Thursday, December 6, 2012

Our new advent calendar

This new advent calendar was created by putting together ideas from two different sources. The looks of it, made from a mini muffin pan, came from Family Fun Magazine (of course!:). It is sooo cute; we just love it! 

For the circles, I used leftover Christmas wrap from last year. Then I glued them onto magnetic sheets. The circle magnets that cover the holes are approximately 2-1/2 inches in diameter, but you might want to measure your tin to see if this measurement works. You want to cover the holes completely, but you don't want a lot of overlap between all of the circles. I stamped numbers onto the smaller circles made from scrap booking paper. They measure about an inch in diameter. 

Here's a look at this fun project....

The directions say to fill each hole with a trinket, candy or fun thing to do. While I like those ideas, I also wanted things that were meaningful....meaning that I didn't want to fill it up mostly with candy and trinkets!

I started thinking about the Christmas traditions that we like to do and wondered if those could be put into this calendar. Then, Money Saving Mom  shared with her readers a sale on a DVD and pdf book. For only $10 including shipping, I bought the Why Do We Call it Christmas? dvd and the book, Everyday Emmanuel from this website. 

The book is mostly comprised of ideas on how to celebrate advent by focusing on the real meaning of Christmas and making precious family memories. Using some of their ideas, I listed 24 things that I wanted to do with my family this season. Some only take a few minutes during the day, while a few are fun outings and projects to do together. The girls will still get a treat here and there with the piece of paper that says what we'll do, but it isn't the focus. I like that they look forward to each day's event, but they're not getting too hyper with that upcoming party or event. It's always a "last minute" surprise and it's great!:)

Here are the things we have already begun or will do. If you know our girls and see them regularly, please don't tell them! Shhhhh......

1. Christmas party put on by our foster care agency
2. What God Wants for Christmas, part 1 (an interactive nativity by Family Life Publishing)
3. Buy the girls their Christmas ornament for the year
4. Give mailman a holiday treat
5. What God Wants for Christmas, part 2
6. See the Christmas lights in our community
7. Go to Journey to Bethlehem (an event put on by the church that hosts our M.O.P.S. group)
8. Make gifts for school teacher, nursery workers and MOPS teachers with girls
9. What God Wants for Christmas, part 3
10. Finish making presents and wrap gifts while listening to Christmas music
11. Watch new Christmas movie, Why Do We Call it Christmas?
12. What God Wants for Christmas, part 4
13. Dad and Alyzza have a coin club Christmas party/I will help Little S buy presents for family
14. Play Christmas game/Uno
15. Build paper nativity set and/or decorate church reception hall for party on Sunday
16. What God Wants for Christmas #'s 5 and 6
17. Alyzza's Christmas program at school
18. Put on a Christmas puppet show
19. Make treats for neighbors
20. Christmas caroling and give treats to neighbors and possibly shut-ins
21. Our Christmas (we are going to TN in a few days....)
22. Drink yummy peppermint hot chocolate
23. What God Wants for Christmas, #7
24. Special activity to do on the plane trip to TN (probably a busy bag or activity book)

Other ideas can include....playing together in the snow (we just haven't had any in a while, but probably will put it in and take something out of my list), make snow ice cream, read a Christmas book, etc. We have begun reading Christmas books when we do our reading time, since we have so many to choose from, and it's fun to read them all during this time of year.

So, there you have it! A fun new way to do an advent calendar while keeping it meaningful, inexpensive and full of family fun!

More to come on some of the projects and recipes we will be doing as part of this calendar's events....stay tuned....

Sunday, December 2, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Our Christmas decorations have been up for a week now, so I thought it should be time for a little tour....

If you were to visit our home, this is what you would see hanging on the door. Then, moving around the two front rooms, you'll see....

