Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Re-cap

How was your Christmas?
My kids did really well with the four gifts ("Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read.")  We will do that again next year!

Holiday Highlights

  • Realizing on Christmas Eve that we only had 1 stocking.  For 5 people.
  • Hurrying to Walgreens on Christmas Eve and buying whatever stockings they had left.
  • Getting "Escape" and reading about Carolyn Jessop's escape from fundamental mormonism's polygamy.
  • Discovering the ease of "Cheater Fudge"
  • Going to church on Christmas Morning.
  • Baked ham.  And sweet corn.  Yum!
Now we're moving on to the new year!  I have some goals set that I'll be sharing later next week.  

This blog will be a year old on Sunday!  Thanks for coming on the journey with me!  I look forward to what 2012 has in store for us.  :)
Related Post: Cheater Fudge: A Super Easy Recipe

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Giving Spirit (Drawing the Line Series)

We've been talking about drawing the line at Christmas. Committing to buying more ethically-produced products. Spending less on gifts in the first place.

I don't know about you, but lately I am feeling convicted to give radically. Not just a 10% tithe to the church. More than just that. More.

If you have a story about what you sacrifice in order to give to a charity I would love to hear it! Maybe you eat a meatless meal 4 times a month and donate the little bit of savings to a charity. Or you change your own oil in the cars and donate the money you WOULD have spent. Please send me your ideas and stories! Post here or email me: zucchinisummer AT gmail DOT com

What could we do if we all started thinking like this and giving like this?

Here are two charities I know of that are unique and meeting the needs of the hurting.  I have donated to the first one on a couple occasions and will make contributing to the 2nd one a goal of this year)

Molly Bears
I've mentioned before that we lost a baby. Molly Bears was created by another family who also suffered a loss. They make bears that weigh exactly what your baby weighed. This way, mothers do not have to have empty arms, they can have something to hold.
Did I mention that Molly Bears offers these bears FREE to the families?
They have 900 people and counting on the waiting list. If you feel led to, you can donate to them to help keep the operations going and help with the postage it takes to mail one of these bears to it's mommy.
Working hard to make lots of bears for lots of mommies!

The classroom in need.
Donors Choose
This online charity gets funding in the hand of educators who need it.  Like the name implies, YOU get to choose what project to help fund and how much to give towards it.
You can search and give according to a school teacher in a certain town (Joplin, MO comes to my mind), by poverty level of the school, or by projects that are nearly completely funded but just need a bit more.
Say you are a real technology geek.
I found this teacher in a high poverty school in Oregon.
Her kids need flash drives so they can save their work.

Maybe you'd rather give to a special needs classroom.  There are plenty of those that need support too.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

4 gifts

Christmas is one week away. I'm still thinking about drawing the line.

Today I'm going to tell you about the new way we are doing presents as a family this year.

I had heard this poem from somewhere and we are doing it this year. 4 gifts per person.

Something you wantThis is the place where your child might get a set of blocks, or a new bike. How much you spend is up to you. I found myself very carefully considering our purchases this year. Knowing that my kids were getting ONE 'want' gift kept me from buying junk just because they might like it.

Something you needThis category can be surprisingly versatile. My youngest is getting a potty chair as his "need" gift. Our 8 yr old? Socks. Other ideas could be school supplies, new strings for their violin, underwear, their own plate set or travel watter bottle.

Something to wearMy youngest is getting his socks as part of this category. You can spend a good chunk of money in this category if you buy an entire outfit, brand new and name brand. Or if you really want to spend less on holidays, you can buy just one new item of clothing, OR even buy something from a yard sale and wrap it up for your kids "something to wear" category gift.

and Something to read.Pretty self-explanatory. Again you can work this category to fit your budget. Splurge on a whole new encyclopedia set, or buy a .25cent book from a yard sale and call it a day. Personally we're in the middle of that spectrum. I hosted an Usborne Books party earlier this month and used some of my free and half-price benefits to get my kids their books.

