Monday, December 31, 2012

This Was THE Year


Wow...what a year!

2012 has seen some amazing dreams come true for me and my family.

We had a baby.

Wrote a book.

Sold our house.

And now look forward to new adventures in our new home.

The Lord has blessed us...again...beyond our deserving, and we couldn't be more grateful.

This New Year's Eve, we are packing boxes, playing with blankies, being with brothers and sisters, and enjoying our last few moments in this Home that has been a place of love and beauty for us.  We stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers us, through thick years and thin.

May the coming year be a thick one for you and your family...full of many unexpected blessings!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wookiees Wanted



I just learned that my friends Steve (from Mormon Wookiee) & Diane--the ones who wrote this post on infertility-- are starting the adoption process!!  

I like this photo of Diane that I snagged off of their new adoption blog called "Together's Better," because it just melts my heart.  What child wouldn't want to snuggle with this sweet mama and her cute little comrade?

I've realized recently that I've not only become an advocate of Motherhood and of family during my time as a young mother...but I've become an advocate of Childhood.  

Prior to becoming a mother, I never fully stopped to ponder just HOW special those years are, how irreplaceable they are and how fundamental they are to shaping a person.  Recent events, however, have sealed that conviction in my mind that we adults are responsible, especially us Mothers, to be the guardians of children and of Childhood in a world that does not always do that.

Anyway, when I look at Steve & Diane and other couples out there like them who are looking to adopt, I don't just see people who want to be parents, but people who want to love and protect children and Childhood.  

So if you know anyone who is considering placing a baby for adoption, please send them to Steve and Diane at http://togethersbetter.blogspot.com/!  Merry, merry everybody!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Jocelyn's List of the Best Christmas Books for Children 2012



Jocelyn's List of the Best Christmas Books for Children 2012

After four years of publishing Christmas book lists, it's getting harder and harder to keep the list to just 24 books!  This year, I tried to include only my very, very favorite books that strike at the true meaning of Christmas...books with a lot of heart in them and books that speak to the heart of a child.  I hope you enjoy these stories as much as we do!  They are truly the best of the best and worthy of a good snuggled with you and your children!  Merry Christmas!

1.  Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect by Richard H. Schneider


3.  Who is Coming to Our House?  by Joseph Slate

4.  The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy by Jane Thayer

5.  The Animals' Christmas Eve by Golden Books

6.  Christmas is Here (adapted from KJV Bible) Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

7.  The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Golden Books

8.  A Shepherd's Whisper by Heywood Brown

9.  This Is the Stable by Cynthia Cotten

10.  A Small  Miracle by Peter Collington

11.  Humphrey's 1st Christmas by Carol Heyer

12.  The Christmas Candle by Richard Paul Evans

13.  Morris' Disappearing Bag by Rosemary Wells

14.  The Snowman (DVD) by Raymon Briggs

15.  Santa Mouse by Michael Brown

16.  The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado

17.  We Were There by Eve Bunting

18.  The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

19.  Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck

20.  The Last Chimney of Christmas Eve by Linda Oatman High

21.  Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer by Robert May (Golden Books)

22.  The Donkey's Dream by Barabara Helen Berger

23.  The First Story of the First Christmas by Deanna Draper Buck

24.  The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell

BONUS BOOKS:

I Believe in Santa Claus by Diane Adamson



Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Power of Letting Go


I received this in the mail this week....along with a special note from my Mom.


I had mentioned to her how much I loved this nativity that she painted years ago and how I was hoping to find one similar to it, because it reminds me of my children.

So she gave it to me.


Notice how the figures are children dressed up for a Christmas pageant!  So sweet.


I know that my mom spent a lot of time making these, and my dad cut the wood out for her.  So there's a piece of themselves in this nativity.  That and the memory of seeing it displayed in the home that I grew up in makes it special to me.


In her note to me, my mom talked about the act of letting go of the things that we collect in this life...in preparation to one day leave it all behind in order to return to the presence of our Father in Heaven.


As she talked about learning to let go of "things," I realized that she was talking about leaving actual "stuff" behind, but my heart thought instead about how it is necessary for us to leave more than just "things" behind in preparation to meet our Maker.  We must leave behind hurts, worries, grudges, and misgivings as well in preparation to return to our Heavenly Home.


Neither one is easy to do.

