Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Leaping Into a New School Year!


The sign above says it all!  Fredrickson Academy is back in session.  :)

Before I show you more of our frog themed first day and week, here is a quick peek at what our morning board looks like this year...


We've changed a few things - removing items we didn't use as much and adding new things like my son's star (sight) words and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Don't you LOVE our handprint alphabet?  If you'd like to make your own, we found most of our ideas on this blog.  :)

And YES!  That is a new homeschooling fiction book in our reading corner.  I quickly whipped one up to go along with our first day of school and our frog theme.  More on that further below in the post.


Here is another exciting addition to our classroom.  We have our very own candy machine now!  :)

Did I ever mention we have our own hospital in our homeschool room- a pencil hospital to be exact.  When pencils get broken, we can drop them off at the hospital to be healed (sharpened) when the electric sharpener is brought out.


My kids each have a paper above their desks listing ways they can earn money towards a turn at the candy machine.  They earn pennies for great assignments, cleaning up, etc.   Once they have 25 pennies, they trade them in for a quarter and a sweet reward!


I can't remember if I posted about this before so I'll post the idea again just in case - it is so cute it deserves a second mention anyway. 

Every homeschool room needs a good jail, right?  ;) Ours is made from a plastic protector sheet, and the bars have been drawn on the front with a permanent marker.

The jail is where we put commonly misspelled words or perhaps repeatedly missed math facts.  To remove a word or fact from jail, one must be able to successfully spell or repeat the math fact (or perform some other form of "bail").  I was inspired to make this because of another blogger's post here

Okay, okay - let's hop to it and get on with the first day theme!  ;)


Here's our breakfast table, complete with "lily pad" plates.  Each child's chair also had a sign proclaiming that spot his/her lily pad seat.


Each child received two bookmarks (these are available as part of a homeschool packet in my TPT store), a frog pencil, and mini frog.

What did we have for breakfast?  Fly pancakes (chocolate chip pancakes) and cattails (sausage), of course!  ;)

Since we're on the topic of food, I should also mention that for a snack later on each child had blue (pond) jello with a gummy frog on top.  


With breakfast over, the kids literally hopped into the school room via lily pads on a pond made from cheap vinyl blue tablecloths.  

The frog is holding party blowouts (those curled up red things you blow into and they uncurl) which were GREAT for frog tongues!  My kids really loved running (or should I say hopping) around with these. I can't take credit for this idea though- I saw how someone had used them on a frog craft and knew I wanted them to be a part of our big day.


Here is what greeted the kids on the other side of the door - lots of blue balloons!  Hey, a pond has to be fun, right?  

I also made each of my kiddos a giant lily pad (not shown) to sit on during our morning meeting time.  I simply cut these out of a cheap green vinyl tablecloth, and the kids were pretty pleased with the results!  It isn't every day you get your very own giant lily pad to sit on, ya know!


Homeschool Elf strikes again!  The reproducible pattern of Homeschool Elf can be found inside "The First Day of Homeschool" book (see link below).

Part of the morning included our fun treasure hunt tradition of following clues left behind by the little mischief maker himself.  The kids finally found him and their missing school supplies hidden in a kitchen cabinet (the presents are wrapped up school supplies - unwrapping gifts just seems to add to the excitement of the first day of school).

BTW - the frog M&M container was super easy to make.  Just add two pom poms and wiggly eyes.

What's a first day without a good book to go with it, right?  We read "The First Day of Homeschool" (see link below) AND this new book to begin our day...

Note:  These are not all of the pages of the book - just a snippet.

Without getting into too much detail, the story tells of a frog who decides he wants a homeschool (although he doesn't know what one is) and follows your family home one day in hopes of finding a homeschool of his very own. 

What?!?  Our family?

Yep.  Your family.  I inserted blanks throughout the story for parents to insert their family's name and individual children's names as well so that the children become characters in the story.  

