Archive | December, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The Edmonds Family 2011

We want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a blessed holiday season as we celebrate the beauty of Christ’s birth together! We will be enjoying the fun of family celebrations, stockings, cranberry candy canes, caroling to neighbors and friends, and building other sweet memories. I also can’t wait to help bring my newest niece/nephew into the world any day now! Life is full but God is so good. We pray you would have a lovely Christmas as well!

We will be taking a blogging break here for the remainder of the month and plan to return in early January. Be blessed!

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When Your Mother’s Heart Trembles

Written by monthly contributing writer, Daniele Evans.

Something wasn’t right.

I knew it deep down, and it shook me upThis boy of ours struggled, unable to translate words in his mind to ones we could hear from his mouth.

He tried, yes he did.  His toddler lips shaping silently, that innocent voice straining to move beyond babbling to actual speech.

Each attempt met disappointment, and Mama’s heart trembled as I watched my son. Often I’d look into those eyes, sometimes teary with frustration…and the core of me ached.

He knew.

Neither one of us understood why, but he knew words escaped him.  Unlike the possible fits or tantrums from a strong-hearted two-year-old, the battle within him displayed as silence.

He laughed, he played, he engaged with our family.  But when it came time for words, and toddler attempts at repetition didn’t quite sound like Mama’s or big brother’s or anyone else’s…

…He sat in silence, alone with his pain.  Oh, how my heart would ache for him.

Since those months, we’ve been introduced to the world of Early Intervention, speech therapy, and a host of other special needs considerations for this concern.  At times overwhelming, I am mostly grateful for assistance in guiding our son.

These days, when my heart’s still shaky on the subject, I think of Mary.

I admire Jesus’ mother for many reasons.  She was so calm and collected when a host of strange men excitedly arrived into her birthing space, a stall no less.  I’d like to think I would simply ‘ponder all these things in my heart’, but realize words would probably escape my lips.  Sigh.  Most of all, I remember Mary’s initial visit from the angel (Luke 1:26-38) — an interruption to everything she was planning. Motherhood for Mary didn’t begin all cozy and sweet.  She was shaken from the start with news of all her son be responsible for, all he would face.

And her heart trembled.

I am repeatedly humbled by the response.  Even with heart and mind likely scattered as she processed the impact of her calling, Mary responded:

“I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)

Here’s my interpretation — “Alright.  I’m God’s and I’m available to Him.  Go ahead, birth Jesus in me.”

Lord, grace me with such a heart.  In this unexpected path of speech delays and unknown worlds of therapists and education plans…remind me that I am Yours; and you’re up to something in my life.

The path of motherhood for any of us is both exhilarating and terrifying.  It may not always be pretty, we’ll most definitely face challenges and we’ll sometimes wonder if any good is being done.

Our children will test us, onlookers will misunderstand us, and the impact of our callings will bring us to our knees. I won’t pretend to understand each personal story in this raising of children.  But, I am convinced of one thing for us all:

If we allow, if we like Mary lend ourselves to being His servant, willingly walking hand-in-hand with Him in this up-over-the-top journey of motherhood…

He’ll birth Jesus in us.  

And the Prince of Peace will settle our trembling hearts.

Grace in the journey sisters…

{photo credit}

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Healthy Peppermint Patties

Mint chocolate is my thing…Andes Mints have my favorite chocolate for as long as I can remember. Minty freshness with a hint of sweetness just makes my day. Any other chocolate simply have no appeal to me. With the holiday season came the thought of trying to make a healthy adaption of peppermint patties for a fun little treat and gift for others. I came across Elana’s Pantry version and knew I just had to give it a try. I prefer using raw honey in replacement of agave nectar for the increase nutritional value, so I adapted the recipe as follows. I also found you could use maple syrup just as easily. I also increased the peppermint extract because it needed a bit more. I doubled the recipe below and it made about 20 small peppermint patties. It turned out simply scrumptious and received rave reviews to the recipients that I shared it with. It is a simple 4 ingredient little treat for anyone!


