Browsing Category: holidays



This past weekend my children were packing for a weekend away at the grandparents, while the husband and I were packing for a weekend away with each other. (Best Christmas present we give ourselves every year.) As my daughter contemplated what to bring (she comes by her over packing tendencies naturally), she began to stress over her advent calendars.

Does she take them with her?

Does she open them early, since she would be gone one full day of advent?

Does she open them late?

Is Christmas ruined?

Did you happen to catch the part where I said advent calendars? Yes, my children have multiple calendars they open each morning in December helping them countdown the days until Christmas. We usually try and purchase them each a Lego Advent Calendar as an early Christmas present (except for the years in which I forget to buy these cursed things in October and panic when they become terribly overpriced by Thanksgiving). Both kids also have a 99 cent chocolate advent from Trader Joes (Again…purchase early. Stores sell out pre-Thanksgiving. I purchased so many when they were released the cashier half-jokingly asked if I was reselling them on Facebook. I told him I only do that with Hatchimals. These festive chocolates were for our various homeschool co-ops, thankyouverymuch.)

(And I do not really do that with Hatchimals because I did not know they were a thing until too late)

If you are counting, so far my daughter is up to two advent calendars: the Lego and the chocolate. Last year right before Christmas the husband and I stumbled up a Nutcracker-themed charm bracelet Advent calendar (Open a box each day and get a charm) drastically reduced in price at Neiman Marcus. We snatched it up and stored it away for this year.

That is now three advent calendars.

Finally, the girl crafted a calendar of good deeds at church a few weeks ago. This is similar to the old school paper chain of yesteryears. Every day she pulls off a chain and performs the good deed. She was quite proud of herself for making one of those good deeds read, “Be kind to Mommy.” I did not question why that was not a daily occurrence for her.

See her delimia? The girl has FOUR advents to maintain on a daily basis. A mere weekend away makes everything askew.

Christmas time is magical. City streets glow with festive lights. Radio stations blare carols 24/7. Commercials are jolly as people frolic in the snow in their newly purchased luxury SUV.

Yet sometimes we are left feeling exhausted, frantic, and bit sad.

Questioning how in the world we are going to maintain things like four advent calendars (or crazy shopping lists or 27 school holiday events or the laundry) while merrily counting down 24 days until Christmas…

If this is you, understand I am right there with you. I struggle between finding the joy of the season and not letting the pace of the season completely tackle me and leave me stranded in a sea of wrapping paper, half-eaten peppermint bark, and an abandoned list of all the holiday movies I must watch this year.

Follow along with me this week as I discuss ways to Save Your Christmas, helping your family fight free from the stress of the holidays and find ways to simply enjoy the season. I have some giveaways to share as well as some opportunities to keep up with casa de phillips in the new year.

If you are looking for ways to carve out more JOY and less busy as we near December 25th, hopefully this little piece of the internet will help you in this task.

At the very least it just reminded you to purchase Lego advent calendars early next year.



A Spoon Full of Sugar

For the past six years, I have blogged about family themed Halloween costumes.

We have been Robin Hood, Nintendo characters and a crime-fighting gang.

The family Halloween costume is a pretty big deal around casa de Phillips. Despite the love for a themed costume, this year there will be no theme. Our family is actually going to be apart this year on Halloween, so a theme just was not going to work. We let the kids choose their own costumes, assuring them that next year we would all venture out together in a themed attire once again. Fortunately we were able to participate in our small group’s Halloween party, giving us the chance to snap multiple picture of our kids in their costumes and fill our friends’ Facebook feeds with pictures that all look the same.

You’re welcome.

Allow me to introduce Dorothy:




The girl is a bit infatuated with Dorothy after dancing in a ballet version of the Wizard of Oz this summer.

It was a no-brainer that the boy was going to be the X Wing Fighter Pilot version of Luke Skywalker.



Orange really suits him.


Thursday of last week the kids inquired as to what my costume was going to be this year. Until that moment I had not even contemplated dressing up for the party. Life has been running at full speed lately as I have been attempting to get our entire family ready for my surgery. I could tell that the kids really wanted me to dress-up. A quick Pinterest search provided me with a fabulous idea: Mary Poppins.


