Free Advent resources

As my kids are getting older, I’m noticing that most family devotions are aimed for younger kids. It’s hard to find something that spans later elementary and teen ages. Recently, I’ve stumbled across two resources that are currently free. FREE! Snoopy Dance!

snoopy dance

The first free resources is Joy to the World! An Advent Journey Through the Songs of Christmas by Ray Pritchard. There is a short history and explanation of a Christmas song for each day in December through Christmas, as well as a link to a YouTube version of the song. (Here is the playlist of the first few songs. I’ll be adding to it throughout the month.)

Next is Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative by Russ Ramsey. I only acquired this today, but based on my initial observations, this looks perfect for families with a slightly older audience. It also has the benefit of being a narrative and not a lesson.  Stories sticks with us; lessons and lectures are forgotten.

Together, these readings would take maybe 15 or 20 minutes. I plan on adding them to our Morning Time, using the Christmas carols for both hymn and folk songs.

(These links are affiliated links, which being free resources means nothing. But if you were so inclined to do your Amazon shopping through links on my humble blog, I’d receive a small compensation at no cost to you. Wouldn’t that be nice for both of us?)

(Caveat: I’m not sure how long these will be free, but they’re free now. So get to clicking!)

For families with younger children, the Story Warren has The Family Advent Art and Reading Guide. It’s short readings and art projects that look perfect for younger kids through perhaps mid to later elementary. My boys aren’t much for art projects, and for that I say, “Thank you, Jesus.”

They are into Legos, so we may do this Advent Lego challenge. But then again, maybe not. There’s only so much Adventing you can do before you reach the tipping point.

I hope you find these useful, and I hope you have a blessed Advent.

Tiptoeing into Christmas


Now that Thanksgiving is over, we are officially and fully in the Christmas season. Traditionally, this is the weekend that we pull everything down from the attic, spend the whole day decorating, and “prepare” for Christmas in one fell swoop. But that didn’t happen this year. The turkey is eaten; the pie is gone; the scarecrows and cornucopia are stored away for another year; all the trappings of the last holiday are put away. But we didn’t rush into the Christmas season. Oh sure, I listened to some instrumental Christmas music while I was getting ready for our next week of school, but that’s about as Christmasy as we got yesterday.

The Advent season is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ, and that’s generally a busy, almost frantic time as we decorate, buy, bake, celebrate, and stress. But recently, I saw a friend compared Advent to nesting — the season before a woman gives birth where she prepares for the baby. While that certainly is a busy season in a family’s life, there are also times of peace and quiet waiting. A mother not only decorates the nursery, but she also sits in the rocking chair and imagines who will inhabit that room.

As that well known sage Ferris Bueller advises, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” With all the extras that come with the Advent season — extra events, extra parties, extra shopping, extra baking, cleaning, and traveling — it’s easy to miss that which we are preparing for. So we’re going to start our season by stopping.

The only thing that’s coming out of the attic today is our wobbly Advent wreath and the devotional book we’ve been using since Little Miss was a toddler. We’ll light the first candle, sing familiar carols, and hear well known bible stories. We’ll talk about our plans for Christmas and pray for our family, our neighbors, and our world. We’ll ease into the Advent season.

Yes, we’ve already got a calendar full of Christmas parties and events, the girls have been crocheting and knitting up a storm, the boys have been making secret plans, and I’ve been keeping a weathered eye out for Christmas deals and ideas for presents. This holiday season promises to be as busy as any other. I’m sure I’ll come to the end of it wondering if I just celebrated Christmas or a cyclone. But maybe we can teach ourselves to stop and look around in the midst of the bustle. I’d hate to miss it.


Fine Arts Friday: There’s Nothing Like the Sun


“Autumn” by Frederic Edwin Church. More Hudson River Artists’ Autumn Art at the link.

There’s nothing like the sun as the year dies;
Kind as it can be, this world being made so,
To stones and men and beasts and birds and flies –
To all things that it touches except snow,
Whether on mountain side or street or town.
The south wall warms me: November has begun,
Yet never shone the sun as fair as now
While the sweet last-left damsons from the bough
With spangles of the morning sun drop down
Because the starling shakes it, whistling what
Once swallows sang. But I have not forgot
That there is nothing, too, like March’s sun,
Like April’s, or July’s, or June’s or May’s,
Or January’s or February’s – great days;
And August, September, October, and December
Have equal days, all different from November.
No day of any month but I have said –
Or, if I could live long enough, should say –
“There’s nothing like the sun that shines today.”
There’s nothing like the sun till we are dead.

Edward Thomas

100 word challenge: Discovery



Professor Jones was so excited about his discovery, he almost bounced out of his bow tie. His life’s work had finally been vindicated. He had long suspected – no, not suspected. Known. He’d long known that the there was a direct link between the ancient tribal peoples of the Northwest and the cultures of the Far East. Now he’d found a monolith near the new site that was identical to those found in Japan.

