It Takes a Village

By: Ashley Whisonant
it takes a village to raise a child

Most of us have heard the saying, “It takes a village.” I never really understood the full ramifications until the last year or so.

Raising kids in today’s world really does take a village. Surrounding yourself with people that love your kids and want to help is the only way I could make it through motherhood.

Take for instance, the girlfriends in my neighborhood. We are there to help watch each other’s little ones while someone else finishes dinner or homework with an older sibling. We are each other’s sounding board for aliments and aches, husband rants, and work success stories. We laugh, cheer each other on, and work to help each other’s littles.

What about my boys’ preschool teachers? Thankfully they can stand to be with twelve 2 year olds because this momma certainly can’t. They help me and help my boys to be independent. From potty training to letter sounds, we are allies in this kid raising thing.

Maybe your village is an online community of women that encourage and help you. That is awesome. Wherever you can find it, get yourself a village. Without one, it is a lonely road.

New Christmas Traditions

By: Rachel Sircy

My husband and daughter and I are in Ohio visiting my family for the holidays. On the way up we listened to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, read by Patrick Stewart. I’ve seen several different movie versions of A Christmas Carol and my husband and I listen to the book on CD every Christmas that we drive up to Ohio. Needless to say, it’s a story that I know a-christmas-carolpretty well, and I’m pretty sure that anyone reading this blog post will be equally familiar with it. Most years that we watch the movies or listen to the book read aloud, I think of it as just one of those quintessential Christmas stories, one of those stories that’s told so often that Scrooge and Humbug and the Spirit of Christmas have become bywords in our culture.

For some reason as we listened to it this time, the story’s bizarre nature struck me like a blow to the head. It’s a Christmas horror story, really. I mean, the parts about ghosts wailing and rattling their chains is fairly reminiscent of hell. I started to wonder why on earth Dickens decided to tell a story about Christmas in this way, and why the public ate it up in the way that they did. How did this weird little spook story become such an inseparable part of our modern idea of Christmas?

According to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge) Dickens wanted to use people’s awakened interested in Christmas (in his day Christmas traditions were changing; Christmas trees were becoming popular as were Christmas cards) to promote awareness of poverty and social injustice. So, he created a strange story about a tight-fisted misanthrope being scared straight just in time for him to spread some Christmas cheer.

I have said all of the above to say that I have been thinking about the new Christmas tradition that Dickens created, and that has got me to thinking about creating new Christmas traditions of my own. Since my daughter – I’ll call her HRH (short for Her Royal Highness) – was born, I have been trying to find ways to simplify the holidays, honor the memories of loved ones, and teach HRH the true “reason for the season.” Here are three new traditions, two I have tried and one I want to try next year.

  1. Homemade Christmas Gifts: One way that I have been trying to simplify Christmas is to make each child on my list a gift rather than just buying a billion toys that will get thrown into the corner to collect dust after the child plays with them for a week. I want each child in my family circle to have something meaningful, something that Mommy or Aunt Rachel made them that they can keep and pass down. The work that goes into a homemade gift is personal. I think about each person as I make the gift, and that thought is part of the gift. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely buy a few toys as well, but my main gifts are almost always something I have made.
  2. Honoring Loved Ones: My husband’s grandmother passed away in 2012, and her passing was keenly felt by all the family. This year I wanted to revive a tradition that Grandma Sircy started during her lifetime – making a personalized ornament for each member of the family. I began this year with a simple project, wrapping styrofoam balls with fabric, yarn or tulle. I suppose this falls in the same category as the homemade gifts, but this particular homemade gift is really a tribute to Grandma Sircy – something to remind us of her.
  3. Making the story of Christmas come alive for children: My brother and sister-in-law found a Christmas activity on Pinterest that I absolutely love, Joseph and Mary on the Shelf. The idea behind this activity is basically the same idea behind Elf on the Shelf: you make it seem like toys (or Nativity set pieces) are moving around the house while the children are asleep. However, this particular version of this activity comes with the added bonus of teaching children the Christmas story. My brother and sister-in-law partially set up their Nativity scene, putting up the stable and adding the animals to it, BUT they left out Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, the wise men and the shepherds. They began the month of December by reading their children the Christmas story from the Bible and that night and each night afterward, the children have to find Mary and Joseph who are somewhere in the house, making their way toward the stable in Bethlehem. One night, Mary and Joseph were found on the kitchen counter “eating” some of the kids’ chicken nuggets to sustain them for their continued journey. Mary and Joseph arrived in the stable on Christmas Eve and Jesus, the shepherds and wise men were waiting for them on Christmas morning.

