Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Traditions :: DIY Advent Calendar


Our family has several Christmas traditions we practice each year. Some are only for a day, while a couple last through the entire month. It isn’t quite December yet, however, I would like  to share a few of our traditions with all of you this Holiday season.
On December 1st of each year, the boys open the first piece of the Advent calendar. When we started using the calendar, they opened little doors to seek out verses and tiny chocolates; with the tradition evolving more each year. 

This year’s Advent calendar is a hand-made stocking garland. Made from burlap, twine, clothespins and Christmas ribbon, this adorable calendar gets two thumbs up from the Norris boys.
With a little bit of sewing skills, you still have tune to make one before the 1st for your family!

Supplies:

2 1/2 yards of burlap
Hand-made stocking template 5 inches tall and 3 inches wide
Various Christmas colored ribbon and buttons
24 hand-made tags (or stencils and paint)
24 miniature clothespins
Twine
Craft glue
Scissors

Let's Begin!
 
 
1.       Cut out 48 stocking shapes from burlap approximately 5 inches tall and 3 inches wide. You can create a template by free-handing a stocking .

2.       Layer two stocking cutouts on top of one another. Stick around the edges. Turn inside out. Viola! You’ve made a stocking, now make 23 more!

3.       Make 24 little bows out of various Christmas ribbon. Our Advent calendar uses red, green, brown, and gold. You can customize yours to fit your Christmas d├ęcor.

4.       Attach ribbons and buttons to each stocking.

5.       Make number tags 1-24. You can make these anyway you like. Be creative! Attach them to the clothespins using craft glue. You can also paint or stencil the numbers onto the clothespins or stockings, if you like. {I’ve seen a variation of this Advent calendar using small canvas drawstring bags instead of the stockings. The numbers had been painted onto the bags.}

6.       Using the smallest 3M command hooks, hang your twine under your mantel and ensure it is secure. You could also use this as a Christmas tree garland in in which case, omit the 3M command hooks.

7.       Decide what to place in each stocking. This always seems to be the hard part. Below are some ideas for your Advent Calendar.
 

Advent Calendar Ideas:

1. Hot chocolate party
2. Hobbit movie passes

3. LEGO minifigures
4. Hand-made chocolates

5. Make a craft: paint ornaments or make an animal/bird  feeder {This is a fun and easy craft using a toilet paper roll, peanut butter, bird seed, and a piece of yarn. First, punch holes in the toilet paper roll and tie the yarn to allow the feeder to hang. Then, have children spread peanut butter onto the toilet paper roll. Then, sprinkle bird seed onto the peanut butter. Hang feeder from a branch.}
6. A cookie recipe for you and your children to bake together.

7. Schedule a playdate with friends.
8. Have a day where you take your children to purchase toys for the needy.

9. Look through your newspaper for local events to add to specific dates in your Advent calendar; i.e. Christmas parade, see the lights, etc.
10. Create a gingerbread house

11. Make Christmas cards or gifts
12. Create the nativity

13. Bible verses

When it comes to filling the Advent calendar, the sky is the limit! I like to pick things that I can have my children do or make for each other, our family and those needing a little more Christmas cheer. We also add a few of our traditions  to the mix – on the 24th we always take the boys out to purchase stocking stuffers for each other, get hot chocolate and drive around looking at Christmas lights.
What are some of your family's traditional inclusions into the Advent Calendar?

 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Weekly Goals :: 11/25 - 12/01/2012

Weekly Goals for 11/18 - 11/24/2012

Home:
1. Take down holiday decor from Attic
2. Dust, clean floors, wipe windows
3. Prune roses for winter
4. Freezer delivered
5. Finish laundry and drop off at Dry Cleaners

Family:
1. Prep Thanksgiving foods
2. Term 1 Exams
3. Need to get animal meds before holiday
4. Gather Advent items
5. Enjoy the week with the boys and Jake

Volunteering:
1. Work on exhibit ideas
2. Deliver Food Challenge Box - Delivered this Thursday.
3. Meet with Museum contractor

Personal:
1. Reply to emails, clean inboxes, update blog
2. Write new Dandelion Moms article
3. Begin online shopping for remainder of gifts

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! We sure did!

