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  • Welcome to the Gigi Blog!

    Mother to six Little Women and Two Little Men. Married to a Happy Mortician. Caretaker to goats, chickens and many, MANY bunnies. Photographer. Homeschooler. Lover of Jesus, coffee & tea and all things pink & vintage.

Mid Morning Schedule {My Daily Morning & School Routine}

  [As requested, this is a continuing view of our ‘schedule’ during the school months for our family of 10, soon to be 11!
The last post covered the morning schedule – this post will cover just after breakfast until lunch time is finished. While this is a typical day, not every day can go smoothly or without fuss and wrinkles. Sometimes things happen – sometimes messy things fall int our schedule and our day is turned upside down! But for the most part, this is how our winter mornings play out… ]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“If you don’t know what your purpose, goals, values, and priorities are in life, you will never be able to manage your time, life self, home, job or money. You must schedule a plan and plan a schedule.
Many of us don’t want to take the time or effort to develop the sound strategies to be successful in life. There are those who want to be controlled by life rather than controlling life. These people will usually end up angry, cynical, frustrated and disappointed with the hand that life has dealt them. On the other hand, people who seem to control [their] life end up satisfied, joyful and successful.
They radiate happiness.”

-Emilie Barnes, More Hours in My Day

A fresh white snow is falling gently down on this very wintry January morning as the house stirs from its sleep – it’s 7 a.m. and time to wake up the children.
While in the spring and summer months, the children rise earlier, we use the winter months for a time of rest. This means a slightly later rising time for the children – although, it is still a challenge to raise from a warm cozy bed when the outdoor world is still covered in inky blackness.
Nonetheless, the day begins, even if the sun has not yet risen in winter Ontario world.

 

On the breakfast table you will a nourishing, very simple breakfast to begin the day. The oatmeal is hot the milk is cold – the breakfast bell is rung and before I know it, there’s a herd of lovely children all congregating around the kitchen table, hungry and ready for the morning to begin.

Before the children can eat, we have outdoor chores to attend to, however. Chickens need feeding, fresh water for the animals and the older girls take care of the bigger animal tasks. It does not take them long, but it is certainly somewhat of a sacrifice to stumble out of one’s warm and cozy bed to go directly outdoors for your morning chores. Abby and I both hope we are instilling a sense of dedication and work ethics when it comes to the outdoor farm-ish chores.

 

Breakfast is usually hot oatmeal with maple syrup or brown sugar and cranberries, poached  or boiled eggs on toast or scrambled eggs with toast. We rarely eat meat for breakfast – it is a luxury if we do. [We have given up bacon a few years ago, so turkey is the next best option.] In the summer months, we tend to have more granola with fresh fruit in place of the hot oatmeal.

One requirement for breakfast is that everyone is to be dressed fully, beds made (and hopefully rooms tidy) and hair braided or done. As we have six girls, this does take time and often I am scrambling to get everyone’s hair finished (thanking my oldest daughter who will often help get hair ready for the day), but it is a good idea for us to have everyone ready for the day when they arrive at the table. No one eats in their p.j.s and they must be in a good, happy mood for the sake of the entire family. I have noticed if we leave the hair grooming until after breakfast, we are considerably slowed down for the day. It is easier to have it done before everyone eats – plus it teaches, I believe, good grooming habits of eating while clean and presentable.

Once every bowl is cleared, we recite our monthly Scripture passage. This is how we memorize Scripture – simple repitition and nothing more. We are memorizing a Psalm right now – we will all open our Bible and say it together. The little ones will follow along, but if they can’t read yet, they simply learn it as we say it out loud.

Most mornings, we will sing a hymn to start our morning off on the right note. The children LOVE this part of the morning. It is a great way to teach various hymns and learn beautiful theology at the same time!

After breakfast, the children and I all scatter throughout the house. With our large family, we have additional morning chores that need tending and tending to quickly, if we want school to start on time. Each older girl is assigned a morning chore and the little ones are assigned a bit easier chore. Chores vary from helping clean up breakfast (sweeping, washing dishes, putting away food, etc.) to cleaning bathrooms (we have two bathrooms), sweeping staircases, cleaning up the back room (mud room/library room for the children) and tidying up the school room before the day begins. Every second day, we add a second morning chore – this will include vacuuming the parlour (as I love to call it), dining room, bedrooms, along with dusting and straightening the rooms.

 

[On Saturdays, we work on deeper cleans, but during the week, we attempt to maintain cleanliness and cleaning up as we go to ensure a tidy home. If a room needs a floor washed, however, it will be washed that day and it shall not wait until Saturday.]

 

This whole “breakfast/Bible/brush teeth to cleanup/chore time” takes from about 8-9 a.m. I have tried to have school start earlier but with the animal and barn chores taking place outside, it does not happen. I have come to realize that animal husbandry is just part of our school and home life and it needs to take a place in the morning before school books are opened.

At 9 a.m, it is expected to have school starting – the older girls pick up their instruments [as musical studies are an important part of our school routine] and find a quiet corner of the house to practice cello and harp. The middle girls take turns at the piano in the dining room for practice. The younger ones gather around the kitchen table for math, language lessons and cursive lessons. These practice sessions take quite a while, but once the {noisy!} music lessons are somewhat finished, the girls rotate to use the computer for our online Math program.

The boys (ages 2 and 4) play or have random, unplanned snacks (mostly oranges right now!) at the kitchen table while the three ‘little’ girls (ages 5, 7 and 9) do their book work around the kitchen table. I have a few special educational type toys they can play with — at the kitchen table only — while we work.

They also have a nice collection of Thomas the Train toys in the back room (which serves as a library and mudroom for our house) so they can play together there, as well, so long as everyone is playing nicely and quietly. At some point, the toddler (age 2) may need a nap if he is being restless and cranky during the morning hours. We can all read his moods so easily – if it was a later night, we will take a short nap from 11-noon so we can get some quiet school work finished. In a home that is busy and somewhat noisy most times, Lazarus, age 4, is quite content to play quietly by himself during this time.

