Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Goodbye 2015!: Make a NYE Party Hat from Last Year's Calendar

New Years Eve Party Hats


Happy New Year!  The year 2016 is upon us!  Just think of all the wonderful possibilities the upcoming 365 days might hold!  Fresh beginnings are so exciting!  I hope you had a heartwarming Christmas and are feeling ready to move forward in to the new year today. 

Last year at this time my husband was still working night shifts at the gold mine in Fairbanks, so the kids and I were also on a much later schedule to accommodate.  We would often sleep until 10 am and then they would fall asleep around 10 pm so we could get as much time with him as we could.  Well, that made it easy for them to stay up until midnight at a friends’ house New Year’s Eve.  Our little guy was thrilled to help the men launch fireworks, but our little lady (who had just turned one) soon fell asleep as we stood right beneath them. 
We have no plans to make it to midnight this year, however now that we have a more normal schedule.  But it is fun to celebrate, reminisce on the passing year, and teach the little ones about the passing of time.  We started a tradition of making party hats out of the last year’s calendar a couple years back and have really enjoyed it!  I’m in a bit of a pickle this year, however.  I’ve not done well in keeping up with my journal, and I almost feel as though my calendar has (although abbreviated) taken its place.  Oh well, I have a couple pages I can use.

You can eyeball this or use one of the many templates found onlinE, then roll from the tip and tape or glue closed.  We’ve added pom-poms to the top and chin ties, but you could decorate any way you like!  Kind of a fun project to mark the passing of the year. 

I chose to eyeball: to get the edges the same length, I folded it over to the point I needed.
Basic shape cut out

Taped together
Holes punched for chin strap
Pom-pom on top!

Ready to party!
Here are a couple more things I’m planning on sharing with the little ones before they hit the hay New Years Eve.  I love starting these traditions with our family, even if we aren't staying awake until the official countdown.  How do you celebrate?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December Dreams + Children's Votive Craft

Good morning, all!  I know I haven’t been posting much lately, but I really haven’t forgotten about you!  Making this blog sure is fun, and I love that it doesn’t have to be something that’s set in stone.  Because the painful truth is that I am not one who does well with rigorous scheduling.  Which is why most of this month has been dedicated to finishing up Christmas presents at the last minute.  You might go so far as to call it procrastination.  Or over-ambition at some point thinking I could make all these gifts for everyone!  I do love to make gifts for people if I can though, but only if it’s something I really think they would want or need.  I love being able to tailor it to their interests and pray for them as I create.  It’s like being able to send a blessing along with a gift! 
This is as close as we get to a nice photo in front of the tree!

How has your holiday season been so far?  Since my daughter’s birthday is in the first weeks of the month, we’ve decided to try to hold back the majority of the Christmas shenanigans until after we have had a chance to celebrate her life.  Although it may seem like an even later start, I kind of like reigning in the chaos even a little more.  I don’t know about you, but I feel like there is a ton of really good, fun stuff going on this year and I just feel like I need to cram it all in!  I love our advent calendar, but I know I could get really carried away with it, too. 

I glimpsed over an article last week that I haven’t been able to find again, but now I can’t get it out of my  mind.  The idea was basically “things you do NOT have to do this Christmas.”  In essence, it was releasing Moms from the pressure to “do stuff” to fill up the month of December with Christmas-ness.  Please don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and I love a lot of the activities that go with it, but I know for me it’s just so easy to get swept away and lose priorities.  And on top of it being so draining for me, I think it can get overwhelming and exhausting for the little ones as well!  I really appreciated the reminder that it’s okay.  It’s okay if we don’t make an elaborate gingerbread house, or see the Nutcracker, or get the perfect Christmas tree or do ALL the Christmas stuff!

