Tag Archives: advent

Handprint/Footprint Nativity Scene Tree Skirt

Every Christmas growing up I looked forward to seeing the handprint with a poem my preschool teachers helped me make as a Christmas gift for my parents back when I was two.  I really wanted to do something to capture my own children’s sweet little hands and feet, and while I was searching for ideas for our Father’s Day gifts last spring, I found several ideas for making pictures from a Nativity scene.  I decided to combine them to decorate a skirt to go around our Christmas tree.

I bought a burlap tree skirt (I chose this one because it was a little nicer quality and was lined, but there are cheaper ones out there) and used acrylic paint I already had. The browns were a little lumpy, so those prints didn’t turn out quite as nicely as I’d have liked, but over all I’m pleased with how it turned out.

My three older boys provided the handprint camels and full fingerprint wise men, robed in their favorite colors.  Nathaniel’s hand made a sweet donkey.  Nico and Arianna provided the footprints for Joseph and Mary, while Clara’s little foot made the manger for Baby Jesus.

Then the Ian, Elijah, and Nico used their footprints for shepherds, and Nathaniel’s and Arianna’s hands were the sheep.  (Clara’s seven months and it’s really hard to get a good handprint, so I didn’t dare trying the two colors for a sheep with her.  She made the little brown cow instead.)  I painted both girls’ feet white to make the angels and then just added a few details.

I probably should have ironed the skirt before we started the painting, but I figure it’s going to get covered up with gifts anyway.  I hope the kids will enjoy getting it out every year and marveling over how small their hands and feet were back in 2017.

Merry Christmas!

The Anticipation of Advent

Over the last few years, I have grown to love the Advent season.  As a child, I felt like the weeks leading up to Christmas were absolutely magical, and as I grew older I never seemed able to recapture that anticipation.  Of course, what I was really looking forward to back then was Santa’s arrival and present delivery.  It was hard to feel the same once I had outgrown that fantasy.

We don’t play the Santa game at our house, but once we had children I wanted to try to create a similar sense of excitement as we looked forward to the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth.  The great mystery of His arrival is so far beyond any childish dreams about a jolly fat man bringing presents.

We’ve developed many Advent traditions to help make this season a time of wonder and delightful anticipation for our family, and this year as I was decorating our home, I decided to add one more (borrowing from my nominally Catholic roots).  We have Nativity scenes scattered throughout the house, and I set them all up without Baby Jesus (except for a few where that was impossible).  Right away my kids started asking, “Where’s Jesus?”  To which I replied, “He’s not here yet.  We have to wait for Christmas!”

Advent Creche Collage
Every time I pass one of those scenes, I’m struck by how incomplete it feels, which was the whole point, of course.  It’s hard for me to imagine a world without Jesus, where the only thing to cling to was the hope of God’s promise.  Having a concrete reminder of His absence has helped me spend time each day reflecting on how Christ’s arrival brought a sense of completeness (or at least it set things in motion for the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise).  I tried it on a whim this year, but I think this is going to become a tradition.  (I’m still trying to decide how I want to bring out the Jesus figures.  I’ve got lots of great ideas from which to choose!)

“O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.”

Wrapping Up Week 18 (2015-16)

Weekly Wrap Up 2015-16
 Don’t you love those weeks when everything actually goes according to your plans?  I have a natural tendency to try to pack too much into our days/weeks, and it’s really hard for me to ease up or take a day off.  Yet I really want to minimize the time we spend on academics over the next few weeks, so I battled with the side of myself this week.  And won.

At the start of the week I sat down with Ian and showed him my lesson plan book for December.  We looked at what needed to be done (basically two weeks worth of lessons in his Veritas Press Self-Paced History Course, and five math lessons with lots of additional facts practice).  I told him once those things were completed, I wouldn’t ask him to do any more official schoolwork until after Christmas.

