Have you ever felt like the mountains of Christmas gifts under your tree is all just a little too much? Are you stressed about holiday shopping, running from store to store for the current “it” items for your children? In the past I know I have spent way too much time, money, and my own sanity buying things my girls didn’t even need just so they would have lots of pretty things under the tree on Christmas morning.
This year we have implemented a few restrictions on our gift giving, and it has certainly made this part of the holidays more enjoyable and stress-free. For each of the girls we are giving them something they want, something they need, something they will wear, and something they will read. We are also giving them an educational gift, and this year it is something they will share but in the future it could be something different for each of them. My husband and I are also giving each other the same: need, want, wear, read; and we did each make a wish list to help each other out 🙂 Each of our girls also have a stocking that we will fill with a few small needs, as well as a few small wants.
In our country, and in the area that we live in specifically, there is so much excess. We are confronted with it on a daily basis where we live, and I have watched as the children around me have become so entitled it is downright scary…my own girls included. That is one of the many reason we had to stop and take a hard look at the way we are living our lives, and make some much needed changes in the direction we were going. Limiting Christmas gifts is just one way we are combating the excess in our lives.
How are you combating the culture of excess this holiday season? What is your family doing to keep your children grounded and living in reality?
On Thanksgiving day, on our way to my parents’ house for our Thanksgiving lunch, we stopped by Cook Children’s Medical Center in downtown Fort Worth to drop off eight Smile Boxes. We had put together the boxes with the help of six of my oldest’s friends at her ninth birthday party a couple months ago. We all left with the best feeling!
Emily’s Smile Boxes was created by a local girl who saw a need, and decided to do something about it. It is a fantastic charity, helping children in local hospitals. My girls always have two birthday parties each year, one for family (we have a large family) and one for friends, and I had the idea to ask for donations for Smile Boxes at her “friends” birthday party in lieu of gifts. When I asked my daughter what she thought about the idea, she said let’s do it. At the party all the girls put together a box using the items they had donated, and they had fun while doing good. Before you feel sorry for my daughter for having to give up her birthday presents, she still got more than she needed at her family birthday party! At nine years old, I think she is plenty old enough to start learning about giving instead of always getting, and thinking of other before herself. I plan to continue this idea for future birthdays!
I make my girl’s lunches four out of five school days a week, and allow them to purchase lunch in the school cafeteria once a week (down from twice a week last year). Honestly, most weeks they forget to ask about purchasing their lunch (and I don’t remind them), so I end up making lunch for them all five days which I highly prefer given that the lunches at school are mostly unhealthy. Here are a few of the lunches I have packed for them in the past couple months. All ingredients are organic unless otherwise noted. Both girls (ages 9 and 5) get the same thing.
Carrots, olives, homemade hummus, dried mango pieces, and brown rice
Homemade whole wheat crepes, pure maple syrup, bluberries
Applesauce, carrots, quinoa, Hail Merry mini chocolate tart (I found these at Costco!)
Leftover roast bites, raw cheddar cheese, crackers, salad with olive oil, fruit leather
Peanut butter and cream cheese on honey whole wheat bread, raw cashews with dark chocolate chips, purple bell pepper, whole milk yogurt with frozen blackberries
Back in August I took the girls to a local movie theater, for a special showing of March of the Penguins. I found the film very interesting, but I am a sucker for documentaries. The film kept the attention of my nine year old, but my five year old was bored after awhile.
After the movie we headed home, and I had them work on a few penguin themed worksheets. My five year old did the worksheets on the left, and my nine year old the worksheets on the right.
We have not gone on a home field trip since school started at the end of August, our schedule has been too hectic. I am hoping to get back into the swing of things after the holidays, because I feel these trips are so important!
I first read about the idea of Backwards Dinner Night over at Keeper of the Home, and I knew my girls would love it. I didn’t tell them anything until right before dinner, when I told everyone to go turn their shirts backward because things were about to get a little crazy. 🙂
As you can see our plates were upside down, silverware turned sideways, and dinner started with dessert. I don’t usually serve several courses when it is just us, but it made this activity more fun. We had dessert, then the main course, then an appetizer. The girls had a blast, and us adults had fun too!
Today for lunch my girls both get Whole Wheat Skillet Pizza with local pastured ground beef and black olives (left-over from dinner the night before), cubed local organic watermelon, and raw organic cashews.
I am making a concerted effort this year to make lunches for my two school girls that are fun, and offer a variety of nutrients to get them through their day in a healthy way. I am prepping almost everything the night before, which gives me more time to be creative. Both girls, 4th grade and Kindergarten, get the same lunch which keeps things simple for me.
Today’s lunch included homemade Whole Wheat Waffles served plain (leftover from dinner the night before), an organic unsweetened Apple Sauce cup, raw almonds, and a macaroon.
I had intended to write about summer reading programs at the beginning of summer, but what can I say…time got away from me! 🙂 In June I read through this post about some of the free programs available this summer, and in the end decided to have my daughters participate in the program that Half Price Books stores were offering.
We kept a daily log (that we printed off the Half Price Books website) of each girl’s reading minutes. The girls had to read a minimum of 300 minutes (or be read to, for the younger kids like my Kindergartener) during the month of June, and again during the month of July. Each month we turned in their reading logs and they received a $5 gift certificate to Half Price Books.
My 8 year old read over twice the required reading minutes, and we read to my 5 year old over 400 minutes each month. My 8 year old was able to purchase three books and two bookmarks with the gift certificates she earned, and my 5 year old purchased two books and two bookmarks.
I think it was a successful program, and we were happy with the outcome! Did your children participate in any summer reading programs this year? What were your favorites?
We recently spent a week in Oklahoma visiting my Grandmother, and I took advantage of the different scenery and planned our home-study field trip for July to take place there. We visited the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, and it turned out to be a fantastic choice for a field trip.
It was a little bright outside 🙂
The Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art — Gilcrease Museum — opened in Tulsa on May 3, 1949. Collector and oilman Thomas Gilcrease (1890-1962) created this private museum.
Gilcrease Museum is one of the country’s best facilities for the preservation and study of American art and history. The museum’s charm, beauty and art collections draw thousands of visitors from around the world to the Osage hills for a glimpse into the past. Gilcrease Museum houses the world’s largest, most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West. The museum also offers an unparalleled collection of Native American art and artifacts, as well as historical manuscripts, documents and maps.
The museum, and gardens and grounds surrounding it, took several hours to go through. We planned a little poorly and arrived at 11:00, and by 2:00 we were about to pass out from hunger (having not eaten since breakfast) and for that reason we went through the last part of the museum very quickly. I wish we had arrived an hour earlier and then we would have had plenty of time to look at everything.
After lunch I had the girls do the worksheets I had printed at home on education.com, and brought with us on our trip. It pays to plan ahead!
In June I took my girls to the Dallas Arboretum for our home-study field trip, and my mom went with us. I had pre-purchased our tickets through Groupon for a great deal, only $6 per person instead of the regular price of $15. We did have to pay for parking in addition to that, which was $10.
We had never been to the Arboretum, and aside from the summer temperatures it was really nice. I would like to go back in the fall or spring, when we can enjoy the weather more! There was a lot to look at, including a little village where I took this picture, and it took us several hours to get through most of it. Toward the end we were so hot and tired, we just went as fast as we could!
I brought along worksheets from education.com for the girls to do while we ate lunch.