In our family growing up, we didn't have a ton of things...but what we did have, we cherished.  We cherished our home...the same modest home that I was born and raised in, the same home that I left for college from...and even returned to after college for a few weeks.

We cherished the old but beautiful piano that over-ran the living room.  We cherished the kitchen table that was never elegant, but always welcoming.  We cherished these things because of the people who either made them, gifted them, or used them in our family.  

I remember the stories that my grandparents and parents told about the people in our family who were associated with these items.  And I cherish those stories too.



As children we are taught to hold onto things.  We hold on to our mothers, our special soft blankets, our toys.  We are instructed to retain information such as language, fine motor skills, and nuance.  

And yet the most important nuance for us to cultivate in this life is the art of knowing what to hold onto and what to let go of...a skill that children seem to know instinctively, but as adults, we must learn again and again.


Thankfully, there is someone patient and all-knowing enough to walk us through this process of leaving things behind, in a world where, as my Dad says, "Men are born to die." 

He is our Savior, Jesus Christ, the one who came to earth knowing better than anyone that he was born to die and live again...He is the reason why we celebrate during this season of wonder and the real and true hope of all men.


During Christmas-time, we often focus on giving to others, but with this gift from my Mother, I am reminded of the one gift that we can receive from no one else but the Savior, and that is the power to let things go and leave them permanently behind.

What do you have the power to let go of this Christmas season?

For Sale


I just made the tearful announcement to my neighbor, so I can now tell all of you...

There is a "For Sale" sign in front of my house.

I was being all brave about it until I saw the sign installation guy hammering away in my front yard just moments ago...I rushed out to tell my neighbor Nichole, who has become one of my very best friends, that we plan on moving to a new house (just a mile away).  

Of course, we stood out in her driveway and bawled our eyes out thinking about what this means for us and for our children who love to play together.  My kids are very excited about moving to this new house, but I don't think they realize yet what moving really means.

I am thankful for all of the beautiful moments that my family and I have had in this house.  And I like that, through blogging, I now have pretty solid evidence that we not only lived here, but that we grew up in many ways here, that we laughed and cried here, that we built solid friendships here.

I am also thankful for the feeling of confirmation that we can move on from this special home, knowing that we did our best and tried to be our best here, and knowing that we're taking the best part of this house with us...our children!  But still...it's hard!  If I could, I would love to box up my friend (who gives of herself and her time to others so freely) and her family and take them with us!  In my dreams, I really would.

Now to sit back and wait for a buyer...Here's a rare peek into my house if you're interested in seeing where the magic happens!!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Stained-glass Stable Craft





Just in case you were wondering...our baby is still super cute.

At one month old, she is so smiley and growing like crazy!

She's the spitting image of all of my other babies...especially Scarlett.



To accompany our reading of "This is the Stable", we made "stained-glass" stables this morning (seen here) using clear contact paper, black card stock, and tissue paper.



I was sure to select VERY easy crafts this year...and this one couldn't be easier!



You can buy little squares of tissue paper at craft stores for pretty cheap and makes this craft very kid-friendly.  Looks pretty great in a window, don't they?



I realize that I haven't actually posted our Christmas book list yet this year, but I promise I will do that soon.  I have a few new books to tell you about!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wise Men Paper Crowns



Freezing rain gifted us with a two-hour school delay this morning, so we got to bang out another Christmas book and craft activity.


Two Christmases ago, I told you about the book "A Small Miracle" by Peter Collington.

At that time, the book was out of print, but it's not anymore.  They re-released it in paperback, so go out and buy it!  It's a wonderful story...no words, only pictures...really amazing pictures!


This story is so original!  It's a great example of how imagination and magic during Christmas (or anytime) can spark a child's interest and help them to think about how little people can make a big difference in the world.  It's a fun and touching wordless tale with a surprising twist.  (You can see my review here.)


To accompany the story, we created these paper plate wise men crowns.

They are super easy to make.

I had the kids color the plates with yellow crayons or markers.  I had planned to spray paint them gold, which you could, but I decided that was over-kill.  Then, using a rotary cutter, I cut slits through the center of the plate, and let the kids curl the flaps up to make it look crown-like.  Then we added gems to the outside using glue dots.

The only thing I would have done differently is buy larger paper plates.  I used some cheap generic ones I had lying around the house, but I think I could have used larger ones and they would have fit the kids' heads a little better.


