Christmas Traditions!

We have different Christmas traditions and we don’t always have the same ones every year. Here are a few from this year!
 We decorated the tree! Not as many other decorations this year because of our crazy November. And yes, my girls are wearing t-shirts. That’s what happens in December in the South!
And then a few days later it snows…sort of. Just flakes in the air and a little sleet, but it was pretty! And this is a bit early for wintry weather in our neck of the woods.
My sweet girls surprised me with a Bonfire from Solostove! We love sitting around a campfire but the smoke really irritates my allergies.  This little beauty helps keep the smoke at a minimum. It radiates a wonderful amount of heat and allows us to safely and legally enjoy a fire within the city limits! 
We visited the next town over to see a fun small-town Christmas parade! Our friends were on this float…but on the other side! It was so much fun! 
Two of my piano students were in A Charlie Brown Christmas. One was Schroeder playing the piano on the bottom right in the purple and the other is in a plaid shirt just behind Snoopy’s doghouse. It was so much fun to see!
We read some Christmas stories. I have a collection of Christmas books I only get out in December. This is a new one I’ve never read to them! One of my favorite poems, In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rosetti was turned into a children’s picture book called, What Can I Give Him? , which is a line from the poem. I absolutely adored the illustrations by Debi Gliori. They told a dual story of a little girl in the country with her grandfather and a shepherd boy at the manger. It was a beautifully unique way to show two different stories with each page turn. If you are looking for a new book for Christmas I highly recommend this one!

Peeks at our Week: Christmas!!!! (December 25-Jan 6)

We are rarely home on Christmas day. The only other times this has happened was when I was in the hospital after emergency surgery. To have Christmas on a Sunday is very, very special. At the same time Christmas on a Sunday for the pastor’s family isn’t all that relaxing! That is why we had our “First Chrismas” earlier in the week. On Christmas morning we gave the girls their stockings.

 After a beautiful service worshiping with our church family we headed over to my parents’ house for “Second Christmas” as my girls call it! My amazing mom and dad made the best Christmas dinner. We had steak, chicken, and too many sides for me to remember! We stuffed ourselves silly and then opened gifts. 
We got up early the next day and drove to South Florida to celebrate “Third Christmas” with my husband’s family. This crew of 10 kids are my favorite group in the entire world! I missed having cousin camp with them in summer 2016 and hope to do it again this coming summer! We opened gifts the night we got there which you can imagine is one giant chaotic celebration! 
Christmas in Florida means swimming! Most of the kids really enjoyed it. Rose is more like I am and felt it was a bit too cold. You can see her shivering on the right! 
A trip to Grammy and Grampy’s house is not complete without a stop at Dairy Queen! 

Then we celebrated New Years together. Our fireworks were in the driveway.
I’d love to hear how your Christmas was! If you have a blog link leave it in the comments! 

Christmas Lights!

We had such a fun time on Sunday night visiting a park about 90 minutes away that has an incredible light show! I went when I was a kid and it was about a mile long. Now there are four amazing miles of this beautiful wonderland!


We shopped afterwards for some unique Christmas gifts at the shop. 
 The girls fell asleep on the drive home.
 Grace is faking being asleep. She was in charge of the phone at the moment while they listened to Adventures in Odyssey.

Rose picked out a new Adventures in Odyssey while her sister slept on her lap!

 It was a wonderful way to end our Thanksgiving celebration week!

A Christmas Gift that Continues to Give!


The holidays are a busy time . . . but life can be even more hectic! In the midst of work, after-school activities, grocery shopping, and business trips, how are parents supposed to find the time to build within their families a lasting foundation of faith?

Focus on the Family wants to step in and give you some tips. Sign up by clicking here for a free e-book called 101 Surefire Ways to Strengthen Your Child’s Faith. With creative ideas on weaving faith into everyday conversations, turning family activities into learning opportunities, and having faith-filled holiday celebrations, this book is jam-packed with fun and interesting, easy, faith-building ideas for your family.

