06 December 2016

Happy feast of St Nicholas!

Today we were hit with my first taste of the "Christmas crazies," with the kids excited far beyond my expectations over the appearance of two playmobil guys and a handful of chocolate gold coins in their shoes. Kit couldn't even eat the chocolate (I couldn't find any that were dairy-free), and she was still just as giddy as her big brother!

We had a fun day, though, and I'm pretty confident (hopeful?) that everyone will be a little calmer tomorrow. We read Mary's Little Donkey this morning, our first Christmas-related book of the year; I hadn't planned on pulling any Christmas books out until Gaudete Sunday, but this one is more about the friendship between Mary and the animals, and then the journey to Bethlehem, rather than focusing most of the storytelling on Christmas Day itself, so it seemed appropriate for Advent. I wish we had a good picture book about St. Nicholas, though; we don't have any stories about him at all, so I told the kids his legend in the car on the way home from the grocery store this morning, but if anyone has any suggestions I'd love to find something to read to them next year!

Who knew that Playmobil made a St Nicholas figure? I found a two-pack at our local toy store of St Nicholas and an angel, which the kids had so. much. fun. playing with today. Kit kept taking "Nichonah"s miter off and bringing it to me to "fix? fix?" Late yesterday evening I got sucked into the time-wasting vortex of exploring Playmobil offerings on Amazon, curious as to whether they had other religious-themed models, and discovered that they actually made a set of St Martin and a beggar, with his horse and his sword and the cloak to cut in half and everything! But apparently it was a very limited release in Germany in 2006, and you can't find any on the internet anywhere anymore. Oh well. The kids are more than happy with what they have!

Our vinyl Shining Light St Nicholas doll, a gift several years ago from my mother-in-law's friend, also made his annual appearance today: I didn't have anything for the adult shoes, but Little Bear was sure that we needed to set our shoes out last night too, so he showed up in Matt's shoe and the informational card about him was in mine this morning. Kit was very happy that there were two "Nichonah"s, dancing them around together, and even carried the Shining Light version with her for her nap. Both St Nicholas's and the angel will hang around, probably popping in and out of nativity scenes, through Epiphany.

I'm not terribly "arts-n-crafts-y," but my sister sent me instructions for candy cane crosiers about a month ago, and I'd been looking forward to trying them for the feast of St Nicholas ever since. After Kit woke up from her nap, she and Little Bear helped me remember how hard it is to unwrap candy canes without breaking them... We finally had enough come out in one piece, though, and they turned out so well! The soft-not-quite-melted candy was hot, though--shocking, I know--so Little Bear couldn't actually help me shape the crosiers, and I was blowing on my fingertips for a while after doing each one. Maybe by next year I'll think of a way that he can help at least a little bit.

How did you celebrate St Nicholas' day?

26 November 2016

A list of lists

After talking about my tendency to organize—possibly over-organize—earlier this week, I have a list for you! A list of lists, actually. It's just about Advent in most of the world by now, though we have several hours left here; whether you're hurrying to finish up Christmas shopping before settling into Advent or just beginning to think about gifts, here are a bunch of ideas compiled by a few of my favorite bloggers. Some even have coupon codes available, so check them out!

Round Up of Homemade Holiday Gifts from Whole Parenting Family

Kathryn's Favorite Things: A Religious Shopping Guide from Team Whitaker

Catholics on Etsy! and Catholics on Etsy, Part 2! from Simcha Fisher

The 2016 Carrots Christmas Gift Guide from Carrots for Michaelmas

And apparently The Catholic Wife will have a two-part Catholic gift guide coming up here as well, so check her page starting December 1 for that!

Wishing you a wonderful (and organized!) start to your Advent.

19 November 2016


The new liturgical year begins next Sunday, the new calendar year a month later; especially with everything that's going on over the next month-plus, it's a logical time to be thinking about schedules, planners, and the like. Kelly Mantoan of This Ain't The Lyceum had a great post this past week on finding the planner that's right for you individually, and it set me thinking about my own organization system. I'm very much a "list person," to the point that it's pretty much guaranteed that before the middle of this week, I'll have written out a list of the lists that I need to make to organize these busy weeks leading up to Christmas.

