Friday, December 30, 2011

Farewells & Homecomings

One of the things that Mason mentioned he would miss the most while serving his mission is the farewells and homecomings of all of his friends.  In an effort to help him feel like he's not missing out, and to help him know the joy of discovering that his friends are "still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and [that] they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God" (Alma 17:2) we record these talks and send them to him. 

My husband has a tiny, hand held digital recorder that he takes to church to record the talk.  You can find them just about everywhere.  We found ours at Walmart for about $50.  We asked the Bishop if it was ok to record in Sacrament Meeting.  His response:  As long as you record only the talks and musical numbers (which we only do if the missionary's family is involved in the number) and do not record any prayers or the sacrament service itself, he said it was totally fine.  After church we upload it to the computer and burn the talk to a CD.  We always make two copies - one for Mason and one to take to the missionary's parents so they have a record of the talk.  It's not the best quality simply because we are usually in the Cultural Hall and you can hear every crayon and Cheerio that happens to be dropped on the floor - amplified...x10.  It does the job though and Mason is always thrilled to receive his copy and "know that his friends are "still his brethren in the Lord."  I love modern technology, don't you?

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Little Something for the Investigators...

In my husband's words, "Nothing detracts from the Spirit more than dogs and kids."  As I cast my mind back on my own mission experiences I realize he is exactly right. 

This idea came from Linda, a fellow missionary mom on the Missionary Mom's of Columbus Ohio Facebook page.  Help your missionary be prepared for distractions by supplying him with a few coloring books and crayons for the little ones while the parents are receiving the lessons.  The coloring books only come out during a lesson and then are retired to the missionaries backpack until the next time they come over.  A travel soap container worked perfectly to hold a 24 count boz of crayons from being lost and broken in the deep, dark recesses of their bag and soiling precious scriptures and teaching materials.  Thanks for the brilliant idea, Linda!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Idea #8

Remember the Christmas chains that you used to make when you were little?  And then you made them with your kids when they were little?  Every night, after prayer we would run to our chain to remove yet another link as the days slowly marched by.  It seemed like Christmas would never arrive.  Now as an adult, time seems to fly by.  This activity is a variation of the Christmas Chain that I'm sure your missionary will remember from their childhood.

I purchased the paper for the chains from Oriental Trading.  You could always cut your own strips of paper if you'd like but these were incredibly inexpensive and I've used the same pack for the last three years.  They come in two different styles - plain red and green, or candy-striped.  Each set comes with 500 pre-cut, pre-gummed strips for $5-$6 depending on the style you choose.  Moisten gummed ends to form each link.  No stapler needed. Brilliant!

We worked on this activity at our family Christmas party this year.  Everyone took one link and wrote a message on the inside.  Then they connected up their links making one long chain.  Our chain fit easily into a small Flat Rate mailing box.  I included a note telling our missionaries to count how many days until Christmas and remove and read any additional links.  Every night thereafter they can read a short message from home leading up to Christmas.

Christmas Idea #7

My sister Kim shared a fun idea that she did with her cute little kiddos to send to the missionaries in our family.  She was kind enough to show me before dropping it off to the Post Office.  I thought it was a darling idea to do with small children and it will really help to decorate their apartments for Christmas.

This craft is pretty self-explanatory - using green craft paint, paint the child's hand with a sponge brush and apply to white card stock in a circle reapplying the paint after each hand print is made.  Allow wreath to dry thoroughly.  When dry, add berries to your wreath using red paint and the child's fingerprint.  Make sure to have the child sign their name to their wreath.  Charming! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Idea #6

For Mason's Christmas gift last year, we came up with a brilliant and perfect idea suited just for him.  Prior to Mason's mission, he was the owner/operator of Three Seasons Lawn Care.  He and his brother were kept VERY busy with weekly yard maintanence and other yard work for a large number of clients.  Upon arriving in Ohio, Mason soon found that every week they were performing service for members and nonmembers alike.  A lot of service.  For Christmas we had Mason's Carhartt workboots cleaned, waterproofed and relaced then wrapped them up for his Christmas morning.  He loved them!  For Mason, it was the perfect gift.  Just look at those things - they are huge! That boy has one FIRM foundation.

This year Mason has been adament that he didn't want us to send him anything.  He will finish his mission in mid-July and said he didn't need or want anything.  Well...he just has to have something, doesn't he?  We wracked our brain to come up with the perfect gift.  This was hard!  How could we top the boots?  Finally, we gave each of our other children Mason's instructions and told them to come up with something to give Mason that was small, inexpensive and had personal meaning between them and Mason.  The kids rallied to the cause and I think they did an amazing job.  Mason will be thrilled on Christmas morning with his personal and thoughtful gifts from his siblings.  Here's what we chose for this year:

Maren:  1 bag Hershey's Hugs, 1 bag Hershey's Kisses
Colin:  a personalized Christmas ornament and a box of candy canes
Connor:  a toy truck (Mason loves his truck)
Matt:  a G-Loomis T-shirt for pj's (Mason loves to fish)
Rebekah:  two ties, red and green - seasonal yet functional
Kiri & Brad:  scarf for those cold Ohio winters
Mom:  Book of Mormon Institute study guide (Mason's doing an intensive study)
Dad:  a really nice pen (Mason and his dad really like office products)

