Sunday, December 23, 2012

This Mother's Prayer

Dear Lord, help me remember when he's up at day's first light,
That soon I'll do the waking, and he'll put up the fight.

And when I come upon him in the middle of a mess,
Please help me, Lord, remember how he makes me feel so blessed.

Oh Father, help me stop to see the light that's in his eyes,
When he tracks mud, or colors walls, before he hears my sighs.

And when he breaks another keepsake, ornament, or vase,
Please help me, Lord, to first clean up the tears upon his face.

Lord, help me to be patient with each kick, hit, or bite,
And know the way to gently teach him how to do what's right.

And on those days that seem to hold frustration more than joy.
Dear Lord, help me remember, that he's just a little boy.

-Amanda Hill

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Let it go...Christmas won't be perfect.

I recently saw some people on a forum saying that they love Christmas but they hate the stress. They don't like the stress of buying the perfect present and hosting the family get-together, and all the baking and cooking, and in general trying to make everything perfect and magical for the kids.

If you are looking to create or have the perfect Christmas you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Who's to say what's perfect anyway?

 Today the kids and I made Santa hats out of construction paper, cotton balls, and as you can see from this picture...lots of glue.
Yeah, okay, nobody's project ended up looking like a Santa hat.

But we did get a real nice Cumulus cloud going over here.

This isn't my first try at a Christmas project that didn't go as planned. I plan lots of things and want them to be just as I envision them and they rarely are.  Are you like me?

You may be like me, and envision a fun day of sledding, only to have it end after three minutes because one kid got snow on their chin and the other refused to wear gloves. If you are like me, you swore you were NEVER GOING SLEDDING AGAIN!  If your kids are like mine, the next day they were both talking about it like it had been fun and want to go again.

Or maybe you envision handing out neighbor gifts and singing a spiritual carol at the door, but the only thing your kids will sing is "Santa Claus is Coming to Town".

Or maybe you are trying to make Santa hats and just get a mountain of cotton balls. But in the end my kids didn't look at their project in disappointment. They'd had a blast.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that things ARE NOT going to be perfect, and like Clark Griswald, we've got to stop expecting it and setting ourselves up for failure. The thing is, Christmas is magical for kids with very little effort. They will enjoy anything you try, even if it is a complete failure. Just don't react like I did with the sledding and swear to never go again. Chances are your kids didn't think it was a failure at all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In Which Jane Gets the Spirit of Christmas.

I've come to the conclusion this month that Christmas is like one big, month-long caffeine rush. It is fun and magical and special and thanks to my Jane, sweet and meaningful.

We are filling stockings for 71 foster kids. It has been quite an endeavor, with all sorts of fun things rolling into our house. It's been hard for these kiddos to see all the candy and be told they can't have any. I've been telling them that the stuff is for kids with no mommies and daddies.

I think this has really affected Jane. A few days ago she wanted to share our house with people who don't have a house. But yesterday she really went above and beyond for a girl of four.

Jane kept offering yesterday, "I can share my mommy and daddy. Is that a good idea?"
"That's a wonderful idea, Jane," I would reply.
Then, after thinking for a minute she said, "I can give some of my toys to kids with no mommy or daddy."
I thought it was just more talk. I told her if she wanted to do that then she should go pick out some toys to give away.
Jane surprised me further by going to her toy organizer and rummaging through it. I wanted to make sure she understood exactly what she was doing. "Jane," I said. "If you give these toys away they will be gone forever. You won't ever see them again."  Jane just continued searching through her toys.

A few minutes later she returned with five toys. Of course, three of them were actually Max's, but that's beside the point. "Here, mommy," she said. "Let's put these in the stockings, okay?"

I set the toys on the counter, very touched, because one of the toys was a treasured Tinkerbell bath toy (she has Snow White and Tinkerbell and they play together all the time.) "Are you sure you want to give away Tinkerbell," I asked.

"I still have Snow White," she responded. "Can we put them in the stockings?"

"Yes," I replied. But let's do it tonight after Max is asleep."

But Jane wasn't quite pleased with that answer. She quietly went and retrieved one of our stockings, put the toys in there and handed it back to me. If I thought she hadn't understood what she was doing she changed all that by telling me. "I can never see them again."

Last night, Jane fell asleep very early. I put those toys in the stockings (all except Tinkerbell, she was sticky) and thought about my sweet Jane, who really understood and really followed the spirit of Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Paper Lanterns

I was trying to think of a cost and time-efficient gift to give to my neighbors and friends. I wanted it to be handmade, heartfelt, and reflect the true meaning of Christmas. Into my memory walks this picture. Isn't it a beautiful paperbag lantern? There were tons of them my freshman year at Temple Square in Salt Lake City saying different things in different languages.

Here's my cute freshmen self with my old college roommate and friend for life, Whitney. Don't we look so cute and young? Now Whitney is in law school and I have two kids and the next time we take a picture here we will probably be going through a mid-life crisis. ;)

But that's beside the point. It was the paper lantern that inspired me. I didn't have paper bags (at least I didn't think I did. I've since found some. But making little lanterns like this isn't that hard.

Here is one of my creations from today. Not as fancy. But the same message.

I used cardstock so as to be less of a fire hazard (much less risk of the paper crumpling into the flame or anything, but tomorrow I am getting flameless tealights anyways, just to be safe). I also made some pretty ones out of green and red construction paper.

