Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Wish


Every now and then I rock Eloise (my youngest) in my chair until she falls asleep on my chest. I rarely do it because I don't want them to require it, but sometimes I still cherish that opportunity to hold them at bedtime while they're still babies. Tonight was one of those nights. As I sang quietly to her, I started to feel the weight of motherhood on my heart. I've been trying so hard to keep my house clean, bake yummy meals for us and other families, and create fun and festive crafts and activities for my children so that the holidays are warm and memorable. I love doing it all, but I'm also realizing the toll it takes on all of us when I get out of balance and start to do too much.

Christmas crafting brings more messes! Making dinner for a sick friend means more time in the kitchen on my swollen feet which turns into a grumpy mom! Sitting by the tree and reading Christmas stories to my kids means that I didn't finish cleaning up the huge accident that took place in the bathroom that evening... (I'll spare you the details, but let me just tell you that it was disgusting and not a smart thing to let it dry.)

As a mother, I'm constantly choosing between a thousand things that I could and should do. I've tried really hard this week to balance all the STUFF (cleaning, baking, crafting, wrapping, errands) with the BEST STUFF (reading Christmas books, coloring together, doing service, giving eye contact and one-on-one attention). But if I do the BEST STUFF all day long and let go of the STUFF, then we get out of balance. If I spend too much time getting the STUFF done, then I neglect the BEST STUFF and we get out of balance. This is why I found myself in tears tonight while I held Eloise.

I hope my children know that I love them. 
I hope they remember a happy look on my face and not a stressed out, exhausted ornery one. 

I hope I have the self-discipline to go to bed when I know I need to 
and to stop eating peanut M&M's all day because they're there. 

I hope to make the right sacrifices at the right time and find balance--at least most of the time.

And I hope to feel the spirit of Christ in my home on Christmas. 

I wish the same for all of you! 
Speaking of fun "stuff," here's some last minute Christmas crafts you can do with your kiddos 
as you get ready for the big day.

Q Tip Snowflakes
Original idea found at Frugal Fun For Boys
(We craft naked at the Phipps' house)
paper plate
Q Tips
Elmer's glue

This was a great activity to set up for my four year old to do on her own. Perhaps if you do this activity over wax paper, you could pull the snowflake off of the plate after it dries and make it into an ornament. We just kept ours on the plate.
If you look up "Q Tip Snowflake" on Google images, you'll get several ideas of different snowflakes to create with your little one. Very fun!
Kindness Jar
This was an idea I had when I was trying to come up with a new Christmas advent calendar for this year. I decided to still use it, but as a "kindness jar" instead of a countdown to Christmas. We decorated a glass mason jar with snowflakes and the words "Phipps are kind" (part of our family motto). Then we cut out several snowflakes, kept them folded up, and placed them in the jar.

Every time one of us does something kind for someone else, we get to pull out a snowflake, unfold it and tape it onto our front window.

I used this tutorial for making the snowflakes. I let my daughter pick her favorite ones and then drew the pattern onto the paper for her to cut out on her own. I helped with the rest. 
This idea is still a work in progress and since we started it so late in the month I think I'll keep it going throughout the winter. I'll post an update in January or so, but I thought it might help us fight the winter blues...

Speaking of WINTER BLUES, check out my article that was published in Latter-Day Woman about ways to stay sane and happy with your little ones this winter!

Christmas Tree Hand Print Craft

This is a classic but it's actually the first time I've tried it. I did this craft with my two year old and it actually went better than I thought. She loves to paint her entire hand and then I helped her make the prints on the paper. She decorated the rest.
Again, we craft naked.



Merry Christmas to all, and to all a GOOD NIGHT.
(10:56pm. I'm overdue for some sleep.)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

An Elf on the Shelf

So I must admit that I'd never heard of the "Elf on the Shelf" tradition until this year. I saw the box at Target that had the elf and the book that tells the story for around $30.00. I loved the idea and thought it sounded like fun for my girls, but I wasn't about to fork out that much money for it! Instead, I found this idea and we decided to make our own Christmas elves this year.

