How-To Guide for Surviving a Homeschooling Convention

This month we attended our first ever homeschooling convention. I was SO excited to go, but also very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, and looking at the clinic list and vendor exhibit list, I felt completely overwhelmed. I decided before we made the ten hour (yes, TEN HOUR) drive to Houston for the convention, I would create a game plan for myself to help me maneuver the clinics, workshops, guest speakers, vendors, and crowds with ease. I know myself, so I was afraid I might get into the exhibit hall and see so many shiny colorful wonderful tools and curriculum choices that I’d burn an entire debit card in one hour. A plan of action was a must. And I can honestly say, my plan worked beautifully! The convention was such a positive experience and successful kick in the pants for me that I decided to share my tips for saving money, time, and sanity at your next homeschooling convention.

Before You Go:

1. Plan Your Year

No, your planner does not have to be filled in hour-by-hour or even day by day, but before you go, you MUST have a broad idea of the topics and subjects you want to cover in the coming year. Think of the convention as a place for motivation and fine-tuning, not a place to decide what to teach your child this year. If you know what subjects you’ll be covering, what unit studies you want to explore, broadly what science experiments you want to do together then you can walk into the exhibit hall with a very specific list of things you might need. I knew we were going to study weather, so I looked for a good children’s book about weather, one that explained lightning and thunder without scaring my kiddo. I also knew we were going to do an art unit, so I looked for art supplies and art books. I wasn’t distracted by the other really fun things I found at the exhibit hall because I knew exactly what I needed for this year.

2. Set a Budget and Stick to It

I knew how much money I had to spend and that was it. I would also recommend pulling the cash before you go and not bringing your debit or credit card into the exhibit hall. One successful pitch from a curriculum company representative can blow your budget completely out of the water if you bring a check book or credit card in with you. So don’t do it.

3. Choose Your Clinics Early

Conventions will list the clinics, workshops, and guest speakers on their website anywhere from a month to a week before the convention. Print out the descriptions of the clinic topics and read over it with your spouse. There were several clinics specifically for dads that I wanted my husband to attend, so I highlighted those for him as well. Some clinics fill up fast, so you should plan to arrive about 20 minutes early for each clinic or workshop to ensure you have a seat. I went so far as making a list (nothing fancy, I didn’t even do it on the computer) of the times of each workshop I wanted to attend each day so I knew when I needed to get up, when I could work lunch in, and when I had time to go shopping during the day. It was extremely helpful having my list of pre-selected workshops in my bag when I arrived and found myself wading through thousands of lost people.

4. Pack a Convention Bag

Of course if you’re traveling out of town as we did, we had other bags and suitcases packed for the trip, but this tip refers specifically to the convention. I would advise you to bring a backpack with you. It’s easy on your shoulder, gives you lots of room to stuff freebies and convention swag, pamphlets, and purchases. Include a notepad and pen in your backpack so you can take notes at workshops and jot down things you may see that interest you in the exhibit hall. You might also include a couple of bottles of water (it got very warm in there with all of those people wandering around and the food service table was extremely overpriced) and some kind of snack like a granola bar.

 

When You’re There:

1. Make a Pre-Purchase Trip Through the Exhibit Hall

It’s very easy to spend way too much money at conventions. Many companies do offer convention discounts on their products, but that doesn’t matter if that product wasn’t budgeted for or necessary for your school year in the first place. It’s easy to walk into an exhibit hall for a homeschooling convention and react like a kid in a candy store. If you’re like me and you live in a remote or rural area with very few homeschooling resource stores, then finding yourself in a huge convention center with wall-to-wall homeschooling products can certainly be overwhelming. This is why I advise you to make no sudden movements with your wallet! Do a walk-through of the entire exhibit hall the first afternoon if you have the time. Don’t make any purchases this time. Walk around, explore the products, write down details of products you’re interested in, including price. Keep track of items that interested you by snapping photos of them with your smart phone or jotting down notes on a note pad.

