Advent Christi Feast Days

How Our Advent Tree Came To Life



In today’s world, we find Christmas decorations fighting with Halloween items for space on the store shelves. It is easy to succumb to the temptation of putting up the decorations and tree in time for Thanksgiving. Turkey day may or may not end up being the same weekend as the first Sunday in Advent. This year we have a week’s grace between Thanksgiving weekend and the first Sunday in Advent, but the pressure to get the festivities started now seems to grow every year.

Influenced by our faith journey over our thirty plus years of parenting, our choices of how and when to decorate for Christmas has undergone many changes. As we are originally from Canada, where Thanksgiving falls in October, it wasn’t part of the equation. Instead, we typically chose to put the tree up on our first child’s birthday in early December.  

In the early nineties, we became aware of of Advent as a time of preparing for the birth of Christ and wanted to be more mindful of that. Incorporating the changes this awareness brought about was initially difficult for our oldest children. They were used to a more secular means of preparing for Christmas. As much as I wanted to push the putting up of the actual Christmas tree as close to Christmas Eve as possible, my husband and I came to the conclusion that we needed to move slowly.

One of the first changes we made was to not put all our Christmas ornaments up at once. We still put the tree up early in the season of Advent, but staggered the decorations.  Each Sunday of Advent, we added more Christmas decor to the house. By the fourth Sunday we pretty much had the whole house decorated.

The next change was to make use of the Advent colors in our table settings. For our still very young family, this helped make the change of the church’s season very noticeable. We used either a purple tablecloth or runner for the first, second and fourth week of Advent and a pink one for the third week of Advent. On Christmas morning and St Nicholas’ day the children woke to either a red tablecloth or very festive one on the table. We also really emphasized the joy of the many feast days celebrated during the four to five weeks of Advent.

However, my biggest goal, which was to not decorate our tree until only days before Christmas Eve was not achieved until 2009: our 13th child’s first  Christmas.  

Back in 2002, my husband was laid off and we began our journey of running a family business . The following Christmas our second oldest, determined that all her younger siblings who were still at home should have Christmas memories like hers, showed up from college with a tree tied to the roof of her car and apple cider in the back seat.  Over the next six years, while my husband and I struggled with the challenges of self-employment and raising a growing and still rather young family, our daughter made annual trek home with a tree and cider. Always in early December.

All good things come to an end, and after our daughter married and started her own family I had the opportunity to create a new tradition of putting the tree up closer to Christmas Eve! Yet, after almost thirty years of putting it up during the first week of December, I was loathe to take that step and announce to the children the tree would not go up until December 22nd or 23rd.  

I shared my dilemma with our fifth child and between the two of us we came up with the idea of an Advent tree. We shared this plan with the other children and they were elated. After purchasing some inexpensive purple ornaments and white lights, we spent hours that first Sunday in Advent taking turns coloring the clear light bulbs with purple and pink permanent markers. Hilariously, only the purple-colored bulbs showed any color at all and they looked pink. We didn’t care – we were in love with our Advent tree: the first of many.

Over the past nine years, we have continued to grow our purple and pink ornament collection and have added homemade ones as well. Our first year, a fellow parishioner, gifted us her purple Halloween lights after hearing about our Advent tree. Since then, we have been inspired to watch for purple lights at the dollar stores. I think we still have one strand of the original lights we so painstakingly colored pink and purple.

We have varied from decorating both an Advent tree and a Christmas tree to converting the Advent tree into Christmas tree just a few days before Christmas. This year we will have two trees. The Advent tree will, of course, go up the first Sunday in Advent (December 2nd) and we will have hot cider and simple treats while enjoying family time. Sometime after our ninth child returns from Milan, in late December, we will put up a live tree and decorate it with our Christmas ornaments. Again we will have cider and maybe some eggnog along with Christmas cookies while we listen to Christmas carols and trip over strings and strings of colorful lights.

What are some of the things you do in your family to help your children focus on Advent while the rest of the world has been buying ornaments and stocking stuffers with their Halloween candy? Feel free to share them below in the comments.

Christi Current Events Ink Slingers Pro-Life Issues

This Year’s March for Life is Over – Now What?

This Year's March for Life is Over Now What

Like so many of our readers, members of our family have participated in the March for Life for years, starting with our oldest children around 2003. This year was no exception when our tenth child and his younger sister attended the 2018 March. And like so many attendees – participation usually is not without some type of sacrifice. This can vary from sleep deprivation especially if you are a youth leader with many charges under your wing to simply the financial cost of making the long trek to and from DC. In our case this year the sacrifice for our youth group and their parents meant having to get up on a cold winters day at 4 AM so as to get their children to the bus in time to be on the road by 5 AM.

