“Christmas is only 11 weeks away” my son informed me. I groaned inwardly, not because I don't like Christmas, but because I was not prepared for another stressful season of shopping for the perfect gifts and then trying to make homes for all the things my children receive. I longed for a Christ centered Christmas, and I knew from years past that in spite of my intentions for Christmas to be a simple celebration of Christ's birth, there was still too much emphasis placed on the gifts.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think that gifts are a bad thing or that giving and receiving gifts at Christmas is always materialistic. We try to give our children things they need or things that will have some usefulness for many years rather than loading them up with the latest toy trends.
But shopping for those gifts takes a lot of my time and energy away from some of the other things I'd like to do to celebrate Christmas. When you live with a chronic illness, even the simplest things are difficult and stressful.
Additionally, our budget is not exactly what you'd call large, and trying to find gifts that fit within it is a challenge and a time suck.
What I want this year is to enjoy spending time together as a family celebrating what Christmas really is instead of spending so much time shopping for gifts.
So I sat the children down one evening and told them that Christmas gifts were going to be extremely simple this year. I was honest with them about our budget as well as my desire to put even less emphasis on the gifts than we usually did.
I asked them what, in their opinion, would make Christmas meaningful.
Instead of groaning that we were cutting back on our already simple gifts, they seemed excited. I learned something that evening that I already knew: KIDS DON'T WANT GIFTS; THEY WANT YOU!
“We could sing Christmas Carols together.”
“I would like it if we could play some silly Christmas games together.”
“I just want to spend time as a family.”
These were the kinds of answers they gave me that night.
And so, as I began to brainstorm what a Christ-centered Christmas would entail, I came up with some guidelines:
For several weeks, I mulled over exactly how we could do those things. We knew where we wanted to go; we just didn't exactly have a plan to get there yet.
I prayed for wisdom and ideas, and in time the Lord showed me exactly how we could celebrate a Christ-centered Christmas.
My 4 year old went shopping with grandma on her birthday, and one of the things she picked out was a little Christmas mailbox.
(Get your own mailbox here.)
At first, the kids used it to deliver kind notes to each other (sounds like they were already in the spirit of a Christ-centered Christmas!)
But after a couple days, it got to be overload on the little scraps of paper all over the house. They were beginning to write nonsense instead of meaningful notes just for the novelty of using the mailbox.
So my husband told them they had to wait until we came up with some guidelines for using the mailbox.
After about a week or so, I had an idea!
Our mailbox will be a central part of our Christ-Centered Christmas!
Each morning when the kids come to the table for breakfast, they can check the mailbox. Inside I will have placed a folded slip of paper with the day's date on it. On it they will find the day's Christ-centered Christmas activity.
I'm really excited about this because it doesn't have to be completed in advance like a lot of Christmas countdown calendars I've seen. This will give me the freedom to decide based on how I'm feeling that day whether I write something simple and low-energy or something more ambitious. Plus, as I see different Christmas activities come up on our local community calendar, I can decide on a whim whether to include that in our mailbox.
So, I know what you're wondering. What are some of the activities I'm thinking of putting in the mailbox?
I have here a list of 25 Christ-centered Christmas activities to get you started on your own family Christmas.
If all goes well, I imagine this will become a yearly tradition for us.
1. Go see Christmas lights.
Remind the children the Christ is the light of the world. You could also do this fun Christmas lights scavenger hunt from my friend Kim at Not Consumed.
2. Make a meal together.
3. Write a letter to a relative.
Be a blessing to someone you don't get to see very often.
4. Sing Christmas Carols together.
Talk about the meanings of the songs that you sing.
5. Play a Game.
Here's a fun version of Christmas Carol Catch Phrase
6. Let the kids decorate their rooms for Christmas.
7. Make Healthy Homemade Hot Chocolate.
8. Decorate Christmas cookies together.
Here's a fun set of nativity cookie cutters.
9. Go on a family outing (ice skating, Christmas parade, tree lighting etc.)
10.Bake and deliver goodies to the neighbors.
11. Make a Christmas craft.
(Tons of ideas on Pinterest!)
12. Watch a Christmas movie together.
Here is one I have watched.
13. Read a Christmas book together.
This is a good one.
14.String popcorn for the Christmas tree.
16. Make cinnamon rolls for breakfast.
17. Act out the Christmas story.
Be as simple or elaborate as you wish with costumes.
18. Pick out a gift for a child or family in need.
19. Prepare a scripture, song, or poem to share with the family on Christmas day.
20. Put together candy cane tracts to give to people as you're out and about.
Here is a free printable candy cane tract from my mom's blog.
