Sunday, December 25, 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


When I was young, I remember my neighbor having an advent nativity. The Mary and Joseph pieces moved along a path until they reached a stable on the twenty-fourth of December. I have always thought that the idea of an advent nativity is magical. This year I decided to make one for our family. I found lots of ideas online and eventually settled on one I found on this blog. The writer included templates for each piece and simple instructions on how to make it.  http://cutesycrafts.blogspot.com/2010/12/nativity-advent.html

I was so excited to make this and I thought that it turned out well. Bee loves to place a piece on it daily. Something I wanted to add was a dialog of scriptures that could be read daily as pieces were added to the nativity. I had a difficult time finding one available in a digital format. I finally found one online and one from a friend that I typed up and combined until I had what I wanted. I am including the text here in case someone else might be searching for advent scriptures for a nativity calendar. The pieces were all hand sewn and it took me most of the month of November to complete it, just in time for December 1st. I did sew the velcro pieces on with the sewing machine.





This calendar has helped us teach our daughter the reason for the season and has helped us focus daily on the Savior, His birth, and His amazing life.


December 1
There are twenty-four days until Christmas. Place the roof of the stable on your Advent calendar.

 “the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city, named Nazareth, to a virgin … Mary.  --Luke 1:26-27

December 2
There are twenty-three days until Christmas. Place the walls of the stable on your calendar.

“The angel said unto her, ‘Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.’” --Luke 1:30


December 3

There are twenty-two days until Christmas. Add stars in the sky.

“And, behold, thou shalt … bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. --Luke 1:31

December 4

There are twenty-one days until Christmas. Add Mary to the stable.

“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest.” --Luke 1:32

December 5

There are twenty days until Christmas. Add the cow to the stable.

“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” --Luke 1:38

December 6
There are nineteen days until Christmas. Place the donkey near to the stable.

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” --Luke 2:1



December 7
There are eighteen days until Christmas. Put another cow near the stable.

“And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.” --Luke 2:3



December 8
Christmas is only seventeen days away! Place Joseph in the stable with Mary.

“And Joseph also went … unto the City of David, which is called Bethlehem; … To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.” --Luke 2:4-5


December 9

Sixteen days until Christmas. Put the manger in the stable.

“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes.” --Luke 2:6-7


December 10

Christmas is fifteen days away. Add the palm tree to the scene.

“and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” --Luke 2:7


December 11

Only fourteen more days! Place a shepherd on the scene.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” --Luke 2:8


December 12

Christmas is only thirteen days away!! Place the largest sheep near the shepherd.

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.” --Luke 2:9


December 13

Just twelve more days! Add an angel to the sky.

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” --Luke 2:10


December 14

Christmas is eleven days away. Place the second shepherd on the scene.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” --Luke 2:11


December 15
Only ten more days! Place two more sheep near the shepherds.

“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” --Luke 2:12


December 16

Only nine more days! Add another angel to the sky.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” --Luke 2:13-14

December 17

Just eight days until Christmas! Place a star in the sky.

“And [the shepherds] came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.” --Luke 2:16

December 18

Christmas is seven days away. Add the large star above the stable.

“O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” --Psalm 95:6-7


December 19
Only six more days! Place the first wise man in the field.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Jud├Ža in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.” --Matthew 2:1


December 20

Christmas is five days away. Put the camel in the field.

“Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” --Matthew 2:2


December 21

Four more days until Christmas! Place the second wise man near the first.

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him.” --Matthew 2:11


December 22
Just three more days! Place the second palm tree to the right of the stable.

“and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” --Matthew 2:11


December 23

Only two days left! Place the third wise man near his fellow travelers.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  --John 3:16

December 24

It’s Christmas Eve! Tomorrow is Christmas.The Christ child can now be gently placed in the manger.

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” --2 Corinthians 9:15

Friday, December 23, 2011

2012 Republican presidential endorsement

The InformationKnoll weblog officially endorses former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for the 2012 GOP presidential primary.

In doing so, I readily admit that Mitt Romney would not be my first choice. In my view, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is, by far, the superior candidate. It is telling that Huntsman was the only potential candidate that the Obama administration was seriously worried about (which is why they tried to take him out of the running early by appointing him ambassador to China). Huntsman's moderate policy stands appeal to a wide swath of voters. He's well-versed in foreign affairs and carries credibility on the international stage. And given current global trends, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to have a president who speaks Mandarin Chinese.

