Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chime In: "Homemade" for the Holidays

This year, our family has done a variety of homemade holiday projects... everything from gifts to ornaments for the tree. I thought I would showcase some of our creations here and then invite readers to comment with some of their own ideas.

One thing our team does at Christmas-time is a handmade gift exchange. You can read all about (and see pictures of) our first one here on Teague's blog.

This year, Stephen made a Christmas tea towel for Jordan. Green handprints made the tree, and Alex followed with red thumbprints for the ornaments. I don't have a picture of the finished product, but these are pictures Rusty took while we were making it:

Thank goodness for non-toxic fabric paint!

Alex made (with help) some jar cookie mixes and jar hot chocolate mix for Nathan. He also made chocolate-dipped plastic spoons for stirring the hot chocolate -- yummy! There are lots of great websites with ideas for gifts in a jar. Here is one of my favorites.

Rusty made an adorable train puzzle for Biruk. He cut the pieces with a scroll saw, sanded them all, and painted them himself. The puzzle has the alphabet painted on one side, and numbers up to 25 on the other side. Super cute and educational too!

I made a visual journal using magazine scraps for Katie. Again, I don't have pictures of the one I made, but there are lots of ideas and inspiration here on one of my favorite blogs.

Other projects have included making little jars of "Snowman Soup," a.k.a. hot chocolate. Alex helped a lot with this, and had a great time! I saved all my baby food jars for several weeks because they are the perfect size for packaging individual servings of hot chocolate mix, but I've also seen people use zip-lock baggies. We gave these out to all the staff at Hillsboro, and some will probably find their way into stockings on Christmas morning, too. They would also make great teacher/mailman/garbage man/paper boy gifts!

The label reads:
"When the weather outside is frightful,
Snowman Soup can be delightful.
Add hot water and sip it slow.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

Finally, I have started a tradition with Alex of making one kind of handmade ornament for the tree every year. Last year, we made pinecone ornaments. This year, it was cinnamon-applesauce ornaments. Recipe and lots of great ideas here. I was really pleased with how these turned out. The "dough" was very easy to work with; they look cute hanging on the tree; and house smelled amazing while they were in the oven baking! I figure if we continue this tradition through the years, my kids will be able to leave home with a collection of "their ornaments" someday (if they are even interested in keeping them, being boys and all).

One of our new ornaments hanging on the tree.

Okay, readers... it's time for you to chime in. Share some of your favorite homemade holiday projects and traditions! I'm always looking for new ideas, so you might find me adopting some of them in years to come.

Merry Christmas, everyone!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Life at Eight Months

Just before his eight-month birthday, Stephen achieved two very important milestones: crawling on all fours, and his first tooth! Both happened while we were in Austin, Texas for a team meeting. In fact, we now have a theory on the Angola Team that our kids wait until we're all together to learn a new talent. Eliana Reese both crawled and took her first steps at team meetings, and now Stephen is apparently following her example. Must be all that extra support and love the kiddos feel from their aunts and uncles! (Or maybe Stephen was just trying to keep up with the four older kids!)

During his eighth month, Stephen also celebrated his first Thanksgiving. We went to Huntsville to celebrate with Rusty's cousin Linda and her family, and Stephen was loved on by many, many second cousins! He tried sweet potato casserole for the first time, decided it was his new favorite food, and then proceeded to eat more than I thought was possible for such a little person. I finally stopped feeding him, much to his very great disappointment, because I began to be afraid he might actually pop!
Look out world, here I come!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Marcums Visit Nashville

Last month, we enjoyed a visit from my sister and her family, who are missionaries in Bolivia. Highlights included a morning at The Monkey's Treehouse, one of our recent Nashville finds, as well as a mini-reunion with our (Julie's and my) childhood friends, the "Reppart sisters," Rebekah and Rachel. We are all married now, and there are eight kids among the four of us! Everyone came over and spent a day at our house, where the kids enjoyed playing together, and we women tried to catch up on the past several years in between refereeing children and tending to their needs. That night, our wonderful husbands agreed to watch the kids so we could go out for some scrumptious Indian food and uninterrupted conversation.

Here are some pictures of our time with the Marcum family and the Reppart/Stephens girls' reunion (more pictures here, on Rebekah's blog):

Michaela and Alex in the bath

Story-time with Aunt Julie, Michaela, and Eliana

Aunt Julie, Jana, and Stephen

Julie, Rebekah, Rachel, and me with our eight beautiful children

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bathtime with Two

Now that Stephen is old enough to sit on his own, I am finding that bathing both boys together is more fun. It is also a lot of work for me, as I attempt to run interference between Alex and his brother. "We do not pour water on our brother's head," and "Please don't push Stephen over in the water," and "No big splashes, please," are the phrases I find myself repeating over and over again. However, the boys seem to really enjoy it, so on most nights, into the tub together they go. The picture below isn't the greatest since you can't really see Stephen in his bath chair. (Usually, I bathe him in the bath chair and then sit him up to play and splash.)

One of the things we love the most about the house we are living in right now is the deep, two-person jacuzzi bathtub in the master bedroom. It reminds us of the bathtub in our house in Japan! Some nights, when we have extra time, Rusty will take a bath with both boys in the big bathtub. Alex thinks this is great fun and wishes we could do it every night!

Monday, December 07, 2009

I Need Africa More than Africa Needs Me

My teammate Teague shared this video with me. In the midst of all my conflicting emotions about moving to Angola, it really touched my heart. I hope in watching it, you'll be able to see Africa from a different perspective than how it's generally portrayed by the news media.