Don’t Blink…A Mamma’s Thoughts On The New School Year

 

Here we are. School Year 2020-2021 is well underway. We’re actually about 6 weeks in at this point. For the last couple of years we’ve been doing school year round because it gives our schedule a little more flexibility so we started back in July. We’d given the kids the choice of schooling year round or traditionally and they all voted to continue on this way.

Every year when I take these photos for their annual progress reports and portfolios, they take my breath away. The change in those little faces from one year to the next is astounding. The longer I am a mother, the more the words “Don’t blink” resonate with my soul.

These “little” years are so full and pass by so quickly. With each child it becomes more and more obvious to this Mamma heart that they must be deeply cherished because these little people will be grown so very soon.

So, even if you’re in the trenches of the little years right now, don’t forget to take pictures and cherish these moments. They will be gone before you know it.

Here we are with a 4th grader. A handsome, man-child with a big heart.

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A 2nd grader, full of charm and personality and cute as can be.

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A 4 year old preschooler who makes us laugh so hard we could cry and is just about the happiest and bubbliest little guy I’ve ever known.

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…and this sweet little beauty…she is so full of spunk and love. She melts us all.

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May God continue to grow each of these little souls for HIS glory. May this year continue to foster in them a love for learning. I pray that even when we’re in the middle of the hard days of homeschooling, we will be able to know and feel how blessed we are to be on this journey together. ❤

Slow, Simple & Intentional

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I was going to post an update on the garden, in fact I’d even started writing it multiple times, but each time I start writing, I keep coming back to this topic. It’s been a bit of a personal mission for our family for some time now and we’re still working to figure it all out but it’s the story of the blog. The name and the why.

Scripture is a large part of our family’s life and while we would never claim to live it out flawlessly, it is the driving force behind all that we do. Because of it many will never “understand” us and many will disagree, even ridicule our choices. Nevertheless, we strive as a family to live differently from the world and are learning more about what that looks like each day.

“I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:14

Many years ago, even before our first son was born, I remember reading this scripture from Ecclesiastes. I remember it struck my interest…and digging into it more. King Solomon, was powerful and wise…he’d done it all and seen it all. Much like most of us are striving to become and do. Participating in the daily race for more and success.

He’s speaking of our material pursuits while here on earth and how no matter how hard we work or how much we work…these things are all like chasing after the wind…the wind which cannot be caught. Materially, we can never have enough. We’re always striving for more success, fame and fortune. Big, shiny, flashy, fancy…popular…fast…disposable. These words and many others come to mind when I think about what’s considered desireable today.

This fast paced, make lots of money so you can buy all the things, don’t get your hands dirty, hire it out, eat it out and grow apart lifestyle that has been made the norm is meaningless…a chasing after the wind. A life wasted.

Marriage is all about my needs being met. Children are a nuisance and anything that requires work is undesirable. This is more often than not the norm of today’s world. Even in the church.

We’ve decided that want to live slower…not because we’re better, because we desire more.

…a marriage that is valued and fits into the schedule. Children that we invest in, even when it’s inconvenient and hard…take the time to raise and teach and cherish.

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We want to live simply without the bells and whistles and do as much of it ourselves as we’re able. The cooking the cleaning, the fixing. When did such things become beneath us? There’s dirty, hard work yes, but satisfaction too.

Homemaking and raising children is not a life wasted, it is the ultimate career.

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“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only – and that is to support the ultimate career.” CS Lewis

Living intentionally in terms of devoting our lives to God’s plan no matter where that takes us, a strong marriage that outlasts the disposable nature of our lost world and striving to raise up godly children who love and appreciate the little things that the Lord has blessed them with.

“We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.” Charlotte Mason

So what does that look like for our family, right now in this season of life?

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Family time…as much as we can manage. The six of us…as much time together as possible because these children grow up too fast. Of course work and visits and appointments and such are a part of life but we have chosen to prioritize the time we have together.

