A history rich in Advent

As a child I received many advent calendars from my father’s parents. Every year that I would get one, I would gaze at them reverently, for they weren’t the cheaply made, mass produced items put out in the states. No, these were hand-made more often than not, richly colored in jeweled hues, with beautifully decorated picture work and thoughtful little treats a small child would be able to happily place in a secret box, or drawer and look at from time to time. My grandparents would buy them during their yearly trips abroad, most often in Norway where my grandmother had been born and raised.

 

As I grew older the giving of the calendars didn’t ebb away but continued yearly. I looked forward to them immensely. After my grandfather suffered a permanently debilitating stroke, the calendars stopped; my grandmother no longer traveled. A few years ago, after she, too, passed away, I found an older advent calendar from C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” on ebay. I ordered it, and we hang it up yearly so perhaps my children will grow up in the same tradition and in the hope of them having a memory like I do one day.

 

 

I dreamed of the advent calendars last night, I dreamed that I was a child again, looking at them again, but with more of an appreciation for the ongoing, consistent thoughtfulness of my grandparents who knew of the fascination the calendars held for me. They, truly, became something I looked forward to every year.

 

They were the one magical part of Christmas that the holiday held for me. My mother had told me from the time I was a toddler that Santa Claus did not exist. I recall my Christmases – they were often boring, dreary days where I would be found reading on the couch, or in my bedroom. As I grew up, I went to the movies on Christmas or out with friends.

 

After having children of my own, I found a love for Christmas from a place I did not know I possessed. A happiness in picking out thoughtful gifts for my children and husband that I knew they would enjoy. A peacefulness in sharing this time of year with little people who DID believe in Santa Claus. And I realized that Santa exists where you let him. That my husband and I are Santa when we wrap presents, place them under the tree late Christmas Eve, when we sprinkle reindeer dust (uncooked oatmeal with glitter) on the lawn, when we leave carrots for Santa to take to the reindeer, and cookies or chocolate cake for Santa.

 

Christmas Eve holds magic for me. A night filled with warmth, and the happiness I derive from carefully placing presents under the tree, from filling stockings, and eating the snacks the children leave out for the Christmas travelers. When everything is done I like to put the tree lights on, sit on the couch, sip some tea and look. We don’t go overboard on gifts; we plan a budget out each year and stick to it. I generally like to keep it under $60. per child. For us, although Santa is a presence, Christmas holds a deeper meaning.

 

I wanted my children to believe in Santa; I wanted Christmas in my house to be a joyous day, full of surprise and appreciation.

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Tales of Narnia and homeschool woes.

I’m a bad blogger – I freely admit it. I started out, blogging frequently. Then the consistency stopped – we were moving and life grew even more chaotic than usual. Packing and planning. Then a few-day car trip with me and my children in one vehicle and the husband in the moving van. Unpacking, trying to turn new space homey. Organizing. Refilling my pantry, and picking up absolute must-haves. Holidays. Presents. Also homeschooling this year hasn’t been going as well as I had hoped – we love our Math and History, but everything else is just ‘meh’. Bland and uninspired.

 

I’ve been toying with ideas of new curriculum. I’m thinking about Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Trained Mind approach of classical education, as well as tweaking AmblesideOnline for a secular education, and also wondering about Oak Meadow. I want to raise readers; I grew up reading  – I read voraciously and this was a pleasure that I indulged in freely, reading age-appropriate as well as books far beyond my maturity level. I remember vividly the day that the Scholastic book form came into my fourth grade classroom. I looked through the books and set my eyes on the Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. I was intrigued and wanted that box set. I went home, clutching the book form and showed it to my parents in the hopes that they would bite, and allow me to order it. They did, and I waited for the arrival of those books like a child awaits the beginning of vacation, or their birthday.

 
They finally arrived, and I tucked them away carefully in my desk, not opening them. When school let out for the day and I was finally home, I removed the plastic wrapping and began reading. I fell in love with those books, and as much as I wanted to find out what happened, I never wanted them to end either. When the last book was finished, I put it with the other back into the box, and set it on my bookshelf.

 

 

I re-read those books every year. However, you only have one opportunity to read the Chronicles for the first time, and this past year, I read them to my children, thrilling at their interest and delight over their first time of experiencing the stories. (By the way, one of my daughters has the name of Aravis, taken from The Horse and His Boy).

