Monday, December 31, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Day 18: Surprise PJ Milkshake Run!

 of Joy!
This one was sooooo much fun. I knew it was coming, and I had a little countdown in my head as to how many days I had to wait until Day 18 was upon us. I'm horrible at keeping secrets, and almost told the kids a few times because I was so excited. It wasn't really that big of a deal, but I knew the kids would be so excited and I couldn't wait to see the looks in their faces. On Day 18, it was business as usual around the Smith home. We had dinner together, cleaned up the kitchen and playroom, had showers and baths, put on pajamas, brushed teeth, did our Advent reading together as a family, and tucked the kids into bed. We sang lullabies, did prayers, and turned out the lights. Then we went into the hall, waited a full minute, switched the lights back on, bounded into their rooms, and told them to get in the car- PJs and all. We were going out for milkshakes!
Our ever-practical first-born:

Our ever-enthusiastic third-born:
Poor Chilly was a little confused. Lucky for us, he rolls with it.

 We slurped chocolate milkshakes. We sang Christmas carols - corny, but true.

We kept the kids up too late and didn't care. We've got a new tradition.


Day 17: Christmas Cinnamon Rolls

 of Joy!

Chloe and I had a blast making these. The family had a blast eating these. They are amazeballs.

We made our dough in the breadmaker, but I'm sure you can do it without a breadmaker too. Try them. You must.

Day 16: Small Group Christmas Party

 of Joy!

Tonight was our small group Christmas party. I didn't get any pictures, but we had such a nice time. We usually meet at the home of our friends Jeremy and Stacey. They also have four kids, so we hire several awesome babysitters, and Jeremy and Stacey are incredibly gracious about letting us all bring our crazy kids to destroy their basement while we hide out upstairs to study God's Word together and have a great time of fellowship. For the Christmas party, however, our brave friends whose kids are in college volunteered their pristine, kid-free home for the evening. The sitters could come there, they insisted, and they'd get out some of their boys' old toys to entertain our army of hoodlums (14 kids 8 and under) while we ate and chatted and were merry upstairs.

Ummm, are you sure?

They insisted.

We had such a nice time. I love our small group, and am so grateful for the gift their friendship has been to Greg and I this year.

Day 15: Phipps Conservatory


 of Joy!
Yikes. I have fallen woefully behind. I've sort of learned that there isn't time enough to both experience the days with the kids and document them on the blog. Maybe next year I'll just include a few highlights :-). 
 Day 15 was our annual trip to Phipps with the whole family. This year was a bit different because the Sugar Plum Fairy from Pittsburgh Ballet Theater was there. Chloe loved getting to see her and learn more about some of the behind the scenes action from the Nutcracker, but the downside was that Phipps was super crowded. Not a great day for pictures, but I managed to get a few...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Day 14: A Visit to Santa!

 of Joy!
I am falling behind on our joy days! We are having a blast keeping up with the activities... I just can't seem to find the time to blog about them. 

Last Friday we went to visit Santa with our friends the Bozeks. We did this last year too, and it was so much fun that we decided to make it a tradition for our families.  

Gathering for a quick smile before heading in to see Santa!

These sweet girls always have so much fun together. I am so grateful for their friendship.

Attempting to get a decent shot of all four kids on Santa's lap is no small feat...

I love this one of Santa making sure he heard Chloe correctly. She may be the oldest, but she talks the quietest.

Chilly did well until he realized he was alone on a strange bearded man's lap. Then he was dunzo.


After we visited Santa, we headed over to a quintessential Zelie experience that would make Clark Griswold proud: a house bedecked with enough lights and various holiday attractions to be seen from several miles away. This one's special though... they line the sidewalk along their house with big boxes containing Christmas scenes, and collect donations to give to the food bank. Their little endeavor has allowed them to bless the Pittsburgh Food Bank with over $14,000 in the past few years - pretty awesome, huh?


Charlie LOVED it.

After visiting Santa's little village, we went to the Bozeks for a potluck dinner, and were blessed with a table set for four grownups with pretty dishes and candlelight. The kiddos ate together down the hall. It was a great night with dear friends. Despite a late-night tantrum by one exhausted boy, we left feeling full and grateful :-).

