Thursday, November 29, 2012

Keeping CHRIST in Christmas

We are nearing the 1st of December and the "countdown" if you will to Christmas.  This time of year can get so crazy can't it?  With Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday all in a short period of time....toy commericals and decorations going is easy to get caught up in all of it.

I am guilty of it myself!! So there is no judgement here - trust me!

But we are trying to do a few things that will keep our hearts focused on the true meaning of Christmas this year.  I will be honest....I am not ready to take away "Santa" all together - the kids do still get stockings with a few gifts.  But Santa isn't going to be the primary focus this season.  So I thought I would share a couple of things that we are doing to try and keep a right focus.
24 Books for Christmas.

I read about this idea last year during the Christmas season so I didn't have time to get things together...but last spring I gathered up all the Christmas books we had and bought a few more to have a set of 24.  The idea is simple, the kids get to open 1 book every day from Dec 1 to the 24th.

Specifically for us, we have only books that focus on Jesus and the meaning of Christmas. Some of them are the legend of the candy cane, or the story of the Christmas tree...but each book has meaning. Not only does this encourage reading together as a family...but hopefully it also helps keep the little ones focused on what is really important.

The Jesse Tree
I had not heard of the Jesse Tree before this year. It just so happens that our church is doing a modification of this for our kids Christmas program.  In their words....

"This book offers 25 devotions for each day from December 1st to December 25th, Christmas Day... the day Christians celebrate that God's purpose was finally revealed in the coming of the savior, Jesus Christ.

Each devotion traces the heritage of Jesus through the stories and prophecies of the Old Testament. 

The Advent Jesse Tree enables individuals and families to engage in a more meaningful celebration of the Christmas season.

These daily Advent devotions are written in two versions (one for children and one version for adults) including a scripture, a story & commentary, questions to ask, a prayer, and a song."

Isn't that awesome! I have also read of families making their own Jesse tree and  ornaments for each day and then decorate the tree after each days devotion. It is a little late for me to get all the ornaments done for this year....but I think it will be a top thing to get done for 2013!!

Oh and for our church program we were asked to make an ornament that went along with our child's verse. Elijah and Gabriel have this verse....
"Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous"

And this is the ark that I came up with
Only problem is I didn't read ahead in the program and the next reader talks about the I might have to take the rainbow off...but I wanted a picture of it first before I do that! :)

Limiting the number of presents our kids get from us

Last Christmas, and honestly several times before I have been struck by how much stuff the kids get. With 2 sets of grandparents and great grandparents and cousin exchanges....they don't even know what to do with it all.

And when they are tearing through presents and not even realizing what they have just feels like things have gone a little too far. Or is it just me??
 So I head about other parents limiting the # of presents each child gets to 3. Some even had guidelines like some they want, something to wear and something they need...stuff like that. 

While I didn't stick to that specifically...I did stick to a budget. The "big gift" and most expensive of the 3 gifts each is getting is $50 or less. Then they are each getting 2 smaller gifts. Karlena's most expensive gift is a doll cradle I got at a rummage sale for $10!

My point is that while I love to see my kids happy, I don't think I am doing them any good by giving them EVERYTHING they want....and for some things, if it were a bigger gift - like for Isaac, he paid for most of the gift and we paid for a small portion.  That way he is also learning the value of having to save up for something that he really wants!

Trust me I don't think years from now they will come to us and say we didn't give them enough or ask why we only spent $100 on them for Christmas.  If we continue to keep the focus on Christ...all gifts, big or small, regardless of size, will be ones they are thankful for.
 Giving to others

In this time of "I Want...." it is so important to teach our kids about giving back to others.  We started early in November by filling up shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  It was really cool because the other day Dominic and I were in Walmart with Gabriel and Elijah...Elijah wanted something and I said no and then Gabriel leaned over and reminded him about the kids that don't get Christmas presents at all....and that we need to be thankful for what we do have and not be upset when we can't have something. 

Can you say proud mama moment?! :)

But I wanted to do we are looking at finding a family that we can "adopt" from our community and buy presents for. Our extended families have done this in previous years and I can tell you that it brings me so much joy shopping for gifts for someone else....knowing that it is going to be a blessing to them.  We have soo much to be thankful for, and honestly we as Americans are all rich compared to so many other countries....

Making Christmas special for another family is the least we can do as a demonstration of our thanks for all that God has blessed us with.