2. Compare Compare Compare

I found an early elementary book about the major world artists at one vendor booth. I loved the book and thought it would be perfect for our art unit this fall. They were offering a 10% off sale at that particular booth. I jotted this information down on my note pad and then made my rounds. Across the exhibit hall, another vendor was selling the exact same book with a 25% off convention sale. If I had purchased the book at the first booth when I originally saw it, I would have kicked myself. I saved myself six dollars and walked away with the book I wanted. Compare prices before you make purchases. I attended a clinic with a well-known author and homeschooler. She recommended a book about building character in children that I loved. I wandered around the exhibit hall and found the book available at a booth. I jotted down the information including how much that booth was asking for the book. I went back to my hotel that afternoon and looked up the book on Amazon. It was $15 cheaper online used. I ordered it right away. If you feel guilty about not buying directly from the author or publisher, or really want to support their company, then by all means, purchase from them directly at the exhibit hall. I didn’t feel concerned about this so I ordered from a private seller online and saved myself quite a bit of money.

3. Take Some Suggestions, Leave the Others

I attended one clinic led by a well-known homeschooler. She’s an author and a mother with a large family (no, not Michelle Duggar, although she was at this convention too). I was very impressed with her suggestions for creating order and organization in the home with many small children, and took feverish notes. I attended another clinic by this same speaker and was caught off guard when she went off on her personal political opinions, which teetered on the brink of being anti-government. I really hate the extremist perceptions of homeschoolers, and I didn’t like her perpetuating this concept. However, there were some gems in this clinic outside of her short rant. I didn’t get offended by our vastly opposing political and social views. I wasn’t offended when she suggested we get rid of TVs in our house. We have TVs. We have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, you name it. I love TV. My kids watch TV. We obviously feel differently about this topic, and that’s okay. I was there to learn how to keep toddlers busy while trying to teach older kids. I took the good advice and ignored the stuff I didn’t agree with. You have to realize that personal ideology and one’s views on education are deeply interwoven and sometimes attending certain clinics may open a topic that you would rather not be lectured about. Take it or leave it, but don’t get yourself worked up over it. In that same clinic, I learned some fun toddler busy box ideas that I will certainly be using with my youngest.

4. Ask Questions

This is a wonderful opportunity to meet homeschoolers with much more experience than you. Take advantage of this chance to talk to others and don’t be afraid to ask questions! I have found that homeschoolers are very helpful. They’re eager to talk to you, eager to encourage you, eager to support you or give you tips. I was surprised at first by how kind and open many of the people I met were. But really, we’re in this together, and I want my child to succeed as much as I want other people’s children to succeed. I don’t want homeschoolers to have a reputation for failure or laziness, so if there’s anyway I could help someone exploring the idea of homeschooling, even with my very new and limited experience, I would do it.

After You Return Home

If you’re anything like me, when you get home (or on the way home) from a homeschooling convention, you’re going to feel energized, excited, and a little overwhelmed by the new information at your fingertips.

1. Get Organized

I attended one clinic all about organizing your time and finding the best day planner for your personal habits and style. I found several beautiful and detailed planners at the convention that were very pricey but also overwhelmed me. I don’t need my entire life in one book. Some people do. Some prefer that. I just need something I can flip to at a glance that tells me what today will look like. I did some internet research and found this perfect, simple daily planner on Etsy for only $3.33 from SimpleJoysofHome. You download and print as many times as you need to. It was perfect for me. Take the tips you received and start your school year off on the right foot. Put away toys, sort out old books, pull the ones you know you’ll use this year, get rid of old supplies, and get yourself in order. Take that motivation and excitement from the convention and pour it into something constructive!

2. Compile Your Notes

Don’t let all of those great notes you took during your workshops stay stuffed in a drawer {or left in your backpack until next summer}. About a week after we got back from the convention, my go-getter attitude was waning and I was losing the excitement and motivation I had the week before. I was overwhelmed with lesson planning and struggling to organize our school space. I you realized that I needed to compile some of those notes that encouraged me so much at the convention and print them out on one page that I could add to my planner for a boost of encouragement and a refresher. It gives me something to turn to anytime I start to feel tired or overwhelmed. One speaker said, “God gave you your children for a reason and a purpose. They were given to YOU to strengthen you, change you, help you, and bring you closer to the Lord. So remember that when you start to feel frustrated by a strong willed or defiant child.” I need that reminder printed out somewhere to read daily! You may have other gems from the convention that encourage you on a daily basis or help you stay focused when things get foggy throughout the year.

