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What I learned in August

I can’t believe August is over… it just slipped by without me noticing. Or well, it went by while we jam-packed the whole month with a thousand things of fun.  I need to preface this whole list with the fact that we’ve decided to homeschool this year. We send our daughters to a very small Christian school. It’s amazing and wonderful and everything I want for my kids, but it costs money – actually it costs a pretty good amount and my husband and I decided that I would homeschool our kids to save the money for our upcoming international adoption. It is a nice way for me to contribute monetarily and still getting to spend time with my kids.

1. I forgot that preparing for homeschooling was hard and this lesson was learned in a saddening overwhelming kind of way. The girls and I did so many great learning activities and new experiences this summer that I was psyched for homeschooling, but then I learned as I was prepping our first week, it’s a whole different story when there is different stuff that we have to cover and be responsible for. I think I might be more cut out for unschooling, but I am thankful that there is a cyber school that offers free traditional homeschooling materials (Calvert) for free with the perks of cyber school – like trips and extra help and free Internet and other perks. I’m hoping that preparing will get easier.

2. I learned that a great community is worth its weight in gold. We lived in a small borough that was urban but on a very small-scale. I loved everything about it the character, the diversity, the places you could walk to. We joined the community arts center there and have been going for over 6 years. Even though we don’t live in that borough anymore we are still pretty close and still very much in love with the arts center. My kids got to paint a mural a couple of weeks ago and it was an amazing experience. Helping contribute to a community when you are so small is a powerful experience. SOmetimes you think you can’t do much at 5, but when you are that small you are the perfect person to paint the bottom of a mural.mural-painting3. Books are always better than the movies. I’m up to my ears in adoption books, but I have a group of girlfriends who are avid readers (that might be an understatement). In the past, they have convinced me to read Harry Potter, Twilight (I’m not proud of it but it was fun), The Hunger Games, and this past time they convinced me to read the Mortal Instruments. This was actually probably my least favorite of all the books to movies they’ve convinced me to read, but I have to say it was still way better than the movie! I think I appreciate the book so much more after seeing the movie. Well it is also great to go out with a huge group of girls (int their 30s) to see a young adult movie! If only I had more time to read nonfiction.

4. Reading adoption books is actually really helpful for parenting your biological kids. I’m reading The Connected Child. The book is amazing. Truly wonderful and each and every chapter also gives me a little nugget of wisdom into the children with me now as I wait and hope for the one not yet with us.

5. Being with family can be hard, but oh so worth it. My dad is amazing, probably the best I could have asked for. Every year we have a family reunion with my whole family and then spend a week with my dad two states away. It’s draining, and tiring as the girls sleep on top of me in the basement. They watch a little too much TV, and we eat out for every meal. But it’s worth it every minute. My girls make memories with their wonderful Papa, I can see cousins grow bigger and bigger and I remember the joys of when I lived there. I wouldn’t change it for anything.seeingmydad

6. Kids just want to be with you so teach them to love the things you love (not force them, just teach them). Since my dad raised my brother and I we were pretty much with him all the time. We learned to love John Madden football, all sports, and playing anything we could. He would coach us, play in the street with us and cheer us on. We just wanted to be with him so it worked out perfectly. Now I see myself, crafting, sewing, and painting with my girls. I run with them and we plan lots of events. We do things together and truthfully we mostly do the things I love and that they love now from exposure. When they are with my husband they play music and work on their math because that’s their connection. It’s amazing how if we let our kids come along side us they will be passionate for the things we are passionate for… and don’t worry – you won’t squash their uniqueness they will still have their own things too (I don’t play Madden anymore and my dad never sewed.)

