Merry Christmas, My Friends!

And the rest of you, too!

He left the comfort of Heaven to come to a place where His body would be vulnerable to the same ailments as ours. He endured the same discomforts. When it was cold, He shivered. When it was hot, He sweated. He subjected himself to every temptation that we must endure. And yet with all physical and spiritual temptations visited upon Him, He sinned not, and then became the propitiation for our sins, who have failed in a million ways.

We should absolutely enjoy the Feast of Christmas, without turning up our noses at the “materialism” in the gifts and decorations, or the “gluttony” of meals and drinks shared with loved ones. There is a time for feasting and enjoying the bounty of His provision. The times for fasting and mourning won’t be denied, and they are coming. They are inevitable.

One day there will be an eternal feast, with no more fasting when we are finally with our Bridegroom. Let us look forward to that by celebrating our Salvation’s coming on this day.

Merry Christmas, all!

Homeschooling in the Christmas Season

How did Christmas get to be a month-long thing, anyway? 

Christmas has become quite the to-do in our home, even though I never really got into the spirit of things for the first several years of our marriage. If I could put the tree up on the 23rd, then take it down on the 26th, that would have been quite enough for me, thank you very much. I guess motherhood is the Grinch-buster, because the longer I have little ones in the house, the more excited I get about all the baubles and lights. Christmas has become a treasured season in our lives, and not just a day. And that’s the way it should be!

Growing up in Appalachian mountain evangelical churches, I don’t think I ever even heard the word “advent” until I was in my twenties. Most people will find that amusing, I’m sure. Dumb hillbillies. Regardless, once I heard about it, I adopted the Advent calendar as a tradition in our home. When we only had a couple of kids in the house, I just put small candies or toys into a paper bag calendar I’d made. I’m not crafty, so you won’t see this one on Pinterest. I can’t believe this was 10 years ago.

As the family grew I couldn’t fit individual things into the bags anymore. Besides, doing things is way more fun.

Now, sometime in November I sit down and think of 24 Christmassy things to do (or eat!) leading up to the Day. I write the ideas on strips of paper and put them in the little drawers of our Advent Calendar.

Advent Calendar


Each year is a little bit different, depending on my mood and how much of a mess I think I’ll be up for. There is a lazy side of me that wishes I hadn’t taught the children to expect so much every year, but the quality time is always worth the effort. There are a few things that we do every year without fail. Of course, there is always the Reason for the Season, reading the Christmas story and singing hymns. There are some less pious things, as well, like gingerbread houses made with graham crackers and royal icing. I’ll post a how-to later on for those interested. Yesterday we put together a Christmas puzzle. We’ll use some peel-and-stick sheets to stick it together and frame it. Other things we do are making and taking gifts to neighbors, singing Christmas carols, and drinking hot chocolate.

So how do we keep on schooling when it’s just one big party? Well, to tell the truth, I called the puzzle geometry and art (it’s shapes and colors!) yesterday, and when the time comes for gingerbread houses, I’m going to call that “handicrafts”. We do our morning meeting with prayer and Bible reading, a few together things like Shakespeare or Plutarch, then a little bit of copywork and math. After that we’re as flexible as we need to be, depending on how time-consuming the day’s activity is. Sometimes it’s just an extra story or song. Sometimes it’s an all-morning event.

The kids can still fit their lessons in around the edges while we center our lives around the Truth that Christ was born for us. If we skip some academic things, I can still rest easy knowing that January is coming. We can grind it out then. We have so much going on in December that I’ve learned to look forward to January as a time to accomplish much. Perhaps I’ll even accomplish a few more blog posts! Sorry it’s been sparse so far, but as long as I’m raising these kids, it’s going to be like that. You know how it is.

What are your Christmas traditions? Do you have an advent calendar? Let me know in the comments what you do so I can fill out my calendar with new ideas next year! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since I’m sitting here waiting for the all-day cookathon to begin, why don’t we talk a little bit about food? I’ve taken some pride over the years in being a pretty good cook, and an extremely flexible eater. There was a time not that long ago when I would put pretty nearly any edible item in my mouth, and defy the gods of health to do anything about it. I loved making messes in the kitchen, and the more complicated the dish, the happier I was. I made very tasty food, no denying it! And thanks to my belief in the food pyramid, which I’ve come to understand was invented by Satan himself, I actually thought that I was doing something good for my family. Four hours a day in the kitchen, cranking out high-carb, low protein junk. What a great mom!