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Of course not everyone will agree on this, but for us schooling the kids at home enables us to have even more time together, teaching them about the things that we feel are important and gives them the extra opportunity to slow down and play more while they are little.

“I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.” John Wesley

Get dirty…imagine…have fun. It also enables us to take more time teaching them the things that are harder for them as well as move on faster when they naturally grasp something quicker. Less boredom is a wonderful thing.

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Making meals with love and care at home and learning old skills…less disposable and convenience. Less artificial and more real.

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We’re a work in progress ourselves and we fight the flesh as much as everyone else. We’re on a mission to slow down and live a simple life of chasing God’s good gifts rather than the wind…to take great care of what he has blessed us with.

It’s a journey we’re on as a family.

My hope is that through our journey others will be inspired to join along. That it will leave a positive mark in the world.

 

Silence

It’s been silent for a few weeks around here. Everything is fine and everyone is well, thankfully. Somehow even with social distancing and quarantine and all we have been so busy with school and work and projects that time has simply raced by. Before my unintentional break, I’d been working on multiple posts that I had hoped to get out a while ago (including a sour dough starter tutorial for a friend), but I’d run into issues with the photo editing program I was using and had to upgrade. If you look at the photos from my last post compared to the others…you’ll see what I’m talking about.

After that we just got so busy trying to catch up on other things and adjusting to the current normal. While much of our school and work routine hasn’t changed, our grocery shopping, errands and meals etc have had to be adjusted. It’s certainly a minor inconvenience compared to many peoples circumstances and by no means do I want to come across as complaining. It has however, changed some things significantly and we’re trying our best to figure out the best way to do things affordably with the best possible nutrition etc. It’s simply been a season of adjustment and it’s left us feeling a little…

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This may get long, so brace yourselves. I’ll start with an update on what’s been going on around here and then I’ll end with some things I’m hoping to do here with the blog and such. 🙂

First, I killed my trusty sour dough starter(insert sad face and tears)!! This was such a good starter and made us so much bread and pizza… and I could have cried! Technically I didn’t kill it, I’m pretty positive it was the cheap/bleached flour (all that was left at the store). It was doing wonderful until I started using that flour and then within days of using it my starter was dead. I tried to revive it but it was too far gone. Rest in peace “Sour Sam”, you’ve been good to us.

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Second, I’d wanted to purchase a grain mill for years and just hadn’t…mostly due to the investment, but given the flour shortage, thanks to Covid, I took the leap and ordered one. FINALLY. Naturally EVERYTHING is currently on backorder (I was a little late on acting on my instinct to purchase one and I’m on my second attempt to order one that’ll arrive before 2021).

After research and much debate, we decided to go with this guy. It was either this or the Wondermill but that one was simply too big and bulky for our small kitchen. I’m pretty excited to try out our Nutrimill Harvest.

NutriMill Harvest Grain Mill with Gold Trim

On that note, once this guy gets here, I’ll be starting a new sourdough starter with homeground flour. I’ll keep you posted on all of that.

I’m still planning to create a “How to create your own starter” post and I may even retake all of the photos since I want to wait until I can grind my own grains. I’m curious to see the difference in the starter with the fresh ground flour.

In other news, school is going well mostly. We’re trying to wrap up the school year as far as core subjects go. We started year round schooling with a month long break in June as of this past year so we’re going to be starting the next grade come July. My oldest will be taking his first standardized test in the next couple of weeks (as per Georgia law). We have received it and we’re both a little anxious about it but after having looked it over, I think he’s going to be just fine. There’s that part of me that has to fight off the thoughts of “what if I didn’t do enough for him to prepare for this…what if I’m not a good enough teacher…” but the reality is the test is there to let us know where we stand and it can be a very useful tool in helping me know where he’s excelling and where he needs more work.

Just look at them…lol. Ask me how many times per week I’ve been cleaning their bathroom, go ahead. It may or may not have been part of the reason for the silence.

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We’ve been spending a lot of time outside, as you can probably tell. This is the time of year that makes us just want to play in the garden all day. Warm sun, cool breeze…ahh.