Those are just a couple of the things that we are doing but I know that there are other ideas as well and I would love to hear what your family is doing to celebrate Christmas and keep Christ as the focus.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cara Box Exchange!!

Cara Box

So I found Kaitlyn's blog Wifessionals through another blog I read.  She does this thing called the "Cara Box Exchange". Basically 2 women bloggers get paired together to send each other a little box of goodies, based on a particular theme each month.  There is a $15 limit to the gifts and you are encouraged to send at least 5 items!!

This was my first time participating and it was so much fun! The theme this month was "Childhood" and I was paired with the lovely Leah over at Beautifully Molded. It was so much fun to get to know Leah through he blog and e-mails and then pick out some fun gifts for her that hopefully reflect a little of her childhood.

Well my box came on Black Friday which was extra fun for an already happy day!!

Everything was wrapped up so nice! And she game me some great things too!!  I told her that one of the best parts about my childhood was all the camping trips we had.

So she sent me this....
I am telling you they really hit the spot one night!! :)

And then she asked me where I grew up and made this adorable magnet for me of my home state!! Isn't that just so creative??

She also sent me this adorable journal because I told her that I used to journal all the time when I was younger!!

And she also sent me some recipe cards (because I love baking) and my favorite childhood candy - Lemon Heads!!  Leah really spent some time putting together my box and I am just so grateful that I got to participate this month!!

Thanks so much Leah for the wonderful gifts! It has been so much fun getting to know are a beautiful woman and I wish you many blessings!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

True Thanksgiving

We have so much to be thankful for and because Thanksgiving is tomorrow I thought that I would just take a little time and share some of the things that I am most grateful for.

A year ago at this time life was so stressful. We were dealing with uncertainties about why God brought us here to MN and I personally was so afraid of our future. Today I have to shake my head at just how little I was trusting in God to lead our family through the storm we were in.

Today I can see how God was working long before in preparing us to be where we are today. And because of some very faithful prayer warriors, strong supporters and encouragers...we walked through that storm and continue to see and feel God's blessings in our lives.

So first and foremost I am so grateful for my relationship with God. I know that there are times when I am not faithful or trusting like I should be...but God continues to love me, failures and all, and I feel His presence in my life daily.

I am grateful for my supportive husband and beautiful kids.  I know that I probably take each and every one of them for granted on a daily basis. But I am so blessed to be a wife and mother. My life is so full. Dominic is my best friend and each one of my kids brings me such joy.....I have much more than I deserve for sure!!

We have such an awesome extended family.  On both sides of our family - we just have great parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts/uncles etc. When we are together we laugh and celebrate life. And I love that we can stay connected to family through things like blogging and Facebook. It is nice to stay in touch more than just 1 or 2 holidays a year!

I am thankful for the amazing growth of Dominic's business. It was a far off dream of ours and neither of us would have believed that we would be in this place a year ago. Dominic has said it is as though God has just reached down and said "I bless this"....such an amazing gift. My prayer is that we continue to make good choices and honor God in the process.

The list can go on and job, our daycare, our families health, a home and cars that get us where we need to be, more food than we can eat, money in the bank, we really are so over blessed.  I don't want to take any of it for granted.

Even when life isn't "perfect"..even when we are going through trying times, there is always something to be grateful for. So while it may feel like "times of plenty" right now, I don't for a minute forget the times that felt desperate and thank God that He was there in all of it.  I have grown because of tough times and am thankful that God doesn't change even when things around me change!

We are celebrating Thanksgiving on Saturday and so tomorrow we will just be home as a family. Maybe putting up some Christmas decorations or lights, making some homemade pizzas! :)  This year I am trying not to stress any of the preparations for our time together.  I am just so glad that our extended family is coming to see us and that we have the opportunity to welcome them and show them how grateful we are to spend time with them.

So Happy Thanksgiving friends. I am grateful for each of you that comes here to spend time with are all awesome!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy 16th Birthday Isaac!!

I'm not sure how it is possible that 16 years has gone by. I do not feel I have aged that much! :) But yesterday we celebrated Isaac's 16th birthday!! All I can really say is that Isaac adds so much life to our family and we are so thankful for the gift he is to us!  I couldn't scan the pictures I wanted...but had these saved and wanted to share the many "faces" of Isaac...we are grateful for each and every one!!  Happy Birthday Isaac!
 Always a great big brother!

 Ok - isn't the look on Isaac's face priceless above?! (He's the baby if you were wondering) ;)

This has to be one of my favorite costumes he convincing!!