So my approach definitely won't be for everyone! It's working well for me at this point, though, so I wanted to share in case it might help someone else.

First, there's the planner. I use the Catholic Daily Planner to keep track of feast days, birthdays and anniversaries, appointments, and anything scheduled to happen at a set time. Every weekend, I go through and plan the supper menu for the coming week, jotting that down in the margins of each day and making notes where needed of things that have to start thawing a day early, be pre-cooked, etc.

Then there's the lesson plan book. Preschool doesn't require all that much lesson-planning, but since we are using individual books and not an all-in-one curriculum, I do go through each weekend and write out what we'll be doing each day in handwriting, religion, math and reading, plus any extras (science, geography, history, art...) At this stage, I'm not writing in times for each subject, lunch only happening after X is done, etc, because he's just 4; it's great that he wants to do school and he's learning so much, but I still firmly believe that at this age, laying a foundation of enjoying school is more important than getting through as much material as possible. We do get through everything written down almost every day, but if he's busy helping me with laundry or baking and we don't get around to finishing, I don't mind moving lessons around to other days and/or condensing them, especially since I know he's capable of doing more than I assign per day.

And the most-used organizer of my week: the list book! It's just a thick 8"x10" college-ruled notebook, big enough to hold a lot of words per page, but not too big to put in my purse. Daily and running to-do lists, lists of errands, the grocery list, the aforementioned list of lists... I'd be lost without it, that's for sure.


What do you use to keep yourself organized? 

31 October 2016

Celebrating Hallowtide

Happy Hallowe'en, y'all! Since this week is full up with holidays and holy days, Little Bear and I are taking a break from our regular religion curriculum to talk about Hallowtide, Halloween, saints, purgatory, et al. And I wanted to hear what kind of traditions or plans you have, too; I'm kind of throwing things together haphazardly here, since this cold has made it hard for me to get ahead on planning things out, so more ideas would be welcome!

Today we looked at the calendar to see that All Saints, or All Hallows', is tomorrow, and then talked about how when we start celebrating something the evening beforehand we call it the "eve." So one thing we can remember on this eve of All Saints is that God has conquered death, and that as we celebrate the saints tomorrow and pray for the souls in purgatory the next day, we are glad and grateful that Jesus made it so that we can one day be with Him in heaven. So some people might have scary decorations or costumes, but they remind us that with God, there's nothing we have to be afraid of.

But mostly, Halloween is an American holiday about having fun, carving pumpkins, and going trick-or-treating, and we talked about that too. Matt and Little Bear had fun carving a pumpkin yesterday, and tonight for supper we had stuffed "jack-o-peppers," because clearly keeping up with life was too easy and I needed an extra challenge today? I don't know. Little Bear was excited about them, though, and they turned out better than I expected.

I bundled Little Bear into his superhero costume (over top of his coat, because that's how costumes work here) and we went trick-or-treating at four houses in our neighborhood before the car decided that it didn't like the key and wouldn't let me turn it on, and Matt had to come over with the spare key and save us. So then we went home.

Turns out that if the steering wheel is turned too sharply when you take the key out, it can "lock" and not let you turn the car back on. At least there's nothing wrong with our car!

All Saints Day is a holy day of obligation; we're still trying to figure out how we are going to make it to Mass, because all of the parishes in town have their Masses at the same times which is horribly inconvenient if those few times don't work for you. I'm sure we'll work something out, though. Little Bear and Kit are both excited about wearing Saint costumes tomorrow; okay, Kit is just excited about the pretty red princess-y dress (Bl Gisella, first queen of Hungary), but Little Bear was very sure he wanted to be St Juan Diego again this year. We didn't make it to the cathedral's All Saints party yesterday since the kids were sick, but Little Bear figured we could just have our own party on All Saints Day instead. So I guess I'm looking up a few simple games tonight!

I have a nice dinner planned for the feast day—ham, butternut squash, and roasted Brussels sprouts with a honey-balsamic glaze—and we'll be celebrating our own little saint in a special way throughout the day.