He would be published. He would be celebrated. He would be tenured.

“Well?” Thomas questioned Alex as they unpacked the professor’s equipment.

Alex grinned. “Best prank ever.”

Part II of this story: Graduate student found crushed by fake monolith.

This story is part of the fascinating “100 Word Challenge” project by Darleen Click over at Protein Wisdom.  

My previous stories are here.

Jimmie doesn’t have his story and roundup out yet. But I’ll update when he does. Jimmie’s bittersweet story and roundup. 

Join in! (If you don’t have a blog, leave your story in the comments.)

Thanksgiving preparation tips

Two things to remember: 1. Take your turkey out of the freezer in ample time to defrost. 2. Pull out or order your copy of Cranberry Thanksgiving, the best Thanksgiving book ever.

cranberry thanksgiving


We’re past the stage of handprint turkeys and pilgrims, but I’m pretty sure we’ll never outgrow this book.  Well, I’ll never outgrow this book.

In addition to a perfect story and charming illustrations, the book also has the recipe for the famous bread in the story. I can attest to the fact that it’s delicious but perhaps not “commit petty larceny” delicious.

Grandmother's Famous Cranberry Bread

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 1 loaf/12 slices


  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/2 cups light raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped


  1. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Add egg, orange peel, and orange juice all at once; stir just until mixture is evenly moist. Fold in raisins and cranberries.
  2. Spoon into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick
  3. inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack.


If you choose, you may substitute cranberries for the raisins to have an all cranberry bread.

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Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving book? Let me know in the comments.

100 word challenge: The signal



Ten years alone on this island. Ten years of struggling to survive.

His ungrateful crew had gone out of their way to maroon him on the most remote habitable rock they could find. His anger fueled his efforts to live and to return home.

After countless failures, he had finally concocted a signal strong enough to reach civilization, or at least the shipping lanes of the civilized.

With a deep breath, he flung the wheel in to motion. The beam shot into the atmosphere, penetrating deep into space. Nothing to do now but wait for a ship to pass by.


This story is part of the fascinating “100 Word Challenge” project by Darleen Click over at Protein Wisdom.  

My previous stories are here.

Jimmie doesn’t have his story and roundup out yet. But I’ll update when he does. It’s up! I giggled.

Join in! (If you don’t have a blog, leave your story in the comments.)

100 Word Challenge: The suitors



“He seemed pleasant.”

“If you think a man who manages to be a groveling idiot and a pompous fool simultaneously is pleasant.”

“Mother is determined to get you married, Anna. I think we’ll have to endure these visits until you comply.”

“Or until I make my escape; nursing training begins in a month. How did you manage this removal, Helen?”

“Easily. I served him your ‘special cookies’ to demonstrate those housekeeping qualities he was so keen about.”

“Deftly done! Although it doesn’t match the gent who spat at Mother. That was artistry. Thank you, dear.”

“That’s what sisters are for.”


This is dedicated to my little sister, who has a new blog you should check out. She’s a holistic health coach and has much knowledge and wisdom. It’s a genetic trait.

This story is part of the fascinating “100 Word Challenge” project by Darleen Click over at Protein Wisdom.  Her offering is a can’t miss, true story. Seriously, make sure you check it out.

My previous stories are here.

Jimmie doesn’t have one up, yet. But I’ll update when he does. I don’t know how I missed, but Jimmie does have a story and roundup this week. He also went with sisters, with a twist. It’s really great.

Join in! (If you don’t have a blog, leave your story in the comments.)

Fine Arts Friday: Tweaking our process

Yesterday, I listened to the latest Circe Quiddity podcast with Professor Carol Reynolds. She speaks very quickly. What she quickly said reaffirmed some of the thoughts I’ve been having about how we experience music in our culture generally and how I’m exposing music to my children specifically. Prof. Reynolds discussed our detachment from the making and experiencing of music. Not only do most people no longer sing or play instruments, but our interaction with music is mostly digital. We seldom experience music in person. Our cultural understanding is that music is produced by professionals and consumed by the average joe. The result is that we have become a less musical culture, notwithstanding the abundance of music around us.

Despite the fact that I have a mediocre voice at best, I have been deliberate about singing with my kids since they were born. I believe it’s important to cultivate the belief that singing and music isn’t just for the professionals and the gifted to produce and the masses to enjoy, but rather it’s a gift from God to all of us, both to do and to enjoy. What that means practically is that everybody should sing whether they think they’re good at it or not. We ensure that happens in our home with the inclusion of folk songs and hymns in our curriculum.

We generally follow the Ambleside Online rotation for our fine arts studies, with occasional substitutions. In the past, our practice has been to listen and try to sing along with YouTube videos once a week and listen to the different playlists for hymns, folk songs, and our composer studies throughout the week as we attend to our work. Certainly that approach is better than nothing, but I’ve realized it’s not sufficient for my goal to give my children a treasury of music.

