Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My 12 Favorites from '14

It's that time of year again where we look back on the year and ponder and reflect about the fun memories, blessings and maybe tears too!

It was so fun last year to post Blog in a Blink: Best 13 of '13 and My "Most" Posts of 2013 that I thought I would post something similar looking back at my 2014 posts.

Here I list my favorite posts in each month of 2014 and jot down why each post was my favorite.   Maybe they are your favorites too!

January 2014
My favorite post was What I Like/Don't Like About Homeschooling published on 1/24/14 

Why was this my favorite January post? This post was my attempt to put into words what I struggle with daily as a homeschool mom.  I loved that I could use my blog as a platform to  hopefully inspire others on their homeschool journey or maybe even their parenthood journey.  

February 2014 
My favorite post was Ash Wednesday, Lenten Traditions, and Link-Up All in 7 Quick Takes published on 2/28/14

Why was this my favorite February post? I enjoyed linking up our Lenten traditions that prepare our hearts for Easter in tangible ways for our family and it gave me a chance to peek into how others prepare for Easter through their Lenten traditions.

March 2014  
My favorite post was "Couch Catechism" Family Devotions published on 3/13/14

Why was this my favorite March post?  As a homeschool mom, I feel like I have to work on consistency in alot of areas!  But, one thing that we do manage to do consistently each morning is have our "couch catechism" prayer time before our homeschool day.  I enjoyed blogging what this time looks like and what resources we use.    

April 2014   
My favorite post was A Symbolic Lunch for Good Friday published on 4/18/14

Why was this my favorite April post?  I remember this Good Friday afternoon with my family as being very relaxing and fun (even though we were remembering a somber Good Friday).  Relaxing is not necessarily a word I use to describe all our family's afternoons, but this was the case during this one and my husband was able to eat with us before Good Friday service. 

May 2014  
My favorite post was Our Goddaughter's First Holy Communion Mass published on 5/20/14

Why was this my favorite May post?  It is such a joy and blessing that our Goddaughter lives locally so that we can celebrate her sacraments with her.  It seems like yesterday she was an infant and we were at her baptism.  It was so fun to document her special First Communion day by writing the post. 

June 2014  
My favorite post was 10 Things I Learned Going to Disney with My Family of 7 published on 6/3/14
Why was this my favorite June post?  Going to Disney for the first time as a family at the end of May/beginning of June was definitely a highlight of 2014.  This post was my favorite because it was the beginning of a series of posts that I wrote about our fun and memorable week!   

July 2014  
My favorite post was 17 Years Ago We Said "I Do" and 17 Wedding Mementos in our Home published on 7/12/14

Why was this my favorite July post?  I always love when July rolls around each year since it's the month my husband and I wed.  This post was fun to write because I documented all the wedding "stuff" that is around our house to remember our special day!  

August 2014  
My favorite post was 2014-2015 Homeschool Classroom and Curriculum published on 8/10/14
Why was this my favorite August post?  I enjoy looking at others' learning spaces and I like sharing where and how we homeschool.  I look at this post to motivate me to get cleaning again because our learning space rarely stays this clean!    

September 2014
My favorite post was Family Photo Shoot of our Blessed Beach Week published on 9/29/14


Why was this my favorite September post?  This was such a special week with my family, parents, and my siblings and their families.  It was so fun to blog about some of the highlights of our family reunion that doesn't happen very often.    

October 2014
My favorite post was FirePit Party Cake and Cupcakes published on 10/26/14 


Why was this my favorite October post?  It's always fun to try to create fun themed birthday cakes for my Cupcakes (as time and energy allows!)  This was a fun and fairly easy cake to make and it was fun to celebrate our son's 13th birthday this way!   

November 2014  
My favorite post was Family Fun Bucket for Christmas {Free Printables} published on 11/13/14

Why was this my favorite November post? The Family Fun Bucket is one of our family's favorite Advent/Christmas traditions so it was a pleasure to share this on my blog and it was also my first post in which I was able to successfully make free printables for my readers! Yay!  I also enjoyed being a guest blogger with this post.    

December 2014
My favorite post was Why Celebrating Christmas as a Season Makes Sense published on 12/30/14

Why was this my favorite December post?  I've been pondering a lot lately of why celebrating Christmas as a season vs. just one day makes sense.  This post was my humble attempt to try to explain why Christmas decorations in our home are still up well past Christmas Day. 

So there you have it, my 12 favorite posts from 2014!  Were any of these your favorite?  