Speaking of garden, we’ve planted one, a relatively small one this year. We’d had a lot of issues with our last one so we wanted to be a little cautious this year and see what we can do. We’re going to have (hopefully), cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, broccolli, cauliflower, radishes, herbs and some flowers for cutting. I’m also trying to get some lettuce and celery going. I’ll keep you posted on how all of that progresses.

Here’s some of the herbs that I started inside. I really love baby plants. ❤

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I told you it’s been busy around here. I never realized how busy quarantine could be! Of course I also never really thought any of us would have experienced quarantine, period.

Coming up next, is a collection of resources and activities that I’ve come across while working on some research for our church’s Cubbies class. In case it interests any of you who may be homeschooling or just looking for activities to do with your little ones this summer I thought it may be a fun post to share since summer is quickly approaching.

Until soon friends. Stay safe and healthy! Also, if you’re at all interested in Young Living Essential Oils, feel free to visit my new Instagram page dedicated to YLEO! Look for it at @wholelivingwithoils! 🙂

Of course also remember to check out my regular Instagram @oursimplefamilyliving!

Much love,

Nadine

The Most Important Work

I fell behind this week. On pretty much everything. Some weeks are just like that. Try as I may, nothing seems to get done. It was hard. I don’t like chaos and disorder and frankly, with a large-ish family, you really do have to stay on top of everything 24/7. One day missed can lead to an oversized snowball of craziness. Even so, I find myself sitting back more and more and just taking them in. The sweet little voices, the silly little quirks, muddy pants (and faces). I know it’s going to be over in the blink of an eye. Home needs to be an organized, peaceful and cozy place of refuge for our families, which requires much wok from us. but it also must be a place where our children feel loved, respected and safe. It’s so easy to let all of the “important” work consume us, but we musn’t forget about the most important work the LORD has given us. To all the mamma’s out there struggling to get it all done, I wish you the best week full of the most important work!!!

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Day in the Life of a Homeschool Mom & Homemaker

Today we’re going to do just a fun sneak peek into an ordinary day. Josh was away on a business trip this particular Friday so things were slightly off from our usual routine but overall this is what most Fridays look like around our home. We do have school Fridays, but it’s our “catch up day”. Monday through Thursday is when we schedule the bulk of the schoolwork and then Friday we can take a more relaxed approach to school, work on housework that needs to be done, grocery shop, appointments, if the weather is nice, we can go outside and play in the afternoon, etc.

I pretty much took photos all throughout the day and the lighting was terrible so the photos aren’t the best quality. They do the job of telling the story though so we’ll just have to look past that.

This particular morning I ended up getting a bit of a late start, the kids and I didn’t really get “moving” until about 8:30. First thing I always do once I get up is get coffee going (that’s very important). That’s the cardinal cup Jaden got me for Christmas. He knows I love my birds and my coffee! Sweet boy!

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It was a rainy and cold Friday!

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Next I got started on breakfast for the kids. I made them a bowl of my vanilla, cinnamon and brown sugar old fashioned oats. This is one of their favorite meals that in a pinch (like at the end of the biweekly grocery haul when you’re scrambling for meal options), I can feed them anytime of the day without any complaints. I always have these ingredients on hand, it’s easy and fast!

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While I worked on breakfast the boys played with legos.

Once breakfast was ready, everyone sat down to eat (and read…Jaden is my little bookworm).

This little girly had some teeth pop up!! See it?

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After breakfast the boys get ready for the day (this is also usually when I like to get myself ready.

After that we work on chores…look at that mess! A certain someone had some dried mud caked to his boots and when he put them on INSIDE to take out the recycling…well…there was some extra housework for me, lol. Apparently I need to be more specific about where to stomp the mud off!

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I also took a few minutes to work on laundry while Evi played and the boys finished chores.

Then around 10:30 we started school. This day we only had group work to do. We’d completed all of the core subjects like spelling and math earlier in the week.

We were continuing on with our bird unit study. We combined nature study and art for a little project.

