You've probably heard this quote before. "The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." It's so true, as is the inverse. Knowing that they are nestled safe not just within a loving nuclear family, but within a loving network of extended family, is huge for kids. The other night I came home to the sweetest thing.
We got our tree last night and made an evening of pulling out all the decorations and making the house all Christmas-y. We're starting a new tradition this year that I'm really excited about. I've been planning it for months.
Sam said to me today, while we were talking about how Vivi was born two years ago today, "Isn't it amazing how she's grown?" Ha, I love it when little kids say grown up things. We celebrated at home, just the four of us. I have to say, I think it was one of our most perfect birthdays yet.
Apparently four-year olds want to eat spray-painted cartoon characters. Here is a conversation between Sam and I, with direct quotes. "Sam, what kind of cake do you want for your birthday?" I'm thinking he'll request one of my regular culinary wonders: a nice sourdough chocolate cake, maybe honey-sweetened carrot cake, or perhaps one of my favorites, whole wheat cake with burnt butter frosting. Instead he says, "I want a JUNKY cake! From the store! With PINK frosting!!!" Um... yeah. So, what does one say to the light of their life on their fourth birthday when the desire of their little heart is a poisonous cake?
Just popping in to say, Happy Valentine's Day! The kids got a few treats this morning: some pink and red pipe cleaners (they are craft supply addicts!), a slinky, a jump rope and a little dustpan and broom (they love it, I swear!). I thought I'd share these sweet vintage valentines I've gotten from Clay over the years. The mix CD below was from when we were dating, of course:) I still love listening to the mixes he made me. And rereading his love letters; those were a big part of how he won me over. He writes the best love letters!
Last year we sent out valentines instead of Christmas cards and I loved it so much that we're doing it again this year! We just might have a tradition in the making. Not worrying about holiday cards is great; it's one less thing to do and gets me that much closer to the simple, relaxed Christmas I'm always aiming for. And besides that, after Christmas winter just sort of yawns huge and long ahead of me, and I love having something pretty and fun to break up the onslaught of short, dark, chilly days. I have a feeling other people might enjoy a spot of bright and pretty in their midwinter as well, so I love sending out stacks and stacks of cheerful Valentines.
This year, Clay illustrated a portrait of our little family and then digitally added a greeting, which he painted separately, so that we can frame the portrait, but still use the image with the greeting to print cards from.
Check out some in-progress shots and read about our printing experience after jump.
Ever since Sam was born I've wanted to have a soft nativity set that kids could play with. I love the idea of them being able to interact with the pieces and really think about the people. This year I finally made one! The whole thing is super simple. You can download the pattern and instructions here:
Forget Occupy Wall Street. If we just did the majority of our shopping at tiny, independent retailers, all those nice people could have stayed home. Let's reverse economic trends one small business at a time! So, if you're planning on doing a little shopping this season, consider some of these rad, small businessnes first. We try to stick close to the "something to wear, something to play with, something to read (or learn with)" rule, plus whatever we can fit in the stockings. Here are a few of my current favorites.
Stocking Stuffers for Everyone:
The good kind of treats: honey sticks, Panda licorice, roasted seaweed (No? This totally tastes like candy to me...), nuts, crunchy fruit... (What else? I'd love to hear what healthy treats you stuff in your stockings!)
This post is sponsored by Stubby Pencil Studio, where you'll find interesting, uncommon gifts that kids will love and you'll feel good about buying: eco-friendly stocking stuffers, gifts under $10, and green art supplies.
I started making these curly toed, elf-inspired, Christmas stockings a few years ago. They're so fun to make that we now have way more stockings that people in our family (time to have more kids...?). I had the brilliant idea to stock up on wool sweaters over the summer
I love Halloween! I used to go all out on my costumes, but since I've had kids I focus more on theirs. I really can't get away with trick-or-treating anymore anyway :) I've been recycling this mermaid costume I made in college, for the last few years. Luckily Sam wanted to be an octopus this year so we were able to keep the family theme going. Vivi wore his old lobster costume with the addition of some pearls.
I'm so glad we did Valentine's cards this year. It was way more low-stress than Christmas cards, there's so much else going on that time of year anyway. It's nice to get festive and send a little love out to friends and family when the world (at least our corner of it) is still relatively dark and chilly.
