Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Goodbye for now

I've spent the last couple of days tying up a few loose ends on my blog... finishing some pending posts that I never published- our camping trip with Pops, a special trip to Busch Gardens, news on Grace Louise's reading journey, and of course, Christmas.

And now I'm hanging up my keyboard for 2014, a difficult but wise decision. Relatively speaking, I don't spend a ton of time on here, but it is an investment- taking and editing pictures, uploading, writing... and simply put, I must invest that time elsewhere this year. Same to be said of Facebook. I'm taking back that time and energy too.

I've journaled on this blog for six years (wow) and even considering the years of transition when my children were born, I anticipate 2014 to be one that needs my greatest attention. I plan to take a more active role in Jimmy's business as we implement a new software program this year. I am eager to  prioritize the daily needs of my husband and in doing so be his most suitable helper as God intended. Our new church building opens for services in February and we are committed to the work God is doing through Awaken Church. We are also anticipating a move in less than 30 days, trusting in the Lord to provide a new home for us! If the past month is any indication of what's ahead, this is sure to be an adventure, and I best be on my game!

Time is honestly only one factor. Excessive amounts of social media prevents me from living in the now. I set ridiculous expectations for myself and endure needless pressure, threatening to steal the very joy I love to write about or capture in a photograph. I've also discovered that I care far too much of what people think of me, and starving the flesh seems to be in order. I'm cutting off the proverbial hand that causes me to stumble, gouging out the eye.

Somehow my children will keep on growing, saying and doing cute things that I'm very proud of, God will keep teaching me things, my family will take fun adventures and reach milestones. Surely all of this continues without documentation?! We shall see... I can't speak to the future, but who knows, maybe I will blog again after this year. In the meantime I will enjoy keeping up with the musings of my friends and utilize instagram to share pictures (emilyhurst3).

Goodbye for now! *tear

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Day

Hoping all my friends and family had a blessed Christmas season! We certainly did in the Hurst house! It went down like this...

Christmas morning breakfast and reading the story of Christ's birth.

Opening a few gifts. We love because He loved us. We give because He gave. 

Grace Louise got a pink BB gun and Jamesy got homemade play-doh, lovingly made and wrapped by his sweet sis. They enjoyed playing with it on Christmas day! They also shared a second gift, a new DVD to watch.

My dad came to stay with us for a few days. We all really enjoyed his short visit and were glad to share such a special day with him. The kids loved helping him open his new red flannel shirt and special framed picture of his grandbabies. 

We enjoyed time outside, shooting the bb gun, shooting my new bow (my husband rocks!... such a great gift-giver!), and simply being together. No rush, no place to get to. So nice!

Jimmy's family joined us, bringing a scrumptious Christmas lunch and some really thoughtful- and fun gifts! The kids had a blast opening up their presents and trying a few out... karaoke singing, 4-wheeler riding, guitar playing...

Caca and Rachel joined us after lunch and brought more Christmas joy! Oh, and an American Girl doll.  Welcome to the family, Marie-Grace.

And finally, Christmas dinner at my mom's house. A labor of love, which I appreciate beyond words. She pours herself into this fine prime rib meal and opens her home to family, extended family, and even friends. The house is full, but so are our hearts. Keeping this tradition requires a lot of work and a few sacrifices, like somehow not making it into a single Christmas picture. Thank you, Ma ;-)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Montessori Corner

I find the montessori method intriguing and incorporate activities here and there as I remember. To foster this kind of independent, hands-on learning I created a little mismatch montessori corner in our house. (which we will soon recreate in our next house!) Puzzles, marble runs, and other activities that are free for the taking- one at a time, quietly on the floor with a mat. Jamesy has a bottom shelf with his favorite... the peg board, passed down from cousin Rachel (now almost 18). It's vintage! 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

On reading aloud and learning to read

I've always loved reading aloud to my kids. Heck, I think I loved reading aloud even before I had kids. Must be the theatrical side of me. (My mom always was an animated reader and I think her school children love that most about her!)

A book really comes to life with a voice, and for little ones, gives a glimpse into the mind of a reader. A quick google search can give you all the reasons in the world to read aloud to your kids and the research to back up its importance. 

