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Christmas baby

I was a guest speaker at MOPS Thursday morning, speaking on a couple ways our family approaches the Christmas season.  I thought I’d put it into a post here as well (especially since it’s already mostly done, and I haven’t posted anything since… ahem… March.  Can I mention life is busy here?  Baby girl #4 is due in February, and we’ve been going through all the hoops since March for foster-adopt including getting the house finished enough to certify.  We started to homeschool the twins for Kindergarten this fall, and we’ve been doing the “normal” stuff like VBS crafts, 2 pigs in the pig tractor- processed in October, a bull calf processed in November, and hundreds of miscellaneous other projects- if I only had time to blog about it all!  But I guess I’d rather be LIVING it than writing about it).

Public speaking is a big challenge for me, so I write everything out as I’d like to say it.  The following text is my speaker notes (almost exactly- my girls names abbreviated, a few pictures added, and the links completed).

First of all, I’m a MOPS peer and don’t feel quite adequate to fill the “MOPS speaker” role.  I’d be much more comfortable leading you in a creative activity.  But Ella called me and asked if I would share a little with you about some of  the Christmas concepts we’re using in my family.  It’s important enough to me that I agreed to share.

Christmas is probably the favorite holiday of the year at our house.  When I got married, I learned the tradition of setting up the tree right after Thanksgiving and leaving it up into February.  I usually insist the tree finally has to come down by Valentines day.  No, we don’t do a real tree!

My house does NOT get fully decorated- unless you count the scribbles on every surface in our house, from the walls to the toilet, and the floors to the ceiling.   In that case, we’re probably the most decked out house in the county!

(In case you think I’m kidding, here’s a SMALL sampling if their handiwork… )

colored ceiling

writing on the inside of her shirt

toilet painters

Usually it’s just the tree with ornaments and lights- and tinsel now that I’m married.  We have a nativity set.  There’s a random string of lights somewhere else in the house.  And we have a “Thankful Chain” that we add links to every year.  But my house doesn’t look like a magazine- no Christmas tree in every room, house and yard bright with lights, or wreaths, stockings, and Christmas villages at every turn.

We’re still a young family.  So we’re still navigating what traditions we bring from our families of origin, which ones we want to start ourselves, and which ones we are choosing to let go.  And we are working on the balance of time and energy output, events to go to, activities to do, and time to sit on the couch and enjoy the lights, or reflect on why we celebrate.  

I’m not going to get into traditions like reading a Christmas book each evening, serving at a soup kitchen, making ornaments, packing shoeboxes, or Elf-on-the-shelf.  Those are all perfectly fine traditions, and you should decide within your family what things are most enjoyable and meaningful to you.

But Christmas is much more than the decorations and activities.  I’m going to share two Christmas concepts we’ve adopted that provide some direction and setting for our celebrations.  Before I get started, here’s my disclaimer:

I can’t give you the perspective of a seasoned mom of teens or 20-somethings.  

I can’t tell you how successful this will make you and your children as you navigate middle and high school Christmas seasons.  

I can’t even tell you how it works in Kindergarten yet since I’m just approaching that one myself.  L and J are 5 and B will only have been a 4-year old for 3 days by Christmas.  

So we’re just getting started in this, and our experience is limited.  But we like the way these concepts have worked so far for our family, and we plan to continue them, even if we’re still working out some details as the years go by.  

Okay.  End of disclaimer and onto the content.

This first concept is in regards to Christmas giving in our household.

The average amount spent on Christmas in 2012 was $271 PER CHILD, with 1 in 10 spending over $500 per child.  

Regardless of how much you actually SPEND, there’s still a LOT of time and energy put into deciding what Christmas gifts will be given in your home.  With all the thought, time, energy, and money that goes into selecting Christmas gifts we want them to be more than just a “gimme” list to be tossed aside a few weeks after Christmas.

There’s some clever ways to manage Christmas gifts out there. “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read,” some add “something to give.”  Some say 3 gifts since that’s what Jesus got, and “do you think you’re better than Jesus?”  Some say 1 gift from Santa, 1 from Mommy and Daddy, and a full stocking.  Some just set a number of gifts each child will get, or all they can buy for a certain dollar amount per child.  Some only give as many gifts as their child is willing to give away of their current things.  Some refuse to add more “stuff” to the house and only give consume-able items like tickets to a show, some sort of lessons, or food.  Lots of tactics, and I’m not out to criticize any of them.  

For Christmas of 2010, we started the Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh- I call it the “Wise men” approach to our Christmas gift giving.  Our twins were two and our youngest was newly one.  Did they understand?  Did they need any gifts?  Not really.  It was mostly a practice year for us as parents to sort out how we were going to tackle this Christmas thing.

We knew we wanted to assign some spiritual meaning to our Christmas giving.  We had heard the concept on FLN at one time in the past- it was one of the news ladies, Sarah Harnisch, that had mentioned it. It wasn’t just giving 3 gifts because Jesus got 3 gifts- it was ascribing meaning to each of those gifts.  

I researched online looking for more information and came across a website with “The Jesus Gifts.”   

Later, after I had done a blog post about it, the man who wrote The Jesus gifts, Clark Smith, contacted me.  From some communication with him, he claims this gift giving concept.  I don’t have any reason not to believe him, so I’ll give him the credit for the concept.

