Friday, November 27, 2009

Preparing for Advent

Last year we started a new family tradition for Advent. We count down the days to Christmas by unwrapping one of our Christmas books and reading it before bedtime. We also do a small activity that is related to the book. This year's line up is as follows:   
  1. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey -- Put up our Nativity
  2. An Ellis Island Christmas -- Bring one favorite stuffed animal/doll to story time
  3. Christmas Tapestry -- Look at and do some repairs to my childhood quilt with kids
  4. Grandfather's Christmas Camp -- Have hot chocolate with crackers
  5. The Crippled Lamb -- Talk about what makes each of us special and unique
  6. Christmas in the Trenches -- Listen to songs by John McCutcheon
  7. Too Many Tamales -- Eat Mexican food, maybe some Tamales?
  8. The Animals' Christmas Carol -- Put out birdseed treats for wild animals
  9. The Biggest Snowman Ever -- Make snowmen out of marshmallows and eat them
  10. One Winter's Night -- Attend the live performance of Return to Bethlehem at a local church
  11. The Chanakkah Guest -- Have a Jewish meal and play a Jewish game
  12. Gingerbread Baby -- Eat gluten-free gingerbread while Daddy reads
  13. Jingle the Christmas Clown -- Make star cookies for the neighbors
  14. The Christmas Day Kitten -- Wrap up cat treats for Grandma's cat
  15. The Dog Who Found Christmas -- Wrap up dog treats for our dog
  16. The Legend of the Poinsettia -- Make Poinsettia ornament
  17. All Is Well -- Collect a box of give-away for Goodwill
  18. Woodland Christmas -- Sing the 12 days of Christmas
  19. The Steadfast Tin Soldier -- Eat biscuits with a small toy baked into them
  20. Merry Christmas Strega Nona -- Eat late night pizza
  21. Silver Packages -- Wrap sibling's gifts
  22. Drummer Boy -- Play music together
  23. The Christmas Candle -- Read the story by candle light
  24. The Christmas Story -- Go to church

We place the Advent books under the tree. The kids will have fun taking them out each day and then doing the little activity. I have numbered the packages to correspond with the day.

Blessings, Dawn


Saturday, November 21, 2009


The room is done! There is even some furniture moved in already. It came out great, a little bit smaller than we had hoped for, but GREAT none the less. The whole experience was great! The contractor was super GREAT! The workers were great! The project came in $600 under the proposal so we had some additional work done. Our contractor went out of his way to get us deals. He went two counties away to get us bamboo floors that were sitting in a barn ~ the leftovers of a business that had gone under. We got them for $1 a linear foot ... they retailed for over $5 a linear foot. They are perfect!! He also looked our house over and found a few things that were in desperate need of repair and fixed them for almost no cost. Let's put it this way ... part of our home had to be jacked up because of a failing support beam. He did the job for $76 ~ the cost of the beam and a little extra to pay for his helper. The mess was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be .... So, you all want me to stop carrying on about how great it was and let you see the results for yourselves!?!?

Yay! Well, this is all you are getting right now.  The big reveal will be just after Christmas.  This year we are giving no toys (except stocking stuffers) so that we can decorate the children's bedrooms. I'll show you all the rooms once we have curtains up and such.

In the meantime we will be painting the rest of this room. We decided to paint the floor instead of refinishing the wood because it is so costly if you have a professional do it. My dh has refinished two floors in our home, but it was a really grueling project, and they have not held up as well as we would have expected. So for now we will paint this floor instead. We will need to do all of the trim work and no furniture can go on it for a week. 

That is all for now!  

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Reading Party for Goldilocks

What an amazing day we had today! Goldilocks has been struggling to learn to read for 2 years now.  Most of the time, it seemed like we were spinning our wheels and making no progress. We have switched reading programs FIVE times and tried all kinds of different games with very little improvement. Then today happened ... Goldilocks sat down for her lesson as usual and said she wanted her reading party today. I said that she had to finish the entire Storybook Treasury of Dick and Jane (1st grade) to have her reading party. She said she was going to finish that book today and have her party. Mind you, at the point when she sat down with me this morning, she had only previously read the first page of the 193 page book!!! Over the next 2 1/2 hours she read the entire book!! All 193 pages!! I would have never believed it was possible!!!  This is the child who can take 40 minutes to write three sentences in her copy work book and has spent the better part of the year screaming, hiding and crying about reading three pages in a Bob book. I switched her to Dick and Jane about a week ago. She seemed to like it more than other programs. Then I decided to start giving her hard-boiled eggs and kiwi each day (brain food) which is supposed to help with ADHD symptoms and improve a person's IQ. I can't say what happened differently today but AMEN!

This picture was taken when Goldilocks was on the last few pages. Kids were piled up everywhere to see her make it to being a READER!