We had a few other things to do for school and then we had lunch break.

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Because we were running behind all morning and it was already about 1:30 by this point, we opted for our “snack lunch” rather than what we had on the menu. This is a favorite quick meal at lunch for my kids.

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I started grading (I’m a little behind at the moment) but then had to get back to other things like prepping for our Friday night pizza).

The sour dough crust has to sit for a while so I like to do it several hours before I need to use it.

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After that we read aloud and then the kids played with legos some more while they waited on me to finish some chores around the house.

Evi girl kept her mamma company through it all. She’s so close to crawling!

After this point, it’s all a blurr honestly, lol. I remember finishing up some laundry (mostly putting it away). I kind of lost track of time but I think it was likely around 6:30 or so. I went ahead and started the pizza at that point and let the boys start watching “Little House on the Prairie” episodes. That’s been our Friday night family activity lately. They love it.

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I ended up making one half veggie/half pepperoni pizza and one cheese pizza since Josh wasn’t there to have any. Usually I make three or four pizzas and then we can have leftovers for lunch on Saturdays.

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We ate our pizza on the couch and watched a couple more episodes before the boys went to bed and then Evi and I cleaned the kitchen and fed the sour dough starter. We jokingly refer to it as “sour Sam” since it requires food and water like the rest of our pets. 🙂

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After that, we went to bed too. We were all ready to just get to Saturday to have Daddy back home with us! We kind of like him! ❤

I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into a normal day for us. I’ve always enjoyed seeing what a normal day looks like for other moms. There’s always something to learn from each other and sometimes it’s nice to just see that we all have things like laundry piles and muddy kids boots and dinner messes!

 

 

DIY Pinecone Bird Feeder

OSFL_0023We are a bird watching family. We get a pretty decent group of birds that stop by multiple times a day just outside of our living room windows. Since their presence brings us a great deal of enjoyment, I’m always looking for inexpensive and creative ways to feed our little feathered visitors. This bird feeder idea I’m sharing today, happens to be a very simple one to make! You’re likely to have most, if not all, of the items needed on hand already. In case you’re looking for some fun winter crafts to do with the kids, it also makes for a great project for little helpers!

Here’s what you’ll need:

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  • Pinecones
  • Ribbon
  • Hot glue
  • scissors
  • knife
  • bowls/plates
  • all natural peanut butter
  • bird seed

How to make the bird feeder:

Start by cutting yourself the ribbon to hang the birdfeeder from the branch. Cut it however long or short you prefer as long as it’s long enough to fit over the branch. I kept mine fairly short.

Side note: You’ll want to make sure you hang your feeder somewhere that has a good spot for the birds to perch. I didn’t have mine in a great spot at first and had to relocate it before they were able to use it properly.

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Next, glue your ribbon ends together and then glue it to the top of the pinecone.

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Now you’ll want to spread the peanut butter over the entire pinecone.

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Either sprinkle the bird seed onto the pinecone or roll it on a large plate with bird seed.

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Lastly, hang the bird feeder and enjoy the view.  🙂

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From start to finish, this project takes only a few minutes to make. It’s simple, frugal and fun!

Now the clean up with the kids…let’s just say they had fun and we had a trail of evidence from the table out the door and all the way to the tree.

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Stay tuned for more DIY projects, recipes, natural home ideas and more!

 

 

 

5 Simple & Frugal Christmas Decorating Tips

Today I want to share some of my favorite decorating ideas for creating a festive home on a small budget with 5 simple tips.

  1. Christmas lights: 

Lights add so much coziness to a space! Even if you don’t have time and money for anything else, just adding a few lights can make a big difference in your home. In our early years of marriage before I had accumulated Christmas decorations, lights were pretty much all I had! Of course this was almost 17 years ago and we didn’t have Pinterest to show us all the lovely  & inexpensive DIY decorations! How did we make it without Pinterest?!

