Twelve Gifts of Advent: Waiting for the Promised One

The word Advent comes from the Latin word that means “coming.” Traditionally, Advent is the season of waiting and preparing for the One who is coming. And as amazing as the Christmas story of the babe in the manger is, its meaning becomes a whole lot deeper when we understand the story that came first.

The story of creation and fall, and of the long waiting for the coming of the promised one.

I originally had the idea for this advent devotional a few years ago when we were doing resurrection eggs at Easter time. If you’ve never heard of resurrection eggs, they are Easter eggs in a carton, each with a small object inside. Each object helps tell a part of the Easter story. This simple way of telling the story was fantastic. It was hands on learning for my young son and so simple for me. Once the eggs were assembled, all we had to do each day was open one up and read the corresponding scripture.

This devotional works much in the same way. Each day, you open a gift. Inside the gift is an object that helps to tell the story of Advent – waiting for the coming of the promised one. The objects really help in remembering the story! Do all twelve days in a row, or spread them throughout the season – it’s up to you!

**CLICK HERE TO SKIP RIGHT TO THE eBOOK**

Here’s a video I made that shows everything I put in our boxes…

 

How to Make the Advent Boxes

Most of the items for the boxes can be found around your house, but for ones you may need to purchase I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. All you do is wrap up the object and add a tag with the corresponding Bible verse to be read.

DAY ONE – CREATION 

Genesis 1

Globe ball

DAY TWO – FALL

Genesis 3

Tree branch

DAY THREE – PROMISE

Genesis 3:15

Rainbow

DAY FOUR – PEOPLE

Genesis 12:1-3

People figurines

DAY FIVE – MESSENGERS

Isaiah 6:8

Envelope

DAY SIX – LIGHT

Isaiah 9:2-7

Battery operated twinkle lights

DAY SEVEN – SAVIOR

Isaiah 53

Life saver candy

DAY EIGHT – SILENCE

Malachi 4:5-6

Earplugs

DAY NINE – ANGEL

Luke 1:5-25

Angel ornament

DAY TEN – GIRL

Luke 1:26-33

Girl figurine

DAY ELEVEN – BABY

Luke 2:1-21

Baby doll

DAY TWELVE – CROSS

John 3:16; 19:17-18

Cross made from two sticks

Want to make this even easier?

I’ve put together an awesome resource for you! It’s everything you need to make these gift boxes a fun Advent tradition for your family.

Introducing.. Twelve Gifts of Advent: Waiting for the Promised One – a hands on family Bible study!

For only $5, you get more ideas and instructions, a devotional guide for each day, printable tags, and more!

Here’s an example of day one…

The devotional goes through each day, explaining the significance and making it really easy for you to lead your family to a fuller understanding of everything that came before the baby in the manger. There’s even printable images for you to use if you don’t have time to get physical objects together for the gift boxes!

And I wanted to make it super affordable for you, so for only 5 bucks, it’s a no brainer!

Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes – Boys ages 2-14

“Oooo! Star Wars!”

“I like this bat and ball!”

“Mom, this toy is really cool! I want one.”

Operation Christmas Child is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. 

Gently, consistently, I remind my son that these gifts are not for him. These gifts are for someone who may have never received a gift before.

We finish our shopping and return home to pack our boxes. I shared what we packed last year and thought it would be fun to share again!

what-we-packed-in-our-occ-shoeboxes

This year K wanted to pack 4 boxes (because he is four years old, of course!). We kept it simple and did all boy boxes – a 2-4 box, two 5-9 boxes, and a 10-14 box.

We spread out all our goodies and got to packing…

Operation Christmas Child

First, we divided everything into the appropriate categories.

Operation Christmas Child

Think it’s all going to fit?!

 

Boy 10-14

Operation Christmas Child

In this box we packed a:

Operation Christmas Child

All snug!

Boy 5-9

Operation Christmas Child

In this box we packed a:

  • Soccer ball
  • Pump
  • Marbles and canvas bag
  • Stuffed animal
  • Assortment of farm animal figures
  • Toothbrush, case, and toothpaste
  • Cup
  • Two pairs of socks
  • Hot wheels car
  • Soap and washcloth
  • Rubber ball
  • Crayons
  • Pencils
  • Harmonica
  • Plastic container
  • Twine
  • Pad of paper

Boy 5-9

Boy 5-9

Operation Christmas Child

In this box we packed a:

  • Soccer ball and pump
  • Marbles and canvas bag
  • Cup
  • Stuffed animal
  • Two rubber balls
  • Assortment of farm animal figurines
  • Soap and washcloth
  • Twine
  • Pencils
  • Socks
  • Notepad
  • Hot wheels car
  • T-Shirt (I realized after I took the picture that the size was a 4-5, so I switched it to the 2-4 box)

Operation Christmas Child

 

Boy 2-4

Operation Christmas Child

In this box we packed a:

  • Sticker set
  • Puzzle
  • Light up ball
  • Washcloth and soap
  • Toothbrush, holder, and toothpaste
  • Plastic container
  • Harmonica
  • Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Cup
  • Card game
  • Note pad
  • Farm animal figurines
  • Hot wheels toy
  • Stuffed animal
  • T-shirt

This box seemed a little empty, so I threw a few other random things in there later.

