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:
Happy Halloween to all of our friends and family from your Waldo, Wenda, and Woof crew! We love to travel and take adventures together wherever and whenever we can, but have found over the last year that our biggest adventures have taken place close to home, watching our sweet little Emery (or Woof) run, grow, laugh, play, and enjoy toddler life to it's fullest extent. Emery has been loving all of the Halloween celebrations this year, and I've had SO much fun experiencing everything with her! So far to celebrate we've: gone to Boo at the Zoo, learned that Emery LOVES trick or treating and candy, threw a Halloween party for our dental school mom & baby friends, read Halloween books, went pumpkin picking, and had a fun family Halloween party with a few of our closer dental school friends. We (mostly I) also had absolutely no self-control when it came to picking just one costume for Emery this year, and in addition to our family Waldo get-up, also have dressed her up as Minnie Mouse and a black cat.
Kyle was the one to make the final call on our family costume this year, and I was pretty excited about his decision. I'd secretly wanted us to dress up as Waldo & Wenda for years before Emery came along, but making it a family costume with Emery too made it better than I think it ever could've been with just the two of us! These costumes were also ridiculously easy to put together since the main items to find where red & white striped shirts. The rest of the items were a combination of items we already had in our closets/some DIY work (My glasses are literally just my prescription glasses that I wear every day) and Amazon for a few other items to complete the look! Keeping the costumes simple helped to keep my stress levels low so that I could more fully enjoy the celebrations, and give more time and energy to Em's other two costumes. 😜 For any that read more for the creative/how-to aspect of this blog, here are the details for our costumes and where everything came from:
Kyle || beanie: originally from Amazon for last year's costume, with a white DIY yarn pom-pom sewn on top | shirt: Aeropostale (thrifted, because apparently rugby shirts have been "out" for about a decade 😆 ) | glasses: Target? We've had these ones for years as costume glasses but most stores carry something similar. walking stick: Amazon. We also tied a bunch of random items to the straps of Kyle's backpack for all the places that "Waldo" has visited.
Chelsea || beanie & shirt: Gap | skirt: j.crew (thrifted) | purse: thrifted | socks: Amazon | scarf: Hobby Lobby | Boots: Nordstrom Rack. My favorite part of my costume this year was my red lipstick. I've made the mistake of wearing red lips on Halloween before and having them look absolutely wretched by the end of the night with fading/bleeding, so this year I was prepared and wore "Fly Girl" Lipsense and it worked like a charm! I don't sell it and this isn't sponsored, I'm just seriously obsessed with red lips and love that I have a way to wear them ALL day!
Emery || beanie: Amazon | onesie: Walmart | socks: Two Dreams Shop | moccs: Freshly Picked | glasses: completely DIY-ed and SO easy to make! All I did was pop the lenses out of an old pair of her sunglasses, then gave them a couple of coats of black acrylic paint and that's it! Also, the white jacket wasn't originally supposed to be a part of her costume, but Kentucky got hit with a crazy cold spell this past weekend and her onesie is short sleeved so...... jacket it is!
I know that actual Halloween is still a couple of days away, but the older Emery gets the more I find that living in the moment is absolutely necessary to be able to fully experience and appreciate it, and I don't want to miss a single one of these memories with my sweet little family. We'll be spending our end of October at a Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular to make up for us not carving any pumpkins, and then taking our sweet little Woof/Minnie/Black Cat (depending on what she most feels like that day 😜 ) trick-or-treating in our favorite neighborhood with friends. I'm so excited for the celebrations ahead and the time we'll have together as a family!
We hope that everyone has a fun and safe Halloween night with those you love most!
This year marks our third autumn in Kentucky (and the start of our third year of dental school, how weird is that to say aloud?!), and even though the weather lately has been unseasonably warm for October, that fall feel is still in the air and Kyle and I felt like we had to take advantage of it. Every year since we've moved out east we've made it a point to visit a nearby orchard for apple picking as a kick off to fall, and it's something that I've really come to always look forward to. There's always guaranteed to be amazing fresh apples for picking and other produce for purchase, pumpkin spice doughnuts (if you haven't had a chance to try one of these yet you NEED to find a way to get them into your life), and more than anything amazing company from good friends and special time together with my sweet little family! Last year on our apple picking trip Emery was still pretty young and didn't fully understand what was going on, so this year it was a blast being able to have the experience brand new through her curious eyes.