Another way to invest in your child’s faith is through the Odyssey Adventure Club (OAC). It offers safe and free content for everyone in your family, including an Advent calendar, a broadcast download with tips to create a memorable Christmas, AIO cutouts, and Christmas stocking stuffer cards. Membership to the OAC costs just $9.99 a month — or even less if parents make a six-month or one-year commitment. Enrollment provides more than enough content to keep kids engaged throughout the year:

  • Access to exclusive content and first looks at books and select Radio Theatre dramas.
  • On-the-go access to the OAC app for both iOS and Android users.
  • 24/7 streaming access to nearly 800 AIO episodes.
  • A new, members-only AIO episode every month.
  • A subscription to Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine, and more.

Another fun way to build your child’s faith: have a family craft night and use it as a faith-building opportunity! Click the image below for a printable Town of Odyssey cutout set. Bonus points if you listen to an Adventures in Odyssey episode while you put together your town!

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To learn more about the Odyssey Adventure Club, visit, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

A Meaningful Advent with Adventures in Odyssey

OAC Christmas

When I was a kid I loved opening the little windows in our Advent calendars. It was exciting and special and something I looked forward to each year. We enjoy the same tradition with our three girls and this year have added a fun twist on our usual time together!

Adventures in Odyssey has put together an Advent Activity book and CD set! This set will give your family 25 Christmas episodes to enjoy throughout the Advent season as well as activities for you to do as a family. Each also includes a Scripture passage and something to discuss after listening to the episodes. 
My girls look forward to each day we do this. We are just using the devotional booklet because we can find all of the episodes on the Odyssey Adventure Club. Sometimes we listen and do the activities in the evenings, and sometimes at lunch depending on the day’s schedule. We also change up whether we listen first or work the activity based on what it all involves. 
Last night we listened to the episode Peace on Earth. While they were listening they drew a tree out of their hand print. The leaves were made from tracing their finger prints. It was a good reminder that we are all uniquely created by God to serve Him. Including the episode and the activity, this is about 30 minutes of quality family time together. We are huge fans of the show already, so this is a neat way to incorporate a new tradition into Advent.
This is Beth’s (8-years-old) hand-print tree. She actually used her finger prints to make fruit on it instead of the leaves and I love her creativity! 
If you’ve never experienced Adventure in Odyssey you should give the OAC a try. It is quality entertainment and fun for everyone in your family!
OAC Christmas

The Carols of Christmas: A Booklook Blogger Review

Christmastime is here…

Okay, so not really, but who is with me in looking forward to the Christmas season? One of my favorite things about the holiday is the music. I have several books which talk about the stories behind the hymns, but I had yet to come across one which focused on the Christmas Carols…until now!

What first struck me was the simplicity of the layout. I love that each of the 21 songs are categorized into themes. Topics range from specific dates, to Scripture, to aspects of the season. I do think I would have preferred the topics be more consistent, like all Scripture references or all aspects of the season. There are one or more songs included, both religious and secular. I was a little surprised to find the secular songs included, but found their stories just as interesting. 
I was pleasantly surprised by the details in this book. Each of the songs is studied in depth to a degree I did not expect. The author delves into the backgrounds and lives of the lyricists and composers in much more detail than I thought. While it is interesting, in some ways it distracts from what I am most interested in, which is a concise understanding of the song’s story. There are also moments of explanation about the musical aspects, which as a musician I did find interesting, but I think it could be a little too much information for those who may not be musically inclined. 

Perhaps it is because of my experience with other stories-behind-the-songs books, but this one did not keep my attention the way I had hoped. I would most likely use this as a reference book rather than just sit and read it through for pleasure. Still, the writing is high quality and well done and I think it would be very helpful tool for musicians and church leadership alike during the Christmas season.

Signing Time Christmas Collection Review and Giveaway!

It has been a loooooooong time since I’ve had the opportunity to run a giveaway and I’m super excited about this one. My kids always enjoy the many products we review, but they were over-the-moon giddy! Learning Christmas signs with American Sign Language has never been more fun!