Operation Christmas Child

We used clear plastic shoeboxes for the first time this year. One thing I noticed was that it made it really easy to see empty spots you could fill better – so I’ll have to remember that for next year!

 

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Are you looking for a fun way to be intentional as you pack your OCC boxes with your kids? Check out my FREE OCC Mini devotional! To gain access to this free resource and many more just enter your e-mail below!

Ready to start your free devotional?

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Need more help packing a shoebox? Check out this ultimate round-up of great ideas!

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Did you pack a shoebox this year?

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Feeling stressed about the holidays? Make this your new mantra.

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Thanksgiving countdowns, new recipes, fun activities, and perfectly decorated houses.

As I scroll through my Instagram feed, I can feel my chest begin to tighten. The thoughts start playing in my head…

You really should do that.

That’s a great idea.

Why aren’t you doing that?

I wish I had time for that.

I try to muster up plans to execute some of these great ideas I see beautifully displayed before me. Maybe I can squeeze the prep in after bed time. Perhaps we can do the activities quickly after breakfast.

My heart beats faster – but it’s not from excitement. It’s from panic. 

I’m in a season of life right now where I just don’t have time for a lot of extra activities. Honestly, I’m struggling to just get the essentials done. The thought of planning out and executing holiday activities, no matter how amazing they are, makes me feel a bit queasy.

Not exactly how you want to feel headed into a season of joy.

So, if the sight all all the holiday ideas, activities, and stuff is making you feel like crawling into a hole for the next two months. I want to share with you my favorite holiday mantra:

That’s a fun idea. Maybe next year.

Repeat after me: Maybe. Next. Year.

Feeling Stressed About the Holidays? Make this your mantra.

Why This Works

No one likes to feel like they are missing out. Whether it’s getting your house to look just the way you want or doing fun activities with your kids to guide them through the meaning of the season, we want to embrace all the excitement of the season.

However, reality says we only have so many hours in the day. Whether you have impending work deadlines, volunteer responsibilities, or spend your day keeping small children alive you are going to have to say no to some things. Maybe even a lot of things.

Fun things.

Good things.

How do you do that without feeling majorly bummed out?

That’s a fun idea. Maybe next year.

The mantra works for two reasons:

  1. You recognize that it is a fun idea. You don’t roll your eyes or say “pphhht, who has time for that?” You don’t devalue the hard work someone else put into their idea. It’s cool and you admit it. Let others be themselves without feeling like you need to be them too.
  2. You hold onto the hope that – if you still want to – you have the option to do it in the future. You don’t need to throw yourself a pity party because you can’t do allthethings. Screenshot it, pin it, or file it away and revisit it next year. I ogled Truth in the Tinsel for a few years before we were able to do it. And this year it probably won’t make the cut again. However, next year we will revisit and hopefully do it again!

Next time you find yourself pining over a sweet idea, try the mantra and see how you feel.

Stressed about the holidays? Make this your mantra.

 

Do This Instead of Doing It All

So, you can’t do it all. Then, what do you do?

First, check your focus. What truly matters the most during the holiday season?

I conducted a survey last year asking people what their favorite Christmas memory was. The results were staggering. Almost every single person’s memories revolved around relationships. 

Focus your attention and effort on the relationships around you. Make sure you don’t forget about your relationship with the One whom the season revolves around either.

Then, once you’ve got your focus right, here’s what you can do:

Pick one thing. 

Not one thing for now, one thing for tomorrow, and one thing for next week. Just one thing for now.

Just focus on that one thing.

Maybe you want to be intentional with discipling your kids during the holidays, maybe you really want to make your house feel cozy and festive, maybe you just really want to make time for a nap. Pick one thing and do it.

Once you’ve finished that one thing, revisit and pick another if you feel up to it.

Stressed about the holidays? Make this your mantra.

Give it a Spin

I really hope you give this a try! It might not help with all your holiday stressors (navigating family get-togethers anyone?), but I think it will truly help relieve the pressure of holiday perfection we so often feel.

As I continue my Instagram scrolling, I repeat my mantra a few more times. I put my phone away and attend to the life in front me.

My chest loosens. I take a deep breath.

I think our holidays are going to be just perfect as they are. 

