Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry CHRISTmas!

Another year is coming to a close. With so much to reflect upon it makes me realize we have much to be thankful for. The end of the year offers a perfect opportunity to thank God for all the ways he has provided for us this year. And we are so thankful. A friend of mine was telling me that her sister, who just spent a couple of months in a third world country as part of her schooling, was admitting that this year she thought she would have a hard time with Christmas. Coming from the U.S. and a nice middle class family, she had been sharing a home with a family where the floor was packed dirt and they literally ate beans and rice every day she stayed there. Ususally for more than one meal a day.

The children who lived in the home were getting ready for Christmas and were very excited, as almost all children are. The visiting student learned what the children would be getting for Christmas, the source behind all of the excitement.                                 An orange.                                   They would recieve as their Christmas gift a single orange. And their excitement matched that of any american child who would be showered with gobs of toys. Amazing right?

You know, it makes me realize that yes, the gifts are fun, the food is yummy, but the thing I'm most excited for today is the opportunity to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I wasn't always this way, it used to be all about the presents for me, but the older I get the more I realize that Jesus really is what it's all about.

I was reflecting in church today about this.  We all get caught up in the gift giving and the gift recieving. (except for Troy) But I was struck once again with the thought that if there was nothing else, Jesus is enough. Then I thought, would Jesus be enough? I know Jesus should be enough. My human nature struggles with this. I like stuff!  Giving it, recieving it, even looking at it.  But what does the stuff do for me in the long run?  It clutters my house, it doesn't satisfy, and it leaves me wanting more.

Seth's big bass!
Not Jesus. He is the only one that satisfys the longing of my heart. He is always there, always current, always the same, always knows what I need and even what I desire. Best of all He loves me. And He wants what's best for me. And His best is possible for me, if I just do what He tells me to do.
So I am thankful for this day. And I am thankful for the opportunity I have to teach my sons what this day is truly about. Not the presents, not the toys, but the greatest gift this world will ever know, the gift of a Savior.

Soccer Stud Seth!
                                                                                         Please join my family today as we celebrate.                 This year I'm going to work on not getting caught up in all the stuff, and instead focus on getting caught up in Jesus.  Want to join me?                                              
 Enjoy a few of the pictures of some of this past years activities. The boys played soccer, we all tried out Silver Birch Ranch's new zip line, we traveled to Canada and Illinois, the boys got free tickets to a Brewer game (they are now fans) and we went ice skating on the lake last week, to name a few of the highlights.    Thank you for being a part of our lives. We are greatful for all of the people god has brought into our lives over the years.    We are abundantly blessed. Merry CHRISTmas!

Enjoying the newly discovered Beabers Cove in Canada

Go Brewers!

Two of the NBI girls, Alexa and Megan also known as our daughters.

Chilling in Illinois at the Fall Festival.

We had family pictures taken this fall. I love the results! Thanks Craig!

picture taking is so much fun

Merry Christmas!
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This is How We Advent

This is a picture of the advent, or countdown calendar, that my sister made for me. Yes she made it! (sorry for the poor light quality on the photo, my house does that to me) Two years ago she surprised me with it as a Christmas present and nearly had me in tears, I was so amazed. She knew that I had wanted one, but couldn't find a cute one that I could afford or that I really thought would work well for what I wanted to do with it.

She really decked it out with cute papers and doo-dads. It really is adorable. Mine hangs on two different boards. She says she has since found out how to put it all together on one. That would help anyone who has space issues, because it's pretty long when it is hanging up. I actually hang mine on the back of a closet door that is centrally located in our main living area.

So this is what we do with our calendar: I wanted to help my kids remember that the focus of Christmas is supposed to be on Jesus and his birth. I also wanted to do something that would take the focus off of the presents and commercialism and help us focus on good character qualities and putting others first.  But, I also wanted it to be fun, something they look forward to each day.

So as you can see, there are 25 little tins. One for each day. To keep it simple for me and the kids, the tin we open is the same as the day of the month. Inside they may find a couple of things: The tin holds 3 Hershey's kisses, which, if they find those inside they each have to give me a kiss before they can eat it. Yes I do resort to bribery for kisses from my kids if I need to. I'm not ashamed.  They also may find a piece to a miniature nativity set that also conveniently will fit inside. And there is always a piece of paper inside as well.

The piece of paper that is inside has one of two things printed on it. One thing they may find is a piece of the Christmas story, that I typed out in chronological order, but is still in the words of the Bible. I broke it apart into sections, and usually a piece to the nativity is in the same tin as the Bible story. This way, by the time Christmas arrives, we've already read through the story behind Jesus' birthday once. The boys love getting a nativity piece in their tin as much as they love getting a piece of candy. We then set out the nativity, piece by piece, until it is completed on Christmas morning.

