Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Christmas Tree

For the last several year, our little family has gone out into the wilderness, or semi-wilderness, and cut down a tree for Christmas. It has been a family tradition that my children and I really enjoy. This year we also cut down a tree... from a string... that hung at our local garden centre store. In the last week we've had sickness in our home, and I have been the most unwell. We were all eager to set up our Christmas tree but did not have the energy for a big adventure, so we drove to the garden centre instead. As we drove into the parking lot I let out a small sigh of sadness and wondered if my children would be disappointed. They were not! The excitement of getting a tree overshadowed any sign of disappointment that there was no snow to tromp through, and the happiest of all was my husband who declared that "this was the best way to get a Christmas tree!". It was definitely the easiest Christmas tree procurement in the last several years and there is something about simplicity that is good for the soul during this busy season.

My boys set up our beautiful tree in the living room. After adjusting it a little here and a little there, making sure it was straight, busy little hands started to decorate the bottom two thirds of the branches with glee. My husband fixed our tree top angel who had lost her ability to light up. After spending a good amount of time troubleshooting the faulty wiring he opted to shove a whole strand of lights under her dress and position two very orange lights for her to hold on to. To me she looks a little like an air traffic control angel but she has charm nonetheless. After all the ornament boxes were emptied and the sun started to set my children gathered around the tree and were swallowed up by its magic. Their eyes twinkle with wonder as they caught their reflection in the shining ornaments. Every night since the tree has been set up my children have asked if they can sleep under its glowing light for just one night. My husband remembers doing this as a child and has promised that, yes, for one night they can sleep under the tree.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Making Orange Pomanders

Making an orange pomander is a simple winter activity that leaves your home smelling deliciously like Christmas. To make an orange pomander you will need:

an orange, small navel oranges work best for little hands
whole cloves
a piece of ribbon
a wood skewer, a small nail or something similar to make holes in the orange rind

Start by tying the ribbon around the orange. While this step can be omitted the ribbon is helpful to use as a line guide when poking in the cloves. Some people will wrap elastics around the orange for the same purpose. Also, it's important that the pomander dries out completely in the months after it has been made otherwise the orange might mold and rot. Having a ribbon to hang it from is handy for this purpose and it looks rather pretty too. Once the ribbon is secure, poke holes into the orange rind using a skewer or small nail then tuck a whole clove into each hole. That's it! My four year old was able to poke the holes and push in the cloves all on her own. My two year old was able to push in the cloves without my help, and it was a great way for him to work on fine motor control!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Five Authors that Illustrate Beautiful Picture Books

Every week we visit the public library and return home with two very large bags of books. It is no secret that we love books, all sorts of books. Yet, there are some books that are so beautiful and captivating that we return to them, time and time again. These books capture the imagination of our family, children and adults alike, and have us suspended, if only for a moment, in a magical world. For some time I have been wanting to share with you a few of our family's favourite picture book authors in the hopes that you too will be swept away into an enchanted place.

Jackie Morris

When we opened The Cat and the Fiddle for the first time it was like walking into a world of nurseries rhymes I had never seen before. The stories, so familiar to me and my children, took on an entirely different feel. Instead of rhymes feeling sweet and silly they became magical and mysterious. If I could only have one book of nursery rhymes in my home this would be the one. The amount of attention and detail in every illustration done by Jackie Morris is inspiring and I highly recommend taken a moment to enjoy her books.

Ruth Sanderson

If I were to use a single word to describe Ruth Sanderson's illustrations it would be gold. Her stories and illustrations are so rich and detailed that we cannot get enough of them. Some of our favourites are Goldilocks, The Nativity, Twelve Dancing Princesses and Saints: Lives and Illuminations.

Graeme Base

The first book that we took out by Graeme Base was Animalia. My eldest, who was four at the time, got lost in that book and all the intricate detail on every page. Since then we have taken out every single one of his book. The one that is the dearest to us is The Legend of the Golden Snail which captures the adventurous hearts of my children.

Jane Ray

The Story of Christmas was how we first discovered Jane Ray. Her illustrations are vivid and full of colour and her stories are a delight. My daughter loves The Apple Pip Princess, and Adam and Even and the Garden of Eden is probably one of my favourite illustrated books of the creation story. I really like the way she depicts people.

Jan Brett

Jan Brett is a well known author and illustrator and has written many children's books. Her illustration are so full of details that even I can get distracted while reading her books aloud to my children. I will admit that I do prefer some of her stories over others. Regardless, some of our favourites are Mossy, Hedgie Blasts Off!, and Trouble with Trolls.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Advent in our Home - 2014

Advent started a couple days ago, on Sunday, and continues on for the four weeks leading up to Christmas. For our family, Advent is a time when we prepare our hearts and home for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. This year we have set up our Jesse tree, Advent wreath and nativity scene to help guide us through this Advent season.