We discovered Signing Time only few years ago when my oldest daughter stared asking me if she could learn sign language. We taught my daughter basic baby signs when they were infants after two of my piano students who were sisters began teaching her at 6 months old. It was such a blessing to us and we continued to teach our next two daughters the same basic signs. I had no clue there was such a wonderful company like Two Little Hands Productions or we would have begun collecting them years ago!

The series was completed several years ago, but through crowd-funding in 2013, the Signing Time Christmas Collection became a reality. Fans of the show new and old showed their support and raised well over the amount needed for production. I’m so excited to have been chosen as one of the 25 bloggers given the opportunity to bless one of my readers with this brand-new collection for Christmas!

My girls were absolutely giddy when they started watching. Since we were reviewing the digital copy, I had a chance to surprise them and the light in the girls’ eyes as the Signing Time theme song came on was just delightful. Rose’s first comment was, “Oh! Alex and Leah are so grown up!” She’s right and I think it is just so neat that even grown up they were part of this very special Signing Time.

All of us loved learning the signs for Christmas songs. Rachel has many new songs included in this collection as well as familiar Christmas favorites. I’m so grateful she included the traditional carols as many trending Christmas shows and movies are drifting towards more modern songs. I love all Christmas songs, but the neat thing about these is my girls can sign along with their favorite carols in church on Sundays. Rose’s favorite song was the Signs of Christmas and Grace loved Silent Night. Beth said she loved them all and couldn’t pick just one!

I loved how Rachel goes over each sign prior to the songs and taught them so very clearly. My girls will be signing Silent Night with some other children as part of our annual church Christmas dinner in a few weeks. This will be a great way for them to practice!

This newest Signing Time collection is a must-have! We love it and have watched it several times already. You can now purchase either DVD copies or digital copies of your favorite Signing Time episodes. They even have a digital subscription option which can allow you access to everything produced by Two Little Hands Productions!

And now for the promised giveaway! You don’t want to miss this incredible opportunity! I sure wish I could give this to all my readers, but since only one of you will have the chance to be blessed, take a minute to earn some entries! (Pssst…some you can do every day!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Christmas in Review: 2013

I’m a little late with this, but I decided to take a full break from blogging for the holiday.

Our Christmas was blessedly uneventful contrary to last year which was waaaaaay too eventful! Last year as a whole was too eventful and I must admit I have been eagerly awaiting 2014 and the feeling of a fresh start. I felt a wide range of emotions as we began the holiday season. What if we had another emergency? What if we received pain-filled news again? What if…what ifwhat if

These emotions crept upon me, all cold and empty. The girls decorated on and I pretended all was well inside. As we shared stories of each ornament placed on the tree Rose reminded her two younger sisters why we do this thing we call Christmas. She told them the Christmas lights reminded us of Christ being the light of the world. She retold about the angel appearing before the shepherds with the birth announcement of our Savior. Her innocent truth-filled chatter reminded me to cling to the One whose birth we were celebrating. What a blessing my girls are to me!

We filled shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child…

Enjoyed box seats at a hockey game with Diego

Watch some classic Christmas movies…

Celebrated with our church family at the annual Christmas dinner…

Played in my Christmas piano recital…
(This was the first time all three of my girls played!)
Learned how to ride these cool scooters…
Investigated an owl’s nest

Celebrated Christmas not once…
(Our house)

Not twice…
(Grandma and Grandpa’s House)

But three separate times!
(Grammy and Grampy’s House)

Made some awesome memories with cousins…

And celebrated the new year with these crazy kids…10 cousins in all!

