couple of miles with me in a long race.  They talked and pulled us along.  Heather entertained us with her recap of throwing up three times in the last half mile of the race.  Three times!  Yes, she ran that hard!

We finished in a respectable time of 2 hours, 11 minutes.  That's a 9:59 pace.  When we added that to our 8.9 previous miles, our overall average pace for 22 miles was 9:51.  We were so happy!  I am not sure if we can repeat that pace or keep it up for 26.2 miles, but we are definitely encouraged that we can meet our goal of under 5 hours at St. Jude.  We just want our time to have a 4 in the hours place.

Olivia, Julie, Clay, and their friend Martha also ran the half-marathon.  They are all training for the St. Jude Half, and they ran one mile before the race for a total of 14 miles for their training run.  This was Clay's 1st half-marathon, and his first time to run this far.  He finished in 1 hour, 53 minutes!  That was 4th in his age group of 19 and under.  Martha and Julie finished in 1 hour 55 minutes, and Olivia in 1 hour 56 minutes (a PR for Olivia--her 6th half-marathon!).  Martha, Julie, and Olivia won 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the 19 and under age group.  Go girls!  These children have been doing their long runs together, and they plan on running the St. Jude race together as well.

The rest of the day was exhausting.  We hobbled around and enjoyed the post-race, BBQ, and a massage.  We also met an online friend from Daily Mile (kind of like a facebook for exercisers).  It was fun to actually meet Greg H. in real life.  He is training for the St. Jude marathon too.  After hanging around a while I rushed home to take Leah and Sam to a birthday party.  Home again for 30 minutes, and then our entire family left again to attend our family Bible study at 6:00.  When I got home last night, I put the children to bed and was in bed myself at 9:00.  That may be a record for me---getting in bed that early!  I slept soundly, and I think I can walk today!

My next two weeks of marathon training are:

  • 44 total miles with a long run of 17, medium of 10, and 17 other miles
  • 35 total miles with a long run of 15, medium of 7, and 13 other miles
  • Then marathon week!  Monday-4 miles, Tuesday-3 miles, Saturday-26.2 miles!
When I complete this marathon, I am taking a break!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Love Reading to My Kids!

I do.

I know that when I am old and am looking back at the times when all five of my children still lived here at home, one of my favorite memories is going to be of me sitting in the rocking chair or on the couch with all five of them in the room listening to me read.  The girls are usually knitting or crocheting, the boys are sometimes sitting quietly wrapped up in a afghan, or mostly building with tinker toys or legos, or rolling around on the floor.  Sam likes to stand on his head on the couch.  And even our little crippled dog Joy likes to hear me read. She will bark until we put her up on the couch (she can't jump up there by herself).  Today Sam interrupted my reading to say, "Joy likes school".

Today I was reading from Carry On Mr. Bowditch, which is a book for Clay's school.  As always, when we are reading a a really good book like this one, one by one all of the children wander into the den.  They all want to listen.  And today, I just looked around and took it all in.

Making precious memories.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Confessions of a Homeschool Mom

I have a friend who has a shirt that says:

Super Wife
Super Mom
Super Tired!

That about sums it up, doesn't it?  I have a post today at The Homeschool Classroom.  In this article, I have listed a few confessions.  Some things that are very good ideas for homeschooling moms, but things that I sometimes (well a lot of the times) fail to do.  It's nothing really serious, in fact I wrote this post to serve as encouragement to other homeschooling moms.  Homeschooling is hard work.  Add to that homemaking (and all that job entails), and you can find your self slipping behind what the super women do.  

Please click here to read the post.

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;" NKJ

Saturday, November 5, 2011

National Homeschool Cross Country Championships

Two weeks ago, we traveled about 400 miles (I think it was that far....about 7 hours) to Springfield, Missouri for the National Homeschool Cross Country Championships.  This was the first time for the Spartans to participate in this event.  We all met at 9:00 AM to begin the 16 vehicle caravan.  Jimmy had worked all night, and he still drove the entire way!  I just talked a lot to keep him awake!

In the parking lot waiting to leave
 We stopped twice on the way.  Once for a restroom break and once for lunch.  We ate at a pizza buffet place.  The food was good, and the restaurant was large enough to comfortably hold all 70 (or so) of us.

Standing in line for lunch

It was cold waiting outside for lunch!

Clay, enjoying his lunch

Julie eating lunch with friends

Olivia and friends at lunch
We went straight to the cross country course when we arrived in Springfield.  We all got to stretch our legs, and the runners walked and jogged the course.

Julie and Olivia

Checking out the course

The race was held at Lake Springfield Park

There they go!  Isn't this a pretty course.  That four wheeler is carrying the camera crew.