Weekly Goals 11/25 - 12/01/2012

Home:
1. Finish decorating the house
2. Find Christmas Cards to mail out
3. Finish any outdoor projects before the cold sets in
4. Take new Goodwill donations

Family:
1. Finish Advent Calendar
2. Purchase a few new Christmas books to add to the collection
3. Gather supplies for Christmas crafts with boys
4. Enjoy a day with Jake and the boys

Volunteer:
1. Board Meeting
2. 4-H cooking time
3. LEGO Club
4. Meet about the Secret Garden

Personal:
1. Freezer cooking this weekend
2. Pick up anniversary gift
3. Type up blog articles
4. Go for a long walk

Enjoy this week! Can't believe we have made it to December : )

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Holidays and Sensitive Children :: 5 Tips to Avoid a Meltdown

 

I often think about the hustle and bustle of the holidays and how that affects the sensitive child. As we approach this season of joy, I thought I would share a few tips on how to make this time of year sensory friendly.

·        Plan ahead: Be sure to schedule your holiday visits, parties and gatherings in advance and avoid any last minute changes when possible. By knowing what events are in the future, your child will be ready for the situation or venue and know what to expect. Oftentimes, I find it is the unexpected that makes a child anxious. Plus, you will also know what items you may need to bring along to make events more enjoyable. For example, headphones may be needed at a Christmas Symphony.
 
·        Ask: As parents, we sometimes schedule the day to day routine of our children without asking them for input. Yes, The Nutcracker Suite has a great cultural merit, but if your child has no interest, it might prove advantageous to pass on it. By avoiding sensory overload,  you are helping your child from becoming overwhelmed.

·        Be Proactive: You know your child’s limits, but your extended family may not. Let them know your child’s triggers so the holidays don’t become tedious for all those involved.  

·        Keep it Simple: If you’ve ever been to Wal-Mart on Black Friday and experienced being overwhelmed by the mass of people or the onslaught of purchasing choices, than you can relate to a child with sensory issues. Now, imagine feeling this way day in and day out regardless the time of year; to this, add the holiday stresses we all feel. It really is no wonder our sensational children dread November to January. Keep it simple – pick a couple of low crowd events to attend; choose one party to the eight your invited too; and avoid those things which are an ill fit for the child with sensory needs.

·        Enjoy the Season: More importantly, make sure to enjoy the season with each other. There are many ways to make memories at home. Reading stories, making gifts and enjoying hot cocoa are some of our family’s favorite activities. Pick those things which your child delights in and go from there. You may be surprised at the kitchen helper’s Christmas cookies or the beautifully wrapped presents by your little artisan. Not only will this approach alleviate stress, but it will also encourage your child to view the holiday season in a positive light.


Readers, please share any of your family’s useful tips to help children with sensory issues avoid overload this season.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Simple Living :: Hiatus from the Internet

Last week, I did the unthinkable. I walked away from the Internet. For someone who relies on it for the majority of her communication and information, it created an interesting dynamic - but I was up to the challenge!

Monday - It was very difficult to not check my emails. Before I signed off, I had a lot of conversations going on and a few problems I was trying to solve.
 
Tuesday - Travelling to Palm Springs this morning. Scanning news headlines is one way I usually pass the time while I wait. Today, I'm having to watch the news - I really dislike watching the news. I'm also a little worried about finding attraction information regarding my destination, but a nice lady just gave me an armful of tourism pamphets. I'm set!
 
Wednesday -  While my normal morning routine consists of emails, blog updates, checking Facebook, and reading headlines, I am thoroughly enjoying the moment. I'm eating a chocolate croissant next to a waterfall on a gorgeous morning - it doesn't get better than that!
 
Thursday - Internet? What's the Internet? How about a day filled with art, sculptures, wine and cheese, fantastic company, and perusing night time festivals!
 
Friday - Spent the flight talking with my best friend and discovering humus really isn't that bad. Ready to see my boys and spend the weekend at the lake with family.
 
Saturday - My youngest, his Mimi, and I spent most of the day at an auction and local antique stores. My youngest now has auction fever!
 
Sunday - Time to get ready for the Holidays and unpack from a wonderful week. Not looking forward to tomorrow's inbox checks. Ugh!
 
In reflection, I like life better without the constant barrage of emails; the simplicity of not feeling what I like to call 'email urgency; and not being tied to the computer every morning. I came home to over 300 emails and 20 Facebook notifications. I'm glad I prefaced my hiatus or I suspect there would have been many more.

I will say I did have a few instances of when the use of the Internet would have come in handy. On our trip to the Salton Sea, I wanted to research a little bit more about the history of the Sea. But, I did find a Barnes & Noble with books about local history later that day and fulfilled my thirst of knowledge.