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“What was your favorite Christmas memory from childhood?” {60 People Reflect Back on Their Childhood Christmases)

This year as I made chocolate covered pretzels with my four year old son, memories of my own childhood Christmases came flooding back to me. I was transported back to my own small hands dipping pretzels and sprinkling on the red and green sprinkles. It brought back fond memories of setting up the Christmas tree with the toy train buzzing around it, wrapping presents for the family, and watching Christmas movies in our new jammies.

Yes, gifts were always a part of Christmas, but when I looked back those were not my biggest or most favorite memories. As I pondered this it got me thinking and it led me to wonder what others thought as they looked back on their childhood Christmases.

So, I asked this question:

What was your favorite Christmas memory from childhood?

Want to know the answers I found? It might surprise you!

What's Your Favorite Christmas Memory From Your Childhood? -- Find out what these 60 people had to say!

I asked 60 people from varying walks of life this simple question. The results were amazing, heartwarming, and even a little tear inducing.

Here are just some of the responses…

Putting on a Christmas play with my siblings/cousins. We practiced in front of my aunts and uncles before performing in front of my aunts and uncles. Year-to-year, our roles never changed. They saw us do this at least 40 times in the 90s. – Brenda

my whole family making christmas cookies .. batches and batches … all types … and then spending weeks eating them … – Elizabeth

Decorating the tree while watching Charlie Brown Christmas and drinking hot chocolate (a tradition my kids also look forward to and love!) – Holly

Waking up early a few days before Christmas and sitting next to the tree with my sister, whispering about how excited we were. – Heather

Caroling to shut-ins around our rural area with church group. Taking turns with siblings opening little gifts each night of advent. Mom’s secret numbered gift list, no one knew which gifts were theirs (5 siblings), we took turns opening after reading the record of Jesus’ birth. – Betty

My mom transforming our home with her decorations, getting to set up the carolers on the church steps, getting a baby CHRISTmas tree when I was 5 and going to my Grandparents with ALL the family there. Loved it. – Scott

Did you notice a theme? There are many more responses with lovely answers just like these. What did people think of first as they reflected back upon their childhood Christmases? I’ll give you one clue – it definitely wasn’t the gifts they received.

While reading through the responses I received, four trends stuck out to me.

Making a memorable Christmas 2

1. Time with Family

Whether it was the cozy feeling of just your family on Christmas morning or the fun craziness of getting to see your extended family – being with family was the number one commonality in the responses I received.

It’s not just the fun things we do that make Christmas memories – it’s the people we do them with. It’s baking cookies with mom, eating lunch at Grandpa and Grandma’s house, and having special play time with cousins and siblings. It’s the people we care about that make the holidays so special.

I woke up at an insane hour at my grandparents house. My parents and grandmother were still asleep. My grandfather sat in the floor with me at their house and played with a racecar track and set that Santa brought me. It’s THE only time I ever remember playing with my grandfather. – Janeen

Going to my grandparent’s house on Christmas Day for Christmas lunch. It was the only time I ever saw my extended family and we did a gift exchange. It made me feel like I belonged somewhere – Arabah

Christmas is my brothers birthday I remember waking up super early and my brother would already be out in the living room. I would sit next to him on the chair and watch the twinkling christmas lights and we would sing happy birthday together. He is 8 years older than me. – Darla

Making a memorable Christmas 3

2. Generosity Coming to Life

Multiple responses were centered around an act of giving. This wasn’t surprising. That joyful feeling you get when you give to others is a memory that sticks with you. On the other end of this was the responders who mentioned someone giving to them to be one of their lasting memories. It was the generosity of another, given to them when they were in need, that gave them a life long memory.

One year a friend of my mom’s husband had lost his job and they were scraping to put food on the table with no $$ for gifts. My mom talked to my brothers and me and we put together a basket of gifts and food for them. We dropped it off and ran away. They knew it was us but it is still a great memory. – Tammy

A couple women showed up at our door to give us a tree because they heard we didn’t have one. We were sworn to secrecy to not let anyone know we couldn’t afford a tree. How they found out, I don’t know. It meant the world to me that someone knew and cared. -Kymberlie

Making a memorable Christmas 1

3. Simple Christmas Traditions

Decorating the tree. Baking cookies. Looking at the lights. There were no mentions of Pinterest perfect Christmases, just simple traditions done with the ones they loved.

Christmas morning with my dad making breakfast, my mom hung out with us drinking her coffee while we played with our stocking goodies. And decorating Christmas cookies! -Malynda

Baking. My favorite memory was baking with my mom and my kids always tell me that their favorite holiday tradition is all the cookies we bake. – Heidi

Decorating the Christmas tree. It was always so much fun pulling the ornaments out of the box and hearing the stories behind them. -Rachel

Making a memorable Christmas 4

4. Meaningful Gifts

Although the vast majority of people did not mention getting gifts as their favorite Christmas memory, there were some that did. However, as I read their responses, I noticed something interesting. The reason the gift was so memorable, wasn’t because of the gift itself, but the meaning behind it. It wasn’t the price of the gift or how many gifts there were under the tree – it was the special thought behind the gift, the person it came from, or the memories surrounding it.