7. People really want opportunities to serve alongside with their kids. Every summer the girls and I are trying to have an event where we raise awareness and supplies for a cause. Last summer we had a family cafe where we had a mini restaurant on our back porch that our friends came to and they paid by bringing supplies for the local soup kitchen. This year we decided to have a monster making party to collect brand new toys for the local children’s hospital by us. Our neighbor’s grandson has cancer and it is something my girls pray for daily so when we were brainstorming what to do this year they knew it had to be something for Max. We sewed 60 monsters out of socks and old clothes and got a whole bunch of buttons and googly eyes and invited our friends over to make a monster. They had to bring a brand new toy for a donation to get their monster. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity – in gifts and in patience. Our house was packed and at one point with kids yelling, running, and gluing all over the place it was hard to even think never mind be patient! Moms were quietly helping other people’s kids and making new friends. We really just want our kids to know what it means to help others and will take every opportunity to show them.monsters6. I love doing hair, more than I realized.  I have two little girls 8 and 5 you would think I get this opportunity all the time. I don’t! My youngest can do a pony tail by herself and braid so she does these crazy things with her hair and won’t let me touch it and my older daughter likes it down, in front of her ears, nothing in it… drives me crazy – but I’m really not one to push on things like that. My friend’s daughter had a party and needed someone to help with hair… I loved every minute of it and remembered that this was a fun thing when I use to be able to do it… now if only I could do it on myself!hair7. I will never give up exercising with my friends. I have one friend that I run with twice a week, 1 friend I walk with once a week and one friend I bike with whenever we can. The awesome group of book reading girls use to get together and do tae bo together (it was hilarious). I love being with my friends, but our lives are so busy. It makes me so sad that we have to pencil in time here or there. I’ve always made it a priority to exercise, it’s a joy to me, but doing it with my girlfriends really is a win win – my happy place. We talk, we laugh, we sweat. It really is a part of my life I don’t want to change. (6am bike ride picture below!)bike8. On that note, I need a schedule. I have been doing Hello Mornings for my quiet time every morning and it has been a blessing. There is a pattern to it, accountability, and peace. I always did my quiet times at night and mornings were for exercise, but giving the first bit of my morning to God everyday has blessed me each and every morning this week. I hope it continues for a long time to come.

9. Sunday School boys don’t want to do crafts. Today I said good bye to my wonderful and rowdy group of 3rd grade students for Sunday School. For the majority of the time I had 8 boys and 1 girl. Every lesson in our curriculum was geared to girls, a craft here, a play there, a writing assignment. Really – they’d eat me alive! They needed to run, play, build and experiment.  I found this awesome website – Mad about Jesus Laboratories – and it made all the difference. We did experiments, we modeled the stories with legos, we made mini bow and arrows to represent the friendship between Jonathan and David, and we had fun and were loud, and sometimes crazy. And truthfully I’m not really sure if they learned as much as they could, but I do think they enjoyed coming to church and knew I cared about them and hopefully that feeling will last. (Disclaimer – this doesn’t mean in any way that girls don’t like to run build and experiment – very much the opposite the girl and sometimes girls in my class loved this too… I just don’t know if I would have been forced into doing it every class if there wasn’t a whole bunch of students who weren’t really into doing it the more traditional way.)

Things I learned in May

Below are 7 things that I’ve learned about myself this month. I read Chatting at the Sky’s list which was funny and interesting. I’m a horrible writer so I went with something that probably isn’t as cute and funny but at least if no one reads it; it will still help me grow.

