12 Months of Christmas

For the past 2 years, my girls and I have happily prepared little gift shoe boxes to be sent overseas through Operation Christmas Child to children that we believed needed them.  The boxes contained an assortment of things a girl or boy of a certain age range would find delightful or necessary.  A couple of toys, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a bar of soap, a washcloth, a small coloring book and crayons… you get the idea.  But after reading a few disheartening articles and blog posts early in the holiday season, and feeling ultimately confused and not 100% “on board,” I opted out of participating in Operation Christmas Child this year (side note: I am not posting any links to these articles because I don’t completely agree with everything each article stated… if you want to read some just google “Operation Christmas Child Criticism”).

My 6 year old called me out.

“Mommy, remember how we filled up those shoe boxes for the kids last year?  Are we doing that again this year?”

Cue the mom guilt.

But, I had a response!  Because after deciding to not participate, I felt led to do something… something local.  I prayerfully considered the decision and how I would explain things to my daughters.  I told them about what I had learned and the 6 year old responded with:  “Why don’t we fill up some shoe boxes and give them to some kids who live near us?”

Good idea, kid.

But, unfortunately, it was already too late.  Christmas was just a couple of days away and I was scrambling around with holiday preparations for my own family and I didn’t want to rush doing something meaningful for another family as a result.

I spent Christmas mulling it over.  I decided on this:  Instead of celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas, how about the 12 Months of Christmas?  

Instead of being generous and getting the warm-and-fuzzies because we helped someone during the holiday season, why not do something for someone in need all year long?

And so, here is where we are:  We’ve decided that on the 25th of each month (regardless of the day of the week), starting in January, we are going to do a service project.  We are going to give to, do something for, or serve someone in need.  No, I don’t have 12 service projects already lined up.  But, I’ve got one and that’s where we’re starting.

We are going to keep it local, so we can be assured that our efforts are not in vain and that our resources are not misused for an alternate agenda (more on that at another time).   We are going to get creative because, budgets.  And yes, I’m also doing this so my children will learn the importance of serving others.

I will update after each service project is completed to let you know how it goes.  And if you have ideas for ways we can serve our local community, please share!

Winter Decorating

‘Tis the season for taking down the holiday decorations, right?  Unless, you’re like me and enjoy embracing the icy hues of winter.  After all, it can be a dark, dreary time of year, and sometimes taking down the decorations just makes it all the more depressing… but that doesn’t have to be the case inside of your home.  Here are a few examples of easy, bright, wintry decorating ideas from my own home that can easily stay up until St. Patrick’s Day!




White lights intertwine with sparkly white garland in the window, while ornaments perch in and around some sedum I saved in a terra cotta pot from this summer.  Icy shades of silver, white, and teal are perfectly suited for wintertime and don’t necessarily scream “Christmas.”  The wreath hangs in the window all year and I just change out the accessories on it.

Here is a daytime view of the same window.  My family room has a “beachy” theme and these colors work well even through the holidays.


In the living room, a giant Chinese dough bowl holds an assortment of wintry picks, ornaments, and my absolute favorite: a large glittered pinecone.  This year, my goal was to decorate without any red, so the transition from Christmas decorations to Winter decorations that could stay up after the holidays would be easy.



Some views in the daylight:


As you can see, the dough bowl is very large, but to achieve the same look you don’t need the exact same thing.  Instead, you could use an elongated basket, wooden box, or ceramic planter.


I really love this pinecone.


Happy Winter!

Faith in Focus: Rethinking Halloween

I was 9 years old and in the 4th grade when I made my first costume for Halloween.  Because I had no money and I was an overly-creative child, I decided to be a “cleaning lady” – a la Carol Burnett.

carol burnette cleaning lady

This was my favorite Halloween costume – because I made it, and I thought it was funny.  And as handy as it was to collect candy in my bucket, the mop made for more difficult trick-or-treating – in case you were wondering.

Growing up, Halloween was a fun holiday where kids dressed up and collected candy.  It was innocent, and we never dressed up as anything scary or gory – or sexually explicit – mostly because it never crossed our mind to do so.

I think Halloween has changed a lot over the last 20-30 years.  It doesn’t seem to be the holiday I remember from my childhood.  It seems to be more focused on the macabre, the dark, the hopeless.  I don’t remember my neighbors decorating their houses with demonic effigies, dismembered body parts, coffins, and bloodied weaponry.  I don’t remember women dressing up in a manner that blurred the line between cute costume and streetwalker.  Friends and family almost never bought entire costumes from the store – blowing their monthly budget on an something to disguise themselves for one night.