1/2 cup coconut oil (solid state – firm at temperatures below 76 degrees)
1/4 cup raw honey or maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2-1 cup dark chocolate chips, melted and cooled slightly (I found it easiest to melt them and thin slightly with a Tablespoon of milk to get the best consistency. Cooling is essential for it to stick correctly.)


1. Combine the coconut oil, honey/maple syrup, and peppermint extract in a food processor or blender till smooth.

2. Place in freezer until the ingredients are fairly solid (15 minutes or so).

3. Scoop out mixture with a 1.5 teaspoon scoop or whatever you have on hand (I used a standard Tablespoon) and form small balls on a parchment paper/wax paper lined cookie sheet. Press down into flattened rounds. (It will naturally melt a bit when brought in contact with your hands, so quickly form little mounds but don’t stress for perfection, because it will not happen. ;)

4. Transfer back to the freezer to solidify again.

5. Remove from freezer after they are firm again and dip with a spoon into your melted cooled chocolate until fully covered. Allow 10 minutes or so to harden. Store in refrigerator until you are ready to consume.

Yield: 10-12 small patties (if you want to make them larger, go for it!)


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Simple Ways of Treasuring Family Memories

One of my greatest struggles in life is my terrible memory. I am sure I am lacking some sort of brain cells because my memory serves me so poorly. I hardly recall incidents from my past that my siblings could describe in detail for you. The reality of it is that we all have a tendency to forget. We forget how God has demonstrated His persevering grace over our lives. This being said, I want to be very deliberate to record our family history so I can have reminders of God’s faithfulness to us throughout the years. Recording your family history is such a beautiful treasure. It is a gift that can be passed on to the next generation. It is a reminder of the goodness of God in our lives. Here are a few ideas we have started over the years to begin treasuring these memories more deliberately.

Birthday Letter Journal

As a child, my parents would write a special birthday letter to me every year. These letters have been treasured and re-read numerous times over the years. They have been a source of encouragement as well as treasured memories. I was the determined mother to record all the fun growth chart and progress reports of my little ones from their birth, but as more children have been added it has been very difficult to maintain. Over this last year I decided I needed to adapt this plan in order to make it more maintainable. So I now keep a simple journal for each of my children in which I record a special letter to them on the occasion of their birthday each year. Each birthday I write a letter highlighting all the progress from the previous year and how the Lord is growing and shaping them. I want it to be a letter that can encourage and bless them as the years go by. I want to be able to give each journal to my child to take with them when they leave our home.

Daily Family Journal

Recording fun sayings and daily developments has been a desire of mine for some time. I loved keeping a daily journal as a child but that is not so practical now with three little ones. I came across the idea of a One Line a Day Memory Journal. I love this concept of recording a simple one line highlight from each day of our lives and being able to track what takes places on that same day in years to come. Now that is doable. ;) Another variety along these lines is the Postcard Calendar Journal.

Annual Memory Ornament

I stumbled across this idea on Pinterest of recording highlights from the year on an annual white/clear ornament. I love it! A simple way to look back over the years and remember special highlights of different events, vacations, progress report, etc. I used a permanent marker to record the events. You could do a family oriented version or a different ornament for each child highlighting the child’s accomplishments, milestones, silly things they said, and personal favorite’s from the year (book, food, movie).

Annual Photo Books

Scrapbooking has never been my thing. I’m just not that creative gal. But I do want to store our family photos in a easy viewable format. So I began making an annual photobook (pictured above). I’m a bit behind and have 2010 and 2011 to finish this year, but it is a fun way to treasure the photos in a book style attractive format without having to print individual pictures at all. I have used Blurb, Costco, or Shutterfly for these photobooks and have had great success with all of them. At the end of each photo book, we write a family report from the year answering the end of a year questionare.