Fortunately I was able to create my own Mary Poppins costume out of things I (mostly) had on hand.

Want to be Mary Poppins this year? Simply pair a black skirt with a white button down shirt. Toss on black tights and black boots. Fasten a red bow around your neck and use large ribbon around the waist to create the look of a belt. Hot glue some old fake flowers onto a black hat and look for a tapestry bag in the back of your closet (I did have to purchase this at a thrift store. It is now a part of the girl’s dress-up bucket.). Grab an umbrella and don your best British accent.

Congratulations you are now Mary Poppins and a rock star Mommy in your children’s eyes.



The husband went to the party as well.


He went as himself as his appearance at the party was very last minute (We thought he was going to be on a business trip…thankfully he was not).


True there are no Halloween themed costumes this year. But we have some cute pictures and fun memories.

Plus I found a Baby Ruth in my kiddos pre-Halloween/Homecoming parade candy stash so I call it a “win” for me.



A Bunny’s Tale


Casa de Phillips currently resides in an area of the country where weather patterns can shift dramatically in a 24 hour period. As we welcomed the first day of Spring last week, we also welcomed cold rainy weather. This all coincided with the day of our annual neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt.

Saturday morning clouds hung low and eventually let forth a great deal of rain. The kids watched out the windows, making wild assumptions that the rain would stop (it eventually did) and the Easter Egg Hunt would be on later that afternoon (it was not). As a consolation prize, I gave each child a dozen slightly-filled plastic eggs to hide for their sibling (Hello, Lazy Parenting 101!) and they were pacified for a while and worked through all their grief over a missed egg hunt.

Besides, the hunt had been rescheduled for the following afternoon.

Sunday brought with it incredibly cold temperatures and biting gusts of winds so the hunt was once again called off.

That day’s consolation prize was dinner at a local fro-yo place and a trip to the library.

(Let me note for the record that we are not usually the type of parents to offer “consolation” prizes. We usually let things work out as they work out. However, if you want to seem like a really awesome parent take your kids to fro-yo on a random occasion for supper. Our kids could not believe that the only thing we were having for dinner Sunday night was dessert.)

The weather continues to remain a mystery this week as well. We have had cold days and then spots of warmth. As I type this, the heater is currently running at full blast in our home. I keep checking the forecast for this weekend. We all know it is Easter and I am starting to question the wisdom behind purchasing a breezy maxi dress and light cardigan for my daughter to sport at church on Sunday when it most likely will be cold and rainy. And the idea of wearing summer white shoes with a winter coat makes me twitch just a bit.

Speaking of Easter, let me just give a big ol mama sigh right here.

As blogged before, we are starting to tone it down with the holiday hoop-la around here. We have no Elf living on a shelf (and we told our kids the Christmas secret…and Christmas was still incredibly wonderful and magical all the same). There were no toilet bowls dyed green on St. Patty’s day. I do not plan to throw a huge party at the end of the school year (which is tricky when one almost schools year round). When I started to feel the tug to tone things down (I am the one who created a life-sized Little Einstein Rocket for a 3 year old’s birthday party…I needed a tug, people), Easter was the driving force.

As the husband always says, the Easter Bunny did not roll away the stone from the tomb.

As this time approaches, I start to panic and question how we will approach it as a family. There is no Easter Bunny for our kiddos. We have scaled down the whole “give-me-a-toy-because-Jesus-died-and-rose-again-for-our-sins” notion.  I do purchase Easter clothing for my children, which they wear all Spring, Summer, and part of the Fall (we live in a warm climate, y’all) until they no longer fit or until it is time to haul out the Christmas clothing. My kids have never dyed Easter eggs (this has nothing to do with philosophy and has everything to do with the fact that organic, cage free eggs are expensive and I have trouble eating pastel colored food.).

Easter is quickly approaching and the children and I have taken moments to discuss what that means. I have also discussed that despite the fact that the country’s largest toy store is advertising fantastic Easter toy deals there will be no Easter toys distributed at our home.

