The Reason for the Season: Teaching My Toddler How to Keep "Christ" in Christmas. (12 Days of Nativity With Free Printables)
Growing up as a child, my mom always had a very strong dislike for the term "X-Mas". She always said that the slang took the most important part out of the word, and helped the real focus of Christmas to get lost in the process. Her opinions on the matter spread to her children (or at least her oldest 😉 ), and with Emery being old enough this Christmas to actually understand more of what is going on, I wanted to make sure that I did everything that I could to teach her about the original Christmas story and the reason for the season.
As a way to start trying to teach Emery about the Christmas story, I found her this adorable wooden nativity set and got her a book that goes through a few of the basic nativity characters in rhyme, but I still felt like I needed something more to try and balance out the plethora of traditional Christmas activities that I knew we'd also be doing throughout the month. While talking with a girlfriend I got the idea to do a 12 Days of Christmas focused specifically around the Nativity. I loved the idea, but surprisingly had a really hard time finding anything on the internet that had what I felt like was the "full package" and was age appropriate for Emery. I knew that I wanted activities for each day for her to do as opposed to the traditional 12 gifts that is sometimes done, but also wanted to be able to focus on an individual person/part of the nativity on each of the 12 days. After a good amount of researching, I finally decided on a combination of resources found on the internet and a bit of my own creative juices to create a packet for Emery that I was happy with, so I thought I'd share it for anyone else that has toddler/pre-school aged kiddos and hopefully save you all a few hours of internet stress. 😉
For the activities, I was able to find an ADORABLE packet from Lovely Commotion on Teachers Pay Teachers that was filled with several play-based, tot/pre-school aged appropriate activities with all of the supplies and resources needed. I knew there was no way I was going to find or make anything better than what was in this packet, so I downloaded it and then took it on a flash drive to my local Office Max to get the activity pages printed in color on card stock. I don't have permissions to share the actual packet since the license I purchased is for personal use, but the cost to download the packet is only $6, and then I spent less than that to get everything printed (if you have a color printer than you don't even need to worry about that). The instructions in the packet are focused much more for teachers with classrooms of children, but once I had access to all the activities, I was able to fill in the rest myself to make it work for my 12 day project. To focus on the individual parts of the Nativity, I created these 12 individual cards to go into different envelopes with a specific activity from the purchased packet. Each card has a short rhyme talking about it's person/part in the Nativity and a relevant bible verse to reference. I can't take credit for the rhymes but couldn't find anywhere who to give credit to either so apologies for that, but I hand drew in all of the characters to match the packet to make it more fun for Emery and all of you, and then after a bit of cutting everything out, coloring in the cards, and separating it all into envelopes the packet was complete! We're going to start our 12 Day Nativity adventure on the fourteenth, and I'm so excited to be able to do the activities with Emery and hopefully give her the same appreciation that I do for the Christmas story.
If you'd like to put together your own 12 Day Nativity packet in time for the 14th, then all you'll need to do is pay for/download the activities from Lovely Commotion, and then print off these FREE-12 Days of Nativity cards that I put together for you, as well as a lesson plan that I put together showing the order that we're planning to use the cards, as well as the activity that we're planning to play that day and instructions on how to play. For anyone not wanting to pay for the actual packet of activities, feel free to still download and print my FREE Nativity cards, and have fun each day leading up to Christmas reading the rhyme and scripture for the day, and matching up the cards to your own nativity set at home! I hope that anyone who decides to join us in on these activities is able to have a fun time with them! We're still technically in our first week of December and although Emery already knows how to say "Santa", she will also say "baby" and point at the baby Jesus every time she sees one in a nativity or in her book. I LOVE all of the traditional Christmas celebrations and know that our holiday season will be filled with plenty of them, but hope that this will help to keep that dreaded "X" out of Christmas, and help us remember in the business of the holiday what Christmas is all about. ❤️
To download everything you'll need for your own 12 Days of Nativity:
In my opinion, one of the best things about fall and the approaching holiday season is that it also means the beginning of holiday parties and get-togethers with good friends. Since party planning happens to be one of my favorite hobbies to indulge in, I've been entertaining the idea of throwing some sort of Halloween party in my head since our pool closed on Labor Day. 😜 With all of the different fall festivals and activities available on the weekend's and evenings here in Louisville, I got the idea to throw a party during the day so that it wouldn't conflict with all of the other events. Since everyone's husbands are gone at dental school during the daytime, this specific party was able to be put together completely for the benefit of all of the dental school baby & mama friends that Emery and I have come to love and appreciate so much over these past couple of years. Everyone came together for games and Halloween themed treats to celebrate the holiday and each other, and we had a "spook"-tacular time!