Here's how we made our cards. I gathered up supplies (a large sheet from the second-hand store, some batting for the cloud I had on hand from another project, a pair of wings and little hearts from the party store, a stick from the backyard and some twine to make the bow and arrow, and Sam's cutest red clothes). I took the kids' pictures in shifts; it was hard enough getting one of them to look the right way at the right time. Getting both of them doing what they were supposed to do at the same time would've been far outside my skill range.
The other crucial element in this undertaking is a photoshop savvy husband. Clay was able to put Sam and Vivian's pictures together, add some good looking text and create this pretty, striped back for the card.
Once we had the image the way we liked it we sent the file off to NextDayFlyers and they even came back a day earlier than expected! I was able to get most off them addressed in one day, though I was still cutting it pretty close to getting them out on time, which meant I couldn't write as long of a note on each card. In a perfect world, I would've had these printed and on my doorstep two weeks before Valentine's day, so I could have taken my time, writing a personal, thoughtful note on each one (there's always next year!). We did include a link to the family letter though and I think I prefer that to printing out a bazillion copies.
How about you? Did you make any fun valentines this year? I'm excited for the day Sam and Viv are old enough and interested in sending out cards of their own too:)
Since we didn't get around to sending out Christmas cards (seriously, you are my hero if you managed to do that!) we decided to send out Valentine cards. After all the excitement of Christmas, winter just seems to drag on, so it was fun for us to have a little project to get excited about while it's still cold and dreary out. Plus, after all the holiday hoopla I have all this creative energy to burn, since I'm not up to my ears in half a dozen projects with a deadline. I won't unveil the card today, but I will tell you a little about it...
We decided to take a picture of the kids, but not just any old picture mind you, one that involves cupid wings, raining hearts and flying babies... Clay doctored it up in photoshop and we're having a whole bunch printed on postcards.
I know there are strong feelings about the holiday letter- some people love 'em, some hate 'em. I happen to love receiving them, but have never written one myself. I thought maybe I would include one with our Valentine cards. But, since we're sending postcards, I figured we wouldn't have room to write a whole yearly update. So, I'm thinking of just writing it online and including a link in the note on the postcard. What do you think? Would that be weird? I just figure that way they get a cute, updated picture of the kids, a personal note, and if they want, they have the option of reading a more detailed version of our escapades in 2010.
What are you doing for Valentine's day? Do you send Valentines far and wide or just to a select few? I think we'll hand deliver some of the cards to the neighbors along with some cookies.
PS See that herbal recipe over there on the sidebar? I'm going to try putting up a new one each week, just for fun. I'll do my best to link to sources and be good about updating it... Let me know if you try one!
PPS I think we might have extra cards, we're ordering a lot; I'll totally send you one if you send me your address! Just email it (don't leave it in the comments) with the words VALENTINE CARD in the title and I'll be more than happy to send out any extras we have!
I used to get all gung-ho about New Year's resolutions, making long, ambitious lists, aiming to completely revolutionize my life. But, as you can imagine, those goals fizzled out pretty quickly. And this meant that since I wasn't succeeding at all of them, I just let them all slide. Now I only set one or two goals at the start of the new year and find that much more manageable, and it's much more likely that I'll actually accomplish the goals and see real, lasting change in my habits and life.
So, this year I have two simple goals. The first, inspired by a friend, is to have morning devotionals with my kids. Nothing fancy, long or planned ahead of time. Just while we're at the table, eating our breakfast we'll sing a few songs, read our family mission statement and each read one verse of scripture. Sam repeats his verse after me and I read Viv's for her:) We started a few days before the new year and so far it's going well. I'm finding it sets a nice tone for the day and Sam is really enjoying it, especially the singing songs part. It's simple enough that I'm hoping it will weave its way permanently into our routine and can change and adapt as our kids grow. My second goal is to have people over for dinner more often. Every Sunday Clay and I get home from church and inevitably one of us says something along the lines of, "You know, we should really have the so-and-sos over for dinner some time..." And we really do want to, and so we wait for the perfect opportunity, a time when we don't have to catch up on yardwork, and nobody has a cold, and we're not exhausted from one of the kids waking us up all night long, and I've got the house spotless... Needless to say, we haven't had many people over. So, my goal is to simply make a point of having people over on a regular basis whether or not the house is put together and our lives are perfectly organized, because that's never really going to happen (those are New Year's goals for another year!), and in the meantime we really want to enjoy some good company! How's your new year shaping up? Are you feeling good and optimistic? Excited about a fresh year, full of possibilities? I hope so!
