Monday, December 20, 2010

Taking a break...

Hi fellow moms and friends,
I'm going to China in three days, and we'll be meeting our daughter in one week!!  So, I'm going to take a break from my Mom Thoughts blog for a while.  Once we are back home and settled in a bit, I'll begin blogging again.  Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 8, Homemade Note Pads

Ana's recent comments on Day 6 have inspired me to share a homemade gift idea.  You can make adorable note pads from jr. legal pads that have been cut in half.  Go to Staples or Office Depot and purchase the pads there (rather than cheap ones from elsewhere- they fall apart).  At the office supply store's copy center they will cut them in half (vertically) for you.  They may charge you a couple of dollars per cut, so have them put as many notepads as possible in the machine at once.  Then, just pick out some cute paper or cardstock to decorate them.  I also stamped an image and adhered it with 3-d adhesive foam to the top.  If you've got time on your hands, you can stamp the bottom of each page.  I've made bunches of these in the past as stocking stuffers.  Usually, I tie a ribbon around the middle and tuck in a nice pen to make it more of a gift set.  Sometimes I put magnets on the back so it can be used on the fridge.  Here are some photos of the finished product that I made last year.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 7, When the Weather Outside is Frightful...

Well, I wasn't planning to post today.  However, we had so much fun inventing games this morning that I thought I'd share the ideas for all the moms with stir crazy kids.  Does your child (or children) get bored easily?  K sure does.   I think part of that is due to not having a sibling to play with yet.

After breakfast, K wanted to play chase.  It was 7:30 am and I was still waking up, and I didn't want to run anyway because I just ate.  (I am not a morning person!)  My husband and I were trying to chat but K wanted to do something active, so he asked daddy to play catch.  Dad was trying to drink his coffee, so no go on the game of catch.  I noticed a round laundry basket nearby and two balls, one large bouncy ball and one smaller nerf ball.  Wanting to stay in my chair and let my food digest, I invented a game to keep K occupied: laundry basketball.  At our direction, he pulled the basket to a safe place to throw things and then worked on his shooting skills.  We cheered from the sidelines, aka couch & chair.  Soon, he was passing a ball to Daddy (who was still sitting on the couch).  Then Mommy got a ball too (I was lounging in the chair across from the couch).  We all had a blast trying to get the balls into the laundry basket while the adults were still sitting.  My husband suggested using folded up socks instead; then it would truly be laundry basketball.  Sorry, no photos...I was too lazy to go get the camera!

Once the food had settled, K and I did play chase.  K pushed his shopping cart and I ran behind him trying to toss the nerf ball into the cart.  Later, the shopping cart became a stroller of sorts.  We crammed pillows into it and then K sat on the pillows.  I pushed him round and round the house, going faster and faster.  It was great exercise, and fun to pass on a game that I used to play as a child.  My Gram had a similar shopping cart which we used for all kinds of great entertainment like go cart races.

Ok moms it's your turn- please share in the comments some fun activities that keep your kids busy when the weather is too cold to go outside and play.  We also watched two videos today, so that's fine to share favorite dvds too!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 6, All I Really Want is Simplicity

As the adoption of our daughter is about to be completed in a few weeks, I have to confess that my heart isn't in to the usual Christmas traditions this year.  (It's rather ironic that I'm doing a 12 days of Christmas blog.)  We're going to be in Beijing on Christmas day!  I can hardly believe it!!  There will be no Christmas tree, or presents to unwrap, or special dinner with all the trimmings, no carols, or holiday classic movies.  It will just be my husband and me touring the capital city of China.  As far as I know, they don't celebrate Christmas there.  But, I'm ok with the break from tradition.  All I really want for Christmas is simplicity.

That's what I've wanted for years actually, especially the five years that I taught full time at a grade school.  One year I seriously thought about planning a vacation and going far away from the Christmas chaos.  December can get too crazy with all the extra activities and festivities going on.  So this year I am finally getting my wish for simplicity.  It's cool, and I'm really excited about it.  However, it's bittersweet because our son won't be traveling with us.  He'll be celebrating Christmas with his grandparents; a plan that we thought would be best for all of us.  Still, it won't be easy to be away from him, and each day that goes by I'm feeling the sting of it a bit more.

So with all that's going on in our household and the impending changes in our family, I've been very pensive.  Basically I'm doing a lot of soul searching.   I don't know if you have had similar ponderings about your holiday traditions.  Do you ever stop and ask yourself, "Why am I doing this?"  Recently I have just been longing to slow down, be still, and think about the first Christmas.  So this morning I just sat in the quiet (the few precious moments of it before K got up) and thought about the gift God gave us when He sent His son to earth.  Even if we never received another Christmas present, that One Gift would be enough.  However, God is so generous, that He continues to give us gifts above and beyond that first Christmas Gift.

