Holidays & Celebrations

One goal we set as a family this year was to celebrate more. To be more aware of all of our blessings and celebrate them, give awareness to them and give thanks for them. I thought it would also be fun to celebrate all the silly national and international holidays. I looked up national holidays and made a list for each month of the ones I thought we might celebrate. Then, while at Frys, I saw this calendar that has a holiday for every day of the month and we got it; a lot of them are repeats, but it also helped us add more to our lists. I found the calendar on Amazon so you can purchase it HERE if you are interested. We definitely don’t celebrate all of them, but even if we don’t do anything for it, we have a good laugh over reading what is that day.

Above is the list of holidays I had planned on celebrating, it doesn’t include the additional holidays/celebrations we got from the calendar. We “celebrated” most of them, but I was not good about getting pics each time. In fact, I was pretty bad at it.

Some fun celebrations in January that we didn’t get pics of:
Houseplant Appreciation Day. What did we do? Dusted our house plants :). Ok, so I liked this one and the kids, not so much, but they were good sports.
National Cheese Lovers Day – we had a cheese spread and tried some new flavors
For February, I had things planned for Groundhog Day but we never ended up getting to them so I filed them away for next year. We did however celebrate:
Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day – obvious what we did here and it was a fun treat
Kite Flying Day- not a windy day (we don’t have too many here) do a kite craft instead!
Guitar Day- Cam’s favorite day, she played a lot of songs and we sang
Muffin Day- great excuse to go get some Costco muffins
Strawberry Day- chocolate dipped strawberries for the win

Here are some of the celebrations we actually remembered to take pictures of:

National Trivia Day was fun. We got these cards at the souvenir shop at Andrew Jackson’s home, the Hermitage, in Tennessee. I found some trivia cards on Amazon that look pretty fun. Ok, so not all of them are trivia per say but they look fun and close enough πŸ™‚

Chinese New Year was a fun one too. We ate “Chinese” food, I say Chinese food loosely because it was very Americanized :). We read facts about Chinese New Year: why the celebrate it, what some of the traditions are and why, etc. The kids made a paper dragon and we made dessert sushi to finish the festivities.

Lego Day and Puzzle Day are two obvious ones to celebrate because we already do them regularly at our house but yay for an excuse to do more of them!

Tater Tot Day was one from the calendar that we added because…well, we got to eat tater tots.

Valentine’s Day for most will be a smaller event/holiday but it’s a BIG DEAL in our house. I have always been a huge fan of a day where you celebrate all the love in your life and all the ones you love most. This year, we took it a step further by starting a new tradition: we don’t exchange gifts at Christmas, instead focusing on giving to others and doing service, and then exchange sibling gifts and gifts from parents on Valentine’s Day. We told the kids we would try it for a year and see how everyone felt about it. Everyone whole heartedly agreed after Christmas that we were a fan of this new tradition. Then Valentine’s Day, or Kissmas as many in our family now call it, and it sealed the deal for us. We loved a day of celebrating each other without taking away from the focus of Christ at Christmas. Win/win for us and we’re officially making it the new norm for our family.

Sticky Bun Day was another one that came from the calendar and boy are we glad we added it to our list! You have got to go make a bath of THESE sticky buns. They are SO easy and SO delicious!

Here are some of the holidays/celebrations coming up for March & April:

Most of these are pretty obvious how you would “celebrate” them, but for some of the less obvious ones, here are some ideas:

Middle Name Pride Day- discuss why they each of the name they have and why. We named each of our children’s middle name after a family member we admire so this was an obvious one for us to celebrate
K9 Veterans Day- I plan on having the kids watch this video to learn more about our K9 friends
Scribble Day- google “scribble art” and the ideas will come to you
Something on a Stick Day- how many things can we eat on a stick? Corndog, popsicle, kabobs…etc
National Find a Rainbow Day- if luck is on our side and its a rainy day maybe we’ll chase a rainbow and go for a drive but if not, I plan on doing a rainbow craft with the littles. When life doesn’t give you a rainbow, you make one!
National Pet Day- spoil your pet! Don’t have a pet? Spoil your friend’s/neighbor’s or make these easy tshirt dog toys and donate to your local pet shelter or vet.
National Laundry Day- is there a better excuse to finally teach your child to do their own laundry?!