21. Go to a Christmas concert.
22. Visit residents at the nursing home and sing Christmas carols for them.
24. Make a family video with scripture and songs for friends and family.
25. Draw names and do a secret acts of kindness for a family member.
If you've been reading the blog for the past couple days, you've seen that I'm sharing ideas for crossing items off your gift list for free or really cheap!
A couple free things here and a couple free things there will knock a nice chunk off your budget!
I try to take advantage of each of these opportunities that comes my way and by Christmas I have a good little stash of gifts already collected. It's a huge help when money is tight!
Today I'm going to tell you how to get free clothes that you can give as gifts!
Here's how it works:
Tips and Tricks:
Thredup and/or Schoola sell gently used clothing, which you may or may not feel comfortable giving as a gift. However, you can find plenty of articles that are new with tags. On Thredup, click on the “price” filter and check the box that says New with Tags. On Schoola, you'll click on the “condition” filter and choose New with Tags.
If you're giving something to your children, you may not care if the item doesn't have tags on it.
For example, my 10 year old is into Under Armour, so I've been able to find inexpensive Under Armour clothes on Thredup for him. He won't even care or notice whether they have tags on them!
Other items that make nice gifts:
Wristlets or wallets
Don't forget to check out other inexpensive gift ideas too:
I'm shopping for Christmas on a super tight budget this year, and I've come up with lots of creative ways to get gifts for free or nearly free.
Yesterday I shared 10 Gifts You Can Get Free or Nearly Free from Grove Collaborative, and today I'm sharing some stocking stuffers that you can score for free!
Here's how it works:
Sally Hansen nail polish – $3.49; FREE after $5 sign-up credit
Burt's Bees lip balm – $2.29; free after sign up credit
Conair hair brush – $2; free after sign up credit
Goody hair elastics – $1.50; free after sign up credit
Light up Love sign – $5; FREE after sign-up credit
Softcover notebook – $1; Free after signup credit
Kumon educational activity books – $4; FREE after sign-up credit
Multi-colored sidewalk chalk – $1.50; Free after sign up credit
Melissa and Doug scratch art kit – $1.50; Free after sign up credit
Hello Kitty mess free activity book – $2; Free after sign-up credit
DIY Canvas Tote – $2; Free after sign up credit
Basketball hoop – $5; FREE after sign-up credit
Jump rope with counter – $3.29; free after sign up credit
Cobi building sets (compatible with Lego) – $5; FREE after signup credit
Snowball launcher – $3; FREE after signup credit
Enjoy your free shopping!
Also check out:
I'm in Christmas shopping mode, but unfortunately this year we've found the need to cut our budget back quite a bit. I'm coming up with lots of creative ways to “purchase” gifts for free or very inexpensively.
I'll be sharing lots of my ideas here, so be sure to sign up for my email newsletter to stay in the loop!
Today I have a list of 10 gifts you can purchase for free or very inexpensively from Grove Collaborative.
Here's how it works:
1. Sign up as a new Grove Collaborative user here, and you'll get a $10 credit in your account.
2. Browse the list below for some of my favorite products that will make great gifts!
3. Apply your credit at checkout and voila! Check of another gift (or 2 or 3) from your shopping list without spending anything!
4. (If you're already a Grove Collaborative customer, you won't get another $10 credit; however, you can share this post with your friends and ask them to sign up through your referral link instead of mine. You'll get a $10 credit when they sign up!)
Grove Collaborative auto-ships items each month, so you need to double check to make you are not scheduled for automatic delivery of more items (they will send you an email each month to remind you to check your subscriptions.) You DO NOT have to continue to have items shipped to you unless you want to, but be sure to double check!
Update 11/2018: Instead of the $10 credit, Grove is currently offering a 5 piece Mrs. Meyers gift set to new customers ($35 value!)
The following products are some of my favorite items that I regularly purchase from Grove:
Grove kitchen towels 2 pack – $9.99; free after $10 credit
These towels are SO NICE!
Grove cleaning caddy – $14.95; $4.95 after credit
Mrs. Meyer's dish soap – $3.89; get several nearly free with $10 credit
Wool Dryer Balls – $15.95; $5.95 after $10 credit
Such a great gift!
Grove hand sanitizer – $3.95; get several nearly free after $10 credit
This smells SO good!