On his site, there was a simple poem that caught my eye.  It describes how their family approached Christmas gift giving.  It still is tacked on my bulletin board in my office- which either means my bulletin board is in desperate need of cleaning, or it is meaningful enough to stay there. I think it’s a bit of both.    

It reads:  

“Gold, we give a gift of enduring worth,

Frankincense, a prayer reaching God above,

Myrrh, all the wonders of life on earth,

Swaddling clothes, surrounded in your parent’s love.”

That didn’t give me 100% exactly what I was looking for, but it was close. I liked that it included the gift from the parents as well as the wise men.  I researched some more to find out more about the gifts the magi brought to Jesus.  I used what I found, combined with some thoughts from others like Clark Smith. This allowed us to decide how we would select and ascribe meaning to our Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh, and Swaddling Clothes gifts to our children.  

Gold may have been given to show Jesus role as the King.  Although Jesus didn’t take on the role of a king that some wanted Him to have when He came to earth, He was, is, and will be King over all.  

Gold was a gift fit for a king.  It has the qualities of being precious and enduring, costly and valuable.  

In our Christmas giving, we use this as a gift that carries a lot of importance to our child.  It may or may not be the most expensive or pricy gift.  But it is a gift that will mean a lot to them, and it’s benefits will likely endure over time.  It may even be a consumable or intangible gift, or a “small” gift, but it’s one that is meant to produce lots of memories or develop skills, interests, or relationships.  

(An example from us: busy books/bags.  See the post about making busy bags here)   critter busy book turtle open

Frankincense may have been given to highlight Jesus role as the Priest. He came to fill the role as our advocate and high priest before God.  

Frankincense was used in prayer time as a visual reminder to the people that their prayers rose up to God and mattered to God.  

In our Christmas giving, we use this as our gift to promote the spiritual health, growth, and understanding of our children.  We want them to learn the importance of a relationship with Jesus and their own intimacy of fellowship with God.  Our gift might be music, a book, a bible or a study tool.  It’s any item we feel will point them to God and draw them into relationship with Him. 

(An example from us:  bibles)  Frankincense gift

Myrrh may have been given to show Jesus role as our Sacrificial Savior. He experienced a human life, although sinless.  And He then experienced death as a suitable sacrifice to cover our sin before rising again. 

Myrrh was used as an embalming spice.  It has also been used over time as a way to treat suffering and afflictions in healing or numbing, as well as in preventative maintenance health care (like antiseptics, mouthwash, body wash, and toothpaste forms).  

Some give health and beauty type products in this category, some put a clothing gift in this category, some include “all the wonders of life on earth.”  

In our Christmas giving, we use this as our gift to focus on some help or healing, or as a preventative measure for something we think our child may struggle with in the next year.  

This has been our most difficult category to decide on an appropriate gift.  

Some years we have given bubble bath or a cute rice pack to put in the freezer for the bumps and bruises that come with being little.  But each year we’re working to develop deeper meaning.  We’re looking for something that may be a struggle or challenge in the next year.

(An example from us:  fleece rice cold (or hot) packs.)  Myrrh gift

The gift of Swaddling Clothes was given to Jesus by Mary and Joseph as His parents, long before the wise men ever entered the scene.  

It surrounded him, provided a physical need of warmth and protection, and wrapped him securely.  We all work to provide for the warmth, protection, and security of our children.  

Some use this category for new PJ’s, socks and underwear, a favorite team jersey, a special, desired clothing item, etc. In our Christmas giving, I like to make a dress or something else at Christmas for my girls- something that shows them they are loved and special to their parents.   

(An example from us:  Princess dresses.)  Swaddling clothes gift

With very little ones, it’s a challenge to fill the gifts with the meanings we intend.  They may not be really able tell us what they want, and we are still learning their personalities, needs, and what makes them tick.  Every year we feeling a little more confident in the fit of our gifts. 

So this is our way of infusing Christmas with it’s true meaning.  It also removes the Santa complication from the day we reserve for celebrating Jesus’ birth.  Our gifts have nothing to do with Santa, but are given using the model of the way the Wise men and Mary and Joseph gave gifts to Jesus to celebrate his coming.  It limits the expectations on how much should be given and increases the value of what will be received.  

As a side note:  We still participate with extended family in the normal traditions- name draws, small gifts for the kids, etc.- That’s outside of what our household does to celebrate Christmas.  

This leads into Christmas concept number 2 for our household.

How do we manage Santa Claus at Christmas time?  

Here are a few ways some of my friends manage Santa.  

One makes sure her children understand the true meaning of Christmas as Celebrating Jesus birth, but lets them also believe in Santa for the excitement and magical pieces while they’re young.  I think this is a pretty typical way of dealing with Santa, and was the way I was raised.  It was even the way Mary and Laura were presented with Christmas in the “Little House” books.  It also gives parents a little bit of an advantage to encourage their children to be obedient and good.  “Santa’s watching…”

Another friend says she CANNOT lie to her children and lead them to believe Santa is real.  She doesn’t want them to later question if Jesus is real because they find out the stories they’ve heard about Santa, or the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy aren’t real.  

Yet another has always told her children that they as the parents get the gifts for Christmas because they can afford to, so Santa doesn’t have to at their house.  He can concentrate his work elsewhere.  

So what about my house?  Do we hate Santa at my house?  No!  We actually love the roots of Santa and want our kids to know more.  