My kids loved hearing their names as we read together!  :)  


After following your family home, Mr. Hop-a-lot finds himself among items he assumes must be pieces of a homeschool.  He attempts to build with them, eat them, and even wear them!



Finally your children walk in on him and put an end to his confusion and silly behavior by telling him what a homeschool REALLY is.   I included blanks on that page so you can add your children's own words to the story explaining this concept.


As you can see from the final page above, the story ends on a very happy note with your children inviting him to come live with the family.  The delighted frog agrees, and they all homeschool happily ever after.

The book is simple, fun, and only $1.75!  Just download, print, and bind - we had ours comb-bound at an office supply store for only $1!  It is part of a packet I made which includes the frog bookmarks and sign shown in the breakfast pictures above AND the Venn diagram below.  Ready to download?  Click here.  

P.S.  If you find any errors in the story, please feel free to let me know.  I was trying to finish this in time for our first day so my editing efforts may not have caught everything.


With so many back-to-school books available that involve a classroom setting, I thought it might be interesting to compare school and homeschool settings, so I created this Venn diagram to do just that.



Remember the pond from the first day of school?  Well, I decided to put those lily pads to further use.  The kids were supposed to hop from one lily pad to the other and tell me the math fact answer or letter stuck to the lily pad.


For this activity, the green plates were considered lily pads.  Each time my son could tell me a letter name correctly, I would let him place a frog sticker on top of that letter.   


This was our frog life cycle project.  I found several of the items we used for it by searching in our pantry (those eggs are dry chickpeas).  We painted them, discussed the different stages, and put them in order to show the life cycle of a frog.


My kids love sticky hands!  Because of this well known fact, I knew they probably wouldn't need any convincing to try this game.  ;)

They were supposed to be the frogs, and the sticky hands were their tongues.  They would roll the dice, find the corresponding numbered fly, and try to catch it using their sticky hand/tongue.  


Mr. J was reviewing the alphabet this week so I used these colored frogs for some ABC practice.  We put them in order first.  I would then hide one frog, and he had to guess which one was missing and find it.


Last year we had caterpillars for class pets.  This year I TRIED to get a tadpole, but it didn't work out.  However, I came up with the next best thing (or something fun at least) - paper pets!  :)

The terrariums are plastic sleeves with a paper inside.  Each child decorated the paper in a way they felt would make a great habitat for their frog pet.  My son mentioned a lily pad but ended up drawing lots and lots of presents for his frog.  Too cute.  I'm sure any paper frog would be overjoyed to live there.  

The frogs were actually from a frog notepad.  I cut slits for the mouths and stapled a plastic baggie behind the mouth to catch the flies they were fed.  I then gave each child some sticky notes with either number sentences (older child) or numbers (for younger one) written on them.  Those notes told them how many flies to feed their frogs that day.  

You'll notice the frog in the picture has the word "Jill" on it.  Well, what fun is a pet if you can't name it?  So that is what they did and that is why the frog has the word "Jill" on it.  Being clever moms, I'm sure you had already figured that out.  ;)

BTW - I also purchased some multi-colored frogs on Amazon for sorting and counting practice.  I just didn't take pictures of them.  :)

Thanks for hopping by today to see what we've been up to!  "Hop"e your first day is a great one!


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Baby-Shower-In-A-Box

Happy summer to you all!  :)  Enjoying your break yet?  I certainly am!

As many of you know, I usually take a blogging break during the summer (I do post little stuff on Facebook though).  However, I did want to share something I did for a friend recently because I thought others might be interested in the idea as well.  I threw her a baby shower....in a box.  Yep, you read that correctly.

A baby-shower-in-a-box is a really great way to spoil a pregnant friend or relative who lives far away.  I had the opportunity to send one recently and had a lot of fun planning and shopping for it.  :)

There are many creative options that could be included.   I would say "the sky is the limit" except we all know that the limit is really determined by one's budget.  ;)  I kept my package on the small side because the family was planning on moving shortly after having the baby, but I wanted to make sure my friend had something special to open and enjoy!

