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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. 

I take it back.

I'm a mess. I'm not ready. I brought him home from the hospital, like...yesterday! And I'm not ready to give him up already. And I know all the logical, encouraging, pat answers to this, but I don't think there's any way around a mama just being a mess when her baby leaves.


He leaves tomorrow.

And everything changes.

We've reached the edge of the Wildwood

When my oldest son was three, he was anxious to know what was coming. He'd wake up and ask what we would be eating, not for breakfast, but for dinner. He wanted to know the day's plans. He wanted rhythm. Order. He was frustrated at his inability to understand time. He always wanted to know how long until...but minutes meant nothing to him. We stumbled on the solution one day, thanks to Clifford, the Big Red Dog.

Watching Clifford was part of his daily routine. This clever little show was broken into two segments of roughly fifteen minutes each. It was perfect for a young child's attention span and he was tickled to get to watch TWO tv shows. As we drove home from town one night, he asked again how long until we were home. I told him half an hour, which meant nothing, but then I explained that it was the same as two Cliffords. Click. You could see it register. From then on, time made sense to him and he simply asked how many Cliffords things would take.

I realize now that I'm the one who didn't have a good grasp of time. I thought I was boxing it up nicely with my charts and schedules. I savored; I really did! But it flew. I started to panic when my sons were still in early elementary and their sisters were still babies. I had blinked somewhere and missed a lot of moments. It really hit me that they were growing and would be leaving and that I couldn't get those moments back. I struggled with depression and anxiety for a bit. And then the Holy Spirit convicted me through a children's story book.

We were reading Wind in the Willows. Rat was describing the surroundings to Mole and explaining the Wild Wood ahead. Mole wanted to know more. What was beyond the Wild Wood? Rat gave a sharp answer:
"Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide World,' said the Rat. `And that's something that doesn't matter, either to you or me."
It was the unknown.  It was scary. It was not to even be talked about. To someone else, it might have been intriguing. An adventure. But fear is crippling and it makes us unreasonable. And that's when it hit me. I was Rat.

My children were safe and secure with me in the easy River-bank days, but Wild Wood days were coming whether I liked it or not. And eventually, they would leave home. They would embark out into the Wide World, alone. And it was my job to prepare them for that journey.

I cried. My sons sat beside me, one raising an eyebrow while the other one shrugged. But it was a good cry. It was a calling. And callings come with peace.

From that point forward, I was able to enjoy the present while keeping the end goal in mind: raising young men and women who would one day enter the Wide World, equipped and confident. Our homeschool lessons took on new meaning. Math is beautiful. It reveals God's order and rightness. Science is mesmerizing, displaying God's handiwork. Latin. Logic. All of them were worthy lessons on their own, but in the scheme of preparation for adulthood, they were tools to develop in my children an appreciation for truth, goodness, and beauty.

Of course, I made a LOT of mistakes. As did they. But now, with my oldest, we stand at the edge of the Wild Wood, gazing at the unknown ahead,

"Where it's all blue and dim, and one sees what may be hills or perhaps they mayn't, and something like the smoke of towns, or is it only cloud- drift?"
Just two Cliffords ago, he was looking up at me with wonder in his big blue eyes, asking to go down the slide. And now he's a man. A good man. And I am so incredibly proud of him.

Mothers Day

Could there be a more guilt-inducing holiday? Can one be a mom without having anxiety about failing as a mom? We are keenly aware of our housekeeping shortcomings, our impatience, and our in ability to get it all done.

Mothers Day sermons are some of the hardest to sit through. Pastors praise us as we squirm. The morning prior to church was a blur of children trying to give us a terrible breakfast in bed when we were already late, leading to shouts of HURRY AND FIND YOUR SHOES ALREADY!!! Or they forgot altogether and we spent the morning nursing hurt feelings, which still isn't praise-worthy and we know it.

This Mothers Day, my oldest son is graduating and about to leave the nest and I realize that all of those Mothers Day goals to get my act together and actually earn those Mothers Day card sentiments are now unattainable. I can't go back and change any of it and the memory I've given him is now permanently fixed.

If you're a mom struggling this morning, I share my consolation: The very fact that you are aware of your shortcomings means you CARE. you are trying. You love your children and they know it. They see your failures, but they also see your efforts. They see your imperfections and they see you seek grace. It's a very good example for life.

Snow Days

It wasn't a grand quantity of snow, but we made the most of it. Three days of half-hearted school work and devoted sledding!

We managed to get breakfast, bible studies, and math in before sledding. Then lunch and some Treasure Island before more sledding. Then English and History. Then nothing. Sweet nothing. Cocoa, books, video feels like Christmas.

Ethan's homemade sled 

A sweet brother pulling his sister

Gracie didn't quite weigh enough and just kept sliding down the sled.

my baby growing up

January Freebie

*If you are a subscriber to Simblissity Cottage, you should have already received your copy of this free printable. Email me if it didn't find its way to your inbox!

Every year, I attempt some form of Bible-reading plan. This year, I've decided to just keep track of my haphazard reading approach. I've created this checklist that lets you color in a block for each chapter read. You don't have to read in any particular order to finish the entire Bible this year! Personally, I'm still using my YouVersion app to tackle my reading with a chronological approach, but this let's me keep track of my other readings that don't involve the app reading sessions.

The printable is undated, so you can keep track of all the chapters you read. Obviously, it does not have to be tackled in one year. Take all the time you need and use the printable to visually watch your progress. 

Sign up to receive your freebie printable

Sweet Sixteen

Mama, you've given it your all. You've beaten yourself up with guilt for the times you didn't feel you gave enough. You've been determined and committed and exhausted and defeated. Despite your best efforts to keep everything under control, you've found chaos.

Your New Year goals are already raising a judgmental eyebrow. Your pinterest-worthy pictures have cropped out the cheerios glued to the table with yesterday's milk sugar. You doubt your worth and you doubt your abilities, all while striving to get it together. But what if you never "get it together?"

The Lord is not asking you to try harder. He's asking you to taste and see that He is good. With all your imperfections, trust Him. With all of it. With all of you. Trust Him.

Psalm 119:103

I read yesterday that waiting to come to God until after we clean up our lives is like having your leg cut off, but waiting until the bleeding stops to go to the hospital. We know this for our salvation, but what about our Motherhood? We make up rules for our lives and we start to believe them. We start to believe that God can't bless me in this area until I've perfected that area.

I desire to be a sweet mom with sweet words, and yet I find myself being a sarcastic mom with snarling words. I can't change this, but I can make every effort to speak in love and I can commit this part of my life to the Lord, leaning on Him to be strong where I am weak. Where are you weak? Are you walking in pride? Are you walking in fear? What do you need to trust Him with today?

My prayer for all of us this year is that 2016 is truly a sweet 16. 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.