This leads me into the dilemma of the Easter basket. I am pretty sure when Mary and Martha visited the tomb there was no ornately decorated straw basket filled with goodies waiting for them. I know the Easter basket is part of our culture. Sometimes I fear if I completely take away cultural things, then my children will completely go the opposite direction as adults due to a feeling of deprivation as a child (I guess this would look like being on “Extreme Easter Gone Wild”???). Then I feel guilty for parenting by fear rather than by grace. It is the whole “If you give a Mouse a cookie scenario”.

Jen Hatmaker said in a blog this week: “. I daresay the American response to Easter is insulting, devastating even.”

Amen, sister.

Which leads me back to feeling convicted about the whole Easter basket situation. I do not want my children expecting something at every major/minor holiday. I do not want our religious observance of Grace to be overshadowed by the newest LEGO set.

My solution (which I acknowledge is not great) this year is to put two books and a book light in each kids basket (again we avoid the chocolate). One book is a fun book (Evelyn’s is here and Isaac’s is here) while the other book is a devotional book for each of them.

The book light is merely because both are needing a new book light. I am resourceful like that.


How do you handle Easter at your home? Do you fill baskets? Does the Easter Bunny and Jesus both find a place in your house or are you shying away from cultural observances of this religious holiday?




A quick centerpiece for the 4th

Last Saturday I pulled the big family calendar off the fridge to do some updating for the month of July. Miss E took one look at the date (It happened to be June 30th) and began to wail.

“Summer is ooooooooo-ver.”

After a reminder that summer is indeed not over and another reminder that we live in a unfortunately hot part of the country where summer temps can linger until Halloween, she rested assured in the fact that there was still lots of summer fun to be had.

That being said, today is July 4th, the date that most people use to mark the middle of summer.

Casa de phillips is taking it easy this fourth of July.  Time will be spent doing those American activities of swimming and eating hamburgers (just like our forefathers did back in 1776).  We tend to enjoy a more subdued celebration at home rather than fighting the crowds to see the fireworks display.

(That being said someone was shooting off fireworks in our neighborhood last night. I am okay with that. We have fireworks go off every Friday night in our suburb during the summer, so the pops and bangs are not bothersome. However, my law-abiding nature felt worried for the people daring to shoot off their own displays  inside the city limits considering we have a police officer who lives at the end of the street. I went to bed worried for these risk-takers, hoping they did not have to spend the fourth behind bars.)

Yesterday, the kids did a bit of Independence Day school work to add to their summer binders. After that was all done, we created a little homemade centerpiece to honor the fourth.

To create this centerpiece, one simply needs: Dried red beans, dried white beans, dried black beans and a pretty glass container.

I explained the process to the kids of how we were going to layer beans then gave them a measuring cup and let them have it.

In less than three minutes we had a festive little display for our table or entryway.


My initial thought was to put two American flags into the beans. When I sent both kids into the school room to retrieve said flags, one came out with a toy spatula saying that could be a good substitution while another never came out and was later discovered sitting by the bookshelf looking up something about dinosaurs. It seems our school flags have disappeared since May.

Oh well.

Happy Fourth of July!

Farm Flu 2011

Anyone else tired of seeing my “Merry Christmas” post every time they check out

Yeah, me too.

However, the delay in posting has occurred for many reasons:


1. I had a very bad itch to completely de-Christmas-fy my house the moment the 25th had passed.

2. I had a very bad itch to completely de-junk three main closets in my house last week.

3. Farm Flu 2011 infested 3/4 of my household last week.


The first two of my points are self-explanatory (both of which were successfully completed, thankyouverymuch). Allow me to discuss point number three: Farm Flu 2011.

This year we were with the husband’s family for Christmas. His family is much large than mine and can boast up to 30+ members at any Christmas celebration, all joining together for holiday merriment. On Christmas Day, the husband’s granny fell ill. Because of some other health issues she is currently experiencing, no one really thought “Oh, it’s the stomach bug.” Rather, we all felt bad that Granny was sick, attempted to help her how we could and continued on with our holiday merry-making.

Christmas Evening two other family members fell ill.

The day after Christmas, Miss E. woke up perky and happy.

By breakfast, she was complaining of a tummy ache and was not interested in eating her Texas-sized waffle.

At this point in time, we had not heard of the other two family members’ sickness. We continued on with our day, packing up to leave for home. Being the diligent mother that I am, I set Miss E. up with a trashcan and Nick Jr. while I packed suitcases.

