Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Half way there!

 We are halfway to Christmas already! This Advent season has been really special to us as a family. We have been enjoying a lot of time together and really trying to keep things simple and spend most of our time at home. With out two little ones, this seems to make life a lot less stressful. Here's a little recap of our Advent activities (as Ellie calls them) thus far. The great thing we've discovered about it is that the smallest things mean the most to her so we are trying to keep it simple. So, if a little bit more involved activity is planned, and we don't feel up to it, we can switch it up. The beauty of her not being able to read yet! I was sick the first few days of December so we didn't start till a bit later.

Day 1: Pick out our Christmas tree. Ellie was all about running through the trees. Of course, she wore her work gloves like her Daddy.

Day 2: Decorate our trees.

Ellie loved pulling out all of the ornaments for her little tree.

This tree has been decorated and redecorated a few times...

Helping with the big tree.

Day 3: Make gingerbread cookies. So, ever since this night, everytime Ellie pulls the ornament out for the day she thinks it's time to bake again... "Oh, tonight we can make wisemen (or fill in the blank, stable, holly, you get the point) cookies." This girl loves to bake, and eat the goods!

Day 4: Make Christmas cards to mail to soldiers. 

In charge of the supplies.

Day 5: Go to the Living nativity. 

Look at these two littles bundled up together :)

Day 6: Make jingle bell bracelets and shakers.

This girl loves a "project"

Day 7: Watch a Christmas movie with hot chocolate. 

PS I had never made homemade hot chocolate before and it was so easy (just used the recipe on the cocoa) and way better!

Each night, Ellie and Eric pull out the ornament for the night, read the devotional and verse and then do the activity. Ellie loves "looking up the verse" in her little Bible.


Day 8: Make a gingerbread nativity.

I think Eric and I got into this more than Ellie...

Day 9: Christmas shopping for the family.

Let's just say y'all have some goodies coming your way, all picked out by Ellie...

Day 10: Have a little Christmas party for some friends.

A friend of mine made Ellie one of these little surprise balls for a Christmas gift and she loved it! You wrap up little things inside crepe paper and the little gifts fall out as they unwrap it! Great stocking idea! So, we made one for our little party,

Ellie with her buddy Hannah!

Day 11: Read the Christmas story and act it out.

Waiting for the show to begin.

Did you know the shepherds rode the sheep to come see baby Jesus???

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Come on in!

Little disclaimer: This post might be way boring to some of y’all, and that’s OK… Decorating’s not everyone’s thing, I get it :) 

For the rest of y’all… I love decorating for Christmas and I love going into people’s homes around Christmas time to see their home’s all dressed up too! I think homes decorated for Christmas give you a little glimpse into that family and their traditions and history. I just love it. But, the downer is, a lot of people who are dear to me live so far away that we often don’t get to cozy up in our homes together this time of year. So, I am having a Holiday Open House… Blog style. So come on in and have a look around! (I know, some of y’all are just amazed at how much corniness I have already included in this post… ahem, Kelly…)

The living room. I love having the tree up. The house smells sweeter and all the lights just make everything so much cozier.

I also love pulling out the ornaments, especially the sentimental ones.

Kelly gave us this when I was super pregnant with Ellie, starting the tradition of giving their nieces and nephews an ornament each year.

And this one, to celebrate the arrival of sweet little Will just a few days before Christmas last year.

Oh, and this one :) Eric gave this to me our first year married. We joke about it. I think his taste has changed a bit since then. But it is oh so sweet and sentimental :)

I love these stockings. My mom made them for us last year as a Christmas gift. 

Eric's mom sent us this sweet nativity set this year which has seen a lot of play. Just today I found the whole gang loaded up in Ellie's wagon taking a little ride. She has loved playing with it! I love how hand-made it looks.

Some Christmas pillows. Mamma made the tree ones for us this year. 

Into the dining room. A blessing of a tiny home- you can decorate every nook and cranny!

I'm that person who makes her husband take all the extra trimmings from all the other Christmas tree sales from home depot that night (think I learned that from you mom :) And Eric is the husband who wears gloves to pick out the tree, not because it's super cold but because it gives him a better grip on the trees when he's pounding them out to check their shape, and who doesn't even think twice about loading up the back of the car with the fallen branches.

This is where our Christmas cards live. Another one of my favorite parts of Christmas!

The center piece. Minus the advent candles...

And our Advent calendar. This was my big project this year. I wanted to have something to use to countdown Christmas as well as incorporate a little daily devotional and fun family activity. So, I got this idea from my sweet friend Ellen. Each day there is a little ornament that is in each pocket. They all symbolize something. I debated doing all "Christian" ornaments (e.g. Joseph, Mary, star, etc.), but ended up also incorporated some other Christmas items like the candy cane and gingerbread man. There is some really neat symbolism behind most of the things we see at Christmas. I thought this would be good because as we are out and about, we could talk about this as we see these things. 

Each day, we read a verse, talk about the symbolism of the ornament, and then do something together as a family, either something fun or something that reaches out to others. This year, some of the stuff is over Ellie's head, but the whole point is to make Christmas about the coming of Christ, and this focuses our attention on this each day as we anticipate being another day closer. I think Eric and I get something out of it to. Just being in the scriptures and talking about the symbolism of all things pointing back to God's sacrificial gift for us all.

