Christmas Advent

I wanted to make a post about the Christmas Advent Calendar I created for our family last year. Even though it's already the first, it's never too late to start one. We started about 5-6 days late last year, and just did a couple a day until we caught up - and it is now my favorite part about Christmas. I start looking forward to it months before!

Most of the materials I have I bought the day after Christmas back in 2012 on clearance at either World Market (here are the clips) or Target (a lot of links for material ideas are at the bottom of the post). I then constructed the Advent out of the materials the following Christmas season. You don't have to use the tags, etc. - use whatever you have. You can cut out stars from paper bags, or squares out of construction paper.

Each morning Amos unties the next verse and we read it together. I read the original passage, and then paraphrase it for him and Lucia to fully understand. Then Lucia and Amos take turns opening the small envelope and we then have an activity for the day or a small gift!


The top two rows are an envelope for every day. I just took a rectangle cut out of a trader joe's back, stapled two sides shut and left a slit open. Inside I had cut out circles of construction paper that had either a Christmas Activity or an "Open A" - a letter that corresponded with a small gift.


The bottom row was tags left to right, that had the day of December as well as a verse or passage that was unveiling the story of Jesus' Birth! You can get a calendar to download here.

These are the presents from last year. I bought a lot of small stuff from World Market and kept them on the table.

This year I often had two small gifts for each child on a given day so they were put under the tree.  (Lucia insisted she posed with the presents.)

As I organize the gifts/activities I make a calendar of what is going on for the month, and when is the best time for certain crafts or activities. I leave a larger gift ($10) for Christmas Eve, and try to coincide free days with the more involved activities such as taking a photograph with Santa. I also like to remember what will be happening because once they are inside the envelopes I forget! There is also the corresponding letter of gift in the bottom right hand corner. The red texts are gifts to open and the green texts are activities to do! Here is a blank calendar you can print out and fill out!

This year's calendar looks like this:

Some of the activities we included this year are on the above calendar, but here they are for reference:

  • Make Christmas Cookies
  • Make a Birthday Card for Jesus (the real reason for the celebration!)
  • Shop for the gifts we give away annually to a refugee family within our community
  • Visit Santa and get a photograph (we aren't big on santa, but I still like to do this every year)
  • Give our presents to the refugee family at our church Christmas Experience 
  • Build a Christmas Fort and Watch a Christmas Movie in our Christmas Pajamas (opened on third)
  • Make Presents/Cards for dad, sibling, and other family members (opened markers that day)
  • Wrap Presents from previous day and do a Nativity Craft
  • Write a Letter and Draw a Picture for a missionary from out of our church
  • Pick one of our favorite toys to wrap and give to Jesus - we wrap it and lay it under the tree and then we will give it away (I tell the story of the 3 Magi bringing their gifts)  
  • Bake a Birthday cake for Jesus 
Some present ideas:
  • Dollar Bins from Target
  • Prepackaged Christmas crafts from Target/Craft Stores
  • Stickers, Tattoos, Puzzles
  • Christmas Socks
  • Christmas Pajamas
  • Christmas Ornament they hang out tree
  • Travel Activity if you will be traveling for Christmas 
  • Coloring Books
  • Christmas Candy 

Another tradition we have is to save all our Christmas Cards from previous years, and pick one out sometime throughout the day (usually dinner) and pray for that family and ask God if there is anything He is asking us to do to bless them (write them a letter, make them a small gift, pray for a prophetic encouragement, etc.). 

Hope you enjoy!!! Merry Christmas!

idea links for: string to hang here here and here /// clips to hang here /// tags for verses here here here here & here /// gift ideas here here here and here ///


amos turned 2 (almost a year ago) and had a train birthday. yes, i'm a little behind.

I'm starting to plan my sweet boy's 3rd birthday. THIRD BIRTHDAY. As is standard in mom dialogue, this is absolutely insane to me. This train of "growing up" is happening way too fast - and it's thrilling and saddening all at the same time. 