I am so thankful for all the simple ways that we have for treasuring our family memories. I do not want to forget His unending love and faithfulness to us. I want to pass it on to the next generation so that God might be glorified through our testimony.

For further inspiration, check out Trina’s post on 24 Ways to Keep A Family Journal.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion’s never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”. Lamentations 3:21-23

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Gift Wrapping Made into Memory-Making and God-Honoring Fun

Guest post written by Rachel Garlinghouse.

Gift wrapping is one of those activities that just gets tacked on at the end of all the little jobs we have to do in preparation for the holidays. Often times it is hurriedly done without a lot of thought. Usually I plow through gift wrapping marathons, occasionally letting my toddler hold the tape dispenser or plop a bow on top of a package. This year, I realized that treating Christmas like a task to be completed rather than a special time of year full of teachable moments and joy was doing a disservice to my children. Christmas is an opportunity to embrace peace, create memories, and reflect on blessings. Jesus’ birth is far too incredible and important to one’s understanding of God’s greatness to be rushed through.

I have purposed to make this year unique when it comes to gift wrapping. I want to make it more mindful, joyous, and reflective of the God we serve. How will we do it?

Set the stage. 

Turn on Christmas music, grab some snacks (milk and Christmas cookies, anyone?), and place wrapping supplies near the Christmas tree, the fireplace, or at the kitchen table—wherever you feel festive. Avoid distractions like the television, cell phones, and the computer by shutting them off or setting them aside.

Share and pray.  

As a family, take turns praying for the gift’s receiver and sharing a memory about the person. For little ones, a simple, “This tea pot is for Grandma. Grandma collects tea pots.  Remember when Grandma played tea party with you?” For older children, allow them to share a special moment they had with the receiver. Prayers can be as simple or as elaborate as your children’s understanding and attention span allows.

Get creative.

Wrapping gifts in brown packaging paper gives your kids a blank slate to get creative (plus the paper is heavy duty—hopefully avoiding tears). Give children age-appropriate crafting materials (stickers, glue, ribbon, buttons,  stamps, markers, etc.) and encourage them to decorate packages. Older children can cut out pictures from magazines and create a collage on the package.     Gift tags can be a photo of the receiver glued onto cardstock and tied with a ribbon (which helps little children identify gifts when distributing) or a homemade card with a handwritten message from an older child.

Read and discuss the Christmas story.  

Read to children (or have an older child read) as they decorate gifts, and remind them that the Wise Men brought gifts to Jesus in celebration of His birth. Talk about how giving can be a joyful experience for the giver and the receiver. Christmas is also a great opportunity to memorize a Bible verse pertaining to giving, joy, or peace. Choose a verse and commit to reciting it as a family a few times a day.

Quality, not quantity.   

Allow the family to set the pace of the gift-wrapping session. When little ones begin to get agitated and distracted, put away the supplies and gift wrap more presents another day. A great way to create short and meaningful wrapping sessions is to spread them throughout the month of December by incorporating them into your custom Advent calendar.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  ~James 1:17

What creative ideas do you have to make gift wrapping more meaningful?

Rachel Garlinghouse is a Christian, wife, mother of two, freelance writer, and college writing teacher. She blogs about adoptive family life (and so much more!) at White Sugar, Brown Sugar

Photo Credit

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A Homemade Family Christmas

Photo Credit: ktylerconk

Post by Contributing Writer, Michele of Frugal Granola

Part of the fun of Christmas preparations in our family is involving the little ones in making homemade gifts. Depending on their ages/abilities, the level of their contributions may vary, but they love the feeling of “being in on the surprise.”

It is so sweet to see a child’s joy of giving on Christmas morning, when they say “I made it just for you!” (On the occasion when they admit, “Mama/Daddy helped,” I just respond, “That’s what mommies/daddies are for! You did a wonderful job.” And they smile.)

Some children creatively think of gifts to make for members of the family on their own, while others may prefer an “assigned” project that you work on together. Here are some ideas that allow for little hands, to get you started.

