Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas tree pod

The night we decorated our tree, Lillee found a little gift under the tree as she was placing baby Jesus on a limb. I found her discovery the next morning when I was vacuuming pine needles from the carpet. It was this odd little pod. It had a texture similar to a wasp nest, but was shiny in places, not dull like a wasp nest. I thought it may be sap that had leaked from the tree because one end almost looked as if it has been oozing out of something. It was attached to a branch, not the trunk of the tree and felt very light, and I assumed hollow as I shook it and heard nothing.

We decided to cut into it to see what we might find. I expected a worm, an insect, an egg of some sort. Instead, there were layers of the outer material and no room for a worm, insect or I thought. I squeezed it a bit and yellow fluid began to seep from the layers. Then I saw black specks coming through the yellow fluid.

After further examination with a flashlight, we found the layers were actually divided into cells....fascinating!

We searched for an hour on the internet, using very descriptive terms but came up empty handed. Within 5 minutes of posting on one of my homeschooling boards, someone told me it sounded like a mantid egg sac. Sure enough, it was a mantid egg sac!

I love discovery, research and answers! Science is such fun and I hope my kids will continue to enjoy and have a love of exploration and the desire to find answers without fear.

Chase's first time playing in the snow

We had our first snow this year and Chase is finally old enough to bundle up and head out, especially since it was only 1-2 inches of snow.

Chase all bundled up! He's trying to warm his freezing hands because he won't keep mittens on.

We've not taken down the Halloween witch...she's pretty cute and the girls like her. So we topped her with a santa hat and now we can keep her up longer!

The kids were cleaning sidewalks at our neighbors' houses as their daily service.

Isabel tossing a snowball at the camera. Unfortunately, the snow was very powdery and the kids were disappointed that it would not stick together.

Not sure what to make of it all...he kept batting hsi eyelashes to get the snowflakes off.

A true ya Belly!

Decorating the Christmas tree

Chase didn't undecorate the Christmas tree, like he did last year. It was a lot of fun! We put out the decorations, made sure they all had hooks and were ready to go before letting Chase at them.

He carried these same 3 Christmas balls for awhile.

And did not want to put them down! Surely his little fingers could hold more...

Connor is growing up so fast! Al and Chase left to run an errand and I was goign to start the tree decorating with the kids while Chase was gone. Connor refused to decorate the tree without Chase. He insisted that Chase be part of it all and the girls joined the chorus! I was so proud of them.

Chase got the honors of topping the tree this took awhile.

And finally (with the help of grandma and daddy) he did it....applause please!

Temple and Visitor Center at Christmas time

We were blessed with an opportunity to go to the temple to see the Festival of Lights with some friends, this year. Connor was our photographer for the event.

There is a creche display that is fascinating! There are creche from all over the world that are on loan for this event each year.

I liked this one because Connor caught his reflection in the mirror from the display.

The outdoor, life-size nativity. BRRRRRRR

Beautiful Christmas trees inside the visitor center.

Connor captured a great picture of the Christus.

Most of the outdoor pictures looked like this. It was very cold and hard to have a steady hand.

Connor's final picture for the night was simply gorgeous!

Connor's 1st hat for the homeless

In my previous post about our December Daily 5 school work I had mentioned that Connor and Lillee have to put in 20-30 minutes knitting a hat for the homeless. Connor finished his first hat last week.

Lillee's 6th Birthday

Lillee is 6, AMAZING! She is a beautiful child, not just on the outside, but she's truly beautiful on the inside. She is so loving, is intensely in tune with the Spirit and loves everyone she has ever met. She often reminds me of what we should be doing to be more Christ-like. She has her moments and drives me nuts but I love her so much and can't imagine my life without her. She is a true blessing from God.

On her 3rd birthday, I started a tradition....baking a special birthday cake. It has been fun and challenging each year to offe a special cake to each child, but we all look forward to it. After Chase's birthday this year I asked Lillee what she wanted for her cake (their birthdays are only 7 days apart). She started off by saying, "Hmmmm, I don't think I should ask that because you can't do it, Mommy." Boy, was I determined to do whatever it was she wanted! She told me she wanted an elephant cake. I thought, "Easy Peasy!"

So here is her elephant cake...not so easy peasy. This cake took all day to create, but it was sooo worth it (see the video at the end of this post).

This is no small cake! It was actually 3 cakes.
The ears were made of chocolate, piped onto wax paper and then smoothed out and shoved in the side of the elephant head.
Chase had to have a bite, too :)
best gift of the birthday...Grandma got her a Monchichi and I don't know if Lillee has put it down in the last week :) Happy birthday Beanie!!!!

Deer Class

This post is not for those who can't handle blood, guts and such.... Turn away, now!

