Well kids, there’s a rumor floating around the internet that I’ve got this whole parenting thing all figured out and everyone should listen to my expert advice.

Yeah.  When you’re done laughing, we’ll continue.

So- back to our regularly scheduled programming.  We survive around here through the help of our village and by the grace of a great big untamable God.  And today I’m excited to share with you one of my very favorite things that the village is up to this time of year.

Because guys – Christmas is coming!!

No, wait, don’t go!  I know it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet, and don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving, but oh man, I am a total nerd for Christmas.  Because lights and songs and family and warm fuzzies and miracles and come on – it’s the greatest.  I maybe watched Elf yesterday.  Just the truth. (A note: If Christmas is not your thing, we can still be friends, and you are invited to jump to the end of this post and share your own holiday traditions/click through and read something else entirely)

I’ve been thinking about Christmas a lot lately, and how I’d like Fable to view and understand this potentially confusing holiday.  I want her to know it for all of its depth and meaning, not just the “Gimme iPad” side of things, but the task of trying to effectively instill those values in her feels pretty overwhelming in our crazy fast-paced gimme gimme culture.  I want to give that baby all the magic and value and wonder and joy she can handle. Bring on Rudolph and twinkle lights and hot cocoa, and let’s celebrate and rest always in Jesus. Too much to ask? I hope not.

I’m grateful to be part of a community that is constantly evaluating how to do Christmas a little differently via a rather alarmingly-named little movement called Advent Conspiracy.  Which, for the record, has nothing to do with any “war on Christmas.”  Here’s a cute little video that will explain the basic idea:

Spend less, give more – give your time and your heart instead of just your dollars.  It’s a tough principle to argue against, and I’m for it, but giving relational gifts is another rather overwhelming idea.  Enter my very favorite Portland Christmasy event, the one I hope to see you at (I’ll even wear something silly if you want, so you can come find me and we can hug and sing cheesy Christmas songs together.  I’ll buy you a mug of free hot cocoa.)

DIY Fair - Girl of Cardigan

(Click on that banner for all the important info, like, um, the address.)

This is not your mama’s craft fair (unless your mama is awesome).

At the DIY Fair, nothing is for sale – instead, you wander through booth after booth of crafty, talented folks who give you free ideas and instructions on how to make gifts for your friends and family that maybe won’t suck.  I’ve learned how to cure bacon, how to roast coffee, how to make my own compost bins, how to print pictures on blocks of wood, how to infuse vodka and brew my own beer – it’s the least lame craft fair in the history of craft fairs.  And it’s free and there are cookies and fabulous live music and fun crafts for your kids to do and a food cart or two. It’s Portlandia with jingle bells on.

If you’re not in Portland, have no fear – I don’t want you to miss out on the crafty goodness, so I’ll make sure to post a round up with links to all the best tutorials shared at the fair, just especially for you.  But if you are here, dude, come check it out.  It’s incredibly fun.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the idea of Advent Conspiracy, as well as what you do in your family to make the holidays more about relationship and less about stuff.  Even if Christmas isn’t your thing, what and how you are celebrating this time of year?  What are your favorite traditions?  How do you teach you kids about generosity and value?  I hope you’ll share below.

In light of the recent crazy growth of this blog, I have a few exciting surprises coming up for you, including a great giveaway or two, some fabulous guest bloggers, and a whole lot more chatter about our messy, wild, and lovely parenting journeys.  I’m so grateful to have you here, and so excited to hear your thoughts and wisdom and learn from your experience.

Girl of Cardigan



New here and don’t really want to talk about Christmas just yet?  This post will lead you to all of our most defining posts so far and give you an idea about what this little blog is about, so you can make an informed decision about whether you can stomach all of this love fest cheeseball madness.

Header image by the incomparable Shannon Hannon Photography

  • Cori @ Let's Eat Grandpa November 13, 2013 at 11:04 am

    First of all, I wish I was in Portland to go to that fair (or maybe teach something!). What an incredible idea. I’m trying to convince Ryan to move to Vancouver, WA, but he’s not on board yet.

    Second, I want to cure my own bacon.

    Third, Ryan and I don’t have kids yet, but I love the Four Gift idea: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. That way a child knows what to expect as far as gifts go, and it’s much harder to go overboard. We, too, want our future kids to understand the depth of Christmas, not just the…girth.

    Great post!