His birthday party requests this year have already transformed multiple times from dinosaurs, to planes, to construction trucks, to helicopters, and now we have landed on Safari Animals - which I am super pumped about.

That being said, I realized I never blogged Amos' last birthday. I didn't get many good pictures... but it was such a joy to plan. His first birthday stressed me out, but I learned a lot and last years was much easier - with the addition of pinterest which makes planning anything and everything easier.

His party was trains and that was his current boy obsession. It was thrown at my in-laws home, as we were still cooped up in our tiny one bedroom city apartment. I am very excited to be throwing it on my own turf this year!

my little conductor. everyone got a bandana scarf [amazon], hat [amazon], and whistle [amazon] in their gift bag along with other treats.

banner made by me. find similar birthday party paper goods here.
part of the drink station. nothin' too fancy.
pom poms from martha stewart tutorial. wrapped wooden letters with yarn. made all the print outs. and my mom sewed the little gift bags. 

train tracks with electrical tape. sorta permanently stained their carpet, so try an inconspicuous area first!
he seems like such a small baby here...
so exhausted after his big event.


i think i love my iPhone.............'s camera.

my poor iPhone bit the dust... as in, got ran over at 75 miles per hour on the San Diego interstate. wah wah wah. not having my phone is quite liberating in some senses - being the introvert i am, it's a nice escape from connectivity. the thing i miss the most, however, is the camera. i actually might call myself an iPhone photographer. a boring one, yes. as i only photograph my children, and the occasional delicious cup of coffee. that being said, it has become my main creative outlet as a mother. my blog is a hit or miss. my shop is pretty much nonexistent. but my little phone, it's attached to me and has become the tool in which i chronicle my life. i use that little camera to transform my mundane moments (and wow! there are a TON of them) into spectacular microseconds. for me, it really has the power to help me see the beauty in the chaos that is my life.

often times i hear people complain about how social media gives an unhealthy view of people's lives. "people only show the good, pretty side of things." i still can't seem to understand why this is so terrible. i'm not one easily prone to comparison nor judgement (though i'm prone to a lot of other sins, believe me) - so i celebrate people taking the best of their day and sharing it with the world. no one wants to see my dirty bathroom, or my greasy messy bun, or my burnt pot of beans - or if they do, perhaps only for a glimpse here and there for the purposes of reality. but everyday? that would be exhausting. but maybe someone, somewhere wants to see the afternoon light casting a shadow on the one spot on my floor not covered in toys - and my son, for a brief, brief moment playing blissfully by himself at the kitchen table. maybe my little iPhone helps me pluck out the most beautiful, thrilling, and intimate moments of motherhood and sings a little tune that counteracts the world's message that a young mother is throwing away her talent, her freedom, and her "fun."

i don't know, for me, my iPhone camera does this for me. and instagram is my little microphone. it's an artist mother's canvas. it's quick, easy, accessible and i can tote in my diaper bag. it's my little voice.

anyway. R.I.P. iPhone 5s.


i'm almost 27 and here's a list of 10 things i've learned.

sometimes I find myself in utter shock that I am a 27 year old woman (almost, almost) and a mother of not one, but two children. I pay a mortgage. I am 3 short years away from 30.

my son has escaped babyhood, and my daughter can move about freely on her own.

remembering my teen years, and my early twenties - and what I was convinced these years would look like. what I thought was greatness, or God's plans and intentions, or the apex of adulthood and Christianity.

I thought it would be both wise and humorous to create a list of things I've learned about "life" over the past 2 decades. this is wise, as perhaps it can bring some aid to someone, somewhere. it is also very, very silly as I am sure, by the end of the next 2 decades I will chuckle at some of these thoughts. I am still a child. I am a teacher forever learning.

1.) A man who will be a good husband should possess the following qualities.
      - The ability to hold a job, whether he enjoys it or not. He must be able to respect and honor authority, be honorable when no one is watching, and be convinced God is His provider.
      -  He must be humble enough to admit when he is wrong (even if not immediately, but at least, eventually) and be willing to be trained and taught.
     -  He must be willing to be an open book. His phone, his email, his business meetings, his work relationships, his sin, his joys, his fears, and his dreams must be something he welcomes you into.

