Archive | Christmas RSS feed for this section

Weekly Photo Challenge: Joy (Christmas 2013)

27 Dec

We finished up with our various Christmas celebrations last night.  While this Christmas has been very bittersweet for me, it has also been very special.  I had a great time with Charlie and Maddie throughout the month of December, working on our advent calendar and making ornaments and teaching them about giving.  I also did an advent study of my own, which was a real learning experience for me.

Here are some pictures from my family’s Christmas!  I hope you get as much JOY from looking at them as we did making them!

 

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/weekly-photo-challenge-joy/

Advertisements

Keeping Focused on the Cross

23 Dec

As the month of December progresses and we get closer to Christmas day, it has become apparent to me how many things we have fighting for our attention, this month more than any other month of the year. In addition to our normal life, there are so many other things to do.  I question myself…

Have I bought enough? Have I bought too much? Did I remember to ship everything on time? Should I get a present for my 3rd cousin’s husband’s aunt?  Have I wrapped everything that I bought?  Does my wrapping paper match my Christmas decorations?

Did I do enough with the kids? Did they see Santa and get a perfect picture in his lap with matching outfits?  Did we do all of the Christmas crafts with glue and cotton balls and paint and cinnamon extract and paint and fingerprints that I pinned?  Did we do enough random-acts-of-kindness?

Did I DVR all of the Christmas cartoons?  Did the kids get to see A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer and Prep and Landing?  Did they get to eat popcorn while they watched them?

Did I forget to send a Christmas card to anyone who will be offended if they don’t get a Christmas card?  Was the picture of the kids on the Christmas card good enough?  Did I spell everything on the card correctly and spread the love of Jesus in 10 words or less?

Add to that the ridiculousness of what is in the media, plus the baking and cleaning that is required this time of year, and it is easy to lose focus.

To all of my brothers and sisters in Christ, Let’s not do that!

All of these distractions are things of the world, not of God.  Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, and nothing more.  Santa Claus and cartoons and Christmas cards are awesome and fun and I love them, but they should not distract us from the true meaning of Christmas.

DSC_0029

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.  Isaiah 9:6-7
For the next 2 days, I am going to stop worrying about the things of this world that the devil is putting in my way.  I am going to know that I am good enough because Jesus has made me good enough.  He left his home in Heaven and was born as a human and lived on this earth so that I can live without fear of sin or death. I am going to celebrate Jesus’ birthday and make sure that my kids do, too, and I will know that that is more important than any cartoons I have DVR’d or crafts I have pinned.
Merry Christmas to you all!

Why I am Loving our Christmas Tree

10 Dec

My Christmas decorations have totally changed this year, for a couple of different reasons.  First of all, we had our house painted this summer.  Our walls went from browns and yellows to blues and grays, and our furniture went from reds, greens, and golds, to blue and white.  Secondly, I really wanted to make the decorations more kid-friendly, and the kids have been making a lot of ornaments that I wanted to put on the tree.

So, even though our tree is very different from what we have had in the past, I LOVE it!

Eddie, the kids' grandpa, found a train set that we put around the tree.

Eddie, the kids’ grandpa, found a train set that we put around the tree.

 

This is a snowman made out of an egg carton-we painted the carton white, added some buttons and sequin eyes, and a strip of fabric for the scarf.  I just sat them in the tree.

This is a snowman made out of an egg carton-we painted the carton white, added some buttons and sequin eyes, and a strip of fabric for the scarf. I just sat them in the tree.

 

This is one of my favorite ornaments.  The kids dipped their fingers in white paint then made snowmen with their fingertips.  I used paint pens to add the snowman's embellishments, then wrote the kids' names and the year on the bottom of the ornament.  We have made tons of these-what a great gift.  I got this idea from Pinterest, but can't get back to the original source, so if it is your's please let me know so I can give you credit for this awesome idea!

This is one of my favorite ornaments. The kids dipped their fingers in white paint then made snowmen with their fingertips. I used paint pens to add the snowman’s embellishments, then wrote the kids’ names and the year on the bottom of the ornament. We have made tons of these-what a great gift. I got this idea from Pinterest, but can’t get back to the original source, so if it is your’s please let me know so I can give you credit for this awesome idea!

 

I made a couple of ornaments myself by mod podging strips of fabric to a  glass ball.

I made a couple of ornaments myself by mod podging strips of fabric to a glass ball.

 

One really special thing about our tree this year is that we have some ornaments from Jason's Grandma Olline, who passed away last year.  I love this one.

One really special thing about our tree this year is that we have some ornaments from Jason’s Grandma Olline, who passed away last year. I love this one.

 

This is a super-old ornament from Olline's tree.  I had to hang it very high so the kids couldn't get to it!

