Tuesday, November 30
Without further ado, our list of Preparations for Nativity:
1. Put out the Christmas books
2. The Christmas Parade
3. Purchase this year's ornament frame
4. Little Man's Namesday
5. Order the baby's stocking
6. Saint Nicholas Day
7. Hang snowflake decorations from dining room chandelier
8. Create birdseed decorations for the tree in the front yard
9. Purchase a new Christmas book for our family collection
10. Gingerbread House Party at the local bookstore
11. Hang garland around front door
12. Little Man's birthday
13. Saint Lucia Day
14. Winter Wonderland of Lights Festival
15. Watch a Christmas movie as a family with popcorn and hot cocoa
16. Decorate the mantle
17. The Living Nativity
18. Hang winter wreath on front door
19. Plan Christmas menu
20. Hang stockings on the mantle
21. Put out Christmas and winter decorations
22. Bring home the Christmas tree and decorate it
23. Christmas Wrapping
24. Put out Nativity sets
25. Christmas Day!!
Monday, November 29
I was thankful that the author took the time to write a note to teachers and parents mentioning the fact that the story told in this book is inspired by an event in the life of Saint Nicholas. It is important to point out that Saint Nicholas was already a bishop when he performed the good deed of dropping the coins into the stockings and not a teenager as the story portrays.
If you are looking for a good book to give to your children in honor of Saint Nicholas, this is it! The Secret of Saint Nicholas will be a treasured read in our home for many Decembers to come!
Sunday, November 28
How does the Lord heal the brokenhearted and bind up our wounds? He uses the healing myrrh with which the Holy Spirit sealed us at the sacrament of Anointment following baptism. Christ Himself wipes away our tears. Then He mystically snips pieces from our pure and precious baptismal garments, fashioning tourniquets in order to staunch the bleeding. He ties invisible strips of bandages and wraps them around our sores. We too are the agents of the Lord. He expects the same spiritual treatment from us. Our task is to assuage the pains of those in misery, to put together the cracks in broken hearts, and to comfort the weeping and grieving brought about by a world that inflicts suffering upon the children of God.
We celebrate the advances in medical science and praise the Lord Almighty for the bounties that technology has made possible. We live longer, healthier and more productive lives, especially when we obey our physicians and take advantage of the breakthroughs in conquering diseases that have afflicted past generations and shortened life spans of those who went before us. It is the emotional traumas, the mental afflictions, and the ignorance of a civilization that for the most part has rejected faith in God. Now it finds itself lost on the way to His Kingdom. The advances in spiritual progress won by those blessed pioneers of union with the Holy Trinity are rejected, ignored or ridiculed in the present post-Christian era. There are no spiritual breakthroughs that conquer rampant acts of aggression such as spousal abuse, random shooting sprees, and even serial killings. Sexual liberation bringing about such aberrant behavior as rape, pedophilia and other forms of physical gratification through exploitation of the innocent and weak has no permanent cures.
The first stage in the process of healing should be the simplest -- where do we find them? The injured are everywhere. The maimed are endemic. One need only to go out from oneself and listen, look and sense with a heart that pumps with love for a sign of people in anguish. Those most likely to do so are the ones who themselves have been wounded. The fortunate few who aren't sure just what they should be seeking are those who have somehow escaped suffering. How can I help, they say. What can they contribute to the one who is in anguish, other than a platitude: "It will be alright, just have faith"? The response from the afflicted: "Easy for you to speak of faith. Have you ever been tested yourself? Have you ever found yourself abandoned, without hope, wallowing in darkness alone and lost? If not, better be silent -- you don't know what you are talking about. Do you know the feeling of life without meaning? Can you understand what Jesus was feeling when He said, 'My God, why have You forsaken Me'"?
Despite all the wonders of medical science conquering the many diseases, they cannot "heal the brokenhearted." That phrase describes the anguish, grief, self-pity and suffering that is both spiritual and psychological. What medication can be prescribed for a tormented soul? What is the pill that offers bliss to the miserable? Who but God alone can bring joy to a wounded heart, and how does He do that other than to convey it through us? And when you find such a heart overwhelmed with joy, laughing when there's nothing funny, just from sheer delight, sensing love and returning that love, when such a heart is filled with serenity, the peace of God that passes beyond all understanding, at one with God and all others, such is one who had been healed with the balsam of the Spirit and bound with the spotless baptismal garment's strips. The broken heart has been repaired -- in a better state than it had been before the trauma that required healing. It confirms the faith that believes all is well, all will be well with the one who goes on affirming the presence of the Lord. The one healed from a spiritual illness has the trust in God strengthened. Her faith had been tested, and with the trial ended, she is set free to continue the journey through this world and time, and onward to the Kingdom of God.
