Travels, Barfing and an Angel – Merry Christmas!

For Christmas, my family and I went to Colorado.  My husband’s  parents live there, on a beautiful five acre property in horse country.  We had a white Christmas, fresh snow on the ground and all.  IMG_1949

We went sledding, the kids made a snowman with their Papa. IMG_2041

We had a snowball fight
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sunroom hot tub-runs out into the snow and back into the warm water,
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hot chocolates from Starbucks and an hour spent in the indoor Chick-Fil-A play area (one of the kids highlights for sure).

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Most importantly, we were all together under one warm roof,

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snuggling under blankets by the fire with tasty food (including mom’s famous TV Mix), celebrating Jesus and his birth.
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We opened presents, Skyped Aunt Keeli & Uncle Jake and enjoyed being together as a family.

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Getting there was a different story.  We flew on an airplane.  These photos are from the way home, since I didn’t take any on the way there.

That’s Rosie, the class mascot.  We had the privilege of taking her to Colorado over Christmas Break!

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Such a happy girl on the plane!IMG_2198

Six people, four of them five and under.  Please understand the luggage situation alone involving FOUR carseats.  You know that TSA line was LOVING us.  They were actually crazy nice aside from a Desitin confiscation.  All that AND I was completely disabled by a serious flu.  Pardon me if I am too descriptive, but I feel like the details are imperative to this narrative, so bear with me.

It was Monday, December 21st and we were on our way to the airport when I started crying in the car.  Crying a rare occurrence for me, I was beginning to get delusional, for reals.  The kids had all just gone through a horrible flu.

Here is the day before, all Christmas smiles and celebrations for the special school performances they were about to be a part of.

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The flu started Friday night around three in the morning with Dani throwing up, six hours later Eli and then six hours later, Ellie.  And it wasn’t just barf.  It was the kind of flu that completely disables its victim for about 24 hours.

It had been a tough weekend of wiping up puke, holding kids, changing sheets, cleaning carpets and doing lots of laundry.  We had made it through just in time for our Christmas flight on Monday.

We call this photo, “trying to celebrate Christmas…”

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I woke Monday morning with a queazy stomach.  I decided to work out, believing that I could sweat out the virus.

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Since the worst of it looked to be about six hours with the kids, I totally thought I could still make it to Colorado.  I’m tough after all.  We’d booked our flights, and changing them would not only be expensive, but because it was Christmas maybe not even possible.  My choices were, keep the whole family home and try to find flights once I was better, stay home alone with the baby who’s nursing while my family flies to Colorado and try and catch a flight later, surviving the flu alone, or get on the plane and tough it out.

Being the ever optimistic enfp that I am, I really thought it would all just work out fine.  I also had been given a flu bomb of oils, worship music about healing and had friends and family praying for me.  None of that changed the fact that I was about to get crazy ill.  And for future reference, Davin has declared that he will never, ever take my word for it again when I say, “I’m okay, I think I can do this” if I’m sick and start crying in public ever again.  He said that he’s never, ever letting this happen again.

By the time Davin had unloaded all our luggage to the sidewalk, asked me five times if I wanted to go home and then went to find parking, I was shivering and crying while leaning up against the windows of the airport.  I couldn’t stop shaking but I was determined my friends, determined to get on that plane.  I had packed ALL the kids suitcases and stuff.  We HAD to get on that plane.  Dani was holding me and rubbing my back, Eli was telling me that it was going to be okay.  I just kept trying to do the next step.  It took us two hours to get through check-in and TSA because I was so violently ill.  At one point I was puking in the middle of the airport while Davin held a plastic grocery bag.  It was horrendous and is probably on YouTube.  I also still had to nurse the baby, so I was drinking water by the gallons so I could at least produce milk, since all the liquid was fast leaving my body.  When we finally made it on the plane, I told the male flight attendants that I was going to need a few bags.   Fortunately we were in the back a few rows from the bathroom.  Most of that flight is a blur.  Davin said I got up every fifteen minutes to puke and otherwise in the bathroom. One time I didn’t make it and was actually barfing IN THE ISLE into a bag.  Those poor people around me!  Everyone was so nice, they probably assumed I was airsick since all the kids were healthy and happy.  I tried not to touch anything and washed my hands a ton so others wouldn’t get sick.  I sat on the end by Eli while he watched Whinny the Pooh, Davin held the baby in the row next to us with the girls.  Davin said it was such a crazy contrast to hear the kids laughing and squealing with delight during take-off and landing while his wife was almost passed out from the flu.  I remember three different times, almost loosing consciousness.  My eyes wouldn’t even stay focused where I wanted to look, they kept drifting off.  When I had to nurse the baby, she felt like she weighed fifty pounds.  I remember wondering what happens when someone passes out on a plane, wondering where they would put me.  The entire flight I was shaking and vomiting and otherwise.  Every joint and muscle hurt.  All I wanted to do was lie down.  I just kept thinking all I have to do is make it to Colorado.  I wonder if this is what hell actually feels like?  Except Jesus felt close, so not that part.

When we landed, they had a wheelchair brought out for me.  Then we caught a ride on the golf cart thing that the cute old ladies get to ride on in the airport.  One sweet older woman looked at me and said, “you don’t look well.”  I was like, “yea, I’m not (eyes roll back into head, praying I don’t get her sick).”  It was all such a daze.  It’s funny how much we care about how we present ourselves in public most of the time, but when I was that ill, I couldn’t care less if every tv camera, the president and the entire internet saw me.  I couldn’t care stinkin’ less.  I probably looked like the walking dead and I certainly felt like death. Except my outfit.  I had a very cute outfit on, black leggings, black loose top with a cropped dark brown leather jacket and matching booties, and a topknot.  It was pre-flu planned, oh and I wore gold stud Tory Burch earrings that Keeli got me last Christmas, I live in them right now with a hands grabby baby in my arms all the time.  My outfit was super adorable, despite feeling super horrible.

And now, here’s the very best part of the entire dramatic, horrific photo-filled, miracle-ending story.

When we finally made it to the carport pickup area, Davin and Ellie went outside to find his parent’s cars.  I say cars because there are so many of us, they have to bring both their cars just to get us home.   The older two, the baby and I waited just inside on a bench, because I already couldn’t stop shaking, and the cold was just making it worse.  On the second bench next to me, sat an Old-World-Russian-looking woman possibly in her seventies.  I glanced at her and normally would have smiled or even started up a conversation with her (I have a strong affinity for Old-World Russian looking ladies) but this time I just sat there, looking down shivering and silently mouthing, “Jesus help me”.  After a moment, she walked over to me with this large, dark-green, decorative fleece jacket.  She spoke zero percent English and motioned to me to put on the jacket.  It was not a suggestion.  I was now a five-year old little girl and she was going to put that jacket on me.  She even zipped it up for me.  Then she wrapped her arms around me and just held me.  I started sobbing.  I have never felt grace like that before.  This woman didn’t know me.  She didn’t know if I was a nice person or a mean person.  She didn’t know anything about me and yet there she was taking care of me in the middle of the Denver airport.  She rocked me and held me for the next five minutes while I cried.  I think she was praying over me in Russian because she kept saying in almost a soft song what sounded like, “Do Papa, Do Papa” in her sweet Russian voice.  I just cried and cried because I was so sick, in so much pain, and so tired just trying to make it for my family and here she was holding me.  I hadn’t done anything to deserve this grace and yet I found myself in the very center of God’s grace.  I knew God hadn’t abandoned me, I didn’t know why I was so violently ill even after I and so many others were praying for me, but there in that moment, it was as though Jesus was right there holding me.

Here’s the most interesting part.  When Davin came in to get me, he just said, “They’re here, come on” and walked away.  I thought it was so strange that he didn’t come over and ask who the woman was holding his wife or ask why I was wearing a stranger’s jacket.  He just motioned for us to come outside.  So, the kids and I got up, I gave the jacket back even though I wanted to keep it in THE worst worst way to save and treasure it for the rest of my life.  I thanked her as best as I could in English and hand motions and we left.  When I glanced back at her she sat back down in her same spot, all alone.

When I was later retelling the story to our friends over a New Year’s dinner, they asked Davin if he saw the woman.  I thought that was such a strange question because I had just assumed he had, but was trying to hurry, although I had thought it peculiar he hadn’t acknowledge her.  And here’s the craziest part.

He never saw her.

How he never saw her I will not understand, because she was literally covering me.  I had to peek through her arms to even see him when he called us.  She was draped over me like a blanket.

He never saw the woman, or her coat.

The older two kids saw her.  I saw her and she certainly seemed like a real person.  She smelled like a real person, she looked like a real person.  But that experience was something very different.  I’ve never felt so clearly the grace of God as I did in that moment while she rocked me, prayed over me and I cried the tears of understood grace.  I’ll never forget it.  The contrast of feeling terrible, and yet feeling so absolutely and unconditionally loved and cared for by a complete stranger.  It was worth having norvirus on an airplane.

Months earlier, I had been praying about understanding unmerited grace.  Reading again and again of the prodigal son. I had been telling God that I am so much like the older grouchy son, who thinks’s she’s got it all together in so many ways and I longed to feel and accept the overwhelming grace of God like the younger son did, but without all the shenanigans.  To truly stand where I should not be able to stand in God’s presence, and recognize the absolute grace of Jesus Christ.

The thing about the older son is that he is just in denial.  He thinks he’s all great but really his heart is in a prideful state and he’s just as much a sinner as the younger son, the sad part is he doesn’t realize it.  So he misses out on the blessing.  He never even comes to the party.  I kept longing for the feeling of getting a coat, and a ring and feeling the full weight and grace of Jesus on my life.  Having been lost and then found.  I always thought growing up a christian would feel different than someone whose lived a wild life and then later comes to Christ.  At least, that’s what I thought.  I was always a little jealous of the believers who’d have amazing stories of meeting Jesus after all the years of crazy and really truly understanding his love and mercy.  However, the grace is just the same if we only look for it.

And that is where I found myself.

In the very center of God’s grace, with a coat put on me and all!

And Jesus used that terrible situation for good.  How sweet is Jesus to meet me there at the airport when I was having one of the worst experiences of my life?

It’s true that God uses all things for the good of those who love him.

Merry Christmas from 2015!

keeping it simple: da holidaze

I’m pretty sure 1 bajillion (totally a real number in my world) people have already written about this.  AND, they’ve probably even said it better.

But I’m going to share it anyway, because when I was listening to K-Love and Air1 a few months ago and had heard some of the same songs a few times in a day I thought, “Man Lord, why can’t there be even more uplifting/positive music on the radio?   And not the 80’s boring stuff? I want to hear more bands like Switchfoot and Toby Mac and Mandisa, Anberlin, 10th Ave North, and Brandon Heath singing good stuff.  But there’s just not currently enough to fill twenty radio stations all day long.  And that’s when God was like, “Remember when you told me you didn’t need to do a blog because fifty kajillion people already have blogs and write amazing stuff?  Well here you sit wanting more awesome and uplifting music, and you need to take your own advice and pen a blog even IF a zillion other people are already writing.”  He didn’t say it exactly like that, but you get the idea.

On that tangent – I’m taking my own advice and going even farther.  Talking on a subject that’s almost been talked to death.  But not quite, I hope.

It goes along with the main theme in my life this year of not being a crazy hot-dog stand lady. Meaning, keeping it simple.

It’s about keeping it simple at Christmas.

Here is what we are doing: only stuff that seems important in our world and is easy enough. As in, I didn’t strain my cornea trying to accomplish it.

I made a list of things things that made me feel loved, connected and secure at Christmas time, or things I really, really wanted to do at Christmas time, but my parents said no: see the Gingerbread house.  Here they are in order of my memory:

  • Make hot-coco and watch a Christmas movie (Elf in our case, and hopefully more)  ABC Family is running Christmas movies every day from Dec 1st to Dec 25th.  I’ve set my dvr to record the ones I think either my husband and I would like, or all of us.  So movies and chocolate.  Not spiritual.
  • Send a PHOTO (that part is crucial) Christmas card to family and friends.
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the surprise is ruined, now you’ve seen our Christmas card

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My endless over-the-top appreciation for photo Christmas/ New Years cards is paramount to my excitement for actual Christmas morning.  I LOVE them.  Therefore they are a priority in our house.  I want all our family and friends to know they are important to us, even if we just send them a card each year.  We actually budget for this each year, because photo cards and stamps can add up real quick.

This year the kids wanted to help, so they decorated half the cards on the back (mostly, Ellie also decorated the front (sorry mail-person!)) until they got bored.

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The perfectionist mom in my head tried to come out, thinking, “you colored half, finish the rest, everyone deserves some art”, but then I remembered, who the heck cares?  No one.  If you are family, you probably got a colored envelope, because those were on the top.  Congratulations!

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giving up on computers

All of our cards are all hand addressed because the word documents of saved addresses that I printed perfectly normal last year has confused me refused to work correctly and won’t print in the right spots.  So to spite the computer and it’s printer friend, I decided I didn’t need them! All cards are all hand addressed because it seemed easier then trying to figure out how to make labels print correctly… my version of keeping it simple.

And, they will be return addressed with the free return address labels they send in the mail, because it’s so easy… and tacky, but more easy then tacky.

  • Make gingerbread houses.  I don’t have a memory of making this sort of colossal, sneak-candy-when-mom’s-not-looking type of mess.  It looks like SO much fun to me.  I will let you know how it goes.  Mine are pre-fab from Costco for $9.95 each, because I wanted to keep things simple.  Thanks Costco!
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You had me at “pre-built”
  • Go look at Christmas lights, in our own neighborhood by walking with hot chocolate (notice a reoccurring theme? chocolate).  I know there are better neighborhoods, and we might go drive one if it seems easy, but why not just keep things simple and enjoy what our neighbors have to offer?  We will all be on foot (Ellie in her toy push car) and we can walk slowly in the comfort of our own non-crowded neighborhood. There’s a neighborhood not too far that is KNOWN for being incredible, it’s like five miles of amazing-ness, but to get there one has to park at the local store and walk for like 10 minuets through congested traffic.  Pass.
  • Talk about Jesus’ birthday.  My kids now understand birthdays.  They know who Jesus is.  This is the first year they’ve realized he has an actual birthday that we celebrate at Christmas.  So whenever they are in awe of anything Christmas tree, lights, sparkles, fun, hot chocolate, whatever – I say, “WOW!  Isn’t it cool that Jesus gets SO many birthday decorations/ways to celebrate for his birthday?  Everyone wants to celebrate his birthday!  So fun.”  Then I follow it up by explaining that we give and get presents on Jesus birthday (Christmas) to remind ourselves and others that Jesus is the best gift of all.

AND, we will make him an Apple-Cinnamon Toastie from Babycakes on his birthday.  We will eat it Christmas morning to celebrate. Even though every single time without fail, the middle turns out soggy and the whole thing looses it’s shape, it’s insanely delicious, regardless of it’s hideous appearance.

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This type of baking dish and I have had some disagreements.

photo 3 (1)So much so that the words banana bread and zucchini bread have been cast out of our home. I have NEVER successfully made either.  Not. Once.  But for you Apple-Cinnamon Toastie, I will try, forever.

  • Make some Christmas cookies.  I loved decorating cookies as a kid.  It’s just fun and delicious.
  • Veggie-Tales Christmas time:  Again with the movies.  This one is not actually a priority, it’s just another convenient way to teach the kids about Christmas.  We own three Veggie Tales Christmas themed movies.  Two are vhs that we inherited.  Yes, I have my kids watch vhs films on our 9 inch vhs tv player.  The latest one (dvd only) even has Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty, it’s called, Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas and it’s pretty funny for grown-ups too.  So, if it’s a tv moment (they’re have been quite a few lately due to kids being sick and listless) I put on a kid friendly reminder about what Christmas is really about.

In addition to those little diamonds, I will attempt to continue with life as normal.  This month we are eating from emeals, the vegetarian menu.  It’s simple and not vegan, but it’s as close as I’m going to get without going crazy.  Dinner on the table with the family is ONE of my sacred ideals and I don’t want to loose it to this busy season.  It’s just always been a priority, and I feel like it keeps our family connected.  So in between the parties, Christmas ideals, friends and family, I hope to still have a home cooked meal on the table 4 to 5 out of 7 nights a week. Davin and I usually go out a few times a month on a date!  AND there are super delicious Mexican, Thai, Sushi and Italian places that cook for us regularly (for a small fee of corse), so that will be the other 2-3 nights out of the week.

Also in this month to simplify things?  Canned soup.  Amy’s canned soup from? Costco.  In fact we’re having that for lunch.  So simple.  I also hope to maintain a fairly well kept house, and keep our clothes clean by washing them occasionally, and keep up with our kids dental and general hygiene, and having pretty painted nails… not TOO tall of an order.

That is it.  So far.

I downloaded, The Truth in Tinsel and prepped all the even craft days for it (I was coordinating with a dear friend).  But then I realized that completing a craft each day with my children, on a schedule would be as pleasant for me as breaking a glass Christmas ornament and scraping myself with it… to death.  I am not exaggerating.

Also, my kids are too little to understand most of what very deep things I try and share.  So even though it’s spiritual, even though it teaches, and is super intentional – we’re not doing it. Not this year anyway.

I also LOVE wrapping gifts (grown-up ones, because grown-ups appreciate good wrapping) so that will be something I put some effort into.

Now that it’s all in print.  That’s actually a LOT to try and accomplish, so if something gets missed.  Oh stinkin’ well.  We’ve already watched part of Elf and drizzank some hot chocolate, CHECK!

Enjoy your semi-simple holiday season.  And don’t stress out if your 3 year old kids get the light of Jesus mixed up with the candle in Beauty in the Beast… in the end, it will all come together if you just keep praying for your little ones;-)  I think they can know the love of Jesus in hot chocolate and movies too:-)

As always, thank you so much for reading.

The Craft to Contain All Other Crafts

Let me just start this post by stating: I should be doing laundry.  Sometimes in life, we should be doing something, but there a moments I believe, it’s good to let yourself do something else for awhile.  A mini vacation from life’s should-do’s!

I also probably should have made lunch, but on a whim I decided I wanted to drive a crazy number of hours all the way to Santa Cruz and buy pizza at Pleasure Point Pizza.  I then realized that whim was a bit much, we didn’t even have jackets in the car, so scaling it back a bit I decided to splurge on In-N-Out instead.   In-N-Out is just one of the many reasons living in the Sunshine state is wonderful.

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My kids could not have been happier over their grilled cheese and fries with ketchup.

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And, Micky Mouse Clubhouse.  Life is so good as a little person in our house right now.

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Look at the toys-on-toys going on here.  Random pillows on the floor from another room?  We’ve got that.

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Toys all up in he-ah!IMG_6218

So in addition to laundry I should also be cleaning…  but instead – mini-life vacation to the rescue!

Today I have absolutely nothing to share that is amazing from my heart, but only a simple solution to a problem I encountered when my kids started bringing home their work from preschool and kids church.  I’ve had an entire grocery bag FULL of art, and school crafts piling up since September.  I don’t like clutter, so I’m not really into the fridge idea.  I did however want my kids to feel like every piece of artwork was special and important to all of us in the family. Who doesn’t like an audience for hard work, right?

So I prayed for a solution.  Sounds silly, I don’t care what it sounds like, that’s what I did.

And, surprise surprise – I got an answer.  Now, God did not speak to me like, “DO THIS CRAFT TO CONTAIN ALL OHER CRAFTS, thus sayest…”.  That did not happen.  I just prayed something like, “Snap God, look at all this work the kids did, it’s still sitting here in my pantry making me feel bad like it should be up or something, and they are going to keep bringing home cooler and cooler work – what am I going to do?  You know how haphazard I am with the crafts!”

So when an idea popped into my head, and it felt simple enough I was like, “yep, that be my answer.”

So, I introduce to you, the Craft to Contain All Other Crafts.

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I actually learned about a Christmas version (posted at the bottom) of this at a Mops meeting and I just modified it a bit.  I feel like all the credit of this craft rests upon our fearless craft leader from Mops named, Carly. Thank you Carly.  She makes signs, they are amazing, you can see them at Sweetly Spoken Signs.

I like this craft because it is:

  1. easy enough
  2. versatile based on decor preferences
  3. easy to change out the art/crafts

Here’s what you need to accomplish this one:

  1. 2 pieces of wood from a lumber store (I know, this sounds taxing, but it’s not THAT hard)  You need 2 pieces of 1×4: it measures 1 x 3 1/2 but I’m assuming they round up?  They come in lengths of 6 feet at my store, so with two, I had my husband cut each one into three sections of 2 feet each. If you are nice at the lumber store, they will cut if for you.
  2. clothes pins (you will need 48 if you follow the steps exactly)
  3. craft paper: like scrapbook paper, or even wrapping paper, newspaper, it’s up to you
  4. elmer’s-like glue (regular old glue)
  5. glue-gun and glue sticks (the dollar store totally sells both of these)
  6. mod podge
  7. white craft paint
  8. two paint brushes (small for the mod podge, larger for the white paint – mine are from the dollar store)
  9. some twine or ribbon if you prefer

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Everything but the wood and elmer’s like glue is shown in this fancy burlap background photo

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Here’s a bin I keep my craft stuff in, see how often I do crafts?  It’s really that I’ve just done the one… in varied forms.

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For Christmas, my weakness is plaid.  I can’t get enough of plaid.IMG_6240

And antique looking santa Christmas card stuff.

Here is what you are making (x 6 if you like)

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Nice right?

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Here’s two of them together.  With the supplies I listed, you will have six total.  Scale back on the supplies if you want only a few.  I have three kids, two are dedicated to each kid.
IMG_5632And here’s what they look like on the wall.

You can start one of two ways, depending on your feelings.  At step 1, and then 2 or reverse it.

Step 1: I recommend starting with the wood.  Go outside.  Cut two foot strips (if you haven’t already), or whatever length you prefer.  Then dust them off with your hand or an old towel, you don’t want wood chip pieces painted on your board.  Then give each board a light coat of white paint.  Cover it ONLY once lightly if you want the farmhouse look, or beach-house look. The wood grain peeking through in spots is pretty cute, plus it saves time. Be sure to cover the sides (the cut ends) as well, otherwise it will look unfinished.  It dries in about 20 minuets.

While it’s drying, head back inside and begin step 2!

Step 2: Select the craft paper you want to use, and how much.  I glued 8 clothespins to each board.  So I selected 3 papers for each board.  Two papers were represented three times, the one just two.  You can make the pattern however you like, abc,abc,ab as I did or use four papers for abcd,abcd, or even abcdefgh if you want to use 8 papers.  Your’e choice.

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Cut out all your paper for ALL your boards, each paper the size of your clothespin.

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I did each paper selection twice, so my son’s boards are the same, and so are each of my daughters.  I have two “sets” of the same three boards.

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Enough math.

Step 3: Once you’ve finished cutting and arranging all your clothespin patterns, glue the strips onto each of the clothespins with simple white glue.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  If you cut a larger piece then needed, once it’s dry you can go back and trim them up if you like. IMG_6267

IMG_6259Step 4: Once these are completely dry, bust out the Mod Podge.

IMG_5622 IMG_6268Paint a light coat of Mod Podge over each of the clothespins.  Let them dry.  This gives them a more finished and slightly glossy look.  Set them aside to dry.

Step 5: Go retrieve your dry wood.  Set all your boards on a large flat surface (like a kitchen counter) that is close to an electrical outlet.  It is time to hot glue.  Prior to gluing, space your clothespins out evenly.

IMG_6263Mine are three fingers apart.  I also have super ginormous hands, so if you don’t, perhaps just eye the spacing.  Take your time, pull away any hot glue hairs before they have time to form.

Step 6: The hanger.  Gather your twine or ribbon to set a loop on the back so you can hang them.  Prior to flipping your boards, make sure ALL the hot glue has had time to dry.

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Once dry, flip your board and eye the center of the board, go about two inches on either side to create a loop .  Measure it out and cut your twine.  I used hot glue to adhere my twine.  So far this has worked.  I also used a lot so that it would hopefully never fall off the wall and splatter everywhere.  If you can think of a better way to hang your Craft to Contain All Crafts, by all means, go for it.

Step 7: Let your glue dry then get to filling those clothespins with crafts!

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IMG_5629 IMG_5628 IMG_6253 IMG_6251Below are some pictures of how I modified this for Christmas.  I used a LOT more clothespins, and Christmas paper.  Here is how they display.

FULL disclosure:  If you have EVER sent me a Christmas Photo card, you can be sure that I’ve saved it.  I don’t keep A TON of random sentimental things, I do however collect these, and plan to one day put them in book.  That being said, up for dibs on my display is a random display of last years beauties, which we kept up on the wall until March this year, because I like seeing all my friends and their beautiful children and animals.  What can I say?

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Without Christmas photo cards, so empty and sad.

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Up close and personal

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Filled with cards!IMG_6226IMG_6227

Happy crafting!

As always, thanks for reading!