Then the vomitting began.

I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving over the fact that she had not consumed that Texas-sized waffle and then the husband and I set about the process of figuring out how to drive our family home (six hours) with a stomach-bug infested child. A phone call to the family doctor (What’s up, Dad?), a trip to the local pharmacy and a piece of tupperware designated as a throw-up bucket and we were ready to hit the road.

This is what the girl looked like during the trip



while this is what the boy looked like


It was a long trip, with several stomach issues (one involving a change of clothes on the side of the highway in 30 degree weather and another involving the use of a large puddle on the side of the road as a makeshift dishwasher). We survived and arrived home tired, hungry and ready to be still for a moment.

By the time bedtime rolled around that evening, Miss E. seemed on the mend. She was able to eat a few crackers, smile a bit and talk up a storm. Things were looking good for those of us at casa de phillips.

Fast-forward to Tuesday at dinner time. The boy complained of a headache, which quickly morphed into a stomachache. He is pretty in-tune with illness and his body and promptly relocated himself to the downstairs bathroom (with a book and pillow in tow) while the rest of the family sat down to dinner. Not one bite had been eaten when the stomach virus hit the boy. It also took down the husband and appeared to have affected the girl again by the time I returned to the table. While all the sick people found solace in various locations around the house, I finished my dinner alone and cleaned up the kitchen.

By 10:00pm that night, this is what our living room looked like:

Yep, that is two sick kiddos on pallets in the living room. Isaac had continued to be sick frequently since supper and Evelyn had woken up in a large pool of “sickness” around 9pm. The husband was battling feelings of sickness and had been quarentined to the upstairs with instructions to text me if he needed anything. We opted to keep the kids in the living room with me so I could help them when they needed it and also to make sure all of the “sickness” was contained on things that could be easily washed.

Tuesday was a long night, bringing back images of being a mom with a newborn and being up at all hours while it seemed like the rest of the world slept. The sickness appeared to pass in the wee hours of the morning, leaving us all tired yet thankful by the time Wednesday’s light of day greeted us. By mid-day, all was back to normal with children running around the house again and superheros ready to protect innocent victims at a moment’s notice.

By week’s end, 15 out of the 27 members who celebrated Christmas with us had experienced Farm Flu 2011. On the other side of the husband’s family, we know of five members who also experienced Farm Flu (despite never actually being at the farm, yet whom we had visited over Christmas).


Farm Flu…the Christmas gift that keeps on giving.

Christmas Overachievers Anonymous

I am  a card-carrying member of Christmas Overachievers Annoymous.

I guess it is not so annoynomous now that I have revealed my affliation with the society, huh?

And that card? It actually does not exisit. But if it did, mine would be laminated because I got a laminator for an early Christmas present.

(If my 8 year old self knew that one day a laminator for Christmas would be terribly exciting, I think a piece of my soul might have died right then.)

Anyway…back to Christmas Overacheivers Annoynomous.

At the end of November I was FIRED UP about December. We were going to finish school projects, we were going to do some amazing Advent activities, we were going to make a helping tree, we were going to deliver baked goods to our neighbors, we were going to visit family, we were going to be festive and merry and bright yet still have time for contemplative, quiet reflection by the fire.

Apparently in November I thought December had at least 45 days leading up to Christmas, all of which consisted of 38 hours each.

Newsflash: It doesn’t.

Instead, here I sit in the early pre-dawn hours of December 22nd. I still have one more stack of Christmas cards to address. No festive cookies have been baked. And I have yet to catch a Lifetime Christmas movie on television.

What is it about December that sends us into overdrive and makes us want to accomplish it all? I know I am not the sole member of the Christmas Overacheivers Annoynomous because I have a Pinterest account and I see all of you fellow mamas pinning Christmas ideas like crazy.

Tuesday the children and I had to run many pre-Christmas errands. No one was too thrilled about the idea, including the crazed red-haired mother driving the family station wagon. As we were all fussing and complaining about various things, I pulled the car over at the entrance of our neighborhood. The kids were incredibly confused as to why we had stopped, moaning about just wanting to be done with the errands and that they were thirsty/hungry/bored/tired/etc (despite the fact that we were only47 seconds from our warm home from which we had just departed).

