-A microwave-safe container with a handle, and a spout for pouring
-A large bowl
-A cutting board
-A sharp knife
-Cellophane bags and ribbon or ties
-2 chopsticks or skewers
-Essential oils (optional)
-2 little helpers (optional)
First, cut the soap into manageable pieces, and put them into your microwaveable container with a handle and a spout. Start off small, until you know how much you can keep up with.
Microwave until it is just completely melted.
If you have essentials oils, and want to add them, this would be the time. The glycerin (by itself) is great for kids, as it is detergent, fragrance and tear free. If you add the oils, I would not give it to small children.
Next, roll the top of your bag down, and place into a bowl full of ice water. This bowl should have been full of ice. Then have your little helper hold the sides of the bag up, as you pour your melted glycerin into the bag. Use the funnel, and try your best to keep it off the sides of the bag. There will be little bubbles on the surface. Spray them once or twice with alcohol, and they will disappear.
Hold it in the ice for a minute or two, then with your chopsticks, hold the fish in the middle of the glycerin, until the soap is firm. This process moves VERY slowly, so don't feel rushed to get the fish in right away, or you will be holding it for A LONG time. Tell your helper to get a drink while you wait.
When they are completely firm, they are done. You can make the "water" a deep as you want. I knew little hands would be holding these, so I didn't want to make them huge.
This past Sunday, we stopped at the mailbox on the way home from church, and found a special package waiting for the kids. We took it home, and opened it right away.
My grandmother sent chocolate advent calenders for each of them. I think they were hoping that I would just let them eat all 24 pieces straight away, which would NEVER happen. The mystery and suspense of searching for the next box, and seeing what it holds each morning, is entirely worth the wait.
So now they have been asking every morning if it's December yet...
That afternoon, we decided to ask our sweet friends if we could come and visit our chickens. We were all so excited to see them. The kids chattered the whole way there, wondering if they would be recognized, if the girls would come when we called them and if they still liked corn...
We pulled in, and the girls were in the back pasture, so we proceeded with our experiment. We called them "Peep, peep, peep, peeeep. Henry, Lucie". Those sisters came RUNNING (like full force, no non-sense, RUNNING) straight to us. And we jumped with excitement.
Oh, they are such sweet chickens. And the kids were overjoyed with their welcome.
After all of the holding and carrying around, they were probably ready to see us go. I think they only love us for our corn, but that's ok. These girls below, are some of their new friends.
The big kids spent a little time running around the pasture chasing the chickens, while the little girls made mud soup. They collected eggs, watched the horses run, and overall just had a super fun afternoon. Thanks Magees for being wonderful and letting us come hang out!
It was so good for the children (and for me) to see them doing so well there. They are obviously right at home and well taken care of.
We have laminated Bible verses all around the house to help us keep The Word fresh in our minds. Bella has taken a liking to this one, and has been reciting it every night before bed. When I came home from work last night, I found her own written version laying on the kitchen table next to mine. She even copied the heart.
And tonight we rocked a hot dog cookout with friends. I made Pumpkin Pie Dump Cake for dessert. This may be the only time that "dump" sounds like something positive. Anyway, it was SO good, and SO easy (even for a non-baker like me!).
Our Christmas tree is decorated. It's slightly misshapen, but it's ours, and we embrace it. Not literally.
Our stockings are hung by the... TV with care.
The kids special surprise lights are up. Every year, after we finish the tree, I secretly decorate the kids' rooms with just a string of lights. It is usually slightly haphazard and sloppy, but they love it.
We are Christmas music singing machines! Tonight before bed, instead of reading stories, we sat in Bella's bed, by the light of the Christmas lights, and sang Christmas carols. Bella and Grady have a few songs they will be singing in church, so they practiced those, and then we sang other favorites. And I thought to myself a million times, how much I love this time of the year.
And all of these moments make me want to sing...
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas Ev'rywhere you go; Take a look in the five and ten glistening once again With candy canes and silver lanes aglow. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas Toys in ev'ry store But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be On your own front door.
