Keeping Christ in CHRISTmas

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It’s hard in the midst of the busyness of the Christmas season to keep the focus where it should be… So might I make a suggestion?  You’re already going to be doing craft projects and activities… what if you just tweaked them a bit to make sure that your focus is on Christ?  Don’t worry – I’m not suggesting you invent the wheel here!  Nope, Alicia Michelle of Your Vibrant Family has already done it for you!  (And no, it’s not too late to get it TODAY!)

When I found out about her Christmas system, I was excited to be a reviewer!  (Full discloser – I received the set in exchange for my review – these opinions shared here are my own, and links to purchase the set are affiliate links that financially benefit our family – THANK YOU!) But once we started using the system, I started to love it even more!  I read through her ideas, and something she said really hit me.  I mean, I had head knowledge, but there was something about reading it… this is what she said:

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And suddenly, reading this, I realized that it was ok to not cram pack every single day with activity.  It was even ok to not do our annual Christmas cookie exchange this year… and instead use the funds to purchase some special craft activities that we could do together as a family, and sponsor an angel from our church’s angel tree.

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Becca and I painted these wooden letters and as we did, we talked about why we chose “Joy” as her middle name, and also talked about that JOY can stand for putting Jesus first, then Others, then Yourself. It was a really fun time painting together, and a great, deep conversation!

Having this mindset and focusing on the true meaning of Christmas has helped my attitude toward the season so much!  It’s amazing.  I mean, it seems so simple.  Because it is.

Check out the Christ-Centered Christmas Banner we have put together from Alicia’s set… (You can purchase your copy of the set here!)

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How we used the banner pieces:
Gray is 2 1/2 and LOVES to stick stickers!  It’s a fabulous way for him to work on hand-eye coordination and build his fine motor skills, so I’m always looking for more sticker opportunities for him.  He decorated the “Light of the World” banner piece with sparkly star stickers, and we talked about the star that shone over the stable where baby Jesus was born.  We also talked about that Jesus can be called the “Light of the World.”  Did he get it? I wasn’t sure.  But the other night he made the connection when he made a star ornament at our church carnival and he said “It’s Jesus’ star over the manger!  Is the ‘Light of the world!'”  He also used stickers to decorate the “Merry Christmas” banner piece.  He really enjoyed decorating – and when I got the banner hung up, he loved seeing his work on the wall!

Becca is working hard on her handwriting skills, but isn’t super fond of copywork.  So – I thought it might be more fun if she could do her copywork onto banner pieces to be hung on the wall.  She jumped on it and was so excited!  She wrote Psalm 34:18 on the “Hope” banner piece, and on the “Joy” banner piece, she wrote “J is for Jesus” from the poem we read (also in the set!) about the meaning of the candy cane.  Then she chose to draw a picture of Jesus on that banner piece as well.

I added a couple of family pictures to the other banner pieces to tie the focus to our specific family.  Then, since we typically have a sign in the middle of our art display wall (I originally posted about this wall here), I used Alicia’s beautiful background paper that I printed on my color printer, and then ran it through my laser printer once it was totally dry… and developed a beautiful advent count-down calendar to fit in the frame that regularly hangs there… that we can mark with a dry erase marker!  (If you purchase this set, please let me know, and as a thank you for your purchase, I will email you your FREE PDF copy of the “O Come, O Come Immanual” advent countdown calendar – that can easily be printed on top of her decorative paper!  It’s not too late to start it!)

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I am so pleased with how the whole wall turned out.  I love that it’s visible from downstairs in our living room, and that it’s in a place where the kids will see it regularly (upstairs near their rooms) to remember where our focus should be this holiday season.

Another activity we did from this set was actually one I used with our AWANA K-2 group this week.  We talked about the meaning of the candy cane, and the kids strung beads on pipe cleaners to make candy canes.  They got to keep one, and take one to a friend at school – along with the candy cane poem printable from the set – as a Christmas gift to share Jesus with their friends!  The kids had so much fun and were really excited to have a gift to take to friends.  They colored the sheets in their classes once they had said their verses, or could take them home to color before giving to their friend.  I’ll be doing the same thing with Becca this weekend – she’ll get to make candy canes to give to her friends, and can color the sheet as a Christmas card.

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It’s so easy to use this set to stay on track, to keep your focus, and yet still accomplish all the goals you normally have during the holiday season!  I so appreciate Alicia’s creation of this set, and look forward to using these parts (and more!) next year.  I love that there’s so many different options, and I can use what works for our family now, and then still have new things we can add on or swap out next year, or the next!

