Category Archives: Holidays


WFMW – Christmas Names

wfmwChristmas is almost here!

Do you hear the panic in my voice? I am not ready, not ready, not ready for Christmas!! I think there should be two full weeks left until it’s actually Christmas.

Anyone else agree?

Can we vote on it?

Panic aside, I am thoroughly enjoying the season. We have Christmas lights up on the house. My Advent Calendars have been an overwhelming success. We hosted a Christmas brunch, had a huge birthday slumber party, attended a mother/daughter craft gala, and tomorrow we’re decorating cookies with friends.

So really, the only area in which I am unprepared for Christmas, is in terms of actual presents.

Now it’s my children who are panicking!

Don’t fret little ones, ships in two days. They might make it here by Christmas.

In spite of my lack of credentials in this area, my Works for Me Wednesday tip relates entirely to Christmas presents. It’s one of my ‘bestest’ ideas ever. You will love this. It truly is an awesome way of handling gifts. If you have a family with more than one child, this tip will quickly become a favorite.

Reindeer Names

At the beginning of the season (or in my case, the week before Christmas when I’m finally ready to wrap presents) in the cover of darkness and in total secrecy, I assign each member of the family a secret reindeer name.

All of the presents are labeled to follow this code. The kids know (on pain of death or, even worse, the loss of all their presents) not to sneak a peak at my Reindeer Code List.

It works something like this, suppose that Joshua is Dasher, Rachel Dancer, Daniel is Rudolph, etc, any present for Joshua that goes under the tree is thus labeled, To: Dasher.

This practice has transformed the way the kids view the presents under the tree. They no longer compare and contrast their “piles” or root around, looking for their own gifts. Instead they plot and scheme, trying to decipher which child corresponds to which reindeer.

On Christmas morning the names are revealed. It’s quite the celebration as the anticipation and eagerness have been building throughout the season.

julee's tree

This is not my tree.

In the last two years, we’ve had to expand our collection of names. There are only so many reindeer, after all, and with five children (plus Mom and Dad) you run through the list pretty fast (even counting Olive). We’ve recruited various Christmas movie characters – Frosty, Snowden, Elf; Mr. Incredible even made an appearance.

For some reason the silliness of using aliases got to us one year. Or maybe it was the fact that we were wrapping presents at 2 in the morning, either way, one of us got the notion to sign the gift tag, From: Cinderella.

At that point a new tradition was born! From then on all the presents were given from characters from movies, books, or songs.

To: Prancer
Love: The High King Peter

To: Donner
From: Ariel

The Pevensey kids from the Chronicles of Narnia have shown considerable generosity to our family. The entire Peanuts crew has also made an appearance. The boys routinely receive presents from various Disney Princesses and the little ones have been known to accept gifts from the Redwall characters. I try to be sneaky (don’t read this, kids) and throw them off the trail this way.

I’d love to hear any other tips you have for keeping the joy and wonder alive for children during the holidays. Share some of your favorite memories or creative suggestions!

Head over to Rocks in My Dryer for additional ideas.


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Let’s Talk About Advent Some More

I warned you that I am a bit obsessive. It’s part of my cheerful, optimistic, ‘more is better,’ out look on life. If one day a week of blogging is good, then daily must be even better. Why have one cup of coffee when you can enjoy a whole pot? If having two Advent calendars is special, then more would add to our Christmas joy.

You can see how we ended up with five children. :)

five rascals, all of them

I’m not very good with limits or boundaries, especially on things that are fun. I am more of a ‘have your cake and eat it too’ kind of girl. Mind you, I’ve never really understood that expression. What would you do with the cake except for eat it? How does “having it” differ from “eating it?” Help me out bloggy friends.

But I digress…

Back to Advent – I ran out of time last night to share what types of things we include in the kids’ calendars. And you thought the post was long enough as it was – ha!

