Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 4

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 4

Yesterday, while we were visiting Brett’s mall, we swung by a toy store to let the kids pick out toys to donate to the Salvation Army’s Toys for Kids campaign. And today, for our Christmas activity, we dropped them off at the collection bin outside Eva’s preschool.

[This is Theo, regretting his decision to give the toys away 😂.]

We do this every year with the kids…and it’s not easy for them to go into a toy store and leave without a toy for themselves. I just kept telling my kids, “You will get your gifts at Christmas and these toys are for other kids to open at Christmas, so you can all have something special Christmas morning.”

It might seem cruel, but it is so important to me that my kids don’t think of Christmas as just a day when they get gifts. I am constantly telling them that Christmas is just as much about spending time with family and friends and giving gifts to other people.

We have also been working very hard on patience with Evangeline, so she understands now that she has to be patient and wait for Christmas to get her gifts. And she and Theo both have such sweet spirits and they want to give toys to other children, so it went pretty well this year. I hope that in the future, my kids can embrace the spirit of giving and look forward to the time when they get to make some other child’s Christmas magical.

🎁 🎁 🎁

Karis

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 3

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 3

Today the kids and I went to Brett’s store to decorate his office and the back room for the holidays. It wasn’t exactly easy to make the place look festive, with big racks of clothes and employee lockers as a backdrop, but we did our best.

The kids put ornaments on two small trees and we strung a few strands of lights and hung a big wreath.

The real excitement was just visiting daddy at work. The kids were so excited, they woke up talking about it and cried when we had to leave. [And we actually visit his work pretty frequently.]

This was the first time JoElle has been to his store since she started walking. She LOVED exploring and just tottered back and forth down the hallway the whole time.

♥️ ♥️ ♥️

Karis

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 2

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 2

Today, the kids and I made Danish woven heart ornaments to send to their cousins and friends with their Christmas cards.

This past summer, I read a wonderful book called The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking.

[By the end of this short book, I had fallen in love with Scandinavian culture.]

In the book, I found this handy guide for making paper woven hearts, which is a Christmas tradition in Denmark:

I knew the moment I read about this simple and beautiful Danish tradition, that we would have to make them as one of our 25 Days of Christmas Activities.

They were tough for my 2 and 4-year-olds to do alone, but they did surprisingly well once they learned the pattern.

We made a bunch.

I’m sure they don’t look as good as the ones in Denmark, but I’m proud of our first attempt.

Then, to keep with the Danish theme, we baked Danish butter cookies to take to Brett’s work tomorrow – but between Brett and the kids, they won’t make it to tomorrow.

Karis

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 1

Carlson Countdown to Christmas 2018: Dec 1

Our annual December tradition of 25 Days of Christmas Activities began today.

[We usually put up the tree and decorate on the first, but I worked in the morning and Brett will be working until midnight, so we did our decorating yesterday.]

To kick things off, the kids and I created a countdown to Christmas paper chain. It’s hanging on our chalkboard and currently reaches the floor. Each day we will take a link off the chain so the kids can get a visual of how many days left until Christmas.

[This is super handy because I have to convince them every morning that it’s not Christmas yet.]

We also made snowmen ornaments for the tree. [They were leftover crafts from last year.]

The kids watched A Charlie Brown Christmas and we brought out our collection of Christmas books and read a lot of beloved holiday stories that we haven’t seen in a year.

And now I’m addressing our Christmas cards.

I debated whether I should send Christmas cards this year, because of going “green” and all that, but it is a tradition that I love.

At least they aren’t printed on photo paper so they can be recycled… 🤷‍♀️

Happy December, ya’ll!!!

🎄 🎄 🎄

Karis

Our Gratitude Tree

Our Gratitude Tree

I love November. I love the fall. I love the cool weather. I love the leaves. I love Thanksgiving.

Of course, I think we should be grateful all year, and I think it’s about a lot more than just saying something your thankful for at Thanksgiving dinner. Gratitude is really a lifestyle that results in contentment and generosity and fulfillment. At least, that’s what it’s done for me.

My chalkboard now says “Let our lives be full of thanks and giving,” which has become the theme for our entire year as we focused on what we have rather than what we don’t have and tried to give more rather than get more.

It’s been transformative.

I’m always trying to teach my kids the importance of gratitude, and this month we began what I hope will be an annual November tradition: the gratitude tree.

The kids and I talk about things we are grateful for each morning over breakfast and I write them all down and cut them out of construction paper and we attach them to the tree. Our table sits right next to this sliding door – which happened to be the only free space we had for the tree – and the kids have loved watching the tree accumulate leaves.

Each day I pick a theme to help them think of things. We started with people we are grateful for, then foods, then things we own, then things outside, etc. It’s been a really fun exercise and they are very thoughtful about their choices.

Today we talked about places we are thankful that we get to visit. My son said “visiting daddy at work” and “the beach” and my daughter said “Ikea” 😂 and “going to the movies with Auntie Paula.”

I think I am going to make these gratitude talks a permanent addition to our mornings – just without the leaves. We are running out of room on our tree already!