With a pre-formed action plan, your homeschooling convention can be a positive and enlightening experience. I left feeling so encouraged, motivated, and excited for the possibilities this school year holds. I realize how precious Kindergarten is, and I can’t wait to start this year with my boys! I hope this list helps you feel less overwhelmed when you attend your next convention. Let me know if it helps! :)

Blessings,

Kat@MommyPonders

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Devotional Time for Little Ones

I’m not an affiliate or associated in anyway with the books mentioned in this post. Just a mom who loves hearing reviews from other moms, and helping people find great resources for their families.

Image Buggy got some Christmas money and I let him get a few toys and fun things with it, but I also set a little bit aside because I really wanted to find some kind of devotional for him that we could study together. We LOVE the Jesus Storybook Bible, but we’ve read through that about a dozen times cover to cover, and I was wanting something fresh to really study positive character building concepts as well as Scripture.

I always recommend the Jesus Storybook Bible for parents wanting to introduce their children to the concept of a Savior and lay the groundwork for their knowledge of the stories of the Bible and who Jesus actually is. It’s a perfect resource for that.

However, I have discovered a new book that works wonderfully for teaching basic life lessons, such as sharing, helping, reading your Bible, being polite, having fun, resting, etc. The One Year Devotional for Preschoolers was exactly what I was looking for. The lessons are super short {just one page each}, with beautiful and engaging illustrations. They ask questions that spark important conversations with my kiddos, and then tie it into a memory verse from the Bible. Each lesson also ends with a two line rhyming prayer, which Buggy loves. He’ll repeat it like a little song until he has it memorized.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Little Boy Magic

I love little boys. Little girls are special too, and of course they deserve a post as well, but there’s just something wonderful and messy and sticky and fun about little boys. This mama’s heart has a special place for boys. I don’t know why. That’s just how God wanted me. Wes and Si (2)

Today I fished out the second object discovered in Little Man’s nose. He’s 2. First there was the sponge. You know those little sponges that start out as capsules and grow in water? He ripped one up and shoved part of it in his nostril. I think it was a dinosaur leg. Today was a red bead. I’m honestly not even mad. Sure, I lectured and told him once again DON’T SHOVE THINGS IN YOUR NOSE! But then I just had to laugh. This is life with boys. Sometimes it’s weird. Often it’s loud. Always it’s messy. But I love it, and them, so much.

 

Oh how I love my boys….

My boys run through my house screaming, chasing, and making noises that make my ears want to hide.

Little Man fills clothes baskets with cars and balls, just to push them around the house. No other reason.

Buggy asks me on some mornings if it can be a “mustache day.” On Mustache Day, I draw him a mustache with my eyeliner and that’s it. He goes around life on Mustache Day- to see family, to the grocery store, to church, etc. with his mustache.

No, I didn't draw this mustache.

No, I didn’t draw this mustache.

I just love these little boys….

Little boys are just as sensitive as little girls. They cry just as easily and wear their emotions as freely as girls. We’re the ones who tell them, over time, that this is unacceptable. But I love the open-heartedness of little boys.

When Buggy {now 4} has spent the night with grandparents and hasn’t seen me in a day or two, he always gets choked up when he sees me walk in to pick him up. I live for hearing that “Mama! You’re here!” And seeing the little quiver of joy in his lip, evidence that when I’m gone, I’m missed just as much as I miss him.

Buggy stayed the night with his grandparents the other night and was up twice standing over his Bo asking if they could sleep together. He was sent back to bed twice, but his little heart was so excited about the idea of getting to help Bo in his shop in the morning. He couldn’t wait to help him make somethin’.

They’re messy. Today at lunch after church, Buggy got jello with his meal, and by the time our meal was over, it was in his hair. Again, I just smile.

Sweet, Helpful Boys

My boys love to help. They helped unload the car of groceries today. We did respite for another foster family a few weeks ago, and they nearly fought over giving the baby her bottle.

