Our Favorite Christmas Books!

In preparation for Christmas- here are some of our favorite Christmas Books- we keep them under the tree and read them all month long!

{Santa's Favorite Story}

{Santa's Suit (this is a touch and feel book- all of my babies love it)}

{The Very First Christmas (this is a good one to have grandparents record for your kids- it is fun for them to hear their voices- especially if they don't live close}

{Pete the Cat Saves Christmas (This is not the most meaningful- but the girls love Pete the Cat)}

I could go on and on with Christmas books we WANT! What are your favorites?

{Little People Nativity- not a book- but if you don't have it, you should get it! My girls love it every year!!}


It's the MOST Wonderful Time of The Year- To Celebrate JESUS!

Welcome to my Favorite season to blog (ok, favorite season.)! I just have so many things that I think you need to know during this time of year! I L.O.V.E. Christmas time- the focus in on Jesus, the lights are beautiful and bright, the Christmas music is delightful, everything peppermint, the smell of winter candles, HOT coffee, giving gifts, parties with friends, warm Pj's, fires in the fireplace, Christmas crafts at school, cookie decorating, Christmas vacation from school, Christmas movies, cousins playing together, egg casserole....I could go on and on! I LOVE it all!

We try to find fun activities every year to drive home the REAL meaning of Christmas- here are our Past Christmas Activities I discussed last year. We are still doing a lot of these again this year. This year I am SO excited for Shepherd Pouches- you might have seen the "pin" on Pinterest- but I found it on THIS BLOG it is an idea from Noel Piper Treasuring God in Our Traditions. I will give you the scoop below! Here is what we are NOT doing this year, focusing on Santa. I do not always agree with Jen Hatmaker, I know a lot of people drink her blog up, I am simply not one of them. I did, however, read THIS POST and it inspired me. I have always had an issue with Santa, I just don't love to encourage the girls to focus on anything but the TRUE meaning of Christmas, that is the whole point of the celebrating. I think that focusing on Santa puts the emphasis on the gifts and the "acting nice to get gifts" idea. I am just not into it! I am not saying you shouldn't be, I am just saying, I am not! So, I got ready to completely ditch Santa after reading that article- it fired me up- then I thought; "ok Jenica, what does this look like for OUR family? Lord, how do you want US to celebrate YOU?" Here is what we came up with, we are just not going to focus on Santa at all. We are not going to make some big Anti-Santa announcement, but we are not going to go sit on his lap, we are not going to address any presents from him (I think we will just not put a "from" on any of the gifts), we are not going to put a lot of decorative Santas around the house (I do have one Santa and Mrs. Santa that I have had my entire life out), etc.. when the girls bring him up I just say- "Lets just focus on Jesus, ok!" It is liberating really, not lying to them or trying to sneak around. I have not decided about Eddie the Elf yet, they LOVE that (Elf on the Shelf)! I might switch to the angel and bite the bullet on the extra cost. I will keep you posted! 
OK, so now on to Shepherd Pouches! I am SO excited, here is the scoop!

Shepherds Pouches 
{Noel Piper (wife of John Piper) has a FABULOUS book that you should get "Treasuring God in Our Traditions" This book is so great and has so many ideas for holidays and life. One of her ideas for Christmas is a Shepherd's pouch!}