I have to admit that I was in quite a BAD MOOD when we started this activity. But I knew I wanted to have activity time with my girls or else I'd feel guilty, so I sat down and got started with my four year old. My little two year old, Charlotte started making an elf with us but soon had a tantrum. She was then placed in front of Dora while Hazel and I resumed our activity. After about five minutes, I felt relaxed and probably could have made fifty-two of these little elves if my baby hadn't woken up! It may seem like a tedious craft, but if you have a little one who's willing to work at it with you, it's a bit addicting and even calming.

pipe cleaners
small and large wooden beads
jingle bells
hot glue
permanent marker

Step One: You build the elf by taking one pipe cleaner and folding it in half. Then thread the material onto the stem until about halfway down, in the following order: large bead for the body, another large bead for the head, a felt hat and a jingle bell.


Step Two: To make the hat, fold a 1 1/2 inch semi-circle from point to point to make a cone and secure with hot glue. Make sure you leave a little hole at the top of the hat for the pipe cleaner to poke through. After you place the bell at the very top, you can create a loop with the remaining pipe cleaner to hang the elf on your tree, if you want.


Step Three: Once you've threaded the body, head, hat and bell, divide the remaining halves of the folded pipe cleaner at the bottom to create two legs. Thread the smaller beads onto the legs and make a loop at the bottom (the feet) to secure the beads in place.
Step Four: Cut half of a new pipe cleaner and center it in between the body and head bead of your elf, twisting it into place to create the arms. Thread your smaller beads and secure with a loop at the ends (the hands).
Step Five: To create the scarf, cut a 1/2" by 4" rectangle from your felt. Fringe the ends with scissors and cut a lengthwise slit 1 3/4" from one of the ends for the opposite end to slide through. And you're done!

After we made a few elves, my four year old decided that she wanted to make a reindeer for one of the elves to ride on. Since we were on a roll, I was up for the challenge. We merely gave him two body beads and placed the second 1/2 pipe cleaner between those two beads for his front legs. Then I hot glued a nose on his head bead and a tail on the lower body bead. We cut the loop at the top to create antlers.

Sounds quite technical doesn't it?

 This is Hazel threading a jingle bell necklace for our reindeer.
One week to go! Hope you're all doing well and finding time to sit back and enjoy this season with your kids. We just had a family movie night tonight with pizza, edamame, and 
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
Such fun.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A December Meltdown

I feel a lot of gratitude today. I'll admit that the past two weeks have not been my best. I've been overwhelmed, short-tempered, and plain stressed out as I have attempted to unpack from Thanksgiving (nope, not there yet), paint my daughter's bedroom furniture, keep my house liveable, decorate, feed everyone, do my Christmas shopping, flu shots, Joy school Christmas parties, host creative activities for my kids, do service, etc, etc, etc. I finally had a meltdown. A good one. And the nice thing about meltdowns is that when all is said and done and my eyes are swollen and I've apologized to everyone that I've yelled at, I usually gain a new perspective. I see things more clearly and feel more gratitude for the good things in my life. And I finally have the guts to eliminate the unnecessary to-do's that make my life too busy to enjoy the most important people around me.

I've selected a few pictures that epitomize the "reminders" that have helped me re-center myself this month as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Savior.


My children. I realized while writing in my journal the other day that their approval is one of the most important things I seek. I want nothing more than to be the kind of mother that they want to emulate one day; one that they trust, admire, and respect.

And during this Christmas season, the greatest thing I want to teach them is how to serve other people. Our Christmas candy cane advent calendar has been such a blessing. Its been difficult on some days to get that candy cane delivered, but it has urged us to think of others every day.
I love hearing Hazel explain to the recipient what the upside down candy cane represents and why we're giving it to them. I'll remember this service for a long time and look forward to the days we have left.
I love those crazy "what were you THINKING?!" moments that make for a great picture 
and/or story later... I left the girls on their own for a while the other day and came downstairs to find this. If it weren't for the marker all over their faces, they'd look like angels in this picture.

I took fifty pictures of these girls in the tub until finally I got one worth keeping. Doesn't that relate to motherhood? Fifty moments of cleaning, teaching, repeating, and fighting to keep your temper and then one shining moment where they fill your cup to the brim and all is right in the world. 
Just for a second.