What a difference from last year…what wonderful blessings…each moment more appreciated and special because of all God had done for us in this past year. 
God’s graciousness brought me to a new place in this season. I shed more tears than I normally do and felt more peace and healing. Each memory was cherished and in every moment I was fully present. 
God in the moment…God with us…Emmanuel

The War on Christmas: Review

Christmas in our family is a huge holiday. We start decorating early in November and enjoy every single minute of holiday fun. This year is going to mean even more because I spent last Christmas in the hospital unexpectedly. I felt I missed so very much, but even in the hospital I was able to keep some of our traditions with my girls. I was especially aware of Christ Emmanuel last Christmas because of the unusual circumstances and I don’t want to forget that this Christmas.

The War on Christmas has been a great way for me to already begin focusing on the season and how to put more focus on Christ. This beautiful book intrigues the reader with the rather bold and honest title, not to mention the clever cover illustration. Upon opening the book the reader is treated to beautiful photography which captures the essence and feeling of the season. Even more interesting is how Bodie Hodge delves into the meanings behind our traditions, the reasons they have become so offensive to our society, and how as Christians we should react to these battles.

Because of the title I expected this to be a defensive, possibly in-your-face defiant response to those who wish to take Christ out of Christmas. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Bodie Hodge artfully expresses the biblical account and shows the reader which of our traditions are from Scripture and which ones aren’t in a very gracious way. I have thoroughly enjoyed once again being reminded of the details of the historical account.

Like all books from New Leaf Publishing the gospel is clearly presented and the importance of believing the biblical account of creation reiterated. I love that. I know I can recommend any title from this company even before I read it because I know their primary goal is to point others to Christ. True to form the last several chapters deal with the truth of Christ and why He came to earth in the first place. It also deals well with the touchy subject of Santa Clause which I appreciated. Practical ways to keep your family focused on Christ are presented as well as how to respond to the unbelieving world who seems to attack Christianity more harshly at Christmas than any other time of the year.

This is a great read and an excellent way to prepare for the Christmas season. 

Disclaimer: I was provided with both a digital and paperback copy of The War on Christmas as part of The War on Christmas Launch Team in exchange for my honest opinion. I did not receive any other compensation. I was no required to write a positive review. 

Christmas in Review

Christmas was…memorable. I wrote previously about God changing my plans. Little did I know there would be a much bigger change of plans just a few days after I wrote that! After being sick for several days I was diagnosed and medicated, but after about 5 days on the new medication it became apparent something more was going on. I ended up in the emergency room the Friday before Christmas.

On Saturday before Christmas…the day I had planned to bake, wrap presents, and pack for our vacation…I had a three-hour surgery. Not what I would have chosen…yet…God is good. The doctors removed a benign tumor which they think has been growing for 3-4 years. My parents, who live close by, were able to keep my sweet girls for the week and my husband has coddled and nursed me back to health.

It has been an exercise of faith for me. I feel I am very grounded in Scripture and know in my head the promises God has given us, but experiencing them first-hand this Christmas has brought me closer to my Savior. His grace has surrounded my family in ways I’ve never experienced before.

Even though I couldn’t be with my girls on Christmas Eve, their grandparents kept alive our tradition of cookies out for Santa.

They also continued our tradition of retelling the Christmas story before opening presents. Both traditions have occurred every year, and having my parents be so thoughtful to keep things as normal as possible for my girls was such a blessing to me.

The hospital staff were so kind and excited about having my girls come see me on Christmas day! They spent time talking to them and letting them know Mommy was going to be just fine.

Thanks to technology, we all got to chat with my in-laws via Skype on Christmas day!

Our church family, my piano families, and my MOPs family have provided so much food, including the mild diet I’ve been on. It just keeps coming! The have ministered to us sacrificially and have taken time from their holiday celebrations to come and visit with us as well.

These are not Christmas memories I would have chosen to have, but they have been some of the best. God’s faithfulness and grace to our family has overwhelmed me.

We started school back today…modified anyway. I’m still limited in what I can do so I sit on the couch with the girls at my feet working on math, handwriting, and literature. They have had their lives disrupted quite a bit the last few weeks, but they have been so sweet and helpful.

This year I experienced Emmanuel as I never have before.


God with us…
God with me.