Here are some of the things I put in the package I sent:

* a baby shower card
* a grocery store card for them to use for purchasing snacks or cupcakes/cake to eat while opening presents
* a small diaper cake
* diaper cream
* rubber ducky
* Flatobearius (sooo cute and so soft - the company also makes a variety of other animals as well)
* a teething necklace
* baby clothes
* gift certificates to a fast food restaurant near them for nights when mommy doesn't have energy to cook and wants daddy to pick something up quickly on the way home
* money to join Emeals for 3 months (a service that e-mails a weekly menu plan and shopping list to you each week so all you have to do is print and shop - great time-saver)
* little packets of coffee for those hard mornings after long nights
* chapstick
*Baby Buddy Secure-A-Toy

If you feel inspired to send your own baby-shower-in-a-box, here are some other ideas:

* toys
* pampering items for mom
* baby toiletries
* baby books
* gift cards to spa or restaurants for pre-baby treat
* favorite snack or food (unless you live somewhere where the heat would spoil it)
* cozy socks
* special tea or favorite caffeine
* baby sitting money
* nursing necklace (I think you can find some that double as teething necklaces too)
* cute nursing cover or wrap or one of those infinity scarves that doubles as a nursing cover.

Happy baby shower planning!  :)


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Last Day of Homeschool!

We celebrated our last day of school earlier this month!  Yahoo!  In keeping with our first day theme of "growth and change", I ended the year with our "hatching day".


Here is the sign that greeted them that morning, followed by pancakes which I TRIED to make into butterflies and caterpillars (I won't burden you with pictures of the sorry attempts).  

After breakfast, they finished up final papers, etc. in our school room.  While they were doing that - I was secretly posting this sign on the inside of the doors to the room and creating a cocoon on the outside...


The idea behind the cocoon was that they had started the year as my little caterpillars (I made caterpillar masks for them on the first day of school) and had grown and changed since then.  I wanted them to be able to burst out of their "cocoon"(year of learning, growth, and change) that final day of school when the last worksheet was completed.   

I was worried they'd see what I was up to before I had finished, but  the timing of it worked out pretty well!  :)


And here they are bursting...sort of.


On the other side of the door, I had placed some wings for them to wear that day (butterflies need wings, right?) and gave them each a butterfly certificate.


When family came over later in the week, we had this up for viewing so people could see what their work had looked like at the beginning of the year and what they were accomplishing now at the end.

Our last day of school ended with Daddy taking the afternoon off from work and taking us mini golfing and to a restaurant for dinner.  :)

Do you have a fun last day of homeschool tradition?  If so, please feel free to post it in the comments section!  



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Seeing Green in More Ways than One!

This is what I intended to post several weeks ago but ran into trouble with our computer among other things...

It's that time of year again for all things green!  Green shamrocks, green leprechauns, green, green, green (and of course, rainbows thrown in for good measure).

While I'm sharing pictures of some of our "green" adventures, I'd also like to address a topic I keep coming across (and indeed have experienced myself):  the-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side homeschooling syndrome.

Our leprechaun, Dooligan, shows up for the first time this year -leaving a note for the children.  He also spent time rearranging some flowers we had purchased earlier in a rainbow of sorts.

Let me paint a scenario (use rainbow colors, please):  homeschool mom hops online, begins browsing blogs for ideas and ultimately ends up overwhelmed and wants to give up.

Instead of being inspired, she feels inadequate and uncreative.  Her homeschool seems to pale in comparison to what she sees online.  She may even have thoughts such as these...

Wow, her kids must have so much fun in homeschool!  They probably never wish they were in a real classroom.  She probably never snaps at her kids or has to beg them to concentrate.  I sure wish I could be that kind of mom (you know - the infinite cup of patience, I-can-juggle-it-all-and-then-some-with-a-smile kind)...

Sound familiar?

You're in good company here.  I am guilty of wallowing in the mom and homeschool comparison mud as well.  I think everyone wants to be THAT mom.