  1.  If I don’t set aside specific time to do something it will never get done. This blog is a prime example. My last post was April 30th, but I’ve done some super cool things since then but never set aside time to write about them. I could play with my kids all day, but it does them good to play on their own too. So I’m going to set apart some time for things I’d like to accomplish.
  2. I need to stop procrastinating. My younger daughter cut her hair to have it donated to make wigs for cancer patients – it’s all wrapped up and ready to be sent, but still next to my desk. It is a little eerie having an envelope of human hair in your room, but that doesn’t even seem to motivate me. Luckily it doesn’t go bad so it’s still useable. Sadly, it’s been so long that her hair has almost grown back again. And for about two months there I was sure I had sent it because I couldn’t find the envelope, but that is more because of my messy room. The whole procrastination thing goes with my ENFPness ( My two favorite descriptions of ENFPS that both fit me to a t – Description 1  and Description 2 – definitely read them if you were an ENFP on the Meyers Briggs Personality Test), ENFPs are passionate and gung ho for the first 80% of things and then have trouble finishing up. It is one of my biggest downfalls.
  3. I take joy in creating things. I love it. I love working on crafts, sewing, painting, photography, woodworking. I need to realize that creating needs to be apart of what I do in someway. I was created to be a creator. Below are some useful and not useful things I made this month. My daughter and I made baked marble earrings for her teacher, I made shrinky dink rings from left overs with my youngest, I made a felt mortar board hat for my youngest graduating preschool, learnedinmayand I made a couple of onesies for my friend having a new baby. I’m starting to realize about myself that I really enjoy the process of creating, I love learning how to do new things, I love beauty and I really enjoy giving people things that is a personalized fit for them. But I also realized I don’t have an endless supply of free time. I need to find a balance.
  4. Ironically enough I’m task oriented. Okay I know you are thinking, that is completely contradicting my inability to finish things… but well that is my problem. Luckily I found out that I’m too much of a people pleaser that if something has a deadline that will be checked by another person then those things I can get done. That is the reason why signing up and running races helps me to continue strong with running. I ran the Philadelphia Broad Street run in May with two friends and I had a personal best because I knew I wasn’t going to be running any more races for the year (trying to save money for adoption makes it hard to justify paying someone money to let me run ). So my goal is to make sure that I’m accountable for big things to get done.
    broadstreetmedalI have an amazing friend who is working on coaching… pretty much she helps people keep on track and reach their goals. She has helped so much and now I just need to stay on track and finish what I start.
  5. I am addicted to sugar… and you probably are too. I’ve been hearing things for a year about how sugar can act like a drug in your body and how it triggers different physiological responses and over eating can be one of them. My husband and I are trying to move towards more whole, less processed food, less gluten, less dairy (oh my how I love dairy) and less sugar filled diets. There is a lot of research about the lifelong food problems associated with children that grow up with malnutrition. We are hoping to lead  much healthier eating lifestyles so that we can help our son have one as well when he comes to us from Ethiopia.
  6. Making homemade gifts often costs more money then just getting a store bought one, so maybe not try and make everyone a gift. Truthfully, if you just counted the cost of the material you used to make just the gift it is usually cheaper than buying one, but I always buy extra just in case, and sometimes I need a new product to make it, or sometimes I screw it up and have to start over again. Granted, because of all the gifts I’ve made in the past I often have a lot of what I need. However, I need to start thinking about the gift receiver – Do they really want me to make them something? Is this really better than something I could buy for them? I’m not super sure every gift I make can answer yes to these questions and I need to not make something if that is the case. Here are some things I’ve made for gifts recently.
    giftsmade
  7. It takes a village. So this is a huge one and probably deserves it’s own post… but I’m often so overwhelmed with thanks for all of the people who made this happen that I’d start crying while typing and I’m not very good at writing in the first place. So here’s the short version. I’m in a woman’s group that read Jen Hatmaker’s book 7 that discusses simplifying and doing without in this world of excess. We also focused on how doing with less can actually create time, money or space for others to have more. So we decided to have a garage sale at the end of our study as a culmination of all we learned and we would donate the proceeds to an orphanage in Haiti through Help One Now which is the organization that Jen Hatmaker supports and that Sarah an amazing women in our group worked with in Haiti. So just a couple of months before the garage sale the women in my group got together and surprised me that half of the proceeds are going to our adoption! WHAT!!! We were so excited… you can read a bit of my ridiculous struggle here. So of course I’m over whelmed by their love and generosity.. but then it gets better… they all spend hours and hours putting this thing together. Dozens of people donated items over months!!! Then our group and friends spent the whole week before organizing it and advertising for it, then this church (which isn’t my church by the way, but is an awesome church that loves the Lord so much and always… ALWAYS puts their resources and gifts in the hands of those who need it without anything in return (ie. community outreach, NA meetings, voting, Alternative gift market, kids stuff sales to raise money for the Laurel House and so much more – check it out Valley View Church if you are looking for a church!!), then more people came and spent the whole day selling, cooking (check out Extraordinary Edibles donating the most amazing crepes), then Carla going all out and creating a silent auction practically on her own, then all my friends taking on lots of responsibility for what seems like a really long time… all to help (some baked, some made cool shirts that said GS4O, some got friends to donate and some moved stuff) in the best way they could. They helped our family specifically, but they also helped kids in Haiti, and they helped our community become more aware of the cause of the orphan locally and globally! Here is Sarah’s post about the event, and read on to hear about her trip to Haiti.
    gs40Many photo credits go to Joe Roberts Photography. You can see lots of the photos from the garage sale here on Valley View’s Facebook page even if you don’t have Facebook.