Sigh. It was a mistake made from a place of love, so I’m not beating myself up over past food follies. But I do hope I can forewarn some other moms who may be headed down the same path of spoiling their children–spoiling their health and their palate for truly good food, at least.

Nowadays, my cooking amounts to throwing a big hunk of meat in the oven and roasting some vegetables at the same time. I’ve become, honestly, a lazy cook. And you know what? The kids are more satisfied and healthier than they ever were when I was putting all that fuss into feeding them. Ain’t that a kick in the pants? Truly healthful food turns out to be easier to cook and consume, not harder.

Toward the end of my last pregnancy, even though I had passed the glucose challenge test, I started having symptoms of gestational diabetes. I’d never done that in the previous seven pregnancies, and I’d “passed” the test, so I was shocked a few weeks later at the doctor’s office when they found I was spilling sugar in my urine. I had been feeling profoundly tired, especially after meals, but I didn’t make any connection between my health and my sugar intake. Why should I? I’ve always followed a good diet! I had put my illness down to being an old mom, even though I was only 37. Thankfully, I had just begun spending my enforced time on the couch reading a book that now has a place of honor right next to my Bible, Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes. So I had a problem, but I also had a solution!

What’s amazing to me is that, as fat as I was (160 lbs on a five-foot frame), I never thought that this was unhealthy. I would always come back down to about 135 or so after a pregnancy, and nobody even seemed to think of me as fat, so I wasn’t concerned. I ate what the Food Pyramid guidelines said to, and didn’t have any diagnosable eating disorders, so I thought I was doing ok.

I felt awful, my thyroid disease kept getting worse, and I couldn’t lose that last thirty pounds, but the culture around me, the doctors I saw, and the mainstream nutritional advice all said I was doing everything right, and this is just the way I have to be. Must be genetic. Everyone who has been healed by a ketogenic way of eating will surely join me in saying “Thank God for Gary Taubes!” His work started me off on a journey to health by turning my food-view–and my food pyramid–upside down.

Our Thanksgiving meal today will be fairly traditional. I will certainly include some whole food carbohydrates. I’m even going to put some little marshmallows on the sweet potato casserole. Since the kids never get to eat that stuff, it will be a treat. There will be no industrial seed oils. The “potatoes” will be made of cauliflower, and you almost wouldn’t know it. The cranberry sauce and desserts will be sugar-free.

A friend asked me yesterday if I wouldn’t have some of my favorite foods, like stuffing, just for the holiday. In my current state of health, I could certainly “get away” with eating any amount of carbs I want for just this one day, or for several days, honestly. On the rare occasion that I do eat carbs, my body clears the glucose very quickly and comfortably. My Hashimodos probably won’t flare up as long as I avoid gluten and dairy. Still, I probably won’t eat anything but meat today. Cranberry sauce and my safer version of pumpkin pie are a distinct possibility. Habit is, as Charlotte Mason homeschoolers know, a very powerful thing, so I will probably behave myself very well, even in the presence of all that temptation. The longer I go without carbs, the less drawn to them I am.

And that brings me to my real point here. A holiday meal is supposed to be a special, once-or-twice a year blowout. It’s not supposed to be just a bigger meal of all the kinds of foods you eat pretty much anytime you want to anyway. I’m going to make sure my family enjoys some crazy-delicious food. We’re going to have dessert with whipped cream and wine. We’re going to thank God for the bounty of the year, and pray His mercy on the next one. We’re going to do all of that with no guilt whatsoever!

But then we’re going to go right back to our daily, boring (to the average palate) low-carb, satiating, whole foods.

How about you, Reader? Have you found a way of eating that’s different from the SAD diet? Maybe you were raised already knowing this stuff. What’s eating like on a regular day for your family?