Gearing up for Christmas over here. We're hosting this year, so we're in the midst of a crafting and baking and cleaning extravaganza. I wish I could share with you some of the things I've been making, and some of the things the girls have been making, but I can't until the holidays are over and the lucky recipients of our gifts have a chance to see them first.

That said, I have been busy, busy, busy at my sewing machine, at my ironing board, and sitting on the couch with a needle and spool of thread. Today the girls and I have been busy making pumpkin bread, cookies, and whole wheat bread, and after a trip outside to see the new snow, we're back in to watch a chunk of ice melt in a bowl and to move onto the rest of the task list, which today includes washing the kitchen floor, doing laundry, and painting a few more gifts. We've got beds to make, towels to fold, breakfast cakes to make, dessert pies to finish, salad greens to wash and hummus to make. And right now, 'A' is asking for help making a shark out of wikistix, so I must go and work on this important art project!

Trying to keep it all as simple and low-key as possible, as family-oriented as I can, as "unconsumerized" as the world will let me, as exciting as it needs to be for my girls without it becoming too much of an unrealistic, unattainable fantasy, and most of all, remembering that it is all about love, renewal, trust in Mother Nature, about finding the newness and rebirth within ourselves and each other, and respect for the light and darkness of not only each day but of the seasons of our lives. At least for my family, that is what this time of year means.

Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice.

Cold! The windows ice up on the inside on these recent mornings.

Oooohhhh... it is cold here! Winter is just around the corner and it's anxious to arrive.

We went to the State Park for the Preschool Naturalists group yesterday and learned about animal tracks. The girls painted some tracks with rubber stamps and then we all went outside to look for some real tracks. It was cold! We didn't last outside for long. We found a dog track and considered our outing a success.

To follow up on a few things, I found out that the Lifesavers Storybooks don't have the butter rum or mint flavors anymore. What a surprise! An unpleasant surprise!

Also, the girls have been back to the child care room at the gym since that time last week when 'A' and the boy fought over the dollhouse. I found out that this particular child has trouble interacting with pretty much everyone, not just my children. It's really sad. Sad for him, sad for my kids, sad for the other children who play there. After it happened, I wondered if there was some sort of chemistry between them that caused it all to happen, but now I think it would have happened even if a different girl had been there playing with the dollhouse.

Our child care room troubles haven't kept us away from the gym though. I'm not the only one going to get some exercise, either. This fall, two classes for children started up. One is a general kid's fitness class, where they do obstacle courses, play movement games, do jumping jacks, and the like. The other is a kid's yoga class. 'A' went to the yoga class this week for the first time and loved it. I'm going to take her to the fitness class soon and see how she likes it. It works out well - I work out, she goes to class, and 'H' plays with some new children and new toys.

Organized classes and sports for children are something Jeff and I think about very seriously before signing our girls up. There are certain things that are off-limits until they are older, such as activities that could injure them or strain their little bodies. "Team" activities like soccer are also not something we're interested in. But yoga was great. She learned about stretching and breathing, and although it flew right over her head, I heard the teacher explain that yoga is something that is just for them, that it doesn't have anything to do with their friends, their parents, or anyone else. You know, a self-esteem talk.

Speaking of classes, I signed them up for another round of swimming - something they enjoy in a wonderfully childish way, meaning that they like to paddle around the pool and kick and make big splashes. It's more of a fun experience than a learning experience for them. I also signed them up for gymnastics again, and I bumped them both up to the next level. They're ready. For 'H', this means she'll do the class without me standing right there. For 'A', it means she moves from a class with 14 children to a class with 5. They both enjoy gymnastics so much, and since the teachers only expect them to do as much as they are willing and able to do, I'm happy to keep them in the program.

I also signed 'A' up for a ballet class because she's been asking for a few months now. I have no idea what to expect. I guess we'll find out in January!

One week until Christmas! And lots to do. Lots to do.

Today is the kind of day where I feel like avoiding reality. I don't feel like doing laundry, or cooking dinner, or going to the gym. I feel like cuddling up on the couch and reading a good book.