The once a week practice and “background noise” method gave my kids a familiarity with the music, but it certainly didn’t give them enough to own the music for themselves. I noticed that some songs they learned well and can sing without aid (“There’s a Hole in My Bucket” is a family favorite), but for many if not most songs, they can only sing along with the videos. Their knowledge is shallow, and they need more and more direct experience with the music. To that end, and to be more deliberate and thoughtful in our approach to fine arts and our day in general, I’ve introduced “morning time” this year. (More about the details of how that’s working in another post.) At least four days a week, we’re singing the hymn and folk song for the month, and they’re hearing them more frequently than that.

In addition to the increased exposure to our songs, I’m limiting the use of the videos. They’re helpful in getting the gist of the melody, but I think my overuse of them has been counterproductive. Rather than leading us in singing, it’s become a presentation that we watch. So this past week, we’ve listened to the first verse to get the melody, and then we turn off the music and sing a cappella. We’ve just started the experiment this week, and I’ve already seen in a difference in terms of their attitudes while singing — they’re becoming participants not just spectators.

This month we’re singing “When Morning Gilds the Skies” for our hymn and “Down in the Valley” for our folk song. Ambleside has “Home on the Range” for the folk song, but we already did that when we studied American history. So I just went back to that month on the Ambleside list and picked up what we skipped. Here are the videos, but as I said, we’re just using them as references to get the melody. You can find the sheet music for the hymn here and the lyrics for the folk song here.

Are you a music maker or a music consumer?



The rule is there is no rule.

This post is cross-posted at Best Foot Forward Proofreading. If you have proofreading needs, check it out!



While English has a reputation for being a lawless thug of a language, there are indeed rules that govern it. Because English is, in the phrasing of John McWhorter, our magnificent bastard tongue, they can have more exceptions that you can shake a stick at. However, there are still rules to guide English speakers and writers. Usually.

Recently, I came across optioner, which ought to be (and I changed to) optionor. That started me on a journey to try to track down a rule, trick, or scheme to show when a verbed noun takes an -er or an -or suffix. The vast majority of English words take an -er when making the verb into a noun: bake becomes baker and travel becomes traveler. But for a sizeable minority of words, the noun form takes the -or suffix: act becomes actor and guarantee becomes guarantor. Just to make things interesting, a handful of words take an -ar suffix:  scholar, liar, and bursar; although that ending is far more common when forming adjectives rather than nouns: triangular, spectacular, and linear.

So what’s the rule? How do we know which one says what one and what one says who?

There are many theories, ideas, and suggestions for figuring it out. I’m drawn to the idea that -or words have Latin roots, while -er words tend to be Germanic in origin, or at least have been filtered through Germanic languages before being adopted by English. Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary lends credence to that idea in its etymology information for the suffixes:

Middle English -or, -our, from Old French -eor, -eur & Latin -or; Old French -eor, -eur, partly from Latin -or; partly from Latin -ator, from -atus -ate + -or

Middle English -er, -ere, from Old English -ere; akin to Dutch & German -er, Old High German -āri, Old Norse -ari, Gothic -areis; all from a prehistoric Germanic suffix borrowed from Latin -arius1-ary; in sense 1, partly from Middle English -er, -ier, -ere, -iere, from Anglo-French -er, -ere & Old French -ier, -iere, from Latin -arius, -aria, -arium1-ary; in sense 2, partly from Middle English -er, -ere, from Middle French -ere, from Latin -ator (suffix denoting an agent) — more at -ary, -or

However, it’s not a perfect rule. Even in the examples above, guaranty comes to English from High German through French. How many exceptions can a rule have before it gets downgraded to a suggestion?  The Oxford  Dictionaries helpfully inform us, “There are no hard and fast rules as to when these nouns have an -or ending and when they are written -er, but what we can say is that there are fewer such words ending in -or!”

The only sure rule to ensure accuracy is to double check with a reliable dictionary. Better yet, have a proofreader check for you.

*British English is apparently far more likely to take the -er suffix, but we Americans fought a war to win the right to have more complicated noun constructions.

100 Words: Halloween story



“What a lovely road. Let’s explore it!” Alice lead the hesitant Tom off the main avenue.

He had been in a dream all evening. The beautiful girl had chosen him from all the boys at the dance and asked for an escort home. Envious eyes followed them as they walked off into the night.

Despite his enchantment, he was wary. Everyone knew to avoid this road, especially this night.

With a glance back at the safe street, Tom trailed after the mysterious girl. He didn’t hear the rustling from the hedges, but he felt the icy fingers on his neck.


Part of the fascinating “100 Word Challenge” project by Darleen Click over at Protein Wisdom.  She offers a different perspective on a classic scary story.

My previous stories are here.

Check out Jimmie’s story and roundup.  I love Jimmie’s mash up of a famous Protestant’s quote with a secret Catholic monster hunting team.

Join in! (If you don’t have a blog, leave your story in the comments.)

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