We look forward to seeing where God leads you in the years to come!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Raise your hand if you love to dance!!

Thank you to Ubisoft for sponsoring this post. Please click here to learn more about Ubisoft. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. #UbiChamps. #CleverJD4

So I was selected to be a part of this #UbiChamps program where I get the opportunity to review different video games and then post about what I/we think of them! So fun!!

So a few weeks ago this game showed up in my mailbox....

A few years back we bought Just Dance 2 and the whole family enjoyed it! So the kids were pretty pumped when they saw that we had a new one to try out.

Let me just preface this whole post with a little piece of truth. 

I love the dance.

But sadly here is the rest of that truth....

This girl does NOT have it going on....the moves I mean. Wow did this game humble me! :)

 But we tried regardless....

 The little kids "danced" with our broken remote...they didn't know any difference and they were just having fun!

Gabriel by far was the most fun to watch....he was really trying...and while I think our remotes needed a little charging, and he didn't get "credit" for some of the moves he did well....he was laughing and really getting into the game!

And he loved when he saw that he did a move and got a "perfect"!!

And while he will probably be upset at me for photographing him....even Isaac joined in on the fun. In fact he had a better score than anyone else after the first try!

That is one of the things that I enjoy about the Just Dance games....that so many people in the family can participate and have fun together!

And you don't have to be an expert dancer to play either. I was evidence of that! :)  But seriously, this is a game that would be fun to play with family after a big Thanksgiving meal....what a way to wake you up and energize you and help you shed a couple of those extra turkey pounds too!

And while we don't have much "Mojo" yet....

You can be sure that we will be dancing that score right up soon! :)

Thank you UbiSoft for giving us the opportunity to review Just Dance 4. While I was given the game for free to review - all opinions expressed are my own!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Alright a little disclaimer before I start here....I am going to share my heart here but I don't want you, dear reader, for a minute to think that I don't appreciate my life and all the blessings that God has given us....there are times though that life gets overwhelming.  In all honesty, most of it is my own I can really only blame myself. But just for a moment I want to give you a little peak into my crazy life right now!! :)

I should be getting ready to head to a band concert right now. I found out about it yesterday. The calendar says "Marching Band concert"...Isaac isn't in I ignored it. But apparently, as of 7:30pm last night it was an all band concert.And because it was on Election Day of all days in the school had to start an hour later at 8pm.

So the plan was that Dominic would work right up to the time that I needed to leave and I could go listen and he could put the littles to bed. But I feel kind of yucky and Dominic has so much work to get done....and Isaac being the amazing son that he is told me to make me feel better, that he'd rather I not come because they don't sound that great right now anyways.

sigh....I don't deserve such grace.

So I called Dominic and told him he could work even later...and started Rio for the kids so they could calm down a bit before bed and so I could "rest" and write and hope for a moment of quiet.

I finished painting our kitchen this weekend. Worked on it all day Saturday. And woke up Sunday morning with the worst pain in my neck I have ever had. Awful...and all my own doing. On the upside the kitchen looks fabulous and I can't wait to have people over to see all the changes!!

But because of this mishap I have had to see a chiropractor twice in the past 2 days...taking me away from work and putting a kink, pun intended, in my already busy days.

Dominic being the totally wonderful husband that he is took "kid taxi" twice for me today so that I didn't have to miss SOOO much work and I could make an appt. 

He is so good to me, and I couldn't get through this life without his love and support.

 Isaac has an ortho appt on Monday morning and we still have to bring him back to Sioux Falls for those visits. I had planned on having to take off that entire morning so that I could get him back. But without even knowing how much stress it would take off me, my mom volunteered to meet us in Pipestone the day before and take him to the appt and bring him back to Marshall!

I seriously can't thank God enough for my parents and all they have done for us!!

Work has been CRAZY busy....this is apparently the busiest time of year and wow am I feeling it. (As is everyone in the office) but that coupled with the various appointments for many of us, not feeling great, trips to and from school and preschool feels like all of my days are disjointed and difficult to get everything I want done...done. (In case my boss/co-workers are reading...I not complaining here...just painting a picture!) :)

Dominic too has been so busy (this is good I know) and so he is feeling that pressure as well.  In addition I am trying to learn Quickbooks to get the business accounting all in order and I am struggling...and feeling the pressure to get it all done and FAST so our accountant can take a look at everything here before December....