With that said, and as a mom, looking at Halloween from a Christian perspective, I have decided that it is a holiday we will not be overtly “celebrating” in our home.  At least not in the way I’ve seen it “celebrated” in recent years.

So, what do I do for my children when it seems the rest of the world is trick-or-treating and decking their front lawns with tombstones?  How do I keep my kids from feeling left out, but at the same time abstaining from the questionable practices of Halloween?

Trunk or Treat is the first thing that comes to mind.  Typically hosted by churches in lieu of the typical door-to-door candy-collecting, Trunk or Treat is basically a gathering of families in a large parking lot with decorated cars or gymnasium with tables.  Kids visit each car/table for a treat.  It looks something like this:





It isn’t necessarily always hosted by churches, either.  Local municipalities have started hosting Trunk or Treat nights for families who live in rural areas, who have strict curfew laws, or for other reasons.

So, it’s basically costumes and candy and fun… and depending on where the Trunk or Treat is hosted, there could also be other activities like music, food, entertainment, games, and so on.  Which also sounds a lot like the parties and fall festivals that also take place, in case a local Trunk or Treat isn’t happening.  That sounds like more fun than traipsing through a dark neighborhood worrying about whether or not someone’s porch light is on.

So, when the actual evening arrives, we’ve already been having fun attending Trunk or Treats and Harvest Parties.  Our girls don’t feel like they are “missing out” if they happen to stay home and hand out candy.  And they actually enjoy it, too.   They dress up, we sit together as a family on our front porch, eat dinner, have a fire in our chiminea, and greet our neighbors.  Sometimes if we’ve been really lazy, we wait until the night of Halloween to carve our pumpkins on the porch.  We try to make this night more about connecting with our community and hanging out together as a family.

If you are seeking alternatives to Halloween, check with your local churches, homeschool groups, and municipalities to what’s available.  And if you can’t find something in your area, take the lead and set something up!  Host a Fall Festival or Harvest Party at your house.  Get a few friends and neighbors together to do your own Trunk or Treat… or, better yet, encourage your church/youth group/municipality to host one for the community.  You may discover that other parents are seeking alternatives, too.

‘Tis the Season

busy mom

Just when I started to think I had to “do it all” this year because it’s “Baby’s First Christmas” … and we’ve gotta Make ALL the Memories (!) (oh-my-God-it’s-snowing-put-on-the-snow-gear-where’s-the-camera-get-outside-right-now-don’t-slip-and-maim-yourself-let’s-get-this-done-before-naptime-wait-her-hat-doesn’t-fit-oh-gawd-the-dogs-just-tracked-in-a-crapton-of-snow-c’mon-let’s-make-memories-yayyyyy) …and inevitably I’ve started to get just a little nervous/anxious/worked up/loud/Leona Helmsley about it…

I read this:

To The Mamas of Littles During the Holidays

It is just what I needed to read – and if you’re a mom of little ones, you need to read this, too.

Now, all is right with the universe, there are sugarplums dancing, and my feet are up with wine in my hand.  Because, I’m not going to go batcrap crazy this year and push myself so far that I miss it.

I don’t want to miss it.

“It” being the most important parts of Christmas – those moments with family and friends, specifically, my husband and daughter.  And I don’t need to festoon each moment with something from Pinterest.

I started on my simple Christmas journey a few weeks ago when I decided that not every single Christmas decoration I own has to be displayed this year (including the craptastic 6 foot tree that I still have from college that fell over last year and broke some of my favorite ornaments, sending me – at the time pregnant, emotional – into a complete “I Hate Christmas” tailspin).

No, I don’t have to go overboard to be overjoyed.  A few twinkly lights here and there, a handful of small Christmas trees, a wreath, some music.  There will always be music.

It’s going to be a beautiful Christmas, because we are just going to be.

Tiny Joys

A couple of days ago, I found joy in my toilet.

Now, stay with me on this… I promise it gets better.

Since my 11 month old daughter can’t be left unattended when I visit the loo, I usually take her in with me, especially if my husband isn’t around.  Honeybean sits on the floor and plays with her bath toys while I do my thing.  It works.

Well, the other day, she observed me flushing the toilet.

It was over.

She quickly toddled over and started pulling on the silver handle that makes the potty go woosh.  Three times later, I had to put a stop to it (afterall, it’s our only toilet and if it breaks we’re literally up the proverbial poo creek).

But in that moment – in the bathroom, on an ordinary day – there was joy.  There was a little girl discovering something brand new.  Something so completely mundane, I barely even notice it.  But, to my daughter, it is a New Thing.  And with each new wooshy-pull on the silver toilet handle, a little-girl smile with two tiny teeth.