Little Man can go from completely ornery and mean towards his sister to this sweet little voice saying, “Hi Kitty!” as he pets the cat with the gentlest of hands.

I love when he runs into my room in the morning and says, “Hi Mama!” with the sweetest smile on his face. Be still my heart. Sweet sweet boys.

They love mud. They love Legos. They love play dough, Lincoln Logs, and paper airplanes. A paper airplane from daddy made from church programs on a Sunday afternoon is the highlight of the weekend.

With boys, it’s simple. And wonderful.

I promised Buggy a special surprise last week if he was good while we ran errands, unsure at the time what this surprise might be. A sugar-free sucker from the sweet bank lady at the end of our long day was enough to make him clap and cheer in the back seat. As he gobbled down his treat, he said sweetly, “Thank you, Mama, for my special surprise!”

Little boys have no shame. They burp in public. They freely play dress up in Sister’s fairy costume with no hesitation or embarrassment. They tromp around the house in Mama’s high heels. They LOVE being naked… And make sure they get plenty of naked time daily.

I love hearing Buzz Light Year randomly yell from the bedroom in the middle of the night.

I love that Buggy can’t sleep without his precious Elmo and Little Man calls all stuffed animals “babies.”

I love that they beat each other up, wrestle, pick on each other, and make each other cry, but they also protect, defend, and watch out for each other like only brothers do.

I love finding a Lincoln Log or Hot Wheel car in the sink under a pile of dirty dishes. “It needed to be washed,” I’m told.

God made boys so very special. He made them with breakable hearts, earnest intentions, deep devotions, and honest minds. And I absolutely adore watching them form and grow according to His glorious will.

These precious boys will be husbands, fathers, church leaders, and community examples someday. A shining beacon of light in a dark world. I hope I do well in raising them up in the way they should go.

Protect, honor, love, cherish, and fiercely fight for your little boys. Childhood is precious and far too short. Love them and protect them, and the Lord will honor your efforts.

A shining moment this week…

Today I overheard my sweet Buggy singing a song to himself. He was singing his own version of the classic hymn, “To God be the Glory.” The words weren’t exactly correct, but it was still beautiful, and it was a song from his happy heart to his Savior who delights in him. Who could ask for more?

Thank you, Lord, for these boys. Not just mine, but the other precious boys of my friends, the precious boys in our church who will one day be men. Thank you for their sweetness, their spunk, their proclivity towards mischief. Thank you for beads in the nose and Legos in the tub. Thank you for mud pies in January and pink butterfly wings running through the house making firetruck noises. Thank you Jesus, for the beautiful glimpse of perfection you give us in our children. Thank you for the wonder and magic of little boys. May it last as long as possible.

Amen.

 

Kat

2 Comments

Filed under Parenting, Personal Posts

The Year of {Positive} Challenges

Okay, I’m not a kitschy kind of girl. I loved “Julie and Julia” as much as the next food-wolfer-downer but I’m not one to take on the burden of doing something every single day and coming on here to tell my readers about it. Plus, my blog isn’t that kind of blog.

But it’s 12:01 am as I write this, one minute into my 28th birthday, and I decided that I wanted to do something a little different. And it’s my blog, so why not? I’m not gonna cook everything out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, so please don’t log off. I just got this wild hare that maybe I could try to take on new challenges that won’t cause me more stress or put another thing on my plate, but rather enhance my life and make my family’s life a little more peaceful and bring us closer together. Challenges that make me a better mom. Challenges that help me connect to my husband more. Challenges that might make my house a little tidier. That sort of thing.

I can’t commit to a year, because that’s ridiculous and honestly it gives me panic sweats and heart palpitations just thinking about taking on something every single day for a full year. But I can start with 30 days.

So, in honor of my birthday, I want to commit to something I already love and do every single day anyway {is that cheating?}… Reading. I read constantly. I have six different books on my bedside stand/Kindle right now, and I’ll go back and forth between all of them until I’m done, and then I simply pick up a new one. Reading is the greatest thing in the whole world, and one thing I’m not so great at is reading to my kids. I’m actually ashamed to admit that.