To be honest, I wanted him to dive in and get through it all this week.  He didn’t.  And so I just bit my tongue, took a deep breath, and let him go at his own pace.  We took a day off for Arianna’s birthday and he still managed to get in a solid week’s worth of work, so I can’t complain.  In addition to his history and math work on the computer, he’s reading through Robin Hood (A Stepping Stone Book), the assigned literature for his history course.  Ian loves being read to, but he’s usually reluctant to read on his own, so I was surprised at how enthusiastically he picked up the book each day.  He even asked if we could get some of the other Stepping Stone books, intrigued by the titles like Man in the Iron Mask and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  I told him I’d rather he wait a couple years and just read the “real” books, but I’d help him look at the library for the Stepping Stone versions.

DSCN0913xAs far as Elijah goes, I didn’t demand much from him this week.  Instead of doing regular lessons, I set him to work systematically going through his Architecto Gameand the Equilibrio book that uses the same blocks.  I like giving him something to do besides flying through grade levels on CTCMath.com, and since he’s fascinated by building things, I figure his time is well spent developing his spatial visualization skills.  After Christmas I’ll have him go back to lessons too, but for these light weeks I think this is a great Kindergarten activity.

Read Alouds

One of my goals over the next few weeks is to read with my children as much as possible , and we got off to a great start.  They spent a lot of time pawing through our collection of Christmas books, sometimes just flipping through them quietly on their own, and sometimes bringing them to me to read.  Here are the ones we read this week(for my most complete list of Christmas picture books, see my post Christmas Book Countdown):



Best Christmas Pageant

I also had the pleasure of introducing the boys to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, one of my childhood favorites.  From the first page, Ian was hooked, and within a few chapters we had drawn Elijah in as well.  They kept begging for more and we ended reading the book in one sitting (well, with a few interruptions from the little ones).  It was such a hit I went searching for the movie, which I’d never seen.

So all in all we had a delightful week of snuggling up with books and enjoying lots of family time in the glow of the Christmas tree with the iPod serenading us with Christmas carols pretty much all day every day.  Bliss!

Slowing Down for Advent

Advent 1I love making Advent a season of joyous anticipation in our home.  Over the years we have developed many traditions and I’ve tried to make plans for special activities to help point my children to Jesus in the midst of the chaos in the world around us.  Here are a few things we’ve done at least once:

This year, however, I feel a call to slow down, to purposefully step back from the busyness of the season and soak it all in.  I want to keep school work to a minimum, just keeping up with Ian’s online history course, playing math games, and reading with all the children a lot.  Rather than wrapping up books for each day, I’ve just left them all out for the kids to peruse.  Ian’s already started bringing me old favorites, and I hope we’ll all find lots of time for reading together.

Reading is actually my only real plan.  Last year we really enjoyed Jotham’s Journey by Arnold Ytreeide, a story broken into daily readings to be enjoyed through the weeks of Advent.  We loved gathering as a family every evening by the glow of the candles on our Advent wreath and the lights on our Christmas tree to hear about Jotham’s latest adventure.  It was such a hit that this year we’re reading the next book in the series, Bartholomew’s Passage.  I had planned to also go through Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp, but it might just be too much to try to do both, so I may save it for another year.

I’m hoping to have all our gifts purchased by the end of this week so I can just rest, reflect, and ready myself for the celebration of Christ’s glorious arrival.  I’m sure things will come up, but with God’s help we’ll slow down enough to really enjoy the beauty of Advent.

Goodnight, Manger by Laura Sassi (Book Review)

We have an extensive collection of Christmas picture books, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped searching for treasures for my children to enjoy during Advent.  I was pleased to receive a copy of Goodnight, Manger by Laura Sassi to review, and look forward to sharing it with my children when we launch our annual picture book countdown to Christmas in a few weeks.

I was delightfully surprised by this winsome book.  We have a new baby in the house, and with four other children who find it difficult to contain their youthful exuberance, I can relate all too well to the story of trying to quiet down the excited crowd so the little one can get some sleep.  In Goodnight, Manger, Laura Sassi uses simple rhymes to tell about the wiggly baby Jesus trying to go to sleep amidst a noisy audience of animals, angels, shepherds, and kings.  Mary finally convinces everyone to join in a quiet lullaby and at last the baby drifts off.