I turned around to them and told them (and I quote) “We are going to be merry if it kills us.”

We then proceeded to have a lenghty conversation about how we want the state of our hearts to be, all the time and especially during the holiday season. No one has much fun if everyone is whining, overscheduled, stressed-out about having fun.

Mary rode all the way to Bethlehem on donkey nine months pregnant being lead by a nineteen year old boy. Surely I could tolerate driving my heated car with cupholders in a five mile radius with two kiddos that I adore.

I am giving up my membership to Christmas Overacheivers Annoynomous. I am not letting it bother me that we never finished all of our Advent activities or that we have yet to watch our favorite holiday movie.

Instead, I am focusing on being merry and bright.

Even if it kills me.


Entertaining Kids: Christmas Break Edition

Have you ever noticed that there is a line in a popular Christmas carol that says “And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again..”

That, dear readers, is because Christmas break can be a beating for parents.

Kids are just SO EXCITED about Christmas and all that energy can lead to issues on the home front.

A great way to channel such energy is to focus it into Christmas activities. Sometimes parents want seasonal activities that can sit down and do with children while other times they merely desire an activity that kids can do independently.

This is an independent activity, friends, that will allow mom to get something down while children are quite and creative.

Early in December, I made a Christmas card kit. I filled it with pre-folded paper, holiday stickers, ribbon, glue, tape, markers, a list of friends and family names and a list of words one might need when sending a Christmas card.

I then gave the children the bucket and let them go to town crafting cards.


This has been a great activity this December and we have a wide variety of cards to show all their effort and hard work. Sure some are a bit more interesting than others, but all the cards are festive, fun and from the heart.

If you need a moment of peace this Christmas break, have kids make a stack of cards. Need someplace to deliver their cards once they are finished? Try stopping by an area retirement village and nursing home. Residents there would love a child-inspired Christmas wish.

Lost under a pile of Christmas cheer

I am here….

…lost somewhere underneath the wrapping paper and Christmas cards and Christmas cheer.

The blog absence was unintentional. I have so many things to say (who is not anxious to hear about the attack of the stomach virus en route to our first of four Christmas celebrations? Or how my children became obsessed with drawing baby Jesus today and now we have his likeness spread around the house? Or about the best Christmas present EVER I have planned for my husband?) but have not had the time to put said thoughts into words.

Unfortunately, the blog absence will have to last a few more days. I hope to be back on Monday with some thoughts on Christmas and an easy activity to entertain kids during the break.

Until then, enjoy these pictures of my children by a Christmas tree.



(and count your blessings that I am simply sharing pictures of the children by a tree and not of George Washington’s teeth….something we were able to see along with this penguin-themed tree on a recent visit to the museum)

Christmas cookies, motherhood and perfection

Isaac and I have just completed day two of Operation Christmas Cookie. We have spent the past 24 hours measuring, mixing, stirring, tasting (some hands a bit more eager than others) and decorating a large amount of sugar cookies. Some are for friends, some are for a cookie exchange this evening and a few are for our family (No worries…we will be repeating this sceanario in a week’s time, where there will be plenty of cookies for my little family).

As I attempt to clean up the red and green disaster that is my kitchen, I am reminded of a blog post from Christmas past. In this post, I am once again found in the kitchen baking cookies with a blonde hair little boy.

Enjoy these thoughts as I continue to scrap up sprinkles and icing off my counter tops…




Yesterday I spent a great amount of time in the kitchen baking in preparation for a holiday cookie exchange at my monthly MOPS meeting. Isaac was my sous chef in the dough making process (I am a bit hung up on the whole “sous chef” thing, as you might have guessed). Baking with kids is a great way to teach various math skills and enjoy quality time together and I attempt to have Isaac help me in the kitchen whenever he can. In the morning we poured, mixed, stirred, and chilled large amounts of dough.