Saturday, November 27
My mother and father have given us the wonderful gift of a subscription to High Five Magazine for Sugar Plum's birthday the past few years. This month's issue had such a great activity for little ones... two pages of drawings of doors, windows, signs, and plants to glue to paper lunch bags to create Paper Bag Town. We stuffed each bag with pages from a catalog and I stapled them together to create the buildings at varying heights once Sugar Plum finished cutting the pictures and gluing them down the way that she wanted. Little Man got in on the action by setting up his train tracks, trains, and road signs add to the scene. This activity has made the afternoon fly by! I think that this little town could be created easily by drawing doors, windows, and signs directly on the bags... how about a Gingerbread House??
Thursday, November 25
O Lord, how lovely it is to be Thy guest. Breeze full of scents; mountains reaching to the skies; waters like boundless mirrors, reflecting the sun's golden rays and the scudding clouds. All nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing the depth of tenderness. Birds and beasts of the forest bear the imprint of Thy love. Blessed art thou, mother earth, in thy fleeting loveliness, which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last for ever, in the land where, amid beauty that grows not old, the cry rings out: Alleluia!
Thou hast brought me into life as into an enchanted paradise. We have seen the sky like a chalice of deepest blue, where in the azure heights the birds are singing. We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest and the melodious music of the streams. We have tasted fruit of fine flavor and the sweet-scented honey. We can live very well on Thine earth. It is a pleasure to be Thy guest.
Glory to Thee for the perfume of lilies and roses
Glory to Thee for each different taste of berry and fruit
Glory to Thee for the sparkling silver of early morning dew
Glory to Thee for the joy of dawn's awakening
Glory to Thee for the new life each day brings
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age!
-Excerpt from The Glory to God for All Things Akathist
A Brief History:
"This Akathist, also called the Akathist of Thanksgiving, was composed by Protopresbyter Gregory Petrov in a Soviet prison camp shortly before his death in 1940. The title is taken from the words of St. John Chrysostom as he was dying in exile after being forcefully and unjustly removed as Patriarch of Constantinople.
Fr. Gregory's work is a comprehensive celebration of God's glory as found throughout a broad examination of life, in the smallest of things, and most basic circumstances. It is a celebration as understood by someone from whom all beauty was seemingly denied, but who was given the gift to see the beauty of God's work in all things. It is a song of praise and gratitude from amidst the most terrible sufferings.
Fr. Gregory could have reflected on how evil the Communists were who caused his exile and imprisonment. Instead, he rejoiced in Christ, Who was within him and would never leave him. He could have reflected on his misery, on how the rulers had deprived him of his priestly duties and the ability to ministration to his flock, and on the pain that his captors inflicted upon him daily. Yet, the text speaks from someone with the knowledge that everything that happens to those who love God is for their benefit. It is a song of joy emanating from the heart of a man whose physical eyes could not not see the beautiful things which are described so vividly, but through Our Lord, was given a superior vision."
Wednesday, November 24
Tuesday, November 23
This is the Feast
The Thanksgiving Door
The Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving
Monday, November 22
Day Nine Cow Coloring Page
Day Ten Lion Coloring Page
Day Eleven Baby Moses Coloring Page
Day Twelve Unburnt Bush Coloring Page
Day Thirteen Frog
Day Fourteen Parting the Red Sea Coloring Page
Friday, November 19
Anne of Green Gables
Tonight, I am packing up for a week-long trip to visit family. This little ones could hardly drift off to dreamland, they are so excited!
Thursday, November 18
During this season of my life where I have little ones, our house isn't ever going to be spotless. However, I have found that if I can keep on top of the laundry, tidy up as we go through the day, and keep the kitchen in basic order, things can be kept up pretty easily! If we have a difficult morning and I can't get everything done, I know that I'll have a second chance in the afternoon or evening or even the next day.
As far as my weekly cleaning routine goes, cleaning in our house generally means tidying up, dusting, and vacuuming in the living areas and in the bathrooms and kitchen disinfecting counters, sinks, tub/shower, and toilet and washing the floor). I save deeper cleaning and organizing for three or four times a year (Great Lent (March/April), the Apostles Fast (June), Dormition Lent (August), and Nativity (November/December).
