Wednesday, December 30, 2009

30 Days for The Family (A Proclamation to the World)



We had a blast in December,
crafting and learning about Christ.
I just couldn't let the fun end there.

But what to do?

Thankfully, my sister Dawno, sent me a link
to a special address given by Sis. Julie B. Beck,
called "Teaching The Doctrine of the Family" that really inspired me.
Sister Beck says that our children need to have
a clear understanding that the family is central
to The Creator's plan of happiness for his children.

That the world was created for families.
That the purpose of Christ's mission ultimately is
to help us return home to live with The Father
as families.

She says that children also need to be taught that
that their most important roles in life
will be that of a Father or a Mother.

Our children will not learn these sacred truths from the world.

They will, however, learn it from faithful Fathers and Mothers
who take the time to teach them these simple truths.

So, for the month of January 2010, we will be talking about The Family.

Each day, we will study a line or two from
-the definitive document on happiness in family life-.

We will ponder questions like:

What is a family? How do we strengthen our family?
Why does God care so much about families?

Of course, we'll also be crafting, and making messes,
and having a jolly good time together in the new year!

I hope that you will join us!



Now for a Christmas 2009 Gift Wrap-up:
I received some wonderful gifts from all of my family members this year.

Here are a few homemade ones that I thought I'd showcase...
perhaps you'll see some ideas to tuck away for next year.

Here are some cards that Dawn made for our family.
We are to use them to write little
notes of encouragement
to each other through out the year.
Excellent.



The children made gifts for each other this year.
You might have seen Guy's homemade softie dolls in a previous post.

Scarlett actually made this snake for Autumn.
Guy's has a Halloween theme,
but this sweet serpent is everyone's favorite.
(The snake is made from old tights, if you couldn't tell.)



I made these softie Elf dolls for Autumn.
The patterns were free from Weewonderfuls.com



My Secret Sister Marie, made this bed-warmer for me,
and I have used it a lot already.
It smells like lavender, and I love the fabric.

See a tutorial for making it here.



Here Scarlett is modeling the sweater that I made for her,
and hugging the snuggly afghan that my Mother knitted for me.



After Christmas, I started a new project.
This little knitted item is a secret birthday gift
for someone special!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Littlest Angel...Christmas Book Activity: Day 24



My family has been reading The Littlest Angel together
every Christmas Eve since 1971 (when my parents were engaged).

This story has so much emotion tied up in it,
that we mostly just sob through the whole thing.

My Dad usually starts off reading, and before long
he has to pass the book on to another reader
who still has dry eyes (and it continues on that way
until we finally finish it!)



We are honored to have my parents here with us this Christmas,
so my Dad did the ceremonial reading.

And I happy to report that he made it through the book
without needing a tissue.

The star of our story--the youngest member of the heavenly host--
is bringing havoc to heaven with this boyish ways.

He is unhappy, because
he misses the joys that a young boy can only find on Earth:
a sky-blue egg from a bird's nest,
two white stones he found while playing in a muddy river,
the collar from his mongrel dog...

When he is allowed to bring these treasures back to heaven with him,
he becomes the model of angel behavior.

The time comes for the Christ child to be born on Earth.
As a gift for the Lord, the Littlest Angel offers his most prized possessions,
all treasures that a four-year-old boy would hold most dear.

What happens next is truly touching,
as God accepts the gift that only a boy could give.



For our craft, we decided to create a crude box
like the one in the story where the Littlest Angel kept his earthly treasures.

We filled it with things that we'd give the baby Jesus.

As you can see, there's a train, a toy soldier, a rock, a Hershey bar, and an angel.

The pattern for making these angels, also part of today's craft, can be found here.



I thought that my favorite Christmas gift this year would be
that my kids all slept in past 7:30am this morning,
but then my son gave me the best gift later tonight when
I whispered in his ear and said, "You are a precious boy."
and he whispered in my ear and said,
"You're a wonderful Mother."

My Christmas is complete.

Merry Christmas, friends!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We Were There...Christmas Book Activity: Day 23



Hello Friend.