For All Souls' Day, Masses are even harder to find than on All Saints, but we'll try to at least visit a cemetery and say a rosary as a family. From inside the car, because it'll be in the 20s out and we can be pious and practical at the same time, especially when the kids are sick. The religion lesson for the day will involve talking about purgatory and November being the month specially set aside for praying for the dead; I'm planning to have Little Bear help me write the names of our relatives who have died on slips of paper to put in our prayer corner, so that we can pray for them all month. And the kids will help me bake doughnuts, because soul cakes

Thursday, November 3, is the feast day of St Hubert; as the patron saint of hunters, St Hubert is a pretty big deal around here! We'll read the story of St Hubert and the white stag, and talk about how we pray for Saint Hubert's intercession when Dad is out hunting, and what "intercession" means. If the kids are healthy enough by then, we'll go for a quick tromp in the woods, looking for birds and animals. And there might be one last package of moose steak hanging out in the freezer from last season; I think that'd make a fitting supper.

Friday... We try to go to Mass on First Fridays, but that'll depend on how the kids are doing. Friday Mass is right in the middle of Kit's nap time, and I am not going to mess with nap time unless she's much better than she is right now. I think we will wrap up the week's lessons by learning and discussing the Requiem aeternum, Eternal rest grant into them, O Lord... and probably reiterate Wednesday's discussion of praying for the dead in November. Little Bear seems to have gotten my love for the liturgical year—he appreciates explanations of "we're doing X today because today is Y/a part of Y season"—so I think he will respond well to the idea of there being a particular thing we do because it's November.

So that's my master plan! And now that it's all written out, I'm probably going to get hit with the full brunt of the kids' cold and our actual week won't be nearly as organized, because that's how life works. :-) We'll see how it goes.

What are your traditions for Hallowtide? Is anyone else celebrating St Hubert in a special way on Thursday? I'd love to hear your plans.

29 October 2016

A quiet moment

Kit and I are sitting still in a quiet house right now, a rarity these days. The poor munchkin has a head cold, and is cuddled up snoring in my lap while Matt and Little Bear are out running errands. My to-do list is a mile long, as ever, but rather than lay Kit down and risk waking her, I'm going to stay right here and write.

How long has it been since I've talked about the kids? Longer than I expected, that's for sure. I feel like I never have time to write a long, well-thought-out post, so I just haven't been writing at all. Well, let's do a little catching up.

Kit, almost one and a half, is normally the happiest little girl. She's been clingy and whimpery for the last week or so with this cold, but when she's well-rested, her smile comes out again. She talks constantly, and is starting to put two words together more often: "milk please," "mama down" (when she wants me to be done at the table), "mama up" (when she wants to be picked up), etc. I know most of her words are unintelligible to most people, but because we're around her and talking with her all the time, we recognize more than 50 words that she uses regularly. Sometimes it does take context to figure out what she's saying though, and occasionally I can't figure it out at all, which frustrates her.

She's walking and running on her own, usually squirms to get down and walk instead of being carried, and dances/bounces whenever she hears music. Kit loves helping: she hands me silverware from the dishwasher one piece at a time, prompting me with a "tank'oo" to thank her for every single piece, and gets mad if her brother starts putting away handfuls of it by himself without waiting for her. When the buzzer sounds on the washing machine or dryer, both kids drop whatever they are doing and go running for the laundry room—I haven't had to load laundry in or out of either machine  here!

And after prayers every evening, she runs up to Matt to say "night-night," give him a hug, and brush a hand across his forehead with a "beh-oo!" (Bless you). So cute!

Little Bear, 4 and change, is generally very helpful too. He's still getting over the same cold that Kit has, so it's been a long week in the Shifflerhaus. But he does usually try to be good. He loves to help in the kitchen, and lately has been "cooking" toy food for me and Kit. The other afternoon, I had to laugh as he was talking his way through making a salad "with an orange lemon vinaigrette, and some fresh herbs, and five tablespoons of white vinegar. And I'll just lay this lemon slice on the side for a garnish, okay Mom?"

