I don't know about you, but I love all those Christmas card ideas all over pinterest and creative blogs. There's some really great ideas out there. Unfortunately, I just don't have the space to do something so creative. But I still want to display our Christmas cards. And how am I going to do that?
We live in an older home and without an open floor plan we have a doorway between the kitchen and dinning room. So I picked up a package of sticky tack. Remember that stuff from your college dorm room days? It sticks good and peels off the walls cleanly. I just put a little in each corner and hang the cards around our doorframe. That way we can see, enjoy, and pray for all the families that are a part of our lives.
And what about when the holidays are over? I hole punched our cards and photo cards in the corner and connected them with a key ring. It hangs on the baker's rack in the kitchen and reminds us of all those we love.
Christian Living I Have Loved You: Getting to Know the Father's Heart by Cynthia Heald Culture of Honor by Danny Silk The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg Pilgrimage by Lynn Austin (see book club here)
Parenting The Unwired Mom by Sarah Mae (see book club here) Praying Scriptures for Your Children by Jodie Berndt The Values Driven Child: Parenting with Purpose by Larry Shealy Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas The Missional Mom by Helen Lee Praying for Boys by Brooke McGlothin (see book club here)
Homemaking, Just for Fun, etc. Simple Living by Lorilee Lippincott Real Food, Real Frugal by Susan Godfrey
Other books read: Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Anderson Small Town, Big Miracle by W.C. Martin The Shunning by Beverly Lewis (see book club here) The Confession by Beverly Lewis (see book club here)
*Post originally published on 12/8/15
I recently heard a blogger comment that each Christmas seems the same. Overeating, filling, opening gifts, and rushing on with life. Each year, year after year, the same people and no closer than they were the year before.
With all the preparation that so many of us put into this day, it's sad to think that we've already got it all figured out before it even starts. We walk into this day with so many hopes for deepening relationships and yet, we have no plan to get there. We have plans for completing our shopping, completing our baking, completing our decorations. And no plan for how to make the most of Christmas Day with our family.
I confess I'm as guilty as anyone. After our marriage we decided to split the holidays between our two families, each living in opposite directions of our home. So although I see my mom often, it's a rarity to spend time with aunts, uncles, and cousins. In fact, due to Baby Girl's Dec 21st birthday, this will be the first time in four years that I'll be home for Christmas.
In an effort to plan, here are some ideas for mixing up the family and getting everyone talking:
*Board Games--I remember as a young teen getting these out with my cousins and there are so many to please a variety of ages. Shoots and Ladders, Candyland, Monopoly, Life, Sequence.
*Card Games--There's often a game of Rummy going on at my house on any given holiday. Again so many to choose from and card decks are easy to come by. Make it more interesting and play for M&M's, or leftover desert.
*Pirate Tree or White Elephant Gift Exchanges--There are so many variations of this game. Everyone knows the White Elephant, but have you ever been a Pirate? Look here for further directions. I've heard of further variations where the gifts had to be homemade or usable by the day's end (in the case of a game, Polaroid camera, or yummy goodies).
*Sledding--Come on! You know you want to get out there with the kids. And think of all the calories you'll be burning. Enough for an extra piece of pie! Then take a step back and grab the video camera while your uncle hits the slope.
*Target shooting--We are an outdoor family and there have been many a Christmas mornings where we've packed up Hot Chocolate and appetizers to target shoot while waiting for the turkey.
*Organize a musical competition or talent show--just hurry before the turkey kicks in. No drozy performers. No one in your family has any musical talent? Break out the Karaoke. Can you picture Grandma singing "I saw Mama kissin' Santa Clause?
*Offer to help with clean up--You wouldn't believe the bonding you can do with your sister in law while you're at a sink doing dishes.
Whatever you decide to do on Christmas day, remember to make it memorable. Go beyond the ordinary questions. Laugh, giggle with your children, and build memories. Mark this Christmas as different than the last.
*Bookmarks is an online book club hosted at Creative2xmom. Here we discuss the books we've read in the past month as well as the suggested reading. Our suggested reading for December was The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks.
These are the books I read this month:
Amish Christmas at North Star by Woodsman, Clark, Clark, Flower, and Ganhart--See my review here.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson--This was an assignment from Noah's 5th grade class and I read along with him. Jess and Leslie meet in the 5th grade and become friends, bond by a love of running and an enchanted kingdom called Terabithia. Although the subject matter turns dark, it's a good read for 5-7th grade.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine-- "Blessed" at birth was the gift of obedience, Ella is determined to rid herself of what she sees as a curse. She goes on a quest encountering trolls, ogres, giants, and royalty to find her happily ever after. This would be a good book for 4th grade and up.