Jimmy and Sam, playing around after the run-through.
 After the runners were done, we all went to the local mall for supper at the food court.  The kids enjoyed this time together with their friends so much!

A girls' table at the mall
 Our final stop for the night was the hotel.  Finally!  We were all so tired, and the runners had to get up bright and early the next morning for the big race!  There was a little bit of confusion over our room reservations, so everyone hung out in the lobby while the grown-ups were working things out.  Everyone ended up with somewhere to sleep!

Green shirts everywhere!
 The morning of the race was beautiful!  We all ate breakfast at the hotel, and then traveled back to Lake Springfield Park.  The runners were all nervous, and I think the parents were too!  There were some fast runners at this race!



 Olivia and Julie ran in the Varsity Girls race, which was a 5K.  The team finished 3rd.  Clay ran in the Jr. High Boys race, which was a 1.6 mile race.  He finished 3rd overall, and their team finished 2nd.  This was a competitive event!

The American Family Association filmed the cross country races as well as the other events that were held that weekend.  I think the other sports were volleyball and maybe basketball.  They were all homeschool national championship games.

The camera crew....Mr. Don, holding the microphone, is the husband of one of our coaches--Coach Sheri.

After the races, the Spartans all traveled home, but this time not in a caravan.  Our family went to the Bass Pro Shop, had lunch in Springfield, and then drove all the way home.  We enjoyed listening to the Lamplighter dramatic audios (books on cd) as we drove all those miles back home.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Holiday Hint #4

Photo Credit:  Microsoft Office Free Clipart
Time to begin thinking about holiday baking!  With Thanksgiving just around the corner and Christmas soon to follow, it's time to dust off your holiday recipes.  I like to make a list of what I am cooking for both of our Thanksgiving celebrations, refreshments for various Christmas parties I am hosting, baked goods that will be gifts, and my menus and contributions for the Simmons Christmas dinner, the Johnson Christmas dinner, and our Christmas Eve and Day meals.

Then I make my list of ingredients.

This time of year the grocery stores begin placing holiday type foods on sale.  This is the time to stock up on brown and powdered sugar, chocolate bark, chex cereal, nuts, and the many other items you will need for your holiday baking.  If you go ahead and make your list, you can buy the quantities of each item you need as your local grocery store puts it on sale.

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thanksgiving Books

Now that November has begun, I pulled out our Thanksgiving-themed books.  I plan to read them at bedtime to Leah and Sam (and Olivia, Julie, and Clay too if they want to listen!).  I have three or four longer Pilgrim type books, but for this year I am only going to read the shorter ones.  Here are the books that I have:

  • Who's That Stepping on Plymouth Rock? by Jean Fritz
  • If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern
  • Thanksgiving Gail Gibbons
  • The Pilgrims of Plimoth by Marcia Sewall
  • The Pilgrims' First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern
  • Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness
  • The Pilgrims at Plymouth by Lucille Recht Penner
  • N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims by Robert San Souci
  • Plimoth Plantation a Pictoral Guide, text by James W. Baker
Some of these are short enough to read in one night, and others will take a couple of nights or more.  These books will certainly get us in the spirit of Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Good Tuesday

Yesterday day and today both have been good days.  Days where all the chores were completed.  The mounds of laundry are caught up--folded and put away.  Schoolwork was finished and checked by me.  Supper prepared.  I like these kinds of days.

I know one reason why things have flowed so smoothly....we have stayed at home.  Normally on Mondays we leave the house at 1:30 ish for piano lessons and cross country practice (I run errands while the older three are at piano), and don't get home until 5:30.  Normally on Tuesdays, we leave the house at 3:15 for cross country practice, and we don't get home until 6:00 or later.  Yesterday our piano lesson was cancelled, and cross country season is over, so we won't have running practice again until probably March.  I really, really enjoyed being at home all day.  I got so much accomplished.  Actually, I had to take Leah to and from her art lesson today, but she was the only one I had to get out, and art is just a few minutes from our house.  I was able to come home for an hour and a half during her lesson.

I really like being at home all day!  I know I have already said that, but I do!

However, being home all day every day is not realistic.  I know that too.  So, I need to purpose to keep a good attitude on the days when we have to leave the house.  Our outside activities are beneficial, and I don't feel like we participate in too many things.  I do plan to take advantage of not having cross country practice three days a week for a few months.  The girls and I are going to do more home ec classes, and I will have time to prepare for the holidays.

Speaking of holidays...I tried to buy Christmas stamps at the post office today (Leah and I stopped by there today on our way home from art to mail something), but they did not have them yet.  The postal worker said that she had seen a picture of them, and that they are cute!  Lime green and other brightly colored ornaments.  I will see if they have them next week when I am out running errands.

I don't have anywhere to go the rest of the week during the school day, and I am very happy about that!