Day 13: Field Trip with Friends

         of Joy!

A Countdown to Christmas
Okay, so this wasn't exactly Christmasy, and it wasn't exactly educational, but it was a super fun surprise for the kids... A few friends and I decided to take our kids to Fun Fore All, the indoor playground my kids absolutely love. I told them the night before that we were going, and this is how Max greeted me the next morning:

I was standing in the kitchen in my PJs brewing coffee and I heard his little voice. "Look, Mom! I'm ready for Fun Fore All!" He planned the whole outfit, right down to the rifle accessory he needed to bring to show Nathan and Jackson when we got there.

Sam looked out the window, saw the seldom-seen sunshine, and said, "Mom, I think God noticed we were going to fun fore all, so he put up the sun!" He has the funniest way of observing the world lately. Love that kid.

The kids had a wonderful time playing with their friends, and I had a wonderful time talking with my friends.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Day 12: Deck the Classroom

     24Days of 

A Countdown to Christmas

A few years ago I bought little Christmas trees for the kids at Hobby Lobby. Each year they've looked forward to putting them up in our school room and decorating them a few weeks before Christmas.

This morning we enjoyed a break from learning and decked out our classroom with snowflakes and trees and our little manger scene.

Another tradition we have in our classroom is the book Christmas Carols for a Kid's Heart by Bobbie Wolgemuth and Joni Eareckson Tada. I try to start our days with it, though some days are better than others. It includes a story about the history of 12 of the best-known Christian Christmas carols - who wrote them, when they were written, and what they're about. There is a music CD included, so after we read about them we listen and sing along. It's such a great resource!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 11: Homemade Christmas Ornaments

24Days of Joy!

A Countdown to Christmas
I am soooo not crafty. Truly, I have no business being a homeschooler. I loathe glue and little pairs of scissors and tiny pieces of paper all over my floor. I am the awful mother that groans when she receives a tshirt covered in her kids' handprints that she will be expected to wear in public. So when I dared to put "homemade Christmas ornaments" on my 24 days of joy list a few weeks ago, I deleted it, then added it back again, then deleted it again, then consulted Pinterest, and finally left it hovering on Day 11 because, to be honest, I was running short of ideas. And then, like a Christmas miracle, my kids came trotting out of their Sunday school classrooms last week waving little white angels made out of paper plates, and an idea was born. I shamelessly added on to those who went before me last Sunday... Praise God for sweet, creative Sunday school teachers. So for all you non-crafty kindred spirits out there, check your mom-shame at the door and read on.

Step One: Pull an already-made Christmas craft out of your child's bookbag. I assure you, there will be gobs of them in there, all made under the patient guidance of creative crafters such as teachers, tutors, or Sunday school volunteers. Spend at least one full minute rejoicing over the glue that will not be spilled on the kitchen table, the markers that will not be left out for baby brother to find and color all over the couch with, and the tantrum that will not be had by your all-thumbs kindergartener who can't get his glitter where he wants it. All done? Okay, you're ready to proceed.

Step Two: Grab some recent snapshots of your kids. Have them cut them out. Glue them onto the already-made Christmas craft somewhere. Anywhere, really. Now at this point I imagine you're saying, Ummm, she's not exactly Martha Stewart.


In my non-Martha opinion this can really work with anything. My kids had angels, but you could put a picture on a snowflake, a snowman, or whatever you might find in their bookbag. When it comes to crafts my attitude is get in, get out, go home, so work with what you've got, people.

Step Three: Have them sign their name on the back and date with with their age.

Step Four: Hang it high on the Christmas tree so the aforementioned baby brother can not get it and put it in the toilet place it elsewhere in the house.

Step Five: Put the glue and markers away, for Pete's sake. Your toddlers are coming, and they can sniff out mischief like dogs can smell fear.

Just for kicks, I pulled a few homemade ornaments from years past off the tree to give you some extra ideas.

This one cracks me up. Chloe made it in preschool. I think she's supposed to be an angel.

This popsicle stick snowflake is cute...

Inside is a picture of her with the class goose. She loved that goose.

This one someone made for us that year after she was born. It's made out of those foam sheets you can buy anywhere. I pasted a picture of her from Christmas 2005 on the back.