Reading the last page!

Goldilocks with her book and certificate ....

Goldilocks had a confetti cake with strawberry frosting and a black sugar bunny in the corner!

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, November 16, 2009


When I sit down and think in the quiet hours of the evening about what I want for my children, one of the things that always comes up is charity. I want my children to have charitable hearts for those less fortunate. I want them to be an active force in their communities when they are grown and to think of others and what they can do to serve them. The best way to train our children in this is to have them serve in their community now and see us serve in our community as well. Our children are so blessed. They have so much while others go without. In light of our children all getting separate rooms in a few weeks, it weighs on my mind all the more how important it is that they know how privileged they are and learn early to care for others. 

I want to reaffirm how we teach our children to be charitable. In the past, we have done charity here and there and then heavily at Christmas time. There seems to be so many opportunities at Christmas time that it is very easy. However, how are we as parents showing our children that charity is one of our core values, if it is not at the forefront of our teachings? To me, when I turn them out into the world in just a few short years, my children's character is more important than their academic abilities. So we are going to put charity at the forefront of our teachings in the next year. Whether it be at home (with sibs) or out and about, it will be one of our driving themes.

To get this new idea started, we are going to pick a charity to focus on each month. For the month of November, we will be raising money for polar bears. This was easy to decide upon because we are studying the Arctic this month. The kids are very interested in polar bears and were sad to see how hard their lives have become due to the change in climate. (We watched the Disney movie, Earth, for our Sunday movie night yesterday.) I was able to find a charity where we could make a tiny impact for $25.  To make this come to life for the kids (instead of Mom writing a check), we are going to earn the money by cutting back in different ways at home.     
  • One night this week we will only eat rice for dinner. This will save us about $4.75 from the amount of an average dinner. 
  • The kids are going to put any change they find on the ground into the helping jar. I have one child who finds a penny or two almost every time we leave the house! 
  • We will skip the Blockbuster Sunday night movie and make do with our public library to find our Sunday night movie. (We often do this anyway.)
Well, that will be a good start. The kids are excited (except Tom Sawyer about eating only rice for dinner -- he never forgets to thank God for food during his evening prayers LOL). If you all have any great ideas of charities, leave them for me in comments. Just as we did last year, we will be doing a charity each week from Thanksgiving through the New year. I still am plotting those charities out.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Glimpse of Our Week

Wow! This week has flown by. With all of the distractions the house is presenting right now, plus a flood in the basement and dear Goldilocks having a major meltdown and needing to leave home for a 2 day respite with her one-on-one therapeutic worker, the week had its downs. Still, we got loads of living and learning done. So here is some glimpses of our week, in no particular order.

Apple pie making and tasting ...

A dreamed for and saved for first violin. Little Red Riding Hood saved up her allowance and bought it herself. This is the Strike a Chord violin, and it is much nicer than I expected. It plays 18 classical songs that the child can listen to and then play by rubbing the bow across the violin. It plays the song at the speed of the child's bowing. It also can be turned off for the child to just play the scales. Very cool! (Notice the paint in little one's hair)

Writing on the wall, literally. This counts for handwriting and spelling, right?

A nature walk to see the latest flood. This park is less than a mile from our home. Our city is in the process of doing a wonderful job of turning much of the flood zone into wetland parks. There is a little bit of everything for everybody ~ playgrounds, picnic areas, hockey and volleyball courts, walking trails, dog park, nature trails, decks over the river to fish from and much more in the works. When the river leaves her banks, the park fills with water and there is minimal loss and damages.

Goldilocks returned home much happier and calmer ~ ready to be a family member once again. The kids are working on creating an arctic book, using their Draw Write Now book #4.

Lunch out and play date with some friends ...

and tea time, painting walls, chores, reading lessons, painting walls, furniture moving, movie watching and painting walls. Just a few more hours of painting and I should be in the clear ... at least with painting the walls, that is ~ lots of furniture to still refinish and paint for Little Red Riding Hood's Christmas gift .

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, November 8, 2009

FIAR Field Trip

Our Five in a Row group studied Madeleine this month. To go along with our study, I decided to coordinate a field trip to our local kids science museum. They have an exhibit right now called Grossology ~ The Impolite Science of the Human Body. I wasn't sure what to expect. It was a little boy's dream come true and my girls loved it, too. 

Did you ever want to know the science behind a sneeze? Well, this exhibit not only explained the process, but then the giant nose you stand inside of sneezes on you!!!

This lovely fellow explained all about allergies, sniffles, colds and anything else that can cause you to have a runny nose. Yes, his nose ran frequently! See what I mean about a little boy's dream?

The kids spent lots of time at the life-size Operation game. Remember that game?What a concrete way to learn where all the body parts go. It didn't hurt their eye-hand coordination either.