If this is your first visit (and hopefully not your last) to my blog or you are a regular visitor, thank you for stopping by my corner of blog land!  I love savoring and sharing my faith, family and homeschooling journey with anyone willing to listen, say thank you for your visits, comments and emails!  

May you have a blessed and happy New Year and a wonderful 2015! 

 I'm linking this post to HouseUnseen Photo Link-Up


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why Celebrating Christmas as a Season Makes Sense

So after the festivities and fun (and sometimes fever) surrounding Christmas Day, what's next?  Does Christmas end on December 25, after all it's been celebrated since before Thanksgiving for many families and stores?  According to the radio channels, Christmas must be over since there are no more carols being heard and stores no longer play the cheerful tunes. (And my family misses hearing the carols AFTER Christmas Day!) Now stores are rushing to set up for the next holiday, Saint Valentine's Day

All families have their Christmas traditions and have good reasons for them.  So if you have already packed up the decorations and thrown your tree to the curb, that's fine, but I invite you to keep reading.  I hope what I say here may give you greater insight on why you may see others keeping Christmas decorations set up and lit up well past Christmas Day.  I've been pondering a lot lately of why celebrating Christmas as a season vs. just one day makes sense.
Lacy at Catholic Icing has a great post about thinking about Advent (preparation before Christmas) as a time of nesting to prepare our hearts and homes for Jesus.   I loved her analogies and examples in the post of how preparing for the birth of Baby Jesus is similar to nesting for a baby.

After I read Lacy's post and have seen and heard how others take down decorations soon after Christmas Day, you could say I had an epiphany myself: celebrating Christmas as a season is very much like celebrating the birth of child for a family.

But how you may ask?

* Each year on Christmas Day, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus / Each year on a baby's birthday families celebrate the birth of their child.

* We greet others with "Merry Christmas!" past Christmas Day to join in the celebration of our newborn King / We tell families "Congratulations" past their baby's birth date to join in the celebration of their newborn.  
* The 12 days of Christmas are the 12 days after Christmas Day, which is a time of rejoicing and celebrating about Jesus' birth / the days/weeks following the birth of child into a family is certainly a time of rejoicing, celebrating and welcoming the new child into this world. 
* Christmas lights and decorations stay lit and up several days past Christmas Day since we celebrate a season and not just a day / parents' homes are decorated with "Welcome Home" signs, balloons, flowers and beautiful nurseries not just on the baby's birth day, but for many days following the joyous birth.

*Christmas cards are still being sent and delivered past December 25 (because rejoicing about Jesus' birth lasts beyond Christmas Day)  / Family and friends send cards of congratulations to the family (because rejoicing about a baby's birth lasts beyond the baby's birth day)  
* 12 days after Christmas Day is the Epiphany, where the 3 Wise Men bring gifts to Baby Jesus / friends and family bring gifts to a new baby 12 minutes, 12 hours, 12 days, and maybe even 12 weeks after a baby is born.  
* On Sunday, December 28 in the Catholic liturgical calendar, we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family and the Holy Family had its challenges, difficulties, tense moments and opportunities for misunderstandings. / When a baby is born into their loving family, there is much celebrating and feasting, yet at the same time a baby comes into a family that has plenty of trials and triumphs too!   

My comparisons are simplistic, but I hope it has given you some greater insight on how our family thinks about Christmas as more than just one day.  If the Christmas season extends well past Christmas Day, how do some families make a conscious effort to celebrate the joyous and holy season?   I'm glad you asked. :)   

Here are some great blog posts that focus on ways to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas leading up to the Feast of the Epiphany.  

And HERE is a similar version of the traditional "12 Days of Christmas" song that can help you meditate on the tenets of the Catholic faith. 

And then there is the question of when does Christmas end?  That's a whole new topic, but you can go HERE to read up on when Christmas actually ends. 

What do you think about the celebration of Christmas as more than just one day?  Maybe a day is all your family celebrates because that's your family's traditions, maybe not?  I would love to hear your thoughts about this! :)  

Be sure to check out my 12 favorite posts of 2014 as a way to close out another year of blogging and memories! 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas 2014: Some Festivities (fun!) and Some Fever (not fun!)

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!  Did you know that Christmas has just begun? But, sadly our radio stations have stopped playing the Christmas songs and people are slowly taking down their decorations. :(   But, the Christmas season lasts at least 12 days from Christmas Day to the Epiphany.  Our Wandering Wise Men continue their journey until the Epiphany so keep saying "Merry Christmas!" because this is a joyous season and not just one day! 

