A Few of my Favorite Gifts

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I know Christmas is coming this week so I am a bit late in sharing these. These are a few of my favorite gifts that we’ve given over the years. Lately our giving around here has been more “homespun” than store-bought. I have been in the groove of giving homemade primarily to save money but it is so easy to go out and buy something to give. It takes a good amount of thoughtfulness to give something homemade or to sew something for someone.

I love personal touch! It makes my heart warm when I open a gift from someone and it is simply homemade.

I look forward to this season because I am usually pulling my hair with excitement to give. Every Christmas and spring we give something special to our mail lady.

The year before I made this cup for her and added some k-cups, socks and a special note. One time when it snowed a lot and she was driving along. She stopped while we were shoveling to tell us how much she loved it and loves providing us with mail. It’s the little things!

Joy Mug>>howtotrainasuperhero.com

 

 

Joy Mug>>howtotrainasuperhero.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Year we made salt dough ornaments to give to our family members. In addition, my boys made a cute little candy cane for our mail lady. I made white chocolate granola bark with homemade granola and tied into a cute little package along with the ornament the boys made.

 

granola bark>>howtotrainasuperhero.com

granola bark >>howtotrainasuperhero.com

Last year my heart was warm for my sisters and in-laws. Since we often have to work around the holidays and be unique with our schedule (due to being a blended family) I wanted to encourage the gift of family and time together. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the daily grind of things that our family time falls by the wayside. So we made a box that had all sort of fun stuff in it for an ice cream family night. These are all the rage in my home and my boys were so excited to share things that they like.

familyfunnight >>howtotrainasuperhero.com

I also love to knit in my spare time. One year I arm knit these infinity scarves for my neices.

infinity scarf >>howtotrainasuperhero.com

A favorite things basket. I save my strawberry boxes in summer for gifting and gave this to a friend.

favoritethings>>howtotrainasuperhero.com

favoritethings>>howtotrainasuperhero.com

I’ve been wanting to compile this post for some time now. I hope that you can find something creative to give too! It doesn’t have to be a lot and most times the thought that you put into the gift outweighs the rest.

Merry Christmas!

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Memories of 2014

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(Happy Birthday Jesus Party)

It’s truly not a secret that I love the holidays. Christmas especially!

Over the past few years-while my children were young-I spent my time trying out new traditions. Since my children are at a good age to remember things, now was the time to really etch those holiday traditions in stone.

I was inspired by my friends over at Patience Brewster to keep the holiday spirit alive and share with you all my favorite memorable moments of the past holiday. Here I will share of few of my favorites that we have adopted. If you aren’t familiar with Patience’s work I encourage you to check it out. Patience designs some intricate and unique things. One of my favorite’s is her ornaments.

Christmas Ornaments

(Picture Courtesy of the Patience Brewster website)

So this year for Christmas I put together a few days of advent activities that we could enjoy. They ranged from a cookie baking day to an ornament making day. Family and togetherness is so important to us and we were so grateful to have a nice Christmas together this year. I’ve managed to grab a few snapshots for this occasion. Here are some highlights from this past Christmas season that we won’t be forgetting!

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 Scene’s from our Christmas Tree. This year the theme for our tree was a little country with a touch of rustic and Jesus all over. It’s so easy to forget that real meaning. I made these ornaments from printable’s I found around the web and scaled them down to a smaller size. I also made the pine cone ornaments by hot gluing some twine in a bow to the top of them.

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 A little rustic vintage touch. My hubby used to love this sled as a kid. In fact he gets tempted every now and again to pull it out for the kid’s. I use it for decoration; a great way to salvage a childhood memory.

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All over pinterest. Two of my favorite things combined! Mason jars and Christmas trees. I. just. love. them!

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Cookie baking day. We baked cookies ALL day as a family…one recipe after another then gobbled them all up!

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We look forward to this every year. Ginger bread house making with whatever we can find!

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Snow man family night with homemade pizza’s and games.

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Ornaments! Made, passed down and bought. Some of these were made by me when my babies were in the belly.

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Jesse Tree ornaments.

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My all time favorite this year was our homemade ornaments. We used some of them as gift tags and gave some as gifts.
I love decorating for the Christmas season! This year my family got together at my Mil’s home for pork, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes-representive of good luck in the Mennonite community. Nothing says a happy new year like sauerkraut seeping out of your pores! The kiddos run shoeless, games are played and lazy conversation is had.
So these are my favorite memories of 2014, now we are making room for the new memories of 2015!

 What’s your favorite tradition or memory of the holiday season?

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Operation Christmas Child

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Missions is a big part of being a believer. Giving and blessing are core in my family. Whether it be with our time, our money or our resources, being a blessing is close to my heart. Each year I try to find a new way for our family to be involved in giving and serving. I want my children to grow up with an attitude of gratitude for what and how they have been blessed. I want them to understand that every good and perfect gift is given by God. And I want them to never forget that by always allowing the Lord to use them to serve others.

