Monday, December 1, 2014

YH Matchbox Christmas 2014

I began feeling "mommy guilt" a few years ago because I used to do a lot of fun, interactive activities when the kids were preschool age, but with the addition of each child and adding home schooling to my list, those were not happening as frequently.  Teaching is a full-time job.  I try to include extra activities within our day, but let's be honest - I  neither have the time (or the desire) to plan crafts, art projects, and science experiments several times a week when I'm juggling three grade levels' worth of planning and work on top of all that we women do to "keep a home."

Thus, desiring to be intentional about enjoying my children and the festivities of December together, I began the "Matchbox Christmas Countdown."  This is certainly not an original idea, and there are a lot of variations {search Pinterest to see what I mean}.

I bought my boxes at Wal Mart.  The inside part was already white, so I didn't bother painting them as some do.  I purchased a small booklet of scrapbook paper at Michael's and then cut the paper down to wrap around the outside box, hot gluing it on. Using white sticker dots, I numbered each box.  Easy-peasy!

I keep a running list of ideas in a file on the computer or jot them in a notebook.  Before it's time to fill the boxes, I sit down with my calendar, a piece of paper numbered 1-24, and begin filling in activities.  We did a lot of these things prior to the boxes, but they seem  extra special when the elements of surprise and mystery are added in!  I print them out, cut them in strips and fill the boxes. They're kept in a glass jar with a ribbon around it on the kitchen table.

Here's our list for this year {but, SHHHH!! The kids don't know what's coming up!}:

1. Decorate trees in your rooms.

2. Make Christmas pancakes.
   {Shaped pancakes are a staple item year round- I have collected a lot of molds over the years}

3. Write out cards for your Sunday School teachers.

4. Do a Christmas puzzle together.

5. Make turtles and eat some!
    {square Hanover pretzels + Rolos + pecan halves heated several minutes in a warm oven}

6. St. Nicholas Day!
    {New this year- we have a Dutch heritage on both sides of the family; our last name means "yellow hat" and there's even a restaurant called "In the Yellow Hat" on a dyke in Holland.  We have wooden clogs that I'll fill with a candy cane, clementine, and a few chocolate coins for them to find on Dec. 6.  I'll get a book from the library or some type of reading on the history of St. Nicholas.}

7. Do Christmas Mad Libs.
    {My kids think these are a riot, so why not?!  Check out my Christmas board on Pinterest for free Christmas mad libs.}

8. Get peppermint milkshakes at CFA.

9. Get donuts for breakfast.
    {Sometimes we go in our pj's through the drive thru.}

10. Decorate a team member as a Christmas tree!
     {New this year- it'll be fun with the grandparents in town!}

11. Have a Nutcracker party!
      {The girls are performing in the ballet this year and it's the only night of production week we don't have a rehearsal, so we'll get our party on with a nice dinner and sweets and treats since my parents will be in town.}

12.  Play games together.
       {Any game will do.  I also have a Christmas Bingo game and we'll play with M&M's or mini holiday Oreos as markers.}

13.  Attend (or dance in!) The Nutcracker Ballet

14. Have hot chocolate.
      {I have a hot chocolate station set up in the kitchen during the winter months.  We have some cute gingerbread mugs from Crate and Barrel- both child-sized and regular-sized.  Check the after-Christmas sales; they're really cheap then!}

15. Go shopping for gifts.

16. Make cookies for the airmen on base.

17. Wrap gifts.

18. Drive through Sherwood Forest.

19. Caroling.
      {We sing together daily during our family devotions, but we're going to make a little party out of it this year with friends.}

20. Play in the Christmas recital.

21. Gingerbread Day!
      {We have a tradition involving gingerbread baking and decorating and eating that's a must even though it's evolved a bit over the years.}

22. Camp out in front of the tree.

23. Watch a Christmas movie and eat popcorn.
24.  Attend church and have snacks afterward.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tis The Season

Hi Ladies!  I hope you enjoyed your evening of fellowship and fun!  As promised, there are posts with details to the traditions we talked about in class here.  I'll try to add more as time permits.  If there is something specific you don't see, leave me a comment (it's open to anonymous comments) or e-mail me at mrsyellowhat  @ yahoo dot com.    Lastly, if you want another copy of the devotional on traditions (or you just found the blog and want it), e-mail me and I'll send a copy to you. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Media for Kids Focusing on Biblical Themes

Click on the image to go to the link with more information and/or purchasing information.

My kids love all of the Hermie and Friends videos.  I think the messages in each movie are clear; in fact, Flo the Lying Fly was helpful when one of our kids decided to try deceit out as a preschooler.  My all-time favorite Hermie video, though, is the Christmas one: A Fruitcake Christmas.  There are a lot of allusions to other classic holiday favorites woven into the storyline.

I read this book to my kids this past fall and they laughed themselves silly!  There are a lot of great talking points, and I'm anxious to show them the movie version on a popcorn/movie night during December!