2.) Please do not, DO NOT, spend what you do not have. It's a messy thing to do.

3.) Train yourself to eat well. Find vegetables you like. Drink water. Go for walks.

4.) Don't let nature escape from your life. Go into it as often as you can. Take walks during your breaks rather than checking your phone. Camp. Swim. Sit under a tree. Remember God in the midst of it.

5.) Every movement of God has value. Every church (that which I am addressing would be the believing church, which proclaims Christ as the Son of God, and the only way to the Father - etc.) has value. Both these things are ushered and made up of broken human beings. Within every movement and church there are those who claim to be brothers, but in fact are not. Because of these facts, every movement and church has the ability to hurt and harm those within it. That is not to say that these are entirely bad, but that is why our hope is ALWAYS Christ and our foundation is ALWAYS the Word. With that we can remain gracious, forgiving, and honoring in the midst of these things - as they come and go.

6.) Healing is of God. He loves to heal. He will not always heal every time we ask. This should not cause us to give up on healing nor believe it is because we lacked faith. Healing is of God.

7.) Discipleship is so much the plan of God in growing and developing his people. The New Testament is essentially discipleship written out. Discipleship will not always find you, you must go find it for yourself. Seek wisdom. Seek guidance. Seek counseling. Etc. You were not made to live or figure things out on your own.

8.) While you are young, I think it is vital to learn these skills:
            - Time management. Learn to fill your time, not with iphones, facebook, sleeping, or chattering on about nothing. Fill these precious moments with reading, writing, service, etc. Learn a skill. Find a hobby. Be vigilant in pursuing things of greatness. If nothing else comes to mind, read your Bible over and over and over. One day you will have multiple children, only so many hours of the day, and you will long for those precious, lonely hours again.
            - The ability to be a self-starter and self-motivator. This ties into the previous point. Learn to fill your time even if no one has given you an assignment or a deadline. Set your own assignments. Make your own deadlines.
            -  Conversational skills. Ask people questions about anything and everything. This is how you will make friends. This is how you will form vital business connections. This is how church begins and continues. This IS marriage.

9.) The greatness of your life - is made up of little moments, seconds that turn into hours that turn into days. It is not one epic ministry opportunity. It is not even the wedding nor the birth. It is the hidden in between - found within the 4 walls of your home and the thoughts/motives mulling under the skin. It is the mundane. It is the responses to the husbands when the money is tight and the agitations brew. It is the disciplining, for the hundredth time, the same sin within your child. It is the coffee in the morning to which your heart overflows, "Today, today - I believe You are good, You are real, You are worthy."

10.) We do not find God. Therefore, we do not need to feel pressured to make life with Christ more appealing or more fun or more thrilling. God finds us. Provokes our hearts to believe. Keeps us. The call to follow Christ is a hard one, it is one that will include hardship, trial, and suffering. It can - at times - be isolating, confusing, and require longsuffering. It, however, WILL be rewarded. It WILL be (even now IS) worth it. and even if nothing would come of it (though it will) He is WORTHY of our devotion. That is why the gospel is simple and powerful. It is simple in what it requires of us in proclaiming it, which is exactly that - just PROCLAIMING IT. It is powerful in that it is where the platform is given for God to provoke a heart. Your work is to proclaim. His work is to make Jesus seen as that which He is, glorious, beautiful, and the Savior to the sinning heart.

xo a 26 year old woman with a lot to learn.


he's taking my white, middle-class life and working it for His glory - in ways I had never expected.

i am more convinced than ever that the heart has seasons. seasons of grief and of joy. seasons of discipline and of working. seasons of dancing and of learning.

