Crown of Thorns

Since the girls can’t really give something up for P1020019Lent, we are instead focusing on doing things this religious season.  (Personally I’ve always preferred this approach anyways.)  Our Advent activity of adding straw to Jesus’s manager was such a hit in our house that I loved the idea of doing something similar this Lent.  I made this Crown of Thorns and during the Lenten season we will remove a thorn every time someone does a good deed.  Our goal is to remove all the thorns before Easter.

P1020016To make our crown, I purchased a small grapevine wreath at Michaels.  I then stuck toothpicks throughout it to make the thorns.  We used about 100, I just to a package and stuck a ton in there.  We are setting aside each of the “thorns” we pull out and will use them to make a cross towards the end of the season.  (The added benefit of this is that it keeps the girls from playing with the toothpicks they pull out.)

What kind of deeds count?  In our home it is P1020021anything that eases someone’s burden or brightens his day, which is exactly what we would want to offer Christ in his journey to Calvary.  It could be as simple as helping with dinner or sending a card to a grandparent.

As a kid I always thought Lent was one of the worse times of the year.  It’s only now as an adult that I can enjoy Lent as a time of focus and reflection to renew my faith.  While this is also a time of sacrifice and prayer, I want my girls to have a positive experience with Lent so that later they may be able to appreciate this time of year.

Our Blessings Jar

You might have seen gratitude or memory jars making the rounds on Facebook or pinterest.  When I first saw them, I loved the idea and thought it was a great way to start the new year.  If you aren’t familiar with them, some families write down things they are grateful for during the year to add to their jar while others keep track of their favorite memories during the year.  Then at the end of the year you can open it and read everything and reflect on the year.

Our family decided that our happy moments together are also blessings P1010800that we are grateful for so we will be adding both to our jar.  We had a bunch of index cards so we are using those right now to write down things we are grateful for or happy moments.  Since the girls can’t write, they are drawing pictures and then we are writing for them.

P1010799Since this can easily be one of those things that you are excited about in January and forget to continue by February, we are keeping our jar out where the family can see it.  I also have put on our calendar to write cards twice a month.  Now, I know you can’t schedule memories, but we can schedule  time to reflect on our blessings and what has happened lately in our life.  We also are asking our houseguests to fill out a card when they come to visit.

To further help P1010629us remember throughout the year to add to our jar, we made ours bright and colorful.  I decoupaged one that I picked up at Michaels with tissue paper squares and Mod Podge.  Then I added the lettering using vinyl and my Cricut.  Really any container will do–jewelery box, old jar, shoebox.  For us, we wanted something that was a good size and had a lid that sealed.

I’m really looking forward to keeping our blessings jar this year.  Besides being a great way to reflect on our happy memories and all we have been blessed with, the scrapbooker in me is absolutely thrilled to have the year documented like this.

If you  have never decoupaged, or as I call it Mod Podged, before, you really should.  Fun and easy, it’s a great thing to have in your bag of tricks.  You can pretty much Mod Podge anything onto anything.  You just paint on your decoupage glue down–I obviously use Mod Podge–and then place your item that your using on it and then paint over it again with the Mod Podge.  And don’t worry, it dries clear.  For some really creative ideas check out Mod Podge Rocks! by Amy Anderson.

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Good Deeds for Jesus

It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday season and start to miss the real focus.  So, to get ready for the coming of Jesus we have been adding straw to his manger.  Each time the girls do a good deed this Advent season, they add a piece of staw (yellow yarn) to the empty manger.  We want Jesus to have a nice, cozy place to sleep so we want to add lots of straw.

In our family Nativity the Jesus is attached to the manger so I made a manger out of cardstock.  I just colored it to look like wood and then folded/taped it together.  I’ve included the pattern I used to make it, which you can easily adjust to fit the size you need.

Click Here for Manger Template

On Christmas Day when we add Jesus to the Nativity scene, I will just put the yellow yarn on the stable floor under the ceramic Jesus.

The girls are loving adding straw to the manger.  And we really like the focus being on good deeds for Jesus as opposed to avoiding bad behavior for Santa.  After all, Jesus is the reason for the season!