We just want to make sure that in our family, Christmas day is solely focused on the true reasons we celebrate Christmas.  We decided we didn’t want Santa to compete with Jesus on Christmas day.

Here’s how we’ve BEGUN to manage the Santa dilemma.  Notice I didn’t say solve the dilemma completely!

A book we found and like is “A Special Place for Santa.”  If you’ve ever seen a painting or ornament of Santa kneeling at the manger, this is the story.  It does present Santa as “Real.”  But wraps into the story some of the history of St. Nicholas and the development of different views of St. Nicholas and Santa over time.  

A special place for Santa

It presents Santa as being sad that people are focused on him rather than on Jesus.  It recognizes the role of “Santa” in filing hearts with love and joy on “Jesus Special day”- preparing their hearts for the Christ Child on Christmas morning.  

It also has Santa kneeling to worship baby Jesus in a nativity at a church, and presenting Him with a present- the same gift Santa brings to Jesus every year- “Santa’s lists of the kind and loving things people-young and old- had done for one another during the year.”

The story has it’s own imperfections for us to manage and is only a piece of the puzzle for us.  We don’t believe in Christmas as a JUST a time for love and joy in our hearts, and we as a family still don’t represent Santa as “real.”  

But we like the historical roots and development it shows, so our kids understand more of the modern Christmas culture that surrounds them.  

And we like that it gives them a view of “Santa” or St. Nicholas as a worshiper and servant to help fulfill SOME of God’s purposes for Christmas.  It emphasizes the importance of Jesus over Santa at Christmas.

Our church also offered an advent book about St. Nicholas 2 years ago.  It’s “The Faith of St. Nick, an Advent Devotional” by Ann Nichols.    

The Faith of St. Nick

We read it aloud in the advent season.  The kids may not “get” it all yet, but they get pieces, and much more than we sometimes realize.  

As a way to recognize St. Nicholas (and the originating source of modern day Santa) we celebrate St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6th.  We have the girls set out their shoes and in the morning they find some little treats- stickers, candy, an orange.  Simple little things.  

St Nicholas day shoes

We’ve had some discussions about people giving gifts at Christmas just as St. Nicholas gave gifts to people.  Our girls are still little and curious and ask questions.  Like, does St. Nicholas or Santa put the stuff in our shoes?  Do reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh?  Can Santa get in locked doors?

Anytime my girls ask me one of these questions, I revert back to defining where “Santa” comes from and understanding that people (including mom and dad) give gifts in the model of St. Nicholas.  Yes, St, Nicholas was a real person, but he isn’t around anymore and he doesn’t actually come delivering gifts.  

One more thing I think is important is letting our kids know that some kids think Santa IS real.  But it’s the parents job to talk to them about Santa, not my girls job to tell them.  However, they’re also free to share where the tradition of Santa comes from historically (As much as they can grasp at ages 3 and 5).  

There’s too much of other Christmas tradition in our culture- like modern Santa, flying reindeer and sleighs, and magical sacks of toys to be delivered around the world on one night for us to ignore.  Our kids WILL hear it and we need to interface with it somehow. 

By using St. Nicholas day in our family, it lets us recognized and celebrate some of the concepts and learn about the source of our modern day culture’s Christmas season.   But it keeps it separated from the special Christmas day.  And the little gifts associated with St. Nicholas are not as important to them.   They enjoy them, but they aren’t big gifts that magically appeared by the mystical Santa.  

Instead, their gifts on Christmas day are representations of Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh, and Swaddling clothes.  Their gifts are teaching them the deeper meaning associated with the original gifts given to Jesus.  We talk with them about what each of their gifts represent.

Their gifts should help them in celebrating Jesus birth, life, and ultimate purpose.  They celebrate Jesus as our King, Priest, and Savior, as well as reminding us of His humanity.  And that is the more important thing we want them to learn.  

If you tell your kids Santa brings Christmas gifts- please don’t feel I’m putting you down in any way.  Each family has to decide how they best feel they can navigate this tricky topic.  I’m just sharing how our family has chosen to approach it in case it can be helpful to you. 

Whether your kids think Santa is real or whether you’ve always told them there’s no such thing as Santa-I encourage you to start to include (if you don’t already) some of the church history origins of Old St. Nick.  And remember to teach them why we celebrate Christmas in the first place- as the introduction of our Savior to this world.  

Any questions?

 

One final Christmas resource I love and would recommend is the Star of Bethlehem video.  While it has little to do with gift giving and nothing to do with St. Nicholas, it holds some wonderful concepts about the Christmas season, Jesus and his birth, the Christmas star, and the biblical, historical, and astronomy pieces of the coming of our Savior.  And while it doesn’t portray itself as a set-in-stone fact, it is a very plausible and likely history of the Christmas star.  

The Star of Bethlehem

Discussion questions:

How has your family approached celebrating Christmas? Gift giving? Our culture’s portrayal of Christmas (or “Winter Solstice” or “The holiday season”)?

What things do you do to focus on the true meaning of Christmas?

What would you like to see your family do differently in the Christmas celebration?

What do you think of the Santa dilemma?  How do you handle it?

What do you do to place meaning into ALL holidays- Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.- to make it more than a day shopping sales, a day off of school, or a day to have a big meal?

