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School’s out for summer in Belleville, Illinois, in 1974 via reddit
I don't date my blog posts. I'd love to say it's because the wisdom I share here is timeless, but it's really because I'm a lazy blogger and I'd rather visitors not see how seldom I remember to post things. But since I've had Christmas posts up since November, I don't think anyone is fooled.

This past year has been crazy for me, but I'm sure it's been crazy and busy for you, too. I'm not complaining, just explaining that blogging was dropped a bit, but not forgotten.

I directed Classical Conversations. If you are familiar with CC, then you are already nodding and have instantly forgiven me for my lapse of posting. It was an amazing experience for my family and I am proud of the work I did to introduce a classical education to our community. Unfortunately, my girls have outgrown the Foundations level classes, so I'm handing that hat over to someone else.

In a few weeks, I'm having surgery and I will have a couple weeks of bed-rest. I'm seriously looking forward to the uninterrupted time to read and plan for our next school year. I'm looking forward to blogging about it, too.

I'm also looking forward to fluffy fiction. My latest guilty pleasure is the After Cilmeri series. Linguistically speaking, it requires a big stretch of the imagination, but it is otherwise a blast, particularly if you are a medieval history fan.

School Plans. That's where I was going with this. Yes. Next year, I will have a senior again. My 2nd son will be graduating! This should be a fun year for him because he completely most of his required classes which he shared with his older brother. That created a few complications that I'll save for a future post. The girls have also been sharing most of their classes and we haven't quite determined whether or not we'll continue that next year. Lots to consider there! Future post.

In the meantime, all ballet, piano, violin, orchestra, and all other outside activities have CEASED FOR SUMMER. It's a fabulous feeling. We have no one to please, but God, and it is amazing.

*Okay, that's not entirely true because we DO school year-round. But dropping all our outside activities has made school feel like a vacation. 

Christmas School Plans!

I'm a week later than usual, but it fit our family best to wait until the first Monday of December this year.

Confession: we never took down our Jesse Tree from last year. It's stayed there, on the wall, all year long, waiting for us to finish creating the clay ornaments we started. We didn't. But we will. This year. I'm sure of it.

Day 1, we study Norway and the Advent Wreath. We'll color Rosemaling and eat Pfefferneuse. We'll read Christmas in Noisy Village and work on geography.

Day 2, we study Germany and the Advent Calendar. We'll make a new advent calendar. This year, we'll sing Silent Night and read The Christmas Mouse, a cute story about a mouse who observes the composing of this famous hymn. We'll wrap it up by watching Holiday Inn.

Day 3, is Russia and the Nutcracker. We had the amazing opportunity for my girls to get to dance in The Nutcracker this year, so we'll do some mapwork and move on to Day 4 this time around.

Day 4, is our favorite: England and Christmas Cards. We'll probably spend two days doing that one, watching Muppet Christmas Carol and Doctor Who's "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe." For geography we'll study about what is included in the title of United Kingdom. What is the difference between England, Britain, and the UK?

Day 5 is Latvia and Christmas trees! My girls love decorating ice cream cones with green frosting and M&Ms to camouflage them as Christmas trees. It tastes as gross as it sounds, but you can't mess with tradition. 

Christmas Mood

Don't have the Christmas Spirit? Mood is really what we're talking about when we say it, right? My husband and I have both lamented that we're just not "feeling it" right now. Yes, that sounds terrible: not in the mood to celebrate the birth of Christ? But that's not really what we mean. We celebrate His birth, burial, and resurrection every day. It is always meaningful. But Christmas time does generally come with a hum of excitement and anticipation that neither of us are currently experiencing.

We're tired. Those feelings take energy. However, feeling it or not, it is still very meaningful. Our emotions are part of the package God gave us and He has good reason for them, but thankfully, our faith is not based on them.

This year, we took the first week to breathe and we begin Christmas school on Monday. I'm prepping today and just printing out pages has me excited for their excitement. I may be tired, but they are not. They are eager to celebrate. I'm thankful for our traditions and the children who won't let me forget them.

