Calm Heart, Organized Christmas (CHOC) #2

New Series at Faith's Firm Foundation by Wendy Gunn!
Maintaining a calm heart at this time of year requires continually keeping your eyes on the Lord. Remembering what He has done for you in the past, and trusting Him for the future.  This is key.

(Part 2 in a new series:  Read Calm Heart, Organized Christmas (CHOC) #1 if you missed it!)
Calm Heart, Organized Christmas (CHOC) is a weekly Tuesday series. I’ll also be doing a complementary video series called A Helping of Hospitality.”  Because, there’s a whole lot of gettin’ together goin’ on!   In this Thursday Hospitality series I will share with you thoughts on the heart of hospitality, ways that I’ve found to handle having an open home with a lot of hospitality, and ideas to simplify the whole process.  I hope that you’ll join me for each of these series!

And if you haven’t already done so, won’t you consider subscribing by email, via RSS, or following via Google Friend Connect, so you won’t miss a thing!

This week, whenever I was tempted to panic (“How on earth am I going to get everything done?”) I remembered that the Lord had always helped me through each and every Christmas season. That He had answered my prayers each year for the hospitality we’d shown, doing supernatural work, touching my feeble, flawed attempts with His faithful Hand and making events beautiful, loving and eternally significant. He had rearranged schedules. He’d given me extra time I didn’t expect: with snowstorms, sickness, cancellations, placing events back into the schedule in much better places. He removed some events, and added others. He did work in people’s hearts.

So, remembering these things, I live today, calmly. Ladies, join with me in sitting up straight (I see you slouching in front of your computer!), and take a deep breath in through your nose, and breathe out through your mouth.  Ok, one more time! And say with me, God is in control, and He has never failed me, and never will! Ok, let’s go!

Here are the things I accomplished this week:

  • Took our Christmas picture (yay!) We took the picture in front of the field-stone fireplace where we took it 22 years ago, when our daughter was just weeks old–kind of nostalgic!
  • I got out my Christmas Notebook (have you put yours together yet?) and I looked through the list.
  • I checked off the things that I’ve done, and wrote down the things which I’m behind on.
  • Every year I buy books for our great-nieces and -nephews on my husband’s side. The only other gift I have to buy on his side is for my father-in-law. I spent some time at my friend’s home, where she has used children’s books for sale, and bought the books for the kids that live in Canada.  See the end of this post for the list of children’s books I’ve purchased so far.
  • I looked at the list of freezer meals that we can make ahead to make December less stressful.
  • I found my spreadsheet with the list of books I’ve bought for the last couple of years. (I only started recording this information a couple of years ago–wish I’d thought of it sooner!)  My memory is so bad, that I’d forgotten I had this spreadsheet! I have last year’s list in my planning notebook, but not 2009’s, so I managed to buy the same book I’d bought 2 years ago for one of my great-nephews. This may not matter, if there is more than one in this series, but I will look into it.  Wrapped the books that are going to the Canadian kids, and sent them with family members who we were with this past weekend, to avoid shipping costs.
  • Arranged to go back to buy the rest of the books for the other great-nieces and great-nephews.
  • Recorded the books purchased in my notebook and on the spreadsheet.
  • Prayed about what to give each person on my list.
  • Decided on some of the gifts I will look for online.
  • Scheduled my hair appointment for December to be a little ahead of the most important events, so my hair will have time to grow out a little.
  • Thought about Christmas clothing needs for my husband and myself and planned those purchases.  I need a green top or blouse to wear for the Christmas program we do with other families at the nursing home. My husband needs some shirts.
  • Last year I began inputting my Christmas Card Address List into the computer in an Excel spreadsheet. Located that file (that’s how I found the Books Bought spreadsheet:).
  • Discussed possible travel plans; decided not to travel over Christmas weekend.
  • Researched and discussed Thanksgiving options with family members; delayed final decision until my mom is home from the Care Center.
  • Decided on a gift for my father-in-law:  a digital photo frame (we may ask siblings if they’d like to go in on it) and talked to my daughter about gathering photos to load into it.
  • Began seriously using food from the freezer, to make room for freezer meals, and baking (in case my daughter wishes to do some of that).
  • At the same time, I’ve planned for minimal grocery shopping, to save money for additional spending for baking.
  • Decided on tentative date for our Annual Christmas Skating and Potluck Event.  Contacted a few friends to check the date before sending out invites.
  • Planned when I will decorate. I feel that our decorations speak to guests of Christ, create a warm environment, and aid in hospitality.  Each year I do a lot of decorating–I love it! So I may begin Thanksgiving week, even before Thanksgiving. I like to take a few days to put out the decorations. I use this opportunity to clean a little deeper:  first clearing all the surfaces, taking some pictures off the wall, then dusting, vacuuming, and then placing new decorations out.  Then after the other decorations are packed away in boxes in the hall closet (labeled boxes, Lord willing), we buy the tree and put it up.  Separating these events makes this less stressful for me!  The last few years we’ve worked on this Thanksgiving week and weekend.  If it goes into the next week, it’s no big deal!  We just buy a real tree at Menards (very romantic, huh?)–some years I send my husband and daughter to pick it out, while I continue decorating, with my son’s help reaching and lifting boxes, and getting ready.