Resources to check out if you want to explore more:

A Special Place for Santa:  A Legend For Our Time by Jeanne Pieper

The Faith of St. Nick, An Advent Devotional by Ann Nichols

my blog posts on what we do:

Christmas gift concept we’ve decided to use for our family

Wisemen concept of giving this Christmas

some of the websites I utilized in researching that were helpful:

The Jesus Gifts– Clark Smith who claims this gift giving concept

Todays Christian Woman: Begging for Myrrh -stressed out by Christmas presents?

SPWickstrom – this  article by Steven Wickstrom gives a spiritual look at how we can give Jesus the 3 gifts of the wise men.

Counting My Blessings: more about Gold

Counting My Blessings: more about Frankincense

Counting My Blessings: more about Myrrh

How the gifts of the magi simplified our christmas– the basic run-down of the “Counting My Blessings” gift giving method

Psycho with 6: Are you celebrating Christmas the right way? -some thoughts on celebrating Christmas the “right” way

Jen Hatmaker:  The Christmas conundrum -another article on how one woman is guiding her family’s celebrations of Christmas, and the change from how she has in the past.

The Star of Bethlehem DVD, web site with more info is here.

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A Father’s day gift that pre-schoolers can craft!  It takes some prep work, but once that’s done, you can let the little ones loose with fabric markers and some supervision and they can make a pretty nice looking father’s day gift by themselves.  Even better, the gift keeps on giving, as they can interact with dad and play “with” him (even if he’s tired!) later.

I ran across the awesome idea for a back rub shirt over at The Blue Basket (via pinterest).  She painted hers with fabric paint, and there’s a print-able template you can use if you really don’t think you can handle drawing something yourself.  (The template would need to be simplified a bit for my version.)  Other’s have printed iron on print-ables, used puff paint for outlines and filled in, or used fabric markers.  Check down through the comments for ideas and to see what others have done.

I wanted to be able to do a craft with the kids in children’s church (age 3-5) this Sunday for Father’s day and thought this would be great!  Except I like to do crafts that need minimal adult “do it for me” time, and this is a bit above pre-school abilities.  So I decided to finally try Freezer Paper Stenciling.  It’s been on my list of things to try for WAY too long.  There’s plenty of tutorials/ info available about freezer paper stenciling around if you need to know more than the beginners info I give below.

I did a trial shirt with my girls (twins approaching 4 and little sister 2 1/2).  It turned out impressively well (although it looks a little scary while they’re coloring) and they really were pretty self sufficient once I got them on task.  I prepped and applied the stencil and traced around the edges with a black fabric marker.  Then I let them loose with the markers (all colors but black to keep the edges distinct) and tried to keep them from drawing over the edge of the paper too much.  I encouraged them to select some roughly appropriate colors, but it was really up to them.  Some places it’s helpful to assist in holding the shirt/stencil for them to color easier.  They needed a little help to finish the roads- I think they were tiring of the experiment by then.  And this is how the first shirt turned out.  Not quite as cute as The Blue Basket’s, but cute enough!

With that success, I picked up a 6-pack of men’s undershirts and cut some more freezer paper to length.  Just put it on the back of your shirt to size it.

For multiple stencils, here’s what I did: Sketch one to make your “map”.  Remember that it’s a stencil, so nothing complicated.  Shade in the area you want to cut out, especially if you’re concerned you might cut the wrong parts.

Attach all your papers together with several paperclips around the outside edge (i only had to do 4 shirts.  If you’re making more than 5, I’d suggest doing them in batches of no more than 5, unless you’re really good at cutting through lots of layers of paper).

  

Make sure you have a cutting board or other surface that doesn’t matter if it’s cut underneath your paper, and get out the Xacto knife or utility knife or scissors- any and all will work.  I cut my sample out with scissors, but for multiples, the cutting board and knife/knives make it a lot quicker.  Cut out the small details first for multiples using the Xacto knife.

Then get the bigger details (buildings) with the utility knife.

Then just make a starting slit on your road and you can cut out the roads with scissors (quicker).  Cut out the center islands from the road before cutting the road away from the frame (or plan to line things back up and cut the road of the island).  Number your islands if you think you’ll have trouble remembering where they went.

    

Move on to ironing on your stencil.  Make sure the back of the shirt is wrinkle free.  Make sure your freezer paper is shiny side DOWN- the shiny is what bonds to the shirt.  Then set on the stencil, place your islands, and start adhering it to the shirt.

  

It’s a forgiving process- if you get a wrinkle or place the stencil incorrectly, you CAN lift it and re-iron.

Once stencils are in place, trace around the edges.

  

To color, insert a chunk of cardboard inside the shirt to prevent bleed-through and stiffen the surface.  You can expand the edge of the stencil and increase the protected area with additional freezer paper or tape (masking/painters).   If you don’t, you may end up with overflow from your stencil, like this:

  

Your artists may end up with colored hands from ink rubbing off of the paper and/or the shirt.

Remove the stencil when they’ve finished coloring and admire!  Fill in any details if needed- I had to draw swing ropes on to connect to the seats and barn doors.

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Our MOPS Creative Activity for April.  Our kids joined us for our MOPS meeting this past Wednesday.  We were doing a MOPS “swap” day- bring your kids stuff (toys, clothes, books, equipment) they’ve outgrown and maternity clothes and take home what you can use.

Before we swapped, we had a trail mix line for a snack- dip a bit of several different snacks out of a bowl and put it in a bag for each kid.  We enjoyed some chat time while the kids snacked and played.

Then we worked together on our Creative Activity- Summer bucket lists.   I got the idea over here at thefoleyfam.

