Thursday, December 31, 2009

Homemade and Inexpensive Christmas Gifts

These are some of the things we made this year to give to our family and friends as Christmas gifts. I couldn't post about them before Christmas, for obvious reasons. :-) The children and I finished school a couple weeks before Christmas, and then spent a good bit of time making gifts and other preparations for our celebration of Christ's birth. It was so fun! I am so thankful that we could give small gifts to loved ones this year, as last year we gave only to our own children. And even though these items are not in the same league as a Wii or a flat screen tv, or even a new cell phone, they were stitched and glued and made with lots of love and gratitude.

I sewed these satchets for the adult women in our families. You can see the lavender filled pouch sticking out of the red bag. The lavender was from Colonial Williamsburg, and I have had it for two years waiting to get my sewing machine fixed so I could make satchets with it! It still smells sooooo good! When the lovely smell finally dissipates, these can be used as jewelry bags when traveling.

Cost of making these was about $20 for 8. They could have been made more cheaply, but I chose to use two fabrics for each color rather than just one. Over the green and red solid fabric there is a sheer netting with sparkles on it to make it extra pretty!

I found these mugs on sale for 4.99 at Dayspring. We added some hot chocolate instant mixes and some chocolate covered candy cane stir sticks that the children had made. Isn't this a cute gift? When I ordered from I was very impressed with how well their breakable things were packed, and my order came in just 3 days!

Here is the refrigerator frame the children made for my parents. It has magnets on the back and the bottom is open to slide a picture in and out. The stacking kids photo took about 5 tries and an hour of tweaking on the computer, but didn't it turn out great? We sent these out with our Christmas letters this year.

Cost of frame: foam frame shapes were 8 for $1, so one was just .12 cents. Bucket of foam letters, $4.99 with lots leftover for other projects = approximately .50 cents each.

The children made several more drip ball ornaments to give as gifts. We realized that we could use use all the colors to make this a "wordless book" ornament that tells the whole gospel story. Here are the lyrics to the wordless book song:

My heart was black with sin
Until the Savior came in.
His precious blood I know,
Has washed me white as snow.
And in God's Word I'm told
I'll walk on streets of gold.
What a wonderful, wonderful day!
He washed my sins all away.

We added a bit of green to represent growing in faith.

Cost of each ornament: ball ornament - .48 cents; paint $2.49 per bottle but we used just a miniscule amount on each ornament with lots leftover for other projects; ribbon $1.99 per spool with lots leftover for other projects = approximately $1.25 each.

I also got one of these small plates from Dayspring to give as a hostess gift. We went to a Christmas party, and I took this plate filled with cookies and then told our hostess it was hers to keep. It's small, but I just love it! John 3:16 is also printed on the back. It was $10.99 when I bought it, but now they are on sale for halfprice!

What inexpensive things did you make or find for gifts this year?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Sad Darth Vader

Have you ever seen a more pathetic picture?!? My husband "won" this Darth Vader mask (complete with realistic sounding voice box) at his high school boys Bible Study white elephant gift exchange, and the children have been loving it. While Little Man was wearing it, he became sad about something and tried to put his head down on his arms, but that darn mask was so big! You haven't lived until you've seen Darth Vader pouting. :0)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Morning - 2009

With some of the presents from our stockings, which we open all together on our bed. (sorry to scare you right away with a pre-shower shot of me!)

Each of the older 4 children got reading lights that clip onto books ~ they were a HUGE hit! (gotta love our dollar store!)

My husband made pancakes for us for breakfast. This is what greeted me when I came to the table:

Our beautiful daughter in her new sweater from her WA grandparents. (she says, "thank you Grandma and Grandpa!"). She is also wearing a new heart necklace (the longer of the two) that she got in her stocking from her daddy.

Me (post-shower!) with the Ball Blue Book of canning and preserving that my parents gave me. Perfect! Thanks so much mom and dad! (I am wearing the new circle necklace my hubby gave me) :-)

Later in the day we went to my husband's parents' house for Christmas dinner and our boys received this from their auntie Gayle:

Our very tall nephew in his new coat. Isn't he handsome?? :-) He is a junior in college and we look forward to every chance we get to see him!

My husband (second from left) with his siblings. The 4 of them are rarely all together. What a treat!

My beautiful sisters in law!

All the cousins but one (the oldest).

The tallest and shortest cousins.