So many are willing to make their own personal sacrifice and often every year to what has almost become a pilgrimage that culminates for most in celebrating Mass and then the March for Life itself. In between all, this is the comradeship, time shared in prayer with peers and often breaking bread with strangers.

But what comes after we have returned home and picked back up our daily cross whether it’s working a job we don’t enjoy to support our family or it’s the daily grind of parenting or just trying to be a good student while still so tired from the hours spent on the road and most likely sleeping on church floors for the previous week?

It was a question that posed itself after a friend suggested that she worried that for many attendees the march was the end all and be all of their fight against abortion. So what can we do to keep up the fight against abortion once we get back home and the dust settles and we are back to our regular routines?


I threw that question out and got quite a few great responses. Here they are:

Prayers for the protection of Life:

No doubt anyone making the annual trek to DC in the cold month of January is already praying for the end to abortion. This is good, but we can amp up that prayer through sacrifice and fasting. These small acts of sacrifice can take many forms. It can be something as simple as reducing our sugar in our favourite hot beverage, not using salt for a day or remembering to offer some pain we are suffering up as a prayer. I sometimes endeavor to turn my driving into a prayer. I do this by offering up my effort to stay within the speed limit as a continuous prayer.

When you are doing your daily prayers whether alone or with family or friends – pray for government members by name that their hearts will be touched by the grace of God and their eyes open to the horrors of abortion and the need for it to be stopped. In particular, you might want to pray for our 14 sisters and brothers who recently voted against passing The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

For a very busy person, adding these little actions can bring more meaning to your day. It will also help strengthen the effectiveness of your prayers.

Take Action:
  • Write to Congress and politicians regularly. (Here is a link to a government resource for writing to your senator and here is another link for addresses for senators and click here to go to a site that helps you find who your congressman is.)
  • Participating in quiet prayer of the rosary in front of a local abortion mill
  • Becoming involved in a local pro-life movement
  • If your parish offers resources for the 40 Days for Life campaign, try to make use of them.
  • Supporting an outreach pregnancy program or Rachel’s Vineyard through prayer, fasting, donations and/or volunteering.

So many of our readers are young mothers with growing families. You must already feel just so overwhelmed just in the caring of your young charges! I can imagine you reading this article and thinking “oh come ON… how am I supposed to do any of this?” 

I know! I have been there and I have only four children of my thirteen still remaining at home! There are days when I still feel this way! Don’t sell yourself short though! You can make tiny little acts of the will and sacrifice throughout your day. Encourage your older children to do so, too! However, don’t give up that coffee that is getting you through the day, though – your kids need you sane. But maybe when you hear that phrase “Mum, Mum MUMMY!” just one time too many that can be your cue to say a Hail Mary for the unborn … and your sanity.

If finding the time to write to anyone besides your child’s teacher explaining that the baby really did chew up your son’s homework is just inconceivable – then maybe you can save up your younger children’s artwork and mail some of the best pieces to a local pregnancy shelter. They can put them up on their bulletin board or fridge! It would cheer up someone else with your five-year-old’s rainbow. After all, your fridge can only hold so much art – right?

Hopefully, some of the ideas shared here have inspired you.

We’d love to hear any other ideas that our readers might have! How do you keep fighting the fight on a regular basis between Annual Marches for Life? Please share them below in our comment section!

Christi Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting

Creating Memories

Today we made our frequent pilgrimage to Panera, following Mass. As I traipsed across the parking lot in our southern heat, I caught a glimpse of myself as I passed window after window. I thought, somewhat sardonically;
“Hmm, it’s good for me to get out – it allows to me to see just how much weight I have to lose.”
Of course, I am hoping that windows add width to one’s reflection, much like the t.v. camera is said to do. Having just having given birth 10 weeks ago I actually have quite a few pounds to lose, but am I really that big? I suspect that I probably am. I think I am going to go yardsaling soon for a bike. I’ll let you know how it goes!

This is an old blog post that  I wrote way back in 2005. Below is the adorable cartoon my then 11 year old daughter  (who is now on the cusp of 24) created for me to go with the post.

Me as I thought I looked VS the window image!