My friend Ellen and I (mostly Ellen I should say)  typed up a devotional to go with each of the ornaments. I would be glad to e-mail it to anyone if interested (just let me know in the comments). It could be used alone without a tree or anything.
Here is a sample of one of the days readings:

The Christmas tree
“I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” John 6:47

Christmas trees are an evergreen, which means it’s leaves are green all year long. This reminds us of the hope that we have in Christ. It’s needles point up which reminds us that our hope is not in this world but in the one to come. It also reminds us of the tree that was used to make the cross that Jesus would one day die on for each of us. But, just as the Christmas tree is cut down, it is later erected and made beautiful when we put them up in our home. In the same way, Christ died, yet he was raised from the dead and reigns victoriously!

Lord, thank you are our hope. Thank you that You were willing to come to earth as a baby and later die for each of us. Thank you for the gift of salvation that is ours in You alone.

Read: The Legend of the Christmas Tree, The Three Trees
Activity: Get and put up our tree! Enjoy falling asleep each night to the glow of your own tree in your room!

I hope this season, regardless of the fun things we may do, that we keep our hearts quiet (there's the kicker) and looking to Christ. Speaking of Him and anticipating the day when will be with Him. 

An after thought before I share...
*** This is just a little bit of what we're doing this year, and it is so not for everyone. For example, last year, I barely "did" Christmas. I was super pregnant  back aching, husband gone the whole month due to coaching, and had a 6 day old baby on Christmas day. So, life is full of seasons. There are times when certain things work and are possible, and times when they just don't make the priority list. Please don't do what I do so, so much and compare your life to someone else's. Remember, we're often comparing our "behind the scenes" with some one's "hi-light reels" (no, I'm not that witty, I saw it on Pinterest, of course) So, this is just what I like to do, so I do it. You might not, so don't :) Just some thoughts coming from a (slowly)  recovering comparison-a-holic. (Yes, I did make that one up, sadly.) If this paragraph seems irrelevant or confusing, sorry!

Monday, December 3, 2012

So much to be thankful for

Oh, it's finally that wonderful time of year. I have always loved this time of year. Some of my happiest memories are around Christmas. 

But, before these past weeks slip away, I want to stop and remember. And be thankful.

The past few days I have been sick. And, you can ask Eric, I don't do sick well. I can't remember not being sick and can't imagine that life will ever be normal again. You know, dramatic stuff like that..

So, I thought it would be a good time to stop and remember some of the good things in life right now. Saying goodbye to a cozy fall and gladly welcoming the Advent season.

We spent the week of Thanksgiving in Florida. I got to help my mom plan an 80th birthday party for Nana. I love doing stuff like this. It just does my soul good to create and put things together. Especially when it focuses around 80 years of a wonderful life! 

So thankful to have been so close to my grandparents for as long as I can remember! Love you both so much! By the way, Nana is the most faithful blog reader. There have been a few times I've about quit blogging, but then felt so bad because I knew my Nana would be down there checking daily :)

Thankful for the beauty that surrounds my parent's house. 

For good food and catching up with family.

Thankful for these two as well. Who, by the way, celebrate 30 years of marriage tomorrow! 

Sad that we don't live closer to grandparents but always try to soak in and enjoy the moments when they are together.

And these two, they make me happy. 

Thankful for this little one. She has taught me one of the biggest things I've ever learned and will continue learning everyday that I live, how to be a mamma.

First Thanksgiving as a family of four. Eric and I- look sleep deprived, kids never sleep well when we travel, Will- where's the food?? Ellie- looking be-ragged after a full day of playing and running free, and, of course, mischievous. 

Might be his favorite holiday... I mean, do you see those little hands? One shoved into his mouth and the other one loaded and waiting. He is an eating machine!

Post-Thanksgiving dinner shot. Full and happy. And messy from head to toe (literally.)

Oh, sweet Will, you will never know what it means to be bored or lack entertainment. 

So, tonight, I am choosing to think about these things. I love what my sweet friend Steph said here about being blessed. How it is good to give thanks when we are happy and feeling it. I so agree, in doing that, it makes it easier to give thanks when times are harder. The blessings are more near the front of our minds when we reflect on them more. So, I am choosing to do this tonight. Ignoring feeling bad or the mountains of laundry, but focusing on these sweet blessings. 

One day, I'll be able to live with the messes, tantrums, and "did not go as planned" moments with ease, still just soaking in the blessings I've been given. Not there yet. But, hoping that's the direction I'm heading.

So, good bye fall! You gave us a spectacular performance of color and your weather was just right. We had more time with Eric then in a long time and spent a lot of time together, living a slow, simple season.

I'll end moving us toward Christmas with some of the lines from one of my favorite Christmas songs.


Somedays we forgetTo look around usSomedays we can't seeThe joy that surrounds usSo caught up inside ourselvesWe take when we should give.

So for tonight we pray forWhat we know can be.And on this day we hope forWhat we still can't see.It's up to us to be the changeAnd even though we all can still do moreThere's so much to be thankful for.