Category Archives: Family and Fun

Celebrating Advent

Christmas is just around the corner, but there’s still time to get ready to celebrate Advent this year with your kiddos. Yaaaaaaay for Advent!! It’s totally my favorite, you guys, and it’s my mission to make it your favorite too.

Christmas used to sneak up on me. I’d have gifts bought and the house decorated, but Christmas day would come around and I’d feel like I had missed an incredible opportunity to really focus on Jesus and what His coming to earth as a tiny baby meant. I was celebrating His birth, but hadn’t really meditated on or spent any time with Him. When my husband and I got married, I was determined to celebrate Jesus all December long so I started learning more about Advent. Advent is celebrated by Christians all over the world; it’s where we take time, in the weeks leading up to Christmas – to look back on Christ’s first coming and to look forward to his second coming. Our version of celebrating Advent has taken many forms over the years and it changed considerably once we had kids.

I want to make it easier for you to celebrate Advent with your kids so I’ve spent the last year putting together an outline of what we do for Advent with our kiddos each night leading up to Christmas, starting on December 1st. We would love it if you would join us this year!

I have made a detailed Outline of what we do each night of December. Each night there is a short reading from either the Jesus Storybook Bible, a nativity based storybook, or a story straight from scripture. I have included a short scripture verse for each night that supports the main idea of each reading and also a craft that ties in to the teaching. You and your kids will also take a ‘journey to the nativity’, using peg dolls and a salt dough path, as a meaningful way to count down the days until Christmas.

I have listed below some information to help you make heads and tales of my Outline.

  1. Download the Outline here > Nordean Advent_compressed
  2. I chose very specific readings from the Jesus Storybook Bible and edited them down to be a bit more directly focused on why Christ came. I’ve listed the edits on the Outline with the page numbers and the starting sentence to the ending sentence. In some instances I have left out big chunks of the JSB to keep the reading simple and to the point. I recommend going through your JSB and underlining in pencil what you’ll be reading each night so you don’t have to take time searching as you read. Below is a portion of the Outline (from day 5) so you can see how it works.
Ouline Example

Day 5 Outline

And here are a few pages of the JSB where I underlined what we would read that night. I hope the outline makes sense; feel free to ask if you have any questions!


I’ve pre -underlined what we will be reading that night.



3) For the days leading up to Christmas you and your child will be taking a journey to the nativity. You will need a small nativity stable of some sort; this can be store bought or homemade out of cardboard, craft sticks or whatever is available (check my Pinterest Advent board for help). The first night’s craft is making a salt dough path to the nativity. On the second night, your child will make a peg doll of himself/herself and place the peg doll on the path. Every night, after the Advent reading and craft, your child will move their peg doll one place closer to the nativity. This is a meaningful way of counting down the days until Christmas. As the days pass your child will add the different characters of Christ’s birth story to the nativity.


The salt dough path to the nativity. Our peg dolls are ready for their journey.

4) I have included instructions for each craft on the Outline, but I have also pinned each craft to my Advent board on Pinterest. Find me, Afton Nordean, on Pinterest to see how each craft looks and to get more detailed instructions. There are also different ideas for making a homemade nativity stable. There are a lot of crafts which can get pricey; team up with a friend to share craft supplies or get creative and use things you already have on hand. You don’t have to do the crafts exactly as we do; get creative!

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Find me on Pinterest!

5) Be sure to figure out your crafts ahead of time so you know what supplies to buy. If you live in a small town, like me, you may have to order some of the supplies (like the peg dolls). You will need at least 11+ peg dolls total, more if you have multiple kiddos.

6) Make it your own! If you’re not crafty, skip the crafts. If you’d rather not narrow down the JSB readings the way I have done, do it your way. Add different nativity or Christmas picture books if you have them. Do random acts of kindness instead of crafts. Instead of a salt dough path use pebbles or a paper chain; take away one pebble or chain link each night. Make it work for your family and have fun!


Paper chain countdown to Christmas.

6) Share photos of you crafts on Instagram and tag me @aftonjanelle. I’d love to see your journey to the nativity!

7) Christmas picture books that we use are:

“What is Christmas?” by Michelle Medlock Adams

“The Christmas Story – The brick Bible for Kids” by Brendan Powell Smith

“The Nativity” illustrated by Julie Vivas

“Song of the Stars” by Sally Lloyd-Jones

I’m so excited for you to join us this year in celebrating Advent! Let me know if you have any questions.

Sweet Little Pumpkins

Fall is here! I love this time of year; the Holliday season is being ushered in, filled with family traditions. I think back on the traditions we celebrated in my own family with warmth and nostalgia and realize that those moments truly created my childhood. From road trip summer vacations to watching 4th of July fireworks over the Open Cut at the Maki’s house (with John’s yummy homemade ice cream). From floating the Black River to eating biscuits and cocoa gravy Christmas morning.