What I Plan To Do Next Week:

  • Make 4 batches of Nuts-n-Bolts (Chex Party Mix) and freeze in a couple of containers.  I take some to both our Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.  The rest will keep up to a month in the freezer, and will be taken out to serve when people drop in over the holidays and to give for hostess gifts.  If I have to bring an appetizer to a potluck, this works, too.
  • I will possibly make the Thanksgiving meal, (I don’t normally do this) including pies–Kelsey’s made the 2 pies the last couple of years.  Or we may order the complete Thanksgiving dinner, delivered from Coborns (grocery store), or just go to my mom’s dining room to eat–depending on when she gets out of the Care Center.  I will buy groceries early in the week depending on the decision, avoiding the crowd the day before Thanksgiving.
  • I have to buy my mom’s birthday card and gift in the next day or so, and will buy her Christmas gift at the same time.  I’ll also buy special Thanksgiving and Christmas cards for her and my father-in-law, and the Elders of our church, and a few close friends, and put them in my box where I keep cards, with a sticky note on each saying who they’re for.
  • I need to decide on what to make (food item) or buy for the 8 neighbors we give to, and for the 15 friends we buy for.
  • I will see whether I need to finish inputting my Christmas Card Address List into the spreadsheet.  This spreadsheet also includes whether I sent them a photo, letter, or just a card, and can include whether we received a card or not, for each year.
  • I need to work  a lot on my Christmas Hospitality talk which I’m giving to a Homeschool Co-op in December.
  • Begin online gift-buying:  I will do as much as I can at a sitting and buy birthday gifts, too, for the upcoming year whenever possible; I’ll look for free shipping, and sales. I’ll write down the gifts I buy, and keep them in my master bedroom closet where my “Gift Shelf” is located.
  • I need to buy and mail the gifts which need to go to friends and family in Mexico, Brazil and China–I will see if I can send the Mexico gifts to their family living in Texas.
  • Buy Christmas clothes for my husband and myself–online, if possible, free shipping and on sale.

Books Are Great Gifts for Children

For a few years I have given a book to each great-niece and -nephew.  I buy them from Bonnie Anderson, our dear friend and our former Homeschool Consultant, who sells used children’s books.  My budget is between $5 and $8 per book.  Some of her books come from public libraries, and have a few markings on them.  She cleans them up, and I don’t think it matters at all.  Many are in almost new condition, and have dust-jackets on them.  I try to buy hardcover books, because I want them to last, and be the beginning of an excellent library for these children and their families, if they don’t already have one. I think of this gift-giving as part of my ministry to young moms.

Bonnie is an expert, and finds the best books for children!  Historical fiction is her specialty, but she has many picture books, beginning readers and others.  She has a personal library of over 20,000 titles, and sells her duplicates.

Here are the titles which I bought this week:

I’ve included the age and sex of the child, as a guide for your gift-giving. You may be able to find these books on ABE.com or Amazon.com, but if you would like to purchase used books, you can contact Bonnie Anderson through me (faithsfirmfoundation(at)embarqmail(dot)com), and I will have her contact you.  Let me know if you have specific titles that you’re looking for.

  • Shad (10-year-old boy):  “Look Alikes”; and “CDB,” by William Steig
  • Rachel (7-year-old girl): “The Wednesday Surprise,” by Eve Bunting
  • Tyler (7-year-old boy):  “Big Max,” by Kin Platt
  • Joshua (7-year-old-boy):  “Mr. Gumpy’s Motor Car,” by John Burningham
  • Noah (4-year-old-boy):  “Mr. Putter and Tabby Feed the Fish,” (a new favorite series!)
  • Sola (2-year-old-boy):  “Nuts To You!” by Lois Ehlert (see all her books, you’ll love them!)
  • Noelle (4-year-old-girl):  “Grandma According To Me,” by Karen Magnuson Beil
  • Annika (2-year-old-girl):  “Alfie and The Birthday Surprise,” by Shirley Hughes (I love all Shirley Hughes books, and their illustrations!)

A little long-winded today, but hopefully you can skim, and get whatever help is here!  Let me know if you have specific questions you’d like me to try to answer.  Keep a Calm Heart, and get started on an Organized Christmas this week!

Linking up to Large Family Organization at Raising Arrows this week! Join me!

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Making Your Children Lovers of Books

I believe that one of the main goals of Homeschooling is to make your children lovers of excellent reading.  I used to say “lovers of books.”  However, there is a plethora of poor and even evil reading available and even being read in Christian homes these days.  I know that you are looking for good excellent reading for your children and family.

I was so thrilled to share the Wisdom and The Millers books with you through my giveaway.  This morning I was speaking to Kris, who sponsored the giveaway, and by the way, you can still order all the Wisdom and The Millers books, Character Companion, Coloring Books, and Workbooks from her (mkhage@usfamily.net), and we were talking about great books which have blessed our families so much, which many young moms and Homeschoolers have never heard of–Wisdom and The Millers being one! I thought I’d share with you just a few titles, authors and series, which have been excellent reading for us.

These come immediately to mind (the first are for middle children or to read aloud to younger):

All of the Pansy Collection by Isabella Alden

Wisdom and The Millers Series

Childhood of Famous Americans Series

Landmark Series

The Lamplighter Books

James Daugherty

Lois Ehlert (for small children)

Gene Stratton Porter (older children will love all her books)

Stories of Great Christians (audio stories)

Elisabeth Elliot (some as family read-alouds, and some for middle children up to adults)

Patricia St. John (some books have also been made into movies, such as “Treasures of the Snow”)

Books for Fall and Thanksgiving Reading:

A book I love to read at this time of year is “Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf” by Lois Ehlert. Her books are so colorful, and great for preschoolers and K-2nd especially.  But I love them, too!

The Changing of The Seasons: Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf

Book Review: “Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf” by Lois Ehlert

With Thanksgiving coming soon, here are some recommendations I have shared before (click on the link to see some great book recommendations):

Children’s Book Recommendations for Thanksgiving Reading


This is just skimming the surface, but gives you a start. What are some excellent books or series that you have found?
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Thanks for reading Faith’s Firm Foundation!