Monthly Archives: December 2014

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Decluttering the Kids’ Room for Christmas! :-)

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It is amazing the difference of focus!

EXAMPLE: I am not a huge fan of cleaning – but if I get a brand new scented candle and focus on  displaying it on a clean table in a clean house … Well, that changes everything!

I clean my house in record time and light that thing with pride. ;-)

Kids are the same way :-)

So, in the easiest indeaver yet, the kids helped me clear out the extras in their room to make room for Christmas presents. (BOY, were they excited to get rid of stuff!!)

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(I think this will be normal thing for us each year! What a great excuse to clear out.)

Here’s everything we cleared from their room. :-) (A lot of it was just out of place, but some will be donated.)

Focusing on the future is my approach to decluttering in general. (And a lot of areas in life).

We get rid of things to make room for the things we want in our lives (whether it’s goals, items, responsibilities, people).

The FOCUS should NEVER be on the clutter – that is the past – past, hopes, objects, and identities.

The focus needs to be on what we are walking toward. (The relationships that we want more time for, the career goals, the ministries, the hobbies…)

I also took the time to apply some of my favorite Julie Morgenstern organizing techniques!

She suggests evaluating a room – then determining what IS working and what is NOT working.

What WAS working:

1. 4 kids’ favorite toys and almost all their clothes in one closet using baskets and shelves.

Working great!!!! :-) Very little clutter there. Easy to maintain and keep up.

2. Top Two Drawers of the Diaper Changing Station – (almost) perfectly organized and contained. Rarely got out of hand- even on our craziest days.

What was NOT working:

I’d noticed that despite the small quarters, 90 % of clutter gathered in ONE spot – right in front of the bed. That told me that the problems were probably right there. Here were the problems.

1. Overstuffed PJ drawer

2. One broken stuffed animal that was spreading

imagestuffing everywhere (Duck tape should do it…right?)

3. And one organizing system that was not working.  (A box with a lid under the bed for my son’s toy swords. He was so responsible with his basket in the closet that we let him have a second toy box in the room. At first he did well putting his toys away, but when we added the lid,  it became too hard to pull the box all the way out and put toys away – [especially since clean-up happens with 4 littles and a mom in the SAME room] so the lid will need to be take off for a while. Then he can just toss his swords in without pulling the box out.)

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Here it is! Finished product!

Decluttered – Check!

Problem Solved – Check!

(And the kids don’t know it, but for Christmas, I’m going to add all the castle decorations I’ve been collecting for them. Tune in for that in a couple weeks! :-) )

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So all set for Christmas!

How is your pre-Christmas decluttering going? (If you don’t have much time, grab a box and spend ten minutes grabbing garbage and donations. It is SO MUCH more fun to declutter with Christmast just 2 days away!)

- Verity

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Snowman Kit in a Jar!

IMG_3105Sometimes you need a fast, easy, cheap (or free), super cute, and practical gift for a child. I guess that sounds like a lot of criteria to fill, BUT I came up with the perfect idea and I can’t wait to share it with you!

It’s no secret on this blog that I LOVE play dough. I love making it, I love all the possibilities it presents, and I love that my kids can keep busy with it for long periods of time. :-)

I also love invitations to play, but they require so many pieces it’s a hard thing to give as a gift—until today!

I present to you: Snowmen in a jar!

Aren’t they cute?!?!

I started by making THIS recipe, but I added 1 teaspoon peppermintIMG_3101extract. (Did you know they are selling it at Aldi right now? So cheap!!) After the play dough was cooked, I added a bunch of glitter while I kneaded it on the wax paper. Ta da! Snow!

One batch of play dough is the exact amount you need to fill 3 baby food jars.

Next I just used items I had around the house. You could use anything! I chose 3 small pom poms in matching colors to be the buttons for each snowman. Then I cut green pipe cleaners for arms—I got 10 out of 1 pipe cleaner to give an idea of length. Next, I cut red pipe cleaner in slightly smaller segments for the carrot. Beads would work for eyes, or googly eyes.

I’m sure there are lots of great possibilities, but I was just using what I had.

I put everything into baby food jars—free containers! Any little container would work though—even Ziploc bags. I used black fabric paint to make eyes and a smile and then I used orange for a big carrot nose. I colored the lid with a big, thick permanent marker to look like a hat.

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To fill the jars:

Divide one batch of play dough into 3 parts. Roll each part into the shape and size of a small, chubby hot dog and slowly lower it into the jar being sure to fill the entire thing. You might need to smush it in with your fingers to get the air out. It should fill the main part of the jar perfectly.

Next, I laid the decorations on the top of the play dough—there is the exact amount of space you need for them!