I got sand buckets for a dollar at Michaels and made a simple wrap from paper for them- about half a sheet of paper that slightly curves.  (Your pattern will vary based on your bucket.  Just remember you can’t get the cool castle shaped buckets if you’re putting a wrapper on 😦 )  Everyone decorated the wrap pieces.  Some colored right on the wrapper, some had kids color on paper and cut out shapes to glue on the wrapper. Stickers or paper punch shapes would probably have worked equally well.  (We’ve got part of a sandcastle, a campfire, a wildflower, a book, a kite, a berry, and an ice cream cone here.  I-Spy, anyone?  Colored paper for either the wrapper or the shapes would have been helpful for visibility.)

The wrapper tapes onto the bucket.  You can try glue, but I don’t think it will work well.  (Not that you can see the tape here, but you get a detail of our sandcastle and some random squares/circles)

Then, the list.  The idea is to make a list of things you’d like to do as a family this summer. Go camping, roast marshmallows, catch fireflies, read books, go to the zoo, blow bubbles, go swimming, pick berries, etc. etc.  Some moms wanted to take their list home to consult with their husband and make it a full family decision.  (Great idea!  They just took clothespins with them.  I don’t always think of these things when I trial these crafts at home…)

Once the list is made, write each goal on a clothespin and clip it on the edge of the bucket.  I used a pen to get more letters on, but a sharpie would be suitable as well.  Shorten your phrases and write small.  Remember there’s 2 sides if needed for more detailed goals…

   

As you complete each activity over the summer, pull the clothespin off and throw it in the bucket.  Fun!

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Here it is- busy book number 3!

Drumroll please…

The end of the busy bags has come.  As of Tuesday evening I’m out of time to craft- I must clean and pack for our trip.  I’ve got lacing cards in progress that are quick, so I’m sneaking them in, but can’t write about them yet.  Look for them after the New Year.

This last busy book is mostly a collection of some of my favorites I’ve seen from other sites.

Page 1: Chalkboard fabric with mini eraser (4 layers of felt stitched in several lines and the outside 2 layers snipped between the stitch lines.)  Pocket for chalk and eraser, sample drawings of shapes to practice/copy.  I saw it here at Testy Yet Trying.

Page 2:  Paint pallete with brush (and pocket for the brush).  They can pretend to paint things in the book (or out of it) with the paint brush and “paint.”  I saw the ideas here at Serving Pink Lemonade.

Page 3- counting beads- just beads on ribbons with corresponding numbers.  I originally saw this from an etsy listing pinned on pinterest.  My pin of it is here if you want to see it/see if it’s still listed at Etsy.  I’ve since seen other versions.  Mine goes to 17 because that’s what I had room to fit, and ribbon and bead colors to make.

Page 4:  Weave the lattice pie crust.  I saw it at this blog devoted to quiet books and immediately knew it had to make it into the book.  It’s actually from over at The Daley News.  The lattice pieces are sewn on one end and snapped on the other so they can be detached and woven.

  

I’ve made peace with my snap setter on this project- finally!  Now I don’t have to be afraid to use it anymore!  Almost every time I use it the spiky piece gets offset and sticks through funny and doesn’t hold the snap piece on.  But did you know the plier style setter will HOLD the spiky side for you?  Mine is a red flexible ring.  The outie snap side fits into the hole on the other side of the pliers (I knew that already).  I finally took off the silly yellow ring that was too large to do any good for the innie snap, and the circle that’s left on the pliers is actually the same size as the snap (go figure!) and lines up with the bottom side.  Sorry if that’s something you already knew, but I wish I’d known that YEARS ago while I was trying to make my first diapers.  So I thought I’d share in case anyone else has been too long defeated by their snap setter.  Sorry for the tangent!

Page 5:  Put your hand in the glove.  Mine is 2 scraps of sweater left from my little girls sweater dress upcycle.  My inspiration is from a pin of an Etsy listing where they used a mitten.  My pin of it is here if you want to see it/see if it’s still listed at Etsy.  But how much more to little kids need the practice of getting their fingers in all the right holes of those gloves?!  Hours of frustration may be saved by this page alone!  I did a generous tracing of my hand and zig-zag stitched around the edge.  The cuff is a folded over piece to leave a nice clean edge on the bottom.  My hand ALMOST fits, but not quite.

Page 6:  Decorate the Christmas tree.  I came up with this one all by myself (I am not totally dependent upon pinterest!)  Flaps on the side of the page conceal beads on green ribbon that can be slid over (as many as you choose) to decorate the tree.  The top ribbon has your choice of a star or an angel to top your tree.  Those are just cut out of felt with a bit of fabric paint.  A felt layer on each side sandwiches the bead that slides on the string.

    

Page 7:  A clock.  I saw one on pinterest that was on Etsy.  Not because I love clocks, but because it’s a valuable learning tool, and it was a fairly quick page to make to fill out this book! My pin of it is here if you want to see it/see if it’s still listed on Etsy.   The hands are more of that ketchup bottle (from Flat Franny’s feet in the Baby Fran busy book) covered in fabric.  They are free to move.  There’s an eyelet at the base of each clock hand and in the center of the clock.  The button in the front is threaded through to a shank button behind the page so nothing is actually stitched to the page- just button to button.  That holds it in place and lets it spin.