As the older girls finish their music lessons and rotate to work on their Math in the kitchen and their own personal bookwork, they also pick up their book-work (spelling/Language/literature, Apologetics, writing, Early Church History) and begin their paperwork. The older girls can work more independently and can also find a cozy corner in the house to do their quiet work. Often times, it is in front of the cozy fire or at the kitchen table, grouped together with the little ones.

This would take us to at least 10:30/11 a.m. – at that point, the little ones are ready for reading lessons {see above work book – it has been the most successful learning-to-read program in our homeschool world, in my humble opinion} in the parlour, by the cozy fire. We have doors closing the living room off from the rest of the house so we find it is the best place to practice reading – no noisy interruptions.

 

One thing that has helped me, personally, with reading lessons – which can take up to 45 minutes or so for three different girls – is to crochet while the girls read to me. Reading lessons can take quite a while sometimes and require a good deal of parental patience… 🙂 … and sitting still …. sitting still — and patience! — is something that does not come easily to me when I know I have other chores to attend to, so therefore, if I can do something productive with my hands while the girls are reading out their lessons, it’s a win-win for us.

On a side note, I must also mention I am a ‘stickler’ to not having morning interruptions by the outside world in our school routine. I know life happens and schedules can be changed, but I very much attempt to keep our mornings in check, on time and efficient. I do think this key to staying focused in the home-run school setting.

Although I do not talk on the telephone very often, I still turn the ringer off on my kitchen phone so we will not be slowed down by a morning impromptu conversations  by random callers.
I do not own a cell phone to distract me – but if you do, I would suggest turning it off! and since the computer is being used by the older girls for their Math program for most of the morning, there is no chance of being distracted by the computer/internet.

We try to stay focused. The only time we stray from our morning schedule is when The Man of the House, daddy, is home. We take the day off school for that very reason – to be with him. He is one of the reasons we homeschooled in the beginning – his work schedule is very strange and unpredictable. In fact, there is no schedule – but if he happens to be home one day, we take that as a “Saturday” and work with him, get errands done or do things as a family.

Three mornings a week, we have in home music lessons {cello/harp/piano}. At that point, I take the children who are not involved in the music lessons upstairs so we can work quietly in their rooms. It’s tricky to keep them all quiet for a few hours, but it works. 🙂 We are very blessed to have music teachers come to our home for lessons.

It is something I had prayed about when we began our home education journey. I once read about a homeschooling mom of many who said they would only take music lessons for the instruments in which a teacher could come to their home. Well, I thought that was very wise (please picture all the driving and school interruption that would take place as I waited three hours at each music lesson stop! What would I do with the little ones?) and adapted the same policy. If God wanted us to learn the instrument, He would provide a teacher. And indeed, He has! We have a lovely Christian piano teacher who comes to the home and teaches four of the girls and we also have a two lovely, Christian teachers for cello and harp come to the home and teach two girls their music lessons on Fridays. Isn’t that amazing? God is good and faithful, even in the little details.  My father in law drives the girls to vocal lessons on Wednesdays so while the teacher is not in the house, I can still stay home with the little ones and teach their morning lessons during the music instruction time. I am so thankful.

At this point in the morning (nearing 11 a.m.), we all gather together at the large kitchen table again for some group instruction. I will read the living book (mostly a science related book or living book on history) to them all together, we can recite poetry or study art and the artists. I am working on a way to read to the little ones as well as reading to the older ones, but sometimes I only have time to read the upper books to everyone (science and history). I read up, so to speak, so even though it is beyond the little one’s years of formal education, they are still hearing history lessons or science lessons as the older girls do. If we cannot get to the outloud reading before lunchtime, we will gather together after outside play after lunch and read around the fire when the children come inside again. (This would take us to about 1:30/2 p.m. in the winter months.)

After all of this school time, it is now lunch time! Lord willing, there will be a pot of soup already simmering on the cookstove – or last night’s leftovers from dinner. (Don’t scoff at leftovers! They can be a life saver in a pinch of time!). We usually have soup and homemade bread or just plain old leftovers for our lunch. Whatever it is, it is nourishing and filling. Sometimes, after a particularly full morning, we listen to Adventures in Odyssey (keeping in tune with which one is played – I am not a fan of the newest editions) while we eat, other times we listen to Your Story Hour. This is also a chance for me to go around the table and ask each child what they have accomplished school-wise for the morning. This will help me know what needs to be done in the afternoon time.

 

After lunch, it’s cleanup time again! I also make sure I have our dinner meal prepped and either cooking away on the cookstove or ready for the oven.  Two children are assigned to help with lunch cleanup so it will go quickly. And then … everyone is whisked outside for an hour’s play – even in the winter! Their daddy is wonderful and always makes sure they have an ice rink in the winter (although this year, it looks like we will not have a rink after all, sadly) and if there is no rink, there’s sledding down the front hill.  There’s always something to do outside so ensure we get fresh air – a walk through the fields or even just bringing in the week’s worth of firewood.

While this is a general view of our morning routine, some mornings are different. We pull out the ‘art cart’ and watch a Bob Ross video or a tutorial on watercolours and paint together while listening to a story. We practice poetry or have tea time at 2 and all read our favorite poems. Some days, there are beautiful birds outside our winter window and we will all take time to look up the type of bird and draw the little creature in our nature journals. Not all days are the same – but this is the ‘frame work’ for a typical Gauthier school morning.

Do we do school in the afternoon?

Well, it will depend on how much we finished in the morning. Usually, the older girls have an hour or two more school to attend to – by 3 p.m. we are all ready for a break and have quiet time, but that can be another post for another day (afternoon schedule). If we have had music lessons in the morning, often times our science and/or history lesson is accomplished in the afternoon around the cozy woodstove fire while the little ones play blocks on the braided rug covering our worn floor. It is a cozy scene and one I appreciate very  much in the winter months.

However, for now, we are through the morning and the major bulk of our school day.