But I don't think she exists.   The picture perfect painting in our hearts - now, THAT is very real.  It is a self-made image pieced together from mental clippings of various posts, pins, articles, etc. until we have indeed created a monster - an ideal no earthly person could ever completely live up to.

Please understand I am not talking about the Proverbs 31 woman who conducts the affairs of her household by depending upon the grace of God.  What I AM suggesting is a June Cleaver on steroids type of person.

Dooligan strikes!  School supplies in green jello!

Now, before you go blaming this grass-is-greener mentality on the blogger next door (after all, you felt the unrest begin after reading about her family's perfect homeschooling day), please consider this:

Bloggers are human.  They make mistakes, lose their tempers, etc.  They just don't always blog about it.

It is important to keep that  in mind when reading what may seem like "perfect life" posts.  Chances are, what you are reading is a moment in life - not a 24 hour lifestyle.

I cannot speak for other blogging moms, but THIS mommy is well acquainted with little people vying for attention, night wakings, early morning children, dirty diapers, meals to make, squabbles to handle, lessons to plan, loss of patience (mine), mommy guilt, school work reluctance, and laundry that seems to border on eternal.  ;)   I just don't blog about it.  I seriously don't have that kind of time.

Plus, let's be honest here.  Do you REALLY want to spend your precious nap time minutes reading about someone doing the same things you are doing (excluding those posts which offer wise, creative solutions to a problem)?  Probably not.


Yet another Dooligan prank - removing the children's pillows and stuffing the inside with green faux grass.

I believe there are many homeschool moms who blog to encourage others, offer advice, and/or to earn money to use for curriculum or family expenses.  They are well aware that this isn't going to happen without an audience.  Hence, they write about topics they know are of interest and not the daily grind.

Please guard your heart against blaming bloggers for posting inspiration rather than commiseration!

Trust me - as one blogger to her readers - more goes on behind posts than "reads" the eye.

Having fun with patterns using clovers and gold coins.

So what's a mom to do?  How can she resist being sucked into keeping up with the homeschool Jones's family? How can she avoid feeling self-doubt and despair every time she jumps online to read a blog or update her pins?

I believe very simply, it can be done by solely relying on the wisdom and grace of the Lord!  Would you like me to expand?

Creativity is a blessing from the Lord!  We live in an age when we have amazing ideas available to us with the simple click of a button.

But HOW we approach what we see is a matter of the heart.  

People may think I am strange, but it is a relief to me that my Creator knows every nook and cranny of my heart.  Every motive.  Every sinful thought.  Why a relief?  Because I don't have to hide from him.  He already knows me deeper than I know myself - AND STILL LOVES ME.  

He knows if I am hopping online to compare my homeschool with someone else's.  He knows if I am just online trying to find a more creative way to "one up" my homeschooling friends (inciting envy).  He knows e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g!  

And what does that have to do with how we approach what we see?  Consider a thief in an empty room with a precious jewel.  Now consider that same thief in a room with a witness and a precious jewel.  Will he behave the same way in both instances?  Probably not.

Well, guess what.  Unlike the witness in the above example, God is always in the room and our thoughts are an open book to him.  Because of my love for him and my desire to glorify him, the reminder that he is observing all I do AND think, can help me to make sure my time online is pleasing to him (and not an exercise in covetousness).

One of Dooligan's better tricks - filling the bathtub with rainbow balloons!

Keeping an eye on the attitude of your heart before, during, and after you hop online is critical to maintaining a healthy, realistic homeschool environment.  Are you getting online for the right reasons AND are you staying online for the right reasons?

If you tend to end your screen time feeling despondent about motherhood and homeschooling, perhaps (dare I say it?) it is time to unplug completely for a while.  Give your mind and heart some time to freely soak up the blessing of motherhood.  I would suggest seeking out some wise moms in your church, asking them over for tea and letting the warmth of their advice take the place of electronic chatter.