I see all of you, my friends, and I am so inspired!  So many of you are working, be it part-time or full-time, have lost a loved one, or have medical issues you’re dealing with, especially with little ones.  Some of you are grandparents or parents of older children and you’ve taught me how the concern and worry for them doesn’t go away, it just changes.  It can be really hard!  And you do so much!  I see you always wrestling with issues concerning your families and fighting for what’s best for them.  I can see how your children adore you, they do (or will) know the effort you put forth, your Christmastime isn’t any less special, and the love is just so evident in your families.  And I feel like, that’s it!  Maybe it’s better to keep life more balanced this month while still putting the emphasis where it ought to be.  I believe traditions are important and wonderful, but I’m realizing for myself that I don’t have to do ALL the traditions, as delightful as they may be.  And even if one of our special ones has to be skipped one year, it’s okay.  It doesn’t mean I’ve ruined all their Christmases forever or even this year. 
THIS is the important stuff: gingerbread with friends
And THIS: exploring with family


So much out there is telling us we need to be a certain way (love-hate relationship with Pinterest) but it's just not true. I love how our family is right now, but I just really want this blog to be a place of encouragement. We all have different situations and I guess I just want to reiterate that it's okay.  I know the Christmas holiday's origins were not all about Jesus, but that is what we choose to celebrate now. And He knows our paths, struggles and joys. He loves us right where we are. Sometimes I think He must find it silly the lengths we go to, the unrelated things we do, in the name of His birth. 

So all that to say, take a deep breath, consider letting go of a little bit of holiday fluff and choose to love well!

I want to give you one more thing before Christmas, but my printer is still on the fritz and I'm having trouble scanning so I'm going to have to take my own advice and let go of my plan to post printable gift tags. But I will share an idea for a quick craft we did in Sunday School this week.  

We are part of a small but growing church plant here, so we never have more than a dozen kids from ages 1-12.  They all seemed to enjoy this one (though some needed more help than others!)  In trying to keep the activities appropriate for that range, I again decided to revise my original idea of a more intricate votive craft to this rather quick and simple one. And it ended up going even better with our lesson of the three wise men!  

Instructions: Roll a golf ball sized lump of salt dough smooth.  Gently press a tea light almost all the way down from the top.  Smooth out the dough as needed.  Gently press strands or individual beads into the dough.  Allow to dry and enjoy the light!

The idea of light lends to a couple themes in the story: the wise men followed the star in the sky to find young Jesus, the Light of the World.  The jewels remind us of the treasures the wise men brought to Jesus, that they themselves were earthly kings, and that Jesus is the King of kings.  And finally the theme of a gift.  The wise men brought Jesus gifts and Jesus is God’s gift to US!  I’ll let you decide how you want to work those connections in as you direct the craft!

I wish I could give you more, but I do wish you the most blessed and peaceful of Christmases!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Frozen Pipes and Star Analogy

Making friends with the neighbors
Do you ever start looking back through old photos and sort of get lost in time.  Our Decembers have often been interesting months.  Most notably, of course, was two years ago when our daughter was born in the midst of an Alaskan snow storm. 
So Tiny!
But both the year before that and just last year, December was the month the temperatures finally dropped low enough and long enough for our pipes to freeze despite our pipes being wrapped with electric heat tape and in frequent use. 
The inside of our windows come December

It was a bother, but really, not that big of a deal.  Especially in the lower 48 here, we can become so used to having things a certain way, anything else becomes shocking and pitiful.  But so many people up there live in dry cabins anyway, our being without running water for those few weeks at a time was generally regarded as a minor inconvenience. 
 There were water stations in town where you simply hauled your tank (be it pickup bed sized or the 7 gallon blue ones like we had) and filled up whenever you were in town.  We were thankfully close enough to the Fox springs to be able to fill up with that pure water without having to drive into town.  Or, if we were really in a pinch, we had all the water we wanted right outside our door.  All we had to do was set pots of snow on the stove to melt and boil. 
He loved this job!  Good science experiment, too!
 Being careful to avoid the yellow or brown patches, of course.  An older, single nurse from the hospital I worked at up there said she felt much more prepared to survive in the winter than in the summer should something happen, because she had all that fresh water all around her and a stove to heat it on!
December 2012
December 2014