I’m already learning more for this month… hopefully I’ll post it before August.

When I am weak – Since God is always faithful why am I always surprised?

My friend and I are going to read a book together and do a study on it, she’s come up with lots of good options… now I have to pick which one. I stink at decisions – I’m always afraid I’ll make the wrong one. But then I heard about this book Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman. This was the description:

Many of us believe that we are saved by grace–but for too many, that’s the last time grace defines our life. Instead of clinging to grace, we strive for good and believe that the Christian life means hard work and a sweet disposition. As good girls, we focus on the things we can handle, our disciplined lives, and our unshakable good moods. When we fail to measure up to our own impossible standards, we hide behind our good girl masks, determined to keep our weakness a secret.

Picture-241So I think that might be what we have to go with because well that sums up my week, my weak week. Where to start. hmm. So we are at one of those points where we are totally confident in the decision to adopt. We have no doubt that it is God’s plan for our family. We also wanted to make sure that we did it debt free. We are so thankful for our financial situation and if we need to tighten up here and there well then that is just what we need to do. We had lived with my inlaws for a little over a year and saved a good nest egg for the adoption – we were intentional about it when we were buying our house not to touch it. But we still have a lot left to pay from this point on in the adoption and my flesh was begining to come in. What can I do to make some money, I should homeschool again to save money, or maybe I should get a full time job, or I can start selling the things I’ve been making. I knew from the moment we decided to do the adoption that we’d have a big yard sale, I read so many blog posts of families and friends donating their unneeded items and families raising 1000s of dollars – sweet I’m in and we started putting stuff in our garage.
Fast forward to September. I joined a women’s group where we started to read Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An experimental mutiny on excess. I love the book, it’s everything my husband and I have been trying to do in our lives and it doesn’t hurt that she was in the process of adopting from Ethiopia like we are. At the first meeting an amazing friend, Sarah, was completely touched by the book. With a passion as beautiful as she is, Sarah began a journey to go on a missions trip to Haiti as well as organize our group to have one huge Garage Sale 4 Orphans through Help One NowGS40_7_SquareButton_redWe were all psyched, what a beautiful culmination of all that we are trying to institute in our lives… giving up excess so others can have a chance. But then there was a little part of me that got worried.  If I gave all that I was saving to this garage sale there wouldn’t be anything left for me to sell, how would we raise money? What about our orphan? Oh how a part of me that I’m not psyched about came out… a jealous, self-interest looking, not God-trusting part came out. So much of the situation made me think of Ananias and Sapphira from Acts. In Acts 2 there is this beautiful picture of a community that shared all things in common. A community dedicated to the cause of eachother and those who are the least in need. Then here is a couple that comes along and holds some of the money they got from the sale of their house back for themselves.  They  don’t trust the community to look after their needs, really it comes down to the fact that they  didn’t trust God. The story doesn’t end well.
Fast Forward again to this week. On Monday I find out that a tooth that got hit by a lacrosse ball when I was 16 is now dead and the root canal on it has broken and I need an implant or my tooth might fall out. This is expensive. Wait what? Now? Really? Then Wednesday night we found out that we were a little mistaken in what our next adoption payment should be. We thought it was half the price it really was. We can do it, just don’t pay this, wait on that, take some out of the savings for other stuff – don’t get an implant until the end of the year. But I began to worry. Thursday is the meeting for my women’s group, maybe I can ask them if I can sell my stuff separately at the sale. It’s hard to get super excited about all the planning for the garage sale because of my fears and worries – if I give all to this, if I ask all my friends to donate stuff to this event, will they want to donate to our garage sale for our adoption. Well then God says tsk tsk Kelly. At the end Sarah and Megan (our group leader) say that they had decided (in September) that half of the proceeds will go to Garage Sale for Orphans and half will go to our adoption. Oh God why am I so selfish, why didn’t I trust, why can’t I give wholly without worring about consequent, why haven’t I learned that you have a plan that you are the one in charge, that you will help us through. God took me through these couple of months giving me times when I wanted to be obedient to His call, but then also being there for me when I was concentrating on our own issues. I cried, I cried because He is God, He is good, and He really does have a plan. But I also cried in realization of my sinful nature. I cried knowing that in these 14 years of knowing Jesus intimately that I have not come as far as I thought, I am still sliding back putting my hopes and dreams on the throne of my heart, not God, not His will, not his plans for my future. But then I cried a little more knowing that He still loves me, He still gave us this amazing blessing through these amazing woman even though my heart was not fully giving even though I was holding back, I cried because of His Grace.