So, these are my new Christmas traditions, ones that I hope will bring the spirit and the reason for this holiday season close to my family. If anyone has any traditions that they have created for their family, or that their parents created for them, I would love a comment about it!!

Suggested Reading: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

Make a Joyful Noise

By: Jeanne Reynolds

christmas carols

My husband has a great singing voice. As a teenager, he even turned down an opportunity to go pro with a barbershop group in favor of going to college. (Did I say he has good judgment, too?) My voice isn’t as strong, but I have a good ear for pitch and sing capably in the alto section in my church choir.

So this time of year, as carols and old favorites fill the airwaves, it’s not unusual for us to sing along with the radio — or even a capella — as we drive over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house or wherever. And we make a pretty good duet, if I do say so myself … with one exception.

No, it’s not “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” We can nail that, and don’t even get us started on the kids’ version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with the funny asides between lines.

It’s “The First Noel.” Yep, plain ole kindergarten-easy “The First Noel.” Not the whole song, though, just the chorus:

“NOEL, NOEL, NOEL, NOEL!” 

The louder, the more off-key, the more obnoxious, the better. It’s a family joke with a story behind it that I’ve long forgotten, which doesn’t make it any less funny … at least to us. In fact, we can barely get out the first two “Noel”s before we’re laughing so hard we can’t sing. Others along for the ride and hearing this, ahem, performance for the first time are somewhere between bewildered and stunned, and I’m sure would leap from the car if it weren’t moving.

This is the stuff of holiday memories! Our unholy chorus holds a place of honor in my heart, right alongside my famous gingerbread men, the hush of candlelight at Christmas Eve service and the hunt for bows the cats have stolen off beautifully (until then) wrapped packages under the tree. No, it’s not the pitch-perfect Norman Rockwell moments I’ll always remember. Rather, it’s the quirky, unique, only-family-and-your-best-friends-could-appreciate-it times that make holidays memorable. I’ll bet — I hope — you have some, too.

We haven’t had a sing-along yet this season, but I’m sure it’s coming. Don’t know when — Christmas is full of surprises, right? So now you have fair warning. If you’re around us and hear the opening notes of “The First Noel,” leave quickly — or better, yet, join in!

The Season of Love

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Another great story about the kindness of others and how 20 months out from the aneurysm, it still flows freely. (I never get tired of these, and I hope you won’t either!)

prayer wallOver the weekend, I saw a friend and her family at the House of Pancakes in Forest Acres. She told me that she and a group of nine others were headed to Israel this week, and asked if I would like to give her a prayer for her to place in the Western Wall (also known as the Prayer Wall.) It nearly brought me to tears. We quickly grabbed a coloring sheet, and I tore off a small section on which I wrote a short prayer of thanks for my recovery, friends and wonderful support group. At 6:19 a.m. Israel time, she sent a picture and let me know it was there.

Over a million notes are placed each year in what has become a custom, not only for tourists, but also for high-profile dignitaries visiting Israel from abroad. The notes are collected twice a year and buried on the nearby Mount of Olives.

This reinforces my belief in the goodness of people, and every time something like this happens, my heart swells.

Happy Holidays to you and your family, and best wishes for a grand 2017!

Want That Last-Minute Gift?

By: Stacy Thompson

So if you are anything like me, you have absolutely no time and no inclination to visit a mall, store or shopping venue at this time of year — but you want more than anything to give a perfect gift or something useful to those you love. Well, I can’t promise the perfect gift, but I can give you a guide to making, yes, making, a personalized, comfy and cozy present for anyone on your list. I give you…the No Sew Throw.

no sew throwThere are many videos on YouTube that can help you on your quest (and I recommend searching them before you start) but here are some tips to get you started:

