Christmas Traditions

I absolutely love Christmas and all of the traditions that go along with it.

Since becoming a mother, however, I have struggled with the whole concept of “Santa”.

I know, its weird.

I never imagined Santa being something that would cause concern to me, but I have thought long and hard over the whole concept.

Why?

I feel like I’m lying to my children when I tell them that a man dressed in red from the north pole travels the entire world (by flying reindeer, nonetheless) and gives presents to good girls and boys on Christmas Eve.

I just feel weird saying it.  I honestly have a hard time becoming enthusiastic about the whole idea.

It doesn’t help that Jon isn’t that much into Santa.

Growing up, my parents went all out with the whole Santa tradition.  I just assumed that I would do the same with my kids, only I had no clue how difficult it would be for me.

To make a long story short, I simply decided to go along with the tradition of Santa for the sake of my kids.

Even though its hard for me, I try to be enthusiastic.  Granted, I don’t answer all of Lizzie’s questions regarding Santa because there are only so many “lies” that I can handle.

Jon kind of stays out of the picture altogether in regards to Santa.  He tries to play along, but he’s worse at “lying” than I am.

I truly believe in the “spirit” of Santa.  I believe in what he represents.  I love the story.  I simply struggle with putting forth a hard and honest effort to force my kids to believe in something that isn’t completely true.

I can’t help but wonder if I’m the only mother out there who struggles so much with the concept of Santa.

Anyway, enough about Santa.

🙂

Here is a little bit of what we are going to start doing on December 1st.

My talented Mom made this cute little advent box calendar.  It was just collecting dust at her house and so she said that I could have it!

She made it out of large match boxes.  She emptied all of the boxes (and I’m sure ended up with a life-time supply of matches), covered them with scrapbook paper, numbered them, and then attached them together in the shape of a Christmas tree.  It’s awesome!  And the best part about it is that I didn’t have to make it myself. 🙂

The boxes are large enough to put things inside of it, which I try to use to its full capacity!

Every day leading up to Christmas, the kids will open the correct box and complete the activities inside.

Each box will have a piece of a Nativity Puzzle.  I printed out the Puzzle on card stock and laminated the pieces.  I also laminated the puzzle board so that it can be used year after year.  Rather than gluing, the kids just tape the puzzle pieces to their correct spots.  The puzzle will be completed by Christmas Eve.

There are also a few scriptures in each box that we will read together.  If you check out the website where I got the nativity puzzle, it also has a list of 25 scriptures and activities to go along with those scriptures.  These activities are mainly service-oriented, which is very appealing to me.

Each box will also contain a letter of the alphabet and a scripture reference.  I got these from the friend last December.

If we have time, each box will also contain a picture of a craft/activity that we can do together.  The crafts are very simple and use things that we already have lying around the house, for the most part.  I’ll post later on regarding some of the crafts and activities that we end up doing. 🙂

And, since I’m trying to get enthusiastic about Santa, there will be 2 cotton balls in each box.  The kids will glue one cotton ball onto Santa’s beard each day.  Lizzie did this last year and loved it. 🙂

Here’s the link to the Santa’s Beard PDF that we use.

When I mentioned that my Mom is talented, I wasn’t joking.  She made us this cute little Elf Christmas Countdown for us a few years ago.  On one side it says “How many days…” and then we place the correct number of days until Christmas on the other side.

Each box will contain the correct number for them to slide into the slot!

So, there you have it.  Starting December 1st, we’re getting busy!  And that cute little present box in the center is currently filled with Christmas M&M’s.  Because Christmas simply wouldn’t be Christmas without red and green M&M’s. 🙂

Oh, and although I have struggled with Santa, I have never struggled with the concept of stockings.  I bought these simple stockings a few years ago for $1.00 and then used felt to embellish them.  I just made Mason’s a few days ago.  They were easy to make and I just love the personalization of them.

I am feeling so blessed.

Recently, it seems as if we have become aware of so many people who are experiencing the most heart-wrenching trials imaginable.  It just pains us to see.  We are at a complete loss as to how we can help our family and friends.

Seeing so many people suffering around us has truly caused us to feel so much gratitude for what we have.  I can’t help but feel guilty that other people have had to suffer before we came to that realization.

We are blessed so much more than what we deserve.

I am so grateful.

Goodbye Shonda

We are moving this weekend.  It is definitely a bitter-sweet moment.  We really, really have outgrown this house and it is time to get something bigger.  But…this has been such a good home for us.  When we moved in, Mikey was 18 months old and could walk under our kitchen table without hitting his head.  Now he’s more than half my height.  I could sit here and list all of the big and small ways that living here has affected our life and all of the things these walls would say about how our family has grown, but I will settle with a few pictures of how we spent our morning:  Waiting for Shonda.

