Thursday, December 31, 2009

Time Management

Over the past few weeks, William and Charlie have really enjoyed having some of their friends over to play - those friends who go to school and are most often not available Monday - Friday (one of the best parts about the holidays, according to William). I have been noticing more and more that play dates seem to be a bit rocky these days, and it has gotten me thinking. The unwritten rule around our home is that when friends are over, Mama takes time to get other things done - the kids are expected to entertain themselves. Most of the time, that works out great. I hear a chorus of "Lets play.......", and see a whirlwind of little bodies flying through the house. The kids go on adventures, build forts, solve mysteries, play outside, hide and seek.....and there is always playing LEGO if no other ideas appeal. I only hear from them when they are in need of a snack or a bandaid. But lately, things have not been following the usual pattern. William and Charlie's suggestions of "Let's play...." seem to be met with silence. Their friends seem to be having a harder and harder time becoming engaged, unless I am right there with them to direct the play.

Now I don't doubt that part of the problem is pure tiredness - little people all tuckered out because of the holiday busyness. But I worry that it is also a reflection of how busy their lives are in general. No matter how conscientious their parents are about allowing for 'free time', there are still only so many hours in the day. Getting ready for school, going to school, homework, dinner, bath and bed take up so many hours of the day, that when you add in even a few 'extra curricular activities' there is precious little time left. Even for us, weekends book up quickly with the errands that don't get done during the week, visiting with family and friends, and chores around the house. So where does that leave them? When do those kids really have a chance to entertain themselves? To rely on their imagination to come up with something to do? To be bored, or to just be?

I have rambled here a few times about how 'time' has proven to be one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling for our family. Time for a more relaxed schedule, time to go new places adn try new things, flexibility of time, time for planned and unplanned explorations, family and friend time, and time alone. Still, I worry that as the kids get older, their free time will fill up quickly.

So in this time of New Years resolutions, here are a few of mine:

Avoid early morning activites so that our days do not start off rushed
Combine errands so that I am not running 'to town' more often than needed
One sports-related and one non-sport team or club / week for each of the boys
Limited TV and video games
Keep our 'table time' activities to a minimum
Instead of cringing when the boys complain about being bored, rejoice - and watch the wonderful creations and play that comes out of that 'boredom'.

Time is free, but it is priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back.

-Harvey MacKay

New Sleds,New Hats

I love this week between Christmas and New Years. Even though the days are not technically holidays, everyone is still moving at a slower pace. Christmas cooking and crafting are all done, leaving lots of time to relax and play. William and Charlie both got new sleds and new hats for Christmas and decided to take them for a test run today while I struggled with making an ice rink for them to skate on (Pictures to follow, if it actually works!!)

and heading for spaces below,
and sliding across the new snow,
an icing of white on the hill,
careening, avoiding a spill.
to where the icy hill ends
A boy and his sled
become wintery friends.
By: Judy Mahar

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tag Monster

This year I tried (I really did!) to make as many gifts as possible for my friends and family. I will post the instructions / links and pictures over the next few days. This was one of my favorites - a Tag Monster for my new nephew, Griffin. I am not very good with a sewing machine, but this project still turned out well.

Here is the link to the instructions that I used...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Olympic Spirit

Early this morning, the torch relay for the 2010 Winter Olympics came right through our own little town. The boys' Pop, Uncle Steve, Auntie Mindy and Baby Griffin all joined us down at the community centre to see the torch and to celebrate the Olympic Spirit. I don't think that William or Charlie really 'got' the significance of the celebration because of their still-sleepy heads and chilled toes, but it was still great to see. We are planning to follow the Olympics this year as a way of studying geography and math (as well as sports, of course!) and seeing the torch was a great kick-off.

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning, but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering, but fighting well.
-Pierre de Coubertin

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Fun

Christmas Day and Boxing Day are a whirlwind of fun in our family. We always seem to pack a lot of good conversation, great food, gifts, games and cuddles into those 48 hours. We seem to have found a good balance of time at home, and time away with family. This year was wonderful - I got most of the home made gifts finished that I wanted to (details and pics to follow). The boys were all about playing with cousins, LEGO and Play Mobile (wonderfully, family and Santa obliged). Here are a few pictures of the last few days in our family...

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

A small pause in the day's festivities as we wait for the rest of our family to arrive...The stockings and some of the family gifts have been opened, and more to come this afternoon. Jim is having a post-breakfast nap... Pop has gone home to put the turkey in the oven for us to enjoy later today...William and Charlie have asked for some time 'alone together' to play with their new enjoying a cup of hot chocolate and amaretto and doing the last few rows of holiday knitting. There is a smile on my face and gratitude and love in my heart. We are truly blessed.

I hope that you are all enjoying a day of peace, prosperity, family and friends.

Monday, December 21, 2009

New Traditions

For the first time this year, our family celebrated the Winter Solstice. I have been wanting to bring more earth-centered traditions into our family for a while, and this was certainly a nice place to start. Although this year we were fumbling our way along, I know that some of the things that we did today in celebration of the longest night of the year, and the returning of the sun, will become regular family tradition.

The boys were really excited about decorating a tree outside for the birds...we chose the forsythia bush just outside of our living room window so that we can watch our little friends as they feast.

At our dinner table, we each took turns lighting a candle from our center pillar, and saying a few words and prayers.