I learned a little bit from this social experiment and I definitely didn't miss all the drama on Facebook. I'm going to start checking my emails three times a week and Facebook once a week. I'm going to work on lessoning my time on the Internet and enjoying my time off of it!

If you've got the time and will-power, give it a try! I promise you won't be disappointed!

 
 
 
 

Weekly Goals :: 11/18 - 11/24/2012

Weekly Goals for 11/18 - 11/24/2012

Home:
1. Take down holiday decor from Attic
2. Dust, clean floors, wipe windows
3. Prune roses for winter
4. Freezer delivered
5. Finish laundry and drop off at Dry Cleaners

Family:
1. Prep Thanksgiving foods
2. Term 1 Exams
3. Need to get animal meds before holiday
4. Gather Advent items
5. Enjoy the week with the boys and Jake

Volunteering:
1. Work on exhibit ideas
2. Deliver Food Challenge Box
3. Meet with Museum contractor

Personal:
1. Reply to emails, clean inboxes, update blog
2. Write new Dandelion Moms article
3. Begin online shopping for remainder of gifts
 

Monday, November 12, 2012

While I'm offline...

Feel free to peruse my back articles, send me an email, or check out my Pinterest page...I'll get back with everyone next Monday and give you all a peak into my week without Internet : )

Weekly Goals & Internet-Free Challenge :: 11/12 - 11/19/2012

Weekly Goals for 11/5 - 11/11/2012

Home:
1. Learn how to patch up dry wall holes - One of these days...
2. Weekly chores
3. Take items to Goodwill
4. Freezer cooking

Family:
1. Boys to their activities
2. Date night with Jake
3. Work on holiday crafts

Volunteering:
1. LongviewWOW meeting
2. 4-H Food Challenge practice
3. Find paper pulp for JMG class

Personal:
1. Visit with friends
2. Update wardrobe
3. Continue reading Courting Cate
4. Take some Fall landscape photos

I met most of my goals for last week. This week, however, instead of listing out goals to meet, I've decided on a challenge for myself : a week without the Internet! Possible? I bet so, but I haven't done it in well, forever. So, I'm going to give it a shot before the Holidays! If you're up to the challenge, especially before all the online shopping begins, join me! I'd love to hear how your week goes!
~ Michelle

Friday, November 9, 2012

The English Garden :: A Dandelion Moms Article







Head on over to Dandelion Moms and read all about creating an English Garden in my newest series, Gardening Styles!
 - Michelle

A Texas Girl Speaks Out :: Americans, Please Listen!

While I am usually not one to voice political views on the Internet, I do want to encourage each and everyone of you (regardless of party affiliation) to stop sometime over the next week or so and view the UN Arms Treaty, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. All three of these will be making their way to the Senate very soon. If ratified, these treaties become the Supreme Law of the Land and trump our States' laws and our Constitution. 

 Opposing these treaties is something every American should consider just on the notion that someone else can tell Americans what our laws should be. On the flip side of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, there is a large push to add the Parental Rights Amendment to the US Constitution solidifying the rights of parents in this country (Something all parents should pay attention too!).

So what can we do? We can call our Senators and let them know our viewpoints as well as share this with our family and friends. Please know, I understand we all have different views on many hot topic issues, like marriage, women's rights, and the economy, but this is of even more importance, because at some point one of these treaties will effect you or your family - they will effect Americans.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election 2012 :: Your Vote Matters!



Today is the day - everything will either change overnight or continue on its path. With many people wondering if their vote matters, please know that it does. However, more important than mattering, please understand, as an American, you have a privilege many in the world battle their governments for - the right to vote; to have a voice, no matter how large or small, in our government. Please take the time today to help decide the future of our country - vote.

