Saturday, January 28, 2012

Our winter solstice tree...

Finally, we all seem to be feeling better (well, except for Nicholas, but he's almost there). So back to blogging.

We have a winter solstice tree. It is yet another after Christmas tradition that we have started that I love.

We have 3 Christmas trees (4 if you count the tiny one in the hallway between the girls' rooms, but I don't). The nicest one was my parents. It is an artificial tree that is beautiful (they really do exist). Heaven knows how much they paid for it. They got it when I was 13, and it still looks as lovely as it did then. So all that nonsense about how artificial trees aren't eco-firendly is a bunch of bunk, in my opinion. It is our family tree, the one that lives in our family room and the one that has the most presents underneath it. It is decorated with all different kinds of ornaments-ones the girls have made, ones from our vacations (we always get ornaments wherever we go), ornaments from our first Christmas together, things like that. It has colored lights and a popcorn string made of styrofoam packing peanuts that my mom and dad strung the first year that they were married. The tree topper is a star, because my grandma always had a star on her tree.

Our second tree is what we lovingly call "the pretty tree." It is meant to look pretty through the window. It has white lights (to match our ourdoor lights). The ornaments all go together (I got them several years ago at Kmart, they are part of a Martha Stewart collection). Most of them are pink. And then we put all of our Wizard of Oz ornaments on it. So we sometimes call it the "Wizard of Oz" tree. The topper for it is Glinda, and then we have ornaments of all the major characters (except for the Wicked Witch, which the girls and I have decided needs to be remedied).

The third tree is a real live Christmas tree. I decided two years ago that, while I loved our trees, I wanted the girls to have a memory of going and picking out a real tree. We live right down the road from Morrison's Christmas Tree Farm, so off we trek one weekend in December. I have fallen in love with Norwegian Fir trees from this experience (they don't lose too many needles and they are a lovely, old-fashioned looking tree). This is our literary tree. All of the ornaments on it must be related to a book. Tinkerbell is our tree topper, and we have a train that goes around it. It has colored lights and red beads for popcorn. The first year that we had it, I decided that I wanted to really string popcorn for it. This task proved too difficult for me. They all just broke to pieces.

All of the presents under the literary tree, as you might have guessed, are books.

When Christmas is over and we take all of the trees down, we take the real tree (in the stand) outside and stake it down. (We discovered that because it is so windy where we live, it is best to really tie it down well.) This becomes our winter solstice tree.

We decorate it with various things. Nick makes a suet ball out of melted lard and birdseed. Put a Chirstmas hook in it and it will stay when it hardens. This year he also made some in the muffin pan and we set them around the tree. We also take pine cones and cover them in peanut butter, then cover them in birdseed. (This is a fun task for the girls, but messy-we make them wear latex gloves.) And we cut up apples and oranges and hang them.

We have all kinds of birds come to our tree and we truly love watching all of them. I would love to have more wildlife-perhaps a deer or some squirrels which we know live here-but I've never seen them eating anything.

A good book to go along with this is The Night Tree by Eve Bunting. It is a Christmas book but I save it until we do our solstice tree.

It was a dream of mine since I was a kid to have this tree. I read about it in one of my Christmas books and I just thought that it sounded so fun. It is as fun as I imagined.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I don't like sick days...

Felicity is sick today (actually she was sick yesterday and it has carried over into today). It is no fun at all having a sick child. Particularly at this particular part of the sickness, where she is feeling better enough to want to be up and doing things, but still too sick and weak to actually do anything. So we have spent our morning watching PBS, and now we have graduated to Barbie movies (Barbie movies, for those of you who do not know, are really, really boring).

Anyway, I am not a fan of medication in any way, shape, or form. This kind of drives my parents nuts-"why can't you just give them some cough medicine?"-but I'm pretty firm about it. I just don't believe that medication helps all that much. I will use Motrin for times when they seem excessively achy, or when they have a headache, but it's pretty rare.

However, I do believe in a few things that I have found work out fairly well. Number one, for coughing, a spoonful of honey. This seriously works, I have used it myself. So for days that we have a lot of coughing, there are several spoonfuls of honey given.

Number two, Vicks vapor rub. When I was a kid, my mom put this on my chest. I put it on my girls feet and then put socks on them. I'm pretty sure that it works the same way, but the girls don't mind as much if it's on their feet.