 
These books (pictured  below) are 31 years old now. I got them when I was 9 and I recently turned 40. I can’t read them again, they’re far too delicate for that, but I can’t get rid of them either. I plan on getting another box set with full color illustrations, and I will put these away, in the same place my favorite childhood stuffed animals are.

 

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I truly hope to pass the love-reading trait along to my children.

 

 

What methods/curriculum work well for your family? Are you raising children who love to read? Do you incorporate living books into your homeschool? Do you piece together curriculum to tailor your family’s specific requirements, or do you find that boxed curriculum works?  I’d love to read to your feedback!

crafty inspiration and the waiting horror in the girls clothing department

Oh, this book, 101 Days of Christmas by Mandi Ehman looks like fun. I love craft inspiration and I read about this one on Simple Homeschool and it’s free on Amazon for Kindle today.

The temperature high here today was about 75 degrees (Fahrenheit) and it actually felt cool. Moving from New York to the Pacific Northwest – it took us more than a year to acclimate to the cool (okay, cold to me) summers. Moving here at the very end of May, where temperatures soared high into the hundreds – I kept well hydrated, keeping our numerous Klean Kanteen bottles full of chilled water every time we went out. Add sunglasses and sunblock and we were ready to go. We managed to do a lot, as well as numerous visits to the pool. The entire time, I was more comfortable in this weather than I had been during our years in Washington and during the oppressively humid summers back East. I really love this climate.

And now, here it is, 71 degrees currently at the end of September and it feels cold. Suddenly, yes, it is autumn. I have pulled out my craft box, gone through the numerous skeins of wool yarn, pulled out my many crochet hooks, looked longingly over the Knifty Knitter that I was so certain I would take to like a fish takes to water. It seemed so fun, so simple. Once I got it and read how to do it, I put it away until a free moment, and haven’t looked at it again until just the other day.

I haven’t made clothing since I sewed a really ugly blouse in Home Ec. Now I  have to go through my supplies and figure out what super easy clothes I can make. I found  patterns I had bought at a thrift shop and put away for “someday”. Someday is here.

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We did some online clothes shopping for the girls the other day. I went into ebates  (just letting you know, if you click on that link and sign up for ebates, I will receive $10. for each opened account) and then checked retailmenot and armed myself with coupon codes and with dreams of savings, I went head on into clothing sites. I should have paused and recalled each and every year of clothes shopping. Needless to say, nothing was purchased. I know that I’ve brought this up before, but I don’t want my younger children to wear some of the clothes they sell. Low rise jeans, shirts with glittery messages, midriff baring anything. For the past few years, we’ve gotten off easily, buying yoga pants, and boys shorts (which are longer) and plain color t-shirts. But my youngest is very very into fashion and wants to dress differently. My eldest is not really into clothes, but is beginning to care more about appearance. They both want more input into what they wear. I understand this and I also respect it. I want to encourage it. But I don’t want them dressing, let’s call it like it is and say slutty umm, precociously, as many children their age do (I assume that most parents are more than accepting of this forced early sexualization since they continue to buy the clothes the industry churns out year after year.)  I want something different.

 

 

Do you make any clothing for your children? How did you improve your sewing skills? Do you find it practical given the cost of fabric/necessities as opposed to clothes? Or, if you do purchase clothes for your children, where do you find inexpensive, yet quality basics?

These were my dreams

I had a pink umbrella when I was a little girl. It was the average fare for the time – shiny pink vinyl stretched out on its metal frame. Cheaply made, but better manufactured than many of the items on the market for children today. I had a yellow rain jacket that had been my mother’s and it had a small rip in one of the sleeves. It smelled like smoke from her cigarettes and the pockets always had trace remnants of tobacco flecks in them, which would get on my hands if I put them in the pockets.

I would wear what I remember as an emerald green woman’s satin nightgown, sleeveless, with a plunging neckline, designed to show off cleavage, no doubt, but in my case, emphasizing my practically concave chest. I would walk about in the back yard, enjoying the lush greenness that only seemed to appear in the rain, or after the rain. I would fancy myself a spring fairy princess and walk among my realm.

I was still partial to walking in the rain as I got older, walking about, thinking of poetry, abstract depth, and mentally examining the theory of travel between worlds. This enjoyment finally culminated in a fervent kissing session with my first boyfriend when I was 14. That was pretty much it for my fascination for walking in the rain.