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2. Christmas fabrics & patterns:

The right fabrics and patterns also play a large role in the coziness of your home at Christmas time. Burlap is one of my favorites to have around the house for the holiday season. This year we added Burlap ribbon to the tree as well as the table runner. One of my favorite combinations is the rustic/natural burlap and sparkly gold accents or the warmth of the golden glow from the Christmas lights. Plad is another of my favorites because of the large variety in colors and patterns available. Combinig the more masculine plads with softer crocheted pieces works very well.

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3. DIY Garlands & Greenery:

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Store bought garlands can be crazy expensive! The thing is, the right garland in the right place looks pretty amazing! Whether you prefer the good old simple green garlands or something with more color, both can easily be made at home for a fraction of the cost. Depending on where you live…if there’s any kind of evergreen trees in your yard, it may not cost you anything for a simple green garland for a fire place, stair case or shelves.

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Other garlands you could try for a pop of color are these cranberry garlands. The beautiful red pairs so well with white and it costs very little to make.

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These also go well with the green Christmas tree and pair well with popcorn. Here’s a garland from last year’s tree:

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For some additional color, add in a dried orange garland in a window. These look beautiful when the sunlight streams in the window.

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4. DIY snowflakes:

Another very inexpensive and easy craft you can try are these snowflakes. They can be a fun family activity as well for the holiday season. They look beautiful in the window or on a fireplace.

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The popsicle snowflakes also make wonderful diy ornament gifts. You can add a small photo of your child in the center along with small sparkly jewel stickers and the year, for a sweet keepsake.

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5. DIY ornaments:

Ornaments aren’t necessarily super costly if you’re buying one or two a year, but when you’re first starting out as a new husband and wife with not a single ornament to hang on a tree and very little money (that was us)…that all adds up fast when you think about how many ornaments it takes to fill up a tree!

My favorite thing to do is purchase one special “fancy” ornament each year to add to our collection and then make most of them ourselves. We use salt dough and apple cinnamon ornaments mostly and occasionally we’ll add in cranberry or dried oranges as well. I’ve also used pinecones to make ornaments before. Another thing I love about making diy ornaments is the fact that our tree is very different from year to year and as we look back on the photos, there’s fond memories of what we did this year versus the year before and the year before that.

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A few extra thoughts on decorations:

Dollar store and Goodwill:

Don’t forget to check places like Goodwill or the Dollar store if you’re looking for inexpensive decorations! It’s a great place to start if you’re just starting out because sometimes you may find an entire collection of glass balls for a few dollars.

Hobby Lobby 50% off sales or 40% off coupons:

I love Hobby Lobby! It’s my “Target”. I’ve had people tell me it’s too expensive but I honestly don’t think it is, even on a small budget. The key with Hobby Lobby is patience and coupons or sales! I’m not sure if I’ve ever paid full price for anything since I found out about their 40% off coupon! Also, if you pay close attention to their sales, the way they work…their sale items change on a regular basis, you’ll have metal art on sale this week…frames the next time….paper goods after that.

Just before Christmas they had Christmas decor on sale 50% off and we were able to get our “fancier” annual ornament for a couple of dollars.

Hand me downs:

This may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I actually really love (some) hand me downs. I have a love of old things so anything pretty and vintage I will gladly use if I have space for it.

I’ve gotten an old adorable wooden rocking horse ornament this way. It’s one of my favorite! This is also why I typically look at Goodwill or other thrift stores for decorations because I thoroughly enjoy the old items.

Multi-season items like candle holders, vases, etc:

If you’re looking for ways to decorate on a tight budget, use items that can work with your style through the rest of the year as well. Wooden pices, metal buckets, glass or ceramic vases. These pieces can easily transition from one season to the next.

The little metal bucket sitting on our table with the greenery looks just as nice with some wheat for Thanksgiving or flowers in the spring and summer.

Simple and inexpensive decorations are just as pretty as the pricier store bought decor and they only require a little extra preparation. Additionally, they can make for wonderful annual family traditions that will help you create lasting memories!