As soon as nap time began, I set about baking and decorating my cookies. This, too, would have been an enjoyable activity for my two year old, but I wanted my cookies to look cute. Two year olds don’t know how to do cute…..just messy and destructively messy. I baked and decorated 3 dozen reindeer cookies, painstakingly placing mini chocolate chips as eyes and red M&M’s to serve as the nose. Pretzels were cut with a serrated knife to serve as little antlers atop the peanut butter cookie head.
Two hours later I surveyed my masterpieces, deciding which were the cream of the crop to be placed on my cookie exchange platter and which were the rejects to serve my family. I wrapped my platter in decorative cellophane, tying it with a coordinating ribbon, snowflake ornament, and tag.
This morning I gathered both children, two diaper bags and a purse, and my beautiful cookies and off we went to MOPS. Isaac and Evelyn were both deposited into their respective classes, then I rushed back out to the car to get my festive platter, brimming with cute Reindeer cookies.
I bet you can imagine what happened next….
I dropped them.
Upside down.
On the gym floor.
Antlers were broken off in sad little pieces, noses were without a face, and that beautiful ribbon/tag/ornament combination was askew.
A perfectly good nap time wasted.
Because I am feeling introspective this afternoon (must be the weather), here is the little lesson I learned from my experience (aside from not hurrying while wearing boots and a skirt in wet weather): I missed out on a perfect opportunity to spend quiet time with one of my children because I was seeking perfect cookies simply to impress others. I missed out on some family time last night because I was still packing away my cookies and cleaning up the major mess I had made in the kitchen during the creative process. I missed out on a nap because I devoted my free time to making sure eyes were even and antlers were straight.
Sometimes I put too much focus and energy into making my plate of cookies look beautiful and flawless which causes me to neglect the important areas in my life. God does not ask that our life cookies resemble a Martha Stewart creation. Rather He asks us to bring him the broken pieces, because He is the only one to make us whole and perfect.
As the holiday season is beginning to hit crunch time, take a minute to check your priorities. Make sure that your focus is set on God, your family, and creating a sense of peace in your home and not on attempting to make everything cookie-cutter perfect.
And to the Mommy who received my broken cookies at the exchange this morning….just pull out a spoon and dig into those crumbs. I am sure Rudolph is just as tasty in little pieces.

Visit with the big man

The entryway table at casa de phillips is covered in photos with Santa during the month of December. I love pulling out these pictures every year, seeing how the children have grown and changed. There is one year that especially makes me giggle because it is a picture of a very weary Santa holding a crying 6 month old and a weepy looking two year old.

Obviously no one had much Christmas cheer that year at that particular moment.

Yesterday the children and I had to be out and about in the city for various reasons. I figured crossing “Have picture made with Santa” off my December to-do list would be a great thing to get accomplished in all of our business.

Typically we visit a particular Santa at a particular mall. However, we opted to visit a more “popular” Santa due to the fact that he just happened to be located in the epicenter of all of our errands.

This “popular” Santa requires crazy mothers to grab tickets hours before their precious offspring will ever sit in Santa’s lap, ensuring a place in line. When one’s appointed time nears, children are herded together, hair is combed and everyone takes their place in roped off areas.

And waits.

Fortunately our wait only lasted about 15 minutes. I am the first to tell you that having children wait for things is a good character builder. However, this mama was a bit ready to call it a day by the time our allotted waiting time neared. I managed to keep it together and we finally approached the big man in red.

The children climbed into his lap, smiled for some pictures and chatted a bit about Christmas lists. Santa bid them farewell and then reached into a deep basket to give them a little gift from Santa.

Readers, I kid you not when Santa bequeathed a glossy 4×6 photo of HIMSELF to my children.

Does anyone else find this peculiar? Why do children need a professional photo of the mall Santa laughing? Should we display it? Should we set it in our nativity scene?

As we were leaving, Isaac inquired about the photo and asked, “What am I supposed to do with this?’

Good question, son.

As for our actual picture with Santa that includes my two children….well, we didn’t get it.

We did not even see it.

I discovered that after waiting in line to visit Santa, one must then wait in line to see the pictures. This line was much longer than the Santa line and this mama had dealt enough with waiting. Besides heavy traffic time was rapidly approaching and I wanted to get home before I had to navigate the family station wagon through the hot mess that is rush hour.

Our table will have a picture with Santa on it from this year. It will simply be one snapped by my own camera.


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