I intend to read to Buggy every day, but I sometimes don’t. I forget, or we get busy, or I’m too tired, or he can’t decide on a story that he wants to hear, so I don’t read to him. I grew up being read to by my Aunt Annie, who taught me to love Roald Dahl and recite every word to Tikki Tikki Tembo and I desperately want to instill that same love and literary adoration in my own son, but I don’t do a great job of it sometimes. I think he loves and appreciates books, but I want to read to him daily.

So for my first 30 day challenge for myself, in the year of bettering my life, I want to read to Buggy every single day. Typing that “every single day” part made my fingers shaky and a tiny bead of sweat pop out on my forehead. Get back in there sweat bead, cuz we’re doing this!

That beautiful children’s book collection of ours is going to be loved on this month. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday month than snuggling up with my littles and enjoying the books I loved so much when I was little.

Do you enjoy challenging yourself to try new things? What might you challenge yourself to this month? Wanna join me in reading to your kiddos everyday this month? Tell me about it!

<3 Kat

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Activities, Parenting, Personal Posts, Stay at Home Moms

2014 Resolutions

I really hate new year resolutions. I always have. In the past, I’ve always broken those resolutions by February, and then spent the rest of the spring trying to remember what I even resolved to do more or less of in the first place. Guilt follows, and then you usually end up backsliding even further into whatever bad habit you were trying to break. For these reasons, I haven’t made a new years resolution in many years.

But this year I’m doing things a little different. I realize that there are two types of resolutions: Those you want, and those you need. This year, I’m not resolving to do things I want. I’m resolving to do things I need.

For instance, resolution #1- I want to lose about five {twelve} pounds. Instead, I’m going to not worry about numbers and say that I need to get more active. I need to ride my bike, jog, go for walks with Buggy, etc. rather than worry about numbers on a scale. That’s a much easier resolution to stick to than restricting my beauty and self worth to some magic number that tells me when I can finally be happy with my body. That’s stupid. I just need to be a little healthier.

Resolution #2- I want to be more organized, but really, I need to be less stressed. Organization will definitely help with my stress levels, so this week before Travis returns to work, I’m going to organize closets, cabinets, and shelves so we can start this next semester off with a little more peace. Beyond that though, I’m not going to kill myself for the rest of the year trying to have a Martha Stewart closet. In the past, I’ve downloaded binders full of checklists and helpful tips on how to keep a better organized home, and then I end up not following the tips {because they aren’t specific to our family} and I beat myself up for it. I’m not gonna do that. We’ll start the year off as fresh and tidy as possible, but beyond that, I’m not going to stress out about it.

Resolution #3-
Our school year usually starts in January in our household. It’s the perfect time for new beginnings and fresh ideas, and I just love starting school at the beginning of the calendar year. Usually I have all of these plans for unit studies, books, and skills that I want to tackle at the start of the year. I find myself on Pinterest late at night finding adorable crafts and activities for Buggy, but then reality sets in and we usually don’t have time to do even half of the things I wanted to do. I have two other children at home who have various therapies and appointments, and I try my hardest to work in what I can with Buggy, but last year a great deal of time was spent in my head feeling angry with myself and worrying that I had let him down.

I realize now that I did not let him down, and that from our little hiatus from school he learned so many other invaluable things. And still, we took time to play games, snuggle, tickle, laugh, read books and sing songs. So this year, instead of focusing on all the cutes stuff I want to do, I’m going to focus on the simple things I need to do. I need to read with him more. I need to stop doing the dishes sometimes and sit down to make train tracks with him. I need to have tickle fights. I need to watch “Curious George” in the mornings. My spirit needs that, he needs that, and I need to not live in guilt over the things we didn’t get done.

And lastly, resolution #4- This year, I need to slow down and stop beating myself up. I need to realize I’m a great mom, a loving wife, and a mediocre housekeeper who at least keeps things from reaching that unlivable level of dirty. I’m proud of us fostering. I’m proud of us homeschooling. I’m proud that we are different from other families that we know. I’m resolving to cherish this chaos that others don’t understand and often criticize. I’m resolving to be even less conventional than we already are, and I’m resolving to love it more than I already do. I’m resolving to not compete with other families and worry over what one kid is doing that mine isn’t. I want to go at his pace, at our pace.