Home education can be such a blessing! Yes, it is work. Running a home is work, even if you are not home educating. However, homeschooling does require that extra burst of dedication from the parents (mostly the mother, if I am to be honest, however, the dad must pay for all the curriculum so that is his part of the dedication). It requires organization and determination and good organization – when it is challenging, you must commit to not give up. I would never change our homeschooling years for anything else. When I think of other mothers, sending their children off in those big yellow school buses that rumble away down our street every morning, I think they are missing out on SO much. Not to mention the hours away from home, but the spiritual and character training that come from a Christian home can be erased within hours of being immersed in the secular, public school system.

P.S.

I feel blessed to have the opportunity to home education our children and I do not take it for granted. If you have ever thought of taking your motherhood course to this home education level, I would encourage you to pray and talk to your husband about the journey you could embark on together. While it is work and requires dedication, you will not regret it. It will be one of the biggest blessings for your family!

 

January 23, 2020 - 3:25 pm

Gigi Kristal, I have heard good reports about Saxon math. Math is only program we don’t switch around – they start out with Math U See and then move to TT as they get older.

January 23, 2020 - 11:49 am

Kristal You sound like me, we have changed math curriculums more times than I can count (well, maybe exaggerating a bit, haha). We are currently on Saxon, but it’s not my favorite. I’ve heard of teaching textbooks, thank you for sharing that is what you are using. I usually like to persevere through a curriculum for an entire school year (unless it truly isn’t working), but I am already actively looking for next year. 🙂

January 22, 2020 - 12:30 pm

Gigi Thank you, mom. xo

January 22, 2020 - 12:29 pm

Gigi Kristal, yes, I find getting dressed first pivotal for the morning success! 🙂
I added some links for some of the programs we are using – every year, things can change, but this is what we are using for now. We have used this math program for a while – there are four girls in the program.

January 22, 2020 - 10:38 am

Brenda This blesses my heart xoxo

January 21, 2020 - 11:34 pm

Kristal You are so smart to hold your morning hours as an uninterrupted time to homeschool. For me, I look at home educating/ homemaking as my job. I don’t continuously interrupt my husband (or friends) at their jobs. They would never get any work accomplished, or could be reprimanded if they work under someone. I try to think of my day like that and when I do, I often feel more dedicated to solely focusing on the task at hand and doing a good job at it. I really enjoyed this post. It’s really encouraging to hear of a mom of many share how she gets it done. I also really enjoy the way you explained your schedule. It’s actually a bit similar to mine, except for having the kids come to breakfast dressed for the day, and to practice their music lessons at the beginning of the day. We often get dressed after breakfast (which I feel leads to later mornings, even though we are all up by 7am as well), and we practice piano after school (which I have noticed grumpier attitudes about this in the afternoons when they are more tired). I really like the idea of trying out these different routines. I could see it helping with attitudes.
Also, could you share what online math program you are using? As my girls are getting into more advanced mathematics, I am looking at different avenues of math versus just using a textbook. I would love you hear what you use and your thoughts on it.
Looking forward to your afternoon post!! Many Blessings to you Gillian!

{Beautiful Joy} from the African Violet

“She had not consciously formed the thought in her mind, but she realized that she had expected the inside of the woman’s house to look much like her tumbledown main store vacated-store. Instead, she was looking into a neat and tidy kitchen. The furniture was old but cared for, the table and cupboard cleared of all clutter. Dishes gleamed on the wall shelves, reflecting the afternoon sun. But most surprising to Anna was the off-street window. It was filled with blossoming violets.”
– The Measure of the Heart
Janette Oke

 

 

It was only 10:30 a.m. on a normal January morning. But there was one thing on my mind …

Picking up the receiver of the telephone in the kitchen, I quickly dialed out the numbers for my husband’s work phone number.

 

“Hello,” I asked, cheerily, “How is your day going?” I stood by our cookstove and stirred the beef stew that was simmering away in a large pot. After finding out a few details about my husband’s day, what time he’d be home from work and so forth … I asked him my question, the reason for my calling.

“I was wondering …. would you have time to look for some African violets for me?”

I posed the question gently, with cheer, not sure if it was too much to ask. On certain slower days, my husband is only a stone’s throw from the local stores – whereas going out for me, especially during the winter, with eight children at home, a school and home to run and woodstoves to tend to,  is a much more detailed ordeal.

Then, he asked the question. Why?

“Why do I need a violet? Well, I don’t know – I just really would love an African violet … or three …? They’re pretty,” I replied.

 

Hanging up the phone, I smiled.  He said he’d try to find one. I have a good husband who will help cheer me up when he can. I am blessed. Sometimes it does not work out – he is busy at work or cannot come home in time for dinner, but we take the good with the bad some days. My husband likes to collect mechanical things – tractor parts, metal things I don’t know anything about, rusty bits of … something? what are they anyway? … whereas I, I suppose collect plants {and teacups!} … different flowers for the garden, various plants for the house, ivy, violets, garden plants, vegetable plants…. yes, hand me a plant and you will find the way to my heart.

Around January, my heart aches to grow something and view beautiful scenes. I have many houseplants that I care for, but always am looking for more  -and something with a burst of colour.

In the winter months, it is so lovely to surround ourselves with natural beauty, flowers hand painted by our Creator and lovely details that bring out the glory of the winter months. With the frosty snow covered scenery outdoors, the landscapes are dormant and peaceful. I find it so encouraging to have beautiful flowers indoors, if at all possible, during this season of rest. What joy a simple African Violet can bring to this old soul!

A quick call to our local greenhouse discovered that they would be getting a shipment of violets –but not until later this week.

“A good way to practice patience,” I thought, as I returned to my chores and dreamed of the lovely exotic flowers to come. My hopes heightened and I could not wait to pick out the pretty potted flower for my kitchen windowsill.

 

“The old woman stopped mid-stride and turned to face her.
‘You like violets?’ she growled.