...this tree and snowman garland,

our kid-friendly nativity set I made for a M.O.P.S. craft,

a snowman nativity set, a snowman countdown and some scrabble tiles that say, "O Come let us adore Him,"

Winnie-the-Pooh window clings sent to us in a fun package from Q's parents,

the nativity set my mom gave me 13 years ago that began my collection of nativities (see how many you can count from this post!),

the nativity advent calendar that we are enjoying already,

a new way to hang up our Christmas cards using some wide candy cane ribbon,

(a close up view of my first card; it came from Alyzza:)

a nativity picture made completely from fabric (I love handmade touches around our home),

a few knick-knacks,

blocks that spell out, "Merry Christmas,"

an interactive nativity set and a Precious Moments one that plays music,

Noel blocks, mini trees and a Willow tree angel,

three wise men with Mary and baby Jesus,

an angel collection on top of one of our book cases (two of the angels are handmade gifts from friends),

our Christmas book basket (we're enjoying reading from this collection already!),

a light-up snowflake (another gift from Q's parents),

snuggly snowmen that the girls can play with,

and finally, a snowman village on top of the other book case. The picture of our tree didn't come out right, but another one was shown in my last post with Alyzza decorating it.:)

Did you count how many nativities I have? I just love having that as my theme at Christmas time. After all, Jesus is the reason for the season! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Our Thanksgiving Weekend

It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone...and that the Christmas season is here! Here are some fun activities and crafts we did over the Thanksgiving holiday.

I found these paper place mats at Target for the girls to do before breakfast one morning. They had fun coloring the turkey, doing a maze, unscrambling words and writing down what they were thankful for.

Of course, Little S just scribbled away (we didn't know what she was writing, but I'm sure she did). She had a crayon in one hand while holding a spoon in the other!

Alyzza made this costume at school and had fun wearing it all weekend.

I don't remember what spurred this idea on, but I ended up doing a quick craft for Q and Alyzza. I made these rubber band shooters out of dowels and clothespins (a fantastic idea from Family Fun). They had a blast, and of course, some of us got caught in the middle of it all (I need to make one for myself, too!)

a close up view of this fun, handmade toy

I found this banner at Target, too. A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, we started these links of thankfulness.:) It was fun to see what the girls would say. Little S said she was thankful that Jesus gave her water and then said almost the same thing about milk the next day. It was too cute!

Little S and I went on a short walk and gathered the best pine cones we could find.  I made this trio of owls for her. She chose the craft out of a fall-themed Family Fun book that my secret sister at MOPS gave me. Alyzza chose the craft below out of the same book. If you haven't noticed already, I really like Family Fun. It is the source of so many of our creative endeavors around here.:)

Here is Alyzza's pilgrim pal. We started off working together, but then I had to finish it later because we ran out of time. He is made out of a toilet paper tube, felt, yarn, pipe cleaners, colored paper and a bit of aluminum foil.

On Thanksgiving morning, Q read the story of Squanto to the girls (and yes, that's a bow in Daddy's hair, compliments of Alyzza).

After nap time, we drove to Loveland to have Thanksgiving dinner with Q's cousin and her family. This acorn squash with beet soup was the appetizer. After that, we had so many dishes to choose from to complete our meal. And of course, we kept some room in our bellies to enjoy some pie. We all had a fun time together and hope to get together again before too long.

A family tradition we have is to set up the Christmas tree and decorations the day after Thanksgiving. The girls were so excited and helped Daddy put the ornaments on, while I put out some of the other things. Do you want to see how it all turned out?

Come back soon and find out!:)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Little Nativity Family

Last week, we did another craft at our M.O.P.S. group. Because we wouldn't meet up again until after Thanksgiving...and some of us like to decorate for Christmas the day after that, I thought it would be a good idea to make this little wooden spool nativity set:

 Some of you have seen a couple of the other sets that I've made in the past, so this one isn't much different. It took me a few tries to realize that the best fabric for the head coverings was felt. We also used fine-tipped Sharpie markers for the head details and used the yarn for the bodies.

I found this stable at the Dollar Tree right before we did our craft, so it was a neat thing to show the ladies how they can complete their set. I made a star out of craft foam and glued it on the top. You can also add some animals from a barnyard play set, as well as other wooden people to represent the shepherds and angels.

