Sunday, November 30, 2014

Celebrating Advent

When I was younger, all I knew of advent was chocolate calendars (we're from a very low church background!) Now that I have kids of my own, I've been on the hunt for some more meaningful ways to celebrate advent.

Here are some ideas I've found:


1. Ann Voskamp has a delightful little book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas, which guides your family through daily biblical stories and images leading up to Christmas day. Alongside this book, you can also create a Jesse Tree - hanging various ornaments representing different biblical figures and events in the redemption story. There's a whole website devoted to making your own Jesse Tree, with free printable ornaments, gift tags, coloring pages, etc. Worth checking out!

2. Another idea I've heard of is to set up your nativity scene progressively, one set of figurines at a time, and saving baby Jesus for last. His arrival made all the more special on Christmas day!

3. Similarly, another twist on the nativity scene is to have the wisemen/magi start on one end of the house and journey closer and closer to baby Jesus as Christmas day draws closer.

4. From Rachel Held Evans, the "Pay attention" advent tree:


"Our focus will be on paying attention to the witness of the prophets, connecting them to the Christmas story and to our present longing for God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. For my own Advent calendar, I'll be picking out key words from the biblical prophecies assigned to each week (Isaiah 64:1-9; Isaiah 40:1-11; Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; and 2 Samuel 7:1-16) and adding them to my "Pay Attention" Advent tree.  (I've gone ahead and filled out the first one for Sunday, Nov. 30.) Check InstagramFacebookand Twitter for the key words each day, as well as reflections on Advent, prophecy, and God-with-us." 
5. And if you have artistically inclined children, consider printing out some blank templates of this advent tree and providing crayons and markers to decorate one shape at a time until Christmas day. Proudly display the progress on the refrigerator!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Whether you're near or far, the host or the guest, with family or not, I hope you all have a WONDERFUL THANKSGIVING!



Thursday, November 13, 2014

Curl up with a Click, 6th edition

A compilation of some great reads around the internet - because I may not have time to curl up with a good book until the kids are 18!

On not "firepitting" our marriage (or our children) "I think it’s a normal human tendency. We put more effort in with our friends than we do with our family. We want to be hospitable, but we also want to impress. And while it’s wonderful to feel like we can be comfortable with our own spouses and children, I find that sometimes this means that we put less effort in, too."

Our "Mommy" problem - NY Times "Somehow, as we’ve learned to treat children as people with desires and rights of their own, we’ve stopped treating ourselves and one another as such."

How I do it all (not) "I don’t see what is gained by any of us pretending that somehow everything runs flawlessly behind the scenes."

12 Witty responses to "you have your hands full" (Number 1 is my personal favorite but I don't think I'd ever have the guts to say it!)

To the momma at Chick-Fil-A  "All of the times that we get to be mommy? All of the moments that are completely ordinary and yet often completely overwhelming? They’re worth it."

We need to stop saying 'Babies ruin bodies' "She knows  my heart - she knew it long before we met. And she loves me for it."

A Mother's Repentance  (If you only have time to read one, make it this one!)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Beauty for a Cause

Many years ago, I had a summer job as a night nanny for newborn triplets (they hired me to help with night feedings so one of them could sleep). Two girls and a boy... these were this couple's only children. I remember one morning, in the moments just as the sun was beginning to rise, the mom turned to me, a baby in each arm and one in her lap, and said:

"Now that I have my babies, I just wish we could all live in a bubble so that nothing and no one could ever hurt us or do us any harm."

At the time I remember thinking that she sounded a little paranoid and over-anxious. But I chalked it up to the sleep deprivation.

What I didn't know at the time is that once you have a child, your heart becomes glass. All too easily breakable. When you watch the news, when you hear of a tragedy, it shatters you in a way it didn't before. Suddenly every victim is potentially YOUR baby. And even when you remind yourself that it's not your baby, that your baby is right here trying to get the remote control in his mouth, you still want to cry alongside that grieving mother.

That's why my heart broke when I heard about impoverished families in Haiti who were giving their children to orphanages because they couldn't afford to feed them. The global orphan crisis is near and dear to my heart. And while I can't save every family, I can save one!


The Apparent Project artisans guild uses discarded materials such as cereal and cracker boxes, oil drums, and trash paper to create beautiful "upcycled" pieces of jewelry, journals, and stylish home decor. While redeeming the Haitian landscape, these artisans are also bringing new hope to their families, employing themselves for a brighter future and earning the means to pay for their children's food, shelter, and education. That means less orphans, less crime, less garbage, less stress, and a whole lot more beauty.


So friends, even though I would make a terrible salesperson, I decided to order a box of jewelry and Christmas ornaments to sell at our next MOPS meeting (11/18). ALL proceeds go directly to the mamma who made the jewelry, I get no commission :).

Here's just a sample of all the gorgeousness that came in the box:


Items range from $5 to $48. I hope you see something that you'd love or that would be a perfect gift for someone on your list this holiday season. Bring cash or your checkbook!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Graphic Tees for All the Moms

A fun little roundup of all the graphic tees that should be in my closet right this minute.

I'm So Tired -- Truth!

I am your Mother -- Because, Star Wars.

World's Okayest Mom -- And proud of it!

Because I said so -- I promised I wouldn't say it to my own kids, AND YET!

Soccer Mom -- I can see this shirt in my future.


I woke up like this -- You know it!

Mama Bear -- Awww!


How about you? Which one is your favorite?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Au Pairs

Au Pairs?

As a mother of 3 young children (and one more on the way), I can deeply relate to the conundrum of feeling pulled in so many directions.  Do I go back to work full-time, try to find part-time work, stay home with my kids?  Do I send them to daycare or hire a nanny?  Can I even afford to do these things?  How will I balance it all and stay sane at the same time?

When it comes to full-time childcare, forget day care and nannies (especially if you have 2 or more children).  There is a better option – au pairs.  What is an au pair?  Simply put, it’s a live-in nanny from a foreign country who can provide up to 45 hours of care per week in exchange for room and board, program fees and a very affordable weekly stipend (program/stipend costs average $362 a week per family).  The care is as flexible as you need it to be, which is wonderful for families that have changing schedules or gaps of time when care is needed.  In addition to flexibility, you can choose an au pair that speaks a specific language or comes from a certain part of the world and have them share their culture and language with your children.  No more driving around town dropping off and picking up the kids, no more runny noses all year long from daycare and it’s much more affordable than a local nanny who will charge upwards of $20/hour for 2 or more children (that would cost $900 a week for 45 hours of care). 


Au pairs have been in the US since 1986 when Au Pair in America piloted this wonderful cultural exchange program.  I hired an au pair when I moved to San Diego almost 2 years ago to help with my 3 children while I worked part-time and my husband deployed.  What an incredible experience.  I got the help I needed with the kids so that I could continue working, I had another adult in the house while my husband was gone and my children loved having another caring adult at home.  As a bonus, they even learned some Portuguese!


 To learn more about au pairs you can visit the Au Pair in America web site here: http://www.aupairinamerica.com/refrep/00864 or contact me directly at diananewhart@gmail.com or 202-280-9255