If circumstances do not allow for this, I would suggest searching for books by women whose lives as mothers are testimonies to their desire to live for the Lord (Sally Clarkson, Edith Schaeffer, etc.).


The kids loved this game!  I picked math facts Miss A was having trouble with and placed them under the hats (this could also easily be done with spelling words, letters, etc.).  One hat contained a picture of gold coins.  The kids would take turns peering under the hats and writing the math fact they found underneath (Mr. J would practice writing one of the numbers in the number sentence).  If they found the hat with gold coins, they received a treat!  They were willing to play this over and over and over - thus getting in plenty of extra practice with math facts.  ;)

When you feel strengthened and self-controlled enough to tackle the virtual world once more, I suggest trying to incorporate the following steps:

Step #1:  Thank God for creativity and ask him for discernment, wisdom, and self-control before you begin to browse blogs, articles, Pinterest, etc.

Step #2:  Set a time or idea limit and stick to it.

Ten minutes can turn into hours online if you are not careful.  Speaking from experience, a wealth of eye candy can definitely make you (heart)sick!

But what if I miss a really great craft or idea?   

You will.  Life is constantly moving on several levels all at once. If you're online, you might catch a great idea but miss the opportunity to spend time with your husband.  You might pin a super craft but forfeit snuggling in with your kids for a story before bed.

Life is full of choices.  I don't know about you, but I want mine to be ones that will count for eternity.  I can choose to spend a majority of time searching for memory-making opportunities (and never have any) or I can create special moments with my family, just by being present with them.

Moms, set a limit, and I think you and your family will be glad you did.

Step #3:  Inspect your heart and guard it well.  If you are being sucked into another person's virtual home reality to the point where you don't want to re-enter your own real home, something is not right

Ask the Lord for wisdom to help you recognize the seeds of discontent before they have a chance to take root.  As you wade through the barrage of blogs, tips, crafts, recipes, lesson plans, etc.  - take note of those which seem to continually leave you with a sense of "want" rather than joy and avoid them in the future (even if that means this one!). 


Our St. Patrick's Day note from Dooligan complete with leprechaun mustaches and hats so the children could pretend to be him for a day.  


Quick recap...

Mommies, if you are tempted - even just a teeny tiny bit - to compare your life to this blog or some "picture perfect grass is greener life" blog - DON'T. You'd just be comparing your experiences to a BLOG,  not real life.

Ask the Lord for wisdom and self-control when you hop online.  

If your discontent meter still surges every time you go "pinning" or blog surfing - it is probably time to unplug.



St. Patrick's Day breakfast:  Lucky Charms (a rare treat for us) and green eggs.

Final thoughts...

1.  God created YOU to be the mom of your children.  He can equip you with whatever you need to parent and instruct your children.

2.  Your weaknesses could very well be the things God uses to draw you and your children closer to him during your homeschool hours and throughout the day.  

No, I am not saying losing one's temper is a good thing (speaking from plenty of experience here).  HOWEVER, God convicting a mommy's heart and humbling her to ask forgiveness for snapping at a "wee someone" unnecessarily - well, now that is a teachable moment.

Moms - YOU can be a living example of God working out his sustaining grace in your life.  We are on a life stage, and little eyes and ears are attentive to our performance.  When we mess up, let's do so gracefully!  Apologize, ask for forgiveness (yes - even from your kids), take a deep breath, and move on with the day.

3.  You DON'T have to be super creative to have a warm, memory-filled homeschool.   Trust me on this one. Creativity is nice, but love is the defining thread in beautiful homeschool tapestry!

Acts of love don't have to be expensive or time consuming.  Plan a surprise hug attack on your child during a lesson.  Slip notes into your childrens' textbooks telling them  how special they are or how proud you are of them.  Pull your kids up on your bed and snuggle while you read a story or practice spelling.


And smile.  

Smile, smile, SMILE!  



The final trap!  Yes, those are Dooligan's feet sticking out from under the pan (and his pot of "gold" nearby).  He was a wee bit hasty trying to move in and was finally caught - much to the children's joy! 

