Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Time

Christmas time at our home is usually nice and quiet. There are probably lots of reasons for that this year, but mostly it is just how I like to roll with the Christmas thing. We go to the mall, not because we have to, but because it is funny to watch all the people. I order as much as humanly possible online, which is the best invention ever.

Every year it surprises me how frantic some folks get, and it makes me a little sad. I love just sitting down, listening to Christmas music (Red Mountain's Christmas cd...the fav this year), smelling my Christmas tree, thinking about Jesus. Sweetness!

The girls have really gotten into Christmas music this year. I love hearing Annelise say, "Mama, it's a Christmas song!" And then when the girls hear anything in the song about Jesus, angels, shepherds, stars, Mary, etc. they make a point of letting us know what they hear. Funny aside. The other day we went to Publix. The girls LOVE to grocery shop because they give all the kiddos a free cookie. Dave told them we were going, and said, "we are going to get a cookie from Miss Mary" (who usually works at the bakery on this particular day), and Hadleigh exclaims, "Mary and Jesus?" We then explained that this was a different Mary, so in the end HC said, "Oh, OK, there is Mary, and Miss Mary who gives us cookies at the grocery store." Right.
Anyway, we try to keep things simple around here. We went to one party, which was nice. And we took HC to see the Nutcracker, which was fun, except I really do not like ATL's version. I suppose that is what you get for growing up with a Grandmother who takes you to see the Nutcracker in NYC. For Christmas dinner, Dave cooked our traditional duck, which was AMAZING, and we had some friends over for dinner, which was fun. And now we are enjoying some quiet time at the house. Dave's office is closed until after New Years, so it is nice to have him around. And Grandma and Grandpa are coming to visit tomorrow! That means the girls will have a real swingset in the backyard this weekend.

Here are some pics from our December. We went to our fav farm to cut down our Christmas tree, but then Dave opted for the NC grown cut tree in the end. Unfortunately, GA trees do not seem to smell as nice as NC trees. Ah well. The farm also lets you feed goats, so the girls had a blast doing that. I am also posting some pics from Christmas morning, and of the girls all dressed up for church on Sunday. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lions, and Tigers and Schools, Oh My!

Let me first just say, I have no idea what we are going to do when little miss HC hits kindergarten (which is a mere 20 months from now). We have some good options, which is great. The local elementary school is decent, at least according to GA standards, we have an amazing private classical school run by our church which I have always dreamed of my children attending, and then last, but not least there is always the option to home-school if the need arises.

Homeschool, I know, can you believe the words just slipped through my typing fingers? Believe it, or not, I was homeschooled. I know you find that weird since I am not a freakish-social outcast (at least most of the time I am what some would call normal). I think I am more shocked than all of you, because although I think my parents did a wonderful job, I always said I could never do that...and that is still mostly my thought.

As our family meandered through Wal-mart on Christmas Eve (not shopping, just browsing and watching everyone else scurry), I found a box of 10 Christmas puzzles. One of the F family traditions was putting together Christmas puzzles, so I immediately had to grab up the box. The box contained 2 puzzles with 100 pieces, 4 puzzles with 300 pieces and 4 puzzles with 500 pieces. As soon as we got home HC and I went to work on the 100 piece puzzle. She is amazing at puzzles, so I thought it would be super fun to put it together, together. So...5 minutes into the process, as I am trying to encourage her to not only turn all the pieces right-side-up, but also to separate the edge pieces from the middle pieces, I found myself growing frustrated.
Me: HC, please put all the pieces with an edge in THIS pile.
HC: With an edge?
Me: Yes, you see this? (as I run my finger along the straight side of the piece), all the pieces like THIS go over here. Can you find a piece with an edge?
HC: This one? (as she picks up a middle piece)
Me: Does that have a straight line, HC? (now a little more irritated)
HC: A straight line?
Me: Do you know what a straight line is?

Dave walks over and assesses the situation. He gives me a look, and I know what he is thinking...and you want to do this ALL the time? And I am thinking the same thing. How the hell do those crazy homeschool moms do it? But then we have such sweet moments while we sit reading "Charlotte's Web", and have made it through 100 pages in 1 sitting, and I think, I could do this all day!

Ah, another day in the M house, but I digress. So, we have lots of decisions before us regarding school, and one of my friends recommended that I read Susan Wise Bauer's book "The Well Trained Mind" which I promptly put on my book wish list and received for Christmas, thank you, Chris and Rubie! She is pretty much the super-star of the classical model for education, which I have always loved, and I pretty much devoured the book from cover to cover. There is so much good, amazing information in it, wow, I cannot say enough about it.