Every morning for the past four years one or all of my children have waited at the window to run out and say hi to Shonda and watch her take our trash away.  She is a gem of a woman.  So kind to my kids and always honking and waving and asking them how they’re doing.  Today was Riley’s last trash pick up day so he drew her a picture and waited impatiently.

Saying goodbye to Shonda started the process that will happen over the next few days of saying goodbye to four years of memories.  Thank you house and thank you Shonda.

Leftover Turkey Soup

We cooked a 24 pound turkey on Thanksgiving and I think we were left with 20 pounds of it.  We have been eating turkey sandwiches daily but I decided today that it was time for a change.  I made this turkey soup for dinner and it was delicious!  It makes A TON and it’s a healthy way to use up all the turkey instead of throwing it in the trash.

Ingredients

6 cups of chicken broth

2-3 cups of chopped turkey

3 stalks of celery, chopped

3 carrots, sliced

1 diced onion

1 can of corn

Seasoning desired (parsley, salt, pepper)

I just put all of the ingredients in the pot and let it simmer for an hour.  Then I boiled some wide egg noodles and poured my soup on top of those.  I forgot how sick I was of turkey while I was eating this 🙂  Perfect meal for a cold, post-Thanksgiving, winter night.

Alphabet Egg Carton Game

Tara and I have both been blog slackers this past week.  We have had other things on our minds (along with having our family come and visit us for the Thanksgiving holiday) and this blog quickly took the back seat! 🙂

Anyway, I wanted to share this super easy alphabet egg carton game that Bryce and Lizzie both enjoy.

But first…are you still praying for Luke?

Keep praying!

🙂

And while you’re at it, pray for our friend, Tessa, who is fighting cancer for the 3rd time.

Man, hate is a strong word.  But I really do hate cancer!

But I suppose that there is a purpose for it in the whole scheme of things…right?

Anyway, I’m changing the subject.

🙂

All that you need for this game is alphabet beads (I found mine at Wall-mart in the craft isle), a few egg cartons, and alphabet stickers.

Aren’t those beads aesthetically pleasing?

Using the alphabet stickers, place one letter in each egg cup.  I placed mine in order, although you don’t have to.

To play, grab a bead.

Then look at the bead and identify the letter (or sound, or think of a word that begins with that letter, etc.)

Then place the bead in its correct spot.

That’s it!

Keep going until the beads are gone or until your child doesn’t want to play anymore.

Bryce loves the alphabet beads.  He always looks for his favorite letter first – “B” for “Bryce”.

Have fun!

🙂

Pray for Luke!

We found out on Tuesday that our dear friends nearly 6-month-old baby boy, Luke, has cancer.

Yes, the dreaded “C” word.

A mother’s absolute worst nightmare.

I felt my heart literally drop to my toes and the tears began falling.

He’s only 6 months old! 

Only a few short months younger than Mason, which makes it feel so much closer to home.

There is absolutely nothing in this world more innocent and joyful than a baby.

Just look at that cutie!

If that picture doesn’t motivate you to pray, I’m not sure what will.

How can his parents possibly cope with this news?

They seem to be doing much better than I would be doing if I were in the same situation!

We don’t live near our friends now, but we did visit them when Luke was only a few weeks old.  He is such a precious little baby!  And he belongs to a wonderful family.

Why does it seem that such hard things happen to the best of people?

When I found out about this sweet baby boys diagnosis, my own three babies were already asleep.  The only thing that I wanted to do was wake them up all up and hold them close.  Especially Mason.

I couldn’t sleep last night, and I don’t anticipate much sleep tonight either.  I can’t turn my emotions off.

The lump in my throat just won’t go away.  I am on a continuous verge of tears.

My heart is aching for Luke.

My heart is aching for his parents, Katie and Danny.  I hope and pray that they have the strength to get through this!

My heart is aching because I long so badly to do something, anything, to help and I know that (due to my distance from them) there is absolutely nothing that I can do but pray.

All day today I didn’t want to put Mason down.  I wish that I could be close to Luke and give him my love, but I can’t.  So I suppose that I’m psychologically transferring my longing to hug Luke to completely smothering my own baby.

Last night, as soon as Mason made a single peep, I rushed to him.  Normally, I would have waited to see if he would cry himself back to sleep.  But not last night!  I nursed him, held him close, and cuddled him for nearly an hour.  Twice.