  • Buy 2 yards each of patterned and solid fleece (or 1 1/2 if you want a smaller throw) from your local craft store (Michael’s, Joanne’s, Hobby Lobby, etc.).
  • Pick out your patterned fleece first and buy the solid to match. I had a great time with this and took some really wild patterned fleece and toned it down with solids. You could also use two solids, but with different types of fleece — ultra-soft and heavier fleece may work well together.
  • Trim the fleece and pin together, right sides out. Make sure the fabric matches up and pin together to keep it from bunching or overlapping.
  • Cut out corners — Usually 3 x 3 or 4 x 4 squares on each corner. (See the photo.)
  • Cut 1-inch-wide strips.
  • Then, there are a few different ways to go with the ties.
    • Knotted ties
      • Cut 4 x 4 squares at each corner.
      • Cut 4 inch long, 1-inch-wide strips.
      • Tie the two fabrics together, twice – make sure the knots are secure
    • Threaded tie
      • Cut 3 x 3 squares at each corner.
      • Cut 3-inch-long, 1-inch-wide strips.
      • Cut 1/8 inch hole through both strips near the top of the strip, on each strip.
      • Feed bottom strip through the hole in the upper strip.
      • Feed bottom strip through the hole in the upper strip. (You can feed through one more time if you want to—it depends on how you want your throw to look.)
    • Braided tie.
      • Cut 3 x 3 squares at each corner.
      • Cut 3-inch-long, 1-inch-wide strips.
      • Cut 1/8 inch hole through both strips in the middle of the strip, on each strip.
      • Starting in the middle of one side, feed the right side strips through the left side strips. Continue to feed the right side through the left side until completion.

Finish your throw with either knots or by sewing in buttons or other ties — and then, sit back and enjoy the smiles! Free to contact me (stacyt11@hotmail.com) if you need some help.

Happy Holidays everyone — and I look forward to seeing you all in 2017!!

O’ (Half) Christmas Tree

By: Chaunte McClure

Grandma always said put the Christmas tree away before New Year’s Day, but there was really never a conversation about when to put it up. Some families decorate their tree Thanksgiving night or the following weekend. There are enthusiastic Christmas lovers who pull it out of the attic and make it pretty before Thanksgiving. In my book, that’s too soon. Half Christmas TreeThis is probably my third year putting up a tree and like the past two years, I’ve had good intentions of having it on display all of December. Again, I’ve failed.

This year is the first time I’ve had two trees and I’ve been looking forward to adorning them with the ornaments my friend gave me. I came home Friday night, after leaving work and stopping by a home decor store, ready to at least decorate one tree. I started with the no-assembly-required, pre-lit I bought after Christmas last year, and to my disappointment, after inserting the plug into the outlet, the tree did not completely light up. I finally figured out that a bulb on top was broken and I replaced it. Voila! The top of the tree lit up. I thought, now, what about the lower part? I searched and searched for broken bulbs and hidden plugs that I might have overlooked, but to no avail. I called the store where I purchased it and they allowed me to return it. I really liked the faux fir and I especially loved the price I paid for it during the after-Christmas sale. After lugging it back to the store in the cold and rain Sunday night, the friendly associate searched online for a replacement comparable to the damaged tree because that style was discontinued. She found what she thought was similar to it and showed it to me for approval. She placed the order and told me it would be delivered in three to five business days. I was happy until I looked at the receipt a few hours after returning home. It read: Pre-lit artificial half tree! I gasped. Half tree? Oh no! I realized that the store was closed and it was too late to call customer service. (In case you’re wondering: A half tree is flat on the back side and can be placed in a corner or against a wall. I didn’t even know there was such thing.)

I called customer service at 9:03 Monday morning but because the order was in process, I couldn’t cancel it. My options were to not accept the delivery or return the package to the store after receiving it. I was disappointed, but then I decided I was going to make this half tree work. It was created with small spaces in mind — perfect for our modest abode.

I found a spot for my half tree and, one-by-one, decked it out with an assortment of blue, silver, turquoise, and white ornaments just 15 days before Christmas.

The other tree finally made it out of the box on Sunday and now I’m ready to have a merry little Christmas.

Finding Quiet Moments

By: Ashley Whisonant 

As I have written before, being a grown up is tough. I don’t care if you are a mom, dad, single, married, or none of the above! Worrying about bills, work, social life, family, and balancing it all… I have tried hard to find quiet moments to center myself and remember the important things in life.

christmasMaking time to take care for myself has now become more of a priority. I make sure to work out at least three times a week in the morning while my family sleeps. Thankfully, my neighbor convinced me to try an all-female work out group, FiA. We meet in the mornings, varying between 5:00 and 5:15, to work out and get better together. Those moments pushing myself and enjoying fellowship with other ladies has made me a better wife, mother, and employee at work.

Remembering the important part of the holiday season isn’t always easy. I get no less than fifty emails a day about a Christmas special or discount on something. Is that really what it is about this month? To refocus myself, my husband and I decided to make a commitment to going to church every Sunday. We are working hard to teach our boys of thinking of others this season. We found a quiet night after cleaning up from dinner last night. While listening to Christmas music, we wrapped presents as family. Did it take longer with a five and two year old? You betcha. Was it worth the extra time? Without a doubt, yes.

Work hard to find quiet moments this holiday season. In what ways do you find these special, quiet moments?