‘Yes, our pastor’s wife always had violets. Beautiful ones.
Whites and pinks and blues – every colour.
Ever so pretty. I always used to admire them…’
Apart from the other {plants}, as though sitting on a throne among commoners, was the most beautifully formed violet Anna had ever seen.
Its petals were creamy white, lined with a delicate purple fringe, frilly and full and perfectly formed. Anna breathed in slowly.
‘It’s wonderful. Absolutely beautiful.'”
-The Measure of the Heart, Janette Oke

 

 

 

I’m not sure why I love violets so much, but I do. Last winter, I wrapped an African violet up and delivered it to my south-side neighbour, in the stark coldness of winter, as a wistful thought of the spring to come. She said it reminded it of her mother – who also grew African violets in her childhood home. The children and I have also given them to my mother in law on her birthday last year, also in the middle of winter, and she still has it healthy and blooming on her kitchen windowsill.

It seems, in some common yet enduring way, the African violet is a part of the women’s natural place in the home. I know my sister has a few African violets in her living room, as well.

As I waited for my precious violets, I pulled out my pretty purple and pink violet teacup to soothe my need for beautiful colour.

In the parlour, there are two African violets from previous years and while they are not flowering right now (due to the lack of natural light, I was told by the florist), they are still alive and well. That is a good sign and a sure confirmation that I can overwinter my violets and be promoted to the owner of a few more for the house.

The week passed and the moment had come – the day had arrived when African violets would be brought into our home!

Later that day, we were blessed again as my mother in law surprised us with bringing three more plants to our home! We all marveled at the lovely flowers on these delicate plants and decided which girl would be mother to a few new African Violets in their room. I told the girls they love north-east facing light {so I have read}, room temperature water (and to not get the leaves wet) and we all determined where the plants should make their home.


{A violet themed teacup, filled with a beautiful pink rosehip tea,
goes so well with a true African violet, don’t you think?}

The two eldest girls picked out their delicate violets and happily carted them upstairs to their windowsill with joy. Oh, how lovely it is to have children that appreciate growing living things, I thought – plants, created by our creative, amazing God, flowers so beautiful and delicate, bringing such joy in the middle of a normal, brisk January day.

Setting one plant, fully adorned with it’s beautiful purple flower blooms, aside on the kitchen counter, I determined to deliver this little precious African violet  to my other neighbour, a single woman, who lives just down the road in the coziest yellow cottage. Her sweet country home is always adorned wonderfully in the spring to summer months with beautiful flowers in her windowsill, in her gardens and on her porch.  She will love it, I thought … who doesn’t love flowers in the middle of winter?

Bring prettiness and feminine touches to the home is one aspect of my job that I just love. Why have a dreary, dark home when you can brighten it up with a beautiful potted plant, some twinkle lights or a beautifully scented candle? Life is too short to not live with beauty around you. It does not have to be expensive or ornate – it just needs to breathe fresh life and charm to your every day journey.

 

There is nothing self-indulgent or worldly about such small pleasures when we approach them with a spirit of gratitude because God’s gifts help us go about the tasks he has given us.

When we feel that the little things in our lives are pleasant and satisfying, it’s amazing how the outside stresses and disappointments fade, at least for the moment.

We can then regroup, prioritize, and pray –
cultivating a quiet, feminine spirit and
preparing ourselves to be God’s people in the world.
-Emilie Barnes
The Spirit of Loveliness

January 21, 2020 - 4:14 pm

Gigi Sarah, I have always loved seeing your beautiful violets on your blog. 🙂 They are so lovely!

January 21, 2020 - 4:13 pm

Gigi Kristal, I love the winter months too!

January 21, 2020 - 4:13 pm

Gigi Regina, thank you for asking about the pregnancy. It is going fine- and speeding by! I hope to do an update soon.

January 21, 2020 - 4:07 pm

Gigi Paula, I would *LOVE* to build up my collection that way! What a wonderful memory!

January 21, 2020 - 4:06 pm

Gigi Hello Robyn, a veriegated one sounds so lovely.
No, my bold is an oldie – 13 years old now! Welcome. 🙂

January 21, 2020 - 4:04 pm

Gigi Bethany, I completely 100% agree!

January 18, 2020 - 3:21 pm

Bethany It’s so true how these small simple things can bring so much joy! It really does make me smile when I see these small and simple, yet pretty things, even if it’s just a mug or a placemat! Why drink out of a beige mug when you can drink out of one that has a pretty design on it that makes you happy?

January 17, 2020 - 11:37 pm

Robyn Yes I love them too. I have a variegated one, but have been losing a few leaves lately. Haven’t seen your blog before, is it a new one?

January 14, 2020 - 4:28 pm

Brenda (Gigi’s proud Momma) I too love African violets. I used to have many around the home. Maybe you don’t remember them? Sometimes I overwatered them and that was disappointing. Mrs G had them too. xo

January 13, 2020 - 3:02 pm

Monica I love the violets—so cheerful and old-fashioned. I’ve just been aware of this the past few months so I’m on the lookout for some. 🙂

January 13, 2020 - 12:01 pm

Paula In the 1960’s when I visited my grandma, she had a violet. She took me visiting and we had afternoon tea and those ladies all grew them. So all these years later, I grow them. Back then you built your collection up via cuttings from friends. Frugal plus there were not many “nurseries” back then. When I look at my violet it brings all those memories back. Thank you for loving African violets.

January 13, 2020 - 11:10 am

Kristal African violets are very beautiful. I agree, there is something about January that makes one yearn for growth and beauty. I do love the snow (a lot actually), but fresh sun and growth are a favorite too. I hope all is going great and the pregnancy is going well!

January 13, 2020 - 10:55 am

Regina Shea I love African violets and I also have a violet teacup. You have me wanting to go to the nursery to get a couple of plants now.
How are you doing? How is your pregnancy coming along?

January 13, 2020 - 9:12 am

Sarah Your African violets are beautiful! What a lovely assortment of colors. I have four African violets in my kitchen window. I have had them about five years now. They always make me think of my grandma, she kept a couple violets in her kitchen window too. I need to re-pot my violets, they have grown quite large now and one has grown an entirely new plant beside the original! I enjoyed all of your quotes. There is something so cheering about seeing flowers in the winter.