I’ll do the same thing tonight, and who knows how many more consecutive nights.  I don’t have the strength or desire right now to allow my baby to “cry it out” in an effort to sleep train him.

There are more important things in life than a well sleep-trained baby.

Today, I tried to focus a little more on those more important things.

When Bryce woke up and began pounding on his door, as usual, I tried not to get upset.  When Lizzie and Bryce fought about their cereal bowls and spoons, I ignored it.  When Bryce ran around the house and refused to allow me to put his shoes on so that we could get in the car, I chose to be patient.

There are more important things in life.

Why does it matter if there is clutter all over the kitchen counter?  Junk that I can’t seem to ever find a home for?

Why does it matter that the house looked like a war zone this morning because the toys never got put away last night, as usual?

Does it really matter that the laundry rarely gets folded and put away?

No, it really doesn’t.

Why do I waste my time thinking about and feeling bad about such insignificant things?

These things really don’t matter.

The only thing that truly matters are the people in your life and your relationships with them.

We all have the opportunity to choose how we occupy our time.

Today, I’m choosing to spend my time doing the things that matter most.

I’m choosing to smother my kids with hugs and kisses.

I’m choosing to be filled with joy and gratitude every single time I look at each of my children.

I’m choosing to not sweat the small stuff.

And I am surely going to pray like crazy for sweet little Luke and his family.

Could you all pray as well?

I’m sure that they can use all of the prayers that they can possibly get.

You just never know what life will throw in your direction.

Sometimes, the only thing that you can do is pray.

Pray hard for Luke!

Thank you!

So Life Isn’t Perfect….And Neither Am I

There are a lot of people I know that I look at sometimes and think, wow, their life seems perfect.  Even I know enough to say ‘seems’ instead of ‘is’, but even then, I know that it probably isn’t true.  I know that everyone has their specific issues that keep their life from being perfect.  Who knows, maybe someone even looks past my eyes that alternate between tired and stressed out, and think I have a perfect life too.  I do have it pretty good, I’m not going to lie.  But I do have those moments where I definitely think things could be better :).

My imperfect mommy moments just in the last week:

I was talking to my sister and Riley was standing next to me trying to get my attention.  I could tell he was doing something unusual by my sister’s glances his way, but I kept pushing him off so I could finish what I was saying.  When I finally turned to him, I saw he was making funny faces at me with a plastic bag on his head.  Yes…best mom ever.  My sister said she didn’t say anything because she thought I let him do that all the time.  Ha ha.

Picking Mikey up from school can get pretty hectic.  We usually park in a pretty good spot and make good time.  Last week I heard parking cops were giving tickets to anyone who parks in that area now, so I went searching for a new spot.  I couldn’t believe it when I found a spot a little ways away from where I meet Mikey and no one was there!  When I got back from Mikey’s class, I realized why no one was there.  I had parked on the cross walk and the crossing guard lectured me while I tried to buckle my kids in as fast as possible so people could stop going around my car.  Sometimes I’m not all there.

I was cleaning up the living room while dinner was cooking, trying to make the house look like I did something that day before Michael got home from work.  I heard a loud bang and Ty screaming from the kitchen.  I ran in there and he was sitting on his bottom right next to the now open oven.  He must’ve held onto the bar and fell over to open it.  I checked his hands and luckily he had been too scared from the fall to grab inside the door, but I felt horrible!  Bad mommy moment #1,238,998.

Even with all my mistakes…Riley stopped me from shutting his door at bedtime and said, I really love you, Mommy.  And I like you.  A lot.

While I am trying to rise above my imperfections, sometimes life will throw me a couple of bumps.

Yesterday I had so much planned for the day and for some reason I kept putting it off and putting it off.  Mikey was home from school for Veteran’s Day and one extra body in the house really put me off my game.  I finally decided to leave a little bit early to Mikey’s basketball practice and run some much-needed errands.  I had all the kids buckled in the car when I looked down and noticed that our rear, left tire was all the way flat.  Like metal on concrete flat.  I actually said a prayer of thanks that I even noticed it because I’m not known to be the most observant person.  It could’ve been worse if I had driven all over on it.  I got the kids out of the car and locked the door and closed it and then realized that my keys were in the ignition still.  Woops.  Locked out of the house and couldn’t go anywhere.  Once again, I was saved because since our house is for sale we have our keys in a lock box on the door and I was able to get those out and get inside.

Later that night, I started getting increasingly nauseated.  There has been this crazy flu going around our social circles and Ty is the only one in our house that has had his flu shot.  I went to bed at 9 and woke up to sounds of Michael retching.  Not because he was sick, but because Mikey had thrown up all over his bed and pajamas and Michael was cleaning it up so I wouldn’t have to do it while I was sick.  He sat with Mikey all night and watched him puke in a bowl over and over when that is his least favorite thing to do.  He even got to call in sick today and go get a new tire for the car and run my errands so I could rest all day with my little sicko child.