The day after Chase's birthday Al, Connor, Grampy, Brother Affeltranger and I participated in a deer processing and usage class. I had been wanting to take this class for over a year, but I got very sick last fall and did not get well until January. So when fall came around this year, I contacted John Fishback, the biggest 10 year old you'll ever meet (I know it is hard to believe there is a bigger 10 year old than Al but he does exist!), set up the class and off we went for a day or skinning, deboning and wrapping venison.

This was a LONG day, we arrived at 10:00 a.m. after a 1 hour drive and didn't leave until 5:00 p.m. Connor was in little boy heaven! He made all sorts of fun crafts and I think John had a great time showing Connor all of his cool stuff. Connor made a bone knife, tomahawk, bow with several arrows and a quiver, shield, belt to hang it all on and a blow dart gun with darts.

We had 4 deer to process - 3 white tail deer and 1 sika deer.

This was our first of the button bucks.

This was a ball joint with the tendon running through it. We tried to tie in some science for the day since we're studying animals this entire year. We read all about deer before arriving.

The crowning event for Connor was taking off the deer head, with a hacksaw, and then using the same saw to remove the antlers.

This is John Fishback :) He and Al were having fun looking at one another through the, right?

Connor helped with some of the processing, here he is helping to skin one of the white tail.

This is Brother Affeltranger having a grand ole time.
This class filled our freezer with yummy venison that we've been enjoying nearly every night!

Chase's 2nd Birthday

Chase is now 2! Here are some pictures from the happy celebration, including the birthday cake.

When your birthday is close to Christmas, you don't get birthday paper/bags, it is always Christmas stuff in our house. This was a gift from Connor. He cleaned out his men drawer and put them all into a bag for Chase. There were Star Wars figures, Rescue heroes, army guys...all sorts of men! Chase was very excited, but I think Connor was even more excited to be able to give a gift to Chase.

Some favorite gifts included a very loud imaginext dragon and wooden train engine.

Chase has been fascinated with choo choos lately so he got his very own train cake on a Rice Krispies track.

He was pretty excited! i don't think he ate any cake, but he loved picking off the m&m's

All the kids helped me decorate it.

Chase is certainly a handful, but he's also sooo much fun to have around. When he's happy, he's really happy and when he's not happy, he's unbearable!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Its the most wonderful time of the year

I love Christmas! I love the weather, I love the season and celebration, I love the feeling of is all WONDERFUL! I wanted to take some time to document some of our Christmas traditions and some new ones we're starting this year.

We do daily service during December. We make a list of people we want to serve and then each day we choose someone from our list and think about what we can do for's not very formal, but it gives us something to work from each day and keep in the spirit of giving.

We knit hats for the homeless - The Original Pancake House in Rockville collects handmade scarves, gloves, hats, etc to give to the needy on Christmas morning. They serve Christmas breakfast to 400-500 people and on their way out the door they give them these handmade items to keep them warm. We use the Knifty Knitter so even Lillee can make hats on her own.

We stop all "school work" for the month of December. During the school year, my kids work from individual charts that we call their "Daily 5" From a list of 9 or 10 options they choose 5 to do each day. Examples of a daily 5 may be 20 minutes of literature reading, 20 minutes of math, 15 minutes of creative writing. This allows the kids the opportunity to choose what they are in the mood for rather than me forcing a schedule on them.

In December I make them a December Daily 5 that has no school work, but all Christmas focused options. For example, (1) 20 minutes knitting hats for the homeless, (2) 20 minutes building our Lego nativity (we are making a large Lego nativity this year - last year we made small, individual Lincoln Log nativities, but I wanted a larger family project this year), (3) prepare a daily service for someone outside of our home (we work from our service list mentioned above and since I have 2 kids in school we serve 2 people/families every day!), (4) personal enrichment (they have to spend 20 minutes doing something to help themselves grow in a positive direction - this could be exercise, quality reading, learning a new skill, the list is endless) and (5) Christmas music (20 minutes of practicing a Christmas song on the piano, singing or signing - the church website has some of the Children's songbook in ASL signing videos).

We also started the month off by sending presents to Jesus. We buy a dozen helium filled balloons (next year we'll do 18 so each of us can send 3 gifts...I love the symbolism and wish I had thought of it sooner!) and write our gifts to Jesus on slips of paper (we used these cute slips this year), laminate each one, punch a hole in them and tie them to the balloons.

I took pictures of our "gifts" to remind the kids (and us parents) throughout the year what we promised to do for Jesus.

We then go outside and release the balloons and the kids have a great time watching them float away.

The day after we released the balloons this year, the first thing Connor said when he woke up was, "Mommy, do you think our balloons have made it to Heaven yet?" How precious is that?

Our scripture advent will begin 12 days before Christmas.

We still have the Lego advent calendar, which isn't Christ-centered, but is fun for a family that loves Legos.

We seem to change a little bit at a time, but we're slowly getting on the path to a more Christ-centered Christmas.