And that is how we are drawing the line at Christmas with gift giving. Spending less and buying less.

Stay tuned for some charity info later this week, there are some really neat causes out there!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cheater Fudge

I named this recipe Cheater Fudge. Because you'll be cheating on your old fudge recipes with this one.

2 ingredients. 2 minutes.

In a microwaveable bowl, combine 1 can sweetened condensed milk and 1 pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips. Microwave for 2 minutes.


Pull out of the microwave and stir well, then pour into an 8x8 pan. Of course my 8x8 was being used for something else so I used a pie plate. Use what ya got.

Let it set (or lick the spoon like I did).

I could not believe how simple this was and actually worked.

---Add 1 pkg of chopped walnuts. YUM.
---For rocky road fudge, stir in a handful of marshmallows before microwaving,
then another handful while stirring it all after melting.
Add 1 pkg of chopped walnuts and spread in pan to cool.
Resist the urge to just eat it by the spoonful.

Now, go to the store, buy the stuff, and make yourself some Cheater Fudge!
**the pics in this post are from google. We ate the fudge too fast for me to get any photos of it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Draw the Line Series: 10 Ways to Keep the Focus Clear with KIDS.

Today we are going to celebrate Christmas with my side of the immediate family. I'm really looking forward to the low-key fun, Dad's famous white-elephant style "freebie" game, and lunch from Bob Evans (none of us have to cook!).

In keeping with the Drawing the Line series, this post is about adding more of Jesus into holiday festivities. Today specifically deals with ideas for kids. Ten ways to keep the focus clear.

1. Have a nativity out. One that the kids are encouraged to play with. I found this one online and it is even made in the US! (No slave labor!)

2. Take your kids to an "Angel Tree." Around here, Walgreens has a tree with names of senior citizens on it. You can take a name and buy them a few gifts. Some of the people are homebound, some are in nursing homes. I took my oldest this year, it is our new Mom and Me tradition. We chose a name and I had him help pick the calendar and socks and candy that we bought.

3. Pack a shoebox.
Operation Christmas Child is such a neat charity, operating under Samaritan's Purse, OCC collects shoeboxes full of items for children and distributes them. Many children have never even receievd a gift before. You can include toothbrushes, toothpastes, small toys, books, school supplies, and so forth. Buy a plastic box ($1 at dollar stores) and add to it throughout the year. Before you know it, that box will be full! Details on how to pack a box are available on the OCC website.

4. Make a birthday cake for Jesus as part of your meal/dessert on Christmas.

5. Attend a Christmas Eve service at church or seek out a live nativity and go visit.

6. Read the story of Jesus' birth from a children's book. If your children are old enough to read, they can pass the book around and take turns each reading a page or two of the book. This is the book we read from when I was a kid, it is available on amazon for a penny!

7. Gingerbread Nativity. How cute is this set up that I found on pinterest?

Image by Katherine Marie Photography. (credit)
8. Dramatic play, Nativity theme. If your kids are the kind that like to dress up and play pretend, get some old fashioned looking clothes (robes, towels will work too) and a baby doll swaddled in a blanket, something to serve as the manger. Even some straw if you are brave! Let the kids act out the story.

9. Share the story with your children about the angel arriving to tell Mary that she was going to have a baby. Follow up with making angel cookies or angel food cake.

10. Footprint Craft. Another pinterest find! This is an adorable way to turn your kid's footprint into a manger scene. The picture shows it on a decorative plate but you could also just do it on paper and frame it, or do it on a tile and display on a tabletop easel. This would also be a great GIFT idea for aunts/uncles/grandparents.

What ideas do you have for kid-friendly activities that emphasize the heart of the holiday? I would love to hear them!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On a serious note--Christmas, Slavery, and Poverty (Drawing the Line Series)

Hands down the best blog entry I have read all week. Probably all year. I hadn't heard of Jen Hatmaker until today. You need to read her blog post about the Christmas Conundrum.

