Making Memories Without Stressing!

The months of October, November and December can be crazy! Who am I kidding?  They are crazy. And if we are being really honest here, the craziness starts way back in August when you have to prepare for your kids to go back to school. 

Then its a race to get Halloween costumes, Thanksgiving preparations, and a marathon of trying to be Super Mom/Dad. Many parents want desperately to make the month of December special, meaningful and memorable. 

Moms and Dads work hard.  Whether you are a stay at home mom or a working mom.  You work HARD!!

And then there is social media. Which blows up during the holidays.  It seems as if every woman out there has been gifted with whatever gene Martha Stewart possesses. This inaccurate depiction only serves to make us feel like inadequate failures. Because our children of course, will think they had tragic childhoods if they aren’t making something out of fingerprints once a week.  {insert sarcasm}

{not my house}

And lo the therapy sessions in their future if you don’t make homemade, scented, vegan, paleo, play-dough!!! I am royally screwing up my children!!

I don’t even venture into the play dough world anymore. It was to save my sanity.  And it was worth it y’all.

My guess would be that your children feel special. Regardless of how much or how little you do.  And it may be, that if we are trying to cram in every, single, “must-do” Christmas activity, that our children may also be feeling stressed too. 

In my home, we have 3 birthdays that surround Christmas. December 18th, December 30th and January 6th.  Ouch. Seriously.  So I have the added treat of feeling like I am not doing enough to make the birthdays special enough and separate from Christmas. 

Its not my fault I was super fertile in MARCH!  I’m so sorry kids!!
So here is my super simple, inexpensive approach to December.  I hope it helps you.  Take one idea. Take no ideas. Whatever works for you.

Christmas Tree Decorating-
When I was a child, my parents bought their kids a new ornament, that was meaningful for that year. I carry on this tradition with our kids.  The night that we decorate the tree, I either make or buy cookies. This year is was Oreo’s year to shine with festive red dye. We are in the midst of moving out of the country, so Oreo’s it was.  And did my kids care that I didn’t make homemade cookies?? Not for a moment.  To kick up the specialness a notch, I put the cookies on a red platter, with little glasses of eggnog, as per tradition. Then I simply turned on some Christmas music and voila! Memories galore. They got to open their 2013 ornament, and we snapped a few pictures, done.

 
  

Decorating-
Martha I am not.  I have a few tubs of Christmas decorations that I have been collecting over the last 11 years.  Usually on clearance after Christmas.  That is THE very best time to get decorations.  My kids LOVE helping to decorate. Am I a little particular about where I want things? Sure.  But it means more to my little loves, to be allowed to get involved.  And now they remember every year, and get so excited about putting things in the same place every time.

 
 

Christmas Movies-
I love Christmas movies.  Again, this is something we did when I was a child. For me snuggling up in a big pile of people with a quilt and watching movies together is THE BEST!  To make it extra special I throw in some popcorn, turn down the lights, call it “Christmas Movie Night” and my kids think I rock.  This year I added in a simple Grinch Punch that I found on Pinterest and low and behold I turned into Super Mom!!

         Favorites: White Christmas
                           Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas and sequel Twice Upon A Christmas
                           Holiday Inn
                           The Santa Clause
                           Prep and Landing                           
                          Muppets Christmas Carol

Love This One. Not sponsored. Just love it.
 
Whatever you do, if you are feeling overwhelmed, pulling your hair out, or just not finding any joy in the happiest season of all…. take a step back.  Simplify. Your kids will remember a smiling, relaxed mom and dad, much more than the activities.
 
Tomorrow I will share with you some super easy, inexpensive decorating ideas!
What is your favorite tradition??
 
Oh! And if you are looking for a gift for someone out there still, just check out my previous post.  You can buy one of our shirts, and make your person feel great that the money went towards some crazy missionaries!
 
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So Stinkin’ Cute!!

As of February 1st we will be residents of La Libertad, El Salvador!! The tickets are purchased. The job has been quit. We are really, actually, seriously, moving.

You don’t get move to El Salvador in 7 weeks.
You don’t get to cook for children, tutor or help to grow a church that serves the very poorest (in money).
You won’t be lucky enough to visit and love on the children in the orphanage.
You won’t get to embrace the women and children of La Libertad and share in their lives (in person).

We aren’t moving, leaving our jobs, leaving our country, giving up our security because we are anything special or  it will make us happy.  We are going because we ARE happy.  We have the gift of Jesus Christ and that makes us happy.  Out of that, is where our decision came from. 