Page 8:  The hair page- my version.  I saw one over at The Daley News again.  Mine is just a large size back of a head.  The hair is sewn down in 4 layers.  I made the hair by putting a layer of tape (sticky side up) on the edge of a scrap of wood (roughly 8″ wide by 12″ long).  I wound the yarn around the wood, but another layer of tape over the top of the yarn, snipped the bottom edge free, and sewed over the yarn sandwiched between the tape several times.  Then remove the tape and you have a weft of hair.  with a seam down the middle.  That seam I stitched at the top of the head (more T-shirt from Baby Fran) and divided the bottom and top portions in half.  The bottom porton was sewn at the base of the neck and the next row up.  The top portion was sewn at the row just down from the top and the rest left at my original stitch line.  A band at the side will hold clips.  I don’t officially have anything for bands, and I haven’t stitched in a comb yet, but may at some point in time.

  

Last page!!!!:  A memory game.  The idea is based on these that have felt fringe covering a bead and a corresponding bead at the top.  There’s one over here at Little Hands, Big Work, and another by a Flickr user here. Of course I had to make mine more difficult.  Mine has flaps to lift and 4 beads, each on their own ribbon under each row allow you to re-set the board differently each time.  So each bead can be placed in one of 4 spaces.  Once you find a match you have to pull the ribbon down to remove it from under the flaps so you can slide the matched beads to the side WITHOUT PEAKING (on accident, of course) at what else is in the row.  I should have left room on the right so if you’ve got two players, one could slide to the left and the other to the right if you want to keep score.

The flaps are a double layer of T-shirt that I sewed in a grid (double each seam and cut between them to make the square for each flap).  I cut my grid into 4 rows and didn’t completely cut through the top of the row when I cut the flaps apart so I could sew on rows instead of individual flaps.  It still took WAY too much time to do this page, though!  In part because I started out with skinny ribbon and got it done and realized the skinny ribbon let beads slide all over the place so they didn’t stay behind their flaps.  The wider ribbon is a good friction fit inside of the beads, so they’ll stay in place.  My ribbons are tied together in pairs on the ends, so at least instead of sewing over 32 little ribbon ends on each side it was only 16… Like I said, way too long, but I’m at least satisfied with the results.

The end of the busy books!  There’s so many neat ideas out there, though!

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I’ve got 2 of 3 finished and the 3rd is mostly  in my mind still…

Here’s pics of what I’ve got so far.  The first is from a vintage Vogue Pattern (#1959) “It’s a zoo full of teaching pets!”  It’s got some minimal modifications.  The second is mostly my own creation (at least, I haven’t seen anything else like it to acknowledge at this point).  The basic inspiration is from a “Close your Clothes” busy book, but I had baby clothes to upcycle and 3 little girls currently obsessed with all things baby- and I’m NOT ready for another one yet.  So I came up with Flat Franny instead.  She’s not beautiful, but she’s functional.

   

First, the critters (in no particular order).

A turtle- the shell snaps and when open it reveals a heart.

    

A kangaroo with a pocket to unclip (original pattern is a buckle) with a joey in the pouch.  The joey reminds me a bit of Ziggy.  He’s ugly.  next time I’ll use fabric paint.  Maybe I won’t bother attaching the string in hopes he gets lost and needs to be replaced…

   

A pelican with fish that can be hooked and unhooked from the fishing pole

A lion with a tail to braid

A hippo with buttons to close his mouth

   

A giraffe with 3 ties on his neck to practice tying.

An elephant with skates to button and unbutton

An alligator- the mouth zips open so the alligator can lick the ice cream cone with a tongue inside the zipper pouch.

Coach bear- with a lace up and tie baseball glove.

And the last page is my own addition- a zebra with a gift box that un-velcros to reveal a cake to celebrate.  (The candles are the velcro)

    

I made this book once before (wish I could find those pics!)  For a niece’s 2nd Birthday- 5 years ago now, I think.

Now for Baby Fran:

She’s an old T-shirt and some brown yarn, a dab of fabric paint, and a white E-bead for that little tooth.  She even has a mouth that recesses into her head.

Page 1-Change her diaper (can’t be without “goop” for that!)  These are the only remove-able pieces from the book- except for Franny herself.  The cloth and goop velcro on for storage.

   

Page 2- the onesie.  All the outfits have an outline of where they’re supposed to be in the book, and velcro or snaps to keep them there when not in use.  All clothing except for the diapers have a ribbon to keep them with the book, but let Fran go from page to page to do her other baby activities.  Outfits are miniaturized versions of the original garment.  It’s fairly easy to do once you get started.  Here are some sites with tips on how to make a larger garment into a kid or doll sized garment.  Adult sweater to kid sweater tutorial can be found at Dana Made It (which is also helpful if you want to make a little girls sweater dress.)  Baby clothes to doll clothes can be found at Obsessively Stitching.  She’s got more than one tutorial for different garments.  Take that and run with it and you’ll have some cute outfits for your own Flat Franny in no time!

      

Page 3 is socks and booties.  Fran doesn’t have much in the feet department, so these baby socks and booties are on her um… “stand in” feet.  They’re made from the same T-shirt that she was, but they have a ketchup bottle cut out to keep them in the proper form.  The socks are tied at the toe, the booties at the heel.