Screw the lid on and you have a fun, fast, easy, cheap (or free), super cute, and practical gift for a child!

-Lydia

 

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Christmas Tree Craft for Toddlers!

​This year, we are blessed to have a 10 month old at Christmastime. In many ways, I have felt like she’s a bit left out of the fun activities and is often told, “Don’t touch!” The other night, she got sick, so I stayed home from church with her. This gave me some time to think of a Christmas activity that maybe SHE could do

​I had seen the general idea of making a felt Christmas tree with felt ornaments for toddlers on Pinterest, but I felt like it was a lot of time and money to invest. Regardless, I opened my fabric drawer and was surprised to discover several squares of felt left from my nesting days of her pregnancy. (For Naomi’s pregnancy I got SUPER creative and crafty!) I only had 1 dark green felt square, but it was fully intact, so I went for it.

​First, I folded my dark green square in half and used a black permanent marker to draw one side of a pine tree, being sure to cover the entire thing and therefore, make it as big as possible. I like that it can be done with just one square to save money and time—and space. I mean really, how many busy moms are going to stop at an EXTRA store just to buy a few yards of green felt?! You can buy the squares at Walmart while tackling the rest of your shopping.

​With my tree completed, I had planned to just cut various shapes out of the other colors to give her ornaments to hang, but then I remembered a container of small Christmas cookie cutters I had purchased on clearance years ago and never used! Perfect! And they really were. There was a variety of shapes and just the right size. We were able to hang 9-10 on the tree with space to spare and they were big enough that she wouldn’t eat them.

 

​I simply traced the ornaments with WASHABLE marker onto the felt. I discovered the hard way that permanent is, well… permanent on the cookie cutters. Oops! The washable just wipes off the cookie cutters and rubs off the felt. Another perfect idea! I guess I was on a roll. J

 

​When everything was done, I simply used Scotch tape and attached the tree to our refrigerator. I’m sure other things might work better, but that has worked surprisingly well—and it’s cheap.

 

​Start to finish, the project probably took about 20 minutes and used all items I had on hand. If you were to buy the felt squares, I’m guessing you could do the whole thing for $1-$2. It’s a great and cheap way to involve your little one in the Christmas season and will also keep her busy while you to accomplish all of your extra holiday tasks!

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How to Tempt a Mother – 7 Sure-Fire Ways! – By Uncle Screwtape

C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece “Screwtape Letters” is a phenomenal book in which a senior devil instructs a younger devil how to tempt a soul. (You can find that wonderful book here)

But if the character, Wormwood, went on to tempt a mom, I think this is how Screwtape would instruct him. 

- Verity

My Dear Wormwood (Demon D. Younger),

I see you have been assigned a mother. I was shocked that, after your losing the last soul, you were assigned such an important person!

Mothers have and always will be the most influential people in any society. By them kings are set on their courses and future leaders’ hearts nurtured for love or for hate.

(Of course, we demons have successfully kept this truth from women in the 21st century by putting a focus on careers, unattainable beauty and a growing disdain for children.)

And moms fall for the same lies in any time or age.

Here are some lies that have worked outstandingly well for me in the past.

1. Make the Mom’s World as Tiny as Possible

If a world is tiny, it is easy to make the most minuscule mishap seem catastrophic. A spot on the rug in a tiny world is fuel for hysteria while someone who sees themselves as soldiers in an age-long spiritual battle can withstand the death of a loved one and still stand strong – strengthened by a focus on the eternal.

To that end, limit her influences – above all keep her from reading her Bible which opens a person’s eyes to the cosmic battle of time, power and love.

2. Keep the Mom’s Focus on Something Unimportant that Makes Her Feel Like a Good Mom While Losing Sight of the Important

If you can keep her running around – trying to attain perfection in enough unimportant exploits, she will never have time to notice the eternal ventures – like the character training of her children.

Of course children’s hairstyles or flurries of extracurricular activities are not bad of themselves. Your opportunity with any potential idol comes when they have grown in her mind to the point of trumping the important! Let her take pride in her victory over her daughter’s hair or her son’s music lessons until she is willing to sacrifice the sanity of her family and her own focus to achieve them.

3. Let the Mom think of Herself as a Victim

Thankfulness will destroy your work, Wormwood.

Daily bring to her mind the grievances of a leaky faucet, tight budget and a challenging child. If she thinks of herself as a victim, she will forget that she is already a victor with Him. Never let her remember that!

If you can help the root of bitterness take root in her, your battle is practically won! Especially stay-at-home moms with little outside influence can be consumed with the tiniest wrongs – letting their minds grow these wrongs into outstanding evils.

