Monthly Archives: December 2013

Handmade Christmas

I finally did. I have been wanting to have a handmade Christmas for a long time, but didn’t think it would really work for the children. The adults in my family have enjoyed it for several years now with each of us trying to come up with something special to make for the others. For example this year I made salted caramel sauce and truffles for my sister and she made us homemade root beer and birch beer. I should say that I am so blessed that I come from a family where handmade is normal. My grandfather loved working with wood and my grandmother started a line of women who sew, knit, crochet, embroider, can, cook from scratch and bake and really anything else they decide to try.

So I was getting a little fed up with the story of Santa Claus. My children were becoming completely focused on what they were getting and as you can imagine the requests were getting more elaborate including this year a pony and an Xbox. I had been telling the children “don’t ask Santa for that because I will tell him no you can’t have it.” Finally we watched a VeggieTales about Saint Nicholas together and I explained the truth. I also told they children I wanted them to focus on giving rather then getting so I looked for projects we could work on together for the children. I found so many options out there that with the exception of legos (one toy I don’t mind splurging on) and a video game we could play together the majority of our Christmas presents were handmade. And the children loved it. They were even excited to see their siblings open their gifts. That is what I want to see. Here are some of our favorites from this year.

I saw these blocks on pinterest and thought they were so cute. I followed the instructions and had them printed on sticker paper about our local print shop. I think these were definitely a favorite for Mavis and Avril to make. I also made the carrying bag.

I saw this dinosaur tail pattern and thought of my little paleontologist. She loves rocks and dinosaurs and her favorite toy is her “Mommy t-rexy.” Obviously it was a hit.

I saw instructions for making magnetic paper dolls and put my own spin on them. I used these dolls but they were not colored so I had lots of fun coloring them with my husband’s art set. I did have difficulty finding the right size tin so I ended up order a tin CD case from etsy. I then had to print the dolls a bit smaller to fit the tin. I think I printed at 65%. I used mode modge to attach a colorful backing paper and then glued the doll parts directly to the tin. I used a roll of magnet I got at Michaels for the clothes. The magnetic canvas had a sticky side so  I put the clothes on the sticky side and cut them out. Now I need to make another set so they can play together.

For my littlest man I finally made the “quick change trousers” from Handmade Beginnings. So much fun I made 2.

Other projects were cutting down Cambodian sarongs to fit the girls and a pair of pants for Two.

We also wanted gifts to spark creativity. So Avril got a face painting set and book. She painted Mavis’ face then Proeun did the rest of them. What a fun evening.

For extended family we asked for clothes, books or games. My sister is the queen of games so she helped extend our family game night by giving the kids some of her favorites. So all in all it went pretty well. We still were able to give fun gifts, we didn’t fill our house with things that will break easily and the children were actually excited about their gifts and what was even better for me, they were excited to give each other gifts. Yes we had a very blessed Christmas.

Celebrating Christmas with Significance

Maybe it is just where I am at in my personal journey but Christmas just seems so much more significant this year then I ever experienced before. I had wonderful Christmases as a child, so much so that there would be a huge letdown after Christmas. Then as a young bride it was a bit hard to recreate, seems like I was always too busy to pause much. But this year is amazing. We are on our dream farm, literally living our dream all year round. And this time of the year is our “off-season” where we are very protective of our family time since we are so busy the rest of the year. But what makes it so wonderful, I think it is the pausing. 

We did our Christmas shopping early, often opting for on-line versions so I didn’t have to navigate crowds. And we kept it minimal. Proeun and I were noticing a case of the “galloping gimmes” (from the Berenstein Bears) and were trying to figure ways to give the children a joy of giving, so we decided to do mostly homemade gifts and get the children involved. They are not as involved as I would like but it is definitely a step in the right direction. 
This spring we bought a piano but I haven’t had much chance to play. Now that the Christmas season is here we are focusing on learning Christmas carols. 
We started with 2 carols for the girls to sing in the choir at church. Since Mavis doesn’t read yet and Avril is not proficient enough to read and sing (though once she knows the song the words help her remember) they had to memorize all the verses for “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Once is Royal David’s City.” It was a fun exercise for all of us. And they loved singing in the choir.
I didn’t do as much crafting this year, other than the presents. I wanted to spend the month working on it but instead am focusing on Christmas stories and music to make the time significant, though Avril did make a lovely table runner with her aunt that really dresses up the table.
The children have been asking for a gingerbread house though, so when I saw a kit for a gingerbread barn I thought it would be perfect. However 4 adults and five children couldn’t figure out how to make it stay erect so it became a cookie decorating party.
The younger ones thought this was a much better idea anyway.
And so did grandpa. I had to remind myself that Christmas memories don’t need to be perfect.
I will post after Christmas about some of our projects but here are some resources for making the season more significant.
The Nativity Story, we kicked off the season with this and loved it, I hadn’t seen it before but it was perfect for setting the mood.
Advent and Christmas is Family Worship, our first year using this. I love it though it took some getting used to, also incorporates songs, better for older children but younger ones love the songs and repeating the verses.
Truth in Tinsel, we used this more last year and it is wonderful. Takes a bit more prep because there are crafts involved, but the younger ones get it more. Also has prompts to add to an advent calendar (I really want to do that next year and make an advent wreath).
And don’t forget to sing, sing all day long. We have Christmas CDs going all day long. And bake, and talk and love and just be. Merry Christmas!

Baby It’s Cold Outside

It sure is. This morning our thermostat said -10 degrees. Yes that is the temperature. We are pretty sheltered here by the woods but I have heard that the wind chill today is expected to reach -30. So what would make a 32 year old mother of 5 children want to leave a nice comfortable bed and house to go out into weather like that? Chores. I have to admit when reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder series and she would talk about chores I had no idea what that meant. Now I do. We currently have 12 goats, 35 chickens, 3 barn cats, 2 rabbits and 1 donkey, plus there are the 2 dogs and 2 indoor cats (but the children normally take care them). I have to admit, yesterday I was thinking that if we didn’t have all these animals that I would be able to sleep in and I wouldn’t have to chores on days like today. 

But then I would be missing out on a very important truth, “caring for animals makes us better people.” See when the weather is like this it is not just feed and water they need. I have to monitor body condition to ensure that they are getting enough calories to heat their body in a addition to normal body functions. I have to watch activity and make sure that they are not getting lethargic. I have to listen to their breathing and make sure it is not too labored. I might even have to check the condition of their poo if I expect a problem. The thing with animals is that they can’t tell you when things are going bad, you just have to know. 
I was thinking about the comparison with my children. For the most part they let me know when something is wrong. But not always right away. I can use my observation skills learned caring for the animals and apply it to my children. Even adult relationships often could use a little tender loving care and observation to catch a potential problem before it turns deadly. 
The truth of the matter is everyone wants to feel needed. But many do not understand that in serving and caring for others (animal or human) that is where we are really needed. I hope to teach these skills of observation and care to my children so that they will never question their worth. And there is a huge sense of empowerment when you do difficult tasks many are not willing to do. When I was outside this morning in 3 plus layers of clothes laboring so hard I was actually too warm at -10 I felt so strong, “Baby I got this.” 
I remember reading in Farmer Boy about temperatures dipping below -40 at night. Almanzo’s family was so wealthy they didn’t have room in the barns for all their animals so some of the yearlings were in the barn yard. At that temperature apparently sleeping animals can freeze solid without even knowing they were in danger in the first place. So Almanzo’s father would have to wake in the middle of the night, dress and go out with a whip to get the animals moving and blood pumping just to save them from freezing to death. I hope it doesn’t get to that but if it does I like to think I got that to.