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Category: Family, Fun & Holidays

How to Make Homemade Slime

This homemade slime recipe is SO easy for kids to make! It's fun to make, provides hours of entertainment afterwards, and even makes a great gift idea!

Kaitlynn has been making batches and batches of Homemade Slime recently. This stuff is so fun to play with, it makes great gifts (kids have been begging her to make it for them!), and it’s really popular right now.

She recorded a Facebook Live video with me a few weeks ago about how to make Homemade Slime and so many of you asked for the recipe. So she helped me put together this post for you all today on how to make Homemade Slime.

If you’ve never made this before, you have to try it! It’s SO cool and kids of all ages (and adults!) love playing with it. It’s great for stress relief and for kids who have trouble concentrating if their hands aren’t busy.

Jesse and I have fun playing with it with the kids and seeing who can make the biggest slime bubble that pops the loudest (does that mean we are kids at heart or just weird??!)

To make homemade slime, start by making Slime Activator.

To make this, add one teaspoon borax powder to one cup HOT water. Stir until dissolved. Set aside.

(You can keep this for a few weeks in an airtight container if you are planning to make multiple batches of Homemade Slime.)

Now add one-fourth a cup of glue, shaving cream, foaming hand soap, and a few squirts of liquid hand soap to the bowl. Mix well.

Then, add 2-8 drops of food coloring (optional) to make the slime whatever color you’d like. Kaitlynn has made all sorts of fun colors.

Then, add one teaspoon of Slime Activator (see above) at a time until slime forms into a ball in the bowl.

Once your slime has formed, take it out of the bowl and start kneading it. If your slime is too sticky, add more Slime Activator. However, be sure not to add too much or it will start hardening.

If you’d like your slime to be more stretchy, you can add a little body lotion and knead it in until you get it to your desired stretchiness. You can add more, if you’d like.

When not in use, be sure to store Homemade Slime in an airtight container. Otherwise, it will dry out.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post when Kaitlynn and I share ways to use Homemade Slime to give as Valentine’s gifts or to make Homemade Valentine’s!

A Peek Into My Life This Week (+ how I find time to read!)

Welcome to my weekly Sunday post where we take a break from money-related posts and I share about what I’m loving right now and give you a little peek into our life from the past week.

What I’m Reading

Last week, I read Read the Bible to Your Kids by Rachel O’Niell (she’s a blog reader and she sent me a copy of her ebook to check out!). I was so inspired by Rachel’s encouragement that you don’t have to make Bible Reading with your kids some big complicated thing. Just reading and talking about a verse or two or three every day is a great start.

I also finished A Portrait of Emily Price and The Year of Yes. I wouldn’t say either were stand-out books. A Portrait of Emily Price was a pretty slow read and I didn’t fall in love with the characters as much like I have in some of the author’s other books. I did enjoy the references in the book to Rome as I got to visit there last year!

I thought that The Year of Yes could have used a LOT of editing down and it still would have accomplished the same thing. However, that said, as this is my Year of Yes, I thought it was a good book to help kick off the year. (Note: If you do pick this book up, it’s not written at all from a Christian stand-point and is crass at times. Consider yourself warned!)

This week, I’m continuing on reading books from my bookshelf from four different categories: Candles in the Dark (an old Christian reprint), A Trip Around the Sun (a spiritually encouraging book), The Giver (a story-driven book), and Grace Not Perfection (a book on life improvement).

I’m hoping to finish both Candles in the Dark and Grace Not Perfection this week. I’ll let you know how that goes next week! {See my Reading Goals for 2017.}

How I’m Fitting in Reading Right Now

Multiple people have been asking how I find time to read. This changes with every season of life, but here’s how I’m fitting in reading right now:

  • I’m spending 10-15 minutes reading spiritually encouraging books in the morning — I do this in conjunction with my morning Bible reading.
  • Then, I’m spending 10-20 minutes in the afternoons/evenings reading a non-fiction book or story-driven book. I’m doing this during my afternoon offline time (from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.) once our afternoon chores are done and before it’s time for dinner prep. I usually have a short 10-20 minute window here while the kids are busy doing other things. It’s a nice before-dinner treat for myself!)
  • And then I try to find at least another time either one night or on the weekends when I can fit in another hour of reading.