Homemade Advent Calendar

Advent started this past Sunday.  I had meant to have this finished and posted by then but life got in the way.  Anyway, this year I wanted to do more to celebrate Advent with the girls as we prepare for the coming Christmas season.  Towards that goal I made our own Advent calendar with activities to celebrate the season.

Supplies: cardstock (red and green), glue, stickers, twine, clothespins

This was super simple.  I cut red cardstock into rectangles (mine were 3.5″ by 5″).  I debated using the colors of the Advent candles, but decided to wait until the girls were older to add in that aspect.  So the tabs were red and then I cut the numbers out of green using my Cricut.  You could just as easily use number stickers or write them by hand.

On the back of each one I wrote a message or activity for the day.  Each day we will turn over a card to see what it says.  Keep in mind what events you already have scheduled.  Here are some of the messages I included:

  • Advent is when we get ready for Jesus’ birthday.
  • God loves you so much!  He is always with you!
  • Buy toys for those who won’t get any at Christmas.
  • Say a special prayer for someone who needs extra help.
  • Go to church with your family.
  • Help make Christmas presents today.
  • Be extra nice to your sister today.
  • Learn a new Christmas carol today.
  • Help feed and take care of Hero. (Our dog, this is a chore they haven’t done before).
  • Draw a special Christmas picture.
  • Do a Christmas craft today.
  • Tell a family member the story of Jesus and the first Christmas.
  • Bake Christmas cookies today.
  • (For the Immaculate Conception) Say a special prayer to Mary today.
  • (On Christmas Eve) Happy Birthday Jesus!  Sing Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus!

To included the girls in this activity I had them decorate the cards with stickers and then help me hang the pieces up.  At first I liked the plain cards better but I knew that the girls would like being a part of it and this would make it more meaningful.  Now I enjoy the colorful cards so much that I think we’ll have to add stickers each day to the backsides of the cards as we read them.  🙂

Happy Advent!

Tree of Thanksgiving

Here is our Tree of Thanksgiving we made.  As a family we wrote things we are thankful for on each leaf and hung them on the tree.  It is now sitting in the middle of our kitchen table and when we say grace we read the leaves and thank God for all of our blessings.  This is a project I loved from beginning to end.  Obviously the part I love best is giving thanks, but on a crafty note, I also really like how our tree came out.

Supplies: posterboard (for the tree), paint, cardstock (for the leaves), construction paper (to make template), ribbon or raffia, hot glue, scissors, hole punch, marker

 

To make the tree you first want to draw out a stencil of the basic tree design.  You want to have a bit of a dip in the center piece. (Don’t be thrown off by all the orange paper.  The stencil and the tree really are different pieces; we just have a ton of orange paper).

Use your stencil to make two copies of the tree on posterboard or foamboard, depending on what you prefer.  I used orange posterboard since that’s what we had on hand and I thought it would work well painting it brown.  You could certainly skip the painting step and just go with brown board.  Different colors will give you different looks.

You need to make a cut in the top of one and the bottom of the other.  And you will want the cuts to match up.  I just went to the halfway point on each.  It might have worked between if I cut only down 1/3 from the top on one and up 2/3 from the bottom on the other.

I then reinforced the pieces with hot glue so the cuts weren’t quite as important.  You just need the pieces to fit together evenly so that it will stand up.

Cut additional branches as necessary.  I added four branches, one for each middle space.

Then hot glue the additional branches in.

Paint the tree.  You just need to be careful because if it gets too wet the whole thing can fall apart.  We just painted it lightly and quickly.  Just know that as you paint the branch pieces might start to curl.  I just made sure to quickly paint the other side.  Then I used a hair dryer to help it dry a little before propping it up.  You could certainly skip the painting step.  However, I kind of liked how it made the branches curl up and change shape a little.  It also kept all the branches from all being lined up straight.

For the leaves I used my cricut to cut them out of cardstock.  You could also just as easily draw your own or search a stencil online.  And then I used raffia for the ribbon hangers.

Then we just hung the leaves on the tree, reading each as we went along.  Like I said before we keep it in the middle of the table and refer to it when we say grace.

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