This year will be about simplifying, saying “no” more often, and cherishing what we have here. This is the year of focusing on what our spirits need and worrying less about what others say. It’s about doing things to feed and grow our family rather than what we want or desire. This is a year about taking things as they come and not fretting over the future {which is very hard to do in fostering}. This year I need to feel the Lord’s peace around me and let out a big sigh of relief that I don’t have control and He does.

I hope that 2014 brings a sweet simplicity to our home as well as yours. I hope it brings you peace and joy and calmness. What are some of your resolutions for this year?

Kat

2 Comments

Filed under Personal Posts, Simplify Your Life, Stay at Home Moms, Uncategorized

How We “Do” Santa

This time of year, I’m reading a lot of posts about Old Saint Nick, particularly from Christians who don’t “do” Santa. I’ve read many different reasons for not introducing children to Santa. Fears of children feeling lied to. Convictions about making the holidays too Santa focused and not Jesus focused. Fears of teaching materialism or consumerism. Fears of stealing from the glory of our Lord’s birth. Given all of this, I thought I would share what we do and why.

We’re a Santa-believing family. I grew up believing in Santa. Travis grew up believing in Santa. We had stockings, we raced to the tree to see what delights awaited. But, we also grew up in Christian homes. My parents read to us the story of Christ’s birth from the book of Luke every year. We attended Christmas Eve church services with our extended family. I grew up singing in the church Christmas choir. And honestly, looking back on my childhood, I was never once confused about what Christmas was really celebrating. I’ve always known Christmas to be a celebration of our Lord’s birth. I even remember a song we sang in the church choir when I was seven or eight: “Happy birthday Jesus. I’m so glad it’s Christmas. All the carols and bells make the holidays swell, but it’s all about You….”

I understand all of the arguments that Santa can take away from the true celebration. When so much emphasis is placed on Santa and gifts and toys, how could kids not get confused? Well, Travis and I work hard to make sure our kids aren’t. For one thing, we don’t use Santa as a threat. Absolutely zero emphasis is placed on “the naughty list” in our home. There’s no such thing here.

In our home, Santa is the perfect segue to explaining mercy, love, grace, and redemption to very young children. We believe Santa is the perfect way to introduce children to the substitutionary atonement of Jesus’ death on the cross. Did you make that leap with me, or are some of you clicking the X at the top of the page? Please don’t! Hear me out.

It all goes back to the original Santa Claus, St. Nicholas.

*Brief history lesson ahead*

Saint Nicholas was born to wealthy parents who died in an epidemic. They left him his inheritance, and, feeling convicted by the words of Christ compelling him to care for the needy, he sold off his entire inheritance to give back to the poor, the sick, the needy, the widows and orphans. He was persecuted for his faith and never stopped caring for others and loving those in need. Now, is this the same jolly old elf who famously slides down our chimneys? No. But rather than painting a picture of Santa as a toy manufacturer who watches your every move, eager to punish you with coal if you’re bad, we speak of Santa as a believer in Jesus who gives with love and grace.

We have explained to Buggy that Santa gives gifts out of the kindness and goodness of his own heart, because his desire is that all people will know the love that Jesus freely gives to all. We explain that whether he’s been good or bad Santa still comes. And the reason he comes regardless of Buggy’s behavior is because Jesus loves regardless of our behavior. Do our kids deserve gifts from Santa and stockings full of goodies? Probably not. But we rely on disciplinary methods in our home that work {most of the time} so threats that Santa may bring them nothing really aren’t necessary. And such threats run counter to the portrait I want to paint of Santa, a loving saint of our Lord.

Santa gives because his heart overflows with joy for the Lord who gave his life for us…Not because we deserve it. Santa gives so that we may know kindness and mercy and grace. Santa gives so that we may know generosity for others as well. Every year since Travis and I married, we’ve made it a special tradition to choose one or two children from the Salvation Army Christmas tree. We lovingly pick out gifts for these children and try to get them as much from their request ticket as we can. Now that we have kids, we include them in this. Buggy loves it. He looks forward to it every year and takes great pride in selecting only the best for his chosen Angel Tree child. I’m always careful to explain to him that just as he gives gifts out of the love and goodness in his heart for these children he doesn’t know, Santa also gives him gifts out of the kindness of his heart. And it’s all done in reflection of the ultimate love of Jesus Christ.