And here is some of our stocking opening chaos. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Eve - 2009

We went to a wonderful Christmas Eve service at church at 4:30, and that was the kick off of our family Christmas celebration this year. Our Christmas services always end with the lighting of individual candles, and the singing of "Silent Night" in just the candle lighted sanctuary. It is such a beautiful, peaceful time and I just love it. Have you ever really thought about the words to each of the verses to that well known Christmas carol? They are so meaningful. I always cry. (not too hard for me!)

We came home definitely in the Christmas spirit, and enjoyed our new Christmas Eve dinner tradition, a mexican fiesta! I love these Christmas plates. The pattern is Winterberry from Pfaltzgraff, and it took me several years to collect 12 plates and some serving pieces. Love, love, love using them throughout December!

Then we lit some candles in the family room, and my husband and daughter took turns reading the Christmas story from two of the gospels (Matthew and Luke). I wish I had turned the flash off, because these pictures look rather glaring and in reality it was much darker and quieter and just a lovely peaceful time. Our youngest is old enough now to sit still through the whole story!

Doesn't the tree look beautiful, with the presents underneath just WAITING to be opened??!!!

Now I know that presents are not what Christmas is all about. Not even close. But it is so fun, as a parent, to give good gifts to our children. And it makes me think how it must have felt for God our Heavenly Father to give us the greatest gift of all on that first Christmas night. He knew the pain of what was coming down the road, but I think He could barely contain His excitement and joy over the giving of this gift ~ as evidenced by the brilliant star and angel choir announcing His birth!

I am so grateful that we were able to give each of the children at least one thing they *really* wanted this year. We started our shopping about 3 months ago, buying one thing from each paycheck so that we could pay with cash each time (or use gift cards) and not put anything on a credit card. And God was faithful to help me find good sales for almost everything!

Here is Little Man with a new GeoTrax set which he loved!

This Egyptian pyramid is a brand new playmobil set and was the number one item on son C's wishlist. It was kindof expensive, so we gave it to C and Little Man to share, and boy were they happy! It is a really cool set with hidden rooms and booby traps for would-be grave robbers. My husband and I had fun checking it out after the kids were in bed!

Son L really wanted........

..... a skateboard!

And we also gave him his first leather Bible with his name engraved on the front (as well as a Bible cover and a highlighter). For the first two children this was their "double digit" birthday present when they each turned 10, but since son L lost his other Bible he has not had the word of God to read for himself. So we gave it to him for Christmas instead. He loved it, and we loved giving it to him.

Son G got two things he really wanted!

No way! A camera??!!

His first picture was of me taking his picture! He has taken over 200 pictures since then. He has all the ornaments on our tree well documented, as well as his new playmobil yacht from every conceivable angle. :-)

Daughter G's favorite thing were these speakers for her mp3 player. They are fabulous speakers (just about the best ones at Radio Shack) that were more than half off. We have been enjoying listening to her playlist all together ~ it is so easy for her to share favorite songs with us now! She has some awesome praise and worship music on her player. And if she ever replaces her Sony mp3 player with an iPod, these speakers will also serve as a docking/recharging station for that.

Here is my favorite gift ~ a wall tapestry that I fell in love with at Family Christian. My husband bought it with my 25% off coupon! Click on the picture to see all the "rules" larger. I love the last one, which is "Love one another deeply from the heart." My prayer for our family! Have to figure out where to hang it....

The present that Little Man bought for me at the dollar store turned out to be a cord to hang my reading glasses from! He got me a pink one, and this blue one was given to me by son G, so now I never have to lose my reading glasses!

My other gifts from the children were new gloves and a new pair of scissors from daughter G (our dollar store has really awesome scissors!), and junior mints from son L. Son C said he ran out of time to shop for me, which I thought was really hilarious since I was right there with him in the store and I seem to recall that we had plenty of time.....! (good thing I know he loves me regardless of gifts or lack thereof).

My husband and I were not planning on giving each other gifts, but some generous friends gave us a gift card so that we could. I gave my husband something he needed (a whole bunch of new socks) and something he wanted (an 8 G memory card for his new phone). Hope your Christmas Eve was wonderful and happy and joyous!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Final Preparations for Christmas

I think we are officially "ready". Ready with all the extraneous stuff. My heart has been ready all season! Honestly, this Christmas means so much to me as I contemplate the meaning of "Emmanuel - God with us." We have felt God's presence so keenly this past year during my husband's unemployment, and His power and peace and grace were displayed so vividly in so many ways........I marvel at His coming, what He left in order to put on flesh for a time, and my heart is overflowing with gratitude.