If you've made it all the way through our Christmas
of stories and crafting...Bravo!

And thank you for joining in on our Christmas fun!
Only one day to go...

Today's story, We Were There, is a testimony of Christ's birth,
born by the smaller, less-loved creatures of this world:
a scorpion, a toad, a snake, a spider, even a bat.



Each creature makes its way through the desert
determined to be at the Savior's birth,
each one eager to witness the miracle,
each one echoing the solemn testimony
"We were there."

The words are so simple, but they penetrate my heart in a powerful way.

"We were there" reminds me of another three-word testimony,
a true testimony,
born by His humble servant in our day...


You can learn how to make our spiders by following this tutorial.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Morris' Disappearing Bag...Christmas Book Activity: Day 22



Morris' Disappearing Bag is a delightful story
about a family celebrating Christmas Day.

The youngest boy feels left out,
because his siblings say that he is too young to play with their new toys.



Eventually, Morris wanders over to the Christmas tree
and finds a package that has not been opened.

In it he finds a disappearing bag.
His siblings look for Morris, but can't find him.

When they realize that he has this amazing new toy,
they all abandon their other gifts for a turn in the disappearing bag...
leaving Morris alone to play with all of their precious toys!



Of course, we just had to have a disappearing bag of our own!



Autumn took it for its maiden voyage. That's her in the first photo...
and here playing peek-a-boo.



Scarlett staked her claim to it.



But the kids have strict instructions that the disappearing bag is to be shared.

I really enjoyed making it, because it reminded me of
the many years my Grandma sewed kid-sized sleeping bags
for a service organization called Kidsacks.

The "sacks" were personalized with each child's name on it
and were given to children living in battered women's shelters.

My Grandma was a compassionate individual. Such a good example.
I miss her.

I wonder what has become of this organization...
that my Grandma was such a key part of.

I found this article online, which appeared in the Ensign Magazine, January 1994:

Ohio Saints Make Sleeping Bags for Homeless Children

For the second year in a row, members of the Cleveland Ohio Stake participated in the KIDSACKS project. The service project, organized by a local association of seamstresses and textile artisans, consists of making kidsacks, a sleeping bag with a built-in pillow. The items are then given to homeless children.

“It is exciting to see the huge bolts of colorfully striped or plaid and plain materials, bolts of batting, and huge spools of thread travel the production lines [set up in local malls] and emerge as finished, lightweight sleeping bags, each appliqu├ęd with a huge heart embroidered with ‘Sweet Dreams’ and completely portable for even the smallest child to carry and call his or her own,” reported Gladys M. Osborne, stake public affairs director.

“Our young people are enthusiastic over this service project; we call it ‘kids working for kids.’ We make use of everyone; they cut material, pin, sew, serge, unpin, inspect, and bag. They leave feeling happy and successful with their service.”

KIDSACKS project director Marlene Ingraham called the two hundred-plus LDS volunteers the “backbone” of the production line. “Without the ongoing, enthusiastic work of your experienced volunteers, working side by side with other volunteers, the project would not have run as smoothly or been as productive. The LDS families, youth groups, women, and men set the example of good workmanship, teamwork, and productivity. We know that other volunteers caught the spirit and learned from your volunteers.”


For more information, contact Kidsacks, 26612 Center Ridge Road, Westlake, OH 44145; 216-871-1913


Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Dress For Ellen...Christmas Book Activity: Day 21



Our neighbor Max and his "Gram Clark" stopped by to craft with us this morning.

The idea for these "scrapball ornaments" came from a site called The Red Thread.



To make them, we simply cut fabric scraps into small squares
and glued them to 2 1/2 inch styrofoam balls.



Gram had made these kind of ornaments before, so she was a big help.

She suggested using a bowl (we used small mason jars and votive candle holders) to
prop the balls on while we worked. Less messy that way.

It was still gooey and sticky, but the end result was lovely, don't you think?

Using scrap material from other projects made these ornaments extra special,
and it went nicely with today's story.



A Christmas Dress For Ellen is a story told by Thomas S. Monson,
the president and prophet of our church.