For the most part, I thought the craft went well. I had to set up the steps on two tables, so the ladies made their sets in assembly-line fashion. I only wish that we had more time though and that I could have set up more glue guns to keep the line going faster; those were the main problems that I did not foresee or have control over...oh well. However, the last group that went had ladies who were so understanding and they loved the craft so much they thought they could enjoy making it at home with their kids. That made me happy.:)

The girls have played with our set a couple of times already. Little S loves the baby Jesus story already and enjoys singing, "Away in a Manger." Two days ago, she played with the set and lost baby Jesus, so we'll hope and pray he returns to the stable soon!:)

Coming up soon...Thanksgiving activities this year....and as time permits some random Christmas gift and organization ideas! Stay tuned....

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A very happy 60th anniversary!

Not too long ago, we had a celebration for a couple in our church--they reached a milestone--60 years of married bliss. To honor them, Quentin decided to dedicate a service to them and to have a party afterward. I worked on decorations and Alyzza helped me decorate. I decided to go with a fall theme; it looks pretty at this time of year, plus we could keep it up until our Thanksgiving potluck.

Here's what we did to give the Sander's a super celebration....

These felt circle garlands came out sooo cute; it gave me a good excuse to do some sewing again! I found the basic idea here and I just love it!

Pretty garlands make me happy!:)

We used the fabric pumpkins we made last year for centerpieces. Laying these out with some Dollar Tree leaves were the perfect project for Alyzza.

This simple bulletin board was easy to pull together. I stapled cardstock up there and had a couple of pens nearby for church friends to write the Sander's a note.

The pens were placed in a paper pocket that I stapled to the board.

This beautiful cake was made by Janis, another church member who we adore (she loves doing special things for our girls, too, and we appreciate that so much).

Congratulations, Dr. and Mrs. Sanders!

Quentin wanted to give them gifts during the service, and one of his ideas was to give Mrs. Sanders a bouquet of flowers. I had just stumbled across this idea for a fall bouquet, and knew this would be the perfect gift for her. She absolutely loved it. (I hope to make one of these soon for us, but it will get greater use next fall.) Quentin also gave the Sanders a large-print New Testament and had their names engraved on it.

All in all, it was a great celebration. To God be the glory for a tremendous example of love and ministry. Thank you, Dr. and Mrs. Sanders; we appreciate you.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pretty in yellow

A few weeks ago, it was Spirit Week at Alyzza's school. We looked at the themes of each day and everything looked fine--except for the fact that Alyzza did not have anything yellow to wear for her class color day. We kept brainstorming on what to do so that she could participate. One of my ideas was to look for yellow polo shirts at Goodwill (or even find a white one and dye it yellow) for her to wear. idea hit me when I was out shopping one day. I found a ladies yellow sleeveless tank at the Dollar Tree. Surely, this could be turned into a dress, right? Next door to the Dollar Tree is Goodwill, so we always have to go in and take a look. :) There, I found a men's yellow polo shirt for $2! So far, so good--$3 for a fun yellow dress is awesome!

Well, after some tweaking and sewing, here's the dress I made for Alyzza. She was sooo excited when I showed it to her.

I had just a tiny bit of fabric left over from the men's shirt after making three ruffles each on the top and bottom of the dress. For school, she needed to wear a polo underneath it, but if it still fits her by next spring or summer, she could go sleeveless with it.

Making this dress for Alyzza reminded me of the many times my mom sewed something up for us for a school event. Sometimes, she worked late into the night and early the next morning to make sure that something was ready to go. I've always appreciated that about my mom; she's such a hard worker and puts so much creativity into what she does.

 Thanks, Mom, for instilling that desire in me. I'm now enjoying making things for my girls.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Easy fall decor

I'm back....and not as late as the last time. :) Life in general is just plain busy, but I'm encouraged in many ways. I mentioned a couple of months back that I've been organizing things around the house. Even though I am not done, I'm feeling a huge sense of accomplishment lately. I can actually find things and can work quicker and easier with projects. We are seeing the Lord work mightily in our family. Alyzza is doing well post-adoption and we're seeing praises in regards to Little S' situation. Thanks so much for your prayers. We will continue to keep you updated in the best way possible.