He's still excited about doing school every morning. We're doing four main subjects this year—handwriting, religion, math, and reading—along with a monthly subscription to a kids' cooking class that ties in elements of science, history, geography, and culture. He has picked up everything really well so far; he's reading stories with short-vowel words with little to no help from me, and loves using his abacus and playing math games. (We're using Catholic Heritage Curricula materials for handwriting, religion, and reading, and Right Start Math for math.)

We only have an inch or so of snow on the ground so far, but winter is definitely here; it's 32 degrees F outside right now, which is the warmest it's been in a while! Matt fired up the wood stove for the first time earlier this week, and we were all happy to find things to do in the living room so that we could enjoy the warmth. Little Bear has been itching to go play in what little snow we have, but I've been trying to keep him in until his cough lets up... Hopefully both kids are feeling better soon, and we can spend more time playing outside. For now we're having fun watching birds and animals out in the snow instead: in the last few days, we've seen a woodpecker, several squirrels, a couple of dark-eyed juncos and black-capped chickadees, and two female pine grosbeaks.

21 September 2016

Healthy Living

Harvest season and preparing for winter has me so swamped, y'all, I haven't had any time to sit down and write. Fall is so short here, and this year for the first time we have all of the getting-a-house-ready-for-winter work to get done on top of the storing-up-food-for-the-winter work. It's exciting! And crazy busy. I almost, not quite, but almost wish that the snow would just fall already and we could say "we got done everything we could" and I could just focus on all of the work inside instead of splitting my time and feeling like I'm not making enough progress inside or out.

So why are you sitting down to say that you don't have time to say anything? Fair question. I just had to pop in and remind anyone who might be interested and hasn't heard yet that this year's Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle went on sale today! I love these bundles---they are overflowing with resources on everything from cooking healthfully to taking care of kids to losing weight to managing hormones naturally... ebooks and online courses and even samples of products that are geared toward a healthy lifestyle. You can find the whole list here.

The first couple of times that I saw these bundles talked about, I waited until toward the end of the sale to pick them up; it took a while for me to convince myself that I would actually use enough of the included items to make it worth the price. Now, I know that I've definitely gotten so much more than my money's worth in the past few bundles, so I jumped on this one right away. And as a bonus for going for it right away, they are giving the .mobi (kindle) and .epub (most other ereader) files of all of the books, usually a $10 upgrade, to everyone who buys the standard package of .pdf files up until the end of the day tomorrow (Thursday) for free. I'm assuming that's midnight Eastern time, but my 40 Kbps connection won't load their webpage for me to confirm that right now... so if you know that you want the full bundle with the ebook formats, don't wait until the last minute!

A couple of things that I'm particularly looking forward to in this year's bundle:

- Complete Wild Edibles Package, a movie and ten ebooks on foraging by Sergei Boutenko
- Planning & Designing the Family Food Garden, by Isis Loran
- Real Food on a Real Budget: How to Eat Healthy for Less, by Stephanie Langford
- Living Healthy with Chocolate, by Adriana Harlan
- and all five resources on hormones and balancing them---there are three video courses, an audio course, and a book!

The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle is only available until September 26, 2016---and the ebook files are only free until Thursday night!---so if this sounds like something you are interested in, don't miss out!

Did you already pick up a copy, or are you planning to? I'd love to hear which resources you are excited about!

19 August 2016

Seven Quick Takes

Still unpacking, organizing, settling into the new house and trying to create new rhythms to fit the new space... and a little bit of extra excitement, just so we don't have to worry about getting bored, right?

The kids and I had two moose in the yard the other day! There was a big cow and a two-year-old bull, and we ran from window to window watching them both meander all around the yard and through our woods. Kit got so excited, shouting "Dog! Dog!" Pretty much all animals are "dogs" right now, except for sheep/goats. Little Bear and I have talked a few times since then about always checking for moose before we go outside; it's fun to see them from a safe distance, but you definitely never want to get close!

Kit and Little Bear both had fun seeing the animals at the fair; Kit in particular amused a good number of folks in the barn by carrying on an excited (loud) conversation with some of the sheep: "Baaa." "Baa!" "Baaaa." "Baa! Baa!" etc., for the better part of five minutes. She's also adamant that every time we visit my parents, she gets to pet their dog; "Dog! Wuh[f]!", she insists. "Wuh, wuh! Dog!" Little Bear's takeaway from the fair was that he wants to raise rabbits. I explained that if that ever happened, they'd be meat rabbits, which of course I don't actually expect that he completely understood... Though we have been consistent in talking about how moose meat comes from moose, grouse meat comes from grouse, etc, so maybe he understood better than I think he did.