Award winning artist Jane Chapman’s beautiful illustrations enhance the already charming story.  Each picture catches the eye its warm, vibrant colors.  The Holy Family is refreshingly portrayed with authentic ethnic coloring.  And the characters exude a joy that pulls the reader into the jubilant stable and makes them want to join the festivities.

If you’re looking for a serious, straight forward telling of the story of Jesus’ birth, this is not the book for you.  However, if you’re looking for a sweet bedtime story to share with your children, this book is sure to delight your entire family, not just at Christmas, but all year long!


BookLook disclaimer



Advent 2014 – Day 24

Advent 2014
We are definitely winding down in these final days.  We still have one more night (and then Christmas Day) in the Jesse Tree LEGO Challenge as well as finishing Jotham’s Journey, but I’m not planning to blog any more until after Christmas.

Advent has been a wonderful time of celebration, and I think we’re all ready for its culmination.  While I’m looking forward to lots of family time, I’m especially eager for our candlelight service at church tomorrow night.  Our children have learned several carols during the last few weeks, and I hope we will all enjoy coming together with our church family to celebrate together.

O God, our loving Father, help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the songs of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men.  May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with Grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.     —Robert Louis Stevenson

Advent 2014 – Day 21-22

Advent 2014
This weekend was crazy busy, so we didn’t keep up all our Advent activities.  Yesterday instead of reading Christmas books our family went to our church’s compassion warehouse to pack groceries for needy families.

IMG_20141220_101449 IMG_20141220_094157 IMG_20141220_094217 IMG_20141220_095759
In the evening we went to a Christmas party and got home so late the boys weren’t up to building anything while we read from Jotham’s Journey.

Tonight we got home late again after a long day, so we just let Arianna light all four candles on our Advent wreath while we read Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones and introduced the kids to “O Come, All ye Faithful.”


Advent 2014 – Day 20

Advent 2014
 Daily Theme: Bethlehem



The Christmas Star by Marcus Pfister (for Arianna)


The Animals’ Christmas Carol illustrated by Helen Ward (for Elijah)

For the Jesse Tree LEGO Challenge we read Micah’s prophecy about Bethlehem, and then the boys built stables.  Elijah had trouble settling on his design (I saw a few different versions), and by the time we’d finished reading Jotham’s Journey, he was back to only having a frame.  Oh well.  It’s the process, not the product, right?

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I’ve started hearing protests every time I say we’re going to sing something other than “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” so tonight I decided just to go with it.  They’re going to know this song really well, and if they just learn multiple verses of one traditional carol every year, they’ll still know a great deal by the time they’re grown.

Advent 2014 – Day 19

Advent 2014


The Animals’ Christmas Carol illustrated by Helen Ward (for Elijah-except he never opened it, so he’ll be getting it tomorrow instead)

The Drummer Boy by Ted Dekker (for Ian)
We went to a Hanukkah celebration with some friends from church tonight, which was a beautiful and fun time together.  (The kids came home loaded up with chocolate coins, dreidels, and gifts.)  It’s the second year we’ve done touched on Hanukkah with our family, and think I’d like to include it every year in our holiday celebrations.

We got home a little late but decided to to Bible time anyway.  For the Jesse Tree LEGO Challenge we talked about the story of Daniel, and then Ian made a den for the lions.  (Elijah got such a slow start, we’d finished reading in Jotham’s Journey by the time he was ready.)

The closing verse of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” really moved me tonight as we sang:

O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid every strife and quarrel cease
And fill the world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven lately, longing for that time when wolves and lambs will lie down together (as we talked about a couple nights ago), when there will be no more tears or sorrow.  What a beautiful prayer we sang tonight: fill the world with heaven’s peace.  Amen.

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