Here's a belly update. I'm 26 weeks pregnant with our first baby boy. 
I'm grateful that my husband finally pulled it off.

(can you see how I'm carrying this pregnancy in my face?)

I've been trying out a few different ideas to keep the spirit of service alive in our home this Christmas season. I bought these mailboxes at JoAnne's and had the girls decorate them with stickers and make them their own. They can make a gift or draw a picture for one another and leave it in the other's mailbox. (So far, my husband and I have delivered most of the notes/gifts.)
Christmas Mice! is a great children's book about a family of mice that receive a gift from a cat and decide to make a present for him in return. My daughter decided to make a little mouse out of pom-poms and felt, which I suggested would make a great gift for her sister's mailbox...
(She decided to keep the mouse and write a note for her sister instead, but the spirit of service was still there...)
I love this picture because they look so happy and obedient and you'd never guess that Hazel threw a major tantrum over her dinner just twenty minutes before. All three girls were an emotional mess and we had decided to cancel our plans that night until last minute we sought some fresh air and went out anyway. I'm so glad we did.
I love the magic of Christmas!
(This is Charlotte watching a Q&A with Santa at our local childrens' museum)

I'm grateful for these shirts I found to flatter myself. I need to put these pictures all over my house.


Obviously this post is more personal than most, but I have to say that one of the greatest reminders I have of who I am and why I'm here and why I sacrifice to be a stay-at-home mom is the man I married and the vision we have for our family. So so lucky. (Isn't he cute??)
Photobucket So if you're overwhelmed or having a meltdown this lovely December, please do feel free to share with another mom. I bet she can top your worst moment or at least relate to it. And if she can't, email me and I'm sure I can top it. We are, after all, in this together.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Crafts for Kids: Christmas Tree Art

I already shared our idea for a Christmas Advent calendar this year which is centered around candy canes and what they represent. I found this neat poem to send along with our daily candy cane to the recipient:
Turned upside down
the cane makes a “J”
for Jesus who was
born on Christmas Day.
Turn it upright like
the Good Shepherd’s staff
who pleads to the
Father on your behalf.
At the top you’ll see
the saving crook,
used on the lost sheep
He never forsook.
The stripes whisper softly
“By his stripes we are healed,”
and the red represents
His blood that was spilled.
The white gives us hope
to become pure as He,
by forsaking our sins,
white as snow they will be.
The peppermint oil
that flavors this treat,
is known for its strong
healing properties.
Now each time you see the
striped candy cane,
remember, dear child,
He knows your name.
When I saw this idea to create a tree with candy canes, I thought it would go hand in hand with our theme. Plus it's adorable! Here's what we used:
styrofoam tree cone
small candy canes
hot glue
First, we removed the candy canes from their wrappers. I ended up using an entire box of these babies, but we'd already snacked on a few of them...How many you use depends on the size of the cone you choose. Our cone was about 8" tall and we used about 45 candy canes.
If I did this one over again, I'd cover the cone with something to hide the green...I was worried we'd run out of candy canes so I spaced them apart a little too much. You can pack them in tighter to hide the green as well.
My two year old helped us find the candy canes that weren't broken and my four year old removed the wrapper with scissors and placed them carefully over the hot glue with my help.

While we were on a roll, we covered a larger cone with starlight mints. To help avoid any further temptation, I kept them in the wrapper (helped fill up space too because one bag of mints didn't quite fill the tree). I love these!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Craft for Toddlers

Tracing with Yarn Activity

I saw this idea in a magazine with shapes; you draw the shape on a piece of cardboard and help your toddler glue a piece of yarn along the shape. I decided to adapt this idea to Christmas by drawing a Christmas tree and a snowman for my kids to cover with yarn and decorate to their own liking. While it was pretty easy and fun for my four year old, it was a challenge for my two year old. I could tell that it really tested her coordination skills but it was still fun for her to try and she was proud of the outcome.