My son loves the magic wonder of Christmas that Santa’s arrival brings, but he also moves quickly to dispel any confusion about what Christmas is really about. This mama’s heart swelled with pride just the other morning when I heard him telling Miss Priss at breakfast, “Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. It’s so nice he lets us give everybody else presents on HIS birthday!” Worries about confusion flew out the door.

Someday I’ll sit him down and tell him the truth about Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and everything else. For now though, I’m loving the magic of Santa. I love using Santa as a concrete tool to teach my child less concrete concepts like grace, love, and generosity. In the meantime, I’m careful to talk often about the birth of Christ and the love that came into the world on that night in Bethlehem.

Childhood is so short. And in our society, it’s growing shorter and shorter. I want my home to be filled with magic and wonder, excitement and joy. I want to plant a seed of graciousness, generosity, and appreciation in my son’s heart, and I think Santa is perfect for that. Santa is whatever you make him to be. If you paint him as a genie who grants you anything you want, or a judge who harshly decides if you’ve been naughty or nice, then that’s what he’ll be in your home. In our home, Santa is a wonderful saint of the Lord who gives because Jesus gave his life for us.

Maybe this model doesn’t work for every family. Maybe it doesn’t change your mind about Santa. I’m not really trying to combat any of the arguments I’ve read against Santa, because I respect each parent to parent as they see fit. Your convictions are different from mine, and your concerns and priorities are different from mine. But I did want to put our version of Santa out there for anyone who is looking for a way to keep Santa a part of Christmas without taking focus off of Christ. How do you celebrate Christmas? What is your take on the jolly old elf?

Kat

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Simplify Your Life: The Anti-Pinterest Christmas

This post is a confession about my Christmas-based mommy guilt and the actions I’m taking to fix it. I came to the realization that less is more after reading this incredible article from VitaFamiliae. So put down that glue gun and turn off The Grinch and relax a little, moms. It’s okay…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Oh, the Boards!

Yesterday as I was searching through my Pinterest boards looking for a crock pot lasagna recipe I wanted to try, I scrolled past the board full of Christmas crafts for kids. I also have a board titled “Ornaments to Make,” because I’m a sucker for those sketchy ornaments made of pipe cleaners and popsicle sticks that fall apart over the years.

Oh, and there’s my board of Christmas crafts for mommy {different from the one for children}. This board consists of Hobby Lobby-esque decor for me to DIY all by myself. And there’s the Christmas quilt board. I have a cabinet full of unused Christmas fabric that is screaming for a sewing project. I love Christmas, I love making memories for my kids, I love crafts, I’m addicted to Pinterest…You get the idea. I have a problem.

My Problem

My problem really isn’t the amount of Christmas themed Pinterest boards I have. Okay, maybe I am addicted to Pinterest. But really my problem is the guilt these pins bring me.

You see, I have found myself stuck in a vicious cycle of envy that happens by looking at other mom’s blogs. I see their cute blogs and their perfectly clean and smiling children engaged in imagination-sparking and memory-making activities, and I instantly feel gripped with fear that my kids won’t have the same special memories with me. So I pin the idea. It’s a cute idea. I get visions of sugar plumbs dancing in my head when I picture my three cherubic children seated ’round the dining room table building a fortress out of gingerbread and icing. They smile and giggle and politely pass the gum drops…

Crashing back to earth, Buggy’s usually screaming and bossing at the other two. Miss Priss is whining because she can’t reach the roof, and her obsessive nature insists she MUST work on the roof and nothing else will do. And the baby is screaming and crying, covered head to toe in icing. It’s bad, ya’ll.

But the pins I pin don’t tell the real story of how it will work with my three. The pins just make me feel warm and fuzzy and happy and Christmasy.

Through the Years…

Our family has changed quite a bit over the past three years. Three years ago, I could dive head-first into all of those adorable crafts. But then, three years ago, I didn’t have a Pinterest account to make me feel guilty and horrible for skipping out on something. Last year I had a 3 year old and a newborn. I also had loads of guilt and bad feelings associated with the oh-so-perfect crafts I should have been doing.

