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awaiting the advent {jesse tree devotional}

Their eyes are still sleepy, their voices groggy, but they pile out of their rooms, scrambling for the afghans grandma crocheted, and for the best, most snuggly corners of the sofa and “comfy chair.”  It’s morning before dad leaves for work, and it’s our time to share our hearts and our Papa’s thoughts before he goes.  At Christmas-time, the Jesse Tree is how we do that.


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There are a few Christmas traditions our family has come to treasure, and the Jesse Tree devotional is one of them.  It started a few years ago when a dear friend organized an ornament swap between several homeschool families in our community.  Each family created two ornaments, in enough quantity for every family to have one.  Then we met at a park (with treats to share, of course) for a play-date, and swapped hand-crafted ornaments.  I’ve come to treasure these rustic little ornaments near as much as the ones my own children made, because i know the faces of the no-longer-little people who created them.   (Below is our “stump of Jesse.”  read more about its meaning here!)


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Each day of December, there is a devotional thought that follows the lineage of Jesus, from creation to the cross, telling the “real Christmas story” in all its rich glory.  There are several books that follow the Jesse tree, but our family uses the book The Advent Jesse Tree, and each year, it’s the first item out of the Christmas boxes.


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In our house, we take turns hanging the ornaments.  We use a small, rustic tree we bought just for the Jesse Tree.


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Some years we’ve had better listeners than others.  Some days we’ve had to play “catch up” on our devotional time.  But every Christmas when we read the final thought, I am awed by the anticipation and the fulfillment, literally the best gift we receive, of God’s love poured out through history.


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Does your family have a tradition that you hold precious?  Please let me know below!


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autumn bucket list {free autumn printable}

near-balmy days intersperse with snappy cool ones, sunny skies with charcoal.  i wanted to name my girl autumn, and it’s because this season warms my heart as it begins to chill the air.  we’ve begun unpacking school books in earnest, and we’re checking off the first of the autumn bucket list starting tomorrow.


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you can click here to get your own printable version.


i intend to fully, completely immerse myself in these days with our “people.”  we’re going to put on sweaters and i’m going to find magic golden light reflecting off leaves and dance in it.


how about you?  what must you do to celebrate autumn?


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recipes for play {homeschool craft ideas}

“dear mess,” the book begins, “why are we not better friends?”  and so my heart is warmed, and i’m invited to play with my littlest.  to dive once more (years into parenting teens and working at a more orderly home) in to the sweet times of play dough and finger paint.  the book recipes for play* by rachel sumner and ruth mitchener is full of homeschool craft ideas.


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as we dive into a cross country move (well, it’s more “up” than “across”), we look forward to slowing down, to playing more.  to structuring formal school around hearts and gifts and callings.  so when the publishers offered me this book to review, the timing was perfect.


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“creative play provides the foundation that learning is built on.  while great joy comes from play, great learning comes, too.”  i believe this – i do.  so why do i so easily fall into the rut of “sit down and do your worksheet” and ignore the sweet memories of marching ’round the room with made-up Bible-verse-songs and stacking blocks till they tumble?  so i dive into the book Recipes for Play, determined to resurrect the heart of a mom-of-littles, and get my hands dirty with my youngest.  i’m betting the big ones will join us.


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i love the authors’ introduction, encouraging us to engage all five senses in learning, and indeed, enticing us as parents to not just survive, but to thrive ourselves in the act of (intentional) messy play.  “engaged children are happy, connected children,” she asserts, “and happy children are a lot easier to parent!”  while of course my goal goes way beyond raising happy children, i know that my Papa has been calling me to engage them more deeply, and to not fall into the rut of engaging those who are intellectually “easier” to engage as they grow older, but to keep part of my heart and mind engaged in playfulness with both the littles and the big kids.

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“although it is aimed at pre-schoolers, Recipes for Play is designed to be compatible with the differing interests and abilities of siblings and friends.”  as a mom of multiple ages of children, and one who passionately promotes their being each other’s best friends, i embrace this vision of the authors’.


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oh, those precious little-boy fingers.

creative play shouldn’t be difficult, or dangerous.  i love that there’s consideration for allergy-free play, for non-toxic creating and clean-up, and for simple recipes without expensive or difficult-to-find ingredients.


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projects are ranked with set-up time, clean-up time, and mess factor.  love this – makes for no-thought planning.  vital when parenting and teaching five.  🙂


we received this book as a digital review copy, and i’m happy to share the information with you.  if you’d like to purchase a copy through this affiliate link, we receive a small portion of the proceeds, which helps us keep writing and playing.


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this, our first “messy” project with littles in a while (sadly, sometimes things get more “practical” when they get older), was a somewhat-messy tactile and joyful meandering back into the world of giddy playfulness with my littlest.  i can’t wait for our next one.


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