I would sit in school and stare out the window on gray, rainy days, lost in reverie about the my potential future goals, my dream career, of being a muse to Neil Gaiman, marrying Gary Oldman, or if I was feeling particularly motivated; actually having the career and Gary Oldman. Something that would involve numerous public appearances, wearing a stylist-picked gorgeously tasteful, yet outrageous dress. On the arm of Gary Oldman.

I spent my junior and senior years of high school thinking that once I graduated I would buy a beat up car and drive out to California. I could wait tables or something, but I wanted to be a star, baby. Not really, but I wanted to do voice work, that would work nicely – I wanted to (vocally) act, and I didn’t want to do it in New York. I’d had enough of New York, wanting to leave the East coast for the enviable warmth of the wild West. There was gold in them thar hills, and I wanted to go panning for it, certain that I would hit upon a fine supply.

Walking across the highway and getting hit by a speeding drunk hadn’t factored into my plans. California was out. Surgery was in, lots and lots of operations. Tremendous amounts of pain, an empty feeling, a broken heart of not being able to pursue those golden dreams of youth. They had been irreparably tarnished and I had no way of acclimating to this uncertain future. I read a lot, losing myself briefly in whatever Stephen King and James Patterson books were around.

I started community college the following winter, after the first series of operations. I hated going back to school during my own cold winter of despair. My dreams were gone and I was stuck – being taught by bitter, middle aged professors who had obviously dreamed other dreams for themselves as well. It was my first real experience of “life isn’t fair” – outside of having a high school boyfriend break up with me for a far prettier girl, and the fact that my closet never turned into a portal to Narnia. It was a bitter pill to swallow and the taste remained with me.

I gave up on college, finding it too physically demanding to try to navigate icy sidewalks with a cane, balancing classes, course work, with physical therapy and my psychologist. I went to see a lot of local bands, feeling so insecure and out of place, with my leg brace, and angry red scars running up and down my legs. I felt like everyone was looking at me, judging me, or gazing at my scars and disabilities with pity. I worked hard to overcome my walking difficulties and met with success, a slight limp only presenting itself when I had walked for too long or was tired.

I dated a lot of guys, traveled, went to concerts, read wonderful books; anything to fill up that gaping hole inside, and convinced myself that I was happy. The truth would come out at night when I would have nightmares I couldn’t remember when awake. I would awaken screaming, my heart pounding, the sounds of my own screams still in my ears, my throat aching. More than twenty years later, those dreams still awaken me. Not with the same regularity but every so often, as if to remind me of what I usually forget of crushing, searing pain and seemingly interminable surgery recoveries.

Dreaming in Spanish

I nearly failed my Spanish class in high school. It was a choice between Spanish and French, and I chose Spanish, thinking it would be a far more practical choice, given the large Hispanic population I lived near. I had passing fantasies of going to culinary school and becoming a baker, and in every restaurant kitchen I know of, Spanish is a requirement, if you want to actually communicate with anyone.

 

So anyway, I barely passed. I had the worst accent my Spanish teacher, Senor Tom had ever heard in more than twenty years of teaching and to add insult to that, I couldn’t roll my “R’s”. Just couldn’t do it. I soldiered through in class, injured my verbal assignments; when I would stand in front of the class, I could see Senor Tom cringe whenever I spoke. I got to go on the class trip, to what turned out to be the tamest, least Hispanic restaurant in the county, probably the entire state. No self respecting Hispanic people ate there. I discovered the really good place about fifteen years after graduation. A friend, from Brazil, took me to a tiny, hole in the wall, that served the most authentic food I had ever eaten, Hispanic people were there for every meal they were open, ordering in their flawless espanol, while I ordered with my still-horrible fumbling attempts. I took all my friends, and went on numerous dates there. I think it got to the point where the staff would check out whoever I was with, since I never brought the same guy in twice.

 

After I got married, I took my husband there, and then my husband and my increasing pregnant belly. My cravings were almost always for the vegetable burrito, with no leche. The most delicious thing ever. A year later, that craving was back, with my next pregnancy. A year or so after that, the craving had returned, even though my uterus was unoccupied, but unfortunately the restaurant had closed. I was broken hearted, having never found any restaurant that could compare.

 

I still wish I could speak Spanish. I imagine ordering the Rosetta Stone program or something similar, to teach myself and daughters. In this daydream, my accent is perfection and my “R’s” are rolled like a pro.