Most of our family holidays have food in them somewhere, so we tried out a new recipe for honey cookies - a warm and bright sweet treat. I would share the recipe, but it still needs a bit of work. They were good, with a nice honey taste, but a little too sweet and not quite the right consistency. We will work on it and have it perfected by nest year, I am sure!

And before bed, stories by the fire - the heat and light of the fire on the boys bare skin was beautiful to watch, and I am sure to feel.

I hope that everyone had as beautiful day as we did.
Welcome back, Sun.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Sneak Peak

It seems so selfish to be crafting up a storm and not sharing any of the ideas, when I learn so much from other people's blogs. So I thought that I would share this little recipe before Christmas...If you are on my Christmas list, please look away!!

Stocking stuffers are always a challenge for me...It needs to be something inexpensive, fairly small, but not junky. Best, of course, if there is something that everyone will enjoy.

This lip balm fits the bill perfectly. It is really quick and easy to make, smells and tasted wonderful, and is made from ingredients that I (usually) have on hand. Even the guys enjoy getting it!

Lip Balm:

Combine 4 Tbsp olive oil, 3 Tbst grated bees wax, and 1 Tbsp of honey in a small saucepan over low heat. Heat and stir until the beeswax is melted. Remove from heat and wisk in the contents of 1 vitamin E capsule and 6 drops of Peppermint essential oil. Pour into sterilized lip stick tubes or other small containers (the watchmakers tins from Lee Valley Tools are a perfect fit).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Shepherds Play

Our local Waldorf School puts on a wonderful Shepherds Play every December, hosted in the barn of one of the families / farmers who is associated with the school. This is another one of our favorite Christmas traditions. It is such a nice break from all of the shopping, cartoons and stress that seem to make up far too much of the season. It is a beautiful story of Jesus Christ's birth, made all the more magical because of the setting. It always amazes me when I go to this type of event - you can only imagine how much fun the kids were having running, climbing and hiding in all of the hay bails that were piled up in the barn as seats. But as soon as the actors came in, all of the children settled in with their families, nice and warm in blankets and laps, and watched mesmerized for the next hour. With the exception of one little babe who was not likely more than 2 - 3 months old, every single child was quite, still, and respectful during the whole play. It was such a lovely story, with guitars music and singing throughout. What a beautiful, beautiful way to spend an afternoon.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Spirit

What I am loving about the Christmas Season Today:

* The Charlie Brown Christmas tree that the boys picked out
* Mini fruitcakes made with my Nana's recipe cooling on the stove
* A growing pile of finished gifts, ready for giving
* News that a family friend will be joining us for Christmas dinner
* Charlie running around the house saying "stuck?...stuch..STUCK!!!"
* Hot chocolate with Amaretto
* A fire in the wood stove
* A weekend ahead filled with family and friends
* Sarah McLaughlin's Christmas CD
* A new mold ready to make beeswax ornaments
* A freezer full of tasty treats, some of which may even make it to Christmas
* The excitement on William and Charlie's faces that there are only 7 more sleeps to go!
* Such a wonderful season ahead of us filled with family, friends and celebrations.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

CN Tower

To celebrate the boys' Pop (my husband's father) today on his 70th birthday, we headed into Toronto to visit the CN Tower. It really is a sin that we don't get into the city more often when it is (comparatively) so close. I don't ever remember having been up to the top of the tower before, although I expect that I did as a kid. When it is so much a normal part of the sky line, we often forget how truly spectacular it is. Looking up at it from the base, you realize what an incredible feat of architecture and engineering it is. The views were amazing. The boys were thrilled to watch the airplanes come in for a landing at the island airport so far below us. This is not an inexpensive trip, but I would highly suggest it - at least once in a lifetime.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Baking with Friends

For the past 10 years, a small group of friends and I have been getting together every December to make Christmas cookies. It started out as a "Hey, do you want to get together...." and has evolved into a favourite holiday tradition. Our lives have become so busy since we first met (when we were all single and child-free) that we often don't talk to each other for many months at a time during the rest of the year. But when the holidays roll around, we track each other down again and set a date. This year we made double chocolate brownies, shortbread cookies, peanut butter balls, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and cookies and cream fudge. Not bad for an afternoons work.
There were also lots of tea and cookie breaks - a chance to catch up on what has been going on for the past year and to share some laughs, and even the occasional tear.

As for the aftermath of such a day, well, I prefer not to dwell on that part...

Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.

- Tennessee Williams

Monday, December 14, 2009

Busy busy busy...

I am ashamed at how rarely I have been posting lately....and amazed that there are only 11 more sleeps until Christmas - both signs of the busyness going on around our home lately. Baking, crafting, decorating, visiting, lettering and stamping, calling, playing, cleaning, shovelling, sewing, knitting (yes, a whole lot of knitting) and generally being festive. I love this season, especially when I manage to get caught up in the activities, but manage to avoid all of the stress. These days I am managing about a 75 / 25 split between being jolly and being stressed. Not too bad. The good news is that I have managed to keep all of next week appointment-free. I plan to make sure that any last minute shopping is done this week, so taht all of next week can be a stay-at-home-and-enjoy-the season kind of week, although still with a fair bit of knitting, I suspect.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beautiful and Harsh

Lake Erie on a cold December afternoon...