Day 6: Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

I grew up in Louisiana. We spent most Christmas seasons wearing shorts and running with barefeet across green grass. Maybe that’s why I love anything that has to do with snow…especially the loveable snowmen that seemed as unreal to me as, well, Santa! Santa was visible, you know the department store men with fake beards and genuine bellies, but a real snowman was a rare miracle that came only when the most significant wish came true…a little girl’s hope for snow to fall in south Louisiana! (It happened not once, but twice!)

Later, when I was a young mother living in the North Pole (aka Peoria, Illinois – the coldest place on earth!), we built an 8-foot-tall snowman in our front yard. He stayed there from Thanksgiving until Easter, and we changed his clothes throughout the seasons. His name was Friendly, and he was quite a special member of our family.

Today, after many snow-filled years in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Colorado, I’m back in the south, living in Oxford, Mississippi. We do get a few decent snowfalls each year, but with these fun ideas, we’ll be enjoying snowmen even on our green grass days. Enjoy!

For starters, and for you ambitions crafters who want some lifelong keepsake ornaments in your collection, take a look at Amy Powers’ lovely snowmen. These have such a vintage feel, they remind me of my grandmother’s homemade ornaments. This would be a fabulous activity for those of you with older kids, especially tweens and teens, who have outgrown some of the simpler Christmas crafts. You can find step-by-step instructions along with photos to guide you by visiting the incredible blogsite: holidaywithmatthewmead.com

Okay, now let’s try this little snowman seat cover for the younger kids. I made one of these for my preschool classroom one year and chose a different child each day to sit in the “Snowman’s Lap.” But I also love the idea of using a pillowcase and keeping this as a holiday sham on a toddler’s bed. You can find templates and detailed directions for this particular pattern at Family Fun’s website.

I absolutely LOVE these adorable snowladies I found hanging out at curlybirds.blogspot.com Created by three-year-old crafters, these are such a fun project for the creative kids in your family. Find photos and specific instructions by visiting the curly birds site.

 
 
 
Now for those of you with less time or ambition for crafting. Here’s something super simple. Three circles traced on a large sheet of cardstock; glue; cotton balls. Voila! Add googly eyes and decorate with pieces of felt and you’ve got a happy new friend. I encourage you not to stick to this image. Add a hat, scarf, or other accessories and have fun! You can also staple together two or three paper plates (smallest to largest) and decorate as desired.
 
 
 

image from notimeforflashcards.com

Or, if the thought of glue and cotton balls makes you nervous…skip the glue and just let your little one cover dots with mini-marshmallows.

Either way, use these activities to help children learn to count. You can also teach basic concepts like adding (“What if we add another one here. now how many do we have?”) and subtracting (“Now if I eat one marshmallows, how many do we have left?”)
 
 
 
 
Finally…oh what fun this will be…end the day by serving snowman milkshakes made with your favorite flavors, whipped cream, and candy embellishments. If you’re worried about sugar overload, leave time to go outside and build snow sculptures (or run barefooted and climb trees…choose your passion!)
 
Oh…I just have way too many more fun snowman ideas to share…so stay tuned. More to come! (Subscribe to Julie’s Journal for automatic email updates and be sure not to miss daily ideas to keep your family laughing your way through the holidays).
 

Day 5: Top Christmas Flicks for Family Movie Night

There’s no better time than the holiday season to snuggle up for Family Movie Night. Pop some popcorn and light the fire, as you enjoy these can’t miss kid-friendly Christmas movies. 

For Kids of All Ages:

Winnie the Pooh – A Very Merry Pooh Year – I admit, I’m a sucker for Pooh. This is my favorite Christmas movie – a heartwarming tale reminds us all that friendship means more than presents.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol – Rated G and great for viewers of all ages!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – If your child hasn’t yet heard of the Island of Misfit Toys — now’s the time! A great vintage film sure to bring smiles to all.

Frosty the Snowman – There are tons of reasons to watch this fantastic film, but if for nothing else – the songs are fun to sing!
 
Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Another fun-for-everyone family favorite. 
 
A Charlie Brown Christmas – This one delivers the message that there is value in everything — even the most misunderstood and scraggliest among us.
 
For Kids Age 6 and Older:
  
The Polar Express –  A  beautifully filmed modern rendition of the classic tale, but it can be a bit intense or even scary for kids under 6.
  
Miracle on 34th Street – The story can be a bit slow for young kids, but who doesn’t love this holiday favorite – is Santa real, or is he? 
 
How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Personally, I think the 1966 animated version may be less-frightening (and more age-appropriate) than the Jim Carrey rendition; but whichever version you choose, your family won’t want to miss this fabulous Dr. Seuss Christmas message. It might just make your heart grow two sizes!
 
And while they may not be about Christmas, you just have to brew a batch of hot chocolate and snuggle up with Happy Feet (and perhaps take a family day to see the sequel currently in theaters).
  