Family Traditions: A Little Women Brunch

“Eventually beloved customs stretch like a golden ribbon
over long years to bind generations together tenderly in memory.
Simply stated, what more in life could any of us ask?”
– Mrs. Sharpe’s Traditions

 

With many changes occurring in our extended family- which includes one set of  grandparents recently moving across the country and no longer within an easy driving distance for visiting – things have changed for our family over the holiday season. We can either sit and pout and wait for someone to cheer us up or we can find something cheerful to do and add some coziness and lovely atmosphere to our own home.

 

Is this not the mother’s task?

 

Yes, it is up to a mother, so it seems, to hold up traditions, to create those family memories and to bond the children and parents together in tiny little rituals that weave the hearts together over the years.

 

 

 

In the void of certain family gatherings and traditions, there was indeed a hole. However, I think our family may have started a new tradition just this year.  Recently, the girls & I were delighted to attend the Little Women musical on stage at a local theatre. To celebrate the occasion, we decided we would have a Little Women brunch the day before the show. As it turns out, we wanted to also include the Father of the House – and so, our brunch evolved into a candle-brunch-dinner {we did, however, take the photos during the day time}.

During the day, some of the girls did the baking and cooking, while the others excitedly set the table, decorated and helped prepare the simple meal.

 

The chattering children happily met their daddy at the back door, as he wearily returned from a day’s work at the funeral home, and led him through the dark house into the candle-lit kitchen. Decorated gaily and with festive treats, the table was all laid and ready for an evening of gentle celebration. With soft music playing in the background and the gentle light of candle flames and oil lamps, the evening was certainly charming and lovely.

 

 

Our Little Women menu consisted of:

~~~~~~~~

Several varieties of homemade jams and jellies
Fresh oranges
Devilled Eggs

Gingerbread cake, sprinkled with icing sugar
A hot pot of tea
Turkey sausages
Fresh-from-the-oven popovers with butter

~~~~~~~

 

 

Eating together around our candle-lit table, chatting away, passing a pot of hot tea around the busy table, I do believe happy memories were made all while genteel manners were fine tuned.

 

After we cleaned up, we also treated the children to watch the older 1949 version of Little Women (featuring Elisabeth Taylor and June Allyson). We just love this version and it’s just absolutely charming to watch.

https://d2e111jq13me73.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/styles/review_gallery_carousel_slide_thumbnail/public/screenshots/csm-movie/little-women-ss3.jpg?itok=Wi3HBxUA


“Traditions are like recipes. Some we don’t alter a bit because they are perfect. Others need a dash of this or that to suit our family’s taste. As with any new dish, you’ll know soon enough whether the new custom suits your family and should become part of your repertoire. Did they enjoy it? Did you? Was the activity worth the effort it took to do it again?”
-Mrs. Sharpe’s  Traditions

Have you found new traditions that help your family bond?

Here is the popover recipe, in case you would like to try it, from the Paula Deen website:

{Little Women Popovers}

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Grease 12 large muffin tin cups or 12 custard cups. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat well. Add the milk, flour and salt, and beat until just blended. Fill the muffin tin cups or custard cups three-quarters full with the batter. Place the pan on the center rack in the oven. Set the oven at 450 °F and turn it on. Bake for 30 minutes without opening the oven door.

Serve the popovers hot with butter, jam, syrup, or honey.

Post Script: Sadly, the actual live musical we attended was a horrible, changed version of the original Little Women. Modernized with worldly values and selfish values, it was certainly not as a good as the original writings of Louisa May Alcott. In my opinion, sometimes, the best things are old things.

 

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December 30, 2019 - 5:43 pm

Debby in Kansas, USA It’s all so perfect! And you have your own lovely Little Women! I didn’t attend my first tea until I was in my 30s and it was then that I realized just how much I missed out on.

December 29, 2019 - 10:08 pm

Lynnea It looks like such a lovely time with your loved ones….working together with, and for them, creating warm and happy memories! Thank you for sharing… it’s very inspiring and makes me want to do something special for my loved ones!

December 29, 2019 - 8:45 pm

Regina Shea That cake sure looks scrumptious! I’ve never made popovers before I will have to make it. There’s a new Little Women playing in the theaters and though I want to see it, I shudder at what they have done. I have bothLittle Women and Little Men books. I need to finish Little Women but I’ve never read Little Men before. I think we may still have a copy of Jo’s Boys on the shelf too.

I’ve seen the 1949 version but I like the even older version with Katherine Hepburn because they 1949 version a small but minor change was made.
That’s too bad about the play. I was hoping it was going to be good. Do you have the recipe for gingerbread cake?

Gingerbread Blessings

“Fathers, mothers, remember this:
and if you would not have your children lost to you in after-life —
if you would have your married daughters not forget their old home in the new one —
if you would have sons lend a hand to keep you in the old rose-covered cottage,
instead of letting you go to the naked walls of a workhouse —
make home happy to them when they are young.
Send them out into the world in full belief that there is
‘no place like home, eye, ‘be it ever so homely.'”

-The Royal Path of Life

 

 

The back screen door slammed and the sounds of snowy boots being kicked off could be heard.

 

“Mommy …. mommy … you should see Katie’s gingerbread house,” my youngest daughter called with great enthusiasm, as she pulled her short legs out of her restricting snowsuit. “She has so many candies on the house! Pink and red and green!”

 

Her little freckled cheeks were rosy with the flush of outdoor play and, more than likely, tinged with the merry excitement of seeing the next door neighbour’s fantastic gingerbread creation.

“Oh yes,” I mumbled, while picking up stray mittens and clipping them to the makeshift drying line we have strung near the woodstove.

“Can’t we make one?” questioned the five year old sweetheart, looking up innocently at me.

Oh dear, I thought, silently cringing inside.

Gingerbread houses.

For eight children?

While I have fond memories of making candy-loaded, super-topped-iced gingerbread houses with my grandmother in her cozy home as a child, the world of gingerbread houses is completely different now that I’m wearing the other motherly-worn slipper.