Since our dental school baby age range runs from a couple of months to 4 years old, I tried to keep the food and game options at a level that babies and toddler aged kids could really enjoy and get into. For food we had PB&J sandwiches cut into bat and pumpkin shapes (thus eliminating the gross crust AND making them fun to eat), mummy-wrapped applesauce pouches, string cheese ghosts, jack-o-lantern clementines, candy corn cupcakes, and a fun harvest Chex Mix that was equally adorable and delicious. I'd love to take credit for all of the cute food ideas, but found the majority of the food inspiration on Pinterest, so to give credit to the original creators of these fun lunch treats, links to the individual posts (with recipes & tutorials) are all included for your benefit! I was able to get a little more original with the Halloween games that we played, and included pumpkin painting (mini Trader Joe's pumpkins with Crayola washable, non-toxic finger paints), pin the bowtie on the skeleton, the classic "doughnut on a string" game but with miniature doughnuts for toddler-sized mouths, and a Halloween bowling game made from empty cans and acrylic paint on my part to make the pins look like classic Halloween characters. I also included a few store-bought games from Target like a Halloween matching game, monster face stickers on paper cups, a soft pumpkin toss game, and bubbles so that even the littlest of guests could participate and enjoy.
Overall the party was SO much fun, and I'm so so glad that so many of our sweet friends were able to make it out to celebrate with us (the picture below is missing a few mamas that had to leave early). I'm also EXTREMELY grateful for all of my sweet girlfriends that offered up help to make the party come together. The cupcakes, clementines, and Chex Mix were all made by a few of the sweet mamas below, and the day before/morning of the party I had a couple of my girlfriends over at my house sacrificing their alone time during their kiddo's naps to help me put together the rest of the last minute details. These amazing girls are what makes this dental school journey not only bearable but even enjoyable, and I know that these friendships are some that I'll cherish literally for the rest of my life. Thank you so much to all of those that came and especially all of those that helped! Em & I love & appreciate you all so much! ❤️
black onesie: amazon | play pearl necklace & tights: target | skirt: h&m
white bloomers: thrifted (originally a part of Em's summer wardrobe) | shoes: honeysuckle shoes
Remember last year when I went on and on about how holidays with a baby where seriously the best thing ever? Well this year I'm having to correct my previous self because it's turning out that holidays with a toddler are seriously SO MUCH FUN! This Halloween season Emery is actually old enough to get excited about what's going on around her, and I've been working hard to keep the festivities flowing freely to help her enjoy the holidays as much as possible! I have a family costume planned for us to wear for our bigger Halloween party with friends this year, but realized a couple of weeks ago that between Boo-at-the-Zoo, fall festivals, and a Halloween kid's party we're throwing later this week, that Emery needed a costume that could stand as it's own piece instead of having to be a part of the whole family gig. Last weekend Kyle and I were watching some classic Mickey Mouse Halloween shorts with Emery on Netflix, and the idea came to me that a Minnie Mouse costume for Emery would be pretty adorable and easy to pull together for a fairly inexpensive price. The only part of her costume I had to make was her ears and they cost me less than $3, and the rest of the costume was from items already in her closet or things that I bought but knew that she'd be able to wear with other outfits on a regular basis making it more worth the money! I'll link the details to her outfit (not sponsored, just giving ideas for where to go if you need any of the costume items ☺️ ) and of course include DIY instructions for her ears below, but hope that this post will help any mamas stressing about dressing up their toddler this year know that they can look to their own closets first before having to rush to the store to spend a bunch of money on a ready made costume. With a little creativity, a cute, simple, and inexpensive costume is easy to do, and adorable too!
DIY: Minnie Mouse Toddler/baby girl Costume
cost: $5 max | skill level: easy | total time: 30 minutes
How to Make it:
Happy DIY-ing this Halloween season! I can't wait to see everyone's fun costumes & creativity!
While I was pregnant with Emery, I remember one of the nurses asking me how I was feeling during a prenatal appointment. I was nearing the end of my pregnancy and hadn't been sleeping very well because of my bulging belly and the need to pee every five minutes, and responded that I was a little tired but otherwise fine. The nurse laughed and then made the comment that motherhood could make anyone tired, and that she personally didn't start drinking coffee until after she had kids - at which point a daily cup became a necessity. I remember chuckling at what I thought was a little coffee joke; it took me until three days after Emery being born to realize that the joke was really on me, and that any form of fatigue that I'd experienced during pregnancy was nothing compared to the perma-tired that motherhood would continue to bring me on a daily basis thereafter.
When Emery was a newborn I was SO tired ALL the time. I had gone about 36 hours without any sleep once she was born because of the timing of my labor, and then after that only managed two to three hours of sleep a night for her first three weeks of life because I was so worried about something bad happening to her while I slept. Extreme sleep deprivation didn't help my paranoia, and I found myself deeply consumed with mom guilt. I didn't understand why I didn't have that new mom glow and energy that I had read about in all of my natural birthing books, and found myself constantly second guessing my ability to properly mother my child. I was beyond tired, felt like a failure, and worse than anything felt completely alone in my feelings because all of the other moms around me in my friend group and on social media seemed to have their lives together perfectly and I was the only one falling behind.
