Our DIY, interactive, anachronistic advent calendar!

I am so excited to share this advent calendar I came up with and actually executed this year! I was looking for something that would not only be childproof but child-friendly, in that Sam would enjoy playing with it and I wouldn’t care about pieces getting lost/carried around the house. I originally had planned on adding “easy” into its description, you know, right after I had come up with the idea and after I had bought the materials but before I had actually executed the project. And after an epic fight with my sewing machine (it won, I gave up and didn’t finish sewing the last two pockets) I might not be so quick to call it “easy” but I think that’s depends on the order of the steps you take and your dexterity with a sewing machine!

Anyway, here is the final product!
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Complete with professional pictures from my camera phone.
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I merged the idea from that great magnetic calendar on Amazon and the Little People nativity set and just substituted felt instead of business wood and magnets.
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Thats right, if you look close you’ll see that there is all sorts of Christmas fun going on in this nativity scene.
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We’ve got reindeer (“giraffes”), evergreens, and a penguin present, as well as St. Nick of course. He will come early to get the scene ready on Dec. 6th, I’m think.
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Then we have the three wisemen joined by Frosty.
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And of course, coming out on the 25th is the divine man of the hour, Baby Jesus himself, or, “Baby Gee” as he’s affectionately known in our house.
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So here is what you need:
• Large felt background
• Extra felt for pockets, manger scene, and scrap pieces for characters
• Felt sticky letters and numbers (these came in one pack that I found, although I had to get creative with all the 2s I needed)
• Felt based characters for the manger scene
• Wooden dowel and ribbon to hang it
• Glue gun and thread for sewing machine, to attach the pockets and the manger scene. Again, the letters/numbers were stickers.

So where I went wrong is that I first laid it all out and then just glued the pockets on with a thin bead of glue. Once it was dried I quickly realized that the glue wasn’t strong enough to withstand the granny, curious hands of a toddler, so I tried to then sew the pockets on, and sewing over glued felt turns out to be a big nono. My advice would be to either fully commit to the glue gun and just use way more glue (less recommended) or just safety pin the pockets in place and then commit to sewing around the edge, holding it a little buckled to get the “pocket” effect (recommended). I really don’t think it would have been as epic of a sewing battle had I not been gumming up my machine.
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Here she is…still smug after her victory…

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I just stuck on the numbers and then arranged a simple empty manger scene. I ended up just gluing the scene on since I think that will be able to hold better than the pulling on the pockets (but I have a particularly curious and strong little boy so I guess we will see!).

I folded over the top and glued it to create a sleeve for the dowel, and the glued the ribbon on to the ends of the dowel to hang it. I’m site other options would work well and it might be better to have it not “swing” so, we will see how this works.

The characters we bought at Hobby Lobby. Some were felt stickers and some were just felt characters. On the sticker characters I just glued a piece of felt directly on the back so we could stick and re-stick the characters and move them around on the board.

There were only a few characters in the manger scene I found, and we need to fill up 25 days, so we obviously supplemented with the other winter cast members. I think its kind of hilarious, but if anyone knows where I can grab some shepherds and farm animals, I reserve the right to do a cast change! And of course we will still have to have a willing suspension of disbelief about the desert scenery and the fact that the wise men arrive before Jesus but, I don’t think Sammy will mind.
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Its a little large, so feel free to put the pockets closer together (even touching) if you don’t want to hear your husband say “That’s a pretty big calendar…is it going to fit on the wall?” (Yes, it did fit. Whew.)

I think I will enjoy it more than Sam, but that’s OK! I’ve always loved advent calendars and I loved making this one!

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An important addendum: To all the moms out there!

I think this is the last post on this topic of relating to the woman still struggling with infertility that I’ll post.  The original few were here, here, and here

This is a small point, but one so important that I wanted to make it its own post.  I have written about what its like relating to women who still struggle with infertility as someone who struggles with sub-fertility but since conceived.  That’s because, well, that’s the perspective I have.  I’ll never have the one of someone who has not struggled with fertility issues and has tried to bridge friendships that this issue comes up in.  And its to those women that I want to address, just for a second.

While there was something extremely intimate in the building of a friendship of someone who equally struggled with fertility, there was something especially comforting when someone who didn’t struggle would reach out and mention that they were thinking about me or praying for me.  It was in pondering this thought that I realized I really needed to get these thoughts and fears of being so hopeless to the infertile now that II have a child out and in print, just so I could give them less power.

I can almost remember all of those comments by name. Those people that took the time and moment to stop and say, they were praying for me.  And if I didn’t before, thank you.  I’m sorry if in my pain I didn’t thank you earlier.