And when a person has given herself over to bitterness, their view of even the most wonderful things – like the smiles of her baby or the warmth of a home are distorted. And the woman who would normally spread joy and warmth in her home taints it with the anger and indignation that is slowly destroying her from the inside out.

 4. Make sure the Mom NEVER Thinks of Her Children as Blessings

If she realizes the true value of her children, she will pour her energies into teaching them about God and His Way.

Value must be placed on almost anything besides her children. (The career that suffers because of their demands, the social life she used to have, the heels her pregnancy-ravaged hips can never handle again or any other unattainable desire will be especially effective.)

Let her view her children as leeches – filching from her energy and resources and keeping her from her true potential.

Resentment toward her children will be one of your sharpest tools!

Of course if her child was threatened by a speeding car, she would lay down her life for him in an instant, but make the small life sacrifices that are her testimony of God’s Way seem unimportant to her. (Her smile when bringing water for the 56th time, the gentle voice at 2:00am, the prayer for wisdom when breaking up a fight all stem from her realization of her children’s value and importance in God’s eternal plan.)

5. Make the Mom Think of Her Personal Identity ‘As Being Lost.’ 

Bring to her thoughts dreams of what she would be without the demands of her family. Let shadows of herself as a put-together, non-tired, woman play across the edges of her mind – tempting her focus and reaffirming the lie that she would be more without them.

Of course we know that motherhood is a means of sanctification – of losing oneself and being fashioned more into His image as each mother lays her life down not once but daily. (Or in the case of motherhood daily and multiple times a night as well.)

6. Make the Mom Think She has Already Failed!

If she chances to get angry and yell at her kids, make her sink into despair – forgetting that His mercies are new every morning, that He readily gives grace to the repentant sinner and that ultimately He will work – even through a sinful Mom – because of His kindness and mercy – and not because of her worth.

But your biggest ally when dealing with moms, Wormwood, is complacency.

7. Always Make the Mom Think that Her Job is NOT Important!

Grow in her mind the value of financial and social success while dimming the importance of motherhood. Let her dwell on how little she feels she is accomplishing in the world today, and go to every length to make her forget that her children will shape tomorrow.

If she does not realize that she is fighting a valuable battle, you will be victorious, and she will lose.

Of course we know that Mothers are of utmost importance to God’s plan and that they are given enough grace and strength to accomplish what He calls them to do - so take special care.

Your Affectionate Uncle,

Screw Tape (Demon D. Experienced)

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Christ-Focused Christmas Tradition Series (Part 6)

St. Nicholas Day

Happy St. Nicholas day everyone!!

Every December 6th – right before the biggest Christmas rush this well-timed holiday is my FAVORITE way to talk about Santa with my kids and take the day to focus on being giving and generous – like he was.

FIRST THING: We start the day with the German tradition of filled shoes (which they put out the night before).

Saint Nicholas

In Germany they do not do stockings but shoes instead. They kids put them outside – and the neighbors are often the ones to come fill them! I grew up with stockings, but I enjoy this tradition from my missionary kid husband’s childhood, and we do this instead.

AFTER BREAKFAST: The kids and I read a book about the real Nicholas who has inspired many by his love for Christ and others. My favorite book is this one which I mentioned in my post yesterday.

ALL DAY: The kids help me make their Christmas gifts for family and friends! I can’t post pictures because I know my family reads this, but I love practicing generosity after talking about it!

-Verity

 

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Christ-Focused Christmas Traditions (Part 5)

Christmas Books!

I’ve SLLLOOOOWLY been collecting Christmas books!

Here is what we have so far, and here are some that are on my wish list!

Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend

Saint Nicholas

We read this every December 6th! I can hardly wait to read it to my kids tomorrow! :-)

It’s the true story of Santa Clause. We can learn a lot from other Christians, and his story has a beautiful message for children and adults.

A Christmas Guest 

christmas guestHebrews 31:2 says “2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” In this age-old story a little boy actually does entertain an angel on Christmas eve. There is a touch of fantasy, but I think it’s a beautiful book that brings out that Biblical truth in a way children can understand.

Masterpiece Story Bible

This book has a passage on one side and a famous painting on the opposite page. It covers the whole bible but it has a dozen Christmas related paintings and passages too.

I love covering the Christmas story using scripture verses and high-quality paintings.

My Wish List!

Gift of the Magi

magiI can hardly wait to introduce my children to this timeless classic.

Christmas Day in the Morning

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I read this at our pastor’s house. It’s a lovely picture of mature love.

What other books would you suggest??

-Verity

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Christ-focused Christmas Traditions (Part 4)

Last year Lyd posted some great articles on Christ-focused Christmas traditions! I’m reposting the links today in case you missed them!