I've seen an extra dose of people chastising Christians for celebrating Christ during Christmas instead of all year long. It's ridiculous really, the assumption that someone enjoying the season might not also be celebrating all year. I think perhaps they've forgotten that God loves a party. He required His people to celebrate many feasts throughout each year to mark a time of remembrance. Were they not grateful all year long that God had rescued them from Egypt? Of course they were! Did they still celebrate Passover? Of course! Please don't let anyone guilt you into not embracing this season, this party. Even Jesus acknowledged Hannukah.

A while back, I wrote an article about finding Quiet at Christmas. I'm following that advice carefully this year. He's my reason for breathing, all year long, and I'm honored to get to celebrate His first coming to us as we look with longing to His second coming. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Advent already??

I'm usually as giddy as a five year old when it comes to the start of Advent. This year, I just can't believe it's here already. Advent means the year is almost over. And wow, what a year. It's been one of our hardest years in recent memory. I have barely blogged since January, when I shared my optimism for a year of sweetness. In it, I mentioned the need to yield control to God. We had no trouble with that one because the year was completely out of our control. There was nothing to do but trust Him with it and hold on for the ride, in survival mode.

Our year of Sweet turned into a year of Sick almost immediately. Flu, sinus infections, ear infections, and then pneumonia. My husband, who is never sick and who never misses a day of work, was home in bed for a solid month. It wasn't they, "Hey, let's watch Netflix or read a book" kind of time in bed. It was "Please, Lord, let me pass out until this is over" kind of time in bed. That was hard to watch. We didn't crawl out of the sickness hole until March.

I had a cancer scare and a surgery to remove an ovary. My sister had a cancer scare. My precious grandma passed away. My oldest baby left for college.

I feel like there were about fifty million other things that blindsided us, but truly, I was just along for the ride and my knuckles have been gripping the rail pretty tightly.

And here we are, looking at the end of this year that I feel like we never quite started. Did I do it any justice at all? Was I sweet to my children? I honestly couldn't tell you.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote:
Our purpose is to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever. He is glorified when we yield control. He is glorified when we read His Holy Word and let it change our hearts. He is glorified when we enjoy the sweetness of life He has given.
Yield control: Check (involuntarily, but whatever)
Read the Word: Check (YouVersion Bible App FTW!)
Enjoy the sweetness: *stares at flashing cursor*

Did I enjoy it? I did. 


I didn't realize how much, but yes, yes I did. 

Through the sick months, I was only down for a couple days. I was grateful that I was able to love on my babies. One night, I stayed up all night with my youngest, watching VeggieTales to distract from the pain, dosing her in hopes of keeping her ear from bursting, and massaging her ear until I thought my hand would fall off. That is a precious memory now.

Through my cancer scare, I was really able to examine a lot and realize how good I've had it. I've lived my dream-come-true life. 

My Grandma was an amazing woman. It hurt so much to lose her, though we had been losing her for years due to Alzheimers. We were able to celebrate a very precious life this summer.

My son left for college and my world changed, but we were able to send him off without fear. He's a good man. Things have turned out well. He loves God and really, that's all that matters. 

We took our first family vacation without him, which was hard, but we took that vacation to the Smoky Mountains to celebrate the wedding of my sister. It was magical. All of my sisters are married to good men. They are happy. This makes me so happy. 

Last night, we began our first day of Advent, our first without my oldest son. It's hard not to look around and see how much is still yet to change. We have 3 more babies that are going to follow his lead and leave home. We will one day be celebrating Advent alone. But that is as it should be. They will be celebrating Advent with their families. And then I'll one day be celebrating Advent with grandchildren. I'm told that makes it all worth it.

Time to man up and jump in. Accept the year for what it was, all the good and all the rough. In hindsight, it's hard to say that any of it was bad. 
So here we go. Advent 2016.