This mother of eight … in the family way … not feeling up to the monumental task of creating gingerbread houses, knowing sugar will abound without limits and the actual cleanup of such an endevour would require all household cleaning apparatus’ on deck … all these thoughts went speeding through my mind as my little girl chattered on about the neighbour’s lovely little gingerbread home. Yes,  a broom, rags with cleaners for sticky surfaces, a mop with hot soapy water, the vacuum for stray sprinkles stuck under baseboards … yes, it would be a big endevour to just clean up from eight gingerbread houses …

Swiftly avoiding a melting-snow-puddle on the floor near children winter boots, I quietly returned to my workplace in the kitchen, hoping my enthused daughter would forget her jolly experience of candy and gingerbread dreams, just over the fields at the neighbour’s house.

Not more than half an hour later, two more excited daughters marched into the kitchen. “Did you hear? The neighbour’s made this amazing gingerbread house …”

“Uh-huh,“I mumbled, pretending to be very interested in the creation of dinner. “Did you hang up your mittens to dry?”

Maybe they will forget …

Around supper time, all the children were called to the kitchen for a routine cleanup when the seven year old decided to add her opinion to the neighbourly visit.


“Mommy, did you know the neighbours made a …” she began.

Rather snappishly, I rudely interrupted her: “I know, I know. I heard already from everyone else. That’s nice.”

As soon as I answered, I was ashamed of my own selfish, lack of love attitude.

“She was just excited to tell you,” my 15 year old said quietly, almost rebukingly, as she shredded the cheese for our dinner meal.

Dropping my head in shame, I realized I had been too short with the little children. Yes, perhaps I did not want to actually make gingerbread houses and would rather skiff through December without having pressure put on me from what other families are doing …. but, was I also being selfish, not wanting to give up my morning or afternoon (let’s face  it-  all day) to help the girls and boys in my charge make their little gingerbread creations?

Perhaps, indeed, I was.

And the King shall answer and say unto them,
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it
unto one of the least of these my brethren,
ye have done it unto me.

Matthew 25:40

 

The next morning, I resolutely got up extra early and, with love, began preparing for the giant batch of gingerbread dough. A recipe that would make six gingerbread houses (one for each of the girls and a purchased gingerbread train to share for the boys – as I did not have the mold for this) would certainly be quite the task. In fact, it did indeed take all day but the dough was made and careful pressed into the gingerbread house mold six different times, slid into the hot cookstove half a dozen times. Slowly the house began to smell delightfully warm and cozy and my mood began to improve as I felt my heart fill with pleasant unselfish love for my eight children, anxiously awaiting their gingerbread constructions.

“Ohhhhh … are we making gingerbread houses today?” Lavender questioned,  standing on tippy-toe to peer at the counter and see what creations were coming out of the warm oven.

“Yes,” I said, smiling. “We’ll put them together tomorrow, after they are all baked.”

She clapped her hands with joy and danced out of the kitchen to tell her siblings the good news.

 

Once the gingerbread molds were filled and baked, it was time to make up all the large batch of snow-like icing that would cement the little cookie houses together. Another monumental task! Anything done around this family is always quite the large job as most things need to be doubled, tripled and more in order to stretch it throughout the entire cast of children. Mounds of whipped icing was made up and carefully slotted into icing bags, all ready for the next day’s creation.

My mood was improving and I felt I had answered the call of duty. It was my job alone to be the mother to this large group of energetic children – no one else was going to make gingerbread houses with them – and if I did not create the memory, then who would? I would not shirk this little (large) duty just because I was pregnant, not in the mood or tired.

[As it happened, it was to be a birthday week for one of my son’s, so we used the gingerbread house decorating as a birthday activity for him on his special 4th birthday. It made his day extra special and he enjoyed creating his little gingerbread train.]

 

 

Being a mother that is fully there is not a role we can put on when we feel up to it; sometimes I have to force myself to do the right thing, to give up my afternoon of pre-planned chores or activities in order to fit something into the day that will make a memory. Slowing down, being intentional with the days, creating memories and smiling at my children minute by minute, instead of rushing around, getting chores done and over-working myself (as I tend to do)…

Grateful for the day spent together in the warm cozy kitchen, I allowed myself to enjoy the sticky-candy-moments and the delicious smell of gingerbread wafting through the house. Sitting beside my youngest, who was just thrilled to be eating some of the candy rolling his way, I realized how blessed I was – blessed to have all these lovely children that need me, blessed to have the home to make cozy for them, blessed to BE AT HOME to create these memories…

… blessed to have the time and energy (although waning) and health to be active with my children … blessed to have my 15 year old help her two year old brother stick his candies on his gingerbread creation …

Let me never be so busy with my daily tasks that I cannot slow down enough to help my little [and big ones] make a few messy, sticky-candy-overloaded memories.

 

“Every home should be cheerful.
Innocent joy should rein in every heart.
There should be domestic amusements, fireside pleasures, quiet and simple it may be,
but such as shall make home happy,
and not leave it that irksome place
which will oblige the youthful spirit to look elsewhere for joy.
There are a thousand unobtrusive ways in which we may add to the cheerfulness of home.”
-The Royal Path of Life

 

December 17, 2019 - 11:21 am

Debby in Kansas, USA I smiled through this entire post. I used to beg my mom to make a gingerbread house, but she worked full time and was always too tired. I swore I’d do them when I had children, but that wasn’t to be, either. Thank you for sharing this wonderful activity with me! I’m sure I could smell the gingerbread myself!!

December 17, 2019 - 7:36 am

Claire I love everything about this post Gillian! xoxox

December 17, 2019 - 6:15 am

Gigi Oh, Linda, you are a great grandmother! What a fun day, making chocolate truffle balls (something I have never done! It sounds challenging!). What a great memory you have made with your precious grandchildren! It’s a wonderful idea to write it into your journal. So sweet.

