How We Approach Christmas {Attempts at Intentionalism}

Christmas 2014 coverIt’s officially Christmas time here (if you didn’t know that, then cue the Christmas music playlist on Spotify and start drinking egg nog…or peppermint hot chocolate..or both) and here in our home we like Christmas. We do decorations. We do a fresh wreath on the front door. We do nativities. We do sparkles. We do natural (I am really into using branches or “sticks” as my man calls them!}. We do gifts. We celebrate. We bake cookies. We laugh. We skimp on homework. We do crafts. We make things. We talk about Jesus. We talk about why he is our best gift. We do advent calendars. The girls get dressed up sometimes just because. We do music…sometimes loud music. We drive to our local sparkletown (our term for the neighborhoods with lots of Christmas lights and decorations…everyone calls it that, right?).

Those things we do on purpose. They don’t just happen.

There are some things we don’t do….not because they are evil or terrible or any of that. We simply choose to approach Christmas in a way that helps us all get better acquainted with the One who made us. So, there are things we say no to. Or if not “no”, we just don’t focus on them.

In no particular order…

  1. We read the Jesus Storybook Bible because it truly whispers His name on every page.
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    We try to follow along with Adriel Booker’s advent reading plan found here. We want God’s presence with us – all 4 of us. Our kids need something on their level – something that speaks to their hearts and his book has been beautifully written in a story format that really captures their attention. Adriel’s Reading Plan will take you all the way through the advent season. She even has a free printable!
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  2. We do gifts. We have been in a transition period between last year and this year moving towards three gifts for each child. Like many of you, it’s easy for us (me, really) to get carried away for Christmas and spend, spend, spend. Much like my friend Kelly over at My Overthinking (you can read about her blog post on the 3 gifts here) we want our children to know they have two parents who love them very much and who sacrifice a lot for them, including gifts for Christmas. The gifts aren’t from Santa. They are from us. While technically this year we have purchased more than 3 gifts, the point for us is that they do not get from us a mess of gifts under the tree. Gifts are fun and awesome and exciting. But the stuff is just that. It’s stuff. And we want them to enjoy it and be excited but also not covet more and more.
  3. We do music. We sing. We play the piano and guitar and stream music that leads our hearts to Jesus.
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  4. We talk about giving and how much better that is than getting. We make gifts for our friends and talk about how it doesn’t matter if they don’t return the gesture. Giving is better. It’s always better. Always choose to give, is what we tell them. Best of all, give God’s love away in bucket fulls.
  5. We do decorations that mean something. Not all of them, but we try to sprinkle in bits and pieces that warm our hearts. That encourage us. That cause our gaze to look heavenward. That are from this awesome world in which we get to live! We still do stockings even though we chose not to incorporate Santa into our Christmas world. It’s fun for the kids to get surprises in there Christmas morning. Little trinkets. We also have a whole snow scene with lit ceramic houses. We let the kids play with the figures as long as they are careful. They LOVE it. And I love that they can have fun with that – especially when it’s snowy and too cold to be outside for long periods of time!
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Another thing we do is this awesome kid advent craft called Truth In The Tinsel but I’m doing a separate post about that. Eeek….can’t wait!

I intentionally filled this with things we do rather than things we don’t do. But if you are wondering…here it is…the moment of truth. From the beginning we have communicated to our kids that Christmas is about the gift of Jesus to us. It’s not about Santa. We tell them about Saint Nick and talk about who he was a little. We talk about how there are families who talk about Santa and him giving some gifts to their families. We tell them the adults are pretending with the kids and that they are in no way, shape or form to discuss that with their friends. We tell them that Santa is not real. Likewise, we do not participate in the Elf on the Shelf. We know many families who do and it’s cool and they do it really well. So there we have it.

That is a little piece of our lives during the Christmas season. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed getting to know us a little.

Cheers,

Stephanie
IntentionalGirl

A Homemade Christmas

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So, this Christmas I’m gonna give it a try. Make…most….gifts…. I know, I know. Crazy, right? Well, someone has to be crazy so it might as well be me!

The above photo is going to hold some of our Christmas cards this year. Hooray! I used a wooden round box top, corks and a glue gun. That’s it. Like really. Super easy.

I even have extra corks and plan to do some Pinteresty craft.

Other things I’m considering are lotion bars, mason jars full of cookies and treats, scarf wreaths, tent making kits, and jewelry.

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And then there’s that candlemaking kit my husband got me like 10 years ago. Yep. Getting it out and doing it!

In my efforts to be intentional with gift-giving, I’m turning to the obvious, neglected things I have in my house. But things that people make are just special. I want my loved ones to feel special…unique…well-loved.