The other thing that might be printed on the piece of paper in the tin, is an activity for all of us to participate in.  Because I have a young family, I've kept things pretty simple.  But I plan on changing it as my children grow. Here are some of the activities I've come up with:
* Let's watch a Christmas movie together tonight, Mom will pop the popcorn!
*Draw a picture of your favorite aspect of  Christmas. We'll hang them up as decorations.
*Let's make Christmas cookies today! We'll wrap some up and deliver them to our neighbors.
Then there are others like:
*Give everyone in your family 3 hugs today when they least expect it.
*Use encouraging words when you speak to each other today.
* Let's choose a missionary to pray for during this holiday season.
*Be the person that always goes last today.
I've tried to include both fun activities and things that will force us to think of others and push us outside of our comfort zone.  I also wanted to do some things that encourage positive interactions between the boys. Let's face it, they don't choose to hug each other very often.

If  I want this to work out well I have to be intentional about looking at my calendar and placing the appropriate activity in the appropriate day before we put the advent calendar up for the season. If I don't some things really won't work out. For instance, it's hard to bake Christmas cookies if we aren't going to be home all day. Sometimes we don't do the activity for the day because life gets in the way, or because I don't have the right things already in the house. (Or because I don't want to deliver the cookies to the neighbors without Troy.)  Overall, this little advent calendar has helped our family be more intentional about how we are spending the days leading up to the Birth of our Savior, Jesus. It's been a great way to teach some character traits to our kids in a fun and exciting way. I'm also excited that I can make it grow with my kids and we can change things as the years go by.
But some things will stay the same.
Because they will become traditions.
And I like that.
How do you advent?
I'd love to hear your ideas too. Pin It

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Little Holiday Happy from Our House to Yours

 So if it weren't for kids I'm not sure how much seasonal decorating I would do. Of course if it weren't for kids, I might feel more energetic.  But thankfully the kids couldn't wait for us to do our holiday decorating, and now it's done.  It really does make the house look Merry and festive. 

I don't feel like we have a ton of decorations, which is good, we don't need a ton. But every year I try and add something new if I can. Even if it's after the holiday so I can take advantage of the clearance sales. It's usually not something large, just a little something to add to what we've already got going on.

Our tree is authentic, cut right out of our own back yard. Traipsing into the woods to look for the perfect tree is a tradition we all enjoy.  I feel like our family is still trying to figure out what out traditions are. Since this is the second year we've made apple cider with our friends the Cooks, we've been able to start the tradition of sipping on a steaming mug of mulled apple cider as we decorate our tree. What a perfect blend of smells! Spiced cider and a fresh evergreen tree!  Mmmmm!  Smells like Christmas!

This year it was fun to have the boys help put the decorations up.  They were trying to remember where things went last year and of course they absolutely love putting the ornaments on the tree! 

I remembered to include a picture of the boys this time!  He may like Christmas, but one of my boys didn't like having his picture taken.  Oh well, keeping it real.  I used to think that my kids would love having me take their pictures. Boy was I mistaken! I torture them anyhow.

Tate was willing to give me a good smile.

Seth finally decided to cooperate.

And Wyat thought he'd go for the innocent and sweet look. 
Kid's really do make the holidays special. They make all of the hullabaloo worth it.
Seeing their eager faces as they are placing the ornaments on the tree. Their nagging sweet reminders of the traditions we are supposed to do next.  Their love for all aspects of the holiday.
I hope you enjoyed this small taste of our home decked out for the holidays. It's not much, but it's ours.
We hope you've dragged out the boxes and decorated your halls too. I'd love to see your house transformed and hear about some of your holiday traditions. Who knows, maybe we'll start doing them with our family!
Only 10 more days until Christmas! Pin It

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Winter is Here

Nothing says winter like a steamy cup of hot cocoa. Especially with marshmallows on top. Mmmm, can you taste the chocolaty goodness?  As I was holding my warm cup in my hands, sitting in front of the Christmas tree that we had just put up, and gazing out at the snow covered woods, I was overtaken with nostalgic feelings from winters past. Remember when you were a little sprite, just coming in from a cold day of gliding down hills and trying to shape huge balls of snow into a snowman?