My favorite Christmas memory was actually a gift I got twice. When I was about 11 I really really wanted a birthstone ring for Christmas. My parents thought maybe I wasn’t old enough for actual jewelry but took a chance anyway. I wore it all the time. And then one day I lost it. I was so sure I only ever wore it or kept it in the box but I couldn’t find the box either. It was just gone. I was heartbroken about it. Several years later there was a small flood in the basement when the water heater broke. My parents sorting through cardboard boxes to see what was ruined found the ring box. And yes the ring was inside. They saved it until that Christmas and I got it all over again. I don’t remember what other presents I got that year but that ring was like a real life example of Luke 15:9. And how God will restore to us what was lost. -Kat

Apparently I was one of those that would snoop, shake and even unwrap/rewrap presents (I could get the tape off without tearing the paper). One year I wanted a stuffed animal. It would have been obvious so my parents put silverware and bricks in the box along with some other things. I think the box was even double wrapped. Every time I shook it or moved it they would get this look on their face that I had broken something. Needless to say I was quite surprised to open my very large box to find the stuffed dog that I really wanted. -Kim

The year our parents got us a puppy. Every year on Christmas eve, we’d go drive around and look at lights. This particular year, we drove a lot longer and to a rural area with very few lights. My dad claimed to be lost and went to knock on someone’s door “for directions” , and came back with a puppy. (It was all planned out.) -Beth

What's Your Favorite Christmas Memory From Your Childhood? -- Find out what these 60 people had to say!

Christmas Memories that Matter

So, this Christmas I want to challenge you (and myself!) to put a little less emphasis on the gifts and the Pinterest perfect moments. And instead, squeeze your kids little tighter, let them be spoiled by their grandparents a little longer, and don’t worry about getting frosting and sprinkles all over the kitchen.

My kids are only 4 and 7 months and I can already feel the years slipping through my fingers. I know that it will be like a blink of an eye before they are all grown up and these moments are only memories. I want to spend as much time as I can doing the things that count.

Are you looking for a simple and meaningful Christ-Centered Christmas tradition? Try Names of Jesus Advent Ornaments! Get the free printable here.

Now I’d love to hear! What’s your favorite Christmas memory from childhood?

Advent Snacks (A Truth in the Tinsel Supplement) Days 19-24

Advent Snacks for Kids

In order to extend the learning while doing Truth in the Tinsel, I wanted to come up with a simple supplement. After doing some brainstorming, I came up with Advent Snacks! They are simple snacks, themed after each day in of Truth in the Tinsel, that you can easily make with stuff you probably already have lying around.

These snacks are most definitely not food art! While I think those crazy awesome snacks and the people that make them are amazing, that is not something in my skill set – or time allotment! This is food that you’ll be able to whip together in a few minutes, making it so you can continue to nourish their spirits at the same time as you do their little bodies!

What if you don’t have Truth in the Tinsel? No problem! Christmas is Christmas, and you can just as easily use any or all of these snacks without the TNT eBook. However, if you haven’t given Truth in the Tinsel a shot, I highly recommend it! (You can read my review here)

Previous week’s snacks:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

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Alright, are you ready to see this week’s snacks? Let’s get started!

Day 19 – Shepherds

 

Advent Snacks day 19 - shepherds

To make a shepherd snack I had the idea to make a shepherd’s crook out of a soft pretzel. I was making these pretzels for a get together, so I figured it would be perfect to use a bit of the dough to make the crook. Well, it turned out a little plump! But it still worked out okay. You could also use homemade or store bought bread dough. Hm, breadstick shepherd’s crooks.. mmmmmm.

Day 20 – Temple

 

Advent snacks day 20 - temple

This temple snack was made using crackers for the base, pretzel rods for the columns, and string cheese for the roof.

Day 21 – Star

 

Advent snacks day 21 - star

To make this star snack, you’ll need one or two star cookie cutters. If you don’t have a star cookie cutter, I highly recommend this cookie cutter set. You get 101 cookie cutters for under 20 bucks. That’s what I call a deal! We use these cookie cutters for way more than just cookies! Snacks, play doh, art projects – there is a lot they are good for!

Anyways, that was a side note. To make this star plate I cut the white stars out of thinly sliced apple and the yellow star out of a cheese slice. Simple!