Have a great Friday, everybody! 


Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy


In addition to adding a "new addition" to our family, we've had a few other exciting adventures together as a family in the last month...one of which we are still in the thick of so I'll have to tell you about that later.

Anyway, to try and keep things normal around here, I gathered all of my ornament-making supplies during the late summer, so we could still have a "merry craftmas" reading and crafting along to our favorite Christmas books.

If you are unfamiliar with my Christmas book lists, you can see them at the following links:

"Jocelyn's List of the Best Christmas Books for Young Children 2009, 2010 & 2011"

(Just click on the corresponding year...)

So, the other night, we made the ornament pictured above to go along with our reading of "The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy," by Jane Thayer, which is such a darling tale...sort of an homage to my son and to dogs that I have loved over the years!

At the time that I discovered this book last year, I badly wanted a baby that just wasn't coming...my son badly wanted a brother, and I started to think that I should just get him a dog, so at least one of us wouldn't be sad!  

Around that same time, my sister's puppy was run over by a school bus in front of her house as her kids watched!  (Can you think of anything more awful?)  She was so sad...and I was so sad for her and (secretly) for myself...I'd read this book to my kids and bawl my eyes out.  

This book is so sweet and tender and really captures the need that we all have for companionship and for family and for a sense of belonging...and to know that you are special to someone else.

I promise you'll love this book...and it's not sad at all.  It's just sweet!




The other craft that we made this month are these candy cane antler headbands...



Both crafts are super self-explanatory and don't require much more than a few pipe cleaners!


The girls wore their headbands proudly to school on Monday, and by all accounts, they were a big hit.  This would be a fun craft to make at a class party or something if you can find cheap headbands!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Christmas Communique'


The Christmas spirit is alive and well over here at our house!

Just last night at dinner, Guy decided--all on his own--to write this letter to Santa, the contents of which are pretty atypical of a letter written by a recently-turned seven-year-old!

But that's Guy...so special and very mature.

Guy posted his letter on our tree last night and received a response from Santa this morning.

Santa said, "Good boys like you are the reason I do this...and because I love Jesus just like you."  He also let Guy know that, contrary to what the teachers have been telling him at school, Santa really does prefer cookies to carrots.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Blessing Day


I'm fighting every urge right now to post like a million pictures of my gorgeous baby and tell you how amazing she is...


Whoops, now see, that one got away from me...but just take my word for it...she's a little piece of heaven...very alert, smiles all the time, and sleeps well!


We blessed her this weekend...in our home...surrounded by family...wearing this 100+ year old christening gown.

That should've really been the headline to this post, but I'm still not that focused mentally right now enough to write Pulitzer Prize-winning posts just yet.


Hmmm...I wonder why...


Untitled

Anyway, the blessing that Steve gave to Honor was really wonderful and sweet and special.  It captured everything that we hoped for her and then some.

Honor is a very special little person with a bright future ahead of her, and we are most excited to help her reach her destiny as a righteous daughter of God.

I have to say one more thing about all of the wonderful friends who have helped me out during this time.  Many, many people have brought us dinners, provided babysitting, rides home from school, or simply called to check in and offer help in various ways.

One day last week, I had seven women stop in with food or offer to take my kids or provide rides....seven women all in one day.  One friend even showed up at my door with all of the ingredients to make me dinner, then helped me clean up and prepare food for our big blessing weekend.

When blessings like this come raining down, I sometimes tend to panic, thinking, "Uh, oh, what tragedy awaits me?  If God is sending help, maybe he knows something that I don't!"  Or I tend to feel guilty...like I am not deserving of this kind of outpouring of help...surely someone else needs it more than I do?  (Elder Uchtdorf articulated this well in the broadcast this weekend!)

But what I realized the evening that I had received so much service from others was that sometimes our Heavenly Father facilitates a big display of love in our direction simply to show us that He can.  It's like he's saying, remember who I am...I am the most powerful, most compassionate, most omniscient being in the universe.  I can take care of you...and I will take care of you, and it is no sweat for me to do so.

My brother-in-law Gary and his wife Emmalee had a baby this summer.  They named him "Cedar Jedi Christensen."  I love the little explanation of the name that they sent us with his birth announcement.  They told us that Jedi is a Hebrew name that means "God sees and God protects."

I am reminded once again that God does in fact see and does in fact protect.  And for that I am most grateful.