One of the things I have been enjoying this fall is starting back up at M.O.P.S. again. Little S is in a new class and since she's older, she always looks forward to going with me. In fact, when we're out and about doing other things she'll ask if we're going to M.O.P.S. She loves it that much! This year, I joined the steering committee as the crafts coordinator. This past summer, I worked at gathering ideas from my stash of books and magazines as well as off of the internet. I came up six crafts that I'll be sharing with you after we do them. We did the first craft recently, and that is shown in the second photo. I'll explain more on that below. But, this first picture shows something I did with Little S last month. I call it "Fall in a Jar."

We went for a walk and I encouraged her to find things that she'd like to put in a jar. She found leaves, twigs, rocks and crab apples. She talked about what she found with Dad. It's great to incorporate God's creation in the conversation as well. This jar made a great centerpiece until she accidentally dropped it on the floor and the jar broke into many pieces! (Yikes!)

Here's our beautiful fall wreath we made at M.O.P.S. It was a hit with everyone! It was probably the most time-consuming prep work I've done for any craft (for 60-70 ladies), but it was well worth it. Alyzza helped me with counting strips of fabric, but the cutting had to be done by me. Thankfully, the rotary cutter came in handy. The other ones should be easier to pull together and I've had offers from some of the ladies to ask them for help if I need it. Here is the link for this wreath, which really can be used for any season using the right colors. From the instructions it does not say how many strips you need, but someone asked about that in the comments section. You need roughly 100 strips or so to make a full wreath. Use a variety of prints and solids to make it look the best. I used denim and corduroy to add some texture to it as well.

How's your fall season going so far? Have fun adding these ideas to your fall decor this year. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Alyzza's Adoption Day Celebration!

I thought it was about time to reveal pictures of the day when we finalized Alyzza's adoption. All of these pictures came from my sister-in-law, Abigail, so I'd like to give a special thanks to her for these. The pictures also show mostly family, and those which did not include Little S (they were sooo cute, but still can't show you her face on this blog). Anyway, here's the story of Alyzza's Adoption Day:

After a half-day of school, Q went to pick Alyzza up to bring her back home to get ready to leave. We needed to drive an hour away to Fort Collins for the hearing, so after lunch we had a time of rest and getting dressed up to go. Alyzza chose this fancy dress, given to her by her cousin, Annalina, to wear. We also gave her a couple of gifts from us, and revealed to her a special gift from Grandma and Grandpa Johnson. See that beautiful necklace she's wearing? It has her new initials on one side and the date of adoption on the other. It was such a thoughtful gift and one that she'll keep forever.

Two sweet girls just hanging out--Alyzza Joy and Annalina Joy! :)

More cousins....Gabriel, Alyzza, Annalina, Carson and Ross

Daddy and her big girl

After our waiting time in the lobby, we went inside the court room. Besides Alyzza's caseworker and lawyer, also joining us were Abigail and her kids and our friend, Shannon, and her boys. They sat in the jury section as they watched. It was neat to see that the majority of our "audience" were children.

The judge asked us a few questions,

then had us check over some paperwork to make sure all of our names and things were correct. He was so down-to-earth and friendly. We could tell that he loves kids and that he enjoys doing these hearings.

He shook Alyzza's hand to congratulate her, then he gave her a special certificate.

We hugged when it was all was finally official! What an awesome feeling. I've never given birth to a child before, but I'm sure my feelings that day were pretty much the same to those who have. I didn't know whether to cry or jump up and down with excitement.:)

The jury (aka my fabulous nephews and niece!)

me with the youngest of the crew, cutie pie, Jedidiah

Alyzza having a great time with Carson

After the hearing, we headed to a park nearby where Q had reserved a shelter. We ate some yummy chicken fingers from Raising Cane's, then enjoyed a piece of cake. Several other friends from our church here and from our former church in Fort Collins joined us in celebrating this special day with us. All of them have prayed and cried with us during this time of adding children into our family.

Thanks again to all of you who have prayed with us as well. Through this I have realized that God always has the perfect plan in each of our lives. If it hadn't been for my roller coaster of physical adversities and miscarriages, Alyzza may have never been a part of our family. We can't wait to join Little S and perhaps others to the Johnson household. Please continue to keep Alyzza in your prayers during this time of adjustment as well as the situation that is holding back Little S's adoption. We appreciate it!:)