The song "The 12 Days of Christmas" is widely known and to be full of great meaning.  I enjoyed reading this post that has new words to the song that has the tenets of our Catholic faith. 

If you are looking for fun books to go along with the 12 days of Christmas theme and that teach geography of the United States, be sure to visit my post HERE.

And if you are looking for great ways to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas go check out my friend, Tara's, post HERE at Blessings in Brelinskyville.  She lists 12 strategies for making the most of the 12 Days of Christmas.

So how did our family celebrate Christmas 2014?  (in case you cared to know)  It started out with fun festivities, but then things changed with a not so fun fever for my 7 year old daughter :(

First, the fun!

Our children added on one more handprint for 2014 to our Handy Tree Skirt. We first started making this tree skirt in 2008 and each child puts one handprint on it each Christmas to make a decorative and meaningful tree skirt.  Most of our children like having paint on their hands.  Our 16 month old wasn't one of them :( 

A few days before Christmas my daughter and her friend made Life Savers Ornaments which are easy and fun to do. The girls made a Stocking, Star, Candy Cane, Christmas Tree, and a Wreath.

We also made our traditional gingerbread house (from a kit...always from a kit)  :)

Then Christmas Eve came and my 7 year old daughter had a fever that day and the day prior so this is where the no fun part comes in.  Our family couldn't attend Christmas Eve Mass at 4:00 PM together :( My husband (who wasn't feeling well either) stayed home with the baby and our sick daughter, while I went to Mass with my older 3 children.  Our girls sang in the choir (and my daughter who was sick was disappointed she couldn't sing).  Then after Mass we went to my in-laws house while my husband and my sick daughter stayed home.  It's always no fun when there are sick children during Christmas, but I kept telling myself it's really no big deal compared to how much sorrow people experience during this holiday. 

The picture on the left was taken just before we left for my in-laws house for Christmas Eve dinner. My daughter in the middle still had her pjs on.   The picture on the right was taken at my in-laws house on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve at my in-laws we have dinner, open presents and then sing Christmas carols.  My mother-in-law also shows a snow globe to the grandchildren that belonged to her mother.  My mother-in-law always explains how we remember all those that have passed away and how we keep them close to our hearts always, especially during this holy season.  The globe then plays "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and it's so nice to watch my children and their cousins listen to the globe and watch the snow fall in it.  

After we got home from my in-laws late Christmas Eve,  my 10 year old daughter and I went to midnight Mass with my brother-in-law, nephew and niece.  My brother-in-law and his family always go to midnight Mass each year at the same church my husband and I got married in on July 12, 1997,  even though they are not Catholic, because they enjoy the beautiful singing and instruments. 

We lit a candle for Courtney and the entire Lenaburg family at Passionate Perseverance after Mass early Christmas morning.   We have been thinking about Courtney and praying for her and her family continually.  If you don't know about this special young girl with her incredible faith-filled family be sure to visit Passionate Perseverance.   My daughter had fever.  Yes, no fun and our family wasn't able to spend Christmas Eve together.  But, I kept thinking about the Lenaburg family and so many others who are going through suffering like nothing I can imagine.  Please keep the Lenaburgs in your prayers.  

Christmas morning brought the celebration of our Newborn King and my daughter was feeling better!  We had a fun morning seeing the gifts under the tree and then our entire family was able to go back to my in-laws house for another dinner and family time.   I loved that we were finally able to take a family picture together because I really did miss not being able to attend Mass together on Christmas Eve.   Our 16 month old loves her PaPa (my father-in-law) and she loved relaxing in my in-laws teddy bear collection.

My kids and their cousins decorated our annual birthday cake for Jesus.  The kids decorate it with tons of sprinkles and a #1 candle is lit while we sing "Happy Birthday to Jesus" because He is the One we celebrate on Christmas Day!  Glory to the Newborn King!  

May you continue to enjoy these 12 days of Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Savior!

FYI :)  My blog here has been nominated in 2 categories for the 2014 Homeschool Blog Awards, which is exciting!  I was nominated in the Best Variety Blog and the Best Homeschool Mom Blog.

If you feel my blog is worthy enough for both or either category, could you take a second to click on the links below and click the circle next to my blog name ( A Slice of Smith Life)   Then click "Vote".  You can vote once per day per device until 12/29.  Thank you for your support and vote!

 Best Variety Homeschool Blog @hsbapost
  Click here to vote for my blog as Best Variety Blog 2014 


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Our Family's Christmas Cards: Past & Present

Our family has been sending out Christmas cards since the year my husband and I got married, 1997, and this year I strongly considered not sending out any cards for the first time since those late 90s.  But, I couldn't keep myself from NOT sending them out.

