Send your own ElfYourself eCards

The boys and I made these adorable mice for their Christmas parties at school. It was funny having a whole army of mice spread out on the dining room table! We made it a whole mouse theme by reading the Christmas version of "If You Take a Mouse to the Movies" -- so fun! These little mice were super easy and yummy -- we couldn't find cherries with stems, so we used pretzel sticks for the tails. I highly recommend these if you're looking for a way to fill these no-school, waiting-for-Christmas days.

I also highly recommend Family Fun magazine (idea came from them). Usually you can find a deal for the magazine subscription online somewhere, but lots of their ideas are on their web site, too. They have printable games and color pages that kept the kids busy most of Thanksgiving day. I plan to call on some more of their ideas to keep the kids from watching non-stop TV for the next two weeks. Seriously, how much Phineas and Ferb can we watch? Although I love their Christmas special. Take a minute and enjoy!

For many years my family has set up a Christmas village. I remember growing up we used to play pranks with the village, adding things that didn't belong and my mom would act offended (at least I hope she was always acting). One of my favorite holiday trips would be to see train and village displays, checking out all the intricate details and creative arrangements.

When Matt and I married, my parents gave us a "Start a Tradition" set so we could begin our own village. We've added to it every year (except one year when we actually sold a few pieces, trying to make the village fit in this house). This year we (and by "we", I mean "Matt;" he busted out his old foam carving skills!) constructed a big display in our office so we can properly arrange the village.

Our village is the Department 56 Dickens' Village series. We love the old world look of nostalgic village life. I like to ponder the lives people might have lived back then, considering how very blessed we are with today's modern conveniences, yet how we can be reminded to simplify life.

One of my favorite scenes is the church district. The bride and groom coming out of the church are new to our village this year, commemorating our 10th anniversary. I also love the little girl donating apples and a basket of bread to the parson. I think he'll probably snack on one of those apples before he delivers them to the needy . . .
I call this the government district, since it has the castle and the stock exchange. I made the creek and pond out of satin and decorative river rocks. I think the king likes to sit on that bench while he ponders grave matters of state . . .
This year we decided to start a new tradition and involve the kids in the village, so we've added a North Pole to our village. As you can see, the North Pole Series from Department 56 has a very different look. With lots of colored lights, moving parts, candy, and even some licensed characters (the Mickey Mouse piece is beautiful!), it really draws the boys in. They even helped me make the candy trees in the background. Hopefully we've found a way to take one of our hobbies and begin making new memories for the entire family.
Our village will be up through the month of January. It's always the first thing we put up and the last thing we take downeach year. If you're local, please stop by to take a look!
Azlan's preschool class "performed" a couple of songs for the parents at their Christmas party this week. Enjoy these!

Patriot's class had their Christmas program together with the other classes at his school. This is the program in it's entirety. If you take the time to watch it all, see if you can guess why he'll be receiving a handkerchief in his stocking this year. And maybe some coal.

. . . quite like Jack Bauer interrogating Santa.

WARNING: This is NOT family friendly. But you'll love it if you're a "24" fan.

BTW, 2-night 4-hr Season 8 Premiere begins Sun Jan 17th at 9.
I enjoy most parts of the Christmas season. However, some traditions I could live without and my Christmas would not be ruined. Those are the things I do kind of halfway -- for example, decorating the Christmas tree. Just doesn't mean much to me. So we let the kids put the ornaments on and they're all in one heavily decorated part of the tree. I considered rearranging them so the tree is evenly covered, but I just don't care that much. Honestly, our tree could be bare and I'd be fine with that.

There are a few, kind of strange, parts of this season that I just love and am willing to put extra effort into. Be prepared, it's an unusual list, but these are the things that make my season bright (besides my family, of course).

1. Wreaths - I have an unexplainable affinity for wreaths. We have a wreath on almost every door of our house. (Couldn't find the wreath for the downstairs bathroom door this year. I personally think Matt "lost" it in the storage shed. I fear next year he might "lose" another, just to harass me.) Our indoor wreaths are very simple, just the greenery and a bow. Our front door wreaths have some pine cones, but that's it. No reason to mess with God's natural beauty. Our wreaths are artificial, but I daydream about filling the house with live wreaths . . . maybe someday.

2. Bows/Ribbons - I adore beautifully wrapped presents under a tree. (Shoot, I like any present with my name on it, but that's a different story.) Last year I found a Bowdabra on sale and used it to make a few bows -- I was hooked. I determined that this year I would make all my bows, no pre-made bows for me. I'll admit that it's taking longer to wrap gifts, but I think it's so worth it. I also like to decorate the house with ribbon and bows, so I have them tied to the banister and on every wreath. Something about brightly colored ribbon just feels like Christmas to me.

3. Photo Christmas Cards - I love receiving Christmas cards in the mail. We so rarely send snail mail anymore, but the tradition of Christmas cards is classic. The artistic cards with beautiful covers and rhyming prose are meaningful, but I get so excited to receive photo Christmas cards. Even if it's someone I just saw yesterday, I like looking at their picture on their Christmas card. I especially like cards with the entire family included in the photo, but I'll admit that our card this year only has the kids (it's so hard getting everyone looking at the camera and smiling at the same time!). I confess that I find it a real hassle to send photo Christmas cards and consider not doing it every year, but I like receiving them so much that I always talk myself into sending them.

So there's insight into some of the little things that make my season bright. I also adore Christmas music and movies, that's a trait handed down from my mother which I hope to hand down to my boys (although even the 5yo fought me listening to Christmas music in early November). We also have our Christmas village that I'll discuss in another post.

What makes your season bright? And what could you live without during the Christmas season?
I'm reading "The Birth Order Book" by Kevin Leman with my MOPS group. I haven't finished it, yet, so I'm not going to review it now. But it has caused me to pay closer attention to the developing personalities of my boys, and watch how they mesh with their parents' characteristics.

As described by this book, Patriot is a classic first born. He always has a plan and a schedule, and gets very bothered when things don't go the "right" way. I can identify this in him because I could also be describing myself (I'm also a first born). You can imagine the struggles between us at times. His preschool teacher has noticed perfectionist tendencies, especially when it comes to cutting and writing (she says it takes him forever to write his name). I've been helping him develop the positives in these characteristics by teaching him how to tell time, showing him how recipes work, asking him to help determine the dog's routine, etc. He really seems to flourish in tasks that require precision and routine.

Azlan, however, is the baby of the family. I call him my jokester because he's always thinking up a joke or a prank. The other day he hid the angel from our nativity and replaced it with a monkey figurine. Then he walked around the house "looking" for the angel: Is she in the Christmas tree? Is she under the couch? He played it well -- I really wasn't sure if he was joking or serious. After I gave up looking, he "found" the angel and laughed and laughed. I fear this is going to become a problem in the future (pretty sure I will be the butt of too many of his jokes), but for now his easy-going, light-hearted personality is such a breath of fresh air for me. The difficult parenting piece for me is developing the positives of this personality, since its so different from mine. For now, my focus is giving him enough free time in his routine and wiggle room with the rules (i.e.: not punishing him for messing with the nativity) to allow his creativity to bloom. And helping him realize appropriate times to joke. For a 3-year-old, I think that's enough.

I'm having a ton of fun with this stage of parenting and can't wait to see how God will use these characteristics.