But here's our story... I read an article written by an experienced classical homeschooling mother, and among many amazing things she claimed to do with her children, one of them was read aloud for two hours a day. What?! Two hours? I started adding up the minutes and quickly saw that the time I was reading aloud did not even come close. 

Shortly after, I was encouraged by two local moms to read aloud and not to shy away from big books. (Our first attempt at the Narnia series last year fell flat).

Encouraged by the success and experience of these crazed reading aloud moms, I tried reading novels again, and wouldn't you know… we were off! Peter Pan was our first chapter book, and with a few pictures sprinkled here and there, it was a great way to start. After each chapter we talked about what happened, what might happen next, and then spent some time dreaming our own ideas of what Neverland might be like.

Our second book was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe from the Narnia series, followed by Prince Caspian. Grace Louise's older homeschool friends incorporate characters and ideas from these books in their imaginative play all the time. Oh, her bliss to now be in the loop! 

I set a goal to read aloud two hours a day, from children's books, novels, and the Bible, and honestly, it is a discipline! Not always coming easy!

Recently, Grace Louise started her own journey with books! Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons has been a great guide for us! At Lesson 14 she is an expert with her sounds and has just started reading a few words- sat, see, eat, etc. I love knowing I will have a reader in 2014 and am excited for her to start exploring the world through books!

Advent Season 2013

I have fond memories of Christmas growing up. But we didn't celebrate Advent, which for me, means we didn't intentionally make the entire month of December joyous in honor of our coming King. Don't get me wrong, we had much joy, baking Christmas goodies, church Christmas plays, and your typical family celebrations. I vividly remember singing Christmas carols in the car with my mom and attempting to stay up all night with my brother on Christmas Eve. But most everything we did occurred the week of Christmas. It seemed far too short. 

The Christmas season for my own family is very busy, but filled with all sorts of activities to intentionally set our gaze on Jesus and draw us closer together as a family. And oh yes, we start just as soon as we can! (after Thanksgiving, of course) 

There is a string of little white boxes on the mantle, counting down the days to Christmas, each containing a much anticipated slip of paper with a written activity and perhaps... a piece of candy! (Grace Louise's favorite). 

Here are a few of our Advent activities this year:
  • Advent wreath. We always make it with what we have on hand, and this year we added hazelnuts!
  • Christmas baking. Making special treats to share with family and friends, and fun marshmallow snowmen creations with Abby.
  • Christmas Parade. This year we watched the parade at Uncle Chris and Aunt Kelly's house on Central in downtown Lake Wales. Jamesy was mesmerized with the glow stick, and Grace Louise had a blast watching the parade with her cousins. 

  • Care Center deliveries. This is the fourth year we have participated as drivers delivering food and gifts to families in our community. Grace Louise was a newborn, an oblivious passenger, our first year and now looks forward to handing out candy canes to the children and praying for the families we encounter. By far one of my favorite traditions.
  • Christmas pageant. This fall I started taking the kids to a Musical Beginnings class at a local church and it has been one of our most valued activities during the week. Apparently I have a very musical family! Singing, dancing, instruments, all the time everywhere! Grace Louise proudly moved up to the Covenant Kids class when she turned four in November, and has since been learning songs for the Christmas pageant. They were all so precious, making a joyful noise unto the Lord!

  • Visiting Granny. We made lovely pinecone ornaments to share with Granny and her friends at the nursing home again this year. We brought along cookies for the nurses and instruments for our annual singing of Jingle Bells. I'm not sure who had the most fun! 

Today Grace Louise and I are taking my mom on a special birthday outing to see The Nutcracker ballet. Another fun, big event. But just as much as the fluff, I enjoy this... my darling children in their jammies half the day, playing as usual, exploring the Christmas tree and Advent boxes, even little boys playing with doll babies. It has been such a blessed Advent season, enjoying new and old traditions. I'm looking forward to celebrating the day of our dear Savior's birth in just a few more days! 

Follow up from the Nutcracker:
Awesome time. awesome girls. an experience far memorable than a tangible gift. and now we have a dancing ballerina in the house!