🍁 🍁 🍁

Karis

Simple Pleasures: Playing in the Snow

Simple Pleasures: Playing in the Snow

My two older kids were up at 6:30am screaming excitedly about the snow on the ground and convinced it was Christmas morning no matter how many times I told them that it wasn’t. After they hunted for their Christmas gifts and found none, they were pulling on their snow pants and snow boots and begging me to HURRY, as if the snow might melt in the next two minutes. I helped them with some zippers and scarves and also lent them each one of my gloves because they couldn’t find any and then let them loose in the backyard.

It wasn’t even 7am yet.

[Good ol’ Daylight Savings.]

And of course, it wasn’t long before they were calling for me to help them build a snowman. So I pulled boots on [over my sweatpants] and put on a coat and used a pair of thick socks for gloves [gotta do what you gotta do, you know] and went outside to play in the snow.

Being a parent is so much fun because it gives you full permission to embrace your inner child and get excited about the things you used to love as a kid, like trick-or-treating, raking big piles of leaves to jump in, driving to see the Christmas lights, and playing in the snow.

Sometime between age 16 and having kids of my own I started hating the snow. It was cold. It was slippery. It cause traffic and delays and blah blah blah.

Man, what the heck was I thinking?!

Snow is awesome!

We built a snowman. The snow was perfect for packing and we did it the old-fashioned way: by rolling snowballs around the yard [occasionally rebuilding them when Daisy destroyed them] until they were the right size [or we got sick of restarting because of Daisy – which is why they are so small].

We threw snowballs at Daisy. We caught snowflakes on our tongues. The kids made snow angels, but I was wearing sweatpants so I wasn’t about to lie down in the snow [I haven’t embraced my inner child quite to that extent yet]. When we finally came inside, the kids had hot chocolate before we even had breakfast.

It was a special morning. The first snowfall of the season.

Reminded me of how much I used to love the snow and…honestly, I think it’s growing on me again.

❄️ ❄️ ❄️

Karis

Simple Living in October

Simple Living in October

October was a whirlwind – probably the busiest month of our entire year. But that, I realized, is why my simple living goals were so important. [I shared my list of goals for the month in this post.] I was able to prioritize the things that matter most to me and not get lost in the to-do lists, and schedules, and must-dos of the month.

It started with my mother visiting and Brett and I running the Chicago marathon and then taking five days to recover. Then I took the kids for a day trip south to visit my sister and then it was Brett’s birthday and then our lengthy travels [36 hours of driving and 12 hours of flying] which ultimately got us to London and back just in time for Halloween and our last CSA pick up of the season.

On top of those things, we had workers replacing the roof and siding of our home, tearing out and replacing drywall and ripping up the carpet in our basement – because of a tree that fell on our house in August.

BUT in the midst of the madness, I was able to make a lot of my simple living goals happen and enjoyed the time with my kids and the time outdoors very much.

My goals were:

1. Spend time with my kids outdoors for an hour every day. We explored several new parks and a nature play area in our park district.

We walked all over Saint Charles for Scarecrow Fest.

We didn’t let rain or cold keep us from the pumpkin fest at the zoo.

We hiked the forest preserve behind our home.

And we rode bikes in the driveway and climbed the trees in our yard and looked for bugs and worms and played with Daisy…

We spent a lot of time outside and it was great.

Next time, though, I won’t put a time requirement on it. Sometimes it is good enough to just get out for a few minutes. Sometimes I had to give myself an A for effort. Just the emphasis on getting outside every day is great – the number of hours really doesn’t matter.

2. Read 30 minutes every day. I read for a half hour a day up until our trip. I finished Slow (the inspiration for my simple living goals).

I also finished There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather.

About a week before the trip, I traded my book for a London guide so I could plan our trip…

…but I was still reading a lot, so that was great.

3. Play with my kids when they ask. I definitely played a lot. I didn’t get nearly as much housework done as I normally do, but I had a lot of fun with the kids and I know that is more important than a clean and tidy house.

4. Create something every day. I created a lot in the kitchen, but that’s about it. I colored with the kids a few times and painted once, but didn’t create as much as I would have liked.

5. Leave my phone behind. I used the Screen Time feature on my iPhone to limit my “social” time on my phone to twenty minutes. I don’t typically do a lot of social stuff anyway because I’m not on social media, but I do apparently spend a fair amount of time on Pinterest. 🤷‍♀️

I also set “downtime” from 2-7pm every day which only allowed me to send/receive text messages and phone calls during that time. I also made my phone screen black and white – which was really weird but did seem to make my phone less appealing.

Screen Time also allows you to see how much time you spend on your phone, how many times you pick up your phone and how many notifications you receive.

I was so excited to find this feature because I’ve been wanting a dumb phone – and now it seems I can [almost] make my phone a dumb phone.

But the biggest change I made was turning off ALL notifications. I still keep forgetting that I have to go back into my text app to see if I’ve received any texts. My response time is MUCH MUCH slower, but I kind of like the idea of checking messages when I have the time and not having notifications constantly alerting me of some new thing to check on my phone.

If you feel like your phone controls you – rather than the other way around – I recommend trying some of these ideas.

Overall, the month was good. I’m looking forward to a much slower November, as we have nothing on the agenda besides preschool, a little work for me, and spending the month contemplating all the ways we are incredibly blessed in this life.

Happy November!

Karis