Monday, December 16, 2013

Our Christmas Elf: Lessons in Giving

We have been doing an elf tradition in our home for a few years now.  It is fun, the kids enjoy it, but honestly trying to find 25 or so ideas for that Elf to do can be a daunting task.  There are tons of pins out there for Elf ideas but a lot of them are pretty mischievous (this thing is supposed to be watching my kids for good behavior, right??).  Frankly, my kids don't need any more ideas on how to make a mess or how to get into trouble.  ;-)  I wasn't looking forward to it this year and traditions should be fun, right?? 

So I was happily surprised and completely inspired by a blog post that I saw on Pinterest about the idea of Kindness Elves.  It was simple, it was about giving back, and it seemed to fit more into the values that personally, we as a family, really want to be sure to teach to our kids.

I didn't want to add too many more items to our holiday calendar (plus, I am a huge procrastinator) so I decided that Elvie needed to wait to make his appearance until around the 15th.  He came this year from the North Pole with a letter from Santa and a daily assignment from Mrs. Claus.   Kids love to teach things to others and also learn while doing it.  Conveniently, some of the assignments coincide with things we had already had planned for Christmas.  Each morning Elvie comes to visit with one of his assignments rolled up like a scroll and tied with a ribbon.  I included the letter and assignments that we thought would be good for our family.  We focused our lessons on sharing and giving (lessons a brother and sister can always stand to practice). Maybe you can use them as a jumping off point for your own ideas.  Click on the images below to access the files...

From our family to yours have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Making Motherhood Your Calling

***I haven't posted for awhile.  Life has been busy.  I have been trying to follow my own advice and say no to some things and yes to the things that matter and, frankly, I haven't felt very inspired to write lately.  During some quiet time today I looked through some old posts that I never really felt like publishing.  This is one of them and one that is very timely for me today. I hope you enjoy it.***

"Do you have a job?"

I always answer this with a no.  "No, I don't have a job for now.  I stay home with my kids".


The truth is motherhood is a 'job'.  A big one.  I work very hard.  I am not just talking about the laundry (oh my goodness gracious the laundry), cleaning up, buying food, and keeping the house from burning down - every responsible grown up does that.

If you go to work everyday just to collect a paycheck and go home then you have simply a job.  We've all been there.  It is nothing to be ashamed of.  Sometimes that job is a time filler - waiting to do something that you love.  Sometimes it is just a way to pay the bills.

When you go to work everyday and love what you do - you want to make a difference - then you have more than a job.  You have a calling.  Some teachers, doctors and nurses, preachers, police officers, etc have a job.  They go to work and go through the motions.  They come home with a paycheck.  Done.  Mark one more day off the calendar.  Some of these special people have callings: that teacher that you will always remember, the doctor or nurse that hugged you when you were crying, the police officer that was a welcome sight when you were afraid, the preacher that knows the right words to give comfort and encouragement.  Those people have a calling.

You see, you can be a mom but be disconnected from motherhood.  I am guilty of this often.  I go through the motions. I clean up all day.  I piddle with a project.  I hand the kids an activity to do.  I check my email a hundred times because it is a distraction.  I am there but not really.

You can choose what your life will be.

I don't want my occupation as stay-at-home-mom to be a job. I want it to by my calling.  I want to work everyday to be present- to live a life with my kids fully, not just go through the motions.

Some moms go to work outside of the home everyday and then come home and make the moments together count.  Some moms have all day with their kids and fritter every moment away doing menial tasks.

I can always go and get a job.  I can go and collect a paycheck.  I have only a limited amount of time to use my calling to produce two fabulous and productive human beings.  Human beings that right now, as kids, are the masters at living in the moment.  I don't want to influence that out of them by my poor example.

That isn't always easy and most days I fail, but on the good days...well, they feel really good. 

Here are a few of the ways to choose to be more present:  (Don't worry I am studying my own notes)

1: Just say no:  Do not over-commit.  I am so guilty of this.  I have an inability to say no when someone asks for a volunteer.  That has to change.  I will commit to the activities that I really want to do.  I will not be afraid to say no to the rest. 

2: Turn off the tv and computer.   The TV is not a big deal.  The computer??  Well...blogging has become a quiet time hobby for me.  It is a sweet bonus that there are a few of you out there that actually read it (thank you).  I enjoy it.  The internet is a lifeline for homeschool planning.  But the notifications and emails pinging away all day, those can go.  Maybe only checking them in the morning before school and in the evening before bed.

3:  Turn off the cell phone:  Really all you need a cell phone for is in case your car breaks down or you need to call 911 after running from a burning building.  Other than that you can temporally turn it off (with <gasp> the power button) without the world coming to an end.  I promise that you can.  (Yes, I am talking about you, mom at the park, whose kid I had to help on and off the slide because you are busy texting in the shade)

4:  Learn the zen of coloring pictures or whatever it is that rocks your socks:  Sit with your kids and do a project that you don't mind doing.  Finger paint, build a model, sew a dress, catch some bugs, go fishing, or color in a coloring book.  I would rather pull out my own teeth rather than sit down and play hot wheels but it is a painless compromise to sit down with my son and color cars in a coloring book instead. He likes it, I like it, and we are both happy together.