As I promised myself in that post, I bought a bike (it was a stationary one though), changed my diet, cut out sugar and lost quite a few pounds – much to my delight. Then shortly after losing all of that weight, I became pregnant; sadly we lost that baby at 3 months gestation. Many moons later, after fervent praying, we became pregnant again and this time we managed to carry to term our thirteenth and final child – a beautiful baby girl with red hair and blue eyes – the perfect bookend to our family. But her addition to our family came with a heavy price to my health. There were complications following her birth and it took 3 years for me to regain my energy and strength after that.

Eight years later I am still struggling with the weight gain that came with her pregnancy.

Aaaand it’s summer…

Bathing suit time.

I recently read an article about the pressure put on women to accept the scars of birth and to see these inevitable changes to one’s body as badges of motherhood. ‘Put that bikini on and go forth with honor.’ The author of the article disagreed with this philosophy and stated she felt that while yes we should not feel embarrassed by the physical changes we experience from aging and giving birth – neither should we feel the need to take on this battle of squeezing into a bathing suit that we do not actually feel comfortable wearing in public so as to proclaim to the world “I’m a mother and gosh darn – I’m proud of what motherhood has done to my body!

I think she is spot on there.

Summer should not be about worrying about those fifteen (ok thirty pounds) we are carrying around from birthing those beautiful babies so that we can try to sport that bikini we wore before we were even married; rather, summer should be about enjoying those adorable children our babies have grown into.

Am I saying we should not be worried about losing unhealthy weight? Absolutely not! (That’s material for an entirely different post!)

But I am saying that those extra pounds some of us are still wearing should not keep us from enjoying our children, or summer for that matter. For some mothers that just might mean slinging on that two piece bathing suit and for others it might mean finding comfortable shorts and a swimsuit top or a sun dress over some shorts. But whatever it takes for you to be relaxed enough to be out and about with your kids – do it!

After all, your children are not going to remember what you were wearing while you enjoy the summer months with them but rather they are going to remember WHAT you did with them this summer.

Case in point  – last October my husband and I booked a beach house with our several of our adult children and their kids along with our younger kids still at home. Altogether there were three families with a collection of 12 children mixed in with a few adult children not yet married all living together for a whole week at the beach. It was a grand time filled with bonfires, sunsets, date nights, and lots of beach time.

A few weeks ago my 2nd oldest daughter texted me a conversation she overheard between her 5 yr old daughter and her 4 year old nephew.

“Fwankie – do you remember the beach?”

“Yeah!” he answered.

“And do you wemember the hot chocolate with Ita in the morning when we watched the sun rise?”


“Wasn’t dat just so much fun!”


Then they stayed there together for a little while talking about the hot chocolate I got up to make every morning at around 5:30 with their 7 yr old aunt as well as the time we all shared together on the balcony as we watched the incredible sunrises.

Our First Sunrise While We Drank Hot Chocolate

So this summer focus on creating memories with your kids – not on how you look or whether you have to ‘empower motherhood’ by squeezing into a bathing suit you don’t really like. Your children are going to remember the hot chocolate on the back deck, chasing fireflies in the back yard and eating the s’mores you made for them to share with their BFFs, not what you were wearing when you did these things or if you needed to lose a few pounds!

Trust me! You can do this!

Christi Curriculum Homeschool Ink Slingers

Technology In the Homeschool for the Not So Tech Savvy Parent

Today I am going to share a little bit about technology in the classroom – the homeschool classroom that is. I think this is an area where some of us fall down – just a little. Have no fear – I will offer you a little insight as to how you might want to be guiding your children in this area. It’s not unusual, I know, for many kids to be much more tech savvy than their parents, so yes – they probably know how to access the iTunes store and can download a movie on the tablet faster than you can say jack rabbit.

BUT how good are they are using Microsoft Word? Do they know how to create a folder on the computer where all the pictures for the science project they are collecting can be kept? Or have you experienced that moment when you open the pictures file on your computer so as to choose a picture of the baby’s baptism to send to the grandparents only to find hundreds of selfies of the 13 yr old and thirty photos of the disappearing Bengal tiger your 11 year old is studying mixed in with the baptism photos….

What about PowerPoint – do you children know how to create a PowerPoint presentation? (For that matter do you?) Ok – so we have established that there is a good possibility that some basic technological expertise might be missing from your homeschooling endeavors; so what do you do?