Here's a little article I wrote for Babble about keeping the holidays a bit more green, clean and simple. If we could stick to these ten things this season we'd probably earn some wings- you know what they say about cleanliness:)
Yesterday's advent activity was to hang some mistletoe and there was none to be found (at least not in our house and I wasn't about to bundle up both kids for a trip to the store for mistletoe). So, carried on the wave of Sam's enthusiasm, I dug into my felt scraps and we made our own! It may not be mistaken for the real thing, or even an actual plant of any sort, but we had such a fun time making it and it felt good to just decide that good enough was just fine. Sometimes I get caught up in having everything just so; even though I'm not out buying lots of fancy stuff I can still obsess about making everything by hand and having everything all perfect like it is in my head. At these times I try to give myself a little reality check and remember that all the traditions and activities around Christmas aren't about perfection, but they are about spending time with my kiddos and just relaxing and enjoying this cozy time of year. And yesterday it was about doing something fun with Sam, enjoying a little morning creativity and a reminder for extra smooches. Wonky homemade mistletoe works just as well as the fancy stuff for eliciting extra smooching!
A little wreath wire, some wool felt and some pearls (so swanky, I know! They were the most mistletoe-like beads in my stash) and we had ourselves a rather close approximation of the plant, if a somewhat loose interpretation. The beads were stuck on the ends of the wire, which I gathered in a bunch, twisting the felt leaves in between to hold them in place. It didn't take very long at all and Sam loves it. He's completely into the whole idea of smooching under the mistletoe and catches me every time! We've permanently parked Vivian's bouncy seat under it and she is subject to multitudinous kisses from her brother.
I finally finished the list of daily activities for our advent calendar (only a week into December!). It had been on my list of things to do for quite some time, but December snuck up so quickly and has been such a whirlwind! This year's updated calendar is my attempt to turn our attention back to the Savior throughout the season. Each day has a scripture and follows the Christmas story, one small detail at a time. I purposefully made each detail quite small and simple such that I could elaborate or not, depending on the mood. If Sam is receptive and interested, we can talk more about it, if not we move straight on to the activity! So, each day also has an activity, something Christmas-y but simple, something we can do together, but that won't throw my day off if I haven't planned for it:) Though I am keeping a master list printed out for myself so I can glance a day or two ahead. I don't want that Israeli dinner one sneaking up on me!
Since I'm not tech-saavy enough to know how to attach a file or make it available online, I'm just going to paste our 25 days in the comments section and if you're interested you can see it there. Our family is LDS so the scriptures and thoughts are from that perspective, but I think the activities would be fun for anyone celebrating Christmas. Regardless of how you're spending these chilly winter days I hope you're finding time for a little quiet, a little cozy, and a little peaceful contemplation.
This is the first of six posts that will hopefully get your creative juices flowing! We're going full speed ahead for our $100 Christmas goal; I think mostly what we'll buy is stocking stuffers. I go nuts about stuffing stockings:) Here's a glimpse at what lies ahead; for the next three weeks I'll do two posts each Saturday, in the following order.
You could also check the Make and Do archives as I think there are probably some good project ideas in there. The thing about brainstorming projects is that once you get started you end up with way more fantastic ideas that you have time for! My mind is already spinning after compiling these lists... Happy making!
Felt food! I've totally been looking for an excuse to make some of these amazing "snacks."
For little guys nuts about cars (or for any kid really, because it's that cool), how about a customized, oil cloth floor mat?
And for the girly-girl in your life, a super fluffy tutu!
A pointy hat from a felted sweater, or any type of hat really, the possibilities are endless! Oh, felted wool, how I love you...
Mittens with character.
Recycled sweater totes.
A sweet, stuffed critter.
The fun thing about gifts in jars is that it's easy to make up a whole bunch of something and then make lots of pretty packages of it. These make great neighbor gifts, mom's group gifts, co-worker gifts, etc.
Chai concentrate. This is a lovely, creamy, spicy mix that you can add to any tea. Perfect for cozy, winter evenings.
image from LoobyLu
Cookie mix, S'mores, muffins mix, soup... lots of good things, all in jars, all easy to make in large batches and distribute to friends. Or how about your single, work-a-holic brother-in-law who never cooks at home? Stock his kitchen shelves with a little homemade goodness!
These little pies in a tiny jar are so cute!
How about a little a bit of springtime in a jar to chase away the midwinter chill?
Mmmm, homemade root beer.
image from EyeSeeISaw
Jar candles. You could decorate yours with pretty fabric, pressed flowers, or maybe just use a funky, vintage jar and leave it plain.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!