She writes about getting Christmas back to the baby in the manger. Less about commercialism and excess and more about celebrating the baby Jesus born in a lowly stable and yet he still managed to be the savior for the world.

Jen's family has been "doing" Santa for awhile and now are, well, not. She's very gracious in her post about how this isn't supposed to be a Santa War and if you want to give gifts from the fat guy, by all means, do it. But it isn't right for her family anymore and they are backing out.

For us, we don't do gifts from Santa. Never have. We talk about him being fictional and just for fun pretend but that the gifts come from mommy and daddy. That said, Santa is not banned in our home. The emphasis surely is not on him, but you'll have to pry my cold, dead hands away from the remote when the movie "Elf" is on.
Not ashamed either to admit that I like the Tim Allen "The Santa Clause" movies, and force my husband to suffer through them every year.

You may choose whatever works for your family. Some families I know of don't do Santa at all and don't you dare watch Elf in their house! Some families let Santa bring ONE gift to each child. Some families have Santa visit Grandma's house. Some leave cookies for the big guy and carrots for the reindeer.
Growing up, we always left cookies out....knowing full well they were for mom and dad. If my kids would like to continue that tradition, well I won't object.
Constant sugar consumption will be key to keeping my energy up for putting together something that comes with directions that you need a doctorate degree to decipher. Must. Keep. Stamina. *Our gifts and budget and how we handled that will be another post in this series.

Jen's post also talks about not purchasing items made from slave labor. Even my non-religious or non-Christian readers can agree here! We, as a society (Christians, Jews, Muslims, Agnostics, Athiests, rich and poor, Republican and Democrat), need to stop buying cheap crap made in countries that imprison their "workers." I'm sorry but paying some child a penny an hour to make my plastic kazoo is not okay.

And I'm not buying anymore plastic kazoos.

Where does poverty fit into all this?

Aside from the fact that many products we purchase were made by people IN poverty, most of us need look no further than our own neighborhood to see the hurting.
Why do Americans feel the need to spend $1,000 on Christmas gifts for their children when the kids next door don't have enough to eat? (Statistics show that 1 in 5 children don't have enough food).

Why do we buy $400 game systems when the elderly lady at church can not pay her electric bill? Is there something wrong with owning a fancy game system or state-of-the-art tv/ipad/kindle? Nope. But we should be willing to examine ourselves and draw the line somewhere.

Your line might be in a different spot than mine. And that's okay. It is just important that we DRAW A LINE. Consciously consider Christmas, poverty, slavery and then make an informed choice on where our family says "enough."

Join me for a dialogue about drawing the line. This is the first post of several more to come during this season. I would love to hear where your family draws the line. Ideas for how to shop for gifts that aren't made by slaves. Ideas for charities that you contribute to. What ways do you celebrate Jesus during this time?

Remember, go check out Jen Hatmaker's post. She's way better at this than I.

linking to world vision's 12 blogs of Christmas;">
a little knick knack

Thursday, December 1, 2011

3 learning activities: Angry Birds, Scholastic Book Clubs, and Dice Stamping

Here are three educational finds of the week for me! All of these I saw on Pinterest! If anyone needs an invite, let me know.

First up: From
Use those extra (or your child's) Scholastic Book Order Forms and laminate them. Then have the child do a little scavenger hunt: find 3 books that are non-fiction, circle 4 books that you would like to read, find 2 books with an animal as the main character, and so forth.
I love hands-on activities like this that promote reading and literature! Not to mention, this activity costs you NOTHING.

Dice stamping to create math sentences! Another more hands-on approach vs. just a worksheet. Guess who will be buying a package of dice next time they are at the dollar store?
Finally, drum roll please....
This site has lots of activities for using Angry Birds in the classroom (or at home *wink*). I just bought the Angry Birds card game for my son for Christmas and am excited to give it to him! This site also has writing activities/prompts for using with Angry Birds. Love bringing something FUN and current in the classroom for the kids!
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