I got the Christmas tag idea off of pinterest (to view the original idea go to and search my name - Cherylann Brown, go to my Boards and click on "Missionary Packages").  Instead of using the traditional "To:" and "From:" tag, they used a photograph.  So cute!  My niece had just done a Christmas photo shoot for us so I printed off individual photos of the kids in black and white then decorated them up a bit.  The photo is actually wallet size mounted with a single photo mount so Mason can easily remove them and put them in his wallet if he wants to.  I wanted to make the packages look nice but because I was worried that a bow would get all mashed in transit, I just tied a ribbon in in a neat square knot then notched the ends of the ribbon.  Line your Flat Rate box with colorful tissue paper, place the packages neatly inside, top with more tissue and a Christmas card for your missionary to open on Christmas morning.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Idea #5

Man!  The time is just flying by until Christmas!  I thought I had better hurry and get the photos posted of Mason's Christmas stocking in case you want to whip one up for your missionary.  We did this last year and it was fast and relatively inexpensive to put together so we decided to give it another go this year.

You can pick up these inexpensive Christmas stockings virtually anywhere.  I bought mine at Walmart - because I was there picking up some other items.  I'm sure that you could pick one up at your local Dollar Store or maybe you have some spare ones laying around in your Christmas decorations.  This is a very easy project to make and will only take a few minutes of your time.  Promise!

Cut a slit up the center of the white cuff of the stocking leaving about half an inch at the top.  Fold under the corners of both sides to form your missionary's collar.  Sew small buttons to each collar point.  Tie a tie around each stocking. Voila!  I told you it was easy!

It can be rather difficult, ok, really difficult to tie a nice looking tie around a limp and lifeless stocking no matter how cute it is so I asked my son, Matt to do that part.  He thinks my ties look like they were tied by one of my Cub Scouts anyway.  (I'm trying to decide if I should take offense at that comment...I think not.  There is no disputing the fact that his Windsor Knot looks much better than how the Wolf Book tells you to teach the boys...moving on.) Because the tie is a man's tie that they will be able to remove and wear (or trade with other missionaries if my taste in ties is not quite up to par with theirs), the tie will be much too long for the stocking.  Just adjust to the desired length and fold the tie in the back.  The stocking cuff will keep your tie in place during shipping.

It would be really easy to make this for a Sister missionary as well by adding some lace around the cuff and maybe a nice pin, some buttons or just adding one of those cute flower hair clips that are all the rage at the moment.  Just clip it to the cuff of the stocking.  So cute!

I sent my neice and her companion's stocking in the same Large Flat Rate Box and they fit very nicely.  Mason has transferrs the week of Christmas, so I sent his and his companion's in separate boxes, just in case. 

My friend Becky found this missionary stocking at Tai Pan Trading ( for $13 that was just darling.  Thanks for sharing, Becky!  I apologize for the awful photo.  I'd like to blame it on my camera phone but it was probably because I didn't have my glasses and didn't realize it was somewhat blurry.  It's an age thing - you probably wouldn't understand. . .consider yourself lucky. 

Have fun stuffing whatever stocking you choose with fun, personal things for your missionary!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Idea #4

I came across this idea on Pinterest and thought it was so cute and fun and wanted to share it with you.  We didn't do it for Mason but I'm still thinking that we might have each family make ornaments for Grandma & Grandpa's tree next year.  With 53 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild - 56 by next Christmas, I'm thinking that I will try to buy Christmas ornaments on clearance after Christmas. 

Using a sponge brush, paint each child's hand with white paint.  Place the ornament in their hand and help them to wrap their fingers around the bulb.  Place in an egg carton until dry.  Using permanent markers give each snowman a personality.  Write the child's name and the year on the bottom of each ornament.  Head on over to for a great tutorial.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Idea #3

I love Christmas.  Who doesn't?  I love the Christmas tree, decorating the house with little tiny lights, lots of candles and poinsettas.  I also love lighting the fireplace and filling the house with all the wonderful sounds and scents of Christmas.  In an effort to help Mason and his companion still have some of the things that represent a homespun Christmas, we sent them Christmas in a box. 

I shopped around for small pre-lit Christmas trees and decorations and found the best deals by far at my local Walmart.  They have a large selection of trees in a variety of sizes.  Some come pre-lit and some do not.  The lights come in white/clear or multi-colored.  I chose a four foot pre-lit tree for a mere $20 - tree stand included.  It comes in a nice, neat tidy box all ready for me to wrap in brown paper and send on it's merry little way to Ohio.  We then picked out ornaments, candy canes, a tree skirt, star and an extension cord because you just never know what they might need.  We found a miniature nativity at Deseret Book for $10.  We boxed up all the decorations in a Flat Rate box...have I mentioned lately how greatful I am for those?  I paid a little more for postage than I normally would have.  The Flat Rate box was $10.95 but I wanted the tree to get there on the same day so I paid quite a bit extra to get it there - $16.  Last year I mailed everything prior to Thanksgiving so I wasn't so anxious to get it there quick.  This year, I'm not exactly sure what happened.  I don't even remember anything prior to Thanksgiving.  Must be an age thing.

Having served a mission, I remember how hard it was to haul a lot of extra things around with you.  Instruct your missionary to NOT take the tree with them on their next transfer.  Just take it all down.  Pack it neatly and store it in a closet in the apartment.  The following year, the new missionaries will be so happy to have decorations that they can use to help bring the Christmas spirit into their homes.