Faithfulness and December

On the day before Thanksgiving, I’m trying to cram in one more blogpost.  It’s going to be hard, since there are a million homeschool/holiday/parenting things on my mind right now!  Where do I begin?

Let’s start with our next fruit of the Spirit: faithfulness.  For faithfulness, we used a lemon.  I didn’t schedule any official school this week so we were able to focus on faithfulness and our Thanksgiving preparations (kind of–we also had doctor’s appointments and Monday was completely consumed by OCC drop-off.  We delivered 1660 boxes!!!).  I found “faithfulness” to be a kind of tricky concept to teach the kids.  I started with the story of Noah.  We read it and I talked about how Noah was faithful to God in that he stuck with building the ark even though it took him a long time, and he obeyed every command God gave him.  Then, God was faithful to Noah by doing what He said He was going to do. We listed some things that are faithful in our lives; things we can count on, like Daddy coming home from work every night (therefore he is faithful to us) and Mommy making breakfast, lunch, and dinner (therefore I am faithful by providing meals). We talked about how God wants us to be faithful to Him by obeying Him, and to others by doing what we say we’re going to do.  That night I made my chicken piccata, which is a lemony dish and the kids helped!

The verse I used as our key verse is Psalm 51:10.  It talks about having a faithful spirit and a pure heart, so at first I wanted to do a heart project, but we already did one with “love.”  So I decided to incorporate the “lemon” part of our theme and make paper lemonade glasses.  On each lemon in the glass, we wrote an example of how we can be faithful to God and others.  We made sponge-paint ice cubes, then glued straws to the glasses.

img_0776Today was definitely “cute craft” day because we also made these adorable turkey cookies for Thanksgiving, tomorrow!  Don’t you just want to gobble one up?! 😉

So I’ve been thinking about what our December will look like this year.  It’s a pretty common thing for homeschooling families to take the whole month of December off from school (and usually not take a February or April vacation) in order to make time for all the baking, events, craft projects, and Christmas units.  It’s one of the many benefits to homeschooling–to actually get to enjoy the Christmas season at a slower pace than usual!    This year I had a small part in putting together our church’s advent devotional readings.  The theme is 25 Names of Jesus and I wrote 5 of them and included a family connection and activity for families with children.  So, obviously we’ll be doing that, and I’m looking forward to it!  That’s only 5 family devotionals/activities, however, so I was feeling a little guilty (because I’m a mom, so of course) about taking a whole month off from school and not doing something a little more in-depth for Christmas.  Then I contemplated doing The Truth in the Tinsel from but that seemed a little too in-depth.  So I think we might do an abbreviated version of it, which includes a piece on the different names of Jesus, so it will tie in nicely with the series we’re doing with church.  I have to admit that although I like the December plan, I don’t love it.  😉  But it’s the plan for now and I’ll keep you posted!  If you want to do the 25 Names of Jesus this advent season with us, you can find the readings (for free) here:  (Advent starts Sunday, November 27 and you don’t have to have kids to do it, the 25 main devotions are for adults!)  If you’re interested in doing the Truth in the Tinsel, you can find it on  You do have to pay for the ebook.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and if you’re in the same homeschool boat as me, have a wonderfully relaxing December and let me know what your plan is!  (I might want to steal it!) 😉

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

Our fruit this past week was goodness and we used a lime for representation.  Don’t ask me why.

It seems pretty obvious, I’m sure, but I just had to use the parable of the Good Samaritan for our Bible story.  I had to explain to the kids that Jesus was saying that EVERYONE is our neighbor and we are to love and “be good/do good deeds” for our neighbors, i.e. everyone.  They didn’t quite get the geography or culture of it all in context, but they definitely understood that the Samaritan was the one who did the right thing and the other two men did the wrong thing by passing by and not helping the wounded man.