Shepherd's Pouches: (our version based on the book)
>I purchased 3 (one for each child) unfinished treasure boxes (Hobby Lobby) and had the girls decorate them and write their name on them (she suggests burlap sacks or pouches- do what you want!)
>I got a little chalk sign (if I was crafty I would have made some amazing sign) and it says "What Can We Give to The King?"
>I will get a lot of $1 bills and Quarters to have ready for Thursday
>We start on Thursday after Thanksgiving is over before bed. We will sit them down and explain that it is officially Christmas season and we will have a little talk like this (of course it wont go just like this)" (this is my version of the talk, please read the Book for Noel Pipers ideas!)
Q: Why do we celebrate Christmas  A: Celebrate Jesus' Birth
Q: Do you know that Jesus was a gift from God to us? A: yes
Expand: God loves us so much and because we were separated from Him by our sin, He sent Jesus to die for us to pay for OUR sin. He humbled Himself (HE IS THE KING) and was born as a baby and lived as a human so that we might have eternal life in HEAVEN! That is the greatest gift we could EVER receive. 
Q: Are you so excited about the gifts on Christmas? A: YES!!!
Expand: So is God, he loves to give us gifts and he also loves when we have grateful hearts for the things he gives us. Do you know that the Bible says that EVERY good and perfect gift comes from God? Everything good that you have is a gift from him. 
Q: So, do you think it would be nice to give God a gift on Christmas? A: Yes! 
Q: Well, what can you give God, who owns everything  A: ??
Expand: The Bible says “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)
Q: How do you think we store treasures in Heaven?  A:?
Expand: The way we store up treasures in Heaven and give gifts to God looks differently than the gifts we wrap under the tree. 
When we serve others (without expecting anything back)- treasure
When we encourage others or bless others with kind words- treasure
When we help people-treasure
When we place the needs of others before our own needs-treasure
When we do something we are asked to do without complaining- treasure
When we help meet the needs of the poor or helpless- treasure
When we have joy in our hearts and show others our joy- treasure
When we are patient- treasure
When we use Self Control- treasure
When we memorize the Bible or spend time with God- treasure

> At this point, we discuss that the treasure boxes they decorated are going to be out until Christmas. When we witness them doing something that blesses God/storing up treasures in Heaven-we will place treasure in their boxes. On Christmas Eve we can open the boxes and count the treasure and decide who needs the treasure we have stored. Church? A friend in need? Kids who don't have any food or gifts on Christmas? Our sponsored kids in Africa? 
> On Christmas Eve we will empty the treasure boxes and when they wake up on Christmas morning they will find little treasures in their boxes (instead of stockings). We will tell them that God wants them to have physical blessings on this earth but He really cares about their hearts and the treasures they store in Heaven. 

There you go- who knows how it will ACTUALLY go down :) but this is the idea. I know we will have fun ideas of how to make it work for our family next year. I am excited for a new tradition and a new way to focus on God and His greatest gift- JESUS CHRIST!!! 

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9:6-7)

This is Isaiah 9:6-7 in The Message Translation- Love it! 
The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
    light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
    you expanded its joy.
Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!
    Festival joy!
The joy of a great celebration,
    sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
    all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
    as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
    along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
    a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
    the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
    the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
    Strong God,
Eternal Father,
    Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
    and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He’ll rule from the historic David throne
    over that promised kingdom.
He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing
    and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
    beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    will do all this.


Shopping for Amazon Deals!

I am somewhat of an Amazon superfan- all of my friends know that I am a sucker for a Lighting Deal!
This is the perfect time of year to try Amazon Prime- 30-day free trial and 2-3 day FREE shipping- I seriously buy everything on Amazon. {You can sign up for the trial HERE (in full disclosure, I do get credit if you sign up- but that is NOT why I am telling you about Amazon- I really do LOVE it!):http://www.amazon.com/gp/prime/signup/videos?tag=-20}

My 10 Amazon Tricks/Suggestions: (#1 is my Favorite!)
1. Browse through items with your kids and "add to cart" everything they like (for Christmas or Birthdays or gifts for other kids). Then go to the cart and move the items to "Save For Later" - whenever you go back to Amazon (logged in) it will tell you if the items have increased or decreased in price. An example is, Izzy wanted this little Lalaloopsy doll and I added it to my cart at $9. I saved it for later and went on Amazon today and it alerted me that the doll had decreased to $3- so I snagged it for Christmas. 
2. The App is fabulous- you can be in a store and check Amazon to see if they have a better price. 
3. Subscribe and Save is the way to go- I get diapers, toilet paper, etc.. delivered to my door. If I don't need diapers or TP that month, I can just go on and delay delivery. I get a box of 152 Pampers size 4 diapers delivered to my door for $36.39 and if you buy them on Amazon one-time they are $45.49 Diapers.com is $49- $36.39 is for sure the best deal I have found- and they come to my door!
4. Lighting Deals!!! Yesterday they had Melissa and Doug and I got an awesome gift for Milly's Christmas at 40% off.  To find the Lightening Deals- look at the top of the Amazon Homepage and you will see a tab that says "Today's Deals" click on that and you will be able to see all of their flash deals. If something has "100% claimed", click on the "wait list" button- I was #250 on the Wait list for the Melissa and Doug toy and I still got it!
5. Check groceries on Amazon, I wanted to get some Coconut Oil recently and I went on Amazon and found a great 2 pack for a great price- again it comes to my door! (Because, apparently I need to put coconut oil on EVERYTHING: there are over 1000 uses HERE)
6. Beauty products are really affordable on Amazon- check your nail polish, face wash, hair products on Amazon before purchasing
7. Kids clothes and shoes are great on Amazon- all of the best brands!
8. Of course Books and Movies are awesome on Amazon- best prices
9. You can ditch Netflix and use Amazon for Movies and Books 
Join Amazon Prime - Watch Over 40,000 Movies
10. Here are links to their lists:
Shop Amazon - Black Friday Deals Week - Big Savings, No Waiting
Shop Amazon Gold Box - New Deals. Everyday
Shop Amazon - The Electronics Holiday Gift Guide
Shop Amazon - Holiday Toy List