You just can’t buy, manufacture, or invent this stuff.

There is joy everywhere – if I choose to see it.  In every little conversation she has with her stuffed animals, every time she points a chubby finger at something she sees, every time she waves and says “bye”, even with every screech and scream.  There is joy.

I’ve always been big on “little things,” because they really do matter – they add up – and I’ll admit that for a short while now, I’ve lost sight of how important those little things are.  I’ve been in The Blur – but now, with the Christmas season upon us, I get into that warm, fuzzy, hot-chocolately, snowy, deck-the-hallsy mood and I can see clearly again.

I can see the joy again.

The trick is to keep seeing it.  After the snow melts, the decorations are boxed, and the Christmas carols fade.

I think that will be one of my New Year’s Resolutions.

christmas toilet

Keep seeing the tiny joys.

My Black Friday

It’s gotten a little ridiculous, folks.

black friday 1

I mean, don’t you think so?

All of this craziness for stuff?

We really don’t need more stuff.


The truth is, we need more time with family, friends, and maybe reusing, re-purposing, and recycling the things we already have.

upcycle 2 upcycle 3 upcycle 4

Ok, so it’s not fair of me to tell you that you should be doing crafts, but I think you can agree that we really don’t need more stuff.

I went shopping on Black Friday about 4 years ago and it was awful.  Admittedly, I didn’t start out at 4 in the morning, but I did get out the door around 9.  I managed to shop at about 5 different stores and bought pretty much, well… nothing.  I think I may have bought a pair of cute fuzzy socks for myself, a shirt for Chris, and some log-cabin-y items for my kitchen.  I think I may have also scored a couple of good deals on wrapping paper and craft supplies.

But, here’s the thing:  I didn’t get home until 9 pm.

And I’m not sure I saved enough money to justify being out all day, eating practically nothing (an Auntie Anne pretzel is really nothing, when you think about it), and not spending some quality couch-time with my husband (something I would give a limb for nowadays).

AND… I still had to go out multiple times over the following weeks to complete my Christmas shopping anyway.

So, I stopped shopping on Black Friday.  And I did it just in time, too.


This is what it’s come to?  People bolting up from their Thanksgiving dinner to rush out to buy more stuff?  Geez.

“Grandma, that was a great meal, but you know what’s greater?  Getting a bunch of new toys for my bratty kid who doesn’t even play with the toys he/she already has!  Thanksloveyoubye!”

And don’t tell me y’all weren’t drinking some wine with that turkey and then decided to DRIVE.

drunk turkey

Anyway, I now spend Black Friday at home. I spend the day cleaning my house.  It doesn’t sound like a ton of fun, but for me, it kind of is.  I’m in my pajamas, I’m eating turkey day leftovers, and my husband is around helping.  We put on Christmas music, get silly, and have a good time.

I think this is a far better choice.

Maybe you shop on Black Friday because perhaps you don’t have family around (or you can’t stand your family).  Or, maybe it has become a “tradition” to shop on Black Friday.  Well, that’s fine, but consider this:  what about the people who work at the stores?  Is it possible that they have families and they don’t want to be working?  Is it possible that they work anyway because we have a crappy economy, they don’t want to lose their job, and because of crazy-Black-Friday-shoppers, they MUST work?

Maybe it’s not about Black Friday, but maybe just how CRAZY things have become… like the stores opening right after Thanksgiving dinner?  And the fact that people are trampling each other, fighting, shooting, stabbing… all for… stuff?  What happened to “peace on earth and good will towards men” and women/children/retail workers?

Here’s the thing:  if no one showed up on Black Friday (or on Thanksgiving Thursday), the stores wouldn’t be open.  It’s consumer supply-and-demand, folks.

If you must shop this weekend, consider doing so on Small Business Saturday.  Go downtown, visit a local small business (no, this does NOT include your “local” Walmart) and support their business.

I’m not here to be the judge and jury of Black Friday shoppers.  Really, it’s none of my business how you spend your Thanksgiving or Black Friday.  But I do ask this:  if you are going to shop on Black Friday, at least be kind to others – especially those working this weekend.

black friday 3

Happy Holidays!

My Love Affair with Fall

Warning:  this is a completely superfluous blog post about Fall.  There is no real substantive information here, just a little “getaway” from whatever responsibilities you are working on today.  We’ll call it, “Your 5 Minute Autumn Appreciation Break.”