Grove lip balm – $3.95; get several nearly free after $10 credit
Grove hand cream – $7.95; FREE after $10 credit
Mrs. Meyer's hand soap – $3.89; get several nearly free after $10 credit
Mrs. Meyer's body wash – $7.99; FREE after $10 credit
Have fun with your free gift shopping!
Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter so you can get notified of additional ideas that I'll be posting!
I have a bittersweet relationship with fall. I love the cooler air, the bonfires, and all of the pumpkin and apple flavored goodies that come my way. But with the fall comes the knowledge that winter is on its way. I've never liked the cold, and every winter, despite my best intentions to bundle up and go outside for some fresh air, I end up spending 99% of my time indoors.
All that time spent indoors means the house needs to stay clean!
A dirty house makes me feel quite irritable. An irritable mommy stuck inside with 5 small children is not a good combination, so I need to make sure I'm prepared to keep the house as clean as possible!
When Babbleboxx wrote and asked if they could send some products to help me do some fall cleaning, I readily agreed. I don't do sponsored posts very often, but this was clearly a perfect fit. I'm excited to show you the products they sent, because I know you'll find them as helpful as I did!
Ready? Let's take a look!
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.com.
We live in North Carolina, so I'm sure those from up north will laugh at my extreme aversion to cold, but nonetheless, our temperatures do occasionally drop below freezing! 🙂
The Duck® brand Roll-On® Window Kit is an easy way to keep those cold winter drafts from coming through the windows. The edges are pre-taped, which makes installation super simple! There's no need to even measure the thing, and it fits snugly on the indoor window frames to provide an airtight seal.
If you want to save some money on your energy bills this coming winter (and keep yourself more cozy), you should check these window kits out!
Link to purchase the window kits: Click here
Babbleboxx sent me a box in the spring, which is where I was first introduced to Scrub Daddy. I was happy to see that this box also had Scrub Daddy products in it because the others I had tried had become some of my favorite kitchen products.
This time I got to try the Sponge Caddy and the Scour Daddy.
You know how the sponges on your kitchen sink get all nasty and slimy when they sit there all wet? The Sponge Caddy provides a place to store them where they have air flow that helps dry them out. The dual suction cups adhere to any surface, and the little holes allow the water to drain from your sponges into your sink instead of sitting there stagnating into a bacterial breeding ground.
The Scour Daddy is not like any regular old kitchen sponge. It holds a firm shape, which makes it so much easier to wash dishes with it. The scratchy surface cleans but does not scratch. AND…the multiple colors mean that you can easily keep track of which sponge is for which job. When you're finished, you can use the nifty little hang tag to hang your sponge to dry.
You really should go look at the Scrub Daddy website because I am not doing justice to just how essential of a kitchen tool these little guys are.
I've been a Molly's Suds user for about a year now, but I hadn't yet tried either the All Sport Laundry Wash or the Oxygen Whitener.
In fact, having Molly's Suds included in this Babbleboxx was one of the reasons I so readily said that I would do this post.
It truly is one of my favorite laundry products, and I wanted to make sure you knew about this wonderful, non-toxic brand of detergent that actually works! (I've not had great success with other brands of non-toxic detergent that I've tried.)
I've been equally happy with these two new varieties of Molly's Suds that I tried, and I think you will love them as much as I do!
You can purchase Molly's Suds All Sport Laundry Wash or Molly's Suds Oxygen Whitener right here. (Through 10/31/17, use the code IMPERFECTBABBLE to get an additional 25% off your order.
What a pleasant surprise! When it showed up on my porch I dropped everything and mopped my floors! Almost all of the floors in my house are “fake” wood, and we've been able to keep them fairly clean by keeping our shoes off in the house and by making sure either me or the kids sweeps them daily. But I've been wanting one of these little spray mops too so that I can quickly mop them.
The O-Cedar Pro Mist Max Spray Mop is perfect! I can get my floors clean so quickly with it!
All you do is fill up the little container with your cleaning solution (I just use vinegar water with a little essential oil in it) and you can spray a squirt using the trigger on the handle. Spray, mop, spray, mop. So easy!
The reversible head means that when one side gets too dirty to use, you can just flip it over and keep going! Then when you're finished you can take the re-usable microfiber mop pad and wash it so it will be ready for the next time.
I know I've said this about every product I've shown you, but this was one of my favorites! Efficient cleaning is what I'm all about!
I can't imagine why, in a household which includes a couple bedwetters, children who sneak fruit into their rooms and leave the peels hidden under their bed, and boys who are…well…boys, why in the world we would need an odor eliminator!