5:  Read, Read, Read to your kids.  It is so very good for them.  It is good for you as well. I can't think of a better way to spend quiet time together cuddled up in your living room or on a blanket in the backyard.  You have a shared experience of reading the book and something to talk about together afterwards. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Homemade Halloween

For some reason I am a huge fan of homemade Halloween costumes.  I don't have a thing against buying them but since the kids are getting bigger it is fun to let them have creative control over their outfits.  Besides there is something fun and old-fashioned about sitting around on a fall day and creating a costume.  (Plus, if we win the homemade category in our local fall festival we can score some free candy bars.  Fingers crossed.  ;-))  I always start early if I am sewing them to give me plenty of time to correct mistakes.  

Ladybug wanted to be a fancy witch this year (whatever that means).  I looked through tons of pictures on Pinterest and after editing down my search and making a board that didn't include any sexy witches.  (Really?  Even kid costumes.  Who in the world designs these things?  Anyhow, I digress).  She picked out the designs she liked best and we came up with a version that we could tackle on our own.

My son wanted to be a vampire bat - please don't forget the vampire part -  apparently to a three year old it is a very important distinction.

They were super simple and really inexpensive to make.  Here is what we came up with:

Ladybug's costume took a total of 6 yards of tulle, a short length of elastic, a witch hat, a fancy witch broom, a spool of color-coordinated shiny ribbon, and a silk flower.  She picked two colors of tulle at Walmart.  They were around $1.30 a yard.  We only bought 4 yards (two of each color) but as we started putting the skirt together it wasn't full enough.  My husband ran out and purchased an additional yard of each color.  Only a really great guy will go out on a Friday night and buy hot pink and lavender tulle without giving it a second thought.  The witch hat and broom (not pictured) I had purchased the year before on the after-Halloween clearance rack.  They were around 90% off and I believe ended up being $0.25 for the hat and $0.15 for the broom.  Seriously.  I love shopping the after-holiday Halloween accessories.  It is a cheap way to stock the kids' dress-up bin.

My son's costume took a yard of black felt (probably way more than I needed for a three year old's wing-span).  I probably could have gotten away with 1/2.  I purchased 1/2 a yard of white felt to add some contrast and for the hat.  I think the felt ran about $3.50 a yard.  I also purchased a roll of black ribbon off the $1 rack and I had a length of wider black ribbon in my sewing stash for the neck tie.

To make the witch outfit I took a spare piece of elastic that I had in my sewing box and measured my daughter's waist to where she said it was nice and comfy and stitched the ends together to make a circle.  The tulle I laid out the long way on the table and used the factory fold to start measuring.  I made each strip about 3 inches wide and from the fold 15 inches long.  I cut as many strips as I could out of what I had.  I left the long left over parts from the outside edge in one long piece and saved that for the hat.

There are tons of tutorials on how to make no-sew tutus.  All you do is take your folded strip of tulle, put the loop end behind your elastic and insert the ends through the loop and pull to make a knot on the elastic.  Repeat until you have covered all of the elastic and it is as full as you would like it.

I stitched on a few lengths of shiny ribbon evenly around the waistband to add some contrast and shimmer.  You could knot the ribbon the same as the tulle for a no-sew embellishment but I only purchased one spool of ribbon and doubling it wasted too much to go around evenly.

For the hat, we just took our excess length of tulle and tied it in a simple knot around the brim.  I took extra pieces, made loops out of them and then tied that on with the piece already attached to the hat to make a big bow - just think of making big bows for wreaths.  My daughter helped me to stitch on the tulle to make sure it didn't slide of the hat and then she helped me to stitch on the flower as well.  She loves learning how to sew.  I just wish I was a better teacher.

My husband ended up making little guy's costume.  He insisted that his Daddy had to make his costume and who am I to argue with that.  Besides, I was glad to give crafting responsibility over to someone else.

He laid my son down on a big piece of paper and measured his arm length and marked his waist to know how long his bat wings should be.  He made a sketch of how he wanted to wing shape to look on on half and, when he was happy, he folded it in half to cut so the two sides would be symmetrical.  After he cut it out, it became his pattern for the felt.  Since my husband doesn't like to sew, and he decided to make the 'ribs' of the wings out of white felt, we tried some fabric glue but it didn't stick well.  I had some iron-on heat and bond in my sewing box and that turned out to be just the ticket.

He cut white strips, glued them in place with the iron, and trimmed off the excess.  The wings are actually made just like a cape.  I attached ribbons at the neck and arms.  To make it safer, you really need to add velcro at the neck and, if I did it again, I would use loose black elastic loops or velcroed elastic at the elbows and wrists because my ribbons come untied with all of my three year old's frantic flapping. 

For the bat hat, we took one of little guy's old black baseball hats and my husband cut out felt eyes, ears, and teeth.  I quickly stitched on the eyes and ears when my son wasn't looking (I had mercy on my sweet husband) and he used double sided sticky tape to attach the teeth to the underside of the bill.  It worked well and if little guy wants his favorite baseball hat back after Halloween, we just have to snip a few stitches and un-stick the teeth.

I purchased both kids black pants and black shirts to wear under their outfits.  These can be used all winter as regular clothes as well.

So that is our homemade Halloween.  I decided to post this early in case you get any inspiration from our project so you will still have some time to make one of your very own.