Might I add…   Don’t think if it’s after December 1st that you can’t start this!!!!  It is never too late to get your focus right, and there’s always room to do stuff next year, but if you wait to get it, you’ll forget!  So click here to get it today and use what you can, and just allow it to build in the future.  You won’t regret it.  That I can promise.

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Click Here! Affiliate link – THANK YOU SO MUCH!

‘Tis The Season…

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Y’all, I’m so not ready for Christmas!  I mean, seriously.  We haven’t had Thanksgiving yet!  But Thursday will be here in just a couple more sleeps… and it’s time to start talking to you about Christmas.  So as a mini-revolt against Christmas taking over Thanksgiving, I decided to tell you what I’m thankful for… about Christmas.

I’m thankful for family traditions.

I grew up in a Christian home.  I remember that one thing we ALWAYS did, every Christmas Eve before we opened gifts was that we ALWAYS read the story of Christ’s birth from Luke 2.  We’d eat dinner, and while the menu was usually the same, sometimes it varied.  The dessert was always different, the tree always looked a little different, but that reading of Luke 2 was the same.  Grandpa or Daddy or I (once I was old enough) would read the Christmas story.  The reason for the season was never overlooked.

Cody grew up similarly.  Every Christmas Eve, his family went to church to light candles and sing hymns with their church family and celebrate the birth of Christ.  Because it was important to both sets of our parents to make sure that we as kids knew that Christmas wasn’t just about the giving and receiving of gifts… it was about the Ultimate Gift that God gave to us – His Son, Jesus Christ.

I’m so thankful for those traditions.  But now, as a mom, I feel the pressure of the commercial world.  Christmas is all about the decorations and the presents and the big fat man with a jolly beard who gives gifts to good kids.  It’s about an elf who watches behavior and about how full your stocking is with technology items.  Heck, Christmas isn’t even about spending time with family any more – its about seeing how fast you can open your presents so you can go play with them.  Maybe it always has been, but for me, Christmas was about family, and about that story we read.  It was about celebrating the birth of Christ.

And I’m thankful for that.  I’m also thankful that Becca is growing up wanting to make Jesus a birthday cake every year.  She came up with that idea when she was just 17 months old, and now we do it every year as a special part of our Christmas Eve traditions.  Because THAT is the reason for the season!  He is the reason why we celebrate.  We give gifts because of Saint Nicholas and all that he gave to the children who were poor and needy.  We give gifts to remember the Ultimate Gift that God gave us….

But in all of that, how do we juggle it all?  I mean, December only has 24 days before the “big day” to fit everything in.  Christmas has crept into November, and taken over Thanksgiving.  The shopping for presents begins earlier and earlier every year.  Heck, many stores even begin putting out their Christmas stuff before Halloween… because there just isn’t enough time to prepare for Christmas and all the hubbub.  So how on Earth are we as busy parents supposed to make time to keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas?

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I have a fabulous and easy set of printables I want you to check out.  They’re on sale for a limited time before Black Friday (code: PREBLACKFRI10OFF to save $10), and you can find the whole set here.  (Aff link, thank you!)  This set isn’t about making more work for you, it’s about making Christ the center of Christmas and it’s SUPER EASY to print out what you want and has guides to give you ideas for how to use the items with all different ages of kids!  I’m so excited to get all of my stuff printed out and set up this weekend (yes, AFTER Thanksgiving!) so that we can begin focusing on all the important parts of CHRISTmas.  Alicia Michelle has really outdone herself on this set, and I hope and pray that you will invest in this set for your family.  You can reprint pieces year after year, or print everything the first time on card stock and then laminate so all you have to do is pull it out and hang it up in the future.  There are decorations, activities, and so much more in this set.  I will be posting on my Facebook page as we complete certain parts of the set, and I hope that you will merge this set into your family traditions and share your photos as well – I know you will be blessed, and so will your kids!

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Got questions?  Don’t hesitate to ask!  I’m here to help!

What If…

What if I could tell you something that would change your life?

No, I haven’t found the seed to a magical money tree.

No, I haven’t found a magic potion to fix all your health problems.

But actually, I HAVE found something that isn’t too far from either thing.  Seriously.  And I’ll start by telling you that I was the biggest skeptic ever.  (I have a couple friends who could tell you just how skeptical I was.)  This is not a “get rich quick” scheme.  And it’s not some crazy diet that makes you eat weird things or avoid wonderful things.  Nope.  None of that.