That's not going to happen, though, because I am doing laundry and cooking dinner and I'm scheduled to go to the gym soon. I have holiday presents to make and cookies to make for an upcoming cookie exchange. I have invoices to prepare and holiday cards to address and, perhaps most importantly, I have a new Netflix movie to watch tonight - Julie and Julia, which has been sitting in our queue for a while now. Oh, okay, so that last "task" is more fun than not... actually, a number of those tasks are often more fun than not, so something tells me it's ME and not my list of tasks that is the problem today.

In the meantime, today I'm:

Enjoying my new subscription to Mothering Magazine that Jeff got me...

Marveling at my two year old's paintings of people, complete with heads, eyes, mouths and bodies, and thinking that 'A' didn't start drawing people until well past the 3 year old mark, if I recall...

Savoring the smells of the mushrooms, onions, garlic and thyme I'm cooking up for dinner...

Peeking out at the sun setting through the trees...

Feeling excited about what Santa may bring...

Looking forward to giving the girls two Lifesaver storybooks for Hanukkah this week, knowing that Jeff and I will get to eat all of the Butter Rum and mint flavors...

And above all, trying to remember to savor the little things for the rest of today...
No photos today. I justed wanted to pop in quickly and say how happy I am that the weather is in the 30s and the sky is clear. We spent time outside today and made a little snowman, among other things. I wished I had my camera to capture 'H' as she spontaneously gave our snowman a hug. She's such a lovey dovey little girl!

I found something in the woods behind our home that I'm not happy about - deer tracks. They're back! We've got to wrap our shrubs before the deer eat them all again. It's going to be a long winter for those deer.

This is the face of a 4 year old girl who is very proud of herself for lighting the menorah for the very first time.

This is the face of the same girl, concentrating hard at lighting the candles the second night.

It snowed today for a little bit before changing into rain, making everything all icy. I'm in the unique situation of being both energized and exhausted at the same time. My shoulder is killing me for some reason and I can't get much relief. The pain is exhausting. But on the other hand, I'm revved up because I'm back at the gym and feeling good about it, and I'm busy with holiday presents. This year I'm trying hard to make presents that use recycled materials. What fun this is! I can't share them here until after the gifts have been given.

Remember my reluctance to ease into autumn? Winter is just about here and I'm not reluctant at all to embrace the darkness. I'm comfortable with this new change of season, with the change of weather and the new routines we'll have as a result. I'm here. I'm present in this moment.

At our home:

Swimming lessons

The farmer's market

Holiday crafting

More holiday crafting

A trip to the children's museum for our girls and Jeff (and not me ~ I was crafting!)

For dinner: Soup (my recipe: leeks, potatoes, white beans, carrots and pasta) and Latkes (Jeff makes the BEST vegan latkes)


and a muscle relaxer for me... as much as I don't want to take it, my shoulder is in so much pain! Somehow I'll get some relief.

PS -- I forgot the most precious moment of the day! Menorah lighting. Photos to come!

I'm back after a few days away from my camera and computer. Jeff's brother Howard came to visit and, as usual when I see family, I didn't spend as much time taking photos or playing with them on the computer as usual. Here are some highlights from the past few days though:

We got our first real snowstorm of the season this week - about 6 inches fell in our neighborhood. We live in a microsystem called "Malta Ridge" and our weather, including rain and snow amounts, is generally different from other neighborhoods. Sometimes we get more, sometimes less. It's a really strange phenomenon, especially for someone like me, who comes from coastal New England where things are pretty predictable.

This is a photo of us with "Snofia" - 'A' named her "Sofia" and Howard wondered aloud if her name could be "Snofia" and we thought it was a wonderful name for our new friend!

The snow is here, and I think I've accepted that it's not going away for quite some time. Welcome to island living, where my home is an island in a sea of snow! We can go out and enjoy the snow, but it can be hard to walk through for my little ones and their little fingers get cold and wet more quickly than I would like. Gone are the lazy afternoons of running around the yard, looking for acorns and pinecones. We're on to different activities now.

Speaking of a different lifestyle, I can tell we're spending our time differently simply because my system of organization isn't working anymore. It changes regularly as my girls get older, and from season to season as our activities change. Right now my house is a mess. Or at least I think it is - Jeff doesn't notice it, or so he says. Things don't have a place right now. The worst part is, I can't get a handle on it. I don't know where to start. I know what I need to do - I need to do a walk-through and take note of everything that is out of place, that doesn't have a home, and then sit down in a comfortable space with my list and visualize some changes. But I feel like I'm doing all I can to just play catch-up.