I love sending out our photo cards.  (I don't write a Christmas letter, but sometimes I wish we started that tradition back in 1997 as a great way to document a year's worth of memories)

Our family also loves getting Christmas cards/letters in the mail.  We display our cards around a kitchen door frame decorated with lights.

I also enjoy looking through our past Christmas photo cards and smile at how our family has changed and grown through the years.

I thought I would share the Christmas photo cards we have sent past and present so you can walk down memory lane with me :)

 1997 Christmas Card 

( Hmmm...I wonder what we did in July of '97?  This is one of my favorite cards as it was the year the Smith family was established and I loved how our photo card had a church photo on it (that is cut off ) with the words "Silent Night".  This was before kids, you know, so our nights and days were silent. :)

 1998 Christmas Card

1999 Christmas Card

This was the last year that it would be just the two of us in our Christmas photos.  We were so blessed to conceive our first child in 1999. 

2000 Christmas Card

In May of 2000 we welcomed our first daughter into our hearts and home.  What a fun Christmas it was to watch how our daughter loved listening to all the Christmas music and playing with the wrapping paper.  :)   This was the year our daughter played Baby Jesus in a living nativity at a local parish. You know when you wrap a baby girl up in warm blankets and have her wear lots of layers, no one notices who is playing the Baby Jesus.  :)  

2001 Christmas Card

17 months after our daughter was born our son was born in October 2001  My oldest daughter and son get along well as they are close in age and my oldest never remembers life without her sweet little brother. 

2002 Christmas Card

2003 Christmas Card

This photo card reads "We are EXPECTING you to have a merry and blessed Christmas!  That was our clever way of announcing our pregnancy with Smith Baby #3.  I was in the "yuck" phase of the pregnancy during this photo shoot and when I look back at this card, I remember that I was so happy to be pregnant again, yet I was trying so hard to smile through the nausea, hence the somewhat forced grin :) 
2004 Christmas Card

Baby #3 came in June 2004 with a head full of black hair!  She found her hands fascinating as she looks down.  :)  

2005 Christmas Card

2006 Christmas Card


2007 Christmas Card

In November 2007, our 4th baby was born.  This picture was taken when we arrived home from the hospital.  I remember our older children couldn't come to the hospital to visit their new sister because my oldest daughter was sick with a strep throat. :(  

2008 Christmas Card

2009 Christmas Card

Yes, that is a wreath hanging from a tree limb in the middle of the woods.  :)  I was trying to make the woods festive :)   I laugh at this picture though because of the Christmas wreath that seems to be hanging in mid air coming from nowhere :) 

2010 Christmas Card

2011 Christmas Card

2012 Christmas Card

This picture was taken just after my sister's wedding ceremony in October 2012.  My younger daughters handed out the programs and my oldest daughter did a reading during the service.  My son was an altar server, hence his robe.   This was another "We are EXPECTING" you to have a Merry Christmas" cards since we conceived Baby #5 in November 2012.  She was born in July 2013.

2013 Christmas Card

This photo was taken in a Catholic church in PA when we went to visit my younger sister and her family for Thanksgiving in 2013. 

2014 Christmas Card

And this is this year's Christmas card.  These pictures were taken in September 2014 when my family had a reunion with my parents, two brothers and my younger sister and their families.   

I hope you have enjoyed looking at just how fast our family has changed and grown through the years because it has been fun for me to think back to the many memories and blessings from the past 17 years since our first Christmas card in 1997.  

So do you send out Christmas cards and/or Christmas letters? 
May you have a blessed and merry Christmas!
My blog here has been nominated in 2 categories for the 2014 Homeschool Blog Awards, which is exciting!  I was nominated in the Best Variety Blog and the Best Homeschool Mom Blog.

If you feel my blog is worthy enough for both or either category, could you take a second to click on the links below and click the circle next to my blog name ( A Slice of Smith Life) ?  Then click "Vote".  You can vote once per day per device until 12/29.  Thank you for your support and vote!

 Best Variety Homeschool Blog @hsbapost
  Click here to vote for my blog as Best Variety Blog 2014 

Best Homeschool Mom Blog @hsbapost
Click here to vote for my blog as Best Homeschool Mom Blog 2014 


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I'm Tracy. I love my faith, family and on most days, homeschooling my 5 blessings. When I'm not busy baking cakes for my family or making memories in real life or dreaming I had a housekeeper or professional chef, I enjoy documenting a slice of Smith life in blog land.

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