I hope these inspire you to put a little more fun into your day to day life without making things anymore complicated. This has been so fun so far because they take so little effort to do (most of them) but have added so much fun, laughter and enjoyment into our busy schedule, and we really hope it will do the same for you!

xo,
Jenny

March Come Follow Me

I thought I would maybe take a second to explain a little how we do these discussions. I have a copy printed and on the fridge for easy access for those who don’t have a phone in our home. I send the link to the family chat at the beginning of the week as well so that everyone has a digital copy on their phone/ipod. We use this more than anything because of the easy access to links. Because we homeschool, we do our CFM discussion anytime between 9am to lunch depending on the day’s activities. After we do a discussion I take a look at what tomorrow’s will be so I can make sure I’m prepared for it and it will give me a better idea of what time we need to do the discussion the next day based on how long I think it will take. My one recommendation would be to find a time that works best for your family and allows you to not feel rushed. This might mean staying open to changing times or just changing times on certain days; I’ve found that as I let go of it having to be at an exact time every day and instead let it be more fluid we have had much deeper conversations. It’s amazing where the conversation leads when you can let it happen naturally and not be rushing through to try to move onto the next thing. With that being said, that’s hard! So go easy on yourself while you try to figure it out. New habits take time and adjusting but you’ll get there! We do CFM daily for the most part but there are some weeks where we do a couple lessons in one day knowing we won’t get to it on other days. If you want to double up days and just read a scripture or quote on your busy days, do it! Find what works for YOU, do it the best you can, and trust in the Lord that He’ll make up the rest.

A big reason why I started doing this was because I wanted to be very intentional with our study. There were so many times we would be reading a section in the CFM manual and I would think, “dang, I wish we were going to talk about this today. I could’ve looked up that one video that explains this concept and it probably would’ve helped.” So I decided to just always plan ahead and avoid those moments as much as possible. I also found we were all getting a little restless with the reading and just going through the motions. I now try to include songs to listen to and music videos to watch and discuss, I look up children’s videos to incorporate to keep it more entertaining for the younger kid, and most importantly I try to keep each day to something we can do quickly if needed. Sometimes we breeze through the assignment for the day and it takes 5 minutes, other times we get into deep discussions and it takes us 20 minutes. Be open to allowing it to take as much time as needed or going as quickly as needed to get something in before you lose all interest. πŸ™‚

Week 9: February 27-March 5

Week 10: March 6-12

On weeks that there is a conference talk to listen to, you can do it as a family, listen in advance and just share your notes on it, or assign it to a child to read in advance and share their notes on it. As part of their homeschool schedule, our kids do personal study each day. There is a whole list of things we consider appropriate for their personal study that they can refer to…one of those items is listening to a conference talk so sometimes (like in the previous week) we ask them to listen to it individually and then we’ll come together to discuss. This can lead to them listen more intently when they know they will need to share something. It also gives them the opportunity to listen at their pace, pausing if they desire to take notes. Of course, we know this can set them up for a great opportunity to have the Spirit bear witness to them.

Week 11: March 13-19

Thursdays are not as busy of days for us and Fridays the kids don’t have school (well, not their core classes they do at home), so you’ll often see that those days have longer discussions. You may want to look over the schedule for the week and switch days if it works better for your family.

Week 12: March 20-26

Every single discussion is inspired by, or pulled directly from, the Come Follow Me manual put out by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am a big believer in music being a huge way we are taught. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but it is for me, and as our kids are getting older I realize how many of them have the same tendency as I do to feel the Spirit strongest through music. I plan on incorporating more music in discussions moving forward. I also think journaling is a huge help in teaching our children so we gave them new Come Follow Me journals last year and ask them to bring them to each and every CFM we do; we don’t always use them, but they are there incase inspiration strikes and our kids want to document something or we do have something we want them to note during the discussion.