My main goal in homemaking is to make our house a comfortable, clean, warm, and happy place that my husband and children want to be in. Though it is hard to keep up when there are little ones in your care, it is worth the effort. Living in an atmosphere where everything is in it's place and attractively organized helps to cultivate comfort and joy in a family's life. I dislike cleaning as much as the next person, but I try to show the happiness I feel that I am able to stay home and clean, cook, and nest to my heart's content. This attitude encourages my husband on days when working two jobs is frustrating, tiring and daunting and hopefully it shows my little ones that I am fully present for them and enjoying their childhood, rather than looking at my life as endless drudgery.
Daily Homemaking Routines
- Tidy Kitchen
- Tidy Bedrooms and Master Bath
- Homemaking Project
- Tidy Kitchen
- Tidy Downstairs
- Tidy Kitchen and Sweep Floor
- Take Out Garbage and Recycling
- Beautify - I try to go one step further in making things a little more special... some nights, I organize the crayon caddy, others I change the centerpiece on the table, or put a new picture in a frame, etc.
Notes: Each time laundry appears on my list doesn't necessarily mean that I am just washing clothes. Often, in the morning I will throw in a load, put it into the dryer in the afternoon, and then fold and put it all away in the evening. I try to have all of our laundry put away before bed... otherwise, it gets piled up everywhere and is a truly daunting task as the mound grows!
- Monday: Clean Bathrooms and Wash Towels
- Tuesday: Clean Bedrooms, Upstairs Hallway, Steps and Wash Sheets
- Wednesday: Clean Living Room, Play Room, and Dining Room
- Thursday: Clean Kitchen and One Appliance
- Friday: Clean Office, Entrance, and Laundry Room
Wednesday, November 17
On the Mayflower
Sarah Morton's Day
Samuel Eaton's Day
Pilgrims of Plymouth
Create Paper Pilgrim Hats and Bonnets
Watch The First Thanksgiving Field Trip
Take a trip to the market to choose non-perishable items to donate to the food pantry
A Boy's Thanksgiving Day
Lydia Marie Child
- Over the river, and through the wood,
- To Grandfather's house we go;
- The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
- through the white and drifted snow.
- Over the river, and through the wood—
- Oh, how the wind does blow!
- It stings the toes and bites the nose
- As over the ground we go.
- Over the river, and through the wood,
- To have a first-rate play.
- Hear the bells ring, "Ting-a-ling-ding",
- Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!
- Over the river, and through the wood
- Trot fast, my dapple-gray!
- Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound,
- For this is Thanksgiving Day.
- Over the river, and through the wood—
- And straight through the barnyard gate,
- We seem to go extremely slow,
- It is so hard to wait!
- Over the river, and through the wood—
- Now Grandmother's cap I spy!
- Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
- Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
Tuesday, November 16
In the past, I've used a very detailed list to help me go through the house and complete projects for the Feast that we are celebrating. For The Nativity Fast this year, I would like to do things a little more simply. Below you will find my very straightforward plan for deep cleaning the next few weeks. I am interested in seeing whether I prefer this uncomplicated method of planning or the more detailed version.
Week Two: Bedrooms and Closets
Week Three: Living Room, Atelier (our learning room), and Dining Room
Week Four: Kitchen, Entrance, and Office
Week Five: Laundry Room, Steps, Upstairs Hallway, and Playroom
Week Six: Decorate for Christmas!
Monday, November 15
Sunday, November 14
Last year, Mary and I worked on a Children's Bible Reader reading schedule and coloring page project to supplement the fifty-two ornament Jesse Tree. Below, you'll find our reading schedule using the Children's Bible Reader. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, we've lost the coloring pages that we completed last year. Despite this loss, I think that you will enjoy reading Bible stories to your little ones each day. Our plan is to light a special candle each evening before we sit down together to read.
Update: Thanks to Leah, we have all of the coloring pages! I'll upload them each Monday to share with you all!
The Tree of Jesse
So, this morning was a regular Sunday morning for us... the alarm goes off at 6:15 and Father John and I roll out of bed at 6:30. The goal is to get out the door by 7:30, so we have to hustle to get five people dressed and presentable in an hour.