The majority of these projects are intended to be done as a family/with a parent; savor the joy of Christmas together! Many of these gifts are also suitable for friends/neighbors or extended family; tailor it to your family’s gift-giving traditions.

Photo Credit: katerha

For Mama

Photo Credit: James Bowe

For Daddy

Photo Credit: Nico Paix

For Siblings

Gift-making can be a wonderful time of intentionally carving out some quality family time together, as well as practicing generosity for others. You’ll be establishing cherished traditions, valued character traits, and life-long memories!

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Frugal, Festive Hair for Your Little Girl (Or You!)

by monthly contributor, Natalie Didlake

Here’s a tutorial on how to get fabulous, Shirley Temple-style curls on your daughter. You’ll love the look, she’ll feel like a princess, and you both will have a great time putting these comfy, easy, and free rollers in!

I have fond memories of holiday eves curling my hair with my mom, and I love making those same memories with my daughter. (The above pic was taken at least 24 hours after her rollers were taken out…still curly! So sorry I didn’t get a better pic.)

Note: I’ve rolled my own hair like this, then pulled it back into a curly ponytail…a thrill for a girl who’s always had straight hair!

- An old sheet, pillowcase, or other discarded cotton
- Brush
- Spray bottle filled with water
- Snacks or other bribe to keep a wiggly child sitting still for 10-15 minutes

1. Cut the pillowcase into 2″ x 6″ strips. I have about 20, but thin hair will require less, and thick hair more.

2. Brush out clean, dry hair very smooth. (Hair can also be very slightly damp.)

3. Spritz dry hair from roots to end very lightly with a spray bottle filled with water.

4. Starting at the crown of the head, separate a section about 1″ x 1″, or however much hair you’d use to curl with a curling iron. Brush the section directly away from the head at a 90 degree angle.

5. Put rag on the underside of the hair, at the ends. Roll the hair around the rag tightly, all the way to the roots. Make the sure the ends do not slip out.

6. Tie the rag in a double knot around the hair.

7. Have your daughter sleep on these comfy rollers overnight. If hair feels damp in the morning, run a warm blow drier over the rollers.
8. Carefully unroll the rags, working from roots to ends. Do not try to pull them out!

9. Brush out for frizzy, wavy hair. Don’t brush for ringlet-style curls. Spritz with hair-spray for longer hold, and garnish with a big bow! These curls usually hold almost all day on my lively daughter’s fine, straight hair.

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Enjoying the Simplicity of Staying Home

A reader asked: How much time during the week do you allow for time away from home and/or open your home for things like playdates/hospitality towards other moms. Our church is strong on community and “living life together” and living missionally (which I am totally on board and excited about). However, lately, it feels like we are away from home more mornings than we are home. Those times usually end up with kids in one room playing and moms in another chatting/venting/hopefully encouraging one another. I want my kids to learn the importance of community, but I fear this is encouraging peer-orientation and taking away from my discipleship of my kids. I know I am to be “busy at home” and it just feels like playdates are a good excuse to ignore these duties. Any thoughts/guidelines you use?

If there is one lesson I have learned since the arrival of my third child is that the easiest way to avoid stress and outbursts of anger at my children is to simply stay home. When you consider the work necessary to get four people (including myself) fed, clothed, diapers changed, potty visited, shoes tied, and coats buttoned, I am rather worn out.

Could our time be better invested by simply staying home?

There is true joy to be found in simply being at home. We do experience a lot pressure in our culture to get out and do things in order to supposedly stay sane. It could be a pull to many good things, like much needed fellowship with other woman. Don’t get me wrong. I believe it is very important to be in fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 13:3). But you don’t have to go to the latest play group or gym class for your child to develop socially. You don’t have to go to every storytime or sing-along for your child to love books and be exposed to the wonders of music. You don’t have to go to every moms group to stay connected in community with others. “Ballet classes for 3 year olds are glorified playgrounds,” as one friend so aptly put it. You can do it right from your own living room. There is a balance that we must come through by prayer and seeking the counsel of our husbands.