December 16, 2019 - 11:15 pm

Linda Oh sweet surrender 🙂 I made chocolate truffle balls with my grandchildren this week and there were only three helping…but still, the mess !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thankfully mama was there to help clean up all the grated chocolate. It was a day of fun, laughter, one initial tantrum, and memories made. There’s always one child that will get over excited and have a vision how it will all go. When that doesn’t happen, tears quickly follow. I write these moments in my journal…and one day these little girls when grown up may read those journals and laugh at their younger selves and be thankful (I hope) that Nanny felt to jot these things down on paper. I loved every bit of this post Gigi. I felt those feelings myself when the children were small. Sometimes I probably did say no to what they wanted to do, but when I surrendered to make a memory, it was always sweet (and messy too) 🙂 Merry Christmas to you xo

December 16, 2019 - 5:10 pm

Monica The houses are beautiful! Truly memories made that will never be forgotten.

December 16, 2019 - 4:21 pm

Gigi Katie, so nice to hear from you! I will send your our mailing address…

December 16, 2019 - 3:38 pm

Katie Taylor Thankyou so much for sharing! Looks like lots of fun 🙂 and I completely understand and agree the feeling of hesitation to make them haha! What a wonderful mum you are, very inspiring and encouraging! On another note we are a family of 6 from New Zealand, and I have four daughters 9,6,3, and 1. My 9 year old was wondering if one of your daughters would like to try be pen pals?

December 16, 2019 - 8:26 am

Shirley Beautiful…and the work of your hands will be blessed

Setting the Stage: The Morning Routine

[I have been asked to write about my routine and time management. A lot of my time management begins in the morning, before the house stirs. Here is an account from this morning.

Note added: My usual rising time is anywhere between 4:30 and 5 a.m. Yes, I had to train myself to wake up early – however, strange as this sounds, I found it came easier as I had more babies – as they tend to wake one up at 5 a.m. for a feeding. I would just stay up from that point. I was once a night owl in my younger motherhood years and would stay up very late, past midnight. Now, I have just reversed the clock and get up earlier. Yes,  I am dressed before I come downstairs for my quiet morning hour. I lay my clothes out the night before so I can find them in the dark as there is a sleeping toddler and a sleeping husband in our room. I have a little nightlight in the bathroom so I can get ready without turning on a bright light. ]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You don’t bake? Oh, I love baking… I love to come downstairs, in the morning …  while the house is quiet, sit and have my cup of tea and look out this window at the fresh new day … bread dough rising by the cookstove … there’s nothing that smells so good as fresh bread, just baked, wafting through the house, you know.”

-Janet King, Road to Avonlea

The black and ivory cookstove creaked as she warmed up with the embers from last night’s fire, still warm in her firebox. Opening the firebox door, I added a small bundle of dry kindling sticks to help urge the fire along. My father in law had just delivered a large crate of dry small wood for me and for that I was truly grateful. One needs good wood to get my cookstove going these cold December mornings. Located just outside the back door, the burst of fresh air as I retrieve the little wood pieces wakes me up quickly smartly each morning. Stopping to notice the sparkling stars twinkling in the dark, December morning sky, the tranquil, peaceful sight provided a fresh outlook on the day unfolding.

In the inky blackness of the horizon, I could hear a few straggling coyotes howling in the distance. I shudder thinking of our poor chickens – hoping they are warm enough in their little coop. The sun would soon be up and the house would be stirring, brimming with activity, but for now, it was unruffled and still.

With a small fire finally showing signs of life in the Elmira kitchen cookstove, I moved on to preparing my morning coffee. Using a French press, I make a small pot of coffee for just myself. No one else is up in the house this hour of the morning. A cup of coffee and some Bible time by a soft lamplight is bliss with only the ticking of the clock and the soft crackling of the fire to keep me company.

I’m reading through the Psalms right now, so I opened my Bible to read my daily passage…

“Thy voice shalt hear me in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.”
Psalm 5:3

The morning.

What a perfectly calm, beautiful time of day. When I wake up (usually by the cry of our family cat, needing to go outdoors – she only comes to my beside in the morning to ask for the door to be opened – she must know I want to get up anyways), no one else stirs. Slipping downstairs to the main floor of our old home, I find peace in the quiet, a balm for my soul in the stillness. Our days in this filled to the brim home can be busy, dotted with random, various activities, various needs, unending chores and everyday tasks that need to be tended – but this morning – this delicate calm of the break of day – is all mine.

 

After my Bible time, I will set the table for breakfast and put on a pot of cinnamon-speckled oatmeal to cook on the now-warm-cookstove. Yes, like days of old, a pot of oatmeal is a staple in our house when it comes to breakfast.  No one grumbles about it, for which I am grateful. Some mornings, we will be splurge and have poached eggs on toasts, a quiche on Sunday, homemade croissants (still working on this recipe) or potatoes and eggs. But a simple every day morning means a copper pot of steaming hot oatmeal, sweetened with brown sugar and enjoyed with a glass of creamy milk. Gingerbread tea is offered in the winter time for the children, as well. Most of the little ones mix their tea and milk together to their delight.

Setting the stage for a good day begins in the morning, I find.

A good solid Bible reading.

A short prayer time.
A good hot coffee or perhaps a cup of tea…

A quiet sermon to listen to as I putter around the kitchen, preparing for the day ahead of me.

Maybe a piece of toast with jam to nibble on as I take a break and sit for a bit.

Shall I set out the dough to begin a batch of fresh bread for the day? … Yes, is there anything cozier than waking up to the smell of bread baking? Yes, a batch of bread would be just the thing to begin the day on the right foot.

 

 

Breakfast has begun and lunch will now be prepared, as well. We usually have warmed up leftovers in the winter or a big pot of soup for lunch. This is simple to prepare before too long (another benefit of home canning your soups!). By breakfast, I should also know what is for dinner and have that prepped as well. With my double role as mother and homemaker and home school teacher, I find it challenging to go between the kitchen and the school books, so I try to keep the food meal preparations to the early morning. Everything flows so much smoother if I do not have to worry about lunch time or dinner. Sometimes, you may find me peeling potatoes while a little one reads to me or chopping carrots while someone asks a question about their grammar, however, the goal is to have lunch ready for the oven before school even begins.