    • karyn November 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      Ooo, that is a great idea. And dude, you could totally do bacon. I’m going to send you some info as soon as I catch up with the dang interwebs. 😉

  • Jen November 13, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Can’t wait for the DIY fair round up!!! Have already been dreaming and scheming based on the Imago DIY fair Pinterest board! (And of course listening to my, not ironically, awesome Amy Grant Christmas music!;)

  • Jeana November 13, 2013 at 11:25 am

    A good idea for when she’s a little older, might be for her to experience “gimme” holidays like Halloween and Christmas with others. Our church built an assisted living and independent living center for seniors as the church population began to age. Our music pastor would take his children (now grown and our age) around to various residents in the Manor as we call it, giving out candy to residents at Halloween. I imagine this could also work at Christmas time, with a little candy cane or small and inexpensive gift given by a child that will bring a smile to their face. Many elderly people do not get visits even from their own families, even during the holidays, so perhaps that may be a tradition you can start with your beautiful little one. I hope to be able to do it if/when I ever get married and am blessed with children.

    • karyn November 13, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      Jeana, what a beautiful tradition! I love it. Thank you!

  • Erica November 13, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    My favorite Christmas was skipping it all and instead going as a family to Costa Rica to put on a children’s program for a new community.Wish we had the funds to do that every year. It was great to avoid all the materialism and serve instead.We always hang a nail tied with red ribbon on our tree to remind us why we celebrate Christmas. There’s a lovely little poem that goes along with the “Christmas Nail”. We wear our Christmas Eve jammies and play the games we picked out for the kids(though now that they are in college, we will probably just get one family game and put the individual games in hiatus until grands come along). The one I enjoy most is the last few years we have been selecting gifts from the World Vision gift catalog to give in honor of those we love. A pig to a needy family across the globe in honor of my bacon loving culinary clasmates, a group of fruit trees for a community on behalf of a gardening loving friend, etc. They send you a beautiful card explaining the gift that you can give out. Excellent, meaningful, long term impact. That makes it feel like Christmas to me. Looking forward to the instructables from the craft fair.

    • karyn November 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      Love these thoughts – we have one of those nails too! Although I’ll admit I’m terrible at remembering to dig it out of the center of the tree – I’ve tried to toss the nail out with the old tree three Christmases in a row. I hope Jesus does not find that to be symbolic in any way. :/ 😉

  • Katie November 14, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Hi Karyn,

    I am one of those who recently came on board with you and your blog. I spend a good part of my afternoon yesterday reading some of your older posts and I am so happy to have found you. I am a first time mother to a 3 month old baby girl named Nora and I love parenting blogs- good ones like yours. Thank you! And, NO FAIR. I’m a lover of all things crafty and of Christmas, too. I so want to come to that DIY craft fair! What a brilliant idea. Looking forward to the updates on the fair and to all your Christmas posts!

    Katie, aka. Miss Tweedle (you can visit my blog at http://www.misstweedle.com)

  • cindy baldwin November 14, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Oh. My. Goodness. My parents live near Portland, and I’m now sitting here wondering if I could overhaul all our Christmas plans to visit in time for that fair! No? Sigh. Maybe next year. 😉

    My favorite tradition emerged out of my first Christmas with my husband – we were dirt poor students, living on less than $10k a year, and we’d spent that first Christmas together in the hospital due to my chronic health condition. When we rolled back into town after the 2-week hospital stay was over, utterly exhausted, we opened our front door to find that while we were gone somebody had gotten into our apartment and filled the kitchen—table, refrigerator, cabinets—with food, and left gifts of clothing under our tree as well. To this day, we don’t know who they were (though we have some suspicions). We always refer to it as “the time the Food Fairy visited.” Ever since that Christmas, we’ve taken some of our Christmas budget and given one or two monetary gifts to families we know or know of who are struggling, to whom the little bit of money we can spare will make a difference. (Poor newlyweds, single parents, etc.) We love to do it, and it always reminds us of the incredible generosity we received when we were just starting out.

  • Elisabeth November 15, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Oh dear, my husband has been singing Christmas songs for weeks now :-). Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas too but last year he managed to wear me out half way through December…
    I love your thoughts about gift giving. This is a real challenge for us with the twins being the first grandchildren on both sides of the family. All the love is wonderful but there is no stopping the flow of presents coming in all year and culminating at Christmas and the boys’ birthday. I usually give a number of things to charity, when neither boys nor grandparents are looking. In Austria, where I come from, there is a program called “Christmas in a shoebox”, where people pack care packages for children in need.
    Too bad I’m in Denmark. I love the idea of a craft fair where you are being thaught the crafts.

    Have a lovely weekend!

  • sara November 20, 2013 at 11:44 am

    so glad to have found your blog!! you writing is awesome. you seem pretty awesome too!

  • sara November 20, 2013 at 11:45 am