But for a variety of reasons (some his fault, most not) Huntsman has a near-zero chance of getting the nomination at this point. Thus, Mitt Romney is the next least-undesirable choice (I'm saying this as someone who likely will not vote for the Republican candidate next fall, whoever he/she happens to be). And at this point, every vote for Huntsman, especially in New Hampshire, is likely one vote less for Romney. Given the moderately serious threat that Gingrich poses, the moderate coalition of the GOP (in my view, Romney and Huntsman supporters, and a few Ron Paul supporters) needs to get together behind a single candidate with the best chance of winning (and more importantly, making sure that Newt Gingrich is NOT a mere 270 electoral votes away from the White House) -- and that's Mitt Romney.

Even though I likely won't vote for him in the general election (although that could always change), I readily admit that Mitt Romney would make a fair to decent president. I agree with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register about Romney being the best candidate to demonstrate "sobriety, wisdom, and judgment". In his heart of hearts, I don't think that Romney is an extremist and I am skeptical (although I could be wrong!) that he would be an extremist as president. Further, I agree with David Brooks that "Romney can be dull". However, I also agree with David Brooks that "that's a good thing":

Finally, Romney can be dull. Political activists like exciting candidates. But most people, who have lower expectations from politics and politicians, just want them to provide basic order. They want government to be orderly so they can be daring in other spheres of their lives. Romney is the most predictable of the candidates and would make for the most soporific of presidents. That’s a good thing. Government would function better if partisan passions were on a lower flame.

It’s exciting to have charismatic leaders. But often the best leaders in business, in government and in life are not glittering saviors. They are professionals you hire to get a job done. The strongest case for Romney is that he’s nobody’s idea of a savior.


My strongest reservation about endorsing Romney is that he is a clear and strong neoconservative in terms of his foreign policy views (see here for a brief overview of neoconservatism). Neoconservatism in the George W. Bush administration got us the Iraq War and drastically increased anti-Americanism throughout Europe and Asia and, I would argue, diminished America's ability to be a positive influence in the world. I am not anxious to have another president who would approach foreign affairs from a neoconservative perspective.

That being said, the only alternatives with preferable foreign policy views (Huntsman and Paul) are not viable (Huntsman in the primary and Paul in the general). Those with similar foreign policy views are also much less preferable than Romney. I've already shared my views on Newt Gingrich. Perry, Bachmann, and Santorum all have serious competency, world-view/ideology, or viability concerns (respectively).

So that leaves us with Mitt Romney. I encourage all my friends in Iowa to caucus for him on January 3rd, and my non-Iowa friends to support him in the various state primaries next spring.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Birthday Party

Earlier this year Bee attended a friend's party that was organized according to a pink theme. After that party I asked Bee what color she wanted for her birthday party. She thought about it, and while I fully expected her to say pink or purple, she said blue. Then she added that she wanted a Blue's Clues birthday. She doesn't really watch this TV show anymore, but could not be dissuaded. I kept checking over the months to make sure that this was what she still wanted, and it was. I asked her if I could make her a paw print for the cake and she said no. She specifically asked for a cake with Blue on it with candles near her head. Alright then. Blue's clues it was. I started officially planning a week before the party. I was planning on keeping it low-key, but then I got a fun idea and ran with it. It ended up being a lot of work, but it really was a lot of fun.

We started by having all of guests in the family room. I made a cardboard Steve's house for the kids to play in and I had Blue's Birthday playing on the TV. We blew up several blue balloons for the little ones to play with. There were ten kids total at the party.


Once everyone had arrived I announced that we had a special activity that we were going to do at the party and that we were going to play Blue's Clues to find out what the activity was. Then I asked them to look around the room to find the first paw print clue. Bee already knew where it was and pointed it out. It was on the house.

Then I reminded them that when we find a clue, we have to write it down in our "handy dandy notebooks." So we headed to the dining room where each child found and decorated a notebook.


Some of the kids saw the playroom and were much more interested in playing than in decorating and some hadn't ever seen blue's clues, so the whole clue drawing was lost on them.
The second clue was found in the playroom on a piece of "candy."

While in the playroom, we played pin the party hat on blue. Some of the older children let me blindfold them, but the little ones refused. Bee refused because she wanted to make sure that she placed the hat exactly where it was supposed to go. Silly perfectionist.



The third clue was found upon leaving the playroom. It was on some bags of royal icing.

Then we headed to the thinking chairs to figure out what our activity would be. I reminded them of the clues: a house, candy, and frosting. One of the three-year-olds guessed it: gingerbread houses.
 We headed into the living room where I had everything set up and ready to go. I had made a house for each child ahead of time. I wanted to make sure that the icing had set and that the project wouldn't be too overwhelming for children so young. I had so much fun making these. My husband thinks I'm a little crazy for going through so much effort for a birthday party. I really enjoyed it. My favorite part were the trees. I found the idea online on a YouTube video and decided to make my own. I used a sugar cone as the base and then used royal icing and a leaf tip to make the trees. They looked so cute, even though they weren't perfect. I made the snowmen as a last minute addition that I was also excited to try out. I made everything a few days ahead of time. Luckily, I had the seminary tables already in my house and I had plenty of room for everyone.
I tried to find as many blue candies as I could to decorate the houses with.