Now that Emery is older and we're both getting more sleep, things are better, but I still have times that I just feel tired and can't seem to figure out why, and then I remember that sweet nurse, laugh, and remember that it's because I'm a mom, and that's just one of the perks that comes along with the job.
It's taken me a long time to get up enough courage to write about this topic because learning how to conquer my own mom guilt & fatigue is a battle that I'm still fighting, but I know that there's got to be other moms out there that are fighting their own guilt demons too, and if you're one of those moms reading this then I want you to know that you're not definitely not alone, and that you're doing better than you think. One of the things that helped me the most in breaking through my mom guilt was to realize that it's OK for life to sometimes not be ok. Motherhood is messy, and regardless of what social media wants to make us think, no one has perfect children or a perfect house or a perfect life, because that just doesn't exist. Once I was able to break through that mindset it made me feel more comfortable talking to Kyle and friends about how I was feeling, and I found that instead of feeling alone, I was able to feel like I had a support group of an amazing husband and mamas that could help me through my hard days and congratulate me on my good ones. I learned that it was not only ok but necessary to take time for myself and for my marriage, and that my support group would help make that happen because they all need it in their lives too. There are still days and sometimes even weeks that I'll feel tired (thus the timing of this post), but that's ok and doesn't mean that I'm a bad mom, just a mom that needs a good night's rest, some "me" time, or maybe even a cup of coffee. 😉
Some days when I'm feeling especially overwhelmed, Emery will walk up to me out of the blue like a heaven sent angel and give me a big hug, and in that moment it helps me to remember that everything is ok and that despite the challenges that motherhood brings, that the experience is overwhelmingly more good than bad. If you're reading this and need it, consider this message a huge from me (and Emery) to you, and know that you're an amazing woman and mother. Even when it's hard to tell, your kids love you, you mama tribe loves you, and amongst the craziness of motherhood, always remember that we're all in this together. ❤️
(a final note) : if your mom guilt battle goes deeper to the level of postpartum depression or anxiety, you're still not alone and it is a battle possible to overcome. ❤️ Below are some resources to help, and adding your OB doctor to your support group is a must. They deal with PPD/PPA more than you'd think, and their help really can make a world of difference.
It has taken me way longer than usual to get this picture post up, probably because every time I think too much about how quickly Emery has changed and grown in just the couple of months since these were taken I end up ugly crying to an embarrassing level. Since her first birthday she has really come into her own personality, and it is a LOT of personality in the form of a pint sized toddler. I feel like I'm learning something new about her everyday, and am absolutely amazed at her ability to understand, communicate, and find joy in every aspect of her life.
emery || dress & white top: janie and jack | shoes: baby gap | bows: little ms. kays
kyle || polo: j.crew | shorts: old navy | shoes: sperry
me || top & skirt: j.crew | shoes & watch: target | lash extensions & nails: kami m. (email me for her contact info)
With school officially starting into the fall semester for Kyle again, I'm finding myself in a place where I'm trying as hard as I can to stop time so that I can just enjoy the little bit of summer that's left with my family without the added stress of school and work. Since I still haven't figured out a way to actually make time stop, I'm instead just trying really hard to live in the moment as much as I can, and really appreciate all of the little experiences day to day that I'm able to have with Emery and Kyle. Stopping and taking time to smell the roses has taken on a whole new level of meaning to me, and really trying to stick to that motto this past summer has given my life a whole new sense of joy than I've ever had the chance to experience.
As always, a million thank you's to my incredible friend & photographer Heidi for capturing these sweet pictures for us. She's now been able to capture our maternity, newborn, and one year pictures for us and I don't even know what I'm going to do when her husband graduates dental school a year before us and she moves away. Kyle sometimes complains that I make him take too many pictures, but if there's one thing that I've learned from becoming a parent, it's that time goes by much more quickly than we ever expect it to, and for me taking pictures is my way to capture these special moments and memories that we have together. I can't make time stand still (nor would I want to), but this is my way of slowing down and in my own respect smelling the roses. My family is my whole entire world, and I want to be able to enjoy and remember each stage with us exactly as we are. This blog will always be a sort of journal for me, and I'm so grateful for the daily experiences and the opportunity to document them.
Thanks so much to all those who read these posts and don't grow tired of my constant mushing over my family. These memories mean so much to me, and even though documenting them for my own purposes is the most important thing I love being able to share them with friends, family, and loved ones as well. Thanks for always being willing to join in on our simple joys. ❤️
I'm Chelsea. I'm a wife, mommy, photographer, and lover of life's little adventures. Join me here to celebrate the beautiful things in people and life.