My kids love seltzer water.  So during lunch, we drank seltzer and I had them try it plain first.  Then I said, “You know what will make this seltzer really GOOD?  Let’s squeeze a lime into it!”  So cheesy, I know.  But the craft we were supposed to do was a sun-catcher which would go with our verse for the week and a lime slice could make a cute little sun-catcher which is maybe why the two correlate.  I knew we wouldn’t get a chance to do the craft, so I had to just make it work.  (Emmalyn tried some lime, too.  You can see how that went over…)

Our verse for the week was Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine in front of others.  Then they will see the good things you do.  And they will praise your Father who is in Heaven.”  (See how the sun-catcher craft would’ve been perfect?  Oh well, you can’t do everything.) 😉  When I introduced this verse, I asked the kids what the Good Samaritan did as his “good deeds.”  Then we made a list of what good things we can do for others, which led to a conversation about the difference between “good” things and “kind” things.  My kids seem to think that coloring a picture for someone cures all and is really the only thing they need to do for anyone. After some gentle prompting, our list grew and went in the right direction. 😉  Oh yeah, here’s some proof that I do actually teach my kids… (I’m not one to be in front of the camera much!)

Speaking of good deeds, did you pack an Operation Christmas Child (OCC) shoebox this year???  We were able to pack two: one by Abby and one by Noah.  We included letters and pictures in them and are hoping we might get to hear back from the child who receives the boxes, but who knows.  Either way, it was a fun process!  I was able to be a volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse this year as a relay center coordinator which was fun and a lot of work!  We’ve been counting boxes, packing boxes, and praying hard over the boxes!  If you’ve never heard of OCC or Samaritan’s Purse, check out their program!

img_0738I wanted to share one more GOOD thing with you!  We had another Saturday brunch this weekend (it’s seriously one of our favorite things to do with friends) and I made sheet-pan sausage that was amazing!  I got the recipe from my Food Network magazine and you can find it here.  It’s really not labor-intensive, though it might look it by first glance.  And the sage that’s in it made the house smell just like Thanksgiving!  I’ll definitely be making it again sometime soon! 🙂  It also makes several portions–hello, leftovers! 🙂

More Kindness, Less Planning

If you know me, then you know that I like to have a plan!  I need to be able to see where I’m going before I start heading there.  As a crafty person, I never take on a project without having a purpose for it in the end. (Some people like to craft or make things “just because” but I’ve never been able to do that.) Maybe this is why cooking appeals to me so much–I can visualize the outcome.  I always know exactly what I want to serve and I have fun making it happen.  And perhaps this is why homeschooling is so scary.  I don’t know how long we’ll do it for, God hasn’t shown me the long-term picture yet.  He is teaching me to trust Him and let Him lead completely which is not easy for this over-planner!

So my “plan” when starting our fruit of the Spirit unit was to do a trait a week.  9 weeks certainly seemed long enough for a unit like this!  It’s not easy to balance our regular curriculum with this supplement, plus everything else we have going on in life!  Well, in week number 5 we hit a snag.  Things just caught up with us and I had to decide whether or not to rush through KINDNESS to the point of practically skipping it, or make it run into 2 weeks.  The Lord is doing a work in me, friends, because it wasn’t as hard as usual to step back, slow it down, and throw the “plan” out the window.  (Okay, so adding a week isn’t exactly throwing the plan out the window, but for someone like me, it feels pretty close!)  So kindness took 2 weeks and we did a little review of our fruits up to this point.

img_0719Our fruit was orange and I’m not sure what the correlation is, but the good thing is that with young kids, it doesn’t matter!  Neither one asked me “why” an orange stood for kindness.  They just accepted it and asked when they would get their orange-flavored chapstick and scented marker.  (Ok, I may be losing them a little to the glimmer of the “gifts” rather than the point of these lessons…) 😦

Colossians 3:12 basically says to put on kindness like you put on your clothes.  Made me think about doing an armor of God unit at some point… in the distant future. 😉  So Abby and Noah flipped through magazines looking for pictures of clothes to glue to our KINDNESS poster.  Then I hung it on the wall by their bureau as a reminder when they’re getting dressed every morning to “put on kindness.”  For our Bible story, I read the story of Ruth and the kindness she showed Naomi, which was returned to her by Boaz.  Then we made a list of the ways we can show kindness to the people around us.  I like to try to name actual people in our lives and real-life scenarios when we do this.  Then we try to remember when we’re about to enter that scenario.  For instance, before dropping them off at a friend’s house, I’ll ask, “What if your friend doesn’t want to play the same thing that you want to play?  How can you still show kindness?”  (Hmm… what if your friend didn’t vote for the same person you voted for?  How can you still show kindness???  Not sure why that question just popped into my head!) 😉