Day 22 – Wise Men

 

Advent Snacks day 22 - wise men

Most of the snacks so far have been at least fairly healthy, so I thought today we’d throw in a sweet! I cut this crown shape out of a cookie, adding a few gum drops for gems. It didn’t turn out the prettiest, but K recognized what it was right away so I’ll chalk that up to a win!

 Day 23 – Gifts

 

Advent Snacks day 23 - gifts

It took me a while to figure out how to make a snack to represent the gifts of the Wise Men, but I thought it ended up turning out pretty cute. The “gift” is made out of two club crackers and the ribbon is made out of string cheese.

Day 24 – Cross

 

Advent Snacks day 24 - cross

For the final snack to represent the cross, I was trying to think of something that would be a really cool snack. However, I finally decided that simple would actually be better in this case! So, all you need to make this cross snack is a few pretzel rods. If you want to serve more of a snack, you can make the two thieves’ crosses as well.

That’s all for Truth in the Tinsel snacks! I hope you had fun eating these yummy snacks with us!

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Affiliate links included. Thank you for using your purchases to help support Simple Life. Messy Life.

Advent Snacks (A Truth in the Tinsel Supplement) Days 13-18

Advent Snacks for Kids

In order to extend the learning while doing Truth in the Tinsel, I wanted to come up with a simple supplement. After doing some brainstorming, I came up with Advent Snacks! They are simple snacks, themed after each day in of Truth in the Tinsel, that you can easily make with stuff you probably already have lying around.

These snacks are most definitely not food art! While I think those crazy awesome snacks and the people that make them are amazing, that is not something in my skill set – or time allotment! This is food that you’ll be able to whip together in a few minutes, making it so you can continue to nourish their spirits at the same time as you do their little bodies!

What if you don’t have Truth in the Tinsel? No problem! Christmas is Christmas, and you can just as easily use any or all of these snacks without the TNT eBook. However, if you haven’t given Truth in the Tinsel a shot, I highly recommend it! (You can read my review here)

Here’s the other week’s snacks:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 4

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Alright, are you ready to see this week’s snacks? Let’s get started!

Day 13 – Bethlehem

 

Advent Snacks day 13 - bethlehem

A house of bread made to represent Bethlehem (which means “the house of bread”). I used butter and honey toast with a little door cut out to make it. You could add some little windows too!

Day 14 – Stable

 

Advent Snacks day 14 -stable

For day 14 we made a simple stable snack. Just form the stable out of pretzel rods and add some peanut butter “dirt” and coconut “hay.” While making this snack I realized it would have been perfect if I would have had some animal crackers to add!

Day 15 – Manger

Advent Snacks day 15 - manger

This manger snack was made with a grilled cheese sandwich! Just cut in half to make the bed/trough and use the leftovers to make the legs. The baby Jesus head was made out of apple cut into a circle and it was finished off with some shredded cheese “straw.”

Day 16 – Cloths

 

Advent Snacks day 16 - cloths

Day 16 is about Jesus being wrapped in swaddling cloths. For this snack, I wrapped a cheese stick in some deli meat. However, you could also wrap cheese in a tortilla, wrap a hot dog in bread, or wrap bread/tortilla around a banana.

 Day 17 – Sheep

 

Advent Snacks day 17 - sheep

I think this is quite possibly the cutest snack we’ve made so far! For this adorable little sheep, all you need is some popcorn for the body, pretzel rods for the legs, and a pretzel crisp for the face (a regular pretzel would probably work too!). Tip for the popcorn when you only want to make a small amount – place a single layer of popcorn kernels on the bottom of a microwave safe bowl with a small pat of butter. Cover with a plate and microwave until the popping slows down. Sprinkle with a little salt and you are good to go!

Day 18 – Angels

 

Advent Snacks day 18 - angels

Okay, so these little guys are pretty cute too! To make these angels, peel an orange and separate the slices. Cut small chunks of carrot so they lay flat. Use the oranges for the wings and add a cheerio “halo”!

That’s all for Truth in the Tinsel days 13-18! Look for the next six days coming soon! Let me know about your favorite TNT supplement in the comments below!

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St Nicholas Day 2015

St. Nicholas Day 2015

When K was just a baby, we decided to add the celebration of St. Nicholas Day to our Advent traditions. We have loved observing St. Nick’s day as an alternative to “doing Santa.” We get to do some fun traditions, learn about history, and focus on giving like the real St. Nicholas did. I wrote more about celebrating St. Nick’s Day here.

This year was our third St. Nick’s day and, even though it is too late for you to try out this celebration this year, I still thought it would be fun to share what we did!

Stockings and A Special Breakfast

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For St. Nicholas day, the main two things we have done (and plan to continue doing) are stocking gifts and a special breakfast. We do stockings on this day instead of Christmas morning and it has been a great way to spread out the gift giving a little bit. I usually fill the stockings with small gifts and some chocolate coins. You can read more about what was in our stockings this year here.