When it comes to our family, we follow one basic weekly guideline we shoot for – one morning/afternoon outing per week. There may be an occasional reason requiring us to go out again, but this is the most common plan. This might be a playdate with another family, a field trip to our local children’s museum, or storytime at the local library. We believe strongly in the importance of community, so we host a small group within our home on a weekly basis where we share and live life together and challenge on another in missional living. The girls in our small group get together on a monthly basis over coffee or have a night in the hot tub for focused fellowship. We also participate in a monthly Bible study together digging into a book of the Bible. We love it! These things are manageable.

As far as hospitality goes, we usually open our home 1-2 times per month for general hospitality to families in our church or neighboring community. We have the freedom also to call one another as needed. I try to restrict phone calls to nap times so as not to detract me from my kiddos. But this can be an easy way to connect with others, to share needs, encourage one another, and pray without even leaving my home.

I’ve found that if I try to pack up multiple times per week and go somewhere with my kids, my homemaking certainly does suffer. My children ultimately suffer too. They love routine, regular nap periods, reading time together, and such. When we are constantly on the go, they are far more inclined to get grumpy and very needy. They lack Mommy’s focused attention. It’s nearly impossible to work on heart training when you are out and about as well. For the peace and growth of our family we need to be at home together.

There have been multiple times where I sat nursing my baby, untying a knotted shoe, and searching for directions to our destination all at the same time, while reminding one child (for the third time, I dare say) to find his coat, and the other to go to the bathroom. Getting three little kids that are rather helpless out the door is a lengthy and stressful process. I am helplessly impatient with my children as the moments tick by.

Mommy is certainly less stressed, children are more happy, and our household is better maintained when this Mommy slows down and finds delight in creatively using her time at home. If I am feeling lonely or experiencing self-pity about staying home, it is a reminder to stop and check my heart. Where am I seeking to find my fulfillment? Am I looking for my help in others first before my sweet Lord? Why not befriend a book, or the Book of all Books. I want to make sure my heart is still first and foremost towards my first mission – honoring the Lord in our family and home. Beautifying this place. Cultivating domestic serenity here and now.

We are learning valuable life skills and teamwork from our own home today as we work together cutting apples for the dehydrator, unloading the dishwasher, reading stories, memorizing poetry and verses, shaping letters, running around playing hide and seek, and taking a daily pause to rest. This is beautiful when you learn to see the art before your eyes. Time is too precious to waste too much of it running here and there.

I pray you would be blessed to be able to slow down and see the treasure of staying home and delighting in that.

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Treasured Christmas Books to Read with Little Ones

A special way we enjoy keeping our focus on the true meaning of Christmas is to stock up on a collection of fun meaningful Christmas storybooks. Each day we love to snuggle up with a book or two and focus our hearts again on the richness and joy of the season. As we continue to read and share with our children, the more they grow to understand the beauty of Christ’s birth. Each year we like to purchase a book or two to add to our Christmas storybook collection that we can draw out each year. This year we wrapped them up and including this special unveiling among our advent calendar activities.

Here are some of our favorite Christmas reads for the season:

The Legend of the Christmas Tree by Rick Osborne

The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg

The Legend of the Christmas Stocking by Rick Osborne

The Story of St. Nicholas: More than Reindeer and A Red Suit by Voice of the Martyrs

The Three Gifts of Christmas by Jennie Bishop

The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Hunt

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski

The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs

The Gift of the Magi by O Henry

The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (adapted picture book version)

The Candle In the Window by Grace Johnson

Jacob’s Gift by Max Lucado

One Wintry Night by Ruth Graham Belle

Christmas Carols for Kids Hearts by Sergio Martinez

Josie’s Gift by Kathleen Bostrom

We Believe in Christmas by Karen Kingsbury

The Indescribable Gift by Richard Exathlete

Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd Jones (author of our favorite Jesus Storybook bible has created a fabulous story of the birth of Jesus)

The Town that Forgot about Christmas by Susan K. Leigh

What Star is This? By Joseph Slate

Want to add your favorites to the list?