We have been blessed so much in the last year we have being doing CFM this way and I hope someone else finds it helpful as well, but if you don’t that’s ok…keep searching until you find what does work for you. Keep trying to new ways until you see it clicking with your family more and more. More than anything, I hope our kids will one day look back on this blog and remember all the wonderful memories we made, all the great discussions we had, and all the moments they felt moved by the Spirit and I hope they can incorporate some of these daily lessons into their family scripture study. May we all continue to live our lives more intentionally…especially with the things that will have the greatest impact on our children as they navigate this confusing world.

xo,
Jenny

Singing Time: Sing or Dare

I love this game because it’s a “one and done”. Print, cut, place in jar or bag and call it good…and it can be used over and over. I asked the kids recently what their favorite games were that we play and this one was mentioned by multiple kids. It really is a winner! I included some other signs and cards that I use as well. Another thing I love about this game is it is so easy to adapt to whatever you’re working on in primary. We sometimes use it as a way to review a handful of songs. If they choose a SING card, or have one of the DARE cards that actually still have you sing, then they also choose a song to sing. Sometimes these are printed and taped on the chalkboard and they just choose a paper to turn around or even better have a jar or bag of popsicle sticks of all the songs you have been learning that year and have them choose from there. This takes some upkeep because you add a new popsicle stick each time you work on a new song but it doesn’t take any additional set up time before primary starts which I’m always a fan of. Then you can pull this jar/bag out all throughout the year when you have a week to review songs, no matter which game you’re playing, or even if you just have some extra time one week.

I originally had mine in jars but then switched to bags because I could just store them in my accordion file. It would also work to tape the SING and DARE sign to the chalkboard or a poster board and then have the cards taped under each title and they can flip them over. I would laminate them if you do that of course.

I made this so after printed you can just fold it in half and tape/glue a popsicle stick in between the fold. If you want it to be a little more indestructible you can fold it in half and laminate it and they can just hold the sign and flip rather than a popsicle stick. Whichever works best for you!

I made the STOP and GO sign be on two separate pages A) so they can be nice and large, and B) so you can print each page on a different color. Or you can take the easy approach, as I usually do, and print on white paper and then have one of your children color in the STOP letters with red and the GO letters with green. πŸ™‚

As you can see, I left a page blank so you can add some additional cards or switch our some of mine for your own. The kids choose DARE way more than SING so I put in a couple DARES that would have the kids still sing. Sneaky teacher πŸ™‚

This up and down arrow is not part of SING or DARE but i use it frequently when teaching so I figured I would include it in this post. We use it at times for standing and sitting and sometimes for volume up and volume down. I cut mine out and taped each one to a popsicle stick…having them on the same one seemed hard to see so I kept them separate and the kids just hold one per hand.

Again, not a part of SING or DARE but I use them all the time. I do have these laminated because of how often I use them and I wanted them to last. Depending on the song we’re working on I will sometimes pull some of them out of the pile. For example, if we are learning a brand new song, I take out NO PIANO and that only seems fair πŸ™‚ These are great to have on hand at all times because when I’m losing their attention, I grabbed them out to make it fun. When I have a little bit of extra time after finishing what I had planned for the day…I pull them out! Forgot to plan something? Choose a child, let them pick a song of their choice that most are familiar with, and pull out the cards for a fun way to sing their song. The options are endless of how you can incorporate these!