He had heard about the events of this story and then researched it by interviewing descendants of this family.

He first told the story at the Christmas devotional of 1998.

====

This true story is about a destitute family living in Canada in the late 1920's.
Their family members in the States offer to send them what they need for Christmas.
The family only asks for the bare necessities: a bit of coal, socks, used quilts without holes, and perhaps a hand-me-down dress for the oldest girl to wear.

The family waits and waits with hope that something will arrive before Christmas Day.
What follows is a display of compassion and service that is truly moving.

President Monson reiterates that "when we are in the service of our fellow men, we are truly in the service of our God."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Donkey's Dream...Christmas Book Activity: Day 20



My little man worked hard on today's project after church today.



He looked serious and grown up in that clip-on tie.

I had to just sit back and watch him for a while...
I could easily envision him as a Father,
working hard for his family some day.



He'll be great at whatever he grows up to do,
and he'll enjoy his work, because that's the kind of person he is,
just like his Daddy.



Here is the sweet little "tea bag" donkey that we made to go along with our story
A Donkey's Dream.

We printed an outline of a donkey that we found online onto card stock.
Then we glued on bits of tea to make his fur,
along with the blanket, roping, and eye that you see here.

Guy glued his donkey to his paper and told me not to take it off,
because it was a special donkey.



The donkey in A Donkey's Dream is special too.

He has the unique privilege of sharing Mary's burden during her long journey to Bethlehem.



As they travel, the donkey dreams that he is carrying
many special things: a city, a ship, a fountain,
a rose, and finally, a lady full of heaven.



I love the symbolism in the Donkey's dreams.

I love how it looks like Mary's dress is truly made of ethereal material.

I love when Mary says to the donkey,
"Come...See what we have carried all this way, you and I."

++++

This story causes me to ponder another donkey in the scriptures,
the one that carried Christ into Jerusalem
on His way to perform the ultimate act of sacrifice for us.

When I think of someone riding a donkey,
I think of someone in a lowly state,
but during Biblical times,
riding a donkey was more of a sign of privilege.

Was the Lord using this symbolism to show us that the donkey's burden was Royalty?

For me, this small parallel at both the beginning and end of his life,
is a reminder
that we celebrate His birth,
because of His death,
because of the Atonement,
and because of His Resurrection.

At Christmastime, we celebrate not just the birth of a baby,
but the entrance of the King of Kings into this world, and all that it means to us.


Christmas Star - A Gift from Scarlett's Nursery Leaders



We have the greatest, most loving, caring, dedicated,
and prepared Nursery leaders in our church.

Each week, they teach the children true principles of the gospel of Christ.
They speak on their level.
They hold them and love them.
If a child is absent, the Nursery leader often mails them a card
or drops off that Sunday's lesson to our home!

It is evident that they see these little children as "precious souls".

Today, Scarlett came home from church with a bag full of special treats
and this star with a lovely poem on the back.

(I hope you can read the poem in the picture above.)

The children are to hang this star above their bed to remind them to pray and read their scriptures every day, so that,

"when you've found your day is done,
you'll see this star and know you've won.
If your own light you haven't let dim and
like a wise man, you've followed Him."





Christmas In July 2009



We did see Santa this year.

In July...at his home base...The North Pole.



Guy hugged him and said, "I love you, Santa."

Scarlett was thrilled to see him, but preferred to wave and shout out his name,
instead of sitting on his lap.

{We did see one of Santa's "helpers" at a store yesterday.
Scarlett, decked out in her own Santa outfit climbed right onto his lap,
and was tickled pink to have her own special time with Santa.}

Autumn pretty much reacted the same way she did in July.



Here is Scarlett, Guy, and cousin Jack cooling off their noggins
on the eternally frozen "pole".



And here's our family beating the heat at the North Pole.

Visiting this special amusement park in Colorado
is a long-standing Christensen tradition.

The kids still talk about it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Clown of God...Christmas Book Activity: Day 19



I received today's story --The Clown of God-- from a very good friend of mine,
whose father used to read this story to her as a child.