Why not stop with me, pick up a book and read to your little ones today. It’s the best foundation for their education.

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“On the First Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me…”

Written by contributing writer, Trina Holden.

Chances are this week you’re in the thick of making a list and checking it twice and I’m sure you don’t think you need one more thing to think about. But even while encouraging simplicity this Christmas, I’m gonna throw out a unique challenge.

I’m gonna suggest you add one more thing to your list.

Your husband.

Yes, I know you have him on your list already, and maybe you’ve already found just the right gift to bless him on Christmas Day. But what about today? What about the busy weeks counting down to Christmas, when your time and energy are stretched to fulfill all that this season requires of you as a wife and mother and homemaker? Is there a way you can keep this most important relationship – this man God has given you, in the forefront of your thoughts, maintaining your friendship even in this hectic season?

There is a way you can add a little holiday spice to your marriage. It’s so simple, it’s almost corny. But I’ve been keeping this little tradition with my husband for 6 years and every year he says it’s his favorite part of the whole season.

We call it “Twelve Days” but it has nothing to do with Partridges and Pear Trees. The idea is that I give him a little gift on each of the twelve days leading up to Christmas. The gifts are not big, often just a favorite cookie or candy, but the value of the gift lies in that I’ve thought of him. When he finds 3 envelopes on the ‘Third Day of Christmas’ or a half a dozen of his favorite cookies on Day Six, his eyes light up like a kid at Christmas, and I fall in love with the tradition (and him!) all over again.

If you’d like to start this tradition in your house, it’s not too late! I usually call Dec. 13th our ‘first day’, so you still have time to gather some things from around the house or on your next trip to town. Here’s a list of items to get you started…

Day 1: Any single object – this is where I usually spend a little money and give him something I’d otherwise have tucked under the tree. A hat, tool, piece of masculine jewelry, etc.

Day 2: Think pairs! Socks, gloves, matching mugs for him and her, sunglasses, pants, long underwear, tickets to a concert or a game.

Days 3, 4, 5, and 6: What comes in packs? Golf balls, socks, briefs, favorite candy, guitar picks, favorite beverage, refills for his razor.

Days 7, 8, 9, 10, 11: Higher numbers get a little trickier – just think ‘small’ and you can do it! Cookies, packaged and delivered to work. A CD with 11 songs. Post-it-note love notes hidden through the house.

Day 12: Think ‘by the dozen’ or ’12 months in a year’. A magazine subscription, coupons for a monthly date night or a dozen chicken wings for lunch.

More ideas…

  • A book or film with a number in the title
  • A series of emails or texts sent to him throughout the day
  • A gift certificate or coupons for his favorite meal
  • A collection of poems (Haiku is a quick and easy!)
  • One year I publicly praised my husband by posting 10 things I loved about him on my blog

Get Romantic!

  • Decorate your bedroom with a number of lit candles
  • Love letters — New or old
  • A custom CD of your favorite love songs
  • Coupons to redeem for a massage — given by you!

Once you’ve collected your little gifts, wrap the items up and stash them away where he won’t find them. I jot down which gift I’m giving him on which day in my day planner so I don’t forget. I also like to plan when and how to present each gift — under his pillow, on his vehicle seat, in his work boots — so I have everything thought out in advance, and I can pull off our little tradition with ease despite the rush of those final days leading up to Christmas.

It takes just a little extra effort on my part to fit this in with everything else, but it is totally worth it for the sparkle it brings to our relationship at a time where it might otherwise suffer. It helps me keep my man my priority even when so many other things call. I look forward to Dec. 13th and eagerly anticipate to the look on his face when he realizes his favorite tradition has begun again.

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