Little needs to be said about Charlie Brown- it's a classic.

I think my husband's grandma gave this video to our oldest one year.  If you have younger children sensitive to scary parts, there is one scene where the lamb faces a predator in the middle of the night.  All ends well, but it is a bit menacing.  Other than that, it's a cute movie.

We also have the book in our holiday basket; the illustrations are very pretty.

We have all four of Liz Curtis Higgs' books in her parable series; there is one for each season.  When the children were preschoolers, we read the Pumpkin Patch Parable while we carved our pumpkin.  Liz uses a farmer and his family to share the gospel story in each volume; there is a corresponding Bible verse on each page.

I'll try to add others that we own soon, but please do share any other titles you may know of in the comments!

The Advent Calendar

Years ago, I purchased this calendar designed by Noel Piper from Desiring God Ministries.  I liked the simplistic look and the hands-on design.

There is a script that came with the calendar with readings for each day.  On Day 2, we read readings from both Day 1 and Day 2; on Day 3, we begin at the beginning and add the third part of the story. The repetition is what "makes" the tradition.  I can remember hearing our oldest daughter reciting the story verbatim to her dolls and animals at age 2!  Also, notice that it hangs at their eye level to encourage interaction with it.

{YH tidbit: We began the calendar tradition with our oldest daughter when we lived in Ukraine from 2003-2005.  We went back a second time from 2010-2012. This is our youngest wearing the same outfit her big sister wore when we began the tradition.}

On Christmas Day, our kids have always anticipated the moment when they can finally put baby Jesus into the manger.  The memories we have of our children treasuring God's Word and story in their hearts are priceless!

A bonus feature of this calendar is that it easily packs.  I've bagged the little pieces, unscrewed the two pieces of dowel and rolled it all up together to pack in a suitcase when we didn't spend Christmas at home.

Unfortunately, the calendars are no longer available for purchase, but I think that you could easily adapt other calendars that are on the market.  Or, if you're the crafty type, you could re-create this one.  Craft stores like Michael's or Hobby Lobby sell plain wooden pieces that you can decorate as you wish for the people; you can buy little jewelry pieces for the gifts of the Magi; and there are a variety of sources where you can find the plastic animals.   My oldest suggested ordering several of the camels we used on our Jesse Tree.

You can find a copy of the script on Noel's blog.  

{Apparently the above link isn't working and I've recently found requests for this script in my spam box - SO sorry if you were one of those people.Unfortunately I was not able to reply to you because I didn't have an e-mail with your request.  If you need this script, please e-mail me at mrsyellowhat @ yahoo dot com and I will be more than happy to get it to you- just include a good working e-mail for yourself!}

Calendar measurements: 27" wide x 21" long overall; the picture area is 12 3/8" long with the remaining space on the bottom for the numbered boxes.  Everything attaches with velcro.

The Jesse Tree

A Jesse Tree is a neat advent (advent means the coming of Christ) activity that you can do with children or even as an adult!  The Jesse Tree has ornaments that symbolize events or people from the creation of the world through the Old Testament all they way up to the birth of Christ.  You could even incorporate the traditional advent candles, too.

Following are some links that show you what others have done as well as links to resources that you can print out or purchase.  

  • I appreciated the information I found on the blog, The Domestic Notebook.
  • These sites provide some liturgical readings, references, and explantions:
  • You can download and print out coloring sheets to laminate, put in little ornament frames for a cohesive look, etc. from the blog, Waltzing Matilda.
  • I've been told you can buy entire sets on Etsy.
  • Another friend said she and a bunch of other families took 1-2 days of the tree and made x amount of the same ornament and then swapped so that everyone ended up with a full set.

Ann Voskamp has written an advent book.  You can also buy ornaments from Dayspring that go along with her readings; the paper are cheaper, but you can also invest in the resin set.

This book just came out this fall and is geared for children.  The pictures are great and there are a lot of parent helps as you lead devotions during Advent.  The inside of your book will give you a link where you can download ornaments to print out, you can buy them from Dayspring (link above), or you could gather your own to go along with the events and people she chose.


For more ideas, click on the Pinterest icon in the sidebar and look at the "Advent Ideas and Traditions" board on my site.  From there, you can begin your own searches and tailor your tree to your preferences.

Jesse Tree: My Ornaments, Days 1-12

These are the ornaments for our Jesse Tree in the order that they are added to the tree along with the Scriptures we will use.  I'll list my source for each ornament underneath the pictures.  If you are not familiar with a "Jesse Tree," it might be helpful for you to read this post explaining it along with some resource links.

Day 1: The tree

Dollar store; linen ribbon: Hobby Lobby

Day 2: Creation
(Genesis 1:1-5, 26-27)

I purchased this on Ebay, but I recently saw identical globes at JoAnn Fabrics.  Another option would be to buy a plain paper mache ornament and use mod podge to attach a map that you cut up.