    

Page 4 is the feeding page- perhaps the favorite for my girls.  This is also the page that’s most likely to get tangled since Fran will probably have some clothing on (1 string) and there’s 3 strings on this page- one to the spoon, one to the bowl, and one to the cloth to clean her up when she’s done.  We’ll see.  The spoon has a pocket for storage, the bowl and the cloth snap on.  The bib is sewn on one side a couple inches above the snap, so it can go on Franny and then she sits at the page to be fed.  The other side of the bib has velcro to keep it in place in the book.

    

Page 5- a different outfit for Franny.

Page 6- her scarf and hat.  They’re sewn on, but minimally so the hat can still be flipped up and down and tied on the top, and the scarf can wrap around and tie on baby Franny.  Doesn’t she look silly with just a diaper and her scarf and hat?  THAT is why I needed her outfits to move to other pages!

   

Page 7- Bath Time!  The top of the tub is open so she can go in and out of the tub.

Page 8- PJ’s

   

Page 9- a blanket to swaddle her.  It  will velcro shut to either side for the last flap that’s folded over.

       

That’s all for now!  I’ll add the other busy book when it’s done- but it may not get posted ’til after the New Year- we’ll see how busy things get!

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I’m only doing one set of these for my Busy bag project since it should be something that can be an all-play.

The idea I saw here at My Magic Mom.  She drew on hers.  I could draw on mine (with some mistakes, I’m sure) but if it’s got possibilities of a MOPS craft, I have to look different directions.

My blocks are 3/4″ cubes from scrap wood- thank you my wonderful carpenter husband!  If you don’t have one of those, you could also cut a square wooden dowel into cubes or buy the pre-cut ones at Michaels or another craft store or online.  My backup plan was to use the little square tiles at the hardware store/Home Depot/wherever and do 2 sided tiles, but I like the cubes better.  Another cute way to do it I’ve seen is story stones, seen over at Red Bird Crafts.

I used free clip art images from free clipart pictures and Arthur’s clip art  and a few objects are the odd texts on my computer sized to a 48 or larger font and the color changed.  I’m sure there’s other free clip art available if you search.  I had trouble finding much that didn’t require signups or yearly membership fees when I searched under images.  You might have better luck just searching for “royalty free clip art” in general, rather than in images.

I finally gave up getting pictures at 80.  I also wanted to put our family’s names on some of the blocks.  I made a total of 14 blocks and only had one of my images that I didn’t use.  If we use this for MOPS I’m figuring on 10 blocks and they can pick and choose their choice of images and if they want to do names.  I’m not sure of the details yet- our steering team is tomorrow and I should finalize some details then.  Here’s what 10 look like instead of 14.

I copied and pasted pictures onto a word/pages document and shrunk each image so it was only about 1/2″ at it’s largest dimension.  They easily all fit on a single page to print.  If we do this project for MOPS I’ll either make color copies or have them printed off at the church- 1 copy for each lady.

Cut out all those little squares.  You could do stickers, stamps, or drawing to get your images onto the blocks.  I glued on my little squares then did Mod-Podge over top.  It was the easiest way for me to find images I liked without buying a gazillion packs of stickers.  I have seen where you can get your images and print them on adhesive paper in a craft over here at Creative Holiday Gift Ideas.  I may still go for that with MOPS- yet to be determined.  I’d just have to print the images I found onto the sticker paper, I think.  Either way, it will get a coat of Mod-Podge for a clear, durable coating, and so the kids can’t peel off the stickers, since I know mine will otherwise.  There are other sealers you could use, too.  I did 3 sides  of the block at a time and set each aside as I completed it.  By the time I got through 10 blocks this way, the first ones were getting dry and easy to handle again, so the other 3 sides were done then.  You may need to do a brief wait for things to dry, or get out the hair dryer to help them dry more quickly if needed.

I did one coat of Mod-Podge.  Another coat might make them look nicer, but they’re fine as is.  I’m thinking for MOPS to make the bags first, then do blocks, and send a small container (like the cheap 10 for a dollar at the dollar store) of the Mod-Podge home with everyone if they want to do more.  We’ll need little containers to put it in for everyone to use for this project anyhow, so they might as well go into a container they can take home.

Now for the bags.  I like a sewn bag, but I sew so that’s not intimidating to me.  For those who don’t get along with sewing machines, this is a bag for you.  Just a simple circle cut from T-shirt fabric (I have LOTS of scraps from this and other projects)  Fleece would also be ideal- either are fine since the edges won’t fray.  I traced a circle a bit bigger than a saucer and cut out.  Little snips near the edge give easy holes to thread a safety pin on the end of some ribbon through the holes for an easy drawstring bag.  It will lay flat when it’s opened (unless your ribbon is too short- spread it all out before you cut if you’re not sure!).  So it can also be the place where you roll your story dice.

    

So what do you do with them?  Roll the dice and use what images come up to make up a story.

ETA:  We did these for our MOPS creative activity for January.  There’s a few more details on my MOPS 2011-2012 Creative activities page.  I used mailing labels to print on for a cost effective way to speed up the process a bit.

I also just ran across 2 more ways to do these over at Stitch-Craft.  One way is a package tape transfer (warning- this way would take even longer than cut out from paper and glue on like I did above) and the other way is with temporary tattoo paper (although it’s much more expensive- she found it at Michaels for $10 a sheet, less with a coupon).

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Our “gold” Christmas gift for the girls this year is a busy bag for each of them.  If you don’t get what I mean by “gold,” see my posts here and here.