Cut a standard size piece of paper in half. On one side either draw the picture or write the word that you want on your lantern. Be sure to leave about an inch or space between your word or picture and the bottom of the paper. If you are doing a word, write it flipped backwards so that the side of the paper not written on is the side everyone will see. Then take a push pin and poke holes along the lines. You can add embellishments or add thicker lines in some places if you are artistic or know calligraphy.

When you are done punching holes, cut 5-7 darts along the bottom of the paper. Then wrap paper around a cardboard circle, folding tabs between darts over the cardboard and taping to the circle. Tape the piece of paper together at the sides to form a cylinder. Add a handle. And you're done!

This is definitely a project for older kids (at least the punching part), but if you make a lantern of white paper, your younger kids can color on the paper and that shows up against the candle light and looks quite pretty.

Once again, these make lovely gifts, and we handed some out tonight with a real candle burning in them, but will be switching to flameless. I wouldn't leave this lantern unattended for safety reasons, but it was quite fun and pretty to hold while caroling!

Advent Study December 9th

Advent Scripture Study for December 9th

Light two candles today.

Song: What Child Is This?

Scriptures: Your Choice. Read/Tell your favorite miracle of Christ.

Just so you know, our advent reading last week was only about 2 scriptures and one verse of song. My kids were tired and couldn't handle anything more than that. So don't even try to entertain thoughts of perfection, silent nights, and peaceful feelings. If you get that, great. But if not, the tradition will still be remembered for whatever it was.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Button Ornaments

This Christmas we have two Christmas trees. The fake one we bought our first Christmas and a real one!

In celebration of finally ARRIVING, we decided to splurge and buy a $25 barrel's worth of coordinating, shatterproof ornaments. They are lovely, and currently adorning the fake tree in our living room.

But the real tree...well the real tree is decorated differently. It's decorated in what I like to think of as "real life". A hodge podge of ornaments that we've either made or collected through the years.

There's the few, surviving red ornaments picked up at a Village Green yard sale. The wax tooth Rob carved his first year of dental school. There's also the homemade "First Christmas Together" Ornament that we made a year late because we were too busy with finals to actually make/buy one that first Christmas together. A few years later we bought a "First Christmas Ornament" that just happened to have the right year on it. One of those special Christmases when we actually felt comfortable spending the money ornaments cost. There's the one remaining cinnamon ornament and a few white balls (vestiges of what used to be home-made snowmen ornaments) all from our first Christmas together.

Then there are all the other ornaments we've made together, both for the frugality and the shared time together. The cloth stars made on a Super Saturday in Council Bluffs. The four glass ornaments all painted. One says Amanda loves Rob. Jane found that one this morning. She demanded to paint the last, still unpainted, ornament in the box so that it said Max loves Jane. Because someone has to love Jane. So now we have a frosted, glass ball with some black squiggles on it that say more than any learned "reader" would every be able to see.

But nestled between the crocheted snowflakes and Baby's first Christmas ornaments are perhaps the smallest and ugliest ornaments ever. They're my button ornaments.

I made them when Rob was in dental school. We were on a very tight budget and didn't have money to go out and buy ornaments. We'd been slowly building up a store of homemade ones over the last three years, but many of them had crumbled and broken and there just wasn't much to put on my tree. I wanted so desperately to decorate for Christmas. Really decorate like my mom always did. But I didn't have the money. So I made do with what I had. A large supply of rainbow-colored buttons, left over from a failed craft project.

In my head, I had visions of grandeur. But all that was left after the glue gun was put away were small, ugly lumps of buttons. Unphased, I put them on a hook and hung them on my tree, where they disappeared. The hook more visible than the buttons.

And yet, those button ornaments are still hanging around at the bottom of my ornament bag. Three years later, I'm still pulling them out. And this Christmas, when I feel so blessed. This Christmas when I actually had the money to go out and BUY my own ornaments, I hung those little buttons on the tree with pride and reminisced with Rob about school and how tight the money had been. And then I looked at my life and where I am now and today I thank the Lord for all of my many blessings.

Those button ornaments may be the silliest ornaments on the tree. But I don't think I can ever get rid of them. They're much too valuable.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent Devotional - Dec. 2nd

Advent is a Christmas tradition that takes place every Sunday in December. A candle is lit the first Sunday and an additional candle each Sunday after that. So Dec. 2 light one candle. Dec. 9 light two candles, etc. While the candles are lit have a Christmas devotional. Sing a carol, say a prayer, read from the scriptures, have a discussion if you wish. Then blow out the candles and do it again next week! You can customize this to be as long or as short as your children will allow.

You can display your candles however you wish. Usually it is in a wreath, but if you are like me and thought you could just pick one up at the store, you will be disappointed. So for now, each of my tapered candles is in a Christmas glass filled with fake snow. It is the memory that matters, not the beauty of the decoration (although the picture below is beautiful. Is it not? *sigh*)

Here is our Advent Devotional for Dec. 2nd. Feel free to use it.

Carol: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Lyrics found Here


Scriptures to read

Isaiah 9:6
Isaiah 25:4
Isaiah 53:3-5
Isaiah 25:8
Isaiah 52:7
Additional Reading for Individual/Couple Study