Also, don’t forget to check out my other Christmas craft ideas here:

Mini wreaths:

https://oursimplefamilyliving.wordpress.com/2019/12/08/mini-wreath-tutorial/ 

Dried orange garland:

https://oursimplefamilyliving.wordpress.com/2019/12/14/dried-orange-garland-tutorial/

 

Christmas Tree Decorating Traditions

Today we’re talking about a super fun family time! Picking out and decorating the Christmas tree! This is such a wonderful family activity that costs very little once you have your initial cost of ornaments and lights out of the way. It creates lasting memories for your family, especially your kids! We started this tradition when our oldest was still a baby (he’s 9 now). It’s changed some here and there over the years as we’ve gone through different seasons but the tradition, the anticipation, the process and the memories created by it are something we hold dearly and we’ll continue on with it as long as we’re able to.

When we choose our tree picking day, we make a day of it. We pick the tree, buy a special ornament or decoration for that year, bring it home, decorate it from start to finish and pull out all the other decorations. We get done as much as we can that day and we celebrate. We have cookies & hot chocolate (like a special, made from scratch, sprinkles and marshmallows…the works). We listen to Christmas music and watch Christmas movies.

Keep in mind that some years will look a little different depending on what your current season looks like but I’m telling you, this is such a sweet tradition! Our kids get so excited to do this every year! This year they had a count down written down on the school white board to keep track of how many days before we’d get our tree! My prayer is that these memories will stick with them well into their parenting years and that their children will also look forward to it with bright and eager eyes!

So what does this day usually look like for us? This year, we got a little extra excited and decided to get the tree the day before Thanksgiving (it’s usually our “black friday” tradition because we don’t really do black friday. To be honest the day before Thanksgiving was not the best day for it and if we decide to do it earlier next year I’m voting for the weekend before Thanksgiving.

We got up that morning and drove around pricing out the different trees in our area. Unfortunately we don’t have any tree farms close to us (that we’ve found anyway) so we usually end up at either Lowes or Home Depot. We’ve found Lowes to have the lowest price on trees in our area usually so that’s where we usually end up.

Then we went home and we ate lunch. After that, we got the tree prepped and pulled out all of the decorations from the attic. The boys and I got the cookies started and the hot chocolate. The boys worked on some Christmas themed crafts, and the rest of the day was just spent decorating and doing all things Christmas! I’ll leave you with some fun photos from our day.

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The 2019 Tree!!

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Getting it all set up.

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Christmas crafts! This one was a super cute gingerbread man ornament set. Simple and fun!

Helping with the hot chocolate and cookies.

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Enjoying their masterpiece!

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Admiring the hard work.

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Here they are posing for Christmas cards in front of their fully decorated tree!

What are some of your most favorite, inexpensive and simple Christmas traditions?

Advent Traditions

As we prepare for Christ’s coming, I’ll be kicking off a new series all about Christmas. Specifically, a simple Christmas. I hope you’ll join me over the next four weeks and that you’ll find something to inspire you.

Here are a few simple ways we celebrate Advent here in our home:

First up, is a book by one of my very favorite Authors, Ann Voskamp, “The Greatest Gift”. It is a beautifully written book that is perfect for daily family reading. It’s short enough for the little ones to sit through and includes scripture and sound biblical teaching. Perfect for families with kids of all ages. You can find it in most book stores, as well as Amazon.

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Next, is the lighting of our Advent candles. Each night as we begin to read, starting with the first Sunday of Advent, we light our candle. Mine isn’t a traditional “Advent wreath” but this little antique candle holder is beautiful and simple and works perfectly for us. Here’s a tip for keeping Advent (and Christmas in general) simple, use what you already have and love. This little candle holder is something we always have around. Sometimes we add greenery to it, sometimes we simply place greenery by it. This year it sits on our faux fireplace next to a garland made of Leyland Cypress clippings from our yard. It’s simple, frugal and beautiful.

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What are some of your family’s favorite simple Advent traditions?

Join me later this week for a simple and frugal Christmas DIY tutorial!

Happy Advent Season!