So yes, things aren’t perfect.  Like is sweet and sour.  But we can decide whether we dwell on the lemons or the sugar and whether we can make life say, “What?!”

A Few Turkey-ish Activities

Here are just a few Turkey-ish activities that we have been up to so far this November!

1.  We make these cute little hand print/foot print Turkey’s every year and I just think they are so adorable!  They are also small enough to save so it has been neat to see the difference in sizes from year to year.  If you can’t tell, the brown body is Bryce’s foot (traced onto construction paper) and the feathers are his hand prints.

Lizzie had to do the entire thing all by herself this year. 🙂

2.  We also make one of these gratitude trees every year.  The trunk of the tree is the kids’ hand print and they record something that they are thankful for on each of the tree’s leaves.  I wrote down what Bryce wanted me to and he glued the leaves where he wanted to.  I usually cut the leaves to actually resemble leaves…I got lazy this year! 🙂  Lizzie, of course, wanted to do everything by herself again.  She wouldn’t even allow me to assist her with the spelling of words.  Little Miss Independent! 🙂

This craft is also small enough to save and I have enjoyed looking at the similarities and differences from years past.

3.  I found this cute little “Roll a Turkey” game on Oopsey Daisey’s website.  I didn’t really want to make the game as she suggested, so I made mine with felt instead.  Much easier…and just as much fun! 🙂

4.  I made the obvious discovery that baby food jar lids are magnetic.  🙂  I save all of mine for no specific reason.  Bryce loves doing any kind of fishing game, so I thought of a turkey fishing game that he loves!  I printed off 10 turkeys, colored them, numbered them 1 – 10, and taped them to 10 different baby food jar lids.  Bryce uses our dinky little “fishing pole” (made out of a ruler, string, and a magnet) to fish the number turkey’s.  I am willing to try anything to get that kid to learn! 🙂

5.  Remember the Jack-0-lantern matching game that I posted about last month?  Well, I thought that it would be cool to come up with the same type of activity, only turkey-ish. 🙂  So I took pictures of 12 different turkey’s (I only switched their feathers around, however, I think it would have been neat to switch the feet position, head position, etc.) and the kids create matching turkey’s.

Simple…but fun! 🙂

6.  Since I was taking pictures for the turkey matching game above, I decided to take pictures of turkey’s with different numbers of feathers at the same time.  This is a number matching game for Bryce.  He counts the feathers on the turkey and then places the correct number next to the picture.

By the way, the pictures that I took were horrible.  I took them really fast and hurried and had them printed out at Wall-mart.  I didn’t realize how bad they were until I saw them…oh well! 🙂

Anyway, I hope I gave you a few fun ideas!

I’m always trying to think of new learning activities for my kids…mostly because I get bored of doing the same things all of the time!  I love it how holiday’s present so many opportunities for creativity! 🙂

Gratitude Jar from Paper Coterie

By now it’s probably pretty obvious that I love Paper Coterie and you are all probably going there on your own…  But they have another cute idea for the holidays that I couldn’t help but pass along.  I know Andrea already posted an awesome idea about Gratitude Jars, this is just another option, or one you can do on top of hers.  I know we’re doing both 🙂  Just follow this link, download, and enjoy!

 

Simple and Inexpensive Felt/Magnet Board

This could not have been an easier project.

It took less than a minute!

But it is so incredibly useful!

It’s a magnet board (for ABC magnets, etc.) AND a felt board…in one!

I bought a cookie sheet from the dollar store (for the magnetic side).

And then I hot-glued a piece of craft felt to the back of it (for the felt board side).

I just had to trim a tiny bit off of the width of the felt in order for it to fit exactly.

Perfection!

Lizzie wanted a purple one and Bryce requested a red one.

They each have their own little space in which to play with magnets and create beautiful masterpieces with felt!

My kids love it when I sit down next to them with my box of scrap felt.  I just go crazy cutting a variety of shapes per their requests.

Playing with a felt board never gets old.

🙂

Have fun!

🙂

Thankful Turkey Tree

We do this tree every year.  The kids get 8 turkey leaves and Mommy and Daddy get a giant turkey at the base of the tree.  All you do is trace your little ones handprints and let them write one thing they are thankful for on each one.  Sometimes the kids get their own tree.  This year we all shared.  It’s a fun way to teach gratitude because what kid doesn’t love tracing their hand?