A Word for 2022

I know, I know, it’s so mainstream to pick a word for the New Year, but I really like the idea. My word for this year is Courage.

We had an incredible year in 2021. Incredibly beautiful, blessed, adventurous (I’m looking at you 7 new pets!), and yes, also incredibly hard. Between fractures in friendships due to pandemic differences, the loss of many socializing opportunities, mask mandates, vaccine mandates, disappointment in our relocation efforts, and my own eroding health, we (like so many others) have had some really tough and lonely days.
Some of our hardships are following us into the new year and I am determined to find even more courage to ensure that my family still thrives despite our difficulties. I look forward to another exciting year full of hope and adventures with my family. We have some great plans already lined up; camping, 4H fair, hikes, short getaways, Field Trip Fridays, and more! To stay tuned, I’m sure I’ll be blogging it all.

I hope that you have a happy New Year friends. May your lives be filled with abundant blessings whatever the world may throw at you.

But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.

C.S Lewis- Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Christmas Letter 2021

Hello dear friends,

We are anxiously awaiting Christmas in what feels like a bit of a fog. Our advent has been wonderful, busy, and full of preparation. God works in mysterious ways and He surely was preparing our family for right as I finished up a batch of winter meals and delivered extended family Christmas gifts, we all came down with Covid. We are so grateful to be feeling much better, Chris is back at work, the kids are bouncing off the walls again, and I am slowly regaining my energy for the final push to Christmas. Chris and I still cannot taste or smell anything, but we are confident we just need time. One night during our illness I was laying in the cold (a boon with fevers!) and dark of my room around 2 am feeling utterly peaceful. For that moment everyone was asleep and safe and I was filled with profound gratitude for the safety and gift of my family. We are all here and we are together. That is enough.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

As I reflected in those wee hours on the wonderful gift my family is I thought of my son. My little helper buddy. This year Caidoc has really become an indispensable help to me, from remembering things we need at the store, to being someone to bounce ideas off of, to helping me find the correct tool for a job or make plans for the day, I truly am loving watching him become a independent little man. His favorite sport to play this year was baseball which he likes much more than soccer. Caidoc is in the forth year of piano (in September), performing for Guild Auditions in May, two recitals, and composing his own pieces. Perhaps his favorite activity is still building with his Legos, although inventing various clubs, and swimming are a close second. He is in 4th grade and it boggles my mind that he is going to be TEN this coming May, he’s certainly growing up too fast (yet not fast enough if you ask him). Caidoc is really glad to be able to participate in 4H in person finally, and is hopeful to show a chicken at the fair this year, last year he and A submitted posters. He is our chicken wrangler, our cat cuddler, and our cookie maker extraordinaire- I couldn’t manage life without him.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

I was jostled out of my contemplative state by a light in the bathroom. Azelie my loving and thoughtful girl didn’t want to wake me but she needed salt water to rinse her aching mouth so she got it herself. She is becoming more competent and independent by the day. It is all I can do to keep a steady supply of reading and art materials coming for she loves a quiet time full of beautiful thoughts and drawings. Azelie is the self proclaimed “second woman of the house” and is, as always, my amiable darling eager to be a great little mother to Cosima. Math is her favorite subject and she loves a good book that “gives her a thrill”. She continues to rock her piano excelling particularly with theory. She will compete in Guild Auditions this year for the first time. This year she played soccer as well but discovered her true passion in tennis! She cannot wait to play again next year. Azelie is my empathetic and compassionate helper always ready to try and make things easier for everyone. 4H is an exciting new program that she hopes to explore more this year. She is greatly looking forward to being able to go to confession for the first time this winter. The other night at rosary she offered up her suffering while being sick for the health of her family- and nothing sums up Azelie more. She is my darling little lady.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

I hasten back to bed because a small shape is visible sitting up in her little bed next to mine. Cosima croaks, “mama?”, making sure I am definitely back in bed and not going to leave her again before she flops down on my tummy asleep-effectively pinning me with all 26 pounds of wild curls and feisty personality. She still loves to be my little baby but also yearns to be included with the big kids in all their games. We delight in her starting to use full sentences in her own little voice which has really become quite pronounced and (sometimes) quite loud; “BRUDDA, SHUSH!” Cosima was the bestest sidekick to watch all the soccer and baseball and tennis practices and games with, really being our adventure baby and going with the flow. She asks for “adventures” daily by wiggling her little arms across her body and is quite disgruntled when she finds out we are staying home. She has discovered the library and loves picking out her own books, most likely Llama Llama, Little Blue Truck, or Pooh. If anyone is outside working on the chicken coop or gathering eggs she eagerly asks to come get “ohms” aka eggs and puts her little clogs on, usually complete with an Elsa costume. She is emphatic, opinionated, eager, and amazes us everyday. I slowly move her little inert body off of me and cover her with a blanket.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