Between all of this, I can easily get through an average of at least 1-2 chapters of a book every day.

When people tell me that they don’t have time to read, I disagree. I don’t think you should ever say, “I don’t have time for XX.” Instead, choose to say, “I’m not prioritizing that because I’m prioritizing XYZ instead.” Which is totally okay.

But when you change how you talk about time management, it also reminds you that how you spend your time is a choice. We can’t control all the variables of our every day life, but we do have many choices and are not just a victim of our calendar or circumstances! 🙂

For me, because reading is a priority, I choose to find pockets of time to include it as part of my routine and then have made it a habit to include that in my every day life.

What I’m Loving

My dad got us a foosball table for Christmas and we have been loving it. It’s been the source of much laughter and hooting and hollering at our house the past week as we challenge each other to games.

Silas beat me one time this week — which he was SO proud of! I’m definitely going to have to work on learning some new moves and strategic plays because all his practicing is making him harder and harder for me to beat! 🙂

We also played an epic three-night-long game of Ticket to Ride. We played it on our Apple TV and just played for 30 minutes before bed every night as a family. It was so much fun and definitely is something we’ll be doing again. It’s a great way to wind down, it’s something we can all enjoy, and it brings out all of our competitive sides in a big way. 🙂

What I’m Watching

This week, I watched YouTube videos on how to be more successful at YouTube. Because that’s one of my goals for 2017! I’ve also been following a few YouTubers. One of my favorites is Happily a Housewife.

As a family, we watched Greater for our family movie night. It was a good movie with a great and very inspirational message (thanks to the reader who recommended it), however, I thought it was kind of slow to progress in parts and I was shocked that it had the language that it did for being rated PG. I’d highly recommend that you don’t choose it for a family movie night unless you’ve watched it first as parents and feel like it would be appropriate for your kids.

Did you see this video online? It went viral around Christmas and I’ve watched it multiple times… because the dad’s facial expressions and commentary and dry sense of humor just make me laugh! 🙂

What I’m Listening To

This week, I listened to my friend Karthi’s podcast with our executive pastor, Eric Hoffman. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that I’m involved in a discipleship group at church that has been deeply impacting me as a person.

Eric is the one who created the discipleship group curriculum, so if you’ve been at all interested in what we’ve been learning, these two podcasts will give you a taste of some of what we’re diving into in our discipleship group: Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here. I think it would be well worth your time to listen!

Thank you for all your music suggestions last week. You reminded me that I should start listening to Pandora while I’m working on the computer. Truth be told, I’d kind of forgotten all about Pandora since we started using Amazon Prime music on our phones.

One reader recommended the Hymnstyles station on Pandora and I’ve been enjoying the majority of the songs that it plays!

What are YOUR favorite Pandora stations? I’d love to know now that I remembered Pandora exists! 🙂

What I’m Excited About

In 2017, I made the commitment to get back to goal-setting, become a paper planner girl again, go to bed no later than 11 pm every night, and be offline from 3 pm to 8 pm every day (among a few other goals).

We’re one week in and I cannot believe how much these simple tweaks have changed the flow of our days. Our house has been so much cleaner, I’m spending a lot more time with Jesse and the kids, I’m investing more in real-life relationships, I’m making time for fun, and I still have time to get all the important business projects done + have time for some things I love (like reading!)

Honestly, I think that the key for me has been compartmentalizing my time and committing a big chunk of my day to be completely offline. I can’t wait to see how the next few months play out, but I’m so hopeful that this routine is going to be a really fantastic fit for this season of our lives!

In Case You Missed It

My Posts This Week:
My #1 Tip for Finding Frugal Friends
Why Our 3 Kids Share a Bedroom
BIG Changes Are Coming to the Blog This Year!

My YouTube Videos This Week:
2 Habits I Want to Develop in 2017
My 10 Goals for 2017
My One Word for 2017

What are you reading, loving, watching, listening to, and/or excited about? I’d love to hear!

Why Our 3 Kids Share a Bedroom

A number of months ago, I mentioned online that our three kids share a bedroom. A lot of people were shocked, surprised, or even bothered by our decision to have all three of our kids in the same bedroom. 

I personally was surprised at how many people said the picture made them feel so much better. Many people wrote in and told me that they had no idea that our house wasn’t huge and spacious and perfect. They said that seeing that picture helped them to realize that just because we do have a really spacious kitchen and living area, that doesn’t mean that our entire house is huge and perfect!