The decorating was chaos, fun, but chaotic. The parents were extremely helpful. Next time I might reconsider using sprinkles or coconut. The houses turned out perfect and everyone enjoyed themselves.

Some guests spent more time eating than decorating. ;)

Perfectionist Bee, as usual, tried to make hers neat and orderly.
 After decorating the houses we headed to the dining room again for a lunch of homemade macaroni and cheese (thanks Sierra), pretzels, mandarin oranges, blue punch, and cake, and ice cream.

By this time my camera battery had completely died. A lot of these photos were taken by a friend whose camera was also about to run out of battery. I let Benjamin supervise the present opening while I enjoyed it from a distance. Princess presents reigned supreme at the party and she was super happy with everything she received. Thanks to everyone who came. We are glad that Bee has such good friends and that we could spend the morning with all of you.

Then I crashed. Actually I could not handle the candy pieces, coconut flakes, and dried frosting crumbs all over the floor, so the first thing I did once the guests had left was vacuum.

I am not sure if she is going to get a party next year. Being an only child does have it's advantages, she is very spoiled.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Beautiful Faces of Bee



I love that she is old enough to play pretend and entertain herself.


Favorite hiding place of all the kids.


Bee caught this picture of me through the front door. Beautiful, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Birthday Day

Bee woke up ecstatic on the day of her birthday and she maintained the mood throughout the entire day. I thoroughly enjoyed spending it with her.  We had a yummy breakfast, opened some books from Aunt Jenny which she read and reread while she watched her boyfriend Diego rescue the animals.

Then we headed out to a local gymnasium for open jump time. Her friend S. met us there and they really played hard.




Bee finally learned to jump off of things and I was so proud of her for being so brave.
video
After playing, we met daddy at the college for lunch at the cafeteria. She ate some fish sticks and french fries. She refuses to wear a coat most days and it's warm enough that I do not fight her on it. As we were walking back to the car she decided to rest on the roots of this tree. Silly girl.

Then she accompanied me on my errands as I tried to get ready for her birthday party. She was so happy about everything and was extremely patient. I was trying to find a plain white shirt that I could decorate for her party. We ran into the dollar store, didn't find a white shirt, but did manage to get change for the carousel. She happily moved from horse to horse to horse as she rode the carousel twice.


In her free time, she continued with her reorganization of the Christmas tree ornaments.
After her fun experience on Halloween with the balloon, I decided to her one for her birthday. It ended up taking forever because Walmart's helium tank was empty and they had to get a new one from the back. Well worth the wait. I think these were her favorite present. I tied them down so that she would not lose them this time, however, she was just as disappointed when the balloons started to droop a few days later.
We asked her what she wanted for dinner and she said pizza. We took her to Cici's where she was so enthralled with the cartoons on the TV's that she barely ate anything. The balloons on our table, yes we took them with us, got her a lot of attention. She was so tired at this point that she wanted to lie down on the bench and sleep. She might have too if we had not reminded her that we needed to go home and open up her presents. That woke her up.

She was spoiled with lots of presents. I made her a dress-up bucket with lots and lots of dresses, wings, costumes, shoes, etc. She went through it piece by piece and tried everything on.

 She was so happy! She got lots of fun toys and plays with them daily. Thanks to everyone for their generosity.

My beautiful three-year-old. Three, thus far, has already been better than two. :) She wanted to play with everything and open everything that night, but was tired enough that she went to bed quickly. Then I got to work finishing the birthday cake and painting her shirt. I had managed my time well during the week preparing everything for the party and was in bed by about midnight.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Crafting

I had these girls finger paint last time I got the chance to babysit. Bee was very OCD as she dotted each part of the tree. She made it around two thirds of the circumference of the tree before she got tired. Notice her concentration.

One Sunday recently, Daddy and Bee made a fabulous dinner and a delicious Egg nog pound cake. This was so yummy. It reminded me of poppyseed bread/cake that has the super sweet glaze on top. I usually don't like egg nog, but this cake was worth eating. It was so moist.

This day I gave her fall colors to let her work with. She was to fill the entire paper with color. She was so exact in her efforts to do so that sometimes the paper would get too soggy. She did not want any white to be left showing.

Then I traced her hand a gazillion times and cut out little handprints. Later, Bee and her father glued the handprints onto a foam plate with the center cut out and this wreath decorated our kitchen all of November and it's still there. I took it off for a minute today to get a picture and Bee promptly picked it up and hung it back on the hook. Can you say OCD???