The girls could have stayed in the digestive system playground all day. Yes, they crawled through the whole digestive system. The joke of where they came out of the digestive tract was not lost on them either. Yucky!!

The skin climbing wall was loads of fun, too. While they climbed along, they were supposed to guess if they were climbing over a pimple or mole or hair follicle.

I did not take pictures of all the things to smell. Really gross things to smell. Aren't you glad this is not a scratch and sniff blog? LOL! Somehow I missed pictures of the statue that you crank up and make burp or the tooting machine. We will have to go back when it is less crowded. The exhibit just overwhelmed us and lots of school groups were there, so we finally had to leave. All in all, it was a really cool and gross exhibit. Hey, IT"S GROSSOLOGY!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Time To Paint

We are at the point in construction where it is time for us to start contributing to the process (more than just financially) to keep costs down. I have three rooms to paint, numerous doors to paint, furniture to move, five or so pieces of furniture to refinish, shades/curtains to buy and hang, closets to build, oh and so much more! Then there is Thanksgiving and, dare I say, CHRISTMAS on the horizon! This is my favorite season, and I want to savor it somehow in the midst of all of this change. I want my children to remember Christmas season 2009 as a great year, not the year Mom went crazy. LOL! 

So to create balance, this is officially our last day of highly structured and planned school for this season in our lives. We will still school, but in a lighter, less structured way. The plan is to do reading, math, and tea time each day and have two goals for the week. Notice ~ I can't help but have to have a plan. I really lack the unschooling bone, even though I wish I had it. The rest of the time, the kids will be learning skills in painting, weeding out toys, cleaning, playing peacefully and independently (still a challenge around here for some), and continuing to practice flexibility. 

On top of the basics mentioned earlier, the two goals for next week are to make an Arctic mural and do another outdoor challenge. We will be studying the Arctic and Arctic life for the month of November.

I leave you with this picture of the kiddos! Our outdoor challenge last week was to find squirrels and study them. We could not find a single squirrel, but we did have fun climbing trees.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Parents' New Closet and Construction Continues

We keep moving on in construction. Since I last posted pictures, insulation and drywall have gone up. Also, the siding men have started putting new siding around the upper part of the house. We decided to do the whole upper part of the house since the old aluminum siding was really, really old and had become a yucky faded color. I think it was called by one of the men "yellow-limey algae slime" LOL!!

The really big news is that Tom Sawyer gets the new room!! He is so excited. Timothy was given first choice because he is the oldest but decided it felt too small to him. It is probably the smallest room (or at least feels like it with the attic like design). Because we live in a Dutch Colonial and this room is on the second floor, the Dutch Colonial roof was extended and thus the garret walls. Tim will move to what is currently the master bedroom, and we will move back to the master (which most recently has been Tom Sawyer's and Little Red Riding Hood's). Little Red Riding Hood will move to Timothy's current room and Goldilocks will stay put in her current room. Are you confused yet?! BOY, do we have a lot of painting to do in the next few weeks.

The sanding part of the drywall starts sometime this week.  Everyone says this is the really bad part of construction because of the dust. We will have to be very careful with our asthmatic children.

The new color of our siding is called bananas (kinda like us, ya know). The contractor was a little concerned that it might be too yellow. We love it, though. With our 1931 home, we wanted the historic yellow that you find on homes in our area and this one matches up great. I will have to try to get a picture of it in the sunshine.

In other news .... We are trying to make this rotation of four bedrooms less insane by doing a little bit each week. We are getting far enough along to start moving things around. Since we (the parents) are going back to the master, we decided to start working on the walk-in closet. When we started this weekend, it was a clean slate with only two wooden shelves up high. The teddy bear border around the ceiling was from when the closet was Little Red Riding Hood's nursery! (I've kept the border for sentimental reasons.) It was really important to us to redo this closet for less than $100 but have it look nice and be functional.

Along the far wall we put in a pressure pole that was laying around in someone's closet not being used. The pole will hold clothes that the children have grown out of and are waiting to go to consignment sales. It also holds long-term storage clothes (like my wedding dress), which is tucked back in the corner out of sight. The top self holds photo albums and the kids' baby boxes and books. You can also see that we have loads of winter coats and snow pants. Yes, I know we live in North Carolina, but my Northern roots get in the way sometimes, and I am just sure it could snow for real anytime now.

Underneath the consignment pole is all of the kids' clothes that do not fit them yet and unmarked boxes holding future gifts.

Towards the front of the closet are our clothes and shoes. Also, we have a box of Christmas books and wrapping paper.

Total cost for the closet redo ~
$6 for the shoe rack with coupon
$40 for the storage boxes
$12 for the rack and hardware

Blessings, Dawn