I roll over to check on Husband, he’s fever free but still very tired, not surprising as he goes above and beyond to fulfill all his roles each day. He coached both kids soccer teams this year, assisted with C’s baseball team, and was Pickle’s buddy during hours of piano events and 4H meetings. He’s climbed ladders at work though I know he is ready for a new adventure. I tell him each day I’m game to just pack up and move, just say the word. That day may come soon, or it may come down the road but I am glad to be sharing this life with a man as involved with the children as he is. Chris is my greatest supporter and helps me along with all my crazy projects- even if it means that some bottles of my latest brew explode all over the cabinets, or I’m panicking over why only one chicken is molting and thinking they all need jackets. He wakes up each morning and starts my tea without fail and I feel like I’m living in a RomCom, with a husband as thoughtful and fun as he is.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

In the Bleak Midwinter – Christina Rossetti

It’s 3 am by now and I get up to go make sure that no one else is up looking for water or a cough drop, or even just some snuggles and sympathetic whispers of “you’ll be better by Christmas, I promise” and I am grateful I can give that promise. We have been wildly blessed this year and despite any struggles we’ve had, I can confidently say I knew things would get better -that is a gift denied to many and our blessings are not lost on me. I pray each night during our rosary for Peace, Joy, and Contentment. I pray for Courage. I pray for Wisdom. I pray for Patience. In these days I feel all of those are slipping from my grasp, in a final test of the year as I am trying to regain my health in time for Christmas. But who says things have to be perfect to be worthy? Our Christmas celebration will be perfect simply because we are here, and we are together. That is enough.

Advent Morning Basket

The days are short and packed. Advent seems much shorter as an adult than it did as a kid, I’ll tell ya 😉. I’m working on my energy levels, but these days it is a struggle. I recently got back a few disappointing medical tests, indicating that my autoimmune condition is not doing as well as I had hoped, and while I suspected as much, but it was worse than I thought. However, I am very grateful for the resources I have with medication, helpful advisors, and my supportive family. While I plan strategies for improving my symptoms, I’m thankful for the distraction of all our fun advent activities.

Our advent morning basket is one of the easiest to plan for since there are so many fun Christmas projects and learning activities! This is the advent calendar that I made when C was a baby. We put our Jesse Tree ornaments in the pockets, as well as a little card that has a Christmas carol to sing each day and a random act of kindness to perform. The pieces of our nativity scene are also spread out over the pockets so Pickle can add them to the stable that we have set up.

Advent Calendar
Jesse tree ornament
Laminated cards
A wise man for the nativity scene
Our Jesse Tree

Our elf Otto will sometimes bring something fun to do in the morning, like wooden ornaments to paint, or hot cocoa to make, and a new one this year is wooden gingerbread houses to assemble and paint! Nothing like a fun activity to start school off on the right foot. Otto is so smart and knows when I am feeling low ebb and it seems like he always has a activity handy for that day 😉 .

A note from Otto
Children put out shoes on the Eve of the feast of St. Nicholas and he fills them with treats. In our house it’s usually when the kids get new slippers for the winter too.
Doing one of our very favorite Advent random acts of kindness: candy cane bombing a parking lot!
Pickle did some too! She was very excited about it this year. And since you’re probably curious; yes, she won’t take off this Elsa costume these days. She is very into Frozen and Winnie the Pooh.

School can be so fun! A new project I’ve added to the morning basket this year is a fold out interactive booklet that describes the Catholic 12 days of Christmas. We are loving it! You can find it here on Teachers Pay Teachers. They work a little bit on it each day and will be done by the last recitation of year so that they can show Husband.

We are assembling it in booklet form

Of course we are still working through our Catholic symbols book, focusing on the particular symbols and imagery found around Advent and Christmas, such as the Christmas tree, the (Roman Rite) advent wreath, and the Magi.

We use the Byzantine Advent wreath that is shaped as a star and marks the weeks of the St. Philip’s Fast, which is a longer period of Advent than the Roman rite. Lighting the candles is a tradition that usually takes place at dinner each evening and has its own set of prayers with it. However, the big kids are in faith formation class through our Roman rite parish so as homework they are also filling in this wreath during our morning basket time.

Besides all our fun Advent activities and traditions in our morning basket we continue with our regular math flash cards, state/capitol flash cards, gospel cds, and our art history book. Whew! It sounds like a lot, but it really only takes about an hour or hour and a half to do all our morning basket activities.

Otto reading some books to the other toys around the house!

C and A rocked their Christmas piano recital! Pickle was very excited to dress up.