i have walked with the Lord for almost 20 years - only by His grace towards me. i have been listening, learning what it means to love Him and to live for His glory. i have been in different churches, ministries, friendships, and communities. His sovereignty has made it all work towards my good - I see His leadership sprinkled through out each step. It is leading to something powerful, or perhaps, it's forever writing a story, to which in the end - He will shine brightly.

i have been confused, disheartened, disillusioned, disobedient. i have been enchanted, enamored, permanently altered, and ultimately convinced.

the former was because of my weak frame, my feeble mind, and my misunderstandings. the more i grow, the more i am confident He is good. He is worthy of every nation and tribe and tongue. even for the rocks to cry out to proclaim His glory. He isn't done yet. He is coming soon. He is the King of the ages, of the nations, of the hearts of men.

here i am in a season of awakening. grateful for each time i've walked out of pain, or longing, or the mundane to see Him, and even more FEEL Him - those winds that roar around the throne, those whispers among the Trinity stirring my soul. the past seasons were for a reason as they birth seasons such as that which i find myself in.

a particular message is ruminating in my heart: how does the gospel pertain to that which i find myself in - cultural and racial divisions (something i've been swimming in, to some degree, since meeting Ricky) and also the current situation of the black community, especially those in the low-income, urban areas. i find myself in a home situated in the most crime-ridden neighborhood of San Diego. it has been titled "a war zone."

here i am. Christ in me, my hope of glory. His finished work on the cross applies to these streets and these people.

it's not an easy thing for a white woman, one raised in the midwest middle-class to speak on such issues. it's frightening, in all honesty, as i lack any authority and understanding in and of myself.

but Christ in me. He has something to say to it. He has a hope for the statistics that should cause us, regardless of our skin or socio-economic status, to weep. cause us to arise. the plight of the poor, the plight of the oppressed - rather through personal sin or structural fault - is calling for the church to arise.

i've written and erased many posts on this specific arena. i've been reading and rereading John Piper's specific thoughts in his book, "Bloodlines." (you can download it for free at this link.) he, of course, says things much clearer than i ever could.

but still this burns within me, the call to embrace the ugliest parts of our streets and cities. i lack words, and even understanding of what that will ultimately look like for each individual, but my heart is feeling. praying He is birthing something within me that i can eventually bring more eloquence to. i hope.

this is only to say, He has been good to me. He has weaved every moment into something real within me. i am thankful He has not abandoned me, but given me all I need for life and godliness. i am thankful seasons change - the winters leaves fall to give room for the buddings of spring.

i am thankful to be so involved with such issues, to hear them outside my window at night, which has made a deaf ear impossible.

and most of all, i'm thankful this isn't the end of the story. He will make the wrong things right - through His church, and eventually through His glorious return - to which my heart explodes. Yes, the wrong things shall be made right.


lucia mercy @ 5 months old


total lucia overload, but i had to document this cute little photoshoot I did for trendy ragz, a mom-owned online business with cute little people clothes!!! check it out here

lucia is 5 months old, she is sitting on her own (tumbles if she sees a toy she wants out of reach). she rolls every which ways. loves sitting in her high chair and gnawing on books and watching momma cook or amos play with play-do. 

she isn't eating yet, and still wakes up to nurse. starts on in crib (swaddle, rock combo still works like a charm) and ends up in the bed. she wakes up generally happy from nap and cuddles with her little crotched stuff bunny. she LOVES watching her brother and getting aggressive toddler kisses. she smiles and laughs so easily now, and is an easier going baby than amos. she doesn't crawl, but seems like it will happen soon. 

she babbles to herself and sometimes amos picks out "words" she sounds like she is saying. "momma, momma! she said "boy hello." 

the joy of her life is amos, honestly. it's such a wonderful thing.

okay i'm thinking 5 months is one of the best ages (i end up saying that about every age, but really...). moving around, sitting up on their own, babbling, googling eyed, nursing, laughing, not yet eating, still light to hold - the sweet window before discipline and defiance. ;) it's a really sweet season for a babe.

oh! and she finally got that pesky first tooth. you can sorta, kinda, barely, not really see it in the last picture. she cut it effortlessly - like a true lady. ;)

oh and this iphone picture is just priceless. i feel it represents her little joyful personality the best!


the tenery family, the beach, and the family of God

the beautiful Tenery family came to visit this weekend. we took their daughter Shiloh to see the big ocean and amos got to run around fully clothed in the sand and waves.

i am so thankful for ones i have known for many years (i've known kyle for about 8, and ricky has known maria for 10!) and i have been able to watch them grow in God and remain steadfast by His grace. it's such an encouraging thing - the family of God! they are some of the most dedicated, brave, true and steady people i have encountered. they love the Word, God's people, and proclaim the gospel with such boldness.

and their daughter is just PURE joy and delight. such a honor to spend the time we did with them.

photo 2
photo 4
Shiloh is a little unsure about the big waves...

feeling sand for the first time
the beautiful tenery family. 
photo 1
asleep on her momma...

photo 5
amos finally comfortable in the ocean this season. takes a couple beach trips each summer for him to warm up to it.


super cute baby amos videos.

so the main reason for the existence of this blog is to keep a little journal/scrapbook of sorts to remember the growing up of my little ones and the joys (trials, lessons, moments) of this season. i found some random video clips of amos before he turned 2... some before he even turned one.

it's crazy, really, i can't even remember him not being able to articulate his thoughts. rolling around on the ground all chubby, pre-crawling. sitting with his toys, pre-walking. and those one word moments. it seems ages ago.

i now have a little boy (who refers to himself as a very, very big boy) - and his babyness is long gone. have they told you it goes super fast? because, GUYS!, it GOES SO FAST. they are non-walkers for 8 or 9 months, to forever walk... forever move on their own and be dependent on themselves. they are non-talkers for a year or 2, to then enter full conversation and understand the words/sentences they overhear, forming their thoughts and ideas. they nurse for 1, 2, 3 years? they cuddle for who knows how long, to then become grown men, grown women cuddling their own. this is just CRAZY.

i want to freeze lucia and keep a baby version of her forever. but then still let the other version (i don't know, this is weird...) to also see her form her own personality, her own dreams, her own little journey. i want the baby and the girl. but the baby is just a quick little flash, here today, gone tomorrow.

this parenting thing is just nuts. nuts. the them growing up, inching further and further from you - NUTS NUTS NUTS. i can't handle it.

but for now, i'll reminisce on these ridiculously long clips of super fatso baby amos, and try not to cry.

Amos Various from Tiffany Valdez on Vimeo.

Amos as a fat baby from Tiffany Valdez on Vimeo.


nap time

yes, my child has some of lunch all over his face. hate it, but it's true...
i've been determined to take out my DSLR and take some more "non-phone" pictures for awhile now - just hadn't gotten around to it. thankfully, i had spent the day cleaning the house to find the bag hiding in a corner of my room. i took it out and snapped some photos just as everything was calming down and we went into nap time.

unfortunately, amos rarely naps these days - but we do have "quiet time" that is about 30-45 minutes (working up to an hour) of him sitting quietly in his room reading his books. he really enjoys this, and because of frequent library trips he has a great variety to choose from. 

lucia, on the other hand, has been having a harder time going to sleep and staying asleep due to some teeth that are cutting (i think!? i hope!) and has been a little uncomfortable and fussy - and can't stay asleep long. yesterday i put her in the ergo while i cleaned and sang her some songs. she finally fell asleep and i laid her down on my bed. i always bunch of blankets all around her (so safe, right???) so she feels secure. i just love her little sleeping face. though everyone tells me they look so alike, to me they look worlds a part. i become so familiar with every little curve of their face - the littlest things separate them so much. when they are asleep, however, they mold into one beautiful child. their eyes are closed and lucia looks like a little amos. 

amos getting tired of reading books, and sneaking off to his "toy basket"

bookshelf: ikea, cheese cloth and burlap curtain tutorial found here, baby carrier: ergo, bedroom curtains: ikea, amos' bedding: ikea, books from a million different places.