Today is almost a week later and I just read this post by Walking by the Way – on how God always has a plan and how they are going to pay for their adoption debt free.  God you are so good – all the time.

Ornament Making Success

This was our second year to hold our Ornament Making for a Cause. This year we were raising money for an orphanage in India. To get the word out we made a facebook page event, handed out flyers and asked our friends to tell their friends. It relaly helped that we had a positive experience last year so there were a lot of repeat guests. I made this flyer and cut it up and handed it out to all our friends early in December and many moms I know made it part of their advent calendar. Here is the flyer I used ( ornmakingflyer) email me if you would like me to send you the word version. I also printed out these ornament sheets (ornamentpictures)  to give everyone an idea of the ornaments we were making. I also printed out and laminated the instructions for the harder ornaments… I won’t post that, but I will have email links to all the ornaments we made and how each worked.
All I did to prepare is :

  • have the whole day available. The flyer said 10-4 but the last fmaily left at 6pm.
  • get all the supplies for the ornaments. I have a huge crafting supply. Some from homeschooling some from my joy of crafting. I only probably spent about $10 on supplies. There were a couple of ornaments that required some ahead prep, but I did that over a month time with my daughters so it didn’t seem like too much.
  • prepare some easy food. Luckily I have awesome friends and they brought munchkins, cookies, popcorn and some other finger foods. I made hot chocolate, white chocolate trees (the easiest treat ever to make and it was a huge hit), and I bought some fruit at costco. I probably spent another $20 in food.whitechocolatetrees
  • prepare the stations. I have a hot glue station, a table in the basement with paint and the salt dough ornaments and some ribbon, and a table upstairs for the other ornaments. I then put out all the supplies in groups with a sample ornament.
  • put out a jar with the informaiton about the donation on it.
  • put on some holiday music.

Then people come. We had over 60 people come to our house but since it is an open house even the house didn’t get too too crowded at any one particular time. This year I had the salt dough painting down stairs which was different then the previous year and I think that helped make room.