This year was also our first time visiting Huber's Orchard specifically. It's easily one of Kentuckianas's largest orchard's partly because of the winery and distillery also located on the property, and after visiting I honestly don't know why it took us so long to make the trip! They had live music, wine tasting and distillery tours, tractor rides, apple and pumpkin picking, and literally everything else related to fall and fun that you could possibly think of! It was such a neat experience being able to see all of the different parts of the orchard and I really felt like there was something there for any age and interest! Emery's favorite part was riding on the tractor and then of course trying ALL of the apples, regardless of who they originally belonged to. 😂 She loved running up and down the rows of the apple trees, and found pure joy in being free to roam wherever she pleased, and enjoying unlimited snacks whenever she wanted them.
Experiences like these make me feel so grateful for Emery and the stage that she's currently in. Toddler life is so messy ALL the time, and even though it's constantly a struggle for me to let go of my control freak side and thinking that everything needs to be perfect all the time, I'm finding more and more than once I make it over that mindset that I'm able to so much more fully embrace moments and all the joy that they bring. We didn't think to get a picture of all three of us until the very end of our trip, at which point Emery was a sticky apple mess with sun kissed cheeks and only one shoe, and after putting so much thought into what her apple picking outfit would be I'd be lying if I said I didn't cringe a little bit at the thought of us not being able to get that "perfect" family shot. However, after looking back at the whole experience through pictures and reflection and seeing just how much fun Emery and all of us were able to have together, I'm gently reminded of a friend that said it will always be better in life to be more present than perfect, and I'm grateful for the chance to choose that more present path.
Happy Fall Ya'll!
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. ❤️
With how busy Kyle's past school year has been, we were way past overdue for a little family getaway this year. When I asked Kyle where he wanted to go for a trip during his short one week break from classes, his response was somewhere where we could just relax and not have to feel pressured to do anything if we didn't want to. I honestly couldn't have agreed more, so after some thought we decided to take a trip down the south-eastern coast and road trip through Beaufort/Hilton Head, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. Neither place is an overly large or busy city and both have much more of a relaxed, beachy/coastal vibe to them, which is exactly what we were looking for, and it seriously could not have been a better time spent. We played on the beach, ate ice cream while walking along the waterfront, and spent a day exploring Old Town Savannah seeing buildings and history that were older than the actual country. We never rushed anywhere, kept our activities minimal and simple, and really just tried to take things slowly so that we could fully enjoy the area, and more importantly, each other.
One of my favorite things about our family trips is the chance that it gives me to see my husband and baby in a new place and learn things about them that I didn't know before. One of Kyle's favorite parts of the trip was Chippewa Square in Savannah. From the moment we'd chosen our destination Kyle had put it on our list of places to visit because it was where the Forrest Gump bench scenes were filmed. I agreed and made it our first stop in Savannah, but once we were there realized that the reason Kyle has always loved Forrest Gump so much and the reason he was so excited to see the actual place was because it had always been one of his late Grandpa Terribilini's favorite movies too. It may sound silly, but I felt extra glad that we'd been able to take the trip there because it gave me the chance to learn something new about Kyle that I hadn't before, and now when he asks if we can watch Forrest Gump for date night every few months I'll understand more where it's coming from and more readily agree. 😉
As with any family trip, there were unexpected things and learning experiences that we had the chance to deal with along the way. It rained a LOT during our trip, and although I'd expected some rain, not even our jackets were enough to combat the torrential downpour that we received at certain points during our stay. It was also a whole new experience traveling with an excited toddler as opposed to the sweet little five-week old baby that slept through our whole trip last year in D.C. She was full of energy the ENTIRE trip, and so badly wanted to be able to walk around and touch everything that she possibly could. She kept herself up way past bedtime every night, and getting her into her carseat now is still a fight after making her sit in it for two - nine hour drives within a week's time. 😬 As with most unexpected adventures though, we learned that the best way to handle them was to not stress out and to just take things as they would come. Emery got her naps while driving to and from destinations, getting home took longer than expected because we kept stopping to let her out to get her wiggles out, and like already said we kept our schedule while exploring super flexible to allow for a toddler's explorations and unforeseen rainstorms. I feel like our flexibility helped to keep stress levels low and enjoyment of the journey high, making the memories one's that we'll always cherish.
Also, one last note of learning for myself and anyone else with naturally curly hair traveling to the south - just don't even bother trying or stressing over the mane. My hair was straightened on day 1 of our travels and within 24 hours it was back to it's naturally curly/frizzy state thanks to the humidity. HATS. That is the only solution. Or at least the easiest one in my opinion. 😜
Overall this was definitely a trip for the books. It gave us all the together time and fun that we needed to get us through another year of dental school and nannying, and we're already looking forward to the next time that our family can take another adventure together!
North Carolina: Biltmore Estate & Surrounding Shops (It is pretty expensive to actually see the Biltmore Estate & Winery, so we basically just drove as far in as we could without paying)
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.