This year, He has blessed us with a daughter.  There are no words to express the wonder of it.  The usual holiday festivities pale in comparison in my mind.  I am so completely overwhelmed by all that is unfolding in our lives right now.  Meanwhile, I'm trying to get things done here at home: packing suitcases, purchasing and wrapping gifts for family, scrambling to get our plane tickets, etc..  So I don't know that I'll continue to do 12 blogs as I'd originally planned.

If this is my last Christmas blog post, then I want to say, "Merry Christmas to you!"  Treasure the gifts that God has given you, especially your family.   I hope you will find time to savor some simplicity this year.

In spite of a the busy rush to get everything done before we head to China,
I am determined to find quiet moments to appreciate the gifts God has
given me.  One gift was fresh snow and a perfect leaf all alone.  
Ah, simplicity!  It's what my soul is longing for.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 5, The Star of Bethlehem

This is a must see DVD!  You can even watch it on YouTube for free.

Last year, I decided to read the Christmas story in all four gospels.  I did this right before Christmas as a way to keep the true meaning of the holiday at the forefront of my mind.  As I read the stories, I began to ponder the star that lead the wise men to find Jesus.  The big question was, why didn't everybody else notice it if it was so obvious?!?  Our modern day depictions show a huge star that touches earth right at the manger scene.  I actually talked to God about my question and wrote in my prayer journal asking Him to some day explain it to me, thinking maybe when I got to heaven He could answer that one for me.  Much to my amazement, He answered my query a few days later when my parents arrived to spend Christmas with us, and brought with them a video for all of us to watch: The Star of Bethlehem.  Apparently, somebody else had the same question about the star and he began to do in depth research about it.  This video is a result of his research and then presenting it to his Bible study group.  So many requested to hear the presentation that they recorded it onto DVD.  As you watch you'll learn that with modern technology and computer programming we can see what the night sky looked like thousands of years ago.  In the midst of all the scientific evidence given on the video, I found myself amazed at how stunningly poetic, romantic, and beautiful God is with the messages He sends to us through the things He's created.  I highly recommend this DVD whether you believe in God or not.  It's fascinating and will truly encourage you.  It will also remind you what Christmas is really about.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 4, Handmade Christmas Ornament

Welcome to day 4 of the 12 blogs of Christmas!  One of our Christmas traditions is to get a new ornament for the tree every year.   Often we'll buy an ornament when we are on vacation.  I love to decorate the tree each December and recall the memories the each ornament represents.

Last year, we adopted our son from Rwanda.  What an amazing journey that was!  I do have a small basket from Rwanda that we hang on the tree to commemorate our trip to get him, and to celebrate his birth country.  However, I wanted an ornament that shows how Africa has been woven into the fabric of our family.  Out of the blue, I got inspiration to make my own ornament in the shape of Africa with the use of a cookie cutter.  (I found the cookie cutter on Copper  I used two colors of Sculpey clay to show how even though we have different skin colors, we're still one family.  Rwanda has three official languages, one of which is French; so I used a rubber stamp (from Stampin Up!) with French script on it to add visual interest and texture to the ornament.  Finally, I placed a brad in the shape of a heart to represent Rwanda.  (I baked the ornament according to Sculpey clay's directions.) The finished product exceeded my expectations.  I've made four more since then as gifts, but this first one is my favorite.  Each one looks different since the clay molds together in unique shapes.

My original idea of an ornament that represents our family.  
You can use polymer clay to make all kinds of ornaments.  This would be a fun activity to do with grade school kids.  You only need a few items to make them: clay, cookie cutters, a rolling pin, a straw to make the hole at the top, ribbon, and some embellishments.  Give it a try!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 3, Treat Gift Bags

Wow, I'm scrambling to get ready to go to China!  We're going to be there for Christmas!!  So today's post is going to be short...

This is for those of you who like to make homemade gifts.  Listed below is a great video tutorial from Dawn's Stamping Thoughts on how to make adorable little treat bags (3" by 5" when complete).  I made seven of them in an afternoon.  It took me three tries to get it right, but they were easy after that.  I filled my little bags with delicious Dillettante chocolate mints from Costco ($9.99).  Each bag will hold approximately ten chocolates.   I'm planning to give them to the nursery workers at church, and to my co-workers.  Of course, I'm sampling the chocolate liberally!  I love chocolate mint!!