Here are the links to the ornaments we make:
Felt ornaments – I just got the idea from this site. I cut out the ornament shape from felt and the kids glued sequins, beands and buttons on.
Sled Ornament – This was the big hit this year, but it requires hot glue so there needs to be parental guidance. We did have one hot glue burn – ouch. To prepare for this ornament I spray painted the small and large popsicle sticks red, cut some to the size for the underneath piece, cut up twine, and provided sandpaper.
sledornamentsetupSnowman Ornament – These are always a hit. Last year we did them on tongue depressers this year I changed it up and used this idea. I cut out the hats and my friend Kerin cut out scarves while our kids played and then I provided googly eyes and minibuttons. These are easy and can be done with hot glue or regular glue.
Snowflake Ballerinas – These were also a huge hit and easier to make then the sleds. My awesome friend Amy of the amazing ACPPA art center gave us the print outs to use. I just used coffee filters for the skirts instead of cutting card stock, it worked out well and you could layer 2 or three of the snowflake coffee filters to make a poofy tutu.
Reindeer Ornaments – These are adorable. They need hot glue to put together but then you can regular glue the nose and eyes. I even made a little holder with tiny red pompoms that says noses… it was cute. We made these in the big and small clothespin size… my friend kelly made one for everyone in her family.
reindeerornamentSnowflake Ornaments (felt) – I prepared everything to make these, they are really easy with the fabric cutter. But they require sewing so only Amy was brave enough to try one – and it was gorgeous! But definitely not for kids This would be great at a moms get together or something.
Snowflake (pipe cleaner) – These are easy for everyone, they all look different, and they don’t use glue! I just cut the pipe cleaners to size and premade the snowflakes and then left them with a whole bunch of beads for the kids to make them
Snowflakes (origami like) – These are actually my favorite Just cut up a whole bunch of 6in x 6 in scrap paper, glue and scissors. It is too hard for a kid under 7, but the older kids loved them. You can make them in all different sizes if you use different size squares and if you use hot glue they are done instantly.
Snowflake foam – These I just got at JoAnns a couple of days before the ornament making. They were on super sale so I got 30 for $1. The kids used them all – mostly with gems glued on.
snowflakefoamFelt Wreath – These adorable ornaments are not for the faint of heart. These ornaments take about 100 felt squares to make. We used florist wire to put through each of the squares. I had 4 brave souls attempt to make the wreaths and they came out terrific even if it did take them each about 20 minutes to make them.
Salt Dough Ornaments – This year I made 6 batches of salt dough there were over 100 ornaments to be painted. We only had 15 left so they were definitely a big hit. I cut out the dough into all sorts of different holiday shapes but I made a lot of the snowman faces like the link and lots of trees. The kids love to paint the trees because then they can paint on decorations. I also took special orders for letters. We have large letter cookie cutters so it is a great way for people to make specific ornaments for their friends and family.

We also put out little red tags that I cut on the cricut and also put out little strips of paper that said “This ornament helped build an orphanage in India.” I love this part because it helps the kids understand that gifts that give to others are even more special then just regular gifts that you buy. I also think that family members enjoy getting this kind of alternative gift.

Here are some more pictures from the day.
ornamentmakingMy kids love this day. They totally don’t mind all the cleaning and preparing it takes. They love crafts and they love that at any point in the day they can go apint some ornaments or play with their friends…. so many of their friends come in and out all day long that it is just such a fun different kind of experience.

I love that this is a way for us to host somethig during the holiday time. I’m not a great cook and often hosting makes me nervous, but somethign like this for a cause centering around crafts… it’s my jam.

We love the way the donation works. We just leave the jar out and people put in whenever they want. My favorite are the kids that have been saving up and bring in all their change. That is an awesome lesson.

I didn’t realize how much my kids would be into counting the money. Sassy Pants (my younger one) organized the bills into piles while Miss Thing counted all the change and then we counted the checks and bills together. We raised $274.15. I was in awe of the generosity of those that came that often paid $20 for 10 salt dough ornaments.
countingthemoney

The whole event was a blessing and a fun time. If you are looking for a way to volunteer with your kids during the holiday season and you like crafts this maybe the event for you. If you do something like this I’d love to hear about it and hear what ornaments work well.

Ornament Making for a Cause

ornamentmaking1
When we were homeschooling last year we had time to plan ways to give back. We really wanted to do something fun and meaningful in December. So we decided to have an ornament making party. We had everything needed to make ornaments and then the people that came would make a donation. The girls and I made samples of all the ornaments and even a couple of direction sheets for the more difficult ornaments. We had the party the second Saturday of December from 10-4 – and told people to come anytime. I didn’t stress too much about food – cookies, fruit, real homemade hot chocolate (that was so incredible even weight conscious friends of mine drank their whole cup), and hot apple cider. Lots of people wante to know how much it cost per ornament but we said give what you want. Some people came and made 10 ornaments and paid $4 and some came and made 25 ornaments and gave a $20. Very few people made less than ten ornaments. It started to become a factory in here. We were turning out ornaments left and right. It was bizarrely fun, I thought for sure it might be overwhelming, but it wasn’t everyone there was so happy to be there and loved the fact that their kids got to craft and make a mess but it wasn’t on their dining room floor. Oh… I almost forgot – we made little tags that said this ornament helped buy fruit trees for a family in Africa and we put on a cute little symbol I found on the internet of a tree with hearts. Its a great gift for kids to give to family – it’s a fun ornament that they made as well as a donation for a good cause. We were able to plant 5 fruit trees… actually I think we got 10 and gave the rest to Food for the Hungry. I think we collected around $120. Here are some pictures.
ornamentmaking