Still interested?  It’s called Plexus.  Yup.  Plexus.  Maybe you’ve heard of it.  These plant-based products (YES – all plant-based, no weird man-made chemicals that will someday be ruled unsafe for human consumption) are literally cleaning out my gut and changing my life.

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Some days it would be in what felt like total remission and I’d be just fine… only a few minutes of stiffness in my joints.  I could stretch it out and move on.  Some days, my hands would ache, or I couldn’t bare to sit on the floor because my back just hurt too bad.  Until I started Plexus.  I hopped onto the Tri-Plex combo – drinking Slim (a product that balances my blood sugar), taking BioCleanse (a product that cleans out the crap – literally – and helps my body remove waste in a more efficient manner), and taking ProBio5 (an intense probiotic that doesn’t dissolve til it’s deep in my gut… and then it unleashes tons of good bacteria to help lil ole autoimmune me actually fight off the bad stuff!).  And omg y’all.  Seriously.  OMG.  My last appointment to my rheumatologist, he was in SHOCK.  He said he’s never had anyone mark ALL zeros for pain/stiffness.  Ever.  He was so amazed that he’s looking into the products for himself!  I truly have a life that is changed.  I NOW know what total remission feels like.  I still stretch when I wake up – out of habit, but not out of necessity!!

I won’t lie and tell you it was instant.  I won’t lie and tell you that the first couple of weeks of detox were a piece of cake.  Because it wasn’t instant.  And the detox sucked.  But I had had enough friends tell me the products would work, that I was determined to stick with it.  And heck, it’s got a 60 day money back guarantee, so I was gonna try it for 59 freakin days before I gave up!!!  And, well, here I sit.  Hooked.  Totally unwilling to ever give it up.

And… I’m ready to try more!  I’m ready to beat the holiday bulge by trying another Plexus product, called Block.  It helps me (totally addicted to sugar and carbs) to fight weight gain by absorbing 1/2 of the carbs I consume and balancing my blood sugar… and well, if it means I can eat that second piece of pie after Thanksgiving dinner without feeling guilt, OR tighter pants, I’m all for it! But the best part, y’all, is that I’m inviting you to join me!

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Even if you are skeptical.  Even if you aren’t sure.  With a group to support you and hold you accountable, you can jump in and start working on a healthier you just by cleaning out your gut!  And I’ll be right there every step of the way as your Ambassador – to help you out, answer questions, and offer encouragement!  And remember… 60 day money back guarantee!  Who’s in?  Who will give your body 59 days to feel like a whole new person?  Because it won’t even take that long!  Simply shoot me an email here and let me know that you want more info about how you too can Block The Bulge!  I’d love to have you join my Bulge Blockers Team!

 

Seed Study: Collecting and Sorting

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This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for your support of this blog!
It also contains links to previous posts to give you even more ideas…
happy reading!

It’s that time!!  Fall is upon us, and here in South Texas we’ve finally had a couple days with highs below 80F!  It’s actually jacket weather in the early mornings, and it’s going to be time very soon for this gardener to get back outside and clean up my flower beds that turned to weeds in the heat of the summer.  Becca has been feeling the change in the air, too… and has been begging to get outside and explore again, which is awesome!

A few weeks back (in the heat of the summer when we spent a LOT of time in the cool of The DoSeum), I came across this book in their library and fell in love.  (A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston) I ordered it for “such a time as this” and the other day we pulled it out to read before going on a seed hunt!  Becca was so excited to see our Texas Mountain Laurel seeds on the front cover- since our property is simply covered in Mountain Laurels!  I love that the author incorporates LOTS of different plant seeds, talks about how various seeds are transferred and planted naturally, and also shows timelines of how long various seeds take to sprout and produce fruit!  The illustrations by Sylvia Long are gorgeous, and it’s definitely a page turner that Becca loved – she begged to read it again when we got back inside, and also used it as a reference guide on our walk when she had questions.  (And I can’t wait to get more of Dianna’s books – she has several that I’ve added to our wishlist!)