As a kid, Summer was my favorite season, naturally.  It was pure freedom bliss and no one was going to change my mind about that.  It was green grass and slip ‘n’ slides and barbecues and the beach and bike rides and lightning bugs and every other wonderful summer thing.

And then Fall would start to creep in.  I’d notice it right around the end of August when the sun started to shift a little bit in the afternoon sky.  I would overhear mom and dad’s hushed chatter about “back to school shopping” and “new clothes” and ohmygod NOOO!

This wasn’t me. But it’s an accurate depiction of my emotions.

I hated Fall.

And for many years, even into adulthood, Summer was still my favorite season.  Until this year.

I have to say that I’ve fallen out of love with Summer.  Don’t get me wrong, Summer – let’s be friends, ok?  It’s not you, it’s me.  Well, actually, it is sort of you… 

This summer was rough.  It was hot and buggy and I was pregnant (still am, actually) – and pregnancy + excessive heat + many bugs = not a happy Summer.  I spent a great deal of time indoors and that makes me very sad, considering how much I love being outside.  Summer wore out its welcome this year, and I am more than happy to usher in my new love interest:  Fall.

Ah, Fall… how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways:

1.  Your lovely weather – it’s not hot, not cold, it’s just right.  You require a light sweater in the early mornings and late evenings, but permit sweaterless fashion during the day.  You are so flexible!  I can wear closed or open toe shoes – long pants or capris – long sleeves or sleeveless… did I mention how superfluous this blog entry would be?


2.  Your harvest bounty – it’s full of beautiful things like gourds, pumpkins, late tomatoes, apples, cranberries, and pears.  You are a culinary delight, Fall.  You are the only time of year I truly enjoy cooking.

3.  Your artistry – it’s all over the trees, flowers, bushes, and fields.  You paint everything in my favorite colors:  red, orange, yellow, green, purple!  For a crafty, interior-designer-wannabe like me, you are my muse.

4.  The way you make me feel.  Fall, you bring out the lover in me.  You inspire me to take long walks, snuggle on the couch, build bonfires, go camping, light candles.  If I didn’t know any better, Fall, I would think you’re trying to get me into bed.  Oh wait, yes, I enjoy that this time of year, too!  Sleeping is so much better with the windows open.

This has nothing to do with romance or sleeping, I just really like the picture.

5.  I realize I’ve actually loved you for a long time, Fall.  It was just difficult breaking it off with Summer.  He and I have been close for many, many years and it was tough to realize my love affair with him has actually been just a good acquaintanceship.

I know it’s not technically Fall by means of Mother Nature or the calendar, but I can’t help but celebrate.  The weather is changing, kids are back in school, and the smell of cinnamon is everywhere.  I used to wait until my wedding anniversary to decorate for Fall (which is September 25th, in case you want to send a card), but this year, I’m breaking my rule and starting today.  I’m busting out my Fall décor and I’m not looking back!  I will sip Chai tea all day and shamelessly eat as much Ivin’s Spiced Wafers as I want!  I will book my personal calendar with as many Fall-related events and festivals as I possibly can, and I will bake as many apply, pear-ish, pumpkiny, cinnamon’d things I can possibly handle between now and Thanksgiving.

Ah, Fall, I know our affair is fleeting.  I know that in a couple of short months you will turn a cold shoulder to me and I will be forced to rekindle a romance with Winter.  But that’s okay – Winter and I have been cool (ha, get it? cool?) since I discovered skiing and Winter hiking.  Plus, I’ll be preoccupied with my baby.  So, it’s okay, Fall.  You’ll be back.

Valentine’s Miscellany

I love Valentine’s Day.  I used to hate it.  But now I love Valentine’s Day for a reason that you might not expect.  I love the colors.

The red-pink-white combo is delicious to me.  I want to eat it and decorate with it and wear it and make things with it.







And yes, I know how “girly” this post is, and how completely unnecessary it is for me to discuss Valentine’s Day colors, but look how pretty…

And no, I haven’t gone all hog wild and decorated my whole house in red, pink, and white hearts and flowers.

I’m too exhausted from the gratuitous Christmas decorating I do every year that takes me a week to put up, and 3 days to take down.  By the time Valentine’s Day rolls around, I barely get a heart-shaped wreath on my front door.


Not my front door. But this is pretty, no?

I think that the colors of Valentine’s Day remind me of warmer, sunnier, more colorful days – and remind me of hope.

The hope we have in warmer, sunnier days coming in Spring and the hope of the Lord -who will show us again this Spring that He has overcome death – and brings an eternal love for all of us – when we celebrate Easter.


It’s a pretty good holiday when you think of it that way.