See you next year, Dooligan! 

Have a happy and blessed homeschooling day!

















Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Ballerina Valentine and Homeschool Party Suggestions!

Who says homeschoolers miss out on party days?

Not I.

We have THREE valentine parties this week - count them one...two...three!  Can you believe we could have actually attended FOUR - but I had to draw the line somewhere, ya know?

Well, actually we now only have two remaining as Miss A celebrated one today with her ballet class.  

For said special occasion, I created these for her to hand out to her fellow ballerinas.  


Pssst.  You want to know a little secret?  The tutus on the card are....SCRUNCHIES!  

How perfect is that?  A little ballet bun bling, anyone (with alliteration on the side.  Can you tell I homeschool...)?

I picked these ones up at the Dollar Tree (3 for $1).  Miss A colored the leotards on each card to match.  
Don't we make a great team?  :)



I plan to make another card in the same format that could be used for ballerina party favors as well.  I'm hoping to get that out next week sometime, so pin this link now if you are interested!  

For those new to homeschooling who are worried their children might be missing out when it comes to school parties, here are some valentine party suggestions:

1.  Have a party with your family!  Plan to exchange homemade valentine cards and let kids decorate a mailbox or paper sack for each person in the family.

2.  If you are part of a homeschooling group, check within the group to see if others might be interested in having a valentine event. There's a good chance other moms would love to meet up for coffee while their kids enjoy an afternoon together passing out cards and sharing a fun snack.  

3.  Have a small party with just a few of your children's friends.

4.  Do you live in a remote area?  Do you have internet access (you probably do if you are reading this)?  Try scheduling a time when family or friends can hop online and chat, skype, etc.  Let your kids make a valentine card or valentine story to read or show them.

5.  Minister to someone this Valentine's Day!  Hand out carnations or roses or cookies to elderly residents at a nursing home.  Surprise a widow with a love package - flowers or cookies or a gift card to order out that night, or an invitation to your home for the evening!  :)

And most importantly, have a happy, grace-filled homeschooling week!  :)

Michelle

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

100th Day of Homeschool!

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated our 100th day of homeschool this year!  Woo hoo!  The end is in sight!  ;)

This is the table runner I made by just writing on a long piece of paper from the kid's drawing roll.


I also made them some simple shirts with buttons and rick rack (glued on with fabric glue) in honor of the occasion.  The certificate was a freebie I found here.


The celebratory breakfast consisted of sprinkle pancakes with whipped cream on top and MORE sprinkles!


Hey - why contain the excitement of the day to ourselves?  Why not share the joy?

That's exactly what we did - by passing out 100 pieces of candy.  Well, actually I think we only made it to ninety-seven or something like that before we had to head back home.  But the kids had fun and lots of people received an unexpected piece of candy that day (while Mommy completed errands).

Mission accomplished (mostly).  ;)


We headed back home where the kids enjoyed fishing 100 mini M & M's out of a container filled with cereal (organic fruity o's).


We then made necklaces (or snakes depending on your child's point of view) with the cereal pieces.  


We also attempted to find different ways to make 100 cents in 100 seconds.  (This activity we did a few times - 100 seconds isn't a whole lot of time to work with, after all.).

I was the bearer of good news that each child would be given a dollar (100 cents) to spend at the Dollar Store (Tree)...


and the next day, the kids concluded their celebration by purchasing one toy each with their dollar bills.  :)   Fun times!  

Happy 100th Day of Homeschool/School to you other mommies and teachers out there!




Thursday, January 2, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry (belated) Christmas and Happy (belated) New Year!

I must say that this Christmas season did not turned out exactly as planned.  Illness, cancellation of a highly anticipated trip, more illness, ice storms, a middle of the night emergency sending my FIL to the ICU, and other difficult issues cast a bit of a pall over the holiday joy.

As if that were not enough, Christmas Eve I locked myself and my kids out of the car in a parking lot.