The PowerOE Odor Eliminating Spray can be sprayed on sports equipment, garbage cans, bathrooms, you name it! It can also be used to pre-treat smelly clothes. It's dye-free and scented with essential oils (also available in a fragrance free solution.)
The PowerOE Cleaner + Odor Eliminator is powered by Thymol, a bleach alternative. For a mom who doesn't like to use harsh chemicals, but who still needs to keep the house clean and get the laundry wash, it's nice to have some other options that will still do the job!
Find PowerOe right here and use the code IMH17 to get 25% off your purchase.
The mom who invented this was using her thinking cap! Why use a toothbrush to clean one grout line at a time when we can get the job done 4 times faster with the Grout Gator?!
(Actually the Grout Gator can clean up to 8 lines at a time, so you can get the job done WAY faster than the toothbrush method!)\
The adjustable brush heads fit over tile sizes from 2” to 13” so you can use it for whatever job you're doing. And don't worry, when the brush heads get worn out you can replace them.
It's time to speed up your cleaning time! Go here to purchase the Grout Gator, and use the code BB17 for 15% off your purchase.
That's it for now! I'm sure with these tools to help you, you'll have your home ready for the winter in no time! What else do you to during the fall to prepare your home for winter?
If you're looking for more hours in your day, a great place to start is by finding those stolen moments. Is there time that you are spending on something that you really should be spending on something else?
Not all the things in the list below are wrong things. Some of them are simply things that we can become so wrapped up in doing that it steals time from more important things.
Take an honest look and see if any of them apply to you:
1. Social media
We start out innocently enough – hopping on Pinterest to find a recipe for dinner or deciding to post that photo we just took to Instagram. But all too often, 5 minutes turns to 25 minutes, and before we know it, it's past dinner time before we get off our phone, still half-dazed.
We must be very intentional about the time we spend on our phones or computers. Turn on a timer when you sit down if you find that you have a bad habit getting lost in the black hole of the internet.
Many of us work from home, which is perfectly fine, but we must keep in mind that our family needs to come first. Where do we find the balance between contributing to the family income and keeping our homes orderly, plus having plenty of time for spending with the people we love? I've not met many people that seem to have the time to do all of it well. The balance of that is going to be different for different families, and your priorities may be different than mine depending on your circumstances.
Regardless of whether you are in great need for the income or not, the potential for earning “just a little more” is always there, and we must all guard against going after another dollar at the expense of family time and a house that becomes so messy that everyone is stressed and grumpy.
So please hear me when I say that I'm not equating working from home as something that's not worth spending your time on. It may actually be very much worth your time. However, when it begins stealing your time from the people you love and from taking proper care of them, it's time to re-evaluate whether you need to cut back on the amount of time you spend working.
Every homemaker needs to make time for the things she enjoys. It will bring joy to your life (and keep you a little more sane in the chaos of life!)
However, we need to be conscious of how much time we're spending on those things. When the housework begins to slip or our children are clamoring for our attention, we need to be honest about whether or not it's because we've become too engrossed in our own interests. Are we diligently caring for our families or we only looking out for number one?
4. Lack of focus
I am pretty bad about this. Lots of jobs go half-done because I get distracted by another job halfway through. At the end of the day, I have laundry that's half-done, dishes that are half-washed, and floors that are half-cleaned. I've done a lot of work but the house is still a mess.
Learning to focus on one job at a time saves time because you're not doing everything twice.
Flylady's book, Sink Reflections, is probably my favorite resource for helping what she calls “SHE's” (Sidetracked Home Executives.) 🙂
No, I'm not calling you lazy. I have no idea who is reading this, so I wouldn't know anyway. But if you're struggling with getting things done, just ask yourself honestly, “Could it be because I am being lazy?” Are you snoozing the alarm multiple times (hey, I have to preach to myself about this too – maybe I should get one of these, haha!) or sitting on the computer (not literally!) when you really ought to get up and do your chores?
I think sometimes wives and moms hate chores every bit as much as kids do. The problem is that we don't have anybody to with-hold our allowance or tell us we can't have screen time until we get our chores done.
Some good old-fashioned self-discipline is what we need. Perhaps we shouldn't complain about feeling overwhelmed with the housework until we first take an honest look at whether or not we can do anything about it.
Maybe this article sounded a little harsh. It's not meant to be; it's just that sometimes admitting that we can do better and be better feels pretty uncomfortable. But I promise that if you see any areas here that you need to address, it will be so worth it to make the necessary changes! You'll find more time and feel less frustrated, and those are good things!