Advent Calendar Gift Ideas

  1. Pack of gum
  2. Piece of candy – I bought a bag of chocolate gold coins and put 4 in each child’s calendar
  3. Tea candles – the dollar store had some adorable 3 packs
  4. Markers – I found a package of Window Chalk and gave one to each of the younger children
  5. Polly Pockets – This can cover several days. I put the doll in the first box, the shoes in another and purses/clothing in still another one.
  6. Toy animals – Another fantastic Advent Calendar gift item. They are small and often come in sets. I break open the package and distribute the animals in different boxes.
  7. Work gloves
  8. Sand paper and other wood craft supplies for my wood carver.
  9. Small tools
  10. Coupons for an ice cream cone at McDonalds or a game night with Mom and Dad

Although I love to buy presents for the family, the Advent Calendar is not really about the gifts. It’s more about the celebration of December as a special, holiday month. It’s the joy of having something small and special just for you. The children are just as delighted with a 3 Tootsie Pops as they are with a bigger toy. As we count down to Christmas Day, we think about how the prophets foretold the coming of Christ as a baby and His second coming as a reigning King.

A homeschooling friend with 9 children (she definitely has the More is Better syndrome, right De’Etta :) ) has a wonderful tradition of making the four Sundays in Advent special. Her family reads scripture, lights the Advent candle and opens a small gift. Here’s a quick look.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:10-13)


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WFMW – Advent Calendars

I love Christmas! The nativity displays, Christmas lights, Christmas carols, Christmas movies and the whole holiday season! Every year I tell myself I’m going to savor the time before Christmas, that I won’t let the days fly by in a super-sonic-seasonal rush, that we’ll spend afternoons reading Christmas books and baking cookies amidst the smells of our fresh cut tree and left over Christmas wreath cuttings.

As soon as that happens, I’ll be sure to let you know.

I’ll blog it – complete with pictures. And soft Christmas carol playing in the background.

wfmwUntil then I’ll just share one of our favorite Christmas traditions.

The Advent Calendar

For years we have enjoyed Playmobil Advent Calendars. They are a fun way to count down the days until Christmas. Playmobil produces a new calendar every year with a different theme. Each calendar comes with a cardboard backing that hangs on the wall. There are twenty four slots on the mat that hold small cardboard boxes. The boxes are assorted shapes and sizes and hold individual Playmobil pieces. As the days of December pass, a Christmas scene of Playmobil figures slowly comes together. One time it was a family gathered around the Christmas tree, another was a barnyard collection, and so on.

Playmobil Calendar

One year I bought Joshua a Lego Calendar with Lego pieces in each window. The girls got a Clickit one. Joshua loved the Lego one but the $25 price was a little high.

Last year I stumbled on this creation:

calendar in pink

I fell in love with the idea – a Advent Calendar made out of coordinating scrapbook paper with ribbons and numbered tags. In pink and lime green, no less!

close up

Stop by Heather’s Blog for complete instructions and a gallery of pictures.

I immediately began collecting small cardboard cylinders (okay, empty toilet paper rolls) and plotting my Advent Craft Assembly Project. In the end I modified the project some and came up with my own version. I covered a large picture frame with Christmas paper to use as the base. I slipped small toys (super hero figures, gum, coins, etc) into the tp rolls and wrapped them in bright colored tissue paper, tying a ribbon around each one. I numbered them 1 through 24 and affixed them onto the picture.

a beautiful calendar

David and Daniel each had one of these big homemade Advent Calendars. Joshua and Sarah opened new Playmobil ones and Rachel received a month’s collection of Littlest Pet Shop figures in one of the older Playmobil calendars. I printed out name labels and pasted them above each individual calendar.

We were a house FULL of Advent. Some called it over-the-top and slightly obnoxious, I preferred to think of it as festive.

david's calendar

David loved discovering little treats on his calendar each day.