The Jesse tree is a biblical Advent calendar that shares Bible stories that lead up to Jesus' birth. I sewed our Jesse Tree out of felt almost five years ago and it was quite a lot of work to complete. Truthfully, I don't know how I would find the time to make a similar one these days. Luckily, there are many simple printable Jesse tree options available on the internet for those that neither have the time nor the inclination to spend hours making a felt Jesse Tree. This year we are using The Advent Jesse Tree as our guide for the Bible readings along with the In the Beginning Bible Series, an Old Testament Bible anime series created by Osamu Tezuka. Unfortunately the series cannot be purchased, but somebody has uploaded them here.

The Advent wreath, with its evergreen branches and four candles, three purple and one pink, is a constant reminder that Christmas is drawing near. It sits on our dining table, constantly shedding needles, also a good reminder that Christmas is getting closer. We light the candles, one for each week of Advent that has passed, while we do our evening prayers.

We have one big nativity scene that I set up at the beginning of Advent. I start by putting out Joseph and Mary and slowly add more characters as Advent goes on, eventually adding baby Jesus on Christmas day. My children find it silly that baby Jesus is missing and I find all kids little people put in the manger until the rightful owner takes his place.

Last year we started a new tradition of having an Advent book basket. I really like books and over the years I have collected a large bin full of Christmas books. Last year I wrapped one book for each day of Advent. This year I opted to save time and paper and I put the books, unwrapped, on the bookshelf instead. We will still read once (or maybe several) of these books everyday but I like that we can pick books based on how we are feeling at the time and that we are being gentler on the environment.

And those are our Advent plans for this year. To see what we did in the last few years read Advent in our Home (2013)Preparing for Advent (2012), and Advent in our Home (2011).

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Weekend at Manning Park

Late last week a cold arctic wind came blowing through the valley. We packed up our van while being pummeled by cold slanting rain and then made our way up into the mountains on snowy roads. Our friends organized a lovely weekend family singing retreat with singer-songwriter-instructor Anna B. at Manning Park. Most of the group stayed at the very unique Last Resort, a large building with numerous bedrooms, bathrooms, a kitchen and living room. It was the perfect size for our group of close to 35. The only complaint was that it wasn't particularly warm inside which I am sure wasn't helped by the close to -25C weather outside. I should add a reminder for myself to bring slippers and long johns for next time.

The landscape at Manning Park was picturesque. It was a veritable winter wonder land. The trees were covered in snow and the air was cold and crisp. The children enjoyed sledding and cross country skiing. There was even a pool and hot tubs were we could go to warm up chilly toes after winter play. We gathered together for singing twice a day, once in the morning and once after supper. It was an experience reminiscent of Jam Camp, which we've been to this year and last year. Our weekend was filled with plenty of jamming, energetic singing and children running around like hooligans.

Thank you to S and E for organizing this great weekend! We hope there will be more weekends like this in the future.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Our First Snow Day

This morning Teddy crawled into our bed for a snuggle. He snuggled for a bit then got up and looked out of our bedroom window. Immediately he took note of the white landscape and proclaimed in his very loud voice "ss-no! ss-no!". My two other bleary-eyed children stumbled into our room to look out the window. The excitement was tangible and before I could properly wake up I was helping everyone find their snow gear. Usually Wednesdays are our busiest day of the week but this morning my son was complaining of a stomach ache. I find it difficult to gauge whether he means he is actually feeling sick or just in need of some time in the bathroom. Thankfully by lunch time it was clear that it was the later and so with all that snow that was everywhere we decided to have a snow day.

The snow was wet and heavy, perfect for snow sculptures of every kind. Our backyard is now the temporary home of a snowman, snow caterpillar and snow bunny. Because the snow came down so fast and heavy one of our lilac bushes snapped in half. I am lucky that was the only thing damaged in our yard. Others have had trees falling on their homes and roads and have been without electricity since last night. With a warning of colder temperatures in a couple days I am hoping that most of the snow will melt so that we clear road for our upcoming road trip!

Monday, November 24, 2014

To Kamloops and Back

Our family just made a quick trip to Kamloops to visit friends over the weekend. It was such a nice change of pace. We went to the public pool together which was a fun treat. I avoid taking my three children to the public pool because it only results in having the life guards breathing down my neck the whole time. Public pools around here often have a rule that all children under the age of seven must be within arms reach of an adult at all times. I can very much appreciate why the rule exist but it is near impossible for me to do that with only two arms and three rambunctious children. Four arms are much better and we only got scolded twice by the lifeguard, a record!

If you ever find yourself driving through Kamloops I would recommend visiting the BC Wildlife Park. My children enjoyed seeing the various indigenous animals that were there (there are also a few non native creatures such as the camels, spiders and lizards) and had the chance to learn a little about how the animals got there. The BC Wildlife park rescues and rehabilitates injured animals and not all of them can be released back into the wild so some remain at the park. The park was very quiet when we went and many of their regular experiences (shows, train etc.) were closed for the winter season. The animals, however, were all quite active and fun to watch which isn't always the case on a hot summer day.

It was such a blessing to have time to relax and catch up with our friends. We enjoyed their wonderful hospitality and are so grateful for their friendship. Thank you A and C for such a nice visit!