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Monday, January 7

Not your typical Christmas Break - oh and Russia

I've been meaning to post pictures of our homeschool study on Russia that started off our school year... but first I'm going to give a summary of our Christmas Break:
It starts out with that "oh no, I'm getting sick" feeling.  I spend the first days of break with a fever and cough, missing out on Christmas church services and festivities.  I'm finally better in time to enjoy Christmas day.  But... Daniel gets hold of a little treat (a chocolate covered coffee bean) that doesn't agree with his airways and I take him to the ER Christmas morning for x-rays.  He wheezes for about 4 days afterward but finally clears.  While we wade through packaging and new gifts the next day, my mom gets the shingles vaccine, which her body reacts to horribly, so I worry while she deals with crazy symptoms including high blood pressure and hives for a few days.  Two days after Christmas we are going to take donations to our church's ministry but the basement floods big time.  I take the donations with two oldest kids while Justin stays home to battle water.  Life seems to be getting back to normal for a day or two when I again get a fever for two more days.  Then, the refrigerator breaks... the day after we pick up a big grocery order... and everything is spoiled.  We discover the floor of our tiny house has rotted out.  Then we are finally ready for life to be uncomplicated, and our 6-year-old slices his hand open on a pipe-gone-weapon after the metal was hit with the lawn-mower.  One more trip to the ER to care for his wound and a load of laundry to deal with all the blood... and now... I can't WAIT for this break to be OVER!  Yet still... there have been laughs and lovely, blessed moments.  I am yet thankful.

Oh, but on to our history lesson at the beginning of the school year (wonder why I hadn't gotten around to it???):
We read all about Ivan the Great and Ivan the Terrible.  After learning about Russia in the middle ages we made a borsch feast!
 Following tradition, we served our fresh baked rolls with a little bowl of salt, which was a sign of friendship and goodwill as salt was quite precious.
Most of the kids enjoyed this beet-filled meal.
 We then turned our attention to candle making, since the Russians traded beeswax candles on their trips to Constantinople and other tradeposts.
We collect candle stubbs from church and recycle them into new candles to give to the parishioners. I didn't have any way of melting such a large quantity inside (I do now thanks to a massive pot from Goodwill) so this batch was done over a fire. 
 One of the difficult parts of making candles is waiting and waiting for the wax to melt.
Patience.
 The kids enjoyed learning to dip candles.  One dip into wax, then one dip into cold water. 
 Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.


 The finished candles hung in a tree to cool.
Soon after learning about Russia in the middle ages I read the life of one of the saints who had lived during Mongolian oppression, and it was SO COOL that I knew exactly what part of history it was referring to! I love making history connections and seeing it come to life through our many books we read and projects we enjoy.  
Lately, we've been reading all about Joan d' Arc and the hundred years war.
And I'm SO excited to get back to school tomorrow... and hopefully some normalcy.