Cardboard or cardstock

I drew the picture I wanted them to trace with yarn onto the cardboard and showed them how to follow the lines with glue and then place the yarn onto the glue.
I think good 'ole Elmer's liquid glue works best but ours was almost gone, so we used glue sticks. I cut the yarn into smaller pieces for my two year old. My older daughter went off into her own crafting world and didn't need my help at all with her creation.
Pin It
This was a quick and simple craft that was easy to put together and entertained them for a good half an hour! I pulled out some buttons in the end that my toddler added to her snowman. You could use pom poms, beads, cotton balls, etc for embellishments. The point of this activity is for them to practice tracing shapes.
Hope your week is going well! Now that we've survived a wedding and a birthday party (my youngest just turned one!), life has slowed a bit again and I'm excited to get back into the routine this week. Thanks for checking in.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Advent Calendar

Well hello there. It's been a while and I'm excited to be back. My husband is home from Africa. We picked him up late from the airport and took off for our Thanksgiving trip to Arizona with my extended family. The poor boy was OUT COLD by 5pm every night, trying to adjust to the time change. I'm so glad to have him back. Three weeks was way too long, but it was a successful trip and we're grateful that he's been able to start up something new and exciting out there.

Once we returned from Arizona, I dove right into some pending projects, the hardest of which was painting the girls' bunk beds. Holy pain in my six month pregnant behind! Do I get a merit badge or something? I believe I deserve it after primering, painting, and sealing those beds. But it's done and now I get to paint a dresser and a vanity. I think I've lost my mind.

I've bit off too much this month. I'm determined to slow down in the weeks to come and soak in the joys of Christmas time. I want my girls to understand what Christmas is really about so badly. Hazel is playing the part of the angel in the nativity program in Joy School. The other day, Charlotte and I watched her class rehearse their (short and simple) program and that afternoon I asked them both, "So what is Christmas?" to see if any of the nativity story had sunk in. Charlotte (2) pointed to our Christmas tree and Hazel (4) said "Santa brings us presents!" I had been searching for a fun advent calendar idea and decided then and there that I wanted to do something that would help us remember Christ, the real reason for celebration.

This is what I came up with:

  Pin It  
We started with twenty-five candy canes in a jar with a ribbon wrapped around it. Each day we pull out a candy cane, wrap it in a piece of the ribbon, and think of someone that we could give the candy cane to with a nice note and/or a small service like cookies or a visit. When I introduced this idea to my girls, they really wanted to EAT the candy canes, but I explained that these are special treats that we're only giving to other people. (I did buy the mini ones for the girls because I didn't want to torture their little sugar-craving bodies. I can totally relate to their needs).

image from Homemaking Fun
We had a little discussion about what a candy cane represents and where it comes from. I told them about shepherds and how they use their staff to keep their sheep safe and moving in the right direction. I told them that Christ is called our "Shepherd" in the scriptures and that we are called his sheep. Then I turned the candy cane upside down and we talked about how it makes the letter "J" and how these candy canes can help us remember to be like Jesus during the Christmas season. We talked about the different ways we can be like Him such as doing acts of service and being kind and obedient to Mom and Dad.

I was curious to see how this plan of mine would pan out and so far, it's been a success. The girls have been really excited about getting the jar off the mantle and choosing who the special recipient will be that day. On the first day, we chose our neighbor across the street whom we refer to as "Grandma Norma."

Hazel drew some pictures on a notecard and wrote on the back, "Thank you for the treats," since Norma always brings goody bags for the girls.
We delivered the treat during the beginning of that HUGE wind storm that hit us pretty hard that afternoon. We were all still in our pajamas and our hair was blowing everywhere, but it felt so good to put everything aside and visit Norma with my girls. 

Yesterday we gave our candy cane to Grandpa Phipps who has been in and out of the hospital recently. Hazel prepared her hand-written note excitedly (notice the upside down candy cane? She remembered) and then gave it to him with a nice hug.

I wish I could keep those notes!

I know I'm late posting about this idea but it's never too late to start!
I think doing some kind of advent calendar during Christmas time helps these little ones wrap their minds around "time" and the difficult task of waiting for the big day.

I just visited JoAnne's and stocked up for this month, 
so please do return for some more Christmas/winter activity time ideas!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...