Leave a comment. Are you planning to make anything? What and why?

Happy crafting!
Steph
Intentionalgirl

Surprised By Homeschooling

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There are few things in this life that surprise me. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. Maybe it’s that I rarely admit that I’m surprised. Maybe that’s it. But one thing that has taken me by surprise as of lately is homeschooling.

I’m at the point in my journey (a serious veteran of 3 whole months – woot, woot!) here where I am turning a corner. A good corner. I’m completely floored that it’s working. I’m completely floored that my 7-year-old and I get along and that she listens to my instruction. I know, you don’t take me for one of those “my kids don’t listen to me” parents. Or maybe you do and you are just glad I’m finally coming around {we can internet high-five now} to this realization.

But it’s deeper than that. {Isn’t it always?}

I’m not surprised that my daughter is learning and – I think – thriving.

Somehow in the midst of the chaos of life, the math worksheets, the bouncing around places, the reading and kid writing…she and I have grown closer. We’ve bonded. I feel like she gets me more. And I get her.

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When I go places now without her, she’s sad to see me go. She comes up and gives me hugs randomly throughout our day. Out of nowhere she’ll wrap her arms around me and hug me and tell me how much she loves me. Maybe if I’m particularly lucky, a kiss on the cheek.

I totally didn’t expect this. I kind of thought things could get ugly. Not fist fight ugly, but tense. She and I are both really stubborn. She has opinions that are different from mine. {How dare she!} I thought for sure by November there was a serious possibility that it might be clear that next year she’d go back to public school. But I’m not thinking like that at all.

We are in a totally different place than I envisioned. I’m so surprised.

Another thing….I kind of like teaching her. I know. It’s preposterous, right?

The Lord in his great kindness has steadied my heart on more than one occasion and given me patience when I have called out, “Help!!! I’m losing it!” And those moments when I have to calm myself and maybe even apologize (I’ve done a lot of that the last few months, mind you), I find such joy and such closeness with my sweet girl. We hug. We smile. We work it out and it’s so…. beautiful.

Having her precious presence with me causes me to slow down.

We are part of a co-op school that is WONDERFUL. You can find out more about them here. Lily goes there all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We are home doing “school” Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. The break is good for us and she LOVES her friends and classes there. She’s learning a lot. She’s also learning that she has to be responsible for her things. Teachers don’t hover over her to make sure every little thing is remembered. It’s like she’s been shoved out of the nest a little yet still very much remaining in the nest. I find myself missing her but loving that she gets instructions with other students in a great atmosphere.

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{This is Lily and her co-op class called Character Counts – and her brother who was visiting that day}

As I come and go into the building, I’m surprised by how normal everyone is. Like me normal. Okay, maybe that’s not right. They are like real people normal. All different but still really down to earth and cool. I had this idea that other than the very few homeschool families I knew in my college years (who were UH-MAZING), families that homeschooled were off. You know, strange. Made their own clothing. Drank soy milk. Had introverted children who were wicked smart. Grew their own veggies from seed and the moms had their entire attention on all things in the home.

You’re thinking I just described our family, right? Hehe, that’s funny. We are sooo far from that reality, it’s comical.

May I present you with Exhibit numero uno below. Does this look like a normal family to you? I rest my case.

Exhibit A Numero Uno

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Exhibit B

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Exhibit C

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Oh and lest we forget that other thing that’s been on my mind. It seems to be working for me to teach her AND still work.

Weird…right? I know!

So that’s me right now totally surprised by homeschooling. I don’t know what will happen next year. Will little brother come home or stay in public school? Will she stay home with me or go back?

One day at a time.

But for now, I like being surprised. Surprised to know that my daughter and I have figured out how to learn together. Honestly, I thinks she teaches me more than I teach her.

And that is totally not surprising.

Cheers,

Steph
aka IntentionalGirl

The Town We Love

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I have a love for my town. We live on the east coast in a little steel town in southeastern PA. We love it here. My husband and I chose this town way back in 2002 because it was cheap. That was pretty much the criteria. And now 14 years later (gulp!) it’s the town we LOVE.
We love it so much that if we ever think about moving, we think about how we could somehow muster up most of our wish list into a house in our town. Our town has sidewalks. We walk everywhere. Living in what this area calls the “borough” means that we can pretty much walk anywhere we need and not use our car. The grocery store (it’s far but feasible). Restaurants. The bank. Small boutiques. The park. The library. The hospital. Dunkin Donuts (come on, it’s fun to be so close!). Coffee shops. Bike trails.