We've been doing a lot of reflecting during this month, about what we're thankful for. There is so much. We are so blessed in so many ways. The kids and I made lists of "Our Thankfuls", and here are a few:
1. Our father God, and his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
2. Life and Salvation.
3. Our little family.
4. Our parents.
5. Our in-laws.
6. Our sisters and brother-in-law.
7. Our grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.
8. Our friends (especially the ones that are more like family than friends).
9. Our church.
10. Our health.
11. Our house.
12. Our land.
13. Our vehicles.
14. Our pets.
15. Access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
16. Our jobs.
19. Singing and our voices.
20. Our country, our freedom, and the men and women that have fought for it.
21. Cold weather days.
22. My camera and laptop.
23. Cell phones.
24. Electricity, appliances, the Internet, air-conditioning and heat, running water.
25. Fresh air, flowers, sunshine, rain and clouds.
27. Fire pit fires on the back porch and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.
30. Pumpkin Yankee candles.
32. Princess kitty-cat, Douglas the shark, and dog-dog.
33. Home cookin.
34. Eating out.
35. Cookies from England.
36. The ability to homeschool our kids.
37. Time spent with family and friends.
38. Holidays and celebrations.
40. Our marriage, our spouse, and our commitment to each other.
On Thanksgiving Day, we went to my parents house in Melbourne. The kids were so excited, and I was really looking forward to a little mini-vacay. My super mama did all the cooking, all I had to do was show up with my children (believe me, I offered many times to bring something). We enjoyed a delicious classic turkey lunch, complete with all the fixins, and enjoyed getting to spend some time with friends as well.
After lunch, I surprised the kids with something special that I've been holding onto for a few weeks, waiting for this day. My sweet grandmother, father and friend Millie all collected bags of fall leaves from Pennsylvania and Boston, and brought them back to me. My dad climbed up on a ladder, and let the kids pretend that they were standing under real falling leaves (like from a tree). They piled them up, and chased them around, they collected and re-collected them, and loved celebrating a little piece of northern fall.
Thursday night, my mom and I whipped out our newspapers, and started planning our Black Friday attack. We cut, and taped, and made notes, and planned our strategy.
And a little before 8pm, I said "goodnight" to my kids, and "good luck" to my dad. And my mom and I headed for the hills. Or Toys-R-Us. My dad was amazing. He read to the kids, and handled the getting-out-of-bed, and crying, and constant talking, etc.. with patience. And at some point, I think they all fell asleep.
And we saw something new this year. Pizza and water sales, while you wait...
A little before midnight, we were going strong. I dropped my mom off in the Kohl's line, and made a quick stop for some much needed coffee and tea.
And then a little after 3am, we got a call from my dad... Bella had woken up, noticed I wasn't home yet, started crying, and then woke up Grady and Lilly, and all three of them were up and crying.. Oh, bless my dad. So we hurried home, slept for a few hours, and went back out Friday morning. The good news is, I'm almost done with my Christmas shopping, and my mom and I had a blast.
We came home, unpacked and went out to choose our tree. I LOVE this whole Christmas tree tradition. I love picking it out, bringing it home, and decorating it. I love the smell, and the homey feel of a lit tree in the dark, and vacuuming needles up at least once a day... well, maybe not that part.
While I was working on the tree, I let the kids set up the nativity.
For the picture below:
"One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?"
And then we decorated the tree.
As I was moving the couch back towards the wall after decorating the tree, I smooshed my ring between the wall and the corner of the couch. My ring was pinched to my finger, and we eventually had to cut it off. Oh, my heart was sad.
As long as we have been married (9.5 years), I have wanted my rings soldered together, and both of our rings engraved, but I never got around to doing it. So today, when I went to the jeweler, I had my engagement ring fixed, rings soldered and both of our rings engraved.
I wanted to put something meaningful on the inside, and something different than our initials and wedding date. I chose the verse Mark 10:9. My ring says "What God has joined" and Bryan's says "Let no one separate". And I love them.
And so tonight, I'm thankful all over again for our wedding rings, and the physical symbol of our commitment to each other.
What are you thankful for? Even though Thanksgiving is over, I'd love to encourage you to sit down and make a list, include your kids if you have any, and read over it often.