Day 3: Fall of Man
(Genesis 3:6-9)

I snipped this off a floral pick I got at Michael's.

Day 4:  Noah - The Promise
(Genesis 6:5-8)

I had a hard time finding what I wanted.  Apparently, no one has marketed
a realistic ark and I'm pretty picky about not using a cartoonish image of one, so
I scanned a picture out of my kids' Bible storybook and had it printed as a photo.
  I attached it to a blank wooden ornament in the craft section from Hobby Lobby.

Day 5: Abraham - The Call
(Genesis 12:1-4, 7)

Purchased through Christian Book Distributer

Day 6: Isaac - The Offering
(Genesis 22:1-2, 6, 11-14)

I found this on Ebay.

Day 7: Jacob - Assurance of the Promise
(Genesis 28: 12-16)

I picked this up in the minature/dollhouse accessories section at Michael's.

Day 8: Joseph - God's Providence
(Genesis 37:3-4, 50:15-17, 19-20)

I made this out of felt.  I will not be giving up my day job for a sewing career!
I am going to find some fabric and have my mom's friend whip up another.

Day 9: Moses - God's Leadership

This is just a stick we got outside that we whittled the bark off of.

Day 10:  Passover & Exodus

I ordered this on Ebay but you can also find it here in various sizes and colors.

Day 11:  The 10 Commandments
(Deut. 5 or Exodus 20)

I purchased two flat pieces of wood at Michael's, shaped and sanded them, and then used mod podge to glue  on a simple summary of the 10 Commandments that I printed out on scrapbook paper that looked like stone.

Day 12:  Fall of Jericho
(Joshua 2:1, 8-9, 12-13, 17-18)

{our wall fell apart the day I was taking pictures; 
I'll get a photo up soon.}

I found a long wooden piece that I sawed down to the size I wanted at Michael's in the wood section. It already had a hanger attached.  I used sheets of "stone" that are out for the Christmas villages for the wall and then attached a tiny shofar I bought on ebay with red embroidery thread to represent Rahab's scarlet thread.

Jesse Tree: My Ornaments, Days 13-25

This is the second part of examples of ornaments that we use on our Jesse Tree.  Here is Part 1.
 {I have a few of these in which I need to add Scripture references....coming soon!}

Day 13:  Ruth
(Ruth 1:6-9, 16; 1:15-2:3)

I had a hard time finding wheat at the craft stores during fall!  A friend finally found some in an old flower arrangement that she gave me.

Day 14: Samuel - The Beginning of the Kingdom
(I Samuel 16:6-7, 10-12)

I bought this at Hobby Lobby.  Their ornaments are usually at least 40-50% off.  I saw several soft styles in multiple colors at Michael's.

Day 15: David - King and Shepherd for the People

I bought a wooden J from Michael's, sawed off the "T" part and then sanded it down a bit before staining it and adding a hook for hanging.  You could also use a harp for David.

Day 16: Isaiah - Light for the People & Holiness
(Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)

photo credit: Crate and Barrel

I purchased a clip-on felt candle from Crate and Barrel.  Their after-Christmas sales are fantastic.

Day 17: Elijah - Threat of False Gods
(I Kings 18:18-24)

I bought plastic brick sheets during Christmas at Michael's and cut it down to fit around a plastic medicine cup.  I broke match sticks and glued those on top.  The "water jar" is a wooden piece found in the wood aisle at Michael's that I painted to have a terra cotta look.

Day 18: Daniel - God's Faithfulness & Deliverance

I bought this paper mache lion on Ebay.

Day 19: Jonah - Obedience
(Jonah 1:1-3, 17; 2:10; 3:1-3)

I made this out of felt from a pattern I drew based on this picture.  This blogger has a lot of great ideas that inspired my selections.  **I found a carved wooden whale I like that I'm going to purchase to replace this one.

Day 20:  John the Baptist - Repentance
(Matthew 3:1-3)

Taken from our stash of souvenir shells from a beach trip.

Day 21:  Mary - Hope for the Future
(Luke 1:28-35,38)

I realize there are two angels and they're singing and they
seem to portray the scene with the Shepherds better...
but I love these little German ornaments and
I just can't find a single angel that I like.
This one was from Ebay.

Day 22:  Joseph - Trust
(Matthew 1:20-23)

I need to spray paint this brown so it looks wooden
as well as attaching a hanger of sorts.  I found
it in the miniature section at Michael's.

Day 23:  Shepherds - For the Least of These
(Luke 2:11-19)

I got this on Ebay, but I also saw one at Tuesday Morning.

Day 24:  Birth of Jesus
(Luke 2)

I picked this up at Tuesday Morning.  I like these German ornaments so much,   I'd do the whole tree with them if they made them!

Day 25:  Magi - Worship
(Matthew 2)

We used a glitter star last year,
but I wanted something a little less glitzy.
I bought this metal star at Michael's and gave it a coat of gold spray paint.