Having someone take the time to write a comment on my blog or send me an email or mention something in person, like ask how I was doing, was just so, so important to me, perhaps even more so because they never struggled.  It was hard to express this at the time, but looking back those little moments of experiencing true compassion from friends and strangers were such bright spots in the darkness.  So I just wanted to send out a little encouragement to everyone to not be afraid to say something to a friend who you know may be struggling.  Write them a little note, or leave a little comment on their blog.  Just because you don’t know what they are going through doesn’t mean your thoughts won’t be appreciated. 

I can relate to that fear of putting yourself out there and reaching out, I’ve been frozen into inaction trying to figure out the right thing to do.  There is a lot of strength in knowing that doing what you can from where you’re at really can make a difference.  A little bit is still more than nothing.

Thankful for not wanting better

A few years back, my husband and I were talking about what we would and wouldn’t do when we had children and how we would and wouldn’t raise them.

Those conversations went a little like, would we give our kids allowance, would we do family dinners, would we spank our children, and the list goes on and on and on.  I think everyone at some point thinks “Oh, I would NEVER do that to my children when I’m a parent” based on what they see another parent do to a child or based on how they were raised and wished they would have been treated differently.  Or there is something that we know without a doubt that this is the single way to instill a certain value into a child so we know that whatever we won’t do, we will do this certain thing

This isn’t a post telling you the right way to raise a child.

Its just that, in these discussions, my husband boiled down the thought that, we ultimately come up with these things we want to and don’t want to do to our children because we want our children to have better than we had. And he said this like it was a universal truth.

Maybe that seems obvious to you.  But when I first heard that statement, it didn’t quite feel right.  I felt like it implied like I had some deficit growing up, like my childhood was slighted, or that my parents did something wrong, something that they could have NOT done wrong.  Once I got past that initial reaction, I could see the value in the statement. We should always be striving to bring up the next generation “better”. Striving to do better for ourselves, or for the benefit of others.

I think there lies some confusion in what “better” translates to, whether it is more money, more opportunities, more faith support, more family love, better health, but wanting “better” for our children doesn’t have to be a commentary on our own upbringing, but the very nature of us humans. By our given nature and fallen world there is always something we could work on or someone we could do a better job of helping.  We can always do and be better.

I was in a discussion group with several other women and I mentioned this same thing: that we all want better for our children. That as humans, its obvious we want better for our children with each successive generation.

And I saw the same puzzled looks.  The same hesitation that I originally had that thoughts like this didn’t come naturally to these women.

And it was then that I realized that it was because we came from such privilege that we didn’t obviously want better for our children.

Not responding to that question in the affirmative immediately revealed that maybe we did have it really good after all.  Sure, things can be improved upon, but wow, if we don’t jump up and shout YES, we want BETTER! then maybe we should be jumping up and shouting in thanksgiving for how well we had it after all.

Just my little two second realization of everything I have to be thankful for.

Who gets to adopt?

I don’t want to share too much on the subject other than the fact that adoption and foster care have been coming up a lot more than it used to in our house, and infinitely more than the subject of doing additional fertility treatments in our future (because that number is currently zero).  Its a subject we have much discerning and prayer to do, but as these discussions have happened in our house, they have been happening with friends of mine as well.  Friends that have adopted or are adopting or who are preparing to foster. Or just random people that I’m paying a lot more attention to.

Recently when I moved here I joined MOPS, and overall I have had a very pleasant experience.  I cry at the meetings frequently, but really, that may just indicate that the meetings are approximately two weeks apart at the most inconvenient times.  We were asked to share our “life story” (yes, in 5 minutes, each) at the last meeting and the mentor mother shared hers at one point.  I knew she had had two children, twins, but her story did not even mention infertility or difficulty conceiving, so I just assumed maybe twins was enough and they didn’t want anymore after that.  The way I hear my mother talk about having twins first really had me convinced I was a bonus baby for over half my life (I am number three – and it turns out I wasn’t). Maybe it was because she was older and had many more formative years for her to spend less time focusing on those years of wanting children.  Or maybe it was because we were at a moms group. Or maybe because I had talked about it too much. 

But she mentioned at the end of her story that she always wanted more children and had looked into adoption at one point.  One day she even had a friend call her in an emergency about a baby born with a heart condition who needed a family since the other adoptive couple had backed out at the last minute.  And her and her husband quickly agreed that YES they would love to adopt him…until the woman called back and said there was another couple looking to adopt that had never been able to have children.  So the woman said yes, choose them, since they had yet to experience parenthood.  High demand, low supply, and they wanted that couple to experience the love of parenthood.

I read a stat this weekend that for every domestic baby adopted there are 36 couples waiting to adopt.  I had heard a previous stat that it was 4 to 1 so there is no way I’m going to link to a reference for that one, but regardless, there seems to be more people waiting than children being born for domestic adoption in the United States.  I heard another adoptive mother this summer lament that women who can have biological children should not adopt.  I have also heard that birth mothers don’t like it when they have families with an only biological child trying to adopt, since it seems that couple is just “looking for a playmate”.