Tiny bits for washing dishes.  Showers were obviously out of the question, but washing up with a washcloth was usually sufficient.  We would give the babies shallow baths in the galvanized tub.  Then use that water to spot clean laundry.  An outhouse would have been nice.  And I really understand the relatively high density of outhouses in the area.  One flush takes a lot of water!  You just get used to thinking about things differently and learn not to waste something even so common as water. 
At the plumbing store...again.
And then the electricity would go out every so often, but every house out of town had a stove.  Maybe this sounds crazy, but looking back, I really appreciate how those times grew me and caused me to get creative and see things in a new way.  It’s so rewarding to be thrust into a potentially dangerous situation like that and come through with flying colors.  Like a victory.  I am very grateful for our new home here in Oregon and love that we get to settle here, but I hope I never lose the lessons I’ve learned nor forget the adventures we’ve had in Alaska.

Okay, enough reminiscing.  I guess what I was leading to is gratefulness.  I know Thanksgiving is over, but it really should be a mindset rather than a single holiday, anyway.  Choose to be content, to be grateful for the things you do have, especially during this crazy month of gifting.  Remember all we have been given, the best gift of the offer of Living Water with the birth of Jesus!  Yeah, that’s “Christianeese.”  I’ve got to stop that, but I like the analogy.  Jesus Spirit living with those who love Him is likened to Living Water that is vital for full life and quenches the thirsty soul.  !  I love Christmas as much as the next person, but it’s just the beginning of the story!  The climax will have to wait until Eastertime, though! =)

We haven’t really started celebrating yet, mostly waiting until after our upcoming birthday party, although Christmas tunes are finally playing regularly.  We did do one activity in preparation for Christmas that I thought I would share because I feel like it was a fun learning activity for my littles.  We had an apple that was starting to look like it was dehydrating from the outside after it had sat on the shelf for much too long.  I brought the littles over to watch for the hidden star as I sliced the apple around its girth.  What delight when they found the familiar shape in the middle. 
 As I continued to cut thin slices to (finish) dehydrating for our popcorn/cranberry garland, I told them about the star that shone when Jesus was born, that the shepherd’s saw in the fields and that the wise men followed for their long journey.  The star was there for everyone to see, but the wise men knew what to look for, sort of like how we knew how to look for the star in the apple.  I’m not sure if the analogy played out perfectly, but it was fun to talk about as we worked together.  I’m always up for new Christmas ideas and I know there are tons of amazing traditions and ways to celebrate Christmastime out there.  I’m curious, how do you start off the season? 
Sorry for the dark photos!  Sometimes life doesn't happen in perfect lighting! =)

Monday, November 30, 2015

First-Time Tradition: Black Friday Family Hike

How was your Thanksgiving?  I feel like this was the best one we've had in a very long time.  We hosted for our families for the very first time this year! Being two thousand miles away certainly deters the frequent family visits! =)  But this year we had 16 people, four dogs and our two cats in our little mobile.  And it was so wonderful!  Not a perfect meal, but perfect time together.  

Not the purpose of this post, but a couple recipes we have for Thanksgiving that I love (and some were asking for) are the whole wheat rolls (shaped like these pumpkins if you have the time!) with French Cardamom Apple Jam, Balsamic Rosemary Ham, slow-cooker cranberry sauce, Broccoli Casserole (recipe to come) and Spiced Cider (this one is my husband's concoction and I'm hoping he'll let me share this one here soon, too!)

What I really want to write about is a new tradition we were able to start this year and I definitely want to uphold in future years: a Black Friday Hike!  While this may not have been feasible at our Fairbanks home, hiking in this mild climate’s November was refreshing!  After a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, all interested piled into a car and drove just down the road or the maze of trails at the arboretum. 