Here's the link:  

Completed treat bags.  The paper & ribbon are retired items from Stampin' Up.
Paper is called Holiday Thyme.  Ribbon is Cranberry Crisp.  You might find
them on Ebay since these items are no longer being sold by SU.  

See you tomorrow for day 4 of my 12 blogs of Christmas!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 2, Peanut Clusters

See below for directions on how to make these delicious treats.

Peanut clusters are super easy to make- just three ingredients.  This is a great recipe that only takes about 10 minutes to complete, longer if you have a three year old helping you.  The clusters freeze well and are also perfect for mailing.  We make them every Christmas as that's the only time we can find the almond bark at the stores.  I also stock up on the bark so I can make clusters whenever.  They are an easy treat to make for last minute get togethers or as a gift for someone.  Today's batch of clusters went to work with my husband where his co-workers happily devoured them.  (Of course, we kept a few at home for us to enjoy too.)  Here's the recipe...

Peanut Clusters
2 cups (12 oz.) semi sweet chocolate chips
1 package (16 oz.) candy coating or almond bark {It's basically like white chocolate in large blocks}
1 jar (16 oz.) dry roasted peanuts {We prefer unsalted}

1. Pour chocolate chips and candy coating into a large microwave safe bowl.
2. Heat in microwave for two minutes.
3. Remove bowl with hot pads and stir chocolate.
4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 twice, (You'll heat the chocolate for a total of 5 to 6 minutes.)  Mixture should be smooth with no lumps.
5. Add peanuts to the melted chocolate and stir until nuts are well coated with chocolate.
6. Drop mixture onto wax paper lined cookie sheets.
7. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.
8. Store in air tight container, no need to refrigerate.

Makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen clusters.

How to make peanut clusters with a three year old:

"Ok, are you ready to make peanut clusters?"

Pour in the chocolate chips

Add the candy coating, and now you're ready for Mom's help.

Have your mom put the bowl in the microwave.

Now it's time to goof around while we wait.

Have Mom stir it cuz it's hot!

More goofin' while we wait for the chocolate to melt.

Oops, we put the peanuts in early, but they're supposed to
go in after the chocolate is all melted!

Now the clusters are ready to go on the cookie sheets.
"I hope I get to sample them soon!"

You can help Mom make the clusters if you are careful.

Now they're ready for the fridge.  I can't wait to try one!

It was a bit of an upset for K, but he had to wait till after dinner to have a cluster.  He did get to lick the spoon after all the clusters were made though.  Yum!

See you tomorrow for Day 3 of my 12 blogs of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 1, Advent Calendar

Happy December 1st!  I've decided to post something Christmas related for the first twelve days of December.  Glad you could join me for day one.

When I was little, we always had some sort of advent calendar to help us count the days till Christmas.  My mom made a candy count down for us one year.  She used a long strip of green felt, attached 24 strips of red ribbon, and tied a peppermint to each ribbon.  That was a fun way to count down to Christmas.  We also had a 3-D cardboard manger display that had a little window to open each day.  I think there was a Christmas story or part of a verse to read behind the window.  For whatever reason, I always got a kick out of the daily activity of opening a new window or removing a candy.  I wanted to pass on the tradition to our son.

To keep things simple, I decided to use an old classroom calendar to help K see the progression of days till Christmas.  The teacher in me can't pass up the opportunity to teach him about the days of the week, the concept of months, and counting!  Each morning we're adding the date to the calendar and then counting how many days left until Christmas.  Nothing fancy, but I love that he's learning and there's no candy involved!  Also, this will help him understand the passage of time when we are away in China.

This year's advent calendar.  Nothing fancy, but K thinks it's fun.
I did see a cool and crafty idea for an advent calendar using a mini muffin pan.  Perhaps next year when K is older and I'm not preparing for an international trip we'll try it.  If you are feeling creative, or want a new way to help your kids count the days till Christmas, I've found a great blog tutorial to help get you started with the mini muffin tin idea.  You can get step by step directions here:
I don't know the owner of this blog, and just stumbled upon it by chance, but I love her ideas.  Hopefully she won't mind that I'm giving you a sneak peek of her project picture here.  The fun thing about the muffin tins is that you can put whatever you want behind the magnetic circles: a treat, a message, a poem, a promise of a fun Christmas activity to do that day, or part of an on-going story.  If you try it, leave me a message or a link to your blog so we can see how it turned out.

Sneak peek of the mini muffin tin advent calendar.
Photo borrowed from Sumo's Sweet Stuff

See you tomorrow for day 2 of my 12 blogs about Christmas.