Make sure you come back tomorrow and Saturday as I’m posting about our Christmas book collection tomorrow and my FAVORITE Pre-season kid tradition on Saturday!

Nativity Invitation to Play

Baby Jesus Craft

Mom’s Musings: The Opportunity of Christmas

Happy December Everyone!

-Verity

Christ-Focused Christmas Tradition Series (Part 3)

2012-12-19 at 16-52-58Christmas Baking for the Neighbors

Growing up, Mom would make dozens of green frosted kringles,  wrap each in tinfoil topped with a  bow and then send my sister and I door to door dropping off holiday cheer to our neighbors.

It was very memorable to us, and we each continue the tradition in our own way – because we learned the blessing of stopping and trying to give.

Lyd (who is the better baker) makes her own kringles – while I settle on a few different cookies plastic-wrapped on plates (or last year with a new baby in the house I kept perspective and settled on bags of store-bought chocolates and cards.

A week or two before Christmas, the kids and I drop off the sweets. The kids love it, and it is nice to touch base with neighbors in a friendly way in the dead of winter. (Living in MN, we can go months without talking because we are all bundled in our houses!)

-Verity

 

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Christ-Focused Christmas Tradition Series (Part 2)

imageThe Advent Wreath 

Throughout the Old Testament, there is great longing for the coming of Christ. The passover lamb, the scapegoat and countless other traditions foreshadow the coming Messiah.

In modern day Germany, they put out Advent wreaths in anticipation of Christmas.

They set the Advent wreath out a month before Christmas and light one candle the fourth Sunday before Christmas, 2 candles the third Sunday before Christmas etc.

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Finally, the Sunday before Christmas all 4 candles glow – and if they have a pyramid (a wooden dome with a a type of windmill wheel on top) – the wheel will spin from he energy being emitted by the 4 candles.

Each Sunday, they eat stollen, a pastry-like fruitcake rolled in powdered sugar that resembles a swaddled baby Jesus.

This is a favorite of our traditions. We purchase the stollen from Aldi and use the gorgeous pyramid we were given from in-laws. (As you can see, it now has a little extra character – thanks to a curious toddler on a past Christmas.)

-Verity

 

Christ-Focused Christmas Tradition Series (Part 1)

Happy December everyone!

This is one of the BEST seasons of the year to share our faith with our children!

Not Minimized

Every day this week we will be posting on some Christ-focused Christmas traditions that help us focus on Who matters during the holidays.

Today I’m posting a article that Lydia published last year that is an advent calendar that is easy to make, inexpensive and puts the focus on Christ.

Please check back every day this week for NEW articles!

 

” It is so challenging to keep Christ in Christmas in this day and age. I have 2 toddlers, and I feel like my husband and I are in a constant quest to explain the real meaning of the season and to make CHRISTmas come alive for them. I’m excited to share some of the things we’ve discovered over the course of this month. Today I’m going to share our advent calendar with you. Even though it’s December 2nd, this is an easy one to put together and you really can start it any time in the month.
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For more ideas on an advent calendar like this, check out THIS blog post.

What you need:

·         24 or 25 small inexpensive ornaments

(I used plain gold ones that I bought 10 for $1 at Dollar Tree. These are everywhere at this time of year. So cheap!)

·         Puffy paint

(Any kind/any color)

·         This list…

The List of Names of God:

(You can use any list, but this is the one I compiled. I wanted to do certain ones for the sake of explaining them to my kids each day as we built a foundation for who God is at Christmas time. I’m also careful to do them in a certain order.)

Mighty God
Redeemer
Servant
Creator
Gift of God
The way
Living water
The Life
Counselor
Wonderful
Vine
The truth
Prince of peace
Emmanuel
Word
Counselor
Shepherd
Door
Bread of life
Everlasting father
I am
The light
Lamb
Messiah
Rock

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What to do:Simply use puffy paint to write one name of God on each ornament. I found that setting them in empty egg cartons worked great. That’s also where I store them during the year.

Pile them into a vase for decoration. I use them as the centerpiece for our dining room table. This helps to keep them as a main focus and also helps me remember to do one each day.

We pull one out of the vase daily, I discuss it with my kids, and then we hang it, using an ornament hook, on a garland that hangs on a window behind them. As the vase becomes emptier, and the garland becomes fuller, we are getting closer to Christmas. We also have a visual reminder on the garland of who God is.

There are so many things that I like about this concept, and it does do a lot to draw our focus toward God and the reason for Christmas. It also provides deeper teaching opportunities with my children then simply opening a door with a picture behind it each day. It becomes an event, a teaching opportunity, and a beautiful decoration all in one.

-Lydia

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a NEW article  on a tradition that my husband brought back to America from Germany!