This is a super-old ornament from Olline’s tree. I had to hang it very high so the kids couldn’t get to it!

 

I love how our decorations and all of our Christmas traditions are evolving!

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Advent Calendar for Us Procrastinators…

30 Nov

I had really extravagant plans for an advent calendar this year.  Last year, I used one that was given to us, and it was a little over the kids’ heads and was kind of hard to put together every day.  It fell to the wayside a few days into it, I am sorry to say!

This year I had plans to make my own advent calendar using a plan put together by someone my sister-in-law goes to church with.  It was very intricate and she obviously put a lot of time and energy into planning it.  She had a calendar that included spending one day every week on a craft, one on baking, etc.  It was really awesome, but would require a lot of time on my part, also.

I woke up this morning in a panic when I realized that today was the last day of November, and I would have to make an advent calendar TODAY so we can start TOMORROW!  I pulled up the plan I was going to follow and saw right away that it just wasn’t going to work.  Not only did I not have time to get it all together, I just don’t have the time in my daily schedule it was going to require.  I wanted to go to Hobby Lobby to get some finishing touches for our tree, anyway, so I decided to see what they had in the line of advent calendars.

Honestly, I was just looking for a ready-made one with a piece of candy inside each little door…

But I am so much happier with what I ended up with.  If you sit down and just do it, it will honestly take less than half an hour to put together, so if you, like me, realized at the last minute that you have waited too long to plan your advent activity for your kids, you can throw this together pretty quickly.

I bought a cardboard advent set at Hobby Lobby.  You can use little gift boxes or bags, a cork board marked off like a calendar, a fabric pocket advent calendar, a shoe organizer, or anything else you can get your hands on.

Then I went through my old scrapbook supplies (I had to blow the dust off of that stuff!) and found numbers to put on each drawer (you will need 25 total.) You could print some pretty numbers from the Internet and glue them onto the drawers or whatever you are using, or you could just write them on there.

This is what I ended up with. I used paint pens to add some decoration, but nothing fancy. Martin, our elf, is helping me out.

 

I added this verse to the top-the whole meaning of Christmas!

I added this verse to the top-the whole meaning of Christmas!

I definitely wanted to include scripture in our advent calendar, but needed to keep it simple for a 2 and 4 year old to understand.  I found a great printable at Happy Home Fairy, one of my favorite blogs.  I really liked her advent verses, because they are so short and simple, perfect for Charlie and Maddie.

I printed her verses, cut them out, and glued them to some wintry-looking scrapbook paper.  They were so cute and fit perfectly in the drawers.  You don’t have to glue them to any other paper, but it made them a little less flimsy so they can be used again next year.

Cute!

Cute!

I put each of the cards into its corresponding box, then thought about what could be added to each box.  The easy answer: candy!

Candy, for our busy days.

Candy, for our busy days.

 

So, we are really busy tomorrow.  We have Sunday School and church, then have to go to Raleigh for Addison’s first birthday party, then have to be back at church for Christmas play practice.  For days like that, candy is definitely going in our calendar.

For other days when we have more time, I have some really great ideas.  What I love about this calendar is that you can change what you have in the drawers from day-to-day, so if I realize the night before that we can’t do something or we will have the time to do something more involved, I can easily change it up.

Here are some other ideas:

1. Stickers to decorate a glass ornament to give to someone

2. $1 to spend at the Dollar Store on a present for a grandparent

3. $5 to spend at Wal-Mart on a present to put in the Toys for Tots box at the front of the store

4. Change to put in the Salvation Army bucket

5. A few chocolate chips-then make cookies to deliver to people

6. A couple of crackers-then make soup to deliver to people

7. Small ornaments to put on their trees (Charlie and Maddie each have tiny trees in their rooms)

One suggestion from the original advent calendar I was going to attempt was to put in copies (shrunk, of course) of the covers of books we are going to read that day.  That would be really fun to do, and you could do the same for movies you are going to watch.

I have a couple of dollars stuck in our drawer for Thursday, so we can swing by the Dollar Tree after story time to pick up some little gifts for someone special.

I have a couple of dollars stuck in our drawer for Thursday, so we can swing by the Dollar Tree after story time to pick up some little gifts for someone special.

 

Some cute little ornaments for Maddie's Christmas tree

Some cute little ornaments for Maddie’s Christmas tree

 

I am looking forward to starting this with the kids tomorrow.  Hopefully, if you are a procrastinator sometimes like me, you can take this basic idea and make it your own!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light!

29 Nov

Well, Thanksgiving is over, and I hope you all had a great one!  I have really enjoyed this month and I am looking forward with anticipation to December.  I don’t remember ever loving the holiday season as much as I am this year.

I have been trying for WEEKS to get some pics of the kids for Christmas cards, but I just can’t get the perfect one!  It is driving me crazy.  Yesterday I tried to get some of them in front of one of the little trees they have in their bedrooms.  They turned out okay, but still not quite what I was looking for.  I do love the light coming from the tree, though.

Charlie was just happy to be in his PJ's in the middle of the day!

Charlie was stuffed from Thanksgiving lunch!

 

He is so precious-I love the light reflecting on Charlie's face here.

He is so precious-I love the light reflecting on Charlie’s face here.

 

I do love this one of Maddie-she is bringing out her inner supermodel.

I do love this one of Maddie-she is bringing out her inner supermodel.

 

...and her silly face!

…and her silly face!

 

Wishing you all the peace that only God can give...

Wishing you all the peace that only God can give…

 

...and some love, too!

…and some love, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Four Christmases” Watkins’ Style

30 Dec

I know that every family now has a crazy, hectic Christmas, so we’re not so special or different from others, but I will say that we have a lot to do over the holidays.  What made our Christmas so hectic this year was not the number of family obligations that we had, but the number of major get-togethers and events that we held at our house this year, beginning right after Thanksgiving.

First, I had a Small Business Saturday Open House here on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  As I said in an earlier post, my sisters and I are starting up a business.  (You can check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/mommyinbonlee or at one of our shops: etsy.com/mommyinbonlee or mommyinbonlee.storenvy.com. )  We had several local vendors and craftspeople over to sale their things and it was a big success.  I really live in a great community.  This was just the beginning of a busy month.

A couple of weeks after that, we were part of another vendor fair at a local school.  This was to raise money for the 8th grade students to take a trip to NYC.  This one, not so successful.  That night, we had Jason’s office Christmas party at my house (along with  my mom’s and step-brother’s offices).  I will admit, by this point I was a little stressed and Charlie was watching a lot of TV!  All of the cute Christmas crafts I had pinned were getting pushed aside!

The next week, I had a cookie exchange at my house.  This was the 3rd annual one, and it is always fun and everyone leaves with lots of great cookies.

In the midst of all of this, I am doing tons of stuff at my church right now.  I am on the pastor search committee, teaching 2 classes, helping with youth, working on the bulletin, and helped decorate our church for Christmas.

Then there was just all of the normal Christmas stuff-buying and wrapping gifts, cooking and cleaning, looking at lights and visiting Santa Clause.  Not to mention Martin, our Elf on the Shelf, who had to magically fly to the North Pole every night and show up at a different spot in our house the next morning!  There was more than one morning when I would hear Charlie’s bedroom door open and have to jump out of bed to make a mad dash to move Martin to a different spot.

Anyway, Christmas has come and gone.   We did have to cut out Christmas Eve in Mt. Airy, which was kind of bitter sweet for me.  I enjoyed being home on Christmas Eve and it was much easier on all of us, but I kept looking at the clock that night and imagining what my family was doing at that moment.

Charlie was so much fun this year.  He was in his Christmas play at church and was absolutely hilarious. Charlie was a shepherd and had 2 lines: “Mighty God” and “Amazing.”  If I never have to listen to “Census Time in Bethlehem” again I won’t mind!

Superstarrrrr!

Superstarrrrr!

He loved Santa this year and the only thing he asked for was a reindeer and sleigh.  Santa ended up bringing him a smaller version of his reindeer and sleigh.  He also got some pirate stuff and some construction things.

A new pirate ship from Santa!

A new pirate ship from Santa!

Maddie is a hot mess:

Jumping off her new stool....

Jumping off her new stool….

Maddie's new earrings...

Maddie’s new earrings…

She got a new kitchen and tons of stuff for her bebes, as she calls them.  She is a good little Mama.  The girl thinks she is grown.  She won’t be 2 until February, but she decided yesterday that she wants to use the potty.  I really look forward to the day that I don’t have to buy or change diapers, but the girl takes forever on the potty!  She throws a tantrum if I don’t have half an hour for her to sit on the potty.  It is crazy!!!

Anyway, Christmas is over and, while I did really enjoy Christmas this year, I feel very unstressed right now.  I always love January and the new year for the cleansing power that it always seems to have for me.  I just love a chance to start over and feel new.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to write in this blog more.  I really have enjoyed looking back at the little I have written over the past few years and I look forward to this new venture with my sisters.  If you do read this, please keep us in your prayers that we are doing God’s will and that everything be used for His good!

One thing I do want to share (for the few who will make it to the end of this long post:)) is this yummy soup recipe that I have simplified and perfected.  I made a huge crockpot full for a soup dinner at my church a few weeks ago, and it is so good.  I always double it and freeze the leftovers for later.