A great practical way for that to be implemented is Operation Christmas child. We do this as a apart of our 8 days of advent activities. We’ve had the date saved for collection week for about a year now and when it finally came my boys were excited. They started looking around the house for all sorts of things to give. It was so cute and thoughtful that I could not bear to tell them right away that we could not give used things. Oops!

Here’s what was in our box:

(1) toothbrush and Toothpaste

(1) 3 pack pair of sock

(1) pack of pencils

(1) pack of crayons

(1) ninja turtle Puzzle

(2) hotwheel cars

(1) sheet of stickers

(1) homemade coloring book

(1) bag of homemade play dough

We decorated some regular shoe boxes with scrapbook paper and chose to track our boxes. Each of my boys packed a shoe box for a boy their age. When went to buy items for the boxes I tried to be more intentional with encouraging them to buy things that they would use. This was not hard. They picked up lots of toys that they wanted. Ha!

We really enjoy this activity and time. We also like to watch video’s of the children receiving their gift and we just got word that our boxes have arrived to Namibia. What a sweet experience.

How does your family serve during the Christmas season?

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Linking Up With: Titus TuesdaysJoy Dare

The Night Before Advent Party

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Christmas is my favorite season. I hate that at times it feels like Christian living all comes together at Christmas time after struggling so much all year. Christmas time is a breath of fresh air. Honestly. A time to examine our hearts and ignite the true meaning of this season. A better opportunity to give and accept.

Last year we started doing advent activities. We as a family take this time to be together and be more intentional about talking about Jesus, his life and his sacrifice.

Let me tell you something about being intentional…In a life of raising a family and being a wife, you have to be intentional to be intentional! Preparing ahead for those moments are crucial to this cause.howtotrainasuperhero.com

Anyway, We decided this year to implement some simpler things that we can stick with as a tradition. We usually put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving or November 3oth- which we did this year but I also wanted to give my children an opportunity to get excited about Jesus and our celebration of his coming. So we added a night before advent party, from Ann Voskamp to our traditional festivities. We watched a Christmas movie, made some great hot chocolate creations in our doodle cups from last year and kicked off our first advent reading and activity.

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I’ve found that doing this allows us the opportunity to form a tradition and look forward to it each year.

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We use our homemade advent wreath and candles for the kids along the way. I’m way to paranoid too have real candles around them. Especially since they wrestle…a lot.

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My hubby is a big fan of the “Bobby” sandwich from Capriotti’s, so we like to make them with our Thanksgiving left overs. My hubby usually ends up slapping some left over sweet potato casserole on his. Big hit!

What traditions have you added this year to your Christmas festivities?

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Linking Up With: Titus TuesdaysLiving Proverbs 31, Joy Dare

How To Encourage a Single Mother During the Holiday’s

As I look back on the last few years of my life and the position I was then in, I can’t help but look up to the heavens and through the clouds declare that there is a glorious God hiding beyond the face of the universe.

My life is living proof of our great God!

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 I was a single mom searching through the heartache of my past for some rhyme or reason to keep pushing forward. I had many sleepless nights, many hopeless and endless nights, many joyful nights but more struggling nights.

On the outside I mirrored a strong young woman, kind at heart but living with a chipped shoulder in desperate need of relief from long hours at work, and bills that stacked way higher than my means but on the inside I was worried, depressed and just making it. Wanting someone to reach out without feelings of shame.

When someone who walked by and passed me muttered the words, “happy holidays” I felt anything but happy. My mind was bent on making this years Christmas count just as much as last because I didn’t always have it. It was stressful…My children were young and there was no way they would understand that mama was struggling. How could I let them down? The reality of Christ and his sacrifice was clear to me and truly means a lot but my focus was jaded by the commercials that promoted family, gifts, food and hot specialty drinks,which are all good things. My children spent half the holiday away from home and that made it worst. Christmas was anything but that though I always tried to make it work.

My sister-in-law asked me one year, ” how can I bless a single mom for Christmas?” I had to search deep. Who wants to say, “hey, I’m barely making it, my kids need clothes?” Not I, not me, not then.

Encouragement…that’s what was needed. A kind gesture to let me know that God sees me, my sacrifice and my hard work. The extra clarification that I was doing the best I could and that was okay. A friend. Someone who came over just for coffee to sit and chat with me, didn’t judge me but really wanted to know me. More Jesus; incentives that pushed me toward the truth instead of all the lies I could and was believing about my life. An invitation…ideas for my family that helped me redefine the true meaning of Christmas.

I wanted my boys to feel like they were apart of a family..that when Christmas, Christmas Eve or the day the courts made up for me to have them came it wouldn’t feel so empty or quiet.