You won’t be on that plane with us.  But you can help us. You can partner and support us. And I will diligently share stories from El Salvador.  Stories of the faithfulness of God.  Stories of hope and love and action.

One of the ways to help support us, is by clicking on the tab at the top to be a monthly or one time sponsor. 

The second way is to buy one of our new, incredibly awesome shirts!!!

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Buy one or 3 or 4 today!!!  We will be so, so, so, thankful. 

And if you would like to read more about our decision to leave our jobs and move into the mission field you can read about it here: http://marileemarks.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-day-we-walked-away-from-our.html?m=0 and here.
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Family Garden Initiative

Five years ago when my husband Alex and his good friend Pastor Dan Samms started The Family Garden Initiative, we didn’t know what it would become.
We didn’t know that it would become its own 501c3 non-profit.
We didn’t know that people all over the country, and even some groups out of the country would clamor for projects of their own.

What is The Family Garden Initiative you wonder?

MISSION
The Family Garden Initiative (FGI) is a faith-driven, community outreach organization that provides fresh food to families in need through building gardens and garden education in local communities. FGI teaches its methods and models to local churches and community organizations to facilitate local outreach programs. We live out the Gospel of Christ by serving low-maintenance, above-ground gardens to families in need. Our mission is to reflect Christ by healing urban communities through serving gardens that yield freshly grown produce for families..

PURPOSE
True greatness is serving (Matthew 23:11). We believe that the most effective way to make a community great is for the local church to contagiously serve community needs. FGI provides a simple, effective method for churches to lead communities to meet fundamental needs for the gospel and nutrition.”  

I know you’re thinking that’s awesome!  But how is this different from just giving money to food banks?
Food banks often cannot give fresh produce because it goes bad too quickly.   Many times, food that is given to food banks is highly processed, lacks any nutritional value whatsoever, is high in sugars and salts, and I know I don’t have to explain the value of fresh produce to you!

The Family Garden Initiative is completely unique.  It is connecting people in communities together. Urban environments, where there is no room, knowledge or ability to garden are the areas desperate to get  back to healthy eating, but simply cannot afford it!  These gardens can be placed on driveways, lawns, apartment balconies, anywhere with sunshine!  They help churches and communities do the FGI program, connect with their neighbors and donate whole vegetable gardens!!!  They give the fish and the fishing pole, so to speak.

They have found that kids who have never eaten a vegetable, cannot wait to eat what they have grown.  Families who have a hard time connecting with each other, build relationship while tending their gardens.

Please read this incredible letter we received from a garden recipient this Fall:

“Two weeks ago I had to put almost $1200 into the van,  new tires and other things- most of it unexpected and none of it in the “right now” budget, but it became the right now budget in a hurry.  I have an emergency fund, but as a single mom, it’s not what it should be and may never be, so it covered some but not nearly all of that expense, leaving me with too much to pay out of pocket to not be affected.

Anyway, long story short, because of the money that had to be put into the van, we had $26 to live off for the next 10 days.  I have a full freezer, but no fresh fruits and veggies, as they were all gone by then. (Proving that fresh food goes first in a scarcity situation).
Because of FGI, we continued to eat veggies, every night, for that whole time (I may not be able to eat another tomato any time soon, but it was a fresh veggie available when we needed it, in my backyard that we weren’t having otherwise).
you don’t need to comment on this, as it’s not my proudest story, but I did want you to know what a difference FGI made close to home…
 
thank you- for your vision…”

In addition to garden donations, The Family Garden Initiative is connecting with military bases to provide food to our soldiers.  Studies have also shown that gardening is therapeutic for returning soldiers and veterans suffering from PTSD.
The third goal of FGI is to help provide healthy food to foster homes, orphanages internationally and community centers in Uganda and El Salvador. Children need to EAT! Families need to be able to keep their children!
Here’s the deal.   The Family Garden Initiative badly wants to continue to say YES! to groups all over the U.S. and abroad, who desperately want to provide healthy, sustainable vegetables and fruits to people who cannot afford it.  But in order to do so,  they need your help.  Every dollar you give, is carefully allotted.  There is no excess.
Please consider giving to The Family Garden Initiative this holiday season.  Our children have also learned so much from going out and delivering gardens, and teaching families how to grow their own food.  The goal is to fulfill God’s command to feed the poor and oppressed. We can do that with your help. In addition, if you would like to do a garden donation with your church please contact Alex Marks,  he would be happy to help.  alex.marks@familygardeninitiative.org

To give to FGI and provide healthy food this coming year to families all over, please follow this link:
Give Gardens to Families in Need.

Thank you and Merry Christmas!