Our car is back in the shop for the second time in two weeks. First it was overheating every two miles, and needed a new water pump. This time, the transmission died and is getting rebuilt; we were fortunate to find a guy in the next town who would do it for less than the jeep is worth, so that's something. I don't know how long jeeps are expected to last, as a rule, but we're only at about 125k miles... We are going to have to decide, once we get it back in a couple of weeks, whether there are enough new parts in it now that we should hang onto it in the hopes that it will not need work for a while, or if we should sell it while we still can and get at least a little out of it to put toward our next vehicle.

The timing, if it had to happen, worked out about as well as it could have: the transmission went out on the afternoon that my sister was getting ready to head back to college, so the old suburban she'd been driving all summer was still on insurance but she didn't need it anymore. My parents let us borrow the 'burb so we didn't have to rent a car; the transmission is going to take two and a half weeks! We really appreciate being able to use the suburban. It was a little odd at first, driving my own kids around in the vehicle I grew up riding in, but it also feels comfortable, familiar—I know the 'burb, know how it handles, and it feels right to have little kids chattering in it again.


We accidentally reinforced Little Bear's desire for rabbits last weekend, when the kids and I went out to "pick up your share at the farm"-day for our CSA. After getting the rest of our vegetables from the stand, we got to go into the field and pick our own snap peas, which was fun for the kids. I gained empathy for my mother's slightly-exasperated "lift up the vines and look under them" every summer; my siblings and I would always insist that we did that already, and then she'd have to come along behind us and pick half again as many as we'd gotten. "There are more peapods right there," I kept telling Little Bear, and each time he was shocked; clearly I had just made them appear out of nowhere because there hadn't been any pods left when he checked, no sir. But it was fun. And after we were done picking, we stopped to see their sheep and goats (for Kit), and on the way back to the car, discovered the farm's rabbit enclosure, so I let both kids sit and watch the rabbits for a few minutes. Little Bear learned somewhere that rabbits live in hutches, and he spent half the ride home talking about building a hutch so the rabbits could come live at our house. I don't expect we'll be ready for any animals for several years, but anything's possible; who knows if we'll wind up with meat rabbits some day.

This weekend has been full; yesterday morning the kids and I ran errands in town and attended part of the morning session of our Catholic radio station's anniversary celebration and fundraiser. I missed a bunch of the last talk, running around with a noisy Kit out in the foyer, but everyone said that it was wonderful and very funny. On the way home we picked up my meager winnings from the fair—a blue ribbon for my dairy-free version of my mother-in-law's pan cookies, and a red for my cranberry banana bread—and promptly spent the money a mile down the road at the farmers market. On salad turnips! I was so excited to see salad turnips, and very proud that Little Bear was excited about them too. Also exciting: the local orchard with special apple-crabapple grafts had a table, and we were able to bring home several bags of the only apples that Matt can eat raw!

A scant two hours after getting home, we were heading back down the hill with freshly-frosted mini cupcakes for the dessert auction at the radio station's celebration. There was a slow-cooker cook-off, and I enjoyed a spicy posole. I trust that Little Bear ate a real supper as well; he was sitting with my youngest brother and his friends, and they all do a good job of looking out for him (and are good sports about letting him run after them). After dinner there was another talk, this one on marriage (the earlier one I'd been in and out of was on parenting). We tried to listen, but Kit hadn't napped much and it was after bedtime, so we had to leave part way in.

Matt wasn't able to come with us either time, unfortunately; his day was dedicated to two huge chores, cleaning/organizing the garage so that we can pull the car in, and moving our woodpile over from the old apartment. The garage looks great now! And two of his coworkers spent the afternoon out in the cold rain helping him haul and stack wood, so he wound up grilling for them and having a pleasant evening in. Hopefully we'll all be able to go to the celebration together next year.