I made the turquoise spice thing just for the event and I loved it. One of the holders even says snowman noses and is filled with foam carrot noses for the snowman ornaments we made. The biggest hit was the salt dough ornaments. They are so cheap and easy to make and the kids love them because they get to use paint. A side note – when making my salt dough ornaments they always come out best when I let them sit in the stovev after I’vev turned off the heat and let them stay in there over night.

We are doing it again – but this year we are raising money for an orphange in India. I’ll let you know how it goes.
ratingstarsdone

Some Christmas things that I might do next year

  1. I definitely will sign up for this Online Advent activity in November and send it as a gift to my far away cousins. This adorable advent countdown by Jacquie Lawson is precious. You have to download it to your computer but it doesn’t take too long and everyday the kids click on the ornament with that number and a new scene in the village opens up. To be totally honest the first day was kind of boring, but the next day they got to build a snowman, and in one they made stockings and a wreath. It held the attention of my 5 and 7 year olds for over an hour the first day because we had to catch up. It’s also adorable that there is a little snowglobe on the corner of your desktop to remind you to use it. It was an easy inexpensive way to get things rolling.
    Hallmark website
  2. I found Hallmark’s advent calendar of activities (through Nurture Store)  with downloadable and adorable pdfs too late into December so I’m hoping that they will have it again so that we can do it, especially on advent days where our activity is not as interactive. Some of the days are more for adults with the recipes and some videos but there really are some cute printables.
  3. For the past 4 years we have stopped sending out traditional Christmas cards and instead use the money that we would send out to buy a gift through World Vision. This year it was a goat. We do send out a year worth of pictues through Smile Box. It’s a cute, free and easy way to send a slide show with music, you can even add short videos. There are a couple of ads if you do the free version, but it is still really well done. I highly recommend it. Since we’ve been sending out ours lots of our family members have been sending out their own. Some of the slide shows allow up to 100 pictures so it’s great if you have people on your list that will actually look through that many – ours has about 40 pictures and I always wonder if people really look through the whole thing.wvgoat
    All that to say since this is our fourth year doing it and deservedly so we hadn’t been getting as many picture Christmas cards in the mail so I was telling a friend and she did an amazingly wonderful thing. She sent us a card everyday for like 7 or 8 days. Everyday it would be signed by someone else… The little Drummer Boy, Frosty, Rudolph etc. My girls adored it. We would get other cards but we always opened their first. They knew who it was from but that just made it all the better they felt very loved and cherished. I would really like to do that for someone next year. By the way,  we sent her the online advent activity… not as cool as what she did but we were hoping to return their outpouring a little bit.
  4. Small Notebook is one of the blogs that I subscribe to through email. She often just makes sense. She does a list of things to make Christmas easier and there are several I had never even thought of.. check out her post here. But one thing that I will definitely be doing next year is to read the Jesus StoryBook Bible Advent Reading plan from The Mommyhood Memos. We love our StoryBook BIble and even though we will never stop doing our Luke 2  reading during Christmas time I think this will be a nice addition to our nighttime routine.
  5. And finally I’d love to have more sit down time with my girls – just more still time – we tend to jump, run, play and generally bounce around. This year I showed them both how to embroider… real simple stuff. But I would like us to try and sew an ornament together a little each night. I don’t want to try and make one a day, but that we would work on it everyday. I love these simple shapes from Homemade by Jill.Maybe your days and nights be Merry and Bright.