What was different about today was that I did not do my usual homemaking routine (dishes, laundry, pick up) before I fell into bed last night. Since the children were still just waking up when I got out of bed, I zoomed around finishing up what I hadn't done the night before. I tossed wet clothes into the dryer and filled the washer back up to wash another load, quickly rinsed off the dishes in the sink and started the dishwasher, and then I raced around and picked up around the main living space of the house. By this time, the children were awake, so I quickly tidied the bedroom and made the bed while Sugar Plum and Little Man straightened their little beds. When I glanced at the clock, I was worried that we would be in trouble with the time and the fact that the children and I weren't dressed, but I was shocked to find that it was only 6:50. Only 20 minutes had passed!
For me, this is proof that I waste my time in the mornings. Often, we are up by 6:30 0r 7, but my morning routine (which is basically what I mentioned above plus breakfast, family prayers, and folding a little laundry) isn't done until 10 or 11. Bad, bad, bad! I hope that this little revelation will help me motivate myself to do better in the morning. I find that the children are at their freshest first thing, and if I can get the few things that I need to keep the house running smoothly accomplished within twenty or thirty minutes, then things will be a lot easier.
I haven't done many posts on homemaking in awhile, and I've gotten a few questions about how I do things. I am hoping to write a few posts on the topic this coming week... Hopefully, you won't be bored to tears!
Saturday, November 13
Families like to meet together for a meal. When the family is large and particularly close to one another, it usually develops this family meal into a kind of ritual. Most Americans find this most clearly expressed in the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner, held every year. The time and place are important for Thanksgiving Dinner, so too is the menu which must be built around certain meats—usually a big turkey—and certain other traditional dishes, such as cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Other ritualistic elements are usually developed when a family meets over a number of years for this traditional meal: certain persons have certain functions, definite places to sit, preparation rites are evolved into a strict custom, certain routines become traditional after the meal is finished. And when the afternoon is finished, everyone goes away back to his own daily round of living strengthened once more in the sense of oneness with this family. This conviction of unity and mutual support will bolster each person often in times of frustration or loneliness which come into all our lives. No family should be with-out a traditional meal. All of us, even those who cannot have such a gathering at Thanksgiving, know that this is true. Some families find that many more than one family meal each year is needed. And these families usually enjoy a unity and strength among themselves that is envied by others.
The Christian Family—the Family of God—also need their Meal of Unity. This need was well understood by Jesus Christ, and He instituted the Christian meal for all His followers. He did it very simply: He took bread and said, “This is my body.” Then He broke it and gave it to His followers to eat. He took wine and said. “This is my blood.” Then He gave it to them to drink. Then He said. “Do this in memory of me.” As the Apostles ate, they realized that they were becoming one with each other by Christ Himself entering into all of them. It is on this strength that they lived and gave witness to Christ all over the world. This meal and its effects on the Christians who ate of it immediately fulfilled the prayer which Christ said to His Father on that same night: “That they may be one Father, in you and you in me. . . that they may be one in us.” From that day until now, Christians have always met together in the traditional Breaking of Bread.
Christians, too, over the years have evolved a thorough ritual as the setting for this traditional Meal of Unity. Orthodox Christians in particular have developed a preparation rite, the Eucharistic Prayer, the Epiclesis, which invokes the Holy Spirit to “descend upon us and these gifts here offered” and to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ so that the Orthodox Faithful may break this Bread of Life and receive it unto themselves for the “remission of sins and Life Everlasting.”
Christians who come together for this Eucharistic Meal should come carrying the gifts which they want to contribute. In early Christian days each one did literally carry gifts to the Altar, much like Aunt Jane brings a casserole or Uncle George brings a bottle of wine to Thanksgiving Dinner. Nowadays the preparation of gifts is done in our Churches through one representative of the whole assembly, the Priest. who brings the bread and wine to the Altar in the Great Entrance. Each of us, though, should give our lives and our sincere dedication to Christ’s way of life while our representative is preparing the Gifts. The meal which we are readying on our Altars is, after all, OUR meal. OUR Breaking of the Bread. Of course, the Priest has the main function during the meal, because he is specially Ordained with the Grace of God to represent the community to God, as well as representing Christ before the community. But our function is also evidently meaningful; we come forward and eat from the Breaking of the Bread. We, like the Apostles, realize that all the assembly eating from this Holy Banquet are partaking of the same Christ which is filling us. We move back to our places with a sense of deep unity growing within us and all around us. There is a togetherness in this which penetrates us. There is a strength in this which fills us with a sense of power. There is a solemn conviction in this which makes us feel more and more Divine. We join together with all Orthodox Christians in this Breaking of the Bread. . . but we join with Jesus Christ in the deepest sense of our being. All of us are one, not only together, but in Christ.