Number three, a humidifier. I have found that this helps to alliviate a stuffy nose; however, you have to be diligent about keeping them clean.

I am also a huge believer in yogurt. I try to have the girls eat yogurt several times a week. And I also give them chicken noodle soup when they are sick, if they are wanting to eat an actual meal. Other than that, I try to stick with fruit and water. This morning Felicity ate some oatmeal. The key is blandish foods. Fruits are mostly water, and they are things that the girls actually enjoy eating. Once she gets down the soup, if she is still hungry, we'll go to some vegetables. No meat until she is feeling much, much better.

I use saline drops if the girls seem stuffy and unable to breathe at night. I also use a saline cream for under their nose, that is supposed to help with the rubbed raw feeling after a day of nose blowing.

That's about it. We use Benedryl or Claritin when Betsy has a watery eye, running nose reaction to what we assume are allergies.

So, anyway, back to Barbie and her magic pegasus...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Wise men seek him still...

Okay, I'm trying to be better about doing this. Tonight we had our Three Kings celebration, which is one of my very favorite things that we do as a family, so I thought that I would blog about it in hopes that I might inspire others to take it up.

First off, our celebrating begins on December 26. We get out the wise men and start them on the journey to Bethlehem.

Okay, I'm going to back up-to Advent. We have an Advent wreath (which is very easy to make, you just get a plain wreath and place the candles around it, you can get the candles cheap at Hobby Lobby). We read our Advent readings on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, light the candles, and set out the appropriate part of the manger scene. The first week we get out the stable and animals, the second week we get out Mary and Joseph, the third week we get out the angel, and the fourth week we get out the shepherds and sheep. On Christmas Day we light the Christ Candle and place baby Jesus in the stable. And then on the 26, the wise men start their journey. They go from our back door, through our family room, and living room, and they end up in the stable today, on January 6, which is Epiphany.

If you want to do this with your kids, I suggest getting a manger scene that is durable and you aren't fussy about. We have 3 different manger scenes in our house. One is Precious Moments and it is pretty to look at and not to be touched. One is Fisher Price Little People which is totally to be touched and played with, so that the girls are learning the story with their own hands. And then we have this set, that we use for the Advent season. It is the manger scene that my grandparents used to own, and they didn't want it any more, and gave it to me. It is nice, but nothing that I worry about the girls breaking.

Okay, so every day we move the wise men. New this year, we bought a book called "The Twelve Days of Christmas" by Olivia Price. It contains an ornament for each of the 12 days of Christmas (which are the 12 days between Christmas and Epiphany). It's a cute book, with different readings on each page. But I mostly wanted it because I wanted to have a small tree and hang the ornaments up, 1 every day until the 6th. We bought a pre-lit Christmas tree at Wal-mart after Christmas and used it for this. I loved adding this to our celebrating because it helped the girls count the day, kind of like an Advent Calendar (don't get me started on Advent calendars, we have 5 of them, and I am obsessed about them-I'll do a blog all about them sometime).

Also I write down what I remember of my dreams each night for the 12 days. Supposedly it correlates to the year-like December 26 is January, December 27 is February. I don't really think that it does, but I dream a lot and it is fun to write them down. The girls even wrote down some of their dreams this year. (They don't really know yet that other moms don't do these things!)

Anyway, this all leads up to today-Epiphany. I cleaned the whole house today, that is step one. Then I made a King's Cake (there are specific recipes for them if you want, but I just make a cake that we feel like eating, this year it was a spice cake, per my dad's request). All you have to do is make a cake, and then add a bean (I used a dry lima bean). Stir it in the cake mix and bake it. Then after dinner my parents come over, we all get a slice of cake, and whoever gets the bean is the lucky one for the year. That person is blessed. Last year Nicholas got the bean and he had a great year (after all, he got a job that he loves). This year I had the bean! Pretty cool stuff, and the girls love it. We also read the story of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12).

Then we bless the house. We light an incense stick and carry it around the house, blessing every corner and nook and cranny. When we have covered every inch, we send Nicholas outside with chalk and he writes "C+B+M 2012" above both doors. (It stands for Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, the supposed names of the Magi). This shows that our house has been blessed.

It's all a little silly, and my husband is a great sport for putting up with me, I know. But it's great fun and we enjoy it.