About that time, as I was standing in a store waiting for the locksmith to arrive with two little ones at my side, I found I just couldn't muster much Christmas spirit.   Fortunately for me, God was about to use my circumstances to point me back in a "Christmas" direction I had not really considered much before but now found myself in a perfect position to contemplate.

Shortly after the car incident, I was truly blessed with a reminder (via this wonderful article) of two simultaneous views regarding the very first Christmas - one earthly and one heavenly.  

That time of life for Mary and Joseph was full of difficulty and unexpected trials.  Our hardships, though nothing compared to theirs, suddenly gave me a unique perspective into what they might have felt that first Christmas as they suddenly had to leave their home and ultimately ended up in a stable the night Mary gave birth.  Not ideal for any pregnant woman, and I would imagine distressing for Joseph as well - a far cry from the joy we anticipate during the Christmas season now.  

However, in contrast, how the heavens must have rejoiced that night!   Salvation and hope for mankind had finally arrived in the form of a tiny newborn!  I wonder if the angels could barely restrain their anticipation as they watched the events unfold and were allowed to be a part of it by declaring to the shepherds what had happened in Bethlehem.  

Thus, instead of feeling despair at how this holiday did not turn out as planned, I was awed by an alternative glimpse into that first Christmas.  :)  It was a wonderful reminder of how God is present and always working out His loving will, even when we cannot see it with our earthly eyes.  

Now, dear readers, lest you fear we experienced little fun this season,  I want to set the record straight.   We DID have plenty of enjoyable moments amid the setbacks, and I thought I would share a few things from December...

Here is a glimpse of our advent calendar this year.  I made this using some leftover square envelopes which my daughter and I decorated with a red marker.  I then stacked them up on the wall in Christmas tree form.  


We set out milk, cookies, and a letter to St. Nick on St. Nicholas Day...

and the following morning made the exciting discovery of full stockings and a reply from St. Nicholas!

For those of you who don't know our family traditions, we let our kids know from the beginning that Santa Claus was once a real man who was known for showing God's love through acts of kindness.  We also let them know that he is NOT alive today, BUT that we still love to pretend (after all, God did give us imaginations!).  St. Nicholas Day is when we do that "pretending" (putting out milk and cookies, etc.).   

I like this because it gives the kids a chance to enjoy Santa Claus for a day while also encouraging them to consider the historical man's example of showing God's love to others.   It becomes yet another great activity which ultimately points them toward the reason we celebrate Christmas.


Gingerbread Day is a special time I plan close to Christmas.   (You'll have to forgive the poor coloring job on the sign - my printer ran out of red ink so I was trying to compensate by coloring in the browns and reds myself).


This year we started out with gingerbread pancakes for breakfast.  Here is the before picture...

and one of the after pictures.  (I used a cookie cutter to cut the shapes out of pancakes).


Later in the day, I sent the kids on a hunt for individual paper gingerbread men I had hidden.  They would exchange the gingerbread men as they found them, for candy to use when decorating their gingerbread house that afternoon.


Speaking of gingerbread houses, here is a photo of the finished project.  I thought they did a great job!  But I AM their mom so maybe I am just a teeny tiny bit prejudiced.  ;)

For dessert that night, we also had homemade gingerbread stout cake with lemon cloud frosting (kind of a combo of two recipes).  It was delicious!!!  (Sadly, I have no picture of it).


Another evening, I surprised the kids with a Christmas movie night in our bedroom.  They feasted on white chocolate peppermint popcorn while watching some Christmas shows and then camped out in our room for the night.  

We had some other fun things we did together, of course - wrapping presents, reading Christmas stories, baking Christmas cookies, passing out candy canes to strangers in lines, etc.  However, I did not take pictures of everything.  :)  Some days are like that - you just set down the camera and enjoy the moment.  

And on that note - may YOU and YOUR family have a wonderful new year filled with treasured moments, reflecting on God's love and special gift of Jesus Christ - Savior, Hope, and Light of the World!