 
For Older Kids:
 
Home Alone – Not really appropriate for kids under 8, but a hilarious adventure story about a kid left home alone for the holidays (some bad language and mild violence).
 
Of course you can’t forget A Christmas Story. Rated PG, this may not be the best choice for kids under 12. Still, for older children, Ralphie is a hilarious as he narrates this All-American holiday story set in the 1940s.
 
Ok, I wasn’t going to list it, because it’s really not a kid-friendly movie, but I have to say the movie Elf is absolutely hilarious for older children. Will Ferrell’s role as an orphan raised by Santa is just too unique (if not too corny) to miss.
 
Of course there’s a new batch of holiday films released every year, but I hope you can enjoy some serious snuggle time while watching a few of these favorite flicks.
 
j
 
 

Black Friday or Free Friday – It’s Up to You

If credit cards and wish lists have you worried, I encourage you to step away from the stores and savor the true spirit of this beautiful season. Perhaps a dear friend chose the best trigger, this classic poem by Wendell Berry, who reminds us all that life is short. Life is good. Life is now.

Count your blessings!

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
… in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
– Wendell Berry

Help Children Live Without Fear

      

Looking for the ideal gift for the little ones in your life? For less than $10/each, you can remind children they are safe, they are loved, and they are never alone.

In these books, written for my own children, endearing animal photos and simple verse remind youngsters that God is always with them.

Order online through your favorite bookseller.

To request signed/personalized copies, please contact Square Books, Jr. in Oxford, MS. http://www.squarebooks.com/junior

Happy Reading!

Practice Random Kindness

Need one more Thanksgiving idea for the holidays? Try Secret Acts of Kindness!

Write the name of each family member on a separate slip of paper and place them in a bag. Have each family member draw one name of another family member. That is now their secret person to bless.

The next day they are to do something to show that person that they appreciate them; BUT —  this is to be done secretly.

Think simple acts of kindness. Write a note, make a gift, do a chore for that person, etc. Teach your little ones how good it feels to show appreciation for others (without getting credit for it). Who knows — these random acts of kindness may just become a habit.

Blessings!

j

Happy Poppin’!

We just had to pop over to say, “We are thankful for you!”

Happy Thanksgiving!

From The Cantrell Family

 

That’s what we’ll be leaving on neighbors’ doorsteps throughout the week. We’ll attach the tag to cardstock and leave it with a packet of microwave popcorn and soda. Whether you do it anonymously with a game of Ding-Dong Ditching, or whether you plan time for short visits with each delivery, take a moment to recognize the special people in your lives this Thanksgiving season.

 

 

(This idea was adapted from an original post at http://247moms.blogspot.com/. You’ll find many great ideas there, as well as giveaways, weekly Table Talk topics to foster family conversations, and much more!)

 

Create Fun Family Traditions This Thanksgiving Season

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart  

 

We all know that Thanksgiving is about more than just turkey and pie. It’s a time to gather with loved ones and count our many blessings. It’s also the perfect time to create meaningful family traditions. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

 

Thankful Tree
Teach your children the importance of gratitude by creating a unique advent calendar. Throughout Thanksgiving, write a list of blessings for which you are grateful. Include as many loved ones as possible in this challenge. Help children use cookie cutters to trace 30 leaf shapes onto autumn-colored construction paper and carefully cut out the leaves.

Write one item from your “thankful list” on each leaf. Use butcher paper or poster boards to create a brown (child-height) tree trunk, and affix it to your child’s bedroom door, playroom wall, or family area. Children can tape leaves on the top of the tree trunk, one for each day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each morning, one leaf can be read as it “falls from the tree.” This will help your children understand the changing seasons and focus on the true meaning of the holidays as they count down to Christmas one “thank-you” at a time.
 
Pilgrim Voyage

Designate one older child to represent the “New World.” Another child represents the Mayflower. All remaining children represent rocks, waves, or islands as they sit, stand, or lie on the ground between the two. The New World calls out directions to guide the ship (whose eyes are closed). The ship cannot speak or peek as it crosses the dangerous sea to the New World.

Thanksgiving Theater
Does your holiday television display a festive Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or competitive NFL games? This year, considering hosting your own “Funniest Home Videos” contest. Invite guests to bring their most comical clips to share, and be prepared to laugh hysterically.

A Lucky Break

Don’t forget to make a wish! After you’ve deboned the turkey for day-after gumbo or soup, choose two children to each take one end of the wishbone. They close their eyes, make a wish, and pull! Ending up with the larger part of the bone means the wish will come true. This is known as a “lucky break” and supposedly dates all the way back to the Etruscans of 322 B.C.

Jump in big leaf piles, take a family walk while hunting for holiday symbols in your neighborhood, or sit back and play family board games. With a little imagination, you can create very special Thanksgiving traditions for your little ones. Who knows? They might just pass some down to their own kids some day.

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