This past fall was difficult for me physically, and now it seems that the winter will be too. And while I am discouraged that all my efforts have not improved my symptoms, I am also profoundly grateful for my life, subpar health and all. I have more capabilities and freedom than many people with autoimmune conditions. It feels contrary to be discouraged and grateful but I think physical suffering brings profound grace. Each day I take a walk with my kids in the fresh air and think, “This is such a gift and I will miss this so much someday”. It is those peaceful little moments that is more than enough to get me through any tough times I am having. I look forward to many small peaceful moments this Advent season and I hope you do too.


Patience and homeschooling

If I had a dime for each time someone has told me that they “just don’t have the patience to homeschool” I’d have like, a lot of dimes- I’m talkin’ enough dimes to buy a whole candy bar, guys. I’m the first to admit that I am NOT a patient person, and that yes, homeschooling does take a lot of patience, so clearly it must work out somehow, right? My kids are all still alive and don’t hate me so I think I’m on the right track. There is no special ingredient, only the choice to take it day by day (or in my case it’s usually minute by minute) and choose patience. We all have the ability to be just as patient as Mother Teresa! Practice makes perfect. And it is so worth it!
That being said, I’ll be darned if there aren’t some helpful tips and tricks that can make that choice a little easier.
The current test of my patience during our homeschool is our darling, curious toddler. Pickle is a very normal toddler in the way that she needs quite a bit of attention. All the time. Particularly when it’s inconvenient for me, like during an explanation of a tricky math concept. I’m embarrassed to say that Pickle had been watching more shows than either of the big kids ever did at her age and it was really taking a toll on her attitude. There is only so much time I can expect my big kids to help out with her during school time and I like to keep that to a bare minimum, which is how things started to slide. Man, Winnie the Pooh made mornings so quiet! But we all know TV is really pretty lousy for the brain and I wanted to pull the plug for Pickle. I was definitely not a poster homeschool mom these past few weeks.
However, my rusty brain started to remember all the things I did to keep the Bigs entertained when there were two toddlers to keep busy and I’ve successfully been in incorporating them into our day. I thought I’d share some here with you!

Popcorn Transfer.
(Supervising kitty optional)

Got some popcorn kernels in the kitchen? Toddlers love simple transfer practice! This is also a good opportunity to practice patience when (not if) a scoop full goes flying, haha! When Pickle spilled however she was really excited to sweep it up with a small broom.


A couple squirts of paint in a zip lock taped to the floor bought me about ten minutes. Hey, that’s enough time to give a spelling test, so I’ll take it!
An unexpected, yet heartwarming consequence of all these fun activities is that A is having a fond time remembering the days when she did them. She’s dying to do the paint in a bag herself now, haha!


My mother bought us this slime. I can confidently say I do not know who she is anymore. Just kidding! But seriously, giving toddler slime is not anymore messy than giving a 9 year old slime. Ahem. Ask me how I know…

Water Play

This is a really fun one. It is a bit tricky so your toddler might need more assistance than not. These are big droppers that I got for school and they were so worth it. Here Pickle is having fun sucking up and squirting water all around the tray.

Kinetic Sand

Kinetic sand is a fantastic sensory tool for toddlers and it has the pro of not being very messy. Now bear in mind, toddlers are just messy in general, so it’s all relative. I don’t find it any messier than play dough and toddlers seem to be able to do more with it. These little tools came with a play dough we got ages ago and they have been great and interchangeable. Note the sturdy sheet pan lid that has spent most of its life as a toddler tray, haha!


If you’re feeling really adventurous and really patient, go for actual painting! It will be a mess, but it is really fun to see how much toddler enjoy the experience. I can’t speak highly enough of smocks. It’s just easier to throw them in the wash than it is to clean off a squirming toddler. The washable paint on the market these days is a dream! So simple to clean up when it gets on the floor or table. I highly recommend using the floor for painting for kids of all ages. They seem to be more comfortable and it makes sure the paint doesn’t get on any other important projects or papers. Just keep an eye out for when your tot starts to get bored, they won’t mind walking right through their art work, haha! Oh, and double up the paper 😉.

Bristle Blocks

We got this set from my sister in law for our oldest and it is great! I will say her favorite part is the container. She will walk around with this on her head for quite awhile. It seems to attract kids of all ages in fact. But she’s able to build small cars or towers to knock over which is a favorite activity of kids from about 1-7 I’d say. 😄

The best days of my life

I hope you got some inspiration for finding ways to keep your toddler busy. We have so many more amazing toys and games we love to play with Pickle, or that she can do herself, including wooden train tracks, puzzles, and hide and go seek (she will play that for ages!) If you have any other ideas let me know, I’m always looking for new material. And don’t worry, we are all practicing patience, just take it one day, or one minute, at a time. Cheers!

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