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We also have a special breakfast that is a treat my mom used to make for Christmas – Scandinavian Kringler (or as we always called it, “kringle”). So yummy.

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St. Nicholas Neighbor Treat Baskets

During the time St. Nicholas lived, there was a great famine and much of the surrounding area lived in poverty. One of the things that he was known for doing was placing baskets with grain, fruit, and other food on people’s doorsteps during the night, so that they would have food to eat.

A while back I had read about remembering this act of service by putting together baskets with treats in them to give to your neighbors. This year I decided we’d give it a try!

St Nicholas Day gift baskets

For our baskets, I found these awesome metal buckets for only a few dollars on clearance at Hobby Lobby. There were four left, so I decided we’d do four baskets this year.

Over the week, K and I had fun making some Christmas treats to put in our baskets. We made chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate chip cookies, Chex mix, and a loaf of bread for each basket. We packaged everything in fun treat bags I found at the dollar store.

I finished the baskets off with a paper on St. Nicholas and a coloring page for the kids in the family. Subscribe at the bottom of this post to gain access to the free printables.

We delivered our baskets to some of our neighbor friends on the morning of St. Nicholas Day.

St. Nicholas Day baskets

Shopping for the Food Bank

One of the sweetest things happened while we were preparing our gift baskets. I asked K who he would like to give the baskets to and was surprised when he didn’t immediately start rattling off the names of his friends.

He was obviously thinking hard on the question, so I asked “Maybe to some of your friends?” In kind of a confused voice he said mentioned two of his friends and said that he wanted to give the basket to them but, “they already have food to eat.”

Then it dawned on me. “Did you think we were giving these baskets to people who didn’t have any food?” I asked. He nodded his head yes. He was listening closer than I thought!

I explained to him that while I didn’t think we could give our baskets to someone who didn’t have any food, there was something we could do. I told him about food banks and asked him if he wanted to buy some food for one. He said yes and even wanted to use his own money!

St. Nicholas Day food bank

The day before St. Nicholas Day, we pulled the money out that he had saved in his wallet and counted it. While he is getting good at counting, the concept of a five dollar bill being equal to five one dollar bills is still a little foreign to him. At first he said he wanted to use all his money, but he quickly took that back! Then, he counted out six of his bills to use, keeping two for himself. I was impressed with the decision he made, giving generously, yet keeping a little for himself. He even said, “I’m going to have to get some more money!”

We left the saved money at home, and took his wallet to the grocery store. After roaming the aisles making his choices (aided a little bit in choosing healthier options), it was time to pay. I could feel the tension in him as he handed the money over, but in the end I had one joyful little giver.

The items he bought are loaded in a box, ready for us to drop off at the food bank next time we are out. The whole experience was such a fun time and great learning experience. I think this will become a new St. Nick’s day tradition!

PS Since he is still young enough to not know any better, I did take the little fella’s hard earned money and slipped it back in his wallet. 🙂

Do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day? What are your traditions?

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Stocking Ideas for a 4 Year Old Boy and a 6 Month Old

Stocking Stuffer Ideas for a 4 Year Old Boy and a 6 Month Old

We do our stocking gifts on St. Nicholas Day and, because of that, our stockings have already been bought, packed, opened, and enjoyed! So, I thought I’d share what were in my son’s stockings in case there are any of you still working on some last minute Christmas stocking stuffers!

Four Year Old Boy Stocking Stuffers

1. Crayola 10-Count Ultra Clean Expression Stamper Markers

K absolutely loves all kinds of arts and crafts projects. He spends a lot of his day at his craft table creating. Since the only markers he really has are our favorite Pip Squeak Skinnies, I decided it would be fun to include some “fancy” markers in his stocking. I remember having stamp markers when I was a kid and I knew he would love them too!

 

 

 

 

2. Crayola Glitter Markers

K has just recently become enamored with glitter. And while I have a high tolerance for messy projects and do own an assortment of glitter – that is just not something I want to tackle regularly. When I saw these glitter markers, I knew they would be just perfect!

 

 

 

 

3. World of Reading Star Wars Ewoks Join the Fight: Level 1

I bought my little Star Wars lover both Ewoks Join the Fight and AT-AT Attack  easy readers. They are still a little above K’s reading ability, but with a theme he loves so much, I’m sure he will have extra motivation to learn the words!

 

 

 

 

 

4. Fisher-Price Nickelodeon Blaze and the Monster Machines Blaze

Like many little boys, K absolutely loves cars. I saw this cute little truck and I knew he’d love it, even though he has no idea who Blaze is! It was only five dollars and looked to be a pretty sturdy little car. K decided it looks like a monster truck Lighting McQueen!