It is staring at me right now and I will do just about anything to avoid spending any time with something that makes me feel so incredibly stupid!! I know that once I "figure it out" it will be a piece of cake...but I am not there yet and so I am in that "pulling my hair out" stage!

And I miss is an outlet for me and I haven't taken the time to do it lately because I have been filling up my days with so much stuff. Some of it is stuff that I just HAVE to do....but other things I have a choice about and I am trying, struggling to find a good balance between what I must do and what I "want" to do.

Here is just an example of the "list" I have going....

Hang Christmas lights on Saturday b/c the weather is going to be great and then Sunday - really cold.

Have Dominic replace the screen door with the storm door before the cold comes.

Repaint/winterize the front door. When I painted it last year I used indoor paint...and I have some exterior paint leftover from Dominic's office and really want to get that done here before winter.

Write our annual Christmas letter, make labels for the cards. (Yes they are ordered and came in the mail today!!)

Put the kids summer clothes away so there is more room for all their winter stuff.

Paint the play room....because you know I can't stop!! Although paint isn't on sale right now and I haven't found any good clearance paint that will slow me up a bit.

And on and on it goes....

Yep, I know, I create my own stress. I need help I know I do! But I do feel a little better after writing it all out....still a little guilty that I am not headed to that band concert....but better non the less.  

As a side note, and just to dispel any myth that I deserve a "Mother of the Year Award" I was finishing this post I could hear a funny sound....the longer I listened the more I thought I knew what the sound was...but hoped I was I got up to find Karlena holding one kitty in her left arm while scooping cat litter out of the cat box and onto the laundry room floor with the right. And quite pleased with herself I must add.

This IS my life...on a daily basis. :)

So how about you.....what do you do to add stress to your life by trying to do it all?? And more importantly what do you do to combat the need to be everything?? I'd love to hear what works for you!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Learning While Giving - Operation Christmas Child

I am so excited to take some time today, and partnering with Blog Frog, to share something that I am very passionate about. It is an organization called Samaritan's Purse and they have a project called Operation Christmas Child that I want to share with you.

The mission of OCC is simple: "The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ"

Isn't that fantastic?!
And what I love about it is, it is a very fun and easy way to teach our children about giving to others. Especially during this pre-Christmas season when our kids are inundated with a barrage of commercials and ads showing all of the latest, greatest toys and what Santa will bring them.

So easily we forget that there are boys and girls out there that go without toys and presents....children that would give anything for a warm meal every day.  My kids have not had to experience that kind of need....and while I am grateful for that, it also encourages me to teach them to be thankful for all we do have and find ways to show compassion towards others. To develop a giving heart in them.

And it starts with a shoebox....

Or a clear tote :)

The idea is simple. Fill a shoebox with fun things like school supplies, toys, hard candies, hats etc....and then Samaritan's Purse takes each of the boxes and ships them around the world where they are distributed to children in need. In addition to everything that you pack in it they also include tracts that have the good news of Jesus (in those countries languages!!) So the Gospel is being shared with each child that receives a box.

I first became aware of this project when we just had Isaac and Gabriel. So we packed 2 shoe boxes that year.  As we have added more kids, we have also added more boxes. And this year we had 4!

The kids love picking out the gifts to fill the boxes and helping organize them!

This year as we packed we realized we had more room available in our totes so we made 2 trips to the store. We want those boxes to be stuffed full!!

 I will admit that it is tough at age 2, to not want to keep the toys for yourself.  We had to keep taking away things from Karlena as we packed. But hopefully as we continue this tradition every year she too will grow to love and understand the reason that we are doing this.

Because it just starts with a box...or a tote. But what happens is our kids see the value in stuffing as much love into those boxes as possible. They hear that these boxes are going to bless a child in a country far away. That the message of Jesus will be heard....and that is what we celebrate at Christmas time.

Such a beautiful, simple program that gives so much more to these kids than the items we fill the boxes with. Because it gives them hope. It shows them that they are loved.

 I want to encourage you to pray about how many boxes you can fill this year. Operation Christmas Child is nearing a milestone  - working to reach 100 Million Children.

Did you catch that?

100 Million Children.

And it starts with me...and with you, and a shoebox. Will you join me in packing a shoebox this year?  I'd love to hear if you have participated in this program before.  What did your kids think and are they excited every year to do it again?

    This holiday season build a box with your family to teach kindness, compassion, and generosity.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Operation Christmas Child. The opinions and text are all mine.

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