There is a chapter in the book entitled, "The Confident Child: Socialization", and it begins with this quote from H. McCurdy, "The Smithsonian Institution's recipe for genius and leadership: (1)children should spend a great deal of time with loving, educationally minded parents; (2)children should be allowed a lot of free exploration; and (3)children should have little to no association with peers outside of family and relatives." I found this mildly amusing, but as I read the chapter, I was intrigued by some of her thoughts. One of her observations is that in large groups of same-age-peers, children learn to value the opinion of their peers, which can create a dependency on their classmates for approval, direction, and affection...HELLO please don't take me back to those awful teenage years. But upon reading this, I had a memory from when I was growing up. Now, I am not sure why this happened, I don't think it is necessarily because I was home-schooled, but I now think that certainly played a role.

I went to public school for kindergarten and then was home-schooled for 1st and 2nd grade, and then went back to the same public school for 3rd and 4th grade before my parents pulled me out again until high school. I remember in 3rd grade there were 2 children in my class that no one liked (who knows why, I remember that the girl was a little weird, and the boy had a weird name, well it wasn't weird, his name was Israel). After recess everyday, our class had to line-up in two lines before our teacher walked us back to class. For whatever reason no one wanted to be in line with either Andrea or Israel, and as soon as they would get in line, all my classmates would jump into the other line. All of my classmates except me. I always stood in line with them. I think I was mildly mocked for this choice, but for the most part no one bothered me about my decision.

When HC was born, and then Annelise, our prayers for them have been that they would never know a day without the Lord, and that she would grow to love all kinds of people. Part of that prayer, for me, was with that story in the back of my mind.

Now, I don't think homeschooling made me a nice person, actually, I don't often think of myself as a nice person. Dave is nice, I am a little too fiery to be nice. But after reading this book, I wondered if being at home for those 2 years gave me the confidence to do the right thing, at age 8, and to treat those children as image-bearers of God.

Don't know, but I continue to pray that no matter where my children go to school, they will have the confidence and the foundation to do the right thing. And now I am off to read my other Chistmas book, which is a bit lighter, "My Life in France" (Julia Child's memoir).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Best Neighborhood Ever

I know I have mentioned this before, but we truly live in the best neighborhood ever, and I am so thankful. I will often think over the process of buying a home and how we struggled over where we should settle down. I still will occasionally drive down to East Lake or the Old Fourth Ward and think, man it would be SO cool to live here...but then I drive back to my neighborhood and remember that I truly live in the best place.

This is a picture from our kids Christmas oarty a couple weeks ago. The kids gather to make ornaments that are animal friendly (for birds and squirrels) and then we go and decorate the Christmas tree in our square. It was so fun (and chaotic) to have all the kids around, but it is nice to think about the girls growing up with other neighborhood children, what a blessing. In fact, our next door neighbor will have her first baby in March and I look forward to a few years down the road when we will need to cut a hole in the fence for everyone to run back and forth. We also hope to import another few friends with kiddos onto our end of the square, but we are still praying that one into reality.

This past Friday the women gathered for our monthly Bunco party. Instead of Bunco we had a Christmas feast and played "Dirty Santa". I had such a wonderful time gathering with women who really and truly care about one another. We come from all different backgrounds, young, old, single, married, etc, and though we do not know each other as much as we might like, there is a general atmosphere of caring for those who are struggling and celebrating with those who are rejoicing. What a blessing. I am so thankful to the Lord for directing our paths, even though it is not as cool a place as I thought I might like to live...it is just where we need to be.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fav Christmas Mem Thus Far

I love Christmas! Someone asked me the other day if I loved Christmas, and although I do, I had to pause and say, well now, it depends on what you mean by that? If you mean going out with the crowds, standing in massive lines, searching for that one gift that will make life worth living...NO. Not only do I not like that version of Christmas, but I refuse to participate in it! I like to point a click when I am shopping for Christmas.

However if you mean, making cookies, sending and receiving Christmas cards, sitting in my living room and smelling my REAL Christmas tree while listening to Harry Connick Jr and putting ornaments on our Jesse Tree, well, by all means, I LOVE Christmas.

This is our second year following the Jesse Tree readings. We tried it last year and it didn't last, the girls were just a little too young, but this year it has been awesome. Beginning the first night of advent and continuing through Christmas, we put a special ornament on a special tree called the Jesse Tree. Each ornament has a symbol that corresponds to a passage of scripture, and this basically takes you from Creation through the birth of Jesus. I love it for many reasons...one being that sometimes we American Christians think that Christianity started with the first Billy Graham crusade. We tend to throw out any tradition or song that wasn't written in the last year. And we also tend to forget that Jesus was ALWAYS God's plan, from the beginning. There are not two different stories, old testament and then new. It is all one story and the Jesse Tree helps us see Jesus through all of scripture. Love it!