Let me be clear: We do have a great rental house — it does have a great kitchen, it has a wonderful backyard, it’s in a really convenient location, and our rent is very low for this area.

Compared to many places we’ve lived, this is a really nice house. But it pales in comparison to our previous house. The floor plan is not set up well for our family, it doesn’t have a basement, it’s not conducive for hosting big groups, and we’ve had leaks and termites and A/C problems and ear wigs and a host of other issues while living here.

We rented this house sight unseen because we were living in Kansas when it was available and there was no way we could make it to TN to check it out with Jesse’s work schedule. Plus, it just didn’t feel like a wise use of time or money to drive or fly out to check out a house before we signed a contract on it.

So we asked some of our TN friends if they’d go look at it for us and make sure they felt it was okay to rent. They graciously agreed to do a walk-through and sent us a video tour of it and said they thought it would be good to rent.

We talked to the landlords at length, did as much research and investigation as we could from afar, and both felt this was the house we should go with. So we signed a two-year lease on it, because that was what the landlords were offering.

It was a little crazy to pull up to the house the day we moved and see the area and neighborhood and house for the very first time knowing that we’d signed a contract to live here for two years!

Many people have suggested that we should have purchase a house here when we moved instead of renting. We only briefly considered that option, but we knew that it wasn’t a good option for us for a few different reasons.

1) Housing prices are MUCH higher here — so there was no way we could afford to pay cash for a house at the time.

2) We didn’t want to mess with having to try to sell our house + find a new house + pack up everything and move our family across the country all at the time same.

3) We didn’t know if we were even going to stay in TN long-term.

So we decided renting was our best option — and it’s been a great option for us, despite the drawbacks of the current home we’re in.

One of the biggest drawbacks is that, due to the limited bedroom space, all three kids are in one bedroom. Some people would say we are terrible parents for living in a house where they all have to share a room and don’t have a lot of their “own space”.

Honestly, even though they are 11, 9, and 7, we see so many blessings and benefits for the three of them sharing a bedroom. Here are 3 of those blessings and benefits:

1. It Helps Them Learn to Get Along With Each Other

I grew up in a family of 9 and I remember my mom always telling me that if we can learn to get along with our siblings, we could probably get along with just about anyone. We like to remind our kids that sharing a bedroom with two other people who are very different than you is a valuable life skill!

You get to learn how to be gracious when other people are “in your space”, you get to learn how to keep your area more clean, you get to learn to work together to keep the room clean, and you learn to share your space well with others. 

(And honestly, most of the time, they really love being together. Last night, they were all in their room talking and laughing together for at least 30-45 minutes before they fell asleep. It’s not always like that and there is plenty of arguing that goes on, too, but I think they actually do really enjoy the closeness that sharing a room provides!)

2. It Teaches Them Contentment

When Jesse and I were first married, we lived in a basement apartment. Our budget was very tight and we did everything we could to stay out of debt. Those sacrifices are — in big part — what has allowed us to be where we are today.

But here’s the truth: Our kids were little when we made a lot of financial and personal sacrifices to get to the place where we are now. They don’t remember those days.

We want our kids to have the same opportunity we had to learn that happiness is not based upon where you live, the car you drive, or the room you have. You can be content no matter what because contentment isn’t based upon your circumstances, it’s a state of your heart.

3. It Helps to Prevent an Entitlement Mentality

We now have a lot more wiggle room in our budget than we had 10 years ago when the kids were little (or not even born yet!) They get to enjoy things we never imagined we’d be able to afford for them — like swim team and figure skating and even an international trip to South Africa. However, we don’t want them to grow up thinking that everything will be handed to them. We want them to experience short-term sacrifices for long-term benefits.

One simple way we’re teaching them this is through having them share a room right now. We don’t want them to grow up thinking that they can just get whatever they want without having to work for it, save for it, and/or make sacrifices for it.

So we’ve chosen to continue to rent a house that has less than ideal sleeping arrangements (along with a long list of other “less than ideal” things) because it is not only teaching us all good lessons, but it’s allowing us to be able to save more aggressively and give more generously.

By the end of this year, our goal is to have saved enough to pay cash for a house here in TN and we would like to buy a house that has enough space for them to each have their own room (especially since they are getting older), but in the mean time, we’re learning contentment in the house that we’re in and are choosing to be grateful for the many things about it that we love — like the wonderful neighbors, a beautiful kitchen, and a great backyard.

Our hope is that these lessons in contentment will be something our kids will carry with them for the rest of their lives — no matter where they live.

Please note: Do what is best for your family and please be careful if you are putting boys and girls in the same room. This is something we have seriously considered and it is the reason we are planning to move in the next year. We know that these types of sleeping arrangements will not work long-term — especially as our children reach pre-teen age.

However, we have strict modesty rules at our house (Such as: Never change in front of another person. Bathrooms are for changing in, not bedrooms. Always knock on a closed door. Always leave the door open when you are in the room playing with another child. Etc.) and our children have always been very respectful of each other’s privacy and respectful of our modesty rules. I think it’s important to have these types of rules and precautions in place no matter what the sleeping arrangements are at your house.

Ultimately, when it comes to sleeping arrangements, you know your own children and what would best best in your own family. As I always say, it’s so important to do what is best for your own family and your own children!

My One Word for 2017 (it might surprise you!)

Last year was my first year ever to choose a word for the year and really live by it. In previous years, I had chosen words, but they had never truly stuck or made a lasting impact.

2016 was entirely different.

My Year of Rest changed my life in very powerful and profound ways. In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever be the same as a result of making the commitment to a year of rest. (You can read more about how this simple word radically changed my life in 2016 here.)

As the end of 2016 began to near, I started really thinking through what my dreams and hopes and goals for 2017 would be, as well as what I wanted to invest my life in during this next year.

I learned so much from streamlining my life and paring down so I had breathing room this past year. I learned that when I stepped back from all of the crazy and gave myself space to breathe and laugh and LIVE more, there were parts of me I didn’t know existed. Sadly, I’d been too busy and too focused on productivity to recognize them.

A few things I’ve discovered in 2016: I’m actually not as ultra minimalist as I thought I was, I actually like wearing bright colors and new styles, I actually am less of an introvert and more of a people person than I realized, and I thrive and enjoy life more when I’m a little more spontaneous. (If you missed it, be sure to read yesterday’s post on 10 Surprising Things I Learned About Myself in 2016.)

I realized that saying “no” over and over and over again to the things that weren’t priorities in this season of life and/or didn’t bring me joy, gave me the space to really invest deeply in the people in my home, a few real-life relationships, and a few projects that really mattered to me.

So my Year of Rest is turning into a Year of Yes!

Now that I’ve pared down my life, cut back on the calendar clutter, and made space to live and breathe, 2017 is the year I’m committed (and able!) to say yes to more spontaneity and joy and color and laughter and fun and trying new things.

What I’m Saying Yes To:

  • My marriage
  • My health
  • My kids
  • Real-life relationships
  • Investing in a few extra things in my week that spark joy
  • Being more adventurous & spontaneous in a way that will bless my family
  • Trying at least a few things I’ve never tried before

Now, in case you get the idea that a Year of Yes means I’m just going to fill up my schedule again with a bunch of crazy, I’m not. This is about being intentional to continue to say no to those things that aren’t the best things in order to say “Yes” to the best — memory-making and being more present with the people nearest and dearest to me!

What I’m Not Saying Yes To:

  • Chaos
  • Crazy
  • Calendar clutter
  • Meaningless to do’s
  • Guilt
  • Comparison
  • Trying to be someone who is not true to who God has made me to be

I’ve spent too much of my life playing it safe and saying “no” to adventures and spontaneity. This is the year I’m giving myself permission to be a Yes Mom, a Yes Wife, and a Yes Friend to those in my local community. I can’t wait to see what lessons I learn and how this changes me in the months to come!

Do you need some motivation to make your health a priority in 2017? I have a passion to help you become your best self. I don’t want you to go through life feeling exhausted and burnt out. I don’t want you to have to rely upon coffee or coping mechanisms to make it through the day!

I want to help you prioritize your health, boost your energy, and set realistic goals for self-care. Join me for the 15 Days to a Healthier You Program — registration ends in just a few days! Sign up here.

Coming in the next few days: My goals for 2017, My top 10 reads from 2016, and some big changes that are coming here on the blog!

What’s YOUR word for the year? Share in the comments!

10 Surprising Things I Learned About Myself in 2016

I tend to become very reflective in December. It’s part of my personality and I just can’t help myself! As I’ve been thinking back over this past year and realizing how much I’ve changed, I came up with a list of 10 surprising things I learned about myself in 2016.

This feels a little self-focused for me to share, but I wanted to document it and hoped that maybe some of this would encourage you in your journey of life… that it’s okay to grow, change, and discover new facets of you, even when you’re 35!

So, in not particular order, here’s my list:

1. I Love Weight Lifting

I adore weight-lifting. Really and truly adore it. It makes me feel so empowered and strong. I think there’s something really gratifying about lifting a weight that you thought was impossible to life.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that success as a weight-lifter begins between your own two ears. When you tell yourself you can’t do something, there’s a good chance you won’t believe you can so you will not even fully try.

2. I Am Not as Introverted as I Thought I Was

I’ve long known I was an introvert, but this year, I did some things that forced me to get outside of my introverted bubble and have to really spend a lot of time with people. Going to Israel and Italy by myself for 10 days with a group of 20+ people whom I really didn’t know at all was a huge step for me in breaking through personal barriers of feeling like I just wasn’t a “people person” and couldn’t ever deal with being around a lot of people for long periods of time.

The business has grown this year in that we have a few dedicated full-time employees, which means I spend a lot more time interacting with them on a daily basis. I thought this would be too much for me — especially because I usually work with one of my local team members in person at least 4 days per week. But I’ve found that I LOVE that my team is like my family and that we are so involved in each other’s lives.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I will always recharge with quiet and try to make sure I have some alone time at least a few times per week. However, I’m learning that I actually like people a lot more than I realized. In fact, I actually don’t enjoy being by myself for long periods of time anymore!

3. I Can Survive Without Coffee

This is pretty earth-shattering. Because anyone who knows me well, knows how much I loved coffee.

But I gave it up 18 weeks ago and I have survived without it. And not just that, but I’ve experienced a whole new level of health in part from giving it up. (I still love the smell of it, but I’ll happily drink a Decaf Chai Latte instead!)

4. I Am More of Fashionista Than I Realized

I’ve always said, “I’m not a fashionista!” and I’ve had a really minimalistic wardrobe for years. But this year, I started wearing more colors, paying attention to what more of the trends were, and experimenting with new looks and styles.

And I’m discovering that I actually love to spend a little time to look put together, I love having more clothes and shoes and jewelry to give me more outfit options, and I love finding new hairstyles that are simple and cute.

5. I Can Do Scary Things Without Being Terrified

As I’ve challenged myself outside my comfort zone more and more, I’m finding I get less scared going into new and unknown situations. For instance, I joined a Discipleship Group at church and this is a group that goes really deep, is really small, and requires a lot of vulnerability. I thought this would terrify me — especially because I didn’t really even know anyone in my group going into it — but I realized that I wasn’t even anxious about the first week.

I’m building deep and beautiful relationships with these women and learning so much from our time together. I’m already sad that it only goes through mid-year 2017!

6. I Love Volunteering at Church

I was asked to serve as a volunteer in the girls’ class at church over the summer. It was just going to be for a few weeks and wouldn’t really require much effort at all. I thought it’d be way outside my comfort zone since I didn’t know most of the people who were part of the Children’s Ministry and I’ve never been involved in Children’s Ministry before.

Instead, I quickly learned that I love it! I ended up offering to help lead the 5th-6th grade room of about 30-40 boys/girls this year. It has been so good to get the opportunity to build into these kids’ lives, to use some of the things I’ve learned as a speaker to get to teach and lead, and to get to build relationships with the other teachers, too!

7. I Adore Coaching Other Bloggers

I think that I’ve been blogging for so long that I take for granted that I really have anything to offer other bloggers. There are so many great books and programs and blogs out there that I felt like I didn’t really need to add to the “noise”.

But then I spoke at the Business Boutique events and I got the opportunity to interact with a number of women who were beginning bloggers… and a light bulb went off in my head: I LOVE this!!! I realized that I did have something to offer other bloggers, I do have a lot of experience, I have made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons that would be valuable to share with others, and I am incredibly passionate about the topic of blogging.

So I launched my first Blog Coaching Program in November and had the honor of coaching about 300 bloggers for 4 weeks. It was so rewarding and I loved every minute of it. I have some exciting plans for 2017 — including a brand-new blog I’ll be launching specifically for bloggers, as well as a course and possibly some other resources!

8. I Have Outgrown This Blog

Speaking of blogging, I spent all of this year of rest really searching and pondering what I want the next 5-10 years of my life to look like. After blogging for almost 12 years, I knew I needed some new direction. But I didn’t just want to jump into something or start something without a lot of thought.

So I stepped back, soaked in the quiet, and did a lot of thinking and praying. In October, the clarity finally came and it started with the realization that I have outgrown this blog. By that, I mean that what I originally started this blog for has gotten lost because I have so many other things I’m passionate about.

I can’t wait to tell you what this means for this blog and for the future. It’s exciting and I’ll be telling you more about it in a few days!

9. I Can Thrive Without Sugar & Chocolate

I love me some homemade treats — like chocolate cake and cinnamon rolls and pancakes and chocolate chip cookies and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. Basically, combine carbs and chocolate and I’m probably going to be in love with it.

But this year, I gave up sugar and chocolate and almost all of my favorite carbs for a few months. Here’s the surprise: I’m still alive and kicking! 🙂

Honestly, it was really hard for me to give these things up. I realized how much joy I found from food. But it wasn’t just joy (which isn’t a bad thing), I realized that I had made food somewhat of a coping mechanism for myself. When I had a hard day, I’d eat carbs. When I was stressed or tired, I’d turn to carbs.

Giving them up and then finding out that I could actually thrive without them was so empowering to me as a person. I could feel great and energetic and happy while eating a really simple diet of clean, whole foods. I felt this sense of amazing freedom — and it’s motivated me to continue to eat really healthfully because it’s just not worth it to put junk into my body!

10. I Actually Do Have Time to Really Take Care of Myself Well

I have long made excuses for not truly prioritizing my health: I have too much to do, too many people need me… and on and on it went. When really, in most cases, it was me choosing not to prioritize my health over other things.

This year, by making the decision to hire a nutritionist, I also was making the commitment to prioritize my health. I just didn’t have any idea how much he’d require me to prioritize my health!

One of the commitments you make on the plan is that you check-in with Jason (the nutritionist) every single day. You share your weight and how you feel and then Jason will give you suggestions or change things based upon how you’re doing.

Well, Jason quickly realized that a big part of my problem was that I wasn’t getting enough sleep. When my body would give warning signs that something was off, I’d ignore them because I had “things to do.”

Jason has patiently coached me and challenged me to let go of my old patterns of making productivity my be all, end all and he’s taught me to really slow down and pay attention to what my body is saying. He’s also been adamant that I have to get at least 7+ hours of sleep every. single. night.

I thought I was doing a decent job of getting enough sleep, but now that Jason has taught me what it feels like to actually be really rested, I realized that I rarely ever felt rested up until the last 4 months of my life. I discovered that I need to be in bed for at least 8+ hours in order to get a good solid 7+ hours of sleep at night. This has meant I’ve had to re-arrange my schedule some, but it’s been so worth.

I’m so much calmer, so much happier, so much more effective and efficient, because I’m actually really fueling my body well, instead of expecting it to run well on fumes. I hope that these habits I’m developing and these changes I’m making stick with me for the rest of my life!

By the way, if you’re struggling to find time to prioritize your health, please do consider joining me for the 15 Days to a Healthier You Program. I want to share with you what I’ve learned this year and help give you practical steps to become the best version of you that you can be!

More posts coming in the next few days: My Word for 2017, My Goals for 2017, My Top 10 Reads from 2016, and Some Big Changes Coming For Me as a Blogger. 

What have YOU learned about yourself this year? I’d love to hear! Tell us in the comments.

A Peek Into Our Laid Back Christmas

I told you earlier this month that we’ve intentionally chosen to keep Christmas simple. I thought I’d share a little peek into our Christmas celebration the past few days to give you an idea of how that has looked for us…

We did our family Christmas gift exchange before we left for Kansas. We gave the kids a few gifts each this year — 1-2 physical gifts + a subscription. We do it a little differently every year, but it’s usually no more than a few gifts that are things our kids really, really want. This is what works for our family and what our kids prefer.

We also did our annual Dollar Store Stocking Adventure. This is one of our family’s favorite traditions! We all go to the Dollar Store right before Christmas and everyone gets $6 to spend to buy one item per person (+ tax) for their stocking. We have so much fun trying to split up, hide our purchases, find something creative that no one else would come up with, and pick gifts that people would really love. Plus, the kids get to pick one gift for themselves, too!

I wish I would have taken pictures of our family Christmas evening, but we were having so much fun together that I completely forgot to ever bring out my camera! I was determined to not forget to take pictures the rest of Christmas!

We drove to Kansas and stayed in an Extended Stay America because they had asked our family to do a review (look for a blog post on January 9 with my complete in-depth review!). We were overall very impressed with the price (just $65 to $75 per night per room) and that included a room with a full kitchen + a grab and go breakfast.

We loved having a full kitchen as we brought most of our food for the meals we wouldn’t be eating with family and it was so nice to be able to cook hot meals on the stove and have a full-sized refrigerator to store everything in.

(By the way, we got our kids’ sweatshirts from a sale on Zulily and they have worn them hundreds of times. We love Under Armor — especially when we get it on a great deal!)

We spent Friday afternoon and evening with my family. We got to help decorate their tree and play some really fun games. If you missed all the pictures from that day, be sure to check out my post here.

We slept in on Saturday and then spent the morning wrapping presents and buying a few more items we still needed to get for our extended family gift exchanges. Then, we went with Jesse’s family to their church for the Christmas Eve Service and back to their house for dinner afterward.

We went to Jesse’s family’s house for Christmas Day. And the day began, as it usually does, with photos in front of the Christmas tree. Our kids asked if they could wear their new matching footie PJs jammies all day and we said, “Of course!”

And then it was time for cousin pictures in their PJs. 🙂 How cute are they???

And then it was time for the annual Sibling Photo. Not all the siblings could make it this year, but there was clearly still plenty of PERSONALITY going on here. 😉 {Jesse’s siblings have some of the biggest and most diverse personalities — and we love ’em to pieces!!}

We finally got a photo where almost everyone was smiling and no one was goofing off. 🙂

We drew names for all the siblings and cousins this year and had a blast seeing what everyone had picked out for their person. There were a few gag gifts given which meant that there was lots of laughter and teasing, too — which is pretty much *always* what happens when we are with this bunch!

The little cousins pulled out a game of chess and played together — which was so fun to watch!

We also had some rousing rounds of the Pie Face Game. (I didn’t get any pictures but I got some video proof here!) (By the way, the Pie Face Game is pretty expensive. I found a much cheaper knock-off version on Amazon here.)

We ended the night with stockings and watching the Chiefs beat the Broncos (oh yeah!)

We spent all day Monday with my family for Christmas. We also drew names — this time with all of the family members. We used which makes it so nice because everyone can share a wishlist.

Silas was SO excited with his gifts!!

My brother, Zachary, picked Jesse’s name and got him such good gifts — including this genuine leather skull cap for him to wear underneath his motorcycle helmet. Zachary always seems to find his person unique and expensive gifts that he gets at a great deal in some sweet sale he discovers online or on eBay. 🙂

After the gift exchange, my dad had put together a treasure hunt for all the cousins. They had so much fun finding each clue — and of course they were written in rhymes because that’s how my dad rolls!

When we were little kids, he almost always made us go on treasure hunts on Christmas morning for us to find our gifts! It’s such a fun memory — and I loved watching the kids get to experience the same joy this Christmas.

(By the way, if you don’t have a lot of money for gifts but you want to make things fun and memorable, you could consider creating a treasure hunt to find the gift(s) — because it always make it seem a lot more special and thoughtful, even if it’s a really small and simple gift at the end of the treasure hunt!)

The highlight of Christmas for me was meeting my little sister’s long-awaited baby boy — Atlas Flint! I could have held him all day. And the kids are utterly smitten with him (as evidenced by Silas’ face!)

All in all, it was a great Christmas. Simple, laid back, and full a memory-making with our family.

And now we’re in the car headed back to Tennessee all rested, refreshed, and hearts full.

How was YOUR Christmas? I’d love to hear in the comments!

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