Wait a second, maybe that's what says winter a little bit better.
My 3 boys tumbling into the house with rosy-red cheeks and noses from an hour of playing out in the snow. (now why didn't I snap a picture of that? Oh well,next time.) 
But what's the first thing they ask for upon entering the toasty house?
"Mommy, can we have some hot cocoa with mini-marshmallows?"
Because they instinctively know that hot cocoa is the best possible ending to a romp out in the snow.
And they know that it tastes better with mini marshmallows.
Which, thanks to the Natural Living store in Antigo, I can grant their wish. (Is there anything more fun than being a wish granter? I'm not sure.)
Why does the health food store sell marshmallows? I don't know. But I am glad they do because it is the only place in all the land to buy them. At least that I know of. And they are adorable! Which makes them taste better, didn't you know that?
So even if your outdoors isn't covered in fluffy white snow like my yard is, heat up the tea pot and make yourself a cup. Because it's winter. Because Christmas is near.
Or, an even better idea is to come over for a visit and I'll make you a cup.
I'll even garnish it with some mini marshmallows for you! Pin It

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Whooo celebrate's St. Nick's Day?

In our family we celebrate St. Nicks day (which was yesterday for those of you who don't).  This isn't something that I did as a child, but my husband did. So this a tradition that we have incorporated into our childrens' Christmas celebration, as we are trying to blend both of our loved childhood traditions for our own family. Now the approach we have taken with the Santa Clause side of Christmas is a back seat approach. You really can't raise children in the U.S. without having to tell them something about Santa Clause. Let's face it, America has commercialized Christmas to the point that Christ is pretty hard to find in it anymore. That's not what we want for our boys.
Celebrating St. Nick's day has actually helped to balance the Commercialized aspect of Christmas for our family. If you don't know anything about St. Nick, go ahead and google him and you can learn the history of the holiday. Here are the basics: St Nickolaus was a real man, he wasn't called a St. until after he passed away of course. But while he was alive he wanted to help people. I've heard a version where he is helping a few young women in need of money by putting coins in the socks they have hung out their windows to dry in the night.
 So knowing that Nickolaus was a real man that helped others, that loved God and who our traditional Santa Claus is patterned after has helped us explain the Santa Claus phenomena in a way that allows them to pretend if they want to, keeps us from lying to our children, and prevents the sometimes deep disappointment they can feel when the truth is finally learned. Of course we always tell our kids that it is a the parents job to tell their kids about Santa and they should just pretend along with their friend if their friend thinks Santa is real. It's a good solution for our family and it allows us to put the focus back on Jesus when it comes to December 25th. As exciting it is to get presents, we want to do all we can to stress the greatest gift of all that came down to earth as a baby on that most holy of days. Jesus, the Light of the World. My Savior.
 So, next year maybe you'll join us in our celebration of St. Nick's Day. On the morning of the 6th our kids get their stocking,s which by now they know are actually filled by Mommy and not St. Nick, because they know he's dead, as they might tell you if you asked. :) Another tradition we have that my mom started for me when I was a kid, is to give them a new Christmas tree ornament every year. I try to find something that pertains to something new they did in the past year, or maybe a special interest they have developed. Well Christmas ornaments are expensive people!  Who can afford to spend six bucks on a glittery bauble? Plus, in case you haven't noticed yet, my kids are a little obsessed interested in owl's. I didn't look around a lot, but I didn't find any inexpensive owl ornaments in the stores. So, I decided to make some. Aren't they cute? I found the pattern in a Christmas book from the library called 'Holiday Crafts' 2010, published by Better Homes and Gardens. It was originally listed in the book as an owl garland (which I may make later) by April Foss whom you can find at I adapted it to make ornaments for my owl crazy boys because they were adorable and the perfect size. And easy. 2 of my favorite qualities in a craft! Not only that but I already all the supplies on hand so this craft was essentially free! My 3rd favorite quality in a craft!
The boys absolutely loved them! So much so that they don't want to hang them on the tree! I had to ask them all for the little guys just so I could put hooks on them and take the pictures for this blog post. They wouldn't let me keep the ornaments on the tree either. I may be making three more. Silly, sweet, funny little boys. So happy St. Nick's Day everyone! One day late. Next post I hope to show you our advent calendar and share with you the things we like to do to celebrate the coming of Jesus' birthday

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Friday, December 2, 2011


Just have to squeeze those chubby cheeks!

 Who's having more fun?

We got to watch our little cutie-patootie today.  I don't think you can guess from the pictures that my boys adore her can you? Especially my middle son?
Just say it with me people - "So cute!!"
The poor girl almost can't handle all of the adoration when they are all 3 surrounding her on the floor, trying to talk to her, play with her, get her attention, make her smile.
I want to leave the room, and they aren't even talking to me!
My middle son can't keep his hands off her as you can see. He wants to hold her the whole time. When I left the room to go get something, our little chub-chub was sitting by herself, when I came back a few moments later, I found her in Seth's lap. I'm getting a little glimpse of the awesome daddy he might be one day.
Plus, babysitting just got easier! Hee, hee!
It is adorable how much they dote on her.
And I'm pretty sure she likes the attention. Pin It