Thanks to bed rest and Amazon I am seriously almost done with Christmas shopping- I am pretty pumped!


ABC's and 123's

My girls are having SO much fun with these magnetic letters and numbers. The reading specialist at Ellie's school suggested that I get the letters and we love them. Even Milly is learning her letters and numbers since we have them in the kitchen. I wish I would have purchased these a lot sooner- it is a great way to teach kids spelling, math, reading, etc.. If you have a preschooler and do not have these- PLEASE grab some- it will make Kindergarten and First Grade a lot easier for you! I think they would make a great Christmas gift! 

{Here is a list of 25 Ways to use Magnetic Letters (the reading specialist shared this list}

FROM THIS SITE: >>http://www.alexandria.k12.mn.us/cms/lib01/MN01000334/Centricity/Domain/260/Magnetic%20Letters.pdf<<
  1. MAKING WORDS Have children make as many different words as they can. Each time they make a word have them write it on a sheet of paper. You may want to challenge them to make as many two-, three- and four-letter words as they can.
  2. NAME GAME Have the children make names of friends or family. They should make each name, mix the letters, and make it again several times.
  3. ALPHABETICAL ORDER Have children put a set of lowercase letters in correct alphabetical order. They can do the same with uppercase letters.
  4. MAGAZINE MATCH Have children find and cut out large print words they can read and understand from magazines or newspapers. They glue them on a sheet of paper with plenty of space below each and make each word with magnetic letters.
  5. MAKING NEW WORDS Build several words and show the children how to change, add, or take away a letter or letters to make a new word. Examples are: cat, can, man, men, met, tap, clap, claps, flaps, flips, flipped, slipped.
  6. RHYMING PAIRS Use a magnetic cookie sheet. With magnetic letters, make a word such as cut. Say the word and have the child say a rhyming word and make it with magnetic letters below it. Sometimes rhyming words will be spelled differently so you may need to show the child the new spellings (new, blue, hope, soap)
  7. CROSSWORD LETTERS You make a word and then the child adds a word that starts from one of the letters. The word can go across or down.