A good place to start would be to search for your state’s educational standards for technology. For North Carolina they can be found here.  When you open it there are quite a few links on the page so I took a screenshot of the section you want to explore.  It looks like this:

You can open up the grade appropriate description as a PDF or a word document. And yes – it is a little intimidating when you first look at it.  Just take a deep breath and relax. Once you have scanned it over a bit you will begin to recognize a lot of what they are listing there and possibly realize you already do a lot of this already. (BTW – if you don’t want to go through the bother of determining what your state’s curriculum technology standards are, just use the ones I have linked to as they will be pretty much the same across the country. You’re welcome!) 

I realize that exploring these lists of technological expertise your child should have by graduation can be anxiety inducing. I am going to start you off with a simple list that you can use to jump start teaching technology to your homeschooler.

As I hinted above, your adolescent child, despite knowing how to operate your cell phone better than you, is quite likely lacking in some basic computer skills so here is the promised list you can use to take inventory of their skills (or lack of).

Are your students are already proficient in the basic skills of:

  • How to locate the document files and picture files on your computer.
  • How to create a folder and name it.
  • Learn how to save a document or picture in the folder of your choice.
  • Know to pay attention when saving a photo or document from a search so as to direct it to a specific folder as to avoid it getting lost within the downloads or a folder you did not realize was open.
  • Know where the download file is for when the above happens.
  • How to search for files on the computer you are using.
  • How to transfer documents and photos from one folder to another and/or to a memory stick.
  • How to write an essay with an office word document (or similar program), name it, and save it to the folder of your choice.

Once you are convinced your student/s know how to do all of this, you are ready for the next challenge – a PowerPoint presentation.

I know how to use PowerPoint because I am married to the guy who teaches technology at our local school and we both worked for six months creating a PowerPoint presentation about safety on the internet a few years ago. (I’m lying – it was almost a decade ago but moving right along…)

If, like many people, you have never created a PowerPoint presentation you can go here to view the internet’s free version of PowerPoint for dummies online.

Or you can buy a copy of the actual PowerPoint for Dummies. (I have never read this book so I cannot vouch for how easy it is to read and or to follow their instructions but they offer you a free sample if you want to check it out) I have glanced at the free 27 slide PowerPoint presentation on PowerPoint linked above and it’s fairly complete and should give you enough confidence to create a small power point yourself before getting your kids to do one on let’s say – the history of your state, your family, or the even the baby’s baptism. Creating a PowerPoint presentation can and should be fun. This year my youngest four students are creating their own presentations and we will be inviting guests for coffee and treats to enjoy while each child presents their provincial projects ala PowerPoint.

Hopefully this post has stimulated your imaginations and built your confidence in your ability to introduce technology to your home school experience. If you are already experiencing success in this area please share in the comments section what you have incorporated in your schooling, as well as any resources you have found online to help with this. For example have you found free typing classes online or instructional site or videos about different technology skills you have introduced to your children.

Last but not least – be sure to teach your children about internet safety and if you don’t already have one – create an internet safety contract that you and your children can sign and agree to abide by. Here are some sites where you can brush up on internet safety:

Netsmartz and and here is a good example of an internet safety contract  for your younger children and here is one for your teen. Don’t feel restricted by these samples those though. We have actually had our older children write their own contracts after discussing what we need to do to stay safe online. 

(photo credits: kid with laptop  was taken from a post about setting technology rules for kids) 



Christi Curriculum Homeschool Ink Slingers

Diary of a Homeschool Mum part 4 – BURNOUT

homeschool-burnout-fire-1I know I began my portion of this homeschool series as a diary of memories and I promise I will continue to add those, but this month I feel inspired to share about burnout.

Yes, after 25 years of homeschooling, I feel qualified to write about burnout and how to cope during episodes of it. I say episodes because in my opinion burnout comes in various forms. There is the true burn out when you just can’t face the idea of homeschooling anymore and you and your children are equally sick of homeschooling. That moment calls for a ‘PTA meeting’ with a review of why you are homeschooling and if those reasons are still valid or if it’s time for a change.

If you decide that yes, you are still called to homeschool your children despite being so mentally exhausted you just don’t feel you can pull together another lesson plan to save your soul – what do you do?

In today’s world of the internet there are so many solutions that were not available when I started out on this journey. Dealing with a period of burnout in its many forms can be more easily overcome than ever before. Sometimes it is not burnout that causes the disruptions. Oftentimes life itself interferes with your attempt to educate your children and causes a layer of guilt in your conscience. As the guilt mounts and mounts you may find yourself ready to line the kids up and put them on the first school bus that passes by the next morning.