If you’re new to this calling just know that it takes some time up front to put some things together but it gets easier! Especially if you just have a handful of games like the above that are easy to use again and again. If you have been in this calling for some time now: I hope you are still loving it and hope adding something new to your growing pile of activities will help you not feel burned out…it happens to all of us from time to time! Happy singing everyone!

xo,
Jenny

Tea Party for Tay

To be honest, I wasn’t planning on throwing a party for Taylor this year. I was thinking we could hold off for one more year before we starting throwing friend parties for her, but on her birthday she turned to me and said, “Mom, I CAN’T WAIT for my friends to come over for my birthday party” I knew I had to throw something together. So a week later we had a fun tea party for the birthday girl and she was IN HEAVEN.

The key to a fun party, in my opinion, is to keep it simple when it comes to games and activities and find a balance of “fun themed” and “kids just want cake and presents” when it comes to the decor. Are kids usually just fine with cake, presents and some friends over? Sure! And some years that’s what our kids’ parties look like. But there is nothing quite like the look of awe and excitement on your kid’s face when they come downstairs and we do the reveal of the decorated space for their party. And the excitement leading up to it as they watch you put things together for their upcoming day of celebrating them. I LOVE it! With that being said, no need to go over the top, because again, they just want their friends to come celebrate THEM for a day. Balance, right? Well…here is what my version of a balanced tea party looks like πŸ™‚

The first thing we did at the party was get all dolled up for the tea party. I provided these “fancy” hats for the girls to wear. I’ve seen the idea of having a table where they can decorate their hats with bows and flowers and such but in the face of trying to simplify things and with only a couple days until the party I decided to keep it simple and just have the hats plain.

The older girls also painted their nails, did the hair of those who didn’t want to wear a hat, and helped them pick out a dress they could put on. With 5 girls in our house we have PLENTY of dress up options so we just brought down all of our dress up buckets and saved spending any money there. If this is not the case for you, I suggest just recommending the party attendees come in fancier attire so your money can go towards other aspects of the party.

Of course the birthday girl had something unique waiting for her on her chair to add to her outfit. We’ve had this one for years and I’m pretty sure it’s from Walmart but here is another great option.

Once everyone was looking and feeling their best, it was time for our tea party to begin. Everyone sat down and we walked around serving everyone and making sure they were all feeling extra special.

All the items we walked around and served them. Fruit with an option of dip to go with it. This is our favorite fruit dip that we make and enjoy multiple times a year because…YUM! Always love an excuse to make it! We also offered 2 types of finger sandwiches: the traditional cucumber or Nutella. For the cucumber sandwich I kept it simple and bought a container of pre-made tzatziki and spread that on bread with some thinly sliced cucumbers and called it good. Here is a recipe for the more traditional way of making a cucumber sandwich. We also walked around with this adorable tea kettle to pour them their “tea” which was actually pink lemonade, birthday girls choice. πŸ™‚

I didn’t think twice when it came to buying that tea kettle; it’s adorable, it was the perfect touch to the party, and it’s practical because we’ll actually use it again. It also looks very cute on display on our dining room shelf in between uses.

Perhaps my favorite part of the party set up were these PERFECT disposable tea cup sets! We have gone through so many plastic tea set over the years with all of our girls and they end up lost, chewed on my dogs, or they outgrow them so fast because of how small they are. Our kids take after their father and are notorious for dropping glass so the real deal was out too. I was so excited when I found this cute paper option.

The kids did not care that they were not real. They were “clinking” their cups all throughout the meal, which I’m pretty sure is not actually done at tea time but they were loving it so we rolled with it, and feeling so fancy drinking with their pinky up and asking for refills.

Total win in my book! And I love that it came with plates, cups and napkins. I always have table cloths on hand so the decor for the party came together quick…win!

Birthday girl requested pink and yellow cupcakes. Big sister, Cam, whipped together a batch of our favorite vanilla frosting and when it was time to decorate the cupcakes we went with a simple flower to keep with the floral theme of the tea cup set. Our 14 year old and 11 year hold helped me decorate them and although they aren’t the fanciest we were very happy with how they turned out, and of course a bunch of 4-6 year olds didn’t care either. My favorite way to display cupcakes is always with a tier tray. This has been one of our most used Amazon purchases ever.