  8. DESCRIBING WORDS Make a describing word (red, thin, cold). Then have the child make a describing word and continue taking turns and make as many describing words as you. Keep a list and read the list together at the end.
  9. ACTION WORDS Make an action word (run, play, jump). Then have the child make an action word, continuing to take turns and making as many action words as you can. Keep a list and read the list together at the end.
  10. ADDING ENDINGS Make an action word such as read, sew, plant. Invite the child to add as many different endings as possible (reads, reading, reader; sew, sewing, sews; plant, plants, planted, planting, planter).
  11. CHANGING VOWELS Make a sample three-letter word. Ask the child to change the vowel to make a new word (for example, cat, cut, cot; hop, hip; hat, hit, hot, hut).
  12. SYLLABLE GAME Say a word and then make it with magnetic letters. Have the child say another word with the same number of syllables and make it with magnetic letters (dog, play; cabin, rocket).
  13. CONSONANT COUPLETS Make a word that begins with a consonant (all the letters except a, e, i, o, u). Have the child make another word that starts with the same consonant.
© 2003 by Gay Su Pinnell and Irene C. Fountas from Phonics Lessons
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. This page may be photocopied for single classroom use only.
  1. CONSONANT CLUSTER COUPLETS Make a simple word that begins with two consonants together. Your child’s teacher will have a Consonant Cluster Linking Chart you may want to request. Have the child make a word that starts with the same cluster (crab, cry; stop, store; chair, cheese).
  2. HIGH FREQUENCY WORD PRACTICE There are some words that children use many times when they read or write. Request a list of high frequency words your child needs to know. Have the child make the word, mix up the letters, and make the word again three times each.
  3. CATEGORY WORDS Choose a category such as colors, clothing, food, furniture. Make and read a word in the category. Have the child make and read one and continue to take turns making as many words in the category as you can. Keep a list and read the list together at the end.
  4. COMPOUND FINISH Compound words are words formed by putting two whole words together. Make the first part of a compound word and have the child finish it. For example, if you make sun your child could make sunshine or sunflower; if you make snow your child could make snowman, snowshoe, or snowball. Then reverse roles. Keep a list of the words you make and read them together.
  5. BUILDING WORDS Give your child a pile of letters and tell him to make and write as many words as he can.
  6. CONNECTING WORDS Have your child make a word and then make another word that is like it in some way (starts the same, ends the same, a word that means the same or opposite, a word that rhymes) Have her tell how it is the same.
  7. MAKE AND MIX Have your child make the names of the days of the week. One at a time, mix the letters and have him make them again several times. Repeat with the months of the year.
  8. FOOD FUN Make the names of foods you had for dinner. Mix the letters and have your child remake it several times.
  9. LETTER GAME Have each player start with six letters. The players make words with the letters they have. They take turns taking one new letter at a time from a bucket of letters (they don’t look at the letters in the bucket). The first player to use all his letters wins the game. Then each player reads the words she made.
  10. SEASONS REASONS Select a season. Make a word and tell why it goes with that season. Have your child do the same. For example if you select winter your child might make hat; It is cold in the winter so you need a hat.
  11. SYNONYM MATCH Think of a pair of words that mean the same (such as wet and moist). Make a word and have the child think of one that means the same. Make the synonym below the first word. Repeat with several synonyms. Play the game again with antonyms (words that mean the opposite, such as hot and cold).
  12. MISSING LETTERS Make the last part of a word such as __ick, __air, __ell and have the child put one or two letters in the beginning to make a real word (chick, chair, spell). Repeat the process with one or two missing letters at the end of words. 


DOWN Time...10 Things on My Mind!