We will begin opening presents tonight. We open in chunks ~ presents within our immediate family on Christmas Eve night, stockings and presents from WA on Christmas morning, Christmas afternoon we go to my husband's parents' for a big dinner and open gifts there. The children are right now counting down the hours til tonight! And I'm really excited too, as we were able to find great deals on some of the things they *really* wanted. I can't wait to watch the children open their gifts!

Yesterday I took the last two children shopping at the dollar store, while our oldest stayed in the van with the others. It was the 10 year old and the new 5 year old. With the 10 year old I just stood inside the entrance with my back to the store and waited. With the 5 year old I had to stay right with him all the time, so picking out a gift for me without me seeing was a bit tricky. I chose two items that were displayed close together, turned my back and told him to pick one and put it in his coat pocket. When we got to check out, I explained the situation to the clerk, turned my back for another moment, and she scanned my present which he promptly put back in his pocket! And it worked, because I don't know which of the two he picked out. Should be interesting tonight. ;-)

My husband was much relieved that he didn't have to take all the children shopping this morning for a mommy gift. His time is so limited, and I hate feeling rushed on Christmas Eve. I like to be done, and just leisurely enjoy the whole day. In a short time we are going to start a game of horseopoly (like monopoly only with a horse theme). The lights are on, Christmas music is playing, my family are all here and my husband gets a 4 day weekend.....wonderful!

Whatever your Christmas celebrations involve, ENJOY your loved ones, and know that the lover of your soul came so that you and I might know the love of God intimately, personally, deeply, and eternally.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Several hours before Little Man's snowman party, our 9 year old son L had his basketball tournament. He has been in basketball on Saturday mornings for the last 6 weeks, and has really loved it. He gets to play forward because he's very tall for his age. Our whole family enjoyed cheering him on! In the video, he's the one with a light blue, long sleeved shirt, who has the ball in the beginning.

Monday, December 21, 2009

More Fun in the Snow

Here is a video of everyone playing in the snow at Little Man's birthday party. The "playing" quickly became just "slipping and sliding", and our plastic drip cloth didn't go quite to the left edge of the room, so you'll hear our daughter G admonishing everyone to keep the snow on the plastic and not the floor. :-) And you'll hear my husband, who bless his dear heart did all the cleanup later, saying that we'll be sweeping up snow for a long time in the future. I actually think by the next day we had found it all! Enjoy!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Little Man is turning FIVE!

Little Man turns 5 in a few days, and today he had his first ever "friend" party. Three little friends came over for a snowman party, and MAN, did we have fun!!!!! It was truly a blast! And I am so grateful for the opportunity to give this sweet boy a super fun party (especially since, you know, he is presumably the last 5 year old we'll have! sniff sniff). If my husband were still unemployed a party probably would have been out of the question. Just one more reason to be thankful for his job!

First they made little edible snowmen out of marshmallows (choc chips for eyes and buttons, candy corn for nose, twizzlers for the scarf, pretzel sticks for arms, and vanilla frosting holding everything together with a toothpick down the middle for extra stability). They each made one to eat right away, and one to take home. They needed help, of course, but did a great job!

Then we played "pin the nose on the snowman" ~ it was so much fun to watch their enthusiasm. These boys got along GREAT!

This little friend is also Little Man's second cousin. We only see him a few times a year, but it is usually at the cottage so we have lots of shared summer memories. Little Man ADORES him and they had great fun together.

This little friend you may recognize from my co-op pictures. We get to see him every Friday!

And this little friend is just two months younger than Little Man ~ they have known each other all their lives (their dads have known each other since junior high!). We love our get togethers with his family!

After presents, we had snowman cake.

The nose was 5 orange candles put together to look like a carrot.

All together, those candles made a really big flame!

Then for our grand finale, we played with SNOW! INSIDE! I found this snow powder at Timberdoodle (which, sadly, they appear to no longer carry) that you just add water to and it turns into snow, and I knew it would be perfect for our planned snowman party. It was a HUGE hit!!

We put a painter's drip cloth down on our living room floor, and they turned it into a big slip and slide!

Clean up took awhile, but it was worth it. :-) Each boy got a tube of snow powder to take home. Their parents are going to love me, don'tcha think?!

Here are the 4 little friends. (the one on the left was striking a super hero pose)

And us with our Little Man, who is growing up SO fast! We love you Little Man!