Not all single moms live this way, not all single moms feel the same and maybe even, not all single moms are struggling but the reality is…many are and many need hope. I compiled this list from my own experience and in talking with other single mother’s.

How can you bless a single mom for the holidays? Take a look!

Pray for them
Encourage them with scripture
Invite them to church
Give a gift that will help them to exhale like a book (desperate) with a treat, some homemade bath bombs, homemade cookies
A meal on wheels-so they don’t have to cook on the holiday (maybe parts of the meal like a ham or turkey, some sides, a dessert)
Meals for the freezer
Unwrapping the greatest gift
An ice cream kit-a box with some cute cups, cones, sprinkles, liquid topping banana’s and a board game to top it off
A Movie kit- all the fixings for a snack bar like candies, homemade white chocolate popcorn, a recipe for a cool drink and a good family movie
Go over and be with her and the kids and have movie night with them.
A bag of clothing, used or new. Kids coats, shoes or clothing.
Send a few groceries
Pick up a gift on her list for the kids (She most likely won’t have many)
Give a gift card to a restaurant
Serve her-Go over and help her

Many single moms are forgotten. Let’s love on them and give hope in Christ.
Do you have more things that you could add to this list? Share them below!

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Linking Up With: Titus Tuesdays, Joy Dare

25 Advent Ideas for Your Family

Welcome back! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and didn’t shop too hard on black Friday. That madness was crazy! My hats off to you if shopped the major store chains.

Back to our program.

So today marks the second day of the first week of advent. I’m sure you’ve been seeing all the activities and ideas going around but I have to admit, I completely ignored them. Why you say? Because for the longest, advent, to me, was no more than a catholic tradition or some sort of lent ritual and I, being the legalistic christian that I was, was not about to be judged for starting a tradition in my family that originated from Catholicism. (And to clarify, advent didn’t start in the catholic church, it goes way back before that from Lutheran’s to old older Christians) Sorry to say but it is true.  My children have always gotten gifts for Christmas but I’ve always been the intentional mother who focused more on the Christ in Christmas. It’s always been more Jesus, and less gifts. Needless to say, I kind of go crazy on Christmas. Not black Friday crazy but, “I have to get that because they will freak out” crazy.  Forgive my ignorance, but once I read up on what advent is supposed to symbolize, I grew more interested. That’s right, I learned what advent means to me as a christian and I grew more interested. The video below best explains what it means to Christians today.

click here if you cannot see this video.

Advent is a time that people all around the world celebrate the hope that we have in Jesus, the fact that he was born and the celebration of his coming and what his birth symbolizes for us. So in this time we take time to reflect on the goodness of Jesus and focus more on him besides our usual traditions of gift giving, holiday parties and cookie swaps. Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to buy gifts and do all of our family and holiday traditions, just as long as our hearts still come back and line up with the fact that if all of that vanishes, our hearts will remain solid in Jesus. Have at it. With that being said I have some great ideas for you! Ideas for the kiddos and maybe just for you.

Here are:

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1. Cardboard Advent wreath and candles from jamiespurejoy

2. Easy pocket Advent Calender from strangeandlovelyride

3. Fun and frugal Advent jar from messforless

4. Advent wreath and songs from letsplaykidsmusic

5. Advent action cards from theiowafarmerswife

6. Adventures in Odyssey Advent activity calendar from focusonthefamily.com

7. Host a Candy Cane hunt

8. Write scriptures in a card and give it to someone to encourage them

9. Make an ornament for someone

10. Take stuffed animals to a hospital and give them out

11.Write a letter to Jesus thanking him and praising him

12. Make snowflakes and hang them in the window

13. Do a family or individual advent devotional

14. Go caroling to the neighbors, a nursing home or relatives

15. Write a note to the mail man or lady

16. Read a book a day as an advent activity

17. Make an ornament for Jesus

18. Donate old toys or new one’s to a local place

19. Make cards for your local fire company

20. Clean up someone’s trash

21. Put cookies in the mail box

22. Take someone a meal

23. Make a craft and send it to someone

24. Visit a live nativity

25. Camp out in the living room with hot chocolate, a fake snowball fight(socks or marshmallows) and Christmas movies

There are tons of other things that you can do to encourage someone or be kind. In this time, My family has taken the approach to make it about everyone else and not ourselves. My husband and I have chosen to take Christmas and teach our children the value of the gifts they receive and the value of the gifts they give. We want to intentionally move them toward esteeming others over themselves. We will do a lot for each other but we also want to be a light and love to all those around us.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

How will you celebrate advent if you are? What activities are you choosing to partake in? Please share!

And as always, with everything I post, I do hope you love this and can add some of these things to your own list.

Happy Advent-ing!

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Linking up with: thebettermom, wedded wednesdays, playdates with God, livingproverbs31, Titus2sday