Here is a video from Khan Academy regarding our voting practices and the Electoral College:

Electoral College: How we elect our President in the United States

Monday, November 5, 2012

Guest Post by Sheri Rose Shepherd :: Building Up the Men in Our Lives

Over the next couple of weeks, I am pleased to share with you all guest posts written by best-selling author and Bible life coach Sheri Rose Shepherd. Sheri is currently in the midst of releasing her newest book and Bible Study, Your Heart's Desire. In her own words, Sheri describes her novel as,
"...written for every woman who has ever loved a man, the married woman who loves her man but struggles in her marriage, the single woman who desires to find a good man to love her, the divorced woman who believed in her marriage only to have her man walk out and for the mothers of sons who desire their beloved boys to become men of faith. This book is written for you and every woman who wants to find the courage to take a step of faith and believe that God is bigger than any statistic and that He still has the power to rebuild what is broken and restore what is lost between men and women today."
I hope you all enjoy these guest posts and glean something meaningful from them. -- Michelle

 
Building Up the Men in Our Lives
He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9, NIV)
By Sheri Rose Shepherd
Bestselling Author and Bible Life Coach
learn more ▶
When our husbands let us down, it's hard not to voice our anger and disappointment. We don't do it to hurt or embarrass our husbands. We are women, and we're wired to share our hearts with another person. We definitely need one another to become the women we want to be, but we need to be careful not to cripple our men by uncovering their weaknesses to everyone.

Obviously we all need someone to help us sort through our feelings. I think it is best to find one or two trustworthy people who are in favor of our marriages and won't repeat our conversation to others. I have two best friends to whom I tell everything because they help me see things from my husband's perspective and help me fight for my marriage by praying and sharing wisdom from the Word. I am careful, even with them, not to overshare in a way that would humiliate my husband, Steve.

Think about how we would feel if our husbands talked about our weaknesses at their workplaces. Let's commit to covering our men and not exposing them, and let's pray for them to grow as leaders.

Don't Enable . . .
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her. (Ephesians 5:25)

Because we women are so good at leading, many times we leave our men in the dust or allow them to become weak leaders. How are they ever supposed to learn to lead if we do everything for them? We are not their mothers; we are their wives. Christ asked them to love, lead, and take care of us the way He loves the church.

It's important that we not try to do things that are our husbands' responsibility unless they are absolutely necessary. Even if we can do their job better than they can, we're not helping them become the men they long to be; we are enabling them. They will see us as their mothers and not their wives, which will make us bitter toward them and produce the fruit of self-hate in their lives.

Do What You Can to Empower Him . . .
Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do. (1 Peter 3:6)

I used to think it was strange that Sarah called her husband "master." I thought maybe she was even putting her husband before God. But today I realize she was a wise woman. She was empowering her husband to find his place as her leader. We can also help our husbands become godly leaders for us. Even if they do not rise up right away, we shouldn't give up on them. We can keep praying and empowering them. Whatever they do, big or small, let's encourage them. Let's be like Sarah and do whatever it takes to empower our men to be great.

For more teaching from the Your Heart's Desire book and Bible study, visit www.biblelifecoaching.com.

Watch the trailer:

Watch the trailer

Weekly Goals :: 11/5 - 11/11/2012

Weekly Goals for 10/29 - 11/4/2012

Home:
1. Finish rose bed and yard
2. Dust ceiling fans
3. Call Terminex to poison fire ant beds in yard
4. Learn how to patch up dry wall holes - Between Opening Weekend and a new niece, this just didn't get accomplished last week!

Family:
1. Date night with Jake
2. Boys' events for the week
3. Work on Christmas gifts

Volunteering:
1. WOW North Pole Express
2. Little LEGO Club
3. Junior Master Gardening
4. Finish Shooting Sports things

Personal:
1. Prepare for homeschool Fall Festival
2. Begin reading Courting Cate
3. Write Dandelion Mom's Articles.
4. Meet my new niece!

Weekly Goals for 11/5 - 11/11/2012

Home:
1. Learn how to patch up dry wall holes
2. Weekly chores
3. Take items to Goodwill
4. Freezer cooking

Family:
1. Boys to their activities
2. Date night with Jake
3. Work on holiday crafts

Volunteering:
1. LongviewWOW meeting
2. 4-H Food Challenge practice
3. Find paper pulp for JMG class

Personal:
1. Visit with friends
2. Update wardrobe
3. Continue reading Courting Cate
4. Take some Fall landscape photos

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fall Recipes :: Easy Peach Cobbler

 
I absolutely love Peach Cobbler, especially when I can make one while putting together dinner. You will not only enjoy the taste of this cobbler, but you will also be pleased with the simplicity of the recipe. 

 
Ingredients:
½ cup butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 can of peach pie filling (or 2 cups of any fruit)

Directions:
Melt butter in a 2 quart baking dish. Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl; stir in milk. Pour mixture over butter, making sure not to stir the two together. Gently pour fruit over batter; spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until crust lightly browns.