There’s a Veggie Tales video called “Lyle, the Kindly Viking” which we watched (along with about 2-3 other Veggie Tales that night).  I had hopes of making orange-cranberry scones but that didn’t happen.  Instead, we ate oranges for snacks several times and just kept talking about ways to show kindness and even role-played using kind words (maybe another activity for some adults in light of recent events?).  We made a card for a sick family member and practiced other little “kind” things.  This whole unit has been filled with “little” things we do in an attempt to drive home what it means to live out the fruit of the Spirit.  I’m not naive enough to believe that in the end, I’m going to turn out a completely changed 5 year old and 3 year old.  But I do believe I’m planting seeds and can only pray that God takes it from here…

So what kind thing have you done or said today? 😉

Recipes from a Weekend Brunch

So I’ve been up since 3:15 this morning. Ugh. Randy got a new job and was supposed to start next week, but he requested to start this week, so they “graciously” obliged and he gets to work 4:15-9:00 a.m. this week! Super fun. I’m used to staying up late to get my work done, but thought maybe I could flip it this week and get up with Randy and be productive in the morning instead.  We’ll see if this lasts beyond today.  And since I came down with a case of laryngitis, I’m sitting with a scarf wrapped tightly around my neck and  switching between sipping peppermint tea and coffee (because I’ve been up since 3:15, so of course, coffee).  And if I can’t talk, I might as well type!

Taking a break from writing about our Fruit of the Spirit unit (I’m super excited about what we’re doing for kindness this week, by the way!) and figured I’d post some recipes I tried out over the weekend for a brunch we had.  Randy and I love having company over, especially in the fall (around the holidays) and in the summer when we can cookout.  With kids, brunch is one of our favorite meals to host because we don’t have to worry about bedtime and the fussy evening hour that always comes around. 😉

img_0686Here are some tasty recipes from Saturday:

Sausage and Kale Strata

img_0688This recipe is tried and true in the Dattolo house.  I’ve made it for special occasions for years and it’s super easy!  It makes a lot, though, so only make it if you really want leftovers (it reheats nicely, almost better the next day) or are feeding a crowd. Eggs, sausage, bread, cheese, leafy greens… what a great combo!

Here’s the handy-dandy printable: sausage-and-kale-strata

Salad with Ham Quiche Croutons and Maple-Cider Vinaigrette


Noah LOVES Bobby Flay’s brunch show on the Food Network!  The kid loves all breakfast foods and when he watches Bobby Flay cook, he also asks me to make “that” for him (usually for his birthday).  haha!  He’s so sweet!  I wanted to make something fresh on Saturday that would lean a little toward the lunch side of brunch, so I found this recipe from Bobby Flay himself.  The only thing I changed was that I happened to have prosciutto in my fridge, so I used that in place of the black forest ham. Otherwise, I followed the recipe pretty much to a tee.  It was a huge hit, and you can find the recipe here!

Apple Cider Cocktail

So I originally found a recipe for a Pear Cider Cocktail in my NEW subscription to the Food Network magazine (thanks, Mom!).  But unfortunately, I couldn’t find ANY of the specific ingredients to this drink.  (Don’t you just hate that?)  So, I had to adapt.  And I must say, it came out great!  Here’s the original recipe, Pear Cider Cocktail.  Here’s what I did:


I made the simple syrup with a 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water.  Mix in a saucepan and add 1 TB of fennel seeds.  The recipe also calls for 1 TB of coriander seeds, but all I could find was ground coriander, so I added about 1 tsp of that (not wanting to overpower the flavor with the ground spice rather than the seeds that would be strained out).  So, bring the sugar-water with the fennel seeds and coriander to a boil, and then let simmer for about 5 minutes (make sure the sugar is dissolved).  Store the syrup in an airtight container in the fridge overnight, then strain out the seeds right before use.

For the cocktail, combine the syrup (should be 1/2 cup total), a bottle of sparkling apple cider, a bottle of white wine with cranberry flavor (local wineries like Nashoba Valley produce this–the original recipe calls for hard cider and then white cranberry juice, but I couldn’t find the white cranberry juice, and I couldn’t find a 750 ml bottle of hard cider, so I switched it around) and then 3/4 cup of apple brandy.  I used thin apple slices as garnish.  It was delicious!  The perfect fall cocktail. 🙂

Also, the perfect way to END the day with some serious magazine catch-up!