 

 

 

5. Minifigures Super Heroes Figure

At not even four year old, the Lego obsession has already begun for K. He has a bin of assorted blocks passed down from my brothers, but I thought he would enjoy some more people to play with.

Lego purists – look away! Being four, I knew K would not care about perfect figurines, so I bought both this Super Hero set and a Star Wars set of cheap knock off Lego mini-figs. He loves them.

Unfortunately they ship from China, so it does take a couple weeks for them to arrive. You might not be able to get them in time for Christmas, but I still recommend taking a look!

 

6. Chocolate Coins

Each year, I usually include chocolate coins in K’s stocking as a nod back to the St. Nicholas Story. However, this year I couldn’t find them at the stores I was at and didn’t have time to track them down. Since I thought the ones on Amazon were a little pricey, we just went with a bag of Christmas themed chocolates.

 

 

 

 

Six Month Old Stocking Stuffers

1. Disney/Pixar Cars Easy Grasp Flatware

The nice thing about gifts for a baby, is that they really have no clue what is going on. So, you will notice that most of Baby J’s stocking stuffers are practical baby items that I needed to get anyway. First up, this cheap but sturdy set of silverware. The fact that it is also Cars themed probably means that big brother will use them whenever he can. 🙂

 

 

 

 

2. Simba Suction Plate with Spoon & Fork Set

Isn’t this little plate set so cute? It is more like a cross between a plate and bowl – perfect for my little guy that is all about eating “real food” these days!

 

 

 

3. Squooshi Reusable Food Pouch | Baby Starter Kit

Speaking of cute, aren’t these adorable?! Baby J tried one of those applesauce pouches recently and actually did a pretty good job with it. So, I decided to get him some refillable ones. He has already used them and they are great! Really easy to clean too!

 

 

 

 

4. Baby Buddy Baby’s 1st Toothbrush

I guess after all that eating you need to brush your teeth, right? Even if you do only have two! 🙂

This was the first toothbrush I used with K and loved it enough to buy it again for Baby J.

 

 

 

 

5. Fisher-Price Little People Wheelies

Little brother has a strong desire to play with everything that big brother plays with – only problem is, everything Baby J plays with, also is going to go in the mouth! I scored two of these cute Little People cars at Once Upon a Child for a couple dollars and they were perfect for his stocking!

 

 

 

6. Little People Sofie & School Bus

This cute little bus and person is another deal I found at Once Upon a Child for a few dollars. J loves it (K does too!) and it is safe for all the baby slobber he can throw at it!

 

 

 

 

 

What goodies are in your kid’s stocking this year?

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Advent Snacks (A Truth in the Tinsel Supplement) Days 7-12

Advent Snacks for Kids

In order to extend the learning while doing Truth in the Tinsel, I wanted to come up with a simple supplement. After doing some brainstorming, I came up with Advent Snacks! They are simple snacks, themed after each day in of Truth in the Tinsel, that you can easily make with stuff you probably already have lying around.

These snacks are most definitely not food art! While I think those crazy awesome snacks and the people that make them are amazing, that is not something in my skill set – or time allotment! This is food that you’ll be able to whip together in a few minutes, making it so you can continue to nourish their spirits at the same time as you do their little bodies!

What if you don’t have Truth in the Tinsel? No problem! Christmas is Christmas, and you can just as easily use any or all of these snacks without the TNT eBook. However, if you haven’t given Truth in the Tinsel a shot, I highly recommend it! (You can read my review here)

Here’s the other week’s snacks:

Week 1
Week 3
Week 4

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Alright, are you ready to see this week’s snacks? Let’s get started!

Day 7 – Song

Advent snacks - day 7 - song

For day seven and Mary’s song, I made this cute and simple music note snack. Made out of an apple cut in half, two cheese sticks, and some pretzel rods – it’s sure to make you siiiiing! 🙂

Day 8 – Sun

 

Advent Snacks - day 8 - sun

In day 8 of Truth in the Tinsel we read about Zechariah describing Jesus as the “rising sun.” For our sun snack, I placed half an orange on a plate and arranged “strings” from a cut in half string cheese around it.

 

Day 9 – Joseph

 

Advent snacks - day 9 - joseph

 

For day 9 our Joseph snack ended up looking a little silly, but it sure was tasty! To make this snack, cut a banana in half and then slice a bit off the back long ways (so it lays flat on the plate without rolling). Then, cover him in some peanut butter “clothes.” I used a raising cut in half for the eyes, but they were still a little big, mini chocolate chips probably would have been better. To finish him off, I cut out a little mouth and gave him a pretzel rod walking stick.

Day 10 – Dream

 

Advent snacks - day 10 - dream

For a snack that represents Joseph’s dream, I made this fluffy pillow (or dream cloud) by spreading out some plain greek yogurt and sprinkling some mini marshmallows on top. It was pretty tasty. Marshmallows and yogurt, who knew?