So, onto my fav Christmas memory to date. Every year Intown has "Lessons and Carols". There are nine readings and nine Christmas carols sung. It is such a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas, I think. The music is always amazing and hearing the passages of scripture in between as we lead up to Christ's birth is awesome. Every year we have brought Hadleigh to worship with us when they have the Lessons and Carols. She loves music and always enjoys coming with us, yesterday was no exception. But a really fun thing happened yesterday, she was really listening. She listened to the words of the songs and to words of scripture. Her eyes would get really big and she would say, "Naked Mama! Adam and Eve were naked!" OK, that was more comical than anything, but was listening and knew all the stories, not just from our readings in the Jesse Tree, but just from reading scripture to her at other times. It was really cool to see, she is beginning to get it. It all made my heart glad. Not only to hear the truth of Jesus' birth sung and read, but to know that Hadleigh is beginning to see and understand the truth herself. What a great Christmas gift!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

In the Middle

I am not a girly girl. Maybe compared to some, but not to others. I don't care about shoes (though from time to time considered buying a pair of red ones). I actually think I might care about shoes if I had different feet. My feet are ridiculously narrow, and long. I wear size 9. Ever heard of a 9 narrow? That is because they don't exist. When I wear sneakers I have to pull the laces so tight that the sides of the shoe come together in the middle. I cannot wear sandals unless they are backless because the strap will never stay on my heel. So, I don't buy shoes.

I actually do not like to shop, it makes me tired and I have to know what I want when I walk in, otherwise it puts me in a bad mood. The only store I don't have to have an agenda in is Ann Taylor...I love it! Growing up I think I had a good mix of getting dirty and getting dressed up. I spent a summer in Africa with a suitcase that weighed 32 pounds (you cannot bring a lot with that weight limit, trust me). I think I washed my hair once a week. I also went my whole senior year of high school without shaving my legs. These days I do tend to shave more than once a year and I take a shower everyday (in case you are worried).

All this to say, I find it hard to expect my girls will by girly. It will be fine if they are, but it will not be because I have encouraged it to them. I never bought them anything smocked, we don't have anything with their name or initials emboidered on it...it's just not my thing. So far we have steered WAY clear of the whole princess thing. I am not at all sad about that one. Again, if they want it, it will be fine, but happy to avoid.

This fall was the first season that I was able to pick out all of HC's clothes. Since she was born we have been the grateful recipients of hand-me-downs. Love it, it's been great, but they have slowed down and I actually enjoyed getting to choose the clothes myself (at a consignment sale, no less, and I was in and out in 30 minutes). The thing is I did not buy her any play dresses. She has some pretty dresses for church, but I have never considered sending her to school in a dress. Don't you sit on the floor and play on the playground? Why would you want to wear a dress? OK, so recently HC has asked to wear a dress to school. I am still shocked at this, but I am trying to be a supportive mama.

Today I ran out to a couple stores to try to find a couple cheap play dresses that she can wear with leggings underneath and we don't have to worry about ruining it with paint or glue or whatever they might do at school. I seriously went to 3 stores and only found 1 dress. This was partly because of my price range, but partly because they store did not have anything that I thought was suitable. HC is really no longer in the toddler section of clothing anymore. I can still occassionaly find a size 5 in a toddler dress, but she is in the regular girl section now. And those clothes were NOT suitable for a 3 year old. My 3 year old is not a rocker, she does not have an attitude (well she does, but we try to correct that), and she doesn't watch High School Musical. I just want something that is cute and blue, or green, or pink, and maybe has a flower on it or polka dots. Just something that a little girl would wear. Or maybe I should say, something that I will allow my little girl to wear.

I know, I am weird, freak. I just thought that I would have to start worrying about this in middle school when we are swim-suit shopping and I have to explain, "sorry honey, you cannot wear a bikini." Blah! Maybe for now I can use this as an excuse to shop at more expensive stores...we'll see what Dave thinks.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Psalm 86:10-12

You are Great
and do marvelous deeds
You alone are God
Teach me your ways O Lord
And I will walk in your truth
Give me an undivided heart
That I may fear your name
I will praise you O Lord, my God
I will glorify your name forever

One Sunday this past summer this was our call to worship. After we read it in worship I decided to memorize it with the girls. I just love this passage of scripture. This summer I was also really struggling with teaching Hadleigh to pray. That is not really something you want to ram down your children's throat, but I also thought I should encourage her. She is sometimes timid about things, and especially when it involves talking in front of people, so then I had a great idea...to use sscripture to teach her to pray. That gives her words that she already knows to use as a prayer. And wow, what better teacher than God's word itself. So at bedtime and then at random meal times or during the day I would pray the above passage. And finally I convinced her to begin saying the passage with me as a prayer. This evening as I was tucking the girls into bed Hadleigh exclaimed that it was her turn to pray and she prayed Psalm 86.10-12. Annelise repeated along with Hadleigh, because Annelise cannot be left out of anything! It was so sweet.

I think I am going to start looking for more passages like this one that we can all learn together and pray as a family, but for now, it is Psalm 86.10-12 and I cannot think of a better prayer to have at this point.