Our suggested reading for December was The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks-- A long book, but quite a good one. Ira Levinson is a dear sweet man who's lived a long life and suddenly finds himself in a heap of trouble as his car goes of a lonely road in the middle of winter. As his contemplates his life, he's visited by his deceased wife and they reminisce over their love story. At the same time Sophia and Luke are discovering each other and the love that they're building together. That is until Luke discloses a dangerous secret that could take him away from Sophia forever. My favorite part of this book was the play between Ira and Ruth's love story, up again Sophia and Luke's long story. It's beautiful to hear of love that has lasted, not because it was insulated from troubles, but in spite of them. This was by far, the best Nicholas Sparks book I've read and even beat out The Best of Me from August's bookmarks.
So what are your bookmarks this month?
Tell us in the comments about the books you're chewing on. Or link up a review from your own blog. Let's share the books we're finding, good and bad. And give us your thoughts on The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
And come back in January when we review our 2016 Bookmarks List!
The holidays can be a stressful time each year. Traveling, consuming too much sugar, and generally not getting enough rest can make even the sanest person a little cranky. Add on top the fact that we all want to connect with our families in meaningful ways. Still it can be difficult to pull away from our already busy lives and make the time necessary to facilitate relationships. Here are just a few ideas to help in pulling away from the busyness and connecting with family at Christmastime:
Limit the electronics--I'd like to say leave them at home entirely, but knowing the electronic world we live in, that's not always possible. Sometimes I'll allow my kids to bring theirs if they'll be spending time with their cousins and I know they can connect and play a game together. Other times, they are left in the car or at home if they're visiting Grandparents. Know your location and who you'll be with and plan accordingly. This goes for mom and dad as well. The world will not end if messages are not checked every 5 minutes.
Mix up the age groups--Encourage your kids spend time with their grandparents. Get on the floor and play with your nieces/nephews. Share a joke with Uncle John. Get everyone together and tell stories of Christmases past. Look for opportunities to mix up the age groups and let them interact with each other.
Break out the board games--What better way to mix up the age groups than a board game. Trivia games, apple to apples, and scattergories are great ones for getting everyone involved. Playing games together really gets everyone to open up and relax. And you'd be surprised what you might learn about each other when you're laughing.
Start a family tradition--The holidays are all about traditions. Looking at Christmas lights, visiting a live nativity, having a baking day, or going to a Christmas play are all some of the traditions that thrive in our family. Every year my kids look forward to these events and it gives us time to step away and really be together. It's a memory that builds from year to year as the kids grow and reminds us how lucky we are to be together.
Give experience gifts--Give gifts of time and experience. Take your grandmother out to tea. Share a picnic at the park with your nephew. Enjoy an afternoon at the movies with your aunt. Spending time together is a much valued gift that can build on the relationship year round.
What are your favorite ways to connect with family at Christmastime?
This collection of four short stories follows the lives of four Amish babies all born on the same night, keeping one Amish midwife incredibly busy and making them a legend in the small town of North Star. "Rebekah's babies" go on to make their own choices and build their own lives for 25 years and that's where our stories pick up.
In Guiding Star by Katie Granshert, Ellie McAllister is contacted by a mysterious Englisher who claims to have information about her birth family. But is she really the lost baby?
Mourning Star by Amanda Flower follows the story of Eden Hochstetler investigating the mysterious death of her friend, Isaac. But as she's drawn to Isaac's nephew Jesse, she wonders if he could be the killer.
In the Stars by Cindy Woodsmall tells the tale Savilla Beiler as she tries desperately to hide the secret that tore her away from her beau, Kore. But when confronted with her past, will she run again? Or finally reveal the truth?
In Star of Grace by Mindy Starns Clark and Emily Clark, Andy Danner leaves North Star when spurned by his love. As his little brother hatches a scheme to bring him home, it could have farther reaching consequences than any of them realize.
What will become of these four young adults all connected by one snowy night in North Star?
The positives: All four of these books were quick, easy reads set in the magic of the Christmas season. The stories lightly collide as characters from one or another overlap briefly. Major characters from each story are easy to identify and track and the storylines are engaging. I did find that reading a collection like this gave me exposure to several authors that I've never heard of.
The negatives: I personally didn't enjoy the short stories as much as I would a longer version. Sometimes the story felt rushed simply do to the constraints of the short story format and at times I wanted to see the characters further developed. The one I struggled with most was Mourning Star, but this was also the shortest of the four stories.
Overall, although I realized I personally don't like the short story format, I did enjoy what I was able to read from these authors. The idea that all four major characters were tied together from the start was interesting and it was neat to see how each of their lives took such different paths. I'm excited to explore these author's works further in the future.
*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
We love giving educational gifts at Christmas. They can be not only fun, but also enriching. It's a way of filling our home with gifts that enhance our children's education and spark a love of learning. Here are just a few of our favorites for the 2015 holiday season: