Sunday, December 9, 2012

Night in Bethlehem

This year, I've had the privelege of planning our ward's Christmas party. I teamed up with two other wards in order to plan a "Night in Bethlehem" where we turned our cultural hall into a marketplace on the night of Christ's birth. As a means of documenting this for my own personal records, but also as a way to share with others this idea, I am going to go into depth on the planning of this party. 

It all started with conducting my first Relief Society weekday activity meeting (a committee that plans the monthly women's activities for our church.) This was a new calling for me, so I went to the meeting with lots of ideas for upcoming activities- one being a "Night in Bethelehem." I thought maybe we could have a few small booths, musical performances, and dinner of course. I guess I mentioned this idea to the right people, because before I knew it, I was asked to plan the Ward Christmas party. Then, with the help of the Relief Society President, I was put into contact with 2 other wards to see if they also wanted to do a similar party. 

They did! And for the next few months, the three of us (Travis, Lori, and myself) met periodically- often emailing multiple times a day- trying to get a feel for the logistics for a party with this scale. The three of us planned to team up on the decorations and overall construction for the party, but each ward had their own party and thus did some things slightly differently. {For this post, I will focus on what my ward did specifically.}

We started by meeting with our ward councils/presidencies to get approval for the event. Then we began making invitations to hand out to ward members in order to help get them excited and prepared for the upcoming event. 

I met with my ward council, and divided up the markets to each of the auxiliaries. After a few switches the final assignments were as follows: 
  • Relief Sociey: Pita Inn & Bakery: serving bagels & spreads, pitas, and baked goods 
  • Young Women: Fruit Market: an assortment of fruit
  • Elder's Quorum: Butcher Shop: chicken and veggie kabobs
  • High Priests: Deli: green and black olives, pickles, cheeses, & summer sausage
  • Sunday School: The Well: ice water
  • Bishopric: The Vineyard: punch
  • Hebrew Handwriting/Census: Myself: learned how to write names in Hebrew to sign the Census
  • Children's Area: The Primary: children's activites such as: Nativity craft, dreidels, puzzles etc. 
  • Pottery: Committee Member: Salt dough used to make pottery
  • Tailor's Shop: Committee Member: A shop filled with extra robes to wear if desired

{Pita Inn}


{Fruit Market}

{The Butcher Shop}

{The Deli}

{The Well}

{The Vineyard}

{Hebrew Handwriting/Census}

{Children's Area}


{Tailor's Shop}

Each auxilary was in charge of getting the food for each of their booths, prepping the food, manning the markets on the evening of the party, as well as cleaning up the market afterwards.  With the coordination of one of the sisters, we were able to have a chicken chopping party. We chopped the chicken and then divided up the veggies to chop, and came back another day to assemble and cook the kabobs. It was no small task- thanks {KL} for all your help! 

After months of preparation, the day before the first party was scheduled, the three wards met for a massive set-up. We were able to borrow a lot of decorations from a local craft store called Prairie Gardens. They donated the use of ferns, trees, and tons of baskets that we used to decorate the market. For the set up, I was able to sit on the half court line and direct people to jobs that needed to get done (perfect for a bossy pregnant lady, right?!) What I was worried would take all night and the next day, took a good solid hour and a half to set-up. It was miraculous! The next day we met again to change a few things around, as well as make a few additions to the decorations. All in all, I was super impressed with how quickly the vision I had in my head came to fruition. It was definitely divinely inspired. 

For the night of the party, we invited ward members to come dressed in Biblical robes (out of towels, robes, sheets, pillowcases etc.) and to bring canned goods which are being donated to a local women's shelter. We had seating "Reserved for Honored Citizens of Bethlehem" but for dinner as well as the program we asked families to bring quilts or blankets to picnic on with their families. 

We started off the evening playing a video, "The Nativity," while families where gathering in the hall. Then the Bishop conducted while we had an opening song and prayer, as well as a brief explanation for the event. Then he invited everybody to explore the market. 

{The City Scene}

During the "marketplace time" we were fortunate to have photographers take family photos of individual families up on the stage in front of the {TOTALLY AWESOME!} manger scene. That was for the first 30 minutes or so of the marketplace time, in order to allow the photographers a chance to enjoy the market as well. The rest of the time, members were invited to explore the different food booths, socializing with shopkeepers, as well as enjoying the different activity booths available. 

{Travis, myself, and Lori}

{The Arch}

{The Manger Scene}

{Fields Scenery}

The marketplace time was for the next hour or so, after which we invited everybody to come to the center of the market to watch the program. The program was the nativity being acted out by talented actors of our ward, with congregational Christmas carols being sung as well. For me personally, the highlight of the evening was when my son said, "Baby Jesus, he's happy" during one part of the program. I'm grateful as a parent to have these types of opportunities to reinforce things taught at home, to help reiterate to my children the truths I hold dear. 

{One very tired Shepherd}

After the program, we had a closing prayer, and a brief clean-up (my party was the first of the three parties, so we didn't do too much cleaning that evening). The next day, after the last of the three parties, we had a massive take down. I had come prepared with notecards divvying up assignments and tasks needing to be done, but with little or no direction, everything was taken down and put away- in about an hour! Another miracle. I think the Lord knew that by this point, me and my body couldn't take much more :) 

This event will definitely always hold a special place in my heart. I had this tiny vision, and with the help of so many amazing people, it became bigger and better than anything one mind could have come up with. My testimony has been strengthened in a lot of ways, but especially my knowledge that with the strength of the Lord, all things are possible. Often times there were days when I was too physically exhausted to send out another email, make another phone call, or yet another run to the store, but miraculously, even with as tired as I was, I always had the strength to continue. Yes, it's been about a month since I've done laundry (SH!!!), my own Christmas traditions has been slightly lacking, and PK has watched more Netflix than I even thought possible for a 2 year old, somehow and someway, the Lord made this event possible. It was truly a magical evening, one that I hope helped bring the focus of the time of the year to the Savior. How I'm grateful to Him for his birth, life and death, all of which were to help me come closer to Him and ultimately to have eternal happiness. My heart is very full today :) 

Happy Sunday, 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Halloween Preparations

We are getting all ready for Halloween around here. We've decided on our costumes, put up our decorations, and we carved our pumpkin for family home evening on Monday.

Maybe it's just the $5 pumpkin spice candle from Wal-mart which I've been burning daily, but man, life is good :)

Here are some pictures of our Halloween-ie preparations:

{An eerie silhouette window. It's just sharpie, guys!}

{Huge piece of scrap fabric, Spooky blocks I made in 2010, 
a bird cage with a few knick knacks, and this free printable in a black frame. Plus some old books for different heights}

{Spiderwebs drawn on our outdoor windows}

{Trick or Treat banner}

Now on to the carving: 

It was a great night! We had pizza, listened to the Halloween station on Pandora, dug into the pumpkin {PK's favorite part was probably getting to be on top of the table!} and tried explaining Trick-or-treating to PK. He can now say trick-or-treat, which we've been working on for a few weeks, but it sounds like "Chick Cheat." As long as it sounds anything like "trick or treat" he'll get the candy- and that's all that matters anyways, right? 

Oh man. There is not much better than dressing up, being loud and crazy, and eating chocolate into the wee hours of the morning. 

Is this just the prego me talking? Either way- I'm counting down the days :) 

Happy Thursday! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

26 weeks

This pregnancy has been SOO different than the first. 

The first trimester had some icky nausea, but it came and went much quicker than with PK. I was tired, but not nearly the exhaustion that I remember so early on with PK. And with the move and with the crazy 2 year old I get to spend my time with, this pregnancy has gone by so fast! I was talking to Jed last night and realized we have not even begun with ANY preparations for this baby. Granted, it will be a lot easier to plan and prepare for the second than the first, I haven't made a single list of anything- this is so. not. me. Maybe this means I'm finally a relaxed, seasoned Mom? Um, no. It's more like I just have a ton of other things on my plate currently, that seeing as this baby is #2, he's just not ever going to get the same attention that our first did.  

     {14 Wks}
How Far Along: 26 weeks, 1 day 
Maternity Clothes: Pants yes, Shirts no. I've been fully embracing the maxi dress. 
Stretch marks: Um, yeah. :) 
Weight gain/loss: +9 lbs.
Sleep: I've been staying up too late, but the quality of sleep is the same. I have also begun the ritual of taking a daily nap. No calls between 3-4pm, please! :) 
Best Moment of the Week: Having PK come up, place both hands on my belly and hear him say, "Baby Bro-wer." 
Movement: Not as much as with PK. Maybe this kid will be calmer?? 
Symptoms: Heartburn, varicose veins (those are new- ugh)
Food Cravings: Anything. I mean, I want to eat anything, anytime, anywhere. But I'm determined not to gain all 45 lbs that I painstakingly had to loose after PK, so sometimes I just drink A LOT of water when I feel hungry- so far, so good :) 
Gender: BOY!

{22 wks 5 days}

Belly Button in or out: In.
Anything making you queasy or sick: the smell of hot peppers and anything squash
Labor Signs:  none- whew! 
Wedding ring on or off:  On. 
What I miss:  Nothing. I'm really trying to stay as positive about this pregnancy as I can. If anything, I miss getting to nap anytime during the day that I felt I needed. Now I'm limited to a brief hour long nap in the afternoon when PK is napping, but so far 1 hour is all I need. 
What I am looking forward to: Getting to hold my baby boy. Oh, and knowing his name. 
Nursery:  Haven't started. The plan is for Baby to sleep in the pack n'play and for PK to stay in the crib for Then eventually PK will move into his toddler bed (which we have) and Baby will move into the crib. This could be in upwards of a year- I will do anything to keep those very precious naps for PK. Anything.  
Emotions: Crazy. This is definitely the hardest part of this pregnancy. This could also be its own blog post. My emotions are crazy, unpredictable, and frankly- I don't feel like myself. That is another thing I'm looking forward to- getting to control my emotions better. 
Stupid things I have done: Walked out of the house with my insurance card, and somehow lost it on the way out to the car. It's not in our house- not that I've found in my searching the last two days anyways. And we've also searched the car. I have no idea where it got to- but I'm happily blaming it on prego brain. 

{26 wks}

I don't plan on doing these pregnancy updates every week, maybe 2-3 more times throughout the rest of the pregnancy and then other pregnancy related posts. Just an FYI :)

Looking forward to meeting our little guy! 
Happy Friday

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Nighttime

Last segment of The greatest birthday ever. 
Usually for birthday dinners in our household we go out- and usually it's to Red Robin. 

{Why? Well, I think that's really 2 seperate posts to come later. One about all the awesome free stuff you can get on your birthday, and the other is about how lame I am when it comes to food. But now- back to my birthday.}

Anyways, this time, due to our budget, we chose to stay home. We made some brown rice, stir fry (it was a frozen mix) and then homemade cream cheese rangoon/won tons (is there a difference between the two?). Every time I've been to an Asian restaurant- I'm talking Panda Express here (see previous statement about being lame when it comes to food) I really only want the won tons. I mean everything else is okay- but I always end up thinking- this is super expensive! It's just veggies and rice! I could so have done this at home- healthier and a whole lot cheaper too. But not the won tons. Those are like intricate pieces of artwork to me. Those are worth paying for.

Until, my BF ~Pinterest~ came to my rescue with homemade cream cheese wontons. 

Oh. my. goodness. 

You know that feeling when you're so happy that you can't decide if you should run around screaming, crying, or laughing? 
Double it. 
And then you'll be pretty close. mind blown. 

It was one of the best dinners I've ever had.
{Unfortunately Jed and I both scarfed everything down before I even thought to take any pictures...}

I helped make the rice and veggies, and Jed took over the won tons while I chatted on the phone {I LOVE birthday phone calls!}

Then, as if this yummy dinner wasn't enough- a friend of ours dropped of this yummy treat:

It was heavenly! Jed and I split it while we watched the Presidential debate. That was interesting, huh? Then, as the cherry on top of the already perfect day, Jedediah gave me a very sweet gift.

A brand new hot glue gun. 2 actually- with different heat settings. And packages of glue sticks. This kid knows the way to my crafting soul.  Apparently he had already decided to get me a new hot glue gun because mine was pretty old and was having issues, when just a few days before my birthday it quit working all together. It was perfect timing!

Thank you for indulging me and letting me share with you my special day.

And thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for all the calls, cards, emails, FB messages etc. throughout the week- that definitely played a huge role in my awesome birthday.

Look at all the cards I got in the mail:

I'm pretty sure that's a record! 

I'm totally nervous though because there's no way I can top this birthday, and Jed's is coming up in a little over a month. Any ideas???

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pumpkin Patch

Another segment of  the greatest birthday ever. 

There are few things better than going to the pumpkin patch. Very few.

It is like Disneyland {well, what I imagine it to be like} that is specific to fall. Kids get to run around and be crazy, touch animals and in some cases ride them, search for random objects in a bunch of hay, poke faces out of random wooden structures, and of course- exhaust the rest of any remaining energy searching for the perfect pumpkin.

So, when I saw an ad in the paper about a local pumpkin patch, I instantly decided that's where I'm spending my b-day.

Here are some pictures from our adventure:

{PK with a buddy- I don't think I got a picture with my buddy tho :( } 

{Surprised he held on! For a few times back & forth too!}

{One for the babes and one for the gourds}

{Beautiful Illinois skyline}

We had a great time picking out our pumpkins. It was pretty muddy and with all the vines etc. PK kept tripping. To our delight he didn't mind picking up the dirt etc. either {atta boy!} Oh, and did I mention my hubby's hot? 

As an even more special surprise, my cute friend Darcy made the BEST cupcakes ever for us to all share! She made them before and let me try them- and I told her they were the best cupcakes I've ever had. Anyways, she was a sweetie and made some more for us-  I almost cried {okay I did} with shear joy. They're that good.  Here's the recipe.

All in all, we had an awesome time at the patch. The weather was great, and the kiddos were hilarious. It was all around- the perfect afternoon! 

Happy Monday!