Recently we took a walk – which was my husband’s smart idea – down to an area our town is renovating. Turns out there’s a path down there now. The kids took their bikes and binoculars and we had a really nice time as a family just getting outside.

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We need to do this more. Enjoy the beauty around us. What a reminder to me (since, if I’m honest, I wanted to stay home and get some projects done) to spend intentional  time with my sweet family. They will remember these moments (hopefully…) for the rest of their lives. And so will I. 
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I have a slew of other posts planned as I try to make my comeback to this much-neglected blog of mine. Stay tuned…

My Life: Home Renovations, School Decisions and Church Changes

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I am always amazed at how time flies. Like fast. Real fast. All the time.

This has been a particularly busy summer for us. The Outer Banks for a week. Georgia for a big family reunion. The lake house with family. Lots of travels.

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And here we are. It’s back to school time. We’ve wandered into the amazing and daunting world of homeschooling this year. Yes, your eyes aren’t failing you. Yes, this was another intentional decision by our family. It’s been in the works since January when our 1st grader started coming home complaining about school and using words like “boring” and “hate” to describe her day.

After many months of asking friends who homeschool about this world, stalking other bloggers on the topic, praying and asking the Lord for direction on this topic…we landed at trying this for at least a year. My job allows me the flexibility to do this (yes even with Real Estate!) and we’re forging forward determined to have a great year. Little brother started kindergarten at our local public charter school and while we miss him we are acclamating to our schedule so it’s helpful to only have 1 child at home right now. We are participating in a wonderful co-op on Tuesdays and Thursdays which I’m also excited about.

First day of kindergarten…

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So why, right? Well, our Lily is sweet and smart, albeit slightly distractable in social settings, and it’s a shame for her not to like learning. We want her to thrive, not just muddle through eyes rolled in the back of her head. As of this very moment, it’s just for a year. But who knows. Maybe it’s gonna last longer.

And as a result, we have room changes. Ben moves to a new room so his can be the office/homeschool room. His new room lacked some things like a heat source (important in PA?) so we are in the midst of changes.

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And since the carpet was dirty and ugly…well, we ripped it out.

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Soon to be homeschool room…

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And since we clearly don’t have enough projects my wonderful and ever-so-talented husband is making Benjamin a new loft bed.

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(It was assembled outside just to make sure it all fit – this is not going to be a tree house though a very cool idea!)

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Here I am. The professional painter getting to work.

And lastly, as if we didn’t have enough change, our church closed in the spring and as of tonight we are members of a new church, which we love (if you are interested here’s info about it – http://www.ironworkschurch.org). We are so loving the fellowship with this new body of folks and the joy it has brought to our family. {Psst…they sing songs like this from our new favorite group, Rend Collective}.

Thanks for reading. Happy Labor Day weekend y’all!

More Bathroom Renovation Stories: Light Fixtures

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Today’s theme: less words, more photos.

We are at it again. Slowly.

I took the kiddos with me to work Saturday and my amazing husband managed to take down the Hollywood lights so stylishly donning our bathroom wall and replace them with these sconce fixtures.

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So without further ado…

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Wonder how long it’ll take us to patch the hole in the middle?

Next on the agenda? The long awaited, dreaded decision on wall color. Now that we have the mirrors in there with the lights we feel we can make a decision. Or at least that’s the thinking.
Cheers,
Steph

How I keep my kids engaged with important stuff

It’s spring and around these parts (side note – lots of cool bloggers use that term and I’m not ashamed to steal borrow it)… We think about lots of things.
Cleaning up sticks….

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Daffodils that just bloomed…

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The crocus that open up every morning…

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My creeping Jenny that are coming back to life under a sea of dead leaves…

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And we think about Easter. We are trying to think more about this topic with our family. I usually don’t post a ton about this topic because for us, it’s woven into our lives. We don’t go to church – we are part of a body, a family. We don’t have to read our Bible – we want the Lord to change our hearts and we know His words to us are far better than anything we can come up with.

Easter is a beautiful time of year.

So I’m constantly thinking about how can I think His thoughts. And we want the same for our kids. The other day before school we made a list of things we think about when we think of Easter.

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We purchased Amanda White’s ebook that gives great craft ideas that are – wait for it – intentionally helping our family think about and discuss the Easter story for two weeks. We made a perfume bottle using a jar, skewers, essential oil and stickers {shown below in the top left corner of the photo}. It reminds us of the woman who poured perfume on Jesus feet shortly before he died.

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We really are thinking about Jesus all the time and I love that.

So that’s what we’ve been up to these days.

How do you create purposeful conversations and moments with your loved ones this time of year?

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