I also challenge myself to drink my litre of water by breakfast time; this helps me stay on track with my goal of drinking enough water during the day. I use a simple mason jar to measure my water intake.

By 7 a.m., I hear the footsteps of little ones upstairs as they begin to tumble slowly out of bed. Sleepy eyed and still warm from their little beds, they will wander downstairs to find me in the kitchen. I always try to greet each child with a warm “Good morning!” and a hug. By this point, the breakfast table should be set and ready for the children. I have learned, as they have morning outdoor chores, it creates a rushed morning if I wait for them to set the table. I generally try to set the table ahead of time, even laying out the placemats and such the evening before.

Let’s start the day with cheerfulness, they will often hear me encourage them. If someone wakes with a sour mood, they are often sent back upstairs to enter the warm kitchen with a better, sunnier attitude. Everyone is encouraged to have their beds made, be neatly dressed with their hair properly combed for the day before they are welcomed to the breakfast table. [That may seem strict to some, but can you imagine chasing down eight children to get dressed each morning after breakfast? Food on an empty stomach in the morning is a great motivator to start the morning off right – dressed and looked clean for the day.]

 

Once the breakfast is served and eaten by eight hungry children, we pull out our Bible and review our Bible passage for the day. We like to memorize a chapter a month. We simply recite it every day until we can say it from memory. It works, it’s not a fussy system, no bells or whistles but it works.

 

After the Bibles snap close, everyone is hustled off for their morning chores …but that is another post and another story …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 15, 2019 - 7:13 am

Gigi Ruthie, it is amazing what you can do if you force yourself! My body naturally wakes up now and it amazes ME every morning that I wake up on my one! Keep trying!
I make the bread from scratch all in the morning. I have done dough at night before but only for sour dough.

December 15, 2019 - 7:12 am

Gigi Bobbie, thank you for the sweet note. I will work on the rest of the day notes soon! I am due first week of April. I feel great! Are you expecting? When are you due?

December 13, 2019 - 8:58 pm

Ourhomeofmanyblessings I cant wait for more of your day!!!How are you feeling these days?When are you due?You routine is similar to mine alot!Would love to know more of how you manage your day and childrens chores,evening chores,etc.

December 13, 2019 - 6:50 pm

Ruthie P.S. I forgot to mention I love the Bible reading and prayer first thing and insisting your children have cheerful spirits over grumpy to begin their day. Makes such a difference!

December 13, 2019 - 6:38 pm

Ruthie Wow! I’ve always wanted to be an early riser, so I find your ability to transition like you did from night owl to your current schedule nothing short of amazing. My scheduling abilities are weak. It’s been a problem area for me, so this is an encouragement to hear of others that are able. On your bread making early in the morning… do you have your dough premade the night before and in the icebox or do you start from scratch during this time?

December 9, 2019 - 12:01 am

Monica This is wonderful! I love the mornings. One reason (and I’m not sure you mentioned this but I know it’s true for you as well!) is because I have so much energy in the mornings and at night=zero energy! My body just dies at night, haha. So opposite of younger days. So it only makes sense to get up and at ‘em. My mornings start a bit later, in the six am hour. I would rise earlier but our baby is always, always in the bed with us at that time and I’m afraid he would wake up while I was out of bed and roll off of the bed while trying to look for me (nurse). So I wait until he wakes up….sometimes I will slip out of bed and wait in the room, sitting in my rocking chair, reading, so I can still keep an eye on him. Can’t depend on husbands to watch them as they are sleeping, oblivious! Haha!

PS. The picture of Loyal….

December 8, 2019 - 6:55 am

Gigi Erin, sure, I will look at doing a post about chores. Thanks for the ideas. 🙂
Oh, regarding later nights … I just try not to have them … sometimes it is nice to try to sneak a 20 minute nap in the afternoon (as I call it, rest time!) but it is usually unsuccessful. On a very late night, yes, everyone would be encouraged to go to their rooms around 3:30 and rest and read and if they (or I) fall asleep for a short cat nap, then that is what we needed. I don’t usually stay up past 10 p.m. I will retire to my room around 9 p.m. and read for a bit and then go to sleep. It’s heavenly to read before falling asleep! One of my favorite times of the day! We share a room with our little Loyal still (2 years old) so I use a small flameless candle to read at night without waking him up. For years, I could not think of how to read at night when the light would keep people awake, but now, with those flameless candles, they provide the perfect amount of light for reading without bothering anyone.

December 8, 2019 - 6:51 am

Gigi Kristal, thank you for your encouragement. I have added some of the answers to your questions in the original post, but I will also answer them here. Yes, I am dressed before I come downstairs. I lay out the clothes the night before so I do not have to stumble around and wake anyone up while trying to locate my outfit!
Yes, I had to train myself to get up early – I once loved to stay up late – past midnight – and it was lovely and quiet then as well, but now I have just trained myself the opposite way, starting with when I had nursing babies – as they wake you up early to feed, I would slip out of bed at that point and use it for my Bible time.
Don’t feel silly asking questions! We are all learning together! We have a lot of distractions as mothers and sometimes, there is not practical training (sadly) for this role before we are all of a sudden mothers to many and needing to know how to manage a busy day and still have time to drink some tea! Keep working at it!

December 8, 2019 - 12:00 am

Kristal Gillian, I am so, so excited for this series! Thank you for taking the time and thought process to encourage us! May I ask a few questions? What time do you wake up? I suspect you get up much earlier than I do. Do you have any helpful tips on waking early? Were you always an early riser, or did you need to train yourself? Also, you mention your kids needing to be ready for the day when they come for breakfast. Are you also getting ready for the day when you first rise, or at a later time? Sorry, I feel silly asking these questions, but I need some serious encouragement. This has been my biggest struggle and one I have been praying for continuously. God has worked a great deal in me already, but I know I have a ways to go.

December 7, 2019 - 4:55 pm

Erin Lynn I love this! Please do your morning chores routine! I am really working on my disciplining myself to get up earlier, and I am so thankful you posted this. On later nights, do you still get up at the same time time or take a nap later?