This year I did NOT plan in advance. I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe it was going away for the entire Thanksgiving weekend or just general Holiday Denial. Before I knew it, December was around the corner and I didn’t have a fresh Playmobil calendar or any goodies to go into a homemade one.

And I hadn’t collected a single toilet paper roll.

What to do?!? Of course, my darling husband suggested I skip the Advent Calendar Countdown this year.

Gasp! Pass on a tradition? The thought of such a thing was repellent to my very nature. He was obviously overcome with pre-Christmas holiday trauma. It’s a common syndrome, usually involving credit card hot flashes and nausea.

Persisting despite the setbacks, I set my course for Advent 2007. I did, however, have to make a few modifications. I didn’t have any small cylinder tubes, after all. Instead I decided to use the empty Playmobil Advent calendars from previous years.

playmobil from yester years

Tim and I went to the Dollar Store and Target to find little treasures. He cheerfully resigned himself to my obstinate persistent determination to do the Advent calendars this year. He’s awfully patient with me. Of course, he also went to bed and left me to sort out the items, assemble the calendars with their 24 little boxes, and put together five sets of toys/goodies/treats. Let’s just say it wasn’t one of my earlier nights.

Five children
Five calendars
Twenty-four items in each calendar

I can’t do that kind of math this late at night.

Maybe some traditions are meant for people with smaller families.

help, i'm drowning in gifts

I only have four Playmobil calendars so Joshua receives his gifts in his stocking. Many of the Playmobil boxes are tiny (remember Playmobil pieces are very small). If the present doesn’t fit in the box (a pack of gum or tube of window chalk), I leave a note in the box and hide the treat in their stocking or around the house somewhere.

It’s been a HUGE hit! The kids beg to open their Advent box each day. Sometimes I am running behind and don’t have the gift ready. Oh the moaning and tortured wails that come forth from my beloved children.

We’re working on developing patient attitudes.

It’s not working.

Next year I would like to, not only plan out the calendars in November (you know, before the December countdown actually begins) but also include the scripture verses that accompany Advent.

A family calendar with daily activities, Bible verses, simple craft ideas and suggestions for ways to bless neighbors and friends would be AWESOME!

Here’s one last link for another homemade Advent calendar. This type would work perfectly for my family countdown idea.

A new tradition in the making, I can already tell.

If you have any time left after reading this (way too long) post, head over to Rocks in My Dryer for other (hopefully less wordy) Works for Me Wednesday ideas.

I’m truly sorry I didn’t post this Advent project sooner. Like, say in November when someone could have used the idea with their family. All I can suggest is to save the idea, bookmark the post, write a note in your Christmas planning book, and shoot for Advent 2008. :)


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Tuesday Tips for Parenting – Christmas Gift Ideas

new logoI can’t believe December is literally racing around the corner. This weekend a friend suggested I write something about Christmas gift ideas for kids. You know, the gifts that will actually hold the children’s interest and survive more than a week or two of playing. Classic toys that have proven to be fun and timeless.

I thought this was a fantastic idea, especially the part about how it should all be organized by age with suggestions for each grade level. Great, wonderful, excellent idea, except for one thing. I don’t have time to write this amazing blog. This particular friend is not only a serious bargain shopper, but a woman of discerning, good taste, so I asked (begged, pleaded) if she would email me the list of gifts that have been favorites in her family. “I’ve started writing down a collection of ideas, including catalog clippings, several times,” she said, “but I just don’t have TIME to finish.”

Obviously what we moms need is more TIME. I hear time makes a great stocking stuffer, gift certificate and looks great wrapped under the tree. Right.

Okay, in lieu of actually doing the work of creating a gift idea blog myself, I figured I would share what I’ve found online. I’m not ruling out the idea of generating my own Christmas treasure blog, but for now, let’s steal from others.

another round of Bang

Of course, games are ALWAYS a hit in our family.

Not Made In China – you’ll love this, a blog dedicated to toys and other products that are NOT made in China. As toy recalls continue to mount up, it’s nice to know there are other options available.

