Homemade Advent Calendars

Happy December 1st!! Can you believe it’s here already?? We put our tree up last night - the earliest date ever for our family and I’m loving it! I’m ready for the music, the cookie-making, the Advent season at church, and that joyful energy of anticipation and celebration.

Today I’m sharing a sweet tradition - making homemade paper Advent calendars.

Years ago, I found a cardstock template with the little windows already cut out but that product hasn’t been available for awhile, so my kids have been making their own. Here’s how we do it…

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1) Use the back of an old advent calendar as a template, tracing the little window openings.

2) Using an exacto knife and a self-healing mat, carefully cut along the lines, leaving one side still attached.

3) Turn the page over so the pencil lines won’t show.

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4) Use high quality colored pencils to create a design that covers the entire front of the paper. Christmas books, cards or magazines can inspire the design as well as favorite things like sports teams or pets.

 This one tells the Christmas story…

This one tells the Christmas story…

 This one reveals what was top of mind for my 10 year old boy one year…

This one reveals what was top of mind for my 10 year old boy one year…

5) Number your windows.

6) Place a matching - sized sheet of paper underneath and trace the shape of the windows onto it.

7) Decorate the bottom page so little images or words fill the places the windows will reveal when opened.

8) Use a permanent glue stick to seal the two pages together.

9) Hang your Advent calendar and open the numbered windows for December 1-25.

 Here’s Abby’s for this Christmas.

Here’s Abby’s for this Christmas.

Have FUN and take JOY, friends!! Let me see what your kids make - in the comments here or on Instagram Merry Christmas!!

The Lonely Scarecrow

Since I can’t help but read children’s picture books ANY time of the year and ESPECIALLY not in Fall, here’s another installment in the series, Through the Seasons with Children’s Literature - Fall edition. This week’s book is Tim Preston’s “The Lonely Scarecrow” which I bought for the gorgeous cover, but fell in love with for the sweet story and Maggie Kneen’s vibrant illustrations. They are done in a raised texture which children (and adults) can’t resist touching. I’ve written some lesson plans and ideas for using this book with your children so you can create memories around another Fall favorite.

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I also recorded another video of me reading the story, so if you’d like 8 free minutes, mama, you can park your littles in front of the video and I’ll entertain them. Or perhaps YOU need someone to read YOU a story? Then, cuddle up and I’ll read to you too.

Children can narrate the story by writing or drawing what they remember or, if they aren’t yet writers, dictating it to you. I’ve also had students create their own scarecrow with colored pencils, scraps of fabric, etc… Here’s an example…

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Enjoy this sweet book! Next week I’ll post one about Thanksgiving and then, (oh my!) we’ll be ready to look at holiday books! Happy reading!

xo

Jill

Fix It Mama

When I was a little girl, my parents took really good care of me. I had chores - but they were the obvious ones like make your bed, pick up your clothes, vacuum, and mow the lawn. I had no idea that there were so many more responsibilities that came with owning a home or running one. I liked cooking and I had watched my mom clean house - so I knew the basics. My dad even taught us to do our own taxes. But what I had not been trained to do was to manage it all. The behind the scenes stuff (at least it seemed that way to me) like changing batteries in smoke detectors, replacing lightbulbs, cleaning gutters, fixing sprinklers, troubleshooting electrical issues or basic plumbing - well, my daddy did those things, quietly and without fanfare. That was his job as the man of the house and it was his way of taking care of us. I didn't know it then, but as an adult, I would have the opportunity to learn many of those skills on my own.

Now, let me back up a bit. I was not always grateful for that opportunity. In fact I spent most of my adult life, even as a very responsible mother of 5 wondering, when a certain household maintenance issue came up, “Where is my daddy?” I would seriously have a little pity party - a full blown, “I shouldn’t have to learn these things! I don’t have time for this!” hissy fit inside my head.  I wondered when someone was going to show up to fix things. I would ignore the broken sprinkler or the leaking toilet and wallow in my feminine helplessness. Completely overwhelmed, I would convince myself that it was impossible that I should have to be skilled in all of these things when I was already the homeschooling, cooking, planning, shopping, coordinating, chauffeuring, business owning woman of the house. “Isn't there a man around who will take care of these things for me?” I would wonder. “Certainly I’m entitled to that!” I would pout internally for days, disgruntled that I didn’t have household staff to do these things for me, until inevitably that voice inside would finally say, “No one is coming to save you, dear. It’s just a broken sprinkler and you can google how to fix that. So figure it out. You’ve got this.” And there is something that happens in the moments when you are digging a muddy hole or reaching into the toilet tank to replace a broken part. You realize that you CAN do it. It’s NOT that big a deal. The guy at Ace Hardware is your friend, the internet is your helper, and you are more capable than you think. 

So I’m grateful that I’m not the princess of my house - I wanted to be, but helplessness is not as empowering as fortitude and resourcefulness. I still want to take care of these things behind the scenes so my children feel secure like I did at their age. But I’m also aware now that they need to know these things by the time they leave the nest. I need to show them a little at a time, so they don’t have to figure it all out as adults, when the list of responsibilities can feel overwhelming.

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To remind myself and to teach my children what needs doing, I’ve made a list and a schedule of household maintenance tasks along with the how to, tips, and tricks I’ve learned over the years. It’s probably missing a lot of things and I’ll be adding to it over time, but I hope it will help those who are perhaps new to home ownership, or those who are ready to take care of things themselves. It’s not as hard as it seems. Our education is not over after schooling is complete or when we settle down to raise a family. There is always more to learn, more skill to gain, more resourcefulness to develop - we never really arrive. And isn’t that a good thing? 

Grab your FREE copy of my Fix it Mama Household Basics HERE. 

What else we could we add to this list? What have you learned about taking care of a home that you could share with us?