So what did we do exactly?  First, we read the book.  Then, we grabbed a bucket and headed outside with Daisy.  We looked everywhere for seeds.  At first, she was just seeing Mountain Laurels and acorns on the ground.  But then her eye started getting more keen and she started looking AROUND instead of just down.  And then she started looking UP!  She was amazed at all of the seeds everywhere!  We collected seeds along our way through our nature trail (we live on an acre and a half of very wooded land), and then before we came inside, I showed her that Daisy had been collecting seeds for us, too!  What a fabulous way to see how animals transfer seeds!  She was in awe.  (If you don’t have this availability on your property, take a trip to your local wooded park or along the bank of the closest stream, etc.)

So, we brought our seeds inside, and then sorted them by the seeds that were obviously just seeds, and by what looked to be seeds inside seed pods.  We talked about how the pods don’t drop their seed until just the right time, and she explored opening a couple of the pods and discovered that they didn’t all have seeds!  One had a spider web, and it appeared the spider had probably eaten the seeds early on.  Another had shriveled, tiny seeds.  And yet another had a whole, healthy seed.  It was a great way to talk about how appearances on the outside aren’t everything – all of the seed pods looked the same on the outside.  She was ready to move on to a different activity, so I didn’t dwell on the character lesson, but the seed did get planted, so to speak. 😉

There was also a door left open to do more research about seeds – she wasn’t sure if the flowers that had seeds in their centers were considered seed pods or not, and she wasn’t sure about a couple of the weeds that we collected – and wants to know how their seeds get transferred.  So, there is plenty of room for more discussion and research, which we will do at the library next time.

There is also room to go back and review the sunflower life cycle unit that we did last fall – so glad I laminated everything! 🙂 (not an affiliate link, just giving credit where credit is due – it’s a great unit she has set up!)

What are you doing to get your kids outside as the weather begins to turn cooler?  Here are some other fall ideas you might enjoy!

Fall Tree Activities

Leaves
Leaf collection in your yard or a local park
Sorting by color/size/shape
Pressing/Leaf art
Books:
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert   My post about Leaf Man
Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

Apples
Apple picking at a local orchard (or even the grocery store if you don’t have an orchard close by)
Sorting by color and/or size (order largest to smallest)
Counting (put in groups to add, subtract, or even multiply or divide)
Making applesauce
Also check out my apple theme box here
And my apple activity center here
Books:
Apple Picking Day by Candice Ransom
Apples by Gail Gibbons

Pumpkins
Pumpkin selection at a pumpkin patch
Cut one open, sort and count seeds after estimating how many are inside
Making a jack-o-lantern, talk about what facial expressions say about our emotions
Books:
The Legend of Spookley The Square Pumpkin by Joe Troiano
The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons

Never can get enough books?  Me neither!  Check out more of our favorite Fall Reads here!

P.W.A.T… for all ages!

I love to paint.  Seriously ya’ll, I LOVE to paint.  And I love nothing more than hanging out with good friends and painting!  And I definitely want to encourage my kids to love art as well.  Earlier in the summer I mentioned that we’re doing this summer on the (relatively) cheap.  And we’re doing pretty good at that.  But the one thing I mentioned in that post that was worth a splurge was Painting with a Twist.  And ya’ll, it so is worth the splurge.

This past week, I finally took the kids (and our babysitter!) to go paint.  I registered Becca and Hannah for canvases, and then planned to just wing it with Gray.  The girls were super excited, and both of their paintings turned out amazing!

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It never ceases to amaze me that these art teachers who instruct adult classes can be so good with even little bitty kids like Becca!  Nik was so patient with her, and when she decided to follow Mommy’s footsteps and “go rogue” with her painting… he didn’t bat an eye!  Instead, he and Katie (the manager/owner’s daughter) swung into action and what was to be a sea turtle turned into a fabulous chalk outline of a dolphin at Becca’s request!  I was so impressed with how compassionate they were and so willing to oblige.  And ya’ll, yes, these are my friends.  But I know they’d do the same for any other child that was in the studio.  And they have BECOME my friends because that’s the kind of people they are…  Because that’s just how they roll.  Becca is so proud of her dolphin – she hung it in her playhouse in the family room.

Katie even provided chalk to occupy Gray so that he could color on the butcher paper covering the table.  Talk about fabulous service!  I drew him a turtle outline, and he loved scribbling all over it.

Gray had a blast, too… it was so much fun for ALL of us, and made me feel like it really is possible to take both of them somewhere and have a really fun, positive time where they both walk away happy and successful!

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All opinions in this post are my own.  I was not compensated for any mention of Painting with a Twist on this blog.  This was my own decision to share this information, and I was not asked to create this post for any intent of advertising for the company.  I am not an affiliate nor employee of Painting with a Twist.