Have you just had a new baby? Or maybe you have a child recuperating from a lengthy illness or you yourself are recuperating. Maybe you are caring for an elderly relative who is going to pass within the year or a spouse has lost his job and the new one requires a move several states away. There can be so many reasons which might percipitate a lengthy interruption that erodes your confidence that homeschooling is the correct choice at this time in your life and yet – the alternatives are much worse for you – so you soldier on.

Here is my sage advice.

There are two basics that really need to be carried on daily as best you can- math and reading. When we are facing a difficult time period, I try to make sure the children are doing math every day. This might mean completing a lesson in the course we are using or it might mean doing math drills online for a minimum of 20 minutes on the days when we can’t get to the math books.

Reading is relatively easy to accomplish by having each child read a good book appropriate for his or her age and reading skill. By varying the content of your book choices you can actually dip into some other subject areas. Choose interesting books from the library in astronomy or pick a historical novel and you are covering science and history. Add in a biography of a famous musician written at your child’s reading level and you have fine arts covered. Or you can choose to read books of a higher skill set than your children are at and the whole family will benefit from extra knowledge that they might otherwise not have experienced. Of course, with the advent of the internet, books are no longer the only alternative that we can use to get us through a difficult patch.

I’m going to simply list some online resources (arranged by subject covered) I have used or that I am familiar with as a means of inspiring you to do the same.


If you have a non-reader or a weak reader and you want to make sure some progress is happening during this difficult time, in addition to getting older readers to read to this child, you can also use some of these FREE online programs.

ABCya  My older children, (as in their double digits) have complained that this site is not as good as it used to be but my 7 yr old has really made a lot of use of it. It does have ads though – so please keep that in mind.)
PBS Between the Lions The Quiet Machine 
Reading Bear 
All About Reading has a FREE app that can be downloaded onto your phone or your desktop and is a great way for your child to practice phonogram sounds including blends.

There are many more phonics resources out there but those are the few that we have made good use of.


This has to be one of the biggest challenges of homeschooling I have heard mums talk about the entire 25 years I have been teaching my children at home, regardless whether a parent is going through burnout or not. These different online resources can also help the reluctant science student become more enthused about science.

Youtube videos: there is an incredible selection of videos available for a variety of ages. BUT please be wary of allowing children to search alone and be sure to turn off the option of youtube being allowed to play the next video it has chosen for your “viewing pleasure”. Also, familiarize yourself with its restriction mode so that you can keep youtube as safe as possible. 

Youtube will remember your viewing history and make suggestions based on this. Please just be careful because while youtube is a great resource – it also has the potential to be a very negative experience. That being said click here to see a sample of the type of science videos you can find on youtube. 

Bill Nye the Science guy  currently has videos available online through youtube. I believe he may hold some controversial views regarding science, climate warming, and the like, so click through his videos and be sure you are comfortable with his videos before letting him loose within your homeschool.
Crash Course Kids is another science channel filled with interesting videos. We have not worked through them all so again – take care please and be sure that you are happy with the content before putting in the hands of your kids.

Brain Pop – this site’s science section is filled with free activities and videos but requires a fee to be able to avail yourself to all of their resources. Up to now we have just used the free curriculum. If you check them out you will notice that they cover all subjects so their entire site might be an option to cover several subjects in a pinch. 

History and Fine Arts

There are so many documentaries available online. John Adams is currently available on Amazon Prime but you don’t need to belong to a paid subscription to enjoy great documentaries.

We are about to begin watching Origins, a history of Canada, found on youtube and is free. You need to poke around search and you can find a number of interesting videos. I have found a few about Jane Austen and have been enjoying learning about this great author’s life and writing career.

If you belong to Netflix you can watch documents through their streaming subscription or you can subscribe to their DVD rental service. Over the years I have noted that a number of DVDs have become unavailable and no longer subscribe to Netflix for a variety of reasons. Still – they are an option you can explore and there are blogs out there with curriculum outlines based on using Netflix.

You can also find some wonderful ballets either through youtube, or through various subscription services and through these add a little fine arts to your ‘burnout recovery’.

But who says these have to be reserved for burnout mode? Some of these ideas can just get us through a bad cold circulating the family or a week when we have so many dental check-ups scheduled that we despair that nothing besides sitting in waiting rooms will happen this week. They can even be used to supplement your regular curriculum. However you decide to use them, I hope that you have found this post useful. If you have some secrets up your sleeve that have gotten you through a difficult time, I hope that you will share them in the comments below.

Until next time – God Bless!


homeschool diary