This view that there are people who should and should not adopt stands in direct opposition to the view that adoption is almost a Christian principle and that as we are all adopted by God, adoption of widows and orphans into our families naturally flows.  But I think what bugs me more is that it treats children as objects to be acquired in a “You get one, I get one” let’s be fair attitude, which is directly opposed to the dignity of each child, or the idea that God’s will is above our own and should be determined instead by our determination of “fair”. When in reality, if that were the case, we would all have the same fertility and the same number of children, and the same loving parents in the first place. 

I’m sure there are people who believe any number of things, as there is always someone to stand on the opposite side of the argument. And I’m sure there are birthmothers who will choose you because you have a cat and she likes cats or any other random connection, but I’m more curious, is this sentiment something you’ve heard before? Particularly that having biological children negates you from adopting?

I am just still having a hard time understanding why someone would consider that an important factor in determining if a child would benefit from a loving home that you could provide.

The ability to focus

I admit that a large part of my inability to write anything coherent on this blog, amongst many other reasons, is that I have almost completely lost my ability to focus. After 18 months of this whole parenting thing, it appears I have literally undone many years of practice and completely changed my brain to be great at short bursts of random attention that do not form a coherent thought when strung together.

Yes, I can blame Sam for this, but the truth is my smart phone isn’t helping this. Unfortunately for Sam, I got my smart phone about 3 months before he came along so we’ll never be able to know concretely what the cause of my focus demise was, but in the end its here so I guess that’s all that matters.

Until I try to figure out how to reverse it.

The truth is I have ALWAYS been prone to quick, impulsivity. Its one of the great things that people like about me, right?! Um, or bugs them. I guess it makes things exciting.

One thing I know for sure that is good is to sit down and actually write these thoughts out and not just flit from topic to topic or just read through other random blog posts without taking the time to even type out a coherent response of original thought.

A few months ago my husband really noticed this as we had a conversation and I simultaneously had three other conversations – all with myself – by digressing like a…well, something that majorly digresses. A lawyer? That stapler guy from The Office? Anyway, the point of the original conversation got completely muddled (ironically, just like now). And I felt so badly for my husband. We used to have these great conversations and we would get lost in the nuances of arguments for or against the topic and have such fun boiling it all down and looking at things from all different angles. But my ability – and desire – to do that had disappeared. I think this was one unexpected aspect of learning how having a kid changes you. I knew it would change my body, our sleep habits, our priorities, etc. But I failed to realize that it might actually change my brain structure and my ability to have these intimate, personal conversations with my best friend. That’s pretty big.

Anyways, I don’t know if its because I’m getting better sleep these days or if I’m succeeding at using the smart phone with more discipline (probably not the later) but my conversational ability has returned. As of a few months ago the fog lifted. And then it helps that I’ve been reading books! Well, not really reading so much as having them read to me but, I’m completing books! And engaging in discussion about these books! And it is marvelous. A sign of both the desire and the ability to focus on something longer than 3.5 seconds, which is really just great for so many aspects of my life.

Which leads me to think, again, the purpose of writing this all out. I don’t know what’s to come of this blog. I am always a bit surprised to find out that other people who start blogs have the goal to make it a career. Ads and links slowly appear and I always think, Wow! I didn’t see that coming! But I guess its a natural segue: write, gain readership, then make money for doing what you were already doing. I just, never had that thought process or end goal.

And this blog has never quite been a personal blog in the sense that I’ve shared the daily details of my life. To be honest, I’ve been scared by too many big time bloggers that seem to fall off the divorce cliff by sharing too many intimate details of their lives online to make me think that this can possibly be a healthy way to respect their most important relationships we have in life.

So, I guess I’ll stick with blogging to help me hone my ability to focus and process thoughts. Feedback from the outside world is always super helpful. I read, er, heard, somewhere recently that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in something. So I guess here is where I can practice becoming an expert in focusing. And hopefully become more coherent at it in the process.

Gosh, I have a lot of practice to do!

Truth in sharing

I need a new start!

So I’m re-designing the way the ‘ol blog looks.  Hopefully by getting a fresh face on this thing I can get back to writing.  I’ve missed it.  I’ve needed it! I have thoughts and questions I’d love to write about and get other’s impressions, and then I just stop before I start because this place is so stagnant to me.  There is something freeing about taking the time to create and share. 

Obviously the past is complicated for me.  But I do believe it would be a greater fault for me to just disappear out of fear.  So!  I’m going to not let it get the best of me.

I know, yada yada yada, you’ve heard this one before!

Just a post to break the ice.

You’ll believe it when you see it!