It took me a while to really get this story,
but I have come to love it for many reasons.



The Clown of God is the retelling of a famous French legend
about a little juggler who uses his talent to bring happiness to others.



His act always ends with the juggling of rainbow-colored balls...
first the red, then the orange, yellow, green, blue, violet...
"...and now for the Sun in the Heavens," he would shout as he tossed the golden ball higher and higher and the crowd's cheers grew louder and louder.



One day, he meets some Brothers on the road who tell him that "everything sings of the glory of God," even his juggling.

It is not until the end of his life that our juggler realizes the truth of this statement,
as he uses his last moments on earth
to lay his special gift before the Christ child.



The message that I take from this story is that
every gift we have been given,
every talent we possess
can be used to testify of and to glorify God.

And it is our greatest blessing and privilege to do so.



I made these felt ornaments to represent the juggling balls.

I inserted cereal bags into the ornaments
just to make them into a special, crinkly treat for my baby-girl to play with.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A New Star...Christmas Book Activity: Day 18



What could be more miraculous and more fitting to announce the birth of the Savior--
the light of the world--than a new star?



The Star of "Beth-hel-ham"...as Guy pronounced it today...was surely noticed by more than just those in the immediate area of Christ's birth.



It would have been seen by other faithful followers, other wise men and women, who awaited the signs of the birth of the Messiah.




My First Story of the First Christmas outlines the events surrounding the Savior's birth
both in the "old world" and for Christians living in the Americas,
as recorded in the Book of Mormon.



These people in the "new world" called themselves Christians, because the Lord had revealed to them that the name of the Messiah would be Christ.

They waited and watched for signs of Christ's birth--despite being persecuted for their beliefs.

In addition to seeing the new star in the heavens,
they experienced a day, a night, and a day with no darkness,
when Christ was born.

Again...a fitting sign for the only one with the power to banish darkness in all its forms.



We got the idea for making these stars at this blog.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Snowmen at Night...Christmas Book Activity: Day 17



This is what I call flaky, sugary, buttery goodness.

They also go by the name "Butterflies".


I made them for two cookie exchanges today.
Here is the recipe, as recorded by my Mother.

Ingredients:

3 cups flour
1 pound margarine
1 cup cold water
sugar


Work 3 cups flour with 1/2 pound of margarine.
Add 1 cup of cold water.
Work together using a fork. It will be sticky.

Roll out dough on floured board to about 24 in. by 24 in.

Spread 1 stick of margarine onto dough.

Fold into thirds and jellyroll. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Repeat rolling out and spread with last stick of margarine.
Fold into thirds and jellyroll. Refrigerate overnight.

Cut into three pieces. Roll out thinly on a very generously sugared board.
Fold into quarters and cut into 1/2" strips.
Bake on foil lined pans for 10 minutes on 400.

Turn over and bake for about 1 minute more.
Then cool on waxed paper.



Our book today is Snowmen at Night.

The rhymes and illustrations are phenomenal,
but the imaginative storyline really makes this book magical.

It also answers a question you might have wondered once upon a time,
"what do snowmen do at night?"




The illustrator also hides little animals and stuff on each page,
which is so fun for little listeners to search out while you read to them.



Remember on Friday, when I said no one but Guy got any of their stuff done?

Well, that's not completely true.

Scarlett actually started our snowflake craft that went with today's story.



It just took 24 hours or so to soak.



And this was the end result.

I only wish it was made of sugar crystals instead of Borax.




My babies are all napping,
so I need to be off and readying for tonight's cookie exchange.

What a wonderful Christmas we are having together.

What peace has filled our home.

I am so thankful for the peace that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings to me and my family.

It is a peace not derived from crafts or presents or scurrying about,
but a peace that comes from knowing that Christ himself loved us enough to come to earth
and become the Savior of the World.

And all the crafting, baking, gifting, singing and loving
are just happy things that we do together as a family
to express this peace and love that we feel,
as a result of His ultimate act of love and example of peace.

I wish this same peace for all of my friends and loved ones this Christmas.