 Day 11 – Jesus’ Name

 

Advent snacks - day 11 - jesus' name

For this snack, there are so many ways you could go with it! I just took some snack mix (rains, fish crackers, and chex) and made a J for Jesus. But you could spell out his whole name, use any kind of snack mix, you could use letter shaped crackers or pretzels to spell his name, or even cut his name out with letter cookie cutters!

Day 12 – Census

 

Advent snacks - day 12 - census

On day 12 we learn about the census that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. For the snack, just spread out any kind of snack mix (I used mixed nuts) on a plate, contrasting it with two different little pieces of snack to represent Mary and Joseph lost in the crowd (I used fish crackers).

That’s all for Truth in the Tinsel days 7-12! Look for the next six days coming soon! Let me know about your favorite TNT supplement in the comments below!

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Affiliate links included. Thank you for using your purchases to help support Simple Life. Messy Life.

Advent Snacks (Truth in the Tinsel Supplement) Days 1-6

Advent Snacks for Kids

It’s December 1st, can you believe it?! I’m so excited because that means it’s Truth in the Tinsel time! This is our first year participating in TNT and I know it’s going to be awesome! We did our first ornament today and K was begging to go on to the next day!

In oder to extend the learning a little bit, I wanted to come up with a simple supplement to Truth in the Tinsel. After doing some brainstorming, I came up with Advent Snacks! They are simple snacks, themed after each day in of Truth in the Tinsel, that you can easily make with stuff you probably already have lying around.

These snacks are most definitely not food art! While I think those crazy awesome snacks and the people that make them are amazing, that is not something in my skill set – or time allotment! This is food that you’ll be able to whip together in a few minutes, making it so you can continue to nourish their spirits at the same time as you do their little bodies!

What if you don’t have Truth in the Tinsel? No problem! Christmas is Christmas, and you can just as easily use any or all of these snacks without the TNT eBook. However, if you haven’t given Truth in the Tinsel a shot, I highly recommend it! (You can read my review here)

Here are the other week’s snacks:

Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

buy-tnt-footer

Alright, are you ready to see this week’s snacks? Let’s get started!

Day 1 – Light

Advent Snacks - day 1 light

Day one is all about Jesus being the Light of the World. This snack is super simple. Just stick a birthday candle in whatever you’ve got handy. We used a muffin.

Day 2 – Kingdom

Advent Snacks - day 2 kingdom2

Day 2 is about how Jesus is the king of all the world. For this snack we made a graham cracker and peanut butter castle (where the king lives!). You can set up the snack like the above picture if your child is older and let them assemble the castle. Or, assemble it yourself and give it to them. My castle is below for an idea.

Advent Snacks - day 2 kingdom

Day 3 – Zechariah

Advent Snacks day 3 zechariah

If you’ve got any experience with kid snacks, you’ve probably seen these apple teeth. I had actually never made them before, but I decided they’d be perfect for Zechariah and him not being able to talk!

All you have to do is cut two thin slices of apple, spread some peanut butter on one, stick on some marshmallow “teeth,” and put the other apple on top. It’s not exactly the prettiest looking thing, but when we were testing these snacks out, K thought it was awesome. 

Day 4 – Gabriel

Advent Snacks - day 4 gabriel

Day four we learn about the angel Gabriel coming to visit Mary. For this snack, I cut an angel shape out of a cheese quesadilla. It was pretty easy! Just cut in and down on the top, making a circle shape in between for the head. On the bottom, cut up and in two lines and slightly separate, making the body. The halo was made with a “string” of string cheese.

 Day 5 – Mary

Advent Snacks - day 5 mary

Day 5 we learn about Mary! For this snack we made a simple Mary out of pretzel rods and apples. First, break the pretzels and arrange into a triangle shape, adding arms and legs. Then, slice of the side of an apple and place on the triangle for Mary’s pregnant belly. Slice the apple again, cutting a circle for the head. We added two chocolate chips and a small piece of string cheese to make eyes and a mouth.

Day 6 – Mary and Elizabeth

Advent Snacks - day 6 mary and elizabeth

Day 6 is about Mary and Elizabeth’s time together. For this, we made a snack representing Mary traveling to visit Elizabeth – A PB&J road! All you do is make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (or whatever kind of sandwich you want), cut off the crusts, and then cut into narrow strips. Then arrange your pieces into a road. You can leave it like this, or use peanut butter to stick on two small pretzel “people” to represent Mary and Elizabeth.

That’s all for Truth in the Tinsel days 1-6! Look for the next six days coming soon! Let me know about your favorite TNT supplement in the comments below!

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Affiliate links included. Thank you for using your purchases to help support Simple Life. Messy Life.