I bought a bunch of little stuff from the dollar store (and other places) like stickers, bubbles, little light ups, coloring/activity pads, notebooks, balloons, chapstick, small toys, noisemakers, and other goodies.  That was the easy part.  Now for the bags themselves and the home made items to put in them!

I’m including the “I-Spy something I’m Thankful For” craft we did for Children’s church that I wrote about here.

Here’s what else  I’ve gotten done so far- and everything is done in triplicate since I’ve got 3 little girls to make this stuff for.  My sister came over on the day after Thanksgiving and we did a “Craft Friday” instead of going out shopping for Black Friday.  That day I got my neck pillows made (finished actually, I had one mostly done the night before, and pieces cut for the other 2).  My inspiration came from here at U-Create with Infarrantly Creative, but I didn’t put the cool animal heads on mine.  I made up my own pattern, but there is also a free one you can print at the U-Create/Infarrantly Creative link.  Mine are  a cute flannel print on one side and fleece on the other.  If they drool on them, the fleece side wont feel wet, so I hopefully wont get as many whiny complaints that way.

   

I made marble mazes, as seen here at Serving Pink Lemonade.  There’s a start and stop spot stitched on.  It’s just 2 layers of fabric with paths sewn.  A marble inside gets pushed between the layers of fabric to navigate it through the maze.  Quick, easy, and contained entertainment.

I also got all the pieces cut and almost everything sewn for 3 composition book covers with crayon rolls.  My inspiration on this one came from here at Moda Bake Shop, but I didn’t take the time to make strips of fabric to piece a cover or stitch on a nameplate.  Mine also has 10 chunky crayons on the front, that just barely fit.  I enlarged the crayon pocket to 11 inches long and gathered it to fit all that crayon.  I finished the last one of the covers a few days later.

   

I tried to start the bags to put everything, and didn’t get far before I needed to hunker down on the last MOPS project (melt and pour soaps- you can see what we ended up doing at this post).  No pics yet, but I’ve got some neat plans for this bag!

I got back to business once that was done on Wednesday.  Thursday I made button snakes; inspiration from here at The Rigneys.  I was going to stop at 12 shapes, but my kids (helping me) thought I should make more.  (Yes, they’re seeing a lot of their gifts as I make them.  They don’t nap and seem to require less sleep than I do, so I must craft when they’re awake.  And they’re nosey, so not much escapes them!   I gave up trying to hide stuff, so they’re selecting some things as I make them, like ribbon and button colors, fabric choices, and shape suggestions.  They are not happy they don’t get the things I’ve made yet.  They break into my stash of Christmas gifts at least once a week, including just a few minutes before I typed this.  I need to get this done soon!)

      

So there’s 18.  These are the shapes I made- the same for each girl except for the letter for their first name.  Each shape is a different color except for two repeats- snowman and fish are both white, and moon and sun are both the same shade of yellow.  There is a heart, flower, star, circle, square, triangle, half circle, hexagon, butterfly, diamond, fish, splat, moon, snowman, tree, sun, raindrop, and letter for their first name.

It was a productive day on Thursday and I also managed to finish (late before I went to bed) 30 felt finger puppets.  I’ve seen a few different ones online.  For a quick version, do something like these monsters at Ohdeedoh that use fabric paint to decorate.   The nicest looking monsters I’ve seen since Monsters Inc.

These are super cute, and you can buy the pattern at The Idea Room.   I didn’t, because I’m too cheap and can figure most stuff out on my own.  Here’s mine- including a close-up of our mini-me’s:

   

Finger puppets are addicting!   I wrote out a list of what animals I wanted and separated them into base colors so I knew how many to sew of each color.  The bases are made so quickly and easily- just fold over the piece of felt (and pin so it stays straight) and start sewing!  I made them big enough so that adult fingers will fit, too.  We’ll probably be playing with them at some point in time.  Mark the felt if you like, I just eyeballed it.  And I didn’t do any thread changes.  I did have to go back and make a couple smaller- I could fit almost 2 fingers in a few.  Oops.  The 30 bases were done and cut in under half an hour.

   

Cut them apart when you’re done and decorate with felt cut outs and google eyes.  I used a glue gun for all my bits and pieces.  This is the time consuming part.  My final list of puppets include:  a mini of each of us (5 total), and an ark load of critters:  horse, bear, moose, monkey, rabbit, dog, pig, sheep, zebra, duck, chicken, penguin, cat, cow, bluebird, cardinal, giraffe, lion, hippo, elephant, rhino, tiger, fox, frog, and snake.  And here’s the list of more I’d love to make!  Panda, Polar bear, Raccoon, Deer, possum, skunk, snowman, gingerbread man, Butterfly, Bee, Dragonfly, Spider, prince, princess, baby, and more!  I figured I should stop at 30 since thats all the more little kid fingers we have and I need to move on to another project.

That’s all for now, I’ll try to put up the rest as it gets done and I have time (I’m linking as I post.  Click on what you’re interested in to see how mine turned out).  The list to do includes the bag, busy books, play dough filled balloons, lacing cards, little lanterns, story dice,  and if I get to it: a balloon cover, quick doll gowns and diapers, kid size fleece fold over sleep sacks and maybe some popsicle puzzles.  I may have forgotten something.  I’ll try to add it sometime if I did.  And I’ll include the links for my inspirations as I do them.  If you can’t wait, try checking my Pinterest page of crafts and sewing for the kids.

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