I'll get there, I will. Right?

In case you've been wondering, the house is toasty now that the pellet stove is up and running. All the balls in the thermometer hovered at the bottom today, indicating that the room was close to 80 degrees. What a change from two months ago, when the balls were all at the top!

Last night I met with my small group and our topic was "Finding your center." At one point as we were talking about ways to find our center and what we get out of it, we decided to turn the question around and ask what we get out of not finding our center. For example, I haven't been seen around the gym in a while, and it's not something I'm particularly happy about. It's clear to me that regular exercise would help me to find my center more easily. So, what do I get out of not going to the gym? The answers could probably fill a book.... and I don't even know what most of them are yet! Today I decided to just go. I went and of course it was great.

The gym was great for me, but not so great for 'A'. She was in the child care room with 'H' and was playing with the doll house when two boys decided to join her. They didn't approach her the way she would like to be approached. She would have liked it if they had checked in with her about how she was playing and what roles each of the dolls currently had. Instead, they barged through and took the dolls away from her and took over the doll house. The person in charge was holding a crying baby and wasn't able to work through it with them. By the time I showed up several minutes later, she was in tears, tugging at the doll in one of the boy's hands, both of them screaming, "it's mine!"

Part of me felt like she was right back where she was last year, when she would go to preschool and feel upset about the ways the boys interacted with her. One my beefs about it back then was that things would happen (the boys would barge through the toy area) and no one would take the time to talk to 'A' about what had happened. And here she was today, confused and angry, and no one stepped in to talk to those kids about what was going on. She wasn't the only one who was confused - the boys were, too. It's been a while since she's been in a situation where she had to negotiate some rough waters without any help. We talked about it on the way home and came up with some ideas of how to handle things when it happens again, but I feel badly that it had to go that far in the first place. No one should have to scream "it's mine!" for all the world to hear.

The tree is up and the only decorations so far are the candy canes the girls hung up. Lights this week perhaps?

Jeff took this series of 'A' and 'H' this weekend, and they are so "themselves" in these photos...

While we were out and about yesterday, our first real snow of the season fell. This is a morning look at our winter wonderland. The girls are excited to go out and play and I'm looking forward to showing them how to roll a snowperson. It seemed like all of the snow last year was light and fluffy, perfect for snow angels, but not great for building structures. We're happy about the snow we got yesterday.

Looking forward to spending some family time at home and putting up the tree after church.

Today was a big day for us - busy, with lots to do. It was all good stuff though, things we wanted to do, so it worked out just fine.

We brought the girls to swimming lessons in the morning, where they once again impressed us with their increasing comfort level in the water. They are doing so well, and I mean that in a few different ways. If you had seen 'A' in the pool just a year ago, you would be surprised to see how different she is in the pool now. She's so great.

We swung by the farmer's market for our veggie pick-up and then went out in the snow flurries to pick out a Christmas tree. We found our perfect tree! Tomorrow we'll bring it inside and start to decorate it.

We made some time to go to our church for a decorating party. Jeff joined some other adults in the sanctuary to decorate for the holidays, and I stayed with the girls in the craft room. They made some really wonderful things, including an ornament for the tree, a candle ring, and some sugar cookies.

Our day ended at the home of old friends for a birthday party. I was so impressed with 'A' - when we went to the music room to have some fun, she spent time on the microphone and was so comfortable singing her own made-up song while the musicians rocked out. At some point someone turned to me and said, "this is your shy girl?" I am so proud of her! She is doing so well. Wonderfully well!

I'll leave you with some photos of our day.

About Me

My name is Jillian. I started this blog as a way to experiment with my camera and it's a become a nice little spot where I enjoy spending time. I'm a mother to 6 and 4 year old daughters, wife to a cool computer guy, and mama to a cuddly cat. We enjoy eating local, organic food; managing several food allergies; homeschooling with love; spending time in nature; and we love to take time each day to be creative. You can also find me over at From Scratch Club from time to time. Welcome!