Well, here is the scoop- last Friday I went in for a hysterectomy. I will save you from all of the details, I actually thought I would skip by the whole situation on the blog, but I am laying in bed and have some time on my hands, and I just knew you would be dying to hear about my random thoughts these past few days! :) I didn't have a ton of time to prepare for the surgery, I had to go to the ER 2 weeks ago and the end result was a trip to my OB where we decided to get this done and alleviate the pain. You might remember Milly's Story (LINK)- this has been sneaking on me for a while, so not a huge shock!
I just finished Priscilla Shirer's "Jonah" study which discusses how we deal with "interruptions"- Jonah was going about his God given plan and all of the sudden it was interrupted by a new God given plan. I actually remember thinking, hmm I haven't had any interruptions recently and I might kind of want one. I need to hit the restart button in several areas- but life gets so busy and I get into a routine and I cant force myself out of the rut-and the interruptions always "hurt" a little or a lot! Have you ever experienced the feeling of- when 2-3 things are going really well (even things like: eating healthy, taking care of my nails, exercising) 5-10 things seem to suffer (time with the Lord, work stuff, reading a book, cooking, quality time with the kids, finances, etc..) It never seems to all be in sync (this side of heaven!) I have needed a little "restart" button for a little while now and apparently it took the Lord laying me flat on my back to get me to evaluate my priorities. So..I am looking at this as the greatest gift- a week to lay in bed and allow others to serve you sounds pretty fabulous for most of us until you experience the extremely humbling task of completely relying on others to run your family life! I think we have two choices during times like this- 1) be miserable, frustrated and "strong" - not asking for help, not wanting to inconvenience others, not admitting our weakness, remain in "control" (this is what my natural person wants to do by the way) OR 2) accept the service and love of others, put yourself as priority and embrace the interruption, release control and take one day at a time. I am trying my hardest to do #2 and here are 10 things on my mind:
1) I prayed for good friends here in KC for the first two years of being here- I think I wanted them dropped in my lap without putting forth any effort. God has shown me how perfectly he has answered those prayers- each friendship I have here is so unique and special to me because we are slowly just doing life together and finding things in common. It sometimes takes a "life event" to show you how blessed you are by a community of friends. I cannot tell you how many meals, flowers, kid pick-ups, Starbucks drop-off's, texts, emails, etc.. I have received already- it is humbling and overwhelming! I sat there the other day and just burst into tears when I received the many emails telling me people were praying for me on Friday- The God of the Universe and His heavens were being stormed with prayer for little me! Let that soak in for a bit- and if you have something that needs prayer (we all do, great or small)- ask someone to pray for you- it will bless you and bless them!
2) I know it is not "technically" a love language, but Starbucks is my love language- glad we have that covered!
3) I realize how little time I spend with the girls doing NOTHING. When I am physically able, I am so busy running around, getting things done that I allow the girls to play together a lot and I don't just sit and hang with them. I am extremely task oriented, so it drives me crazy to have something on my checklist that is "unchecked"- I love that I am physically unable to "do my life"- I am just hanging out with the girls and that is fun!
4) I am super grateful for Pinterest- I just am!
5) My family (husband included) really CAN do more around the house than I allow them to do. enough said :)
6) Amazon Prime is AMAZING- I am 99% done with Christmas shopping for our family!
7) TV=Trash- seriously! You could sit and get sucked into superficial, unrealistic crap for HOURS, so easily! Around the 4th hour of "The Today Show" I think- seriously, Jesus, please return NOW. I can't handle any more! It is amazing how it can control our emotions- I can get angry (CNN or MSNBC can arouse this in me within seconds), sad, happy, guilty, judgmental, insecure, prideful...all because of an "entertainment industry"- Praise the Lord for The Food Network and HGTV! I am grateful for my "real life" where I don't ever think to watch TV, I am not missing out. (we wont discuss my internet surfing problem- I am FAR from perfect!)
8) I am just NUTS about this song right now: LINK- listen to the whole song and allow yourself to believe it...completely- you know how much you love your babies? HE loves you MORE than that!
9) One of my CA godmothers sent me this scripture that she was praying for me and it just hit me in a new way this past week- isn't that AMAZING, how we can read The Bible for YEARS and it meets us where we are, in a fresh new way each time- that's the Holy Spirit friends! Psalm 91 (see below)
10) Finally, a new pair of Pj's, a little blush and a shower are LIFE CHANGING....seriously!
Bonus #11: No one takes care of you like your mama! It's times like this when we remember that- I am so grateful that my mom changed her schedule to hang with the girls and help me this week! 

Psalm 91
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord“He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler[a]
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lordwho is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”


Recipe Monday: Pin Party Favorites!

Well, it has certainly been a while since I have done a "Recipe Monday" I wish I could say that this is not a reflection of my lack of cooking....but it is! When Dave is working late and gone, there is no reason for me to whip up some fancy new recipe for myself while listening to the girls cry about it :) so, I have been eating a LOT of raw veggies- nothing to share there! HOWEVER, my darling cousin, Amy, had a "That's So Pinteresting" Party last night and it was delightful. We did a Pinterest craft and she had Pinterest food and drinks there for us. So, I thought I would share the "Pins" with you in case you need an idea for fall treats!

{Pumpkin Fluff Dip- I mean...so delish! She served it with these delightful little ginger cookies (Country FairGinger Snap cookies) and Cinnamon Toast pretzel crisps, the recipe suggests graham crackers, which would be great too! SERIOUSLY, amazing!}

{We made THIS CRAFT- it was fun and everyone did different words "Gather" "Thankful" "Thanks" someone did "Joy" for Christmas- so cute! If you know me by now, you know I am not a "crafter" but it was fun to hang with the girls and make something cute!}

{UMMM, this is seriously my new favorite fall drink- I could have sucked down 50 of these- Self Control people! Apple Cider Margaritas!}

{She made Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies- I am certain that I don't need to elaborate on this one! Yumm!}

So fun and yummy- good thing that group is only once a month- I would have to join a gym! Happy Fall! 

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