One other treat we had were chocolate dipped wafers which we dipped ourselves. We used tiny heart and flower molds we had on hand to make some cute chocolates to put around the table with the leftover chocolate after dipping. We also got a bag of Mystical Animal Crackers.

I bought two $7 bouquets at Walmart and split them between two vases to add the finishing touch to the table. All in all, super happy how this came together and am very thankful for Amazon prime which made a party thrown together so quickly possible.

The only game we had was Tea Party Bingo. I was hoping to find the Valentine’s Day m&ms for them to use as markers but apparently her party is a little too early in January, because although there was a lot of V-Day decor coming out I couldn’t find the m&ms. Oh well, small insignificant detail. Putting together this game BY FAR took the most time, but they had fun and I feel confident we will play this again with the girls so worth it. I made it super cheap on my Etsy page so you won’t have to spend that much time doing it yourself or pay $5-$7 for a game you’ll use potentially once. Hopefully it helps! If you have time for another game I highly recommend something simple like dance freeze. It’s free, kids get their energy out and you can make it as short or long as you’d like depending on the amount of time you have. We keep parties for 4-7 year olds around 1-1/2 hrs.

Last, but certainly not least, is the party favors. I don’t know why I love these so much, but party favors are always so fun to me. I love that it teaches your kids to do something nice for their friends as a thank you for coming and supporting and I love the excitement of each kid as they get to take something home. What can I say, my love languages are acts of kindness AND giving gifts πŸ™‚

As for what was in the bags, I got most of the items at Walmart. The smoothie chapsticks, mini bath bombs, candy necklace, squishies, ring pops, and fold up hair brushes were all from their. All but the ring pops were in the party favor/party section of Walmart. I should also mention that in the same section, they had this kit of hair extension clips, bracelets, rings and necklaces which we had at the dress up table and they got to wear those home too. Perhaps the best item in the bag though were these tea party bracelets that went SO perfectly with the theme.

If you too find cute mini bath bombs you want to add to your party favors here are some free tags if needed. What I found was individually wrapped but then came in a box of 4. So when I took them out of the box to put in the bags they had no label on them and I wanted to make sure they were clear on what they were. I know they don’t go perfectly with the theme but they were so cute and I felt it went with the whole fancy undertone of the party. I mean, a bath is a bath but a bath with a bath bomb is a fancy bath.

Here are the tags I made to tie onto their goodie bags.

I hope some of this is helpful. More than anything, I hope you have fun planning your little one’s special day. I love making these memories with our kids; making them feel special is one of the greatest gifts we can give them and no matter what you do, they will feel the love you have for them for putting it all together! Happy party planning!

xo,
Jenny

Ps. Thank you for any purchases made from our links. The small amount we get back goes to keeping our homestead running, so thank you!

CFM – February

I’m loving New Testament Come Follow Me so far this year, and I’m really hopeful for how much our kids’ testimonies will grow throughout the year. I hope they will have a greater understanding of how loved they are by Him.

Week 5: January 30 – February 5

Week 6: February 6-12

Week 7: February 13-19

Week 8: February 20-26

Here’s to another great month of doing the best we can!

xo,
Jenny

Come Follow Me – January

SO excited to start New Testament this year! I can’t believe we’re back where it all started but so excited to do New Testament again having learned so much in the last 4 years we’ve been doing this!

Don’t forget, ANYTHING you do for Come Follow Me, or FHE, is enough. Keep trying, keep moving forward, keeping putting forth effort and you’ll be blessed for doing the best you can!

xo,
Jenny

bye bye roosters

Yep, two of our chickens turned out to be roosters. Well, 2 started crowing; still not sure if they were roosters or crowing chickens which turns out is a thing. Point is, we’re down to 6 chickens but guess what?! They started laying eggs so…YAY!!!!

The best part is we woke up Christmas Eve morning to our first egg. Could the timing be any better?! Also perfect: there was a smiley face on the egg. I mean, really, how fun is that?!