I was exhausted, drained, delirious from lack of sleep and stress associated with having our first foster placement, and I beat myself up every single day thinking my son was never ever going to be whole unless he made those stupid handprint ornaments I pinned. Oh, and the coffee filter angels. And the felt Santa hats! And we had to get tickets to see the Polar Express! The list went on and on, and my blood pressure went up and up.

This year, I have three children under the age of 5. Starting on Saturday, we’ll be doing respite for another foster family for several days while they go out of town, so I’ll add a 6 month old to my crew for a little while. And yet, despite this obvious insanity that is my life and passion, yesterday when I ran across those Christmas boards, I felt a tingle of guilt in my stomach.

I want Christmas and the whole season to be perfect for my kids, and Pinterest has convinced me that the only way for it to be perfect is by doing more with them. As much as I can. Activity after activity. Craft after craft. Scripture-based Advents. Nativities made of clothes pins. Christmas movie marathons.

And I realized last night that none of that stuff really matters. My son really doesn’t enjoy crafts that much. He would much rather sit in my lap and read a Christmas book with me. The two little ones have never had a real Christmas, so even the simplest thing is exciting to them. No need for all the extra flash and fun. Picking out her very own stocking from the craft store the other day was enough to send Miss Priss into an excited/overwhelmed fit of happiness. It was enough to make me forget the fact that hers wasn’t handmade.

Stop Pressuring Yourself.

It really is okay to NOT do all of the adorable things you’ve pinned. Pour over them during nap time if you want, but remember my gingerbread house reality? That’s probably yours too. It ain’t pretty. Or fun. And it’s not good fodder for precious memories as a family.

But you know what is good memory fodder? Snuggling in your jammies with a book on the couch. Looking at your Christmas tree together and telling the stories behind each ornament. Looking through family photos of Christmas’s past. Writing letters to Santa. Reading from the book of Luke. Teaching your kids all of your favorite Christmas carols while you fix {a simple} lunch. THAT is worth remembering when they’re old and we’re long gone.

I’ve decided to put away the Pinterest boards for Christmas this year. There won’t be any crafts done. No ornaments made this year. Buggy loves the Elf on the Shelf tradition, so I’m doing that. It’s not something that stresses me out or makes me fret.

Most of all, I’m taking the pressure off myself to make everything look and feel perfect. The picture I shared is from Buggy’s first Christmas. We were so poor. We lived in a one bedroom apartment. His gifts were all either made or used. The wrapping paper didn’t match. In fact, I ran out of wrapping paper and just used newspaper for the rest of the gifts. We didn’t have very many ornaments on our tree, so we used some of the baby’s toys and tied strings around them and hung them from the tree. And that Christmas was absolutely precious to me. It was simple and wonderful.

Each year, I’ve put more and more pressure on myself to match or top that year, and I needed a serious wake up call. The simplicity is what made it so wonderful. So this year, we’re going back to simple. Back before I had Pinterest to stare at and blogs to enviously pour over. I’m not going to feel the pressure and guilt that I felt last year. I’m gonna relax.

I’ll tell ya right now, if you come to my house, don’t expect my gifts to be perfectly matching in parchment paper adorned with beautiful yarn ribbons like the pictures you see pinned on my board. I’m gonna buy that ugly snowman wrapping paper Buggy and Miss Priss went nuts over when they saw it at the Dollar Store the other day. And I’m doing it because it makes them smile, not because it’s picture-perfect or Pinnable.

Taking the pressure off myself this year makes me feel relieved and excited. Now I can focus on what really matters and who really matters. Not pins. Not trying to impress anyone with my craftiness. Just making my kids smile. That’s all I really wanted to do anyway. I just now realized it’s much easier than I thought.

Do you ever struggle with guilt from blogs or Pinterest pictures? Have you put pressure on yourself this Christmas to make it perfect? What steps are you going to take this year to simplify the holidays?

Kat

2 Comments

Filed under Christmas, Holiday Tips, Holidays, Simplify Your Life