Holiday Gift Guide – this blogging mother of seven shares some great ideas for Christmas.

Christmas Shopping Carnival – this blog post has links to 70 other blogs (each one opens in a separate window) where people share what they are buying this year. If you have time (there’s that word again), you might enjoy browsing through some of the blogs and see if anything inspires you.

Christmas Books – a homeschooling friend has a collection of favorite Christmas books (complete with cover shots) on her blog. I saw some old family treasures as well as some new ones I’m eager to read.

Christmas Countdown – this website helps you get organized and enjoy a stress-free Christmas.

Advent Bible Study for Children – this is a wonderful, inductive Advent Bible study. I have done it several years with the older three children. There are coloring pages, scripture passages to study, and questions to answer.

advent study

Unusual and Unique Gift Items – cause you never know when you might want to buy someone a duct tape wallet.

There you go, I’ve exhausted my knowledge on the subject of Christmas blogs. Now it’s up to you to share your creative ideas, favorite catalogs or blog links. This is a safe place to reveal gift purchases and secret plans, as I highly doubt your spouse or children will pop through and read the comments.

What is your favorite children’s gift idea for this year? What about for your husband or wife? Grandparents? I have an EMPTY gift closet so I can use all the suggestions I can get.


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Happy Thanksgiving!

We’ve had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It has been delightful to have a full weekend in which to savor these times, fleeting though they may be. I only wish we had a houseful of cousins, aunts and uncles and far away friends to make the day truly complete.

Our internet connection is slow and sludgy out in the country and I’ve been having trouble loading my pictures. By the time I grab my email and read a few notes, the evening is half over and I’m exhausted. I’m beginning to suspect I’m not a real person without my high speed internet and the blog. Talk about spoiled.

Now that the weekend is almost over, I’ve finally managed to load some pictures and found time (amidst the relaxing and loafing) to post a blog. I’m eager to return to my computer and catch up on all the Thanksgiving news. My heart is full of thanksgiving for all the blessings God has bestowed upon our family. My prayers are with our friends and family who are struggling with difficult times and painful losses. My faith and hope are in the Lord.

The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing. (Isaiah 51:3)

Highlights of Our Duckabush Thanksgiving Weekend

1. A drama about the first American Thanksgiving starring the Duckabush Players:

Governor Bradford – Joshua (age 14)
Priscilla Alden – Rachel (age 11, 12 next month)
Sarah Alden (daughter of Priscilla) – Sarah (age 5)
Chief Massasoit – Daniel (age 10)
Squanto – David (age 6 1/2)

ready to perform

The actors are waiting in the wings for the play to begin.

what a performance!

Exhausted after their fourth performance, the Duckabush Players pose for a picture.

2. Two turkeys (every proper Thanksgiving has a “Show Turkey”), a ham and at least 10 side dishes.

Preparing to enjoy the feast

Gathering around the dinner table.

3. Pies, chocolate caramel brownies, and plenty of coffee.

4. Multiple rounds of Bang (aka Who Shot the Sheriff?)

5. Five kernels of popcorn on each plate – Pilgrims sparse meal

6. Working and walking out in the woods, vainly chasing the sun before it disappeared behind the ridge.


Sarah contemplates life in the great outdoors.


David is an excellent worker for Grandpa.


Joshua and Daniel help clear a trail.

7. Visits with friends – playing Scum, talking, passing kids around for sleepovers.

casey and teddi jo

Casey and Teddi Jo model their hat wear from a round of Scum.


Joshua – the Civil War/Bunny Scum player.

queen kathy

Ah, to be Queen for a Day, or even a hand or two.

8. Watching movies

And, of course, lots of leftovers, laughter, and love.

A Blessed Thanksgiving from our family!! Leave a note and share something fun you enjoyed over the weekend: a special tradition, a favorite Thanksgiving recipe, a great holiday movie or book.

Project 365 – Days 325-328

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