Cheeseburger Soup

1 bag of matchstick carrots

1 onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 bag of frozen potatoes (either hashbrowns or southern style)

3 cans of chicken broth

1/2 pound of hamburger meat

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup sour cream

1/2 lb Velveeta cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Brown the meat in a large pot.  While it is browning, add the onions and celery.  Cook until the meat is done and the onions and celery are clear.  Drain and return to pot.  Add the potatoes, carrots,  and the chicken broth.  Simmer until the potatoes are hot and the carrots are tender.  While this is cooking, melt the butter over low heat and add the flour.  Stir until thick and set aside.  When the meat and veggies are done, add the flour mixture to thicken the soup.  Stir well, then add the cheese cut into blocks along with the milk.  Stir until the cheese is melted.  Add the sour cream right before serving.

This is really great with some toast with butter on it or some good bread!  Maddie loves this soup so much that she just tips the bowl up and drinks it!

Cheeseburger Soup-so good!

Cheeseburger Soup-so good!

Here’s me, the survivor:

Wearing my new shirt-thanks Mama!

Wearing my new shirt-thanks Mama!

 

A Great New Use for Empty Baby Wipes Containers

27 Dec

Well, Christmas is over and we are dealing with the aftermath of the toys.  They are everywhere!  Right now Charlie and I are deciding what toys we are going to put away for awhile to bring out later and what toys are going to be given to Emma, my neice who will be born in March. I am coming up with lots of different organizational ideas for all of the toys.  Here’s one idea:

I had 2 children in diapers for about 7 months, so I have thrown out (well, we did recycle them) a gazillion baby wipes containers.  I just came up with a great idea for them. 

I have been trying to keep up with all of Charlie’s little matchbox cars.  It seems that they are everywhere, and there is nothing worse than stepping on one of them barefoot in the middle of the night.  I decided to put some of the enpty containers to use to hold small toys.  Use foam letter stickers to label the containers with whatever toy you need to gain control over, and there you go! I made one for cars, people, and animals.  I think I am going to also make one for trucks.  This would also be a great way to store art supplies.

One unexpected plus of this system is that Maddie (10 months) really loves taking the toys out and putting them back in the small slots at the top of the containers.  That is great fun for her.

Like A Kid Again

21 Dec

The great thing, I am learning, about celebrating Christmas with children is that the excitement and impatience that I once had as a child has returned, although in a slightly different way.  Remember when you were a small child and counting down the days to Christmas, and finally Christmas Eve would arrive and that night would go on FOREVER?  It would be so hard to go to sleep knowing that Santa could be downstairs at that very moment, putting out your presents.

As I have gotten older, I have lost those feelings.  Christmas has turned into a holiday of stress and spending.  Jason and I both have divorced parents, and my dad lives almost 2 hours away.  We dreaded the driving, the constant eating, and quite honestly were just exhausted when it was all over.

Now, with Charlie and Maddie here, things are looking up for us this Christmas.  Charlie will be 3 in May, so this Christmas he will really know what is going on.  We have cut out spending Christmas Eve in Mt. Airy with my family and will instead make the drive home that night so we can wake up at home.  I think I will be so excited to see Charlie’s face that I will wake him up  on Christmas morning!  I can’t wait.  Maddie is only 10 months old, so she won’t really know what is going on yet, but I am looking forward to dressing her up for church on Christmas day.

The best thing about having children is that they force us to quit being such adults, for at least a little while!

Insane Santa

2 Dec

Well, it is December.  We made it through fall and Thanksgiving relatively unscathed.  Maddie will be 10 months old in a couple of days and Charlie is officially 2 1/2.  This Christmas is going to be super fun, if I can survive the shopping rush without turning into one of those crazy moms fighting over a Rocking Elmo in the middle of Wal-Mart.

I have always looked down on parents who over-buy for their children.  I’m sorry, but spending hundreds of dollars so each of your children can have 20 presents from Santa is ridiculous, and I will stand by that opinion.  However, I can definitely see how easily one can be drawn into the bad habit of overdoing it with the gifts.  Everything I see I think, “That would be perfect for Charlie,” or “Maddie will love this.” The thought of their smiling, gleeful faces on Christmas morning sends me straight for the American Express.  I consider myself to have quite a bit of self-control, so I know that showing restraint in this area must be really hard for some people. 

I have had to just make myself stop at this point.  Charlie is getting an Elmo, workbench, train table, legos, and some stocking stuffers.  Maddie has a ball popper, Bitty Baby, a wooden bead toy, and some other little toys.  That’s enough, right?  Of course it is.  I just have to maintain a calm, cool composure and forward all future ideas to the two Gagas.