It was quite frosty, but only on the north side of the hills and became quite pleasant in the sun.  We just dressed in layers and I had room in my pack for all the extra layers as we hiked on the south side.  Another perk of having some grandparents along: extra arms to carry tuckered tykes! 

 We ended up hiking about 3 ½ miles, some of it quite steep, and I’m proud to say my eldest did it all on his own!  Boy, did they sleep good that night!

It felt like the perfect activity for the day after Thanksgiving as we were able to go out and explore together (hikes are much more fun for my little wildlings if the grandparents are along!) and we worked off some of the feast from the day before!  And I hate shopping, so that wasn’t even an option, anyway!  How do you celebrate Thanksgiving after the meal?  I love how each family does certain things to make the celebration uniquely theirs!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Involving the Wee Ones in the Thanksgiving Fun (Plus a Free Printable!)

My Helpers getting ready for the Grandparents' arrival!
Wow, is it ever a Monday!  Whew!  And just before Thanksgiving, no less!  Actually, that thought is making me feel happier!  I'm so excited for Thanksgiving this year!  This is the first year since we've been married to have this holiday with ALL our family (AND some new friends!) together.  And its going to be in our tiny house!  Yeah it's going to be cozy! =)
Maybe I should be a little more stressed, but for whatever reason, I'm not really feeling it!  And I'm grateful for that.  My simple goal is that one will leave with empty stomachs or hearts.
One of the jobs I love as a Mom is the tradition maker/keeper.  I get to bring and teach the meaning of these holidays to our little ones.  The past several years we'd already been covered in feet of snow and ice, so this has been a bit of a new feel to Thanksgiving this year.  Trying to keep it simple and fun (we are dealing with toddlers/preschools after all) here are some of the ways I've tried to get them involved and just keep the celebration fun.
1. Thankful Tree: tried and true idea, new printable!  We did this with our play group last year and for the last several on our own.  You can just draw leaves on or cut them out and glue them on.  I'm going to try to have our oldest write out his own thankful words to put on the tree this year as he's just starting to figure that out!  If you open the blank tree in a new tab, it should be big enough to print out for your own thankfulness.
2. Coffee Filter Leaves:  As I mentioned before, colorful leaves were a scarce commodity by the time Thanksgiving rolled around in Fairbanks, so these colorful substitutions were a fun craft for the littles.  I cut out a simple leaf shape from a small stack of filters, drew the veins on some in permanent marker the set the young 'uns loose with their watercolors.  It's fun to watch the colors bleed so well into the loose filter paper.  We tried to stick to autumn colors, but our little lady was bound and determined to have a blue leaf this year!  They also look very nice in a window with the light shining through!

3. Leaf snack bowls: our super creative friend invited us over to make these fun little bowls!  I love how they turned out!  We rolled out oven baked clay, pressed a leaf into the clay then removed the leaf to leave it's impression.  After trimming the edges, we gently pressed them into oven safe bowls to give them shape and let them cook according to the clay package directions (I believe it was 15 min. at 350).  Once they had cooled, we did a coat of acrylic paint, then a metallic top coat.  I think they turned out so cute and we are definitely setting them out on Thursday!
4. Pumpkin Votives: I was seeing this idea online in several places and thought it would be a fun, quick addition to the tablescape.  I did have to go buy the right drill bit (1 1/2" to fit a standard tea light candle).  Actually, my husband and son took over this project on their own!  I love it when the guys get excited about these types of projects!  The only things I would warn is not to get too small of gourds: they just crack.  And then just be careful not to drill too deep!
I had plans for thankful list napkin holders or placemats and coloring sheets for the kids, but my printer machine decided to bite the dust last night!  And I still need to find a good story of Thanksgiving to read (any suggestions?) As far as setting the table, I usually just like to use what we already have laying around like harvested ptarmigan feathers, pinecones, doilies and gourds.  Those all feel so autumn-ey to me!  If you'd like to see how the day comes together for us, check out our instagram account 
More fun ideas for the day of Thanksgiving: