Monday, December 31, 2012

What To Do When We Turn the TV Off

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. And for me, January is the most blah time of the year. No Christmastime stuff to look foward to. No exciting or fun holidays until Valentines in February. Cold weather so we can't play outside.

I have other New Year's goals and resolutions, but one of my continuing goals is always to watch less TV. Sometimes we do really well and other times (like when we're sick), we slide backward and watch way too much. This January (and the rest of winter), I'm renewing my effort to keep the TV off. Especially since Daddy will be gone for two weeks this month, we need stuff to do to keep us busy. So I made a list. None of them are new or amazing ideas, but sometimes we need a list to remind us that there really are lots of things to do around the house, even in winter.

Read books
Play with toys (what a novel idea!)
Play board games or card games
Paint/color/draw pictures
Play with play doh (maybe even try making our own sometime!)
Preschool art projects
Learn a letter of the alphabet
Have a tea party
Write letters/draw cards to send to family
Clean something—windows, dust, sweep (my daughter loves this!)
Play in the tub (with bubbles, of course)
Skype/Facetime with someone
Look at scrapbooks and family pictures
Have a dance party
Learn about something new: animals, places, people
Invite friends over to play
Paint toenails
Bake/ cook something
Make music
Play dress ups
Build with Legos
Have an indoor picnic

Thrift store
Dollar store
When we’re really stir crazy: trip to Boise

There is a lot more to do here than there was in our little town of 90 people, but when I'm bored and stir crazy, I sure do wish there were a few more places to go around here.

What do you do in winter to keep your TV off?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Struggle with Santa

I struggle with Santa. When I was a child, probably much younger than my parents would have liked, I set out to try to disprove Santa. As a skeptical and logical child, I knew that the myth of Santa Claus couldn’t be true, but I wanted my parents to admit it.

 Now I’m a parent. The first couple of years with a child in the house still didn’t need to involve Santa. Last year was a little different. We made cookies for Santa, but my daughter really didn’t get it.

This year she is a lot more aware. She sees Santa everywhere. I don’t like the idea of lying to her, no matter how magical and fun it might be for a few years. I also don’t want to squash any of that magic and fun for a three-year-old.

This I do know about Santa: Any discussion of Santa is going to include the original story of St. Nicholas and the spirit of Christmas and Santa Claus rather than a fat man who brings you presents because you’ve been good. Last year I saw a Veggie Tales movie called Saint Nicholas: The Story of Joyful Giving. I bought it this year and it’s going to be a regular part of our Christmas experience every year. It tells the story of the original Saint Nicholas and focuses on the joy of giving and serving others. But you may have gathered that from the title.

I also know that if my children ever question Santa, I’m not going to try to perpetuate the myth. No matter their age, if they have doubts in the fat man in a red suit, I’m not going to lie to them. In our house, Santa will be a symbol of giving. Which will involve us giving to those in need since we are so blessed (and when I was young, my family was often on the receiving end of that kind of giving). And the focus of Christmas will be on the birth of the Savior.

Here’s a blog post I’ve seen about what Santa means and how to explain it to your child once they do start wondering.

Truth About Santa

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What My Christmastime Baby Taught Me

I didn’t want a Christmastime baby. Silly reasons like birthdays being overshadowed by Christmas. But only after I had a Christmas baby (little Noelle, born nine days before Christmas last year) did I realize how much more special it would make her birthday. And how significant the event would be in my life and my understanding of Christ’s birth.

 Noelle is my second baby, so I’d been through labor and birth before and joined the sympathy club of women throughout the world and time who have done the same. But after giving birth to a child in my home with nothing but my own limited abilities, my family, and my prayers to God to get me through did I really think about what Mary went through to bring the Christ child into the world.

Giving birth on a dark winter’s night with the stockings hanging nearby and the lights of the Christmas tree reflecting off the Nativity, made me think of another little baby born so long ago who grew to be the Savior of the world. He began life as a helpless baby like you and me and my little one, Noelle. Yet he went on to save us all. His atonement made it possible for us all to repent and be forgiven, and made it so he knew and understood all the pain and anguish of the world—including the pain I went through to bring Noelle into the world. His death and resurrection made it possible for us all to live again. And for us to see loved ones who have died. Noelle will one day know her Papa Newman who died before she was born and her Great-Grandpa Newman who died this Christmas season.

I hope that as she grows older Noelle will know how special it is to celebrate her birthday at Christmastime, that she gets to share her birthday with the time that we are celebrating Jesus’ birthday. That while presents for her birthday and Christmas are fun, her birthday is a really a celebration of her and Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth and life. We named her Noelle as a reminder and a way to celebrate the time and circumstances of her birth. So happy first birthday, Noelle! Today we celebrate you. Thank you for coming to our family when you did and giving me such a beautiful lesson in the reason for Christmas in the first few days of your life. I will never be able to forget Christ at Christmas because your birth will ever be my reminder.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas with Children

2012: My baby wants to play with the magnets belonging to the advent.

Christmas is just more magical when you have children. Even if you don't make a big deal out of Santa Claus (more thoughts on that to come).

This is my baby's second Christmas, but she was only nine days old for her first one. This year she is enthralled all the lights and colors and sparkles of Christmas. She spends much of her time reaching for the advent calendar, the stockings, and the tree. And Christmas day will be full of boxes and ribbon and crinkly wrapping paper--what could be better?

My favorite new thing this Christmas is my three year old. She remembers Christmas last year and is adding to her idea of Christmastime. Many people feel jaded by the commercialism of Christmas. But in her innocence, my little girl sees things a bit differently. She is amazed and excited every time we go into a store or any public place and she sees that, "Hey, look Mom! They have Christmas stuff here!" Every new evidence of Christmastime is something to be celebrated and wondered over.

2011: The wonder of getting presents is even better than the presents themselves.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When One Parent Is Gone...

Okay, I have absolutely no experience with being the absent parent. I've always suspected it's easier to leave than to be left alone with the kids. Maybe I'll test that theory someday when my children are much older and can survive a few days on cereal and cookies (because I know that's what my husband will make them for dinner). But for now, with my children small and my husband being the one with the job outside the home, he leaves and I stay.

With his new career, he leaves at least a few times a year and is gone anywhere from one to three weeks at a time. My main concerns when he leaves are 1) me staying sane for my children, 2) his relationship with his children, and 3) me getting to shower or bathe on a semi regular basis.

To stay sane, I make a great effort to get out or have visitors. I'm way more social than I normally am. I also get more done around the house. I know that I have to stay busy or I'll get incredibly bored and my children will get stir crazy and then I just might become truly crazy. We spread out our shopping trips, go to the library, and go to and invite others for play dates. Much as my girls and I love each other, we need to see someone else during the day. Yesterday it was almost 50 degrees outside so we went on a walk. There's no way I would have done that if we'd been expecting Daddy to come home in a couple of hours. If it were summer we'd be going on more walks and to the park, but we have to do what we can with what the weather gives us.

To keep my children's relationship good with their Daddy, we Skype every night that he's gone. It's not the same as seeing him in person, but it works a lot better than phone calls for small children. Last night my three year old tried to give Daddy a kiss on the computer, and I think the almost one year old wanted to jump inside the computer to get at him. During our Skype sessions, we've started reading scriptures and even saying prayers together. It seems a little strange at first, but prayer and scripture reading is an important part of our family when he's home, so it's important to keep it up while he's away. I also take pictures of fun or silly things that the girls do throughout the day and send them to him. Our iPod Touch has helped because it's easy to snap a pic and send it to his inbox right away. So far this trip he has received a picture of us going on a walk, of the baby running away from me naked, and of her trying to eat an apple almost as big as her head. Anything sweet or funny that keeps him a part of our day.

The keeping clean thing has changed with the ages and stages of my children. My oldest can watch a show while I shower. But my youngest is too young to be left unsupervised (especially since she learned to climb) and too old to be restrained in the bathroom without spending the whole time screaming. I've heard of mothers showering when their kids go to bed. Sadly, my baby cannot be depended on to go to bed at a certain time or to stay asleep once she's down. Some nights she might sleep for hours at a time, other nights she's up often. When my husband's home I either shower at night or really early in the morning before he gets up. I've had one full day without him and worked out the showering thing okay. When the three year old was down for the night, I took the baby in the bathroom with me, put up anything she could get into (garbage can, toilet paper), gave her a toy and locked her in the room with me. She wasn't too happy about not getting in the bath with me and then she was annoyed that she couldn't get out of the room, but she didn't scream and I got clean. And that's a very important part of #1: keeping me sane.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas, Christmas Time Is Here!

Our Christmas tree is up, our stockings are hung, and we started our Christmas season by visiting a community Nativity Exhibit last night. Afterward we drove around a little to see the lights that many people have already put up. Christmastime has begun!

I had most of my Christmas shopping done weeks ago, so this year I’m trying to focus on doing things instead of buying things to celebrate the season.

This is the first year I’ve wrapped our Christmas books to count down to Christmas. We only have 20 books instead of 24, but I don’t think my daughter will mind having them all opened and being able to read any she chooses early. In fact, she thought we would get to open them all today.

Many of our Christmas traditions are done as an entire family. But Daddy is going to be out of town for the first two weeks of December, so some of our Christmas activities will help us pass the time without him. I’m going to set up a play date with a friend and her little girls to decorate gingerbread houses because it will be a lot more fun with more kids to enjoy it.

Here are a few of the things we have planned for this Christmas season. What’s on your list?

Christmastime Activities

Remembering the Reason
Read the Christmas Story from Luke
Christmas Scripture Chain
Talk About and Play with the Fisher Price Nativity

Build a Snowman
Go Sledding
Drive to See Christmas Lights

“Charlie Brown Christmas”
“It’s a Wonderful Life”
“Veggie Tales: Saint Nicholas” 

Christmas Books Advent
Sing Christmas Carols
Letter to Santa

Make Paper Snowflakes
Make Ornaments
Christmas Cards for Grandparents 

Christmas Cookies
Gingerbread Houses
Homemade Wassail

Giving Is Better…
Donate Food to the Food Bank
Give Christmas Goodies to Friends
Donate to Community Needs Basket

Community Creche Exhibit
Church Christmas Party
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