When a family leaves a Thanksgiving Dinner, they are strong against frustration and loneliness. When Orthodox Christians leave their Eucharistic Meal of Unity, the Breaking of the Bread, they have a deep conviction that they are all joined together in a renewed commitment to witnessing Christ in their own world. At the end of the Gathering, the Priest says, “Let us depart in peace, let us pray to the Lord.” Surely this is clear truth. We indeed depart with Christ in us. We go in peace, the peace which Christ alone can give. We go to take Christ into whatever work is ours. Christ goes with us—with each of us, with all of us—and we know that large numbers of Orthodox Christians eat of the same Bread, and live on the strength of the same Jesus Christ. The more we eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, the more life, His Life, we have in us. And that life vivifies our actions till they become obviously and powerfully Christian. We witness Christ to others—individually and all together. Never will we be alone again. Together with countless other Orthodox Christians we are doing Christ’s work. Christ working through us will remove all frustration. He will make our lives successful. If today’s Orthodox Christians gather frequently for the Breaking of the Bread of Life, then people will say what the Romans said of the early Christians—and a touch of envy will be in their words: “See how they love one another.
Friday, November 12
Put some soft music on for a little while during the day.
Sing while you go about your daily activities.
If you have fancy earrings, wear them for no reason at all.
Speak softly and sweetly rather than loudly and roughly.
Learn several poems by heart and recite it for your family.
Begin the habit of reading good books aloud to someone you love.
If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
Use ladylike words to get your point across instead of slang and profanity.
Listen more than you speak.
Rather than shouting for someone to get the phone, come to you, or to get something for you, go to the person (whenever possible) and quietly ask them to do what you want.
When someone is talking to you, stop whatever you are doing to listen.
Do not brag, whine, or nag.
Thursday, November 11
Wednesday, November 10
Tuesday, November 9
Sunday, November 7
Saturday, November 6
Little Button is growing up so quickly! He has tripled his birth weight and is now 12 pounds. Baby Button loves to laugh and coo and responds to his big sister and brother's daily antics with glee! He enjoys bathtime and storytime (we've never had a child that cries until I sit him up on my lap to see the pictures in the books!) and instinctively knows when 8pm hits. Somehow, he senses that Sister and Brother are tucked in for the night and Mama and Papa are able to give him their undivided attention! Though he has only been around a short time, it feels like Button has been part of our family always.
Friday, November 5
The First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story
A Thanksgiving Turkey
A Turkey for Thanksgiving
Host a feast that features roast turkey... be sure to save the wishbone!
Make turkey soup from scratch
Create hand print turkeys
Surprise the little ones with a popcorn stuffed turkey for snacktime
Turkey yarn craft
Tuesday, November 2
Monday, November 1
Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos
Kursk Root Icon
Purchase last bits of warm clothing for the cold weather
Create costumes for the children to wear on Saint Michael's Day
Plan Cleaning List for Nativity Fast
Plant Bulbs and Pansies
Feather the nest with down blankets for the beds, warm throws for the living room, pajamas and slippers, candles, slippers and a stock of teas and cocoa
Plan Nativity activities
Plan for December's feastdays (Saint Nicholas Day, Saint Herman, Saint Lucia, Christmas) and Little Man's Namesday and Birthday
Knit two washcloths
Plan celebration for the feast of Saint Martin (Martinmas)
Set up Reading Room in the sunroom and Playroom in loft
Enjoy the darkening evenings with candlelight on the mantle and at the dinner table
2nd Miss Heather's Birthday
9th Uncle Nick’s Namesday and Birthday
11th Veterans Day
17th National Bread Baking Day
20th Uncle Gregory’s Namesday
21st Full Beaver Moon
LearningPractice being still and quiet during services and prayers
Singing – “O Heavenly King”
The Sign of the Cross for Little Man
Nature table scene
Seasonal book basket
Shopping for costumes for our dress-up box the day after Halloween
Encourage imaginative play by not over-scheduling our days
Take the children to the nearby state park for nature walks
Polish wooden toys together
Begin going to Story Hour again
The Tree of Jesse - Christmas Preparation
Celebrate Martinmas: book by Verena Smith, three small gifts, muffins for breakfast, lantern making, clothing donation