Part of why the chickens are doing so well probably has to do with the amazing living quarters they have thanks to Tyson and his epic builder skills :). For real though, he did such a good job building the coop and chicken run. It really is something awesome to come up with a plan, hand it to your husband and bam he makes it happen.

So the pretty ladies we still have: Roxie, Daisy, Potter, Clara, Summer and Rosie. They are so fun and entertaining and curious and we love them! We’re officially the weird chicken people and we’re ok with that. You’d be ok with it too if you ate the omelet I did this morning with their eggs πŸ™‚

If you are thinking about chickens, do it! They are worth it and quite the adventure. We read this book before making the jump to chicken owners and I highly recommend it.

xo,
Jenny

Family Photos 2022

I don’t want to admit how many HOURS I spent picking out outfits. Even with all of Cambryn’s help, it took us days of talking and rearranging. Ugh! By the time we finally decided on the outfits I was dreading going to get the pictures done and had decided I hate taking family pics. Once we started taking the pictures though the kids did so good and we had so much fun and I just love our photographer. She made it so fun and easy, made sure we all looked good and just look at these shots she got! We’re so excited about how they turned out and they made every late night switching outfits around SO worth it. Ok, fine, I love family pictures!

Individuals:

Kiddos:

Small group shots:

Family shots:

If you live in Gilbert and are looking for a photographer, book Averi! You can check out her website or follow her on Instagram.

Another year down, and time is flying! 2 teenagers, 5 kids being homeschooled, a needy toddler, 4 kids in dance, 5 taking piano, 1 taking cello, public school for 1 kid (electives), church activities, 6 chickens, 2 dogs, house renovations, busy callings, up-keeping traditions, starting new ones, side jobs….we stay busy! And we LOVE it. Days are full of laughter, tears, eye rolls, exhaustion, games, learning, talking, challenges, driving, reading, dishes, cleaning, fun, cooking, bike rides, hockey (yes, we started our own “team” as part of school), walks, music, lessons, tests and then repeating a lot of it several times a day and we would’t trade it for anything. We regularly want to cry from exhaustion but we also regularly look around and say to each other, “these are the moments we’ll miss”.

I’m grateful to have our kids home so much. It is hard at times, but the memories we are making are worth all of the challenges. We can’t believe we only have 4 more years left with Cam at home! WHAT?! We’re going to continue to soak up every second we can with these kids and just focus on all the good times which luckily for us is A LOT because these kids are something special!

We hope everyone had a good year, is having a wonderful holiday season and will have an amazing 2023!

xo,
the Browns

Christmas decor is here!

We love this adorable 5ft yarn tree garland. Now available in our Etsy shop! It is time consuming to make but oh so worth it! I mean, how cute is that?!

This adorable Santa gnome garland is also available on our Etsy shop and made by our oldest daughter, Cam. SO cute and fun!

Last, but not least, in the Etsy shop is our wood nativity; a personal favorite!

We are looking forward to an amazing Christmas season and can’t wait to add more to our shop this season and the upcoming year! Stay tuned for big things to come, and as always, thank you for supporting our small business!

xo,
Jenny

Come Follow Me – December

CFM manual, scriptures and journals are all that are needed this month. I don’t specify where to journal this month but plan on having the kids continuing to have journals with them as we do lessons so they can write down any impressions they have.

Week 49: Nov 28 – Dec 4

Week 50: Dec 5 – Dec 11

Week 51: Dec 12 – Dec 18

Week 52: Dec 19 – Dec 25

We have had such a great year studying the Old Testament. I’m so grateful for Come Follow Me and the depth it adds to these well known stories giving us a better understanding of how they lived, how they learned, and what we can learn from them.

I’m SO excited to get back to the New Testament and studying about Christ’s time and mission here. How much we have learned and grown the last 4 years since we first started Come Follow Me! Can’t wait to be back at the beginning gaining an even deeper love and knowledge of the life of our Savior.

xo,
Jenny