When Josh and I first were married we discussed our own childhood family traditions and began to plan what it would be like to merge the two. What should we keep? What didn’t serve our new, little family well? And we wondered what new traditions would develop over time.

This Fall makes the 4th year we’ve taken our family to the local pumpkin patch. I realize this is a tradition that many families have enjoyed for many years, but it is a new one to me and I love it. We check out the animals, run laps through the hay bale maze, climb the pumpkin piles and of course, pick out a pumpkin to take home. And what pumpkin patch trip would be complete without pictures! Lots and lots of pictures.


Checking out the animals.






Climbing, climbing, climbing.

I love that face!



Big Brother is having some major fun back there.

Check out these faces! He cracks me up.


If you look closely you can just see his new tooth poking out.



And just for funsies, here’s a side by side of the boys. Short Round at 7 months and Big Brother at 5 months.


Mandatory Mom pic.

We’re cute, right?!

6 Weeks

Last weekend we all loaded up in the Prius and headed to Papa’s house in Missouri. Josh had never been hunting before and it’s turkey season so Dad invited him to come down to hunt. We love going to the country and the weather was incredible while we were there.

We went riding with Papa.


And Uncle Chris gave him his first gun.

He was pretty stoked although he didn’t quite know what to do when we took it out to shoot.

Josh had a great time hunting. I figured he would love it; I always found hunting with my dad to be really peaceful. And what’s not to love about hiking through the Ozarks in cool weather? Wish I would have gotten a pic of Josh in his camo though.

We also took time to go down to the farm to take some pics of Baby brother. I had wanted to take newborn photos of him, but had not managed to find the time. So here are his 6 week photos instead.



I made this blanket from some plaid I found at JoAnns and just love how it turned out. I think I’ll make more this fall.

Sweet little piggies.

Those lips!

This one is my favorite.


I wanted to get more poses but after laying on the ground for a few minutes to snap these I found myself covered in ticks, a hazard of country life. I’ll take more at some point…maybe in 6 more weeks?


I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been busy doing this:



On March 14th I looked like this:

And I was doing this:

That night and the next I wanted to be doing this:

But couldn’t because of some pretty intense contractions.

But by Sunday evening, March 16th. After only 8 minutes of pushing I was holding all 9lbs 3oz of this guy.



And now I get to spend my days in bliss looking at this:




Birthdays and Babies

I love making homemade gifts. When I was a kid I would buy little teddy bears and hot glue lace tutus on them for birthday gifts for my friends. Looking back on that just now I realized what a lame birthday gift that must have been. If you ever received one of those teddy bears from me I’m really sorry; I owe you a Starbucks gift card.

These days I have a few more tricks up my sleeve that don’t involve hot glue and peach colored lace. But seriously, homemade gifts are just so much fun and this summer I had a handful of opportunities to make some seriously cute stuff.

Our good friends Heather and Eric had a baby boy and I had the pleasure of sewing a fitted sheet for his crib.

Unfortunately this is the only shot I got of it, but come on, grey and white polka dots? Adorbs. I LOVE making fitted crib sheets. They are super quick and easy and you just can’t find cute ones in stores. There is a great tutorial that I found over at (Love her stuff. Take some time to check out her site; you won’t be sorry. She’s so fun.) You can find the tutorial for ithere.

I also couldn’t resist whipping up one of my minky blankies for him. ROBOTS! Little boys are fun.


Josh’s cousin Laura and her husband Lance threw a party for their sweet little girl who was turning 1. Bear loved playing with bean bags at that age so I raided my fabric stash and sewed these little cuties up.


I filled each one with different size beans and rice that we had on hand so each was a bit different from the next in weight and feel. I picked up a container from the dollar bin at Target and Volia! A quick and easy bean bag toss game.


Josh’s other cousin, Les, invited me to her baby shower (All these cousins having babies is the best!) and I got to make her a couple of things. First I sewed up some flannel burp rags; you can never have too many. I was pleasantly surprised by the selection of flannels at JoAnn’s. Pretty good right?


I found this great nursing shawl tutorial here and thought I’d try it out. They turned out pretty good, not sure how well they work, but it seemed like a much better idea than the nursing cover I used with B.20131005-122703.jpg


And last, but not least, our sweet friends Johnny and Anna’s little girl turned 5! They threw her a totally rad horse themed party and Anna made the most delicious and beautiful birthday cake covered in frosting roses. It looked too pretty to eat, but somehow we managed. I couldn’t decide what to make for sweet little ‘M’ so Josh stepped in and made an awesome suggestion.

And a reversible cape was made. What 5 year old doesn’t need a cape? You can find the tutorial here.


Well, that’s about it…Oh wait! There’s one other thing I’ve been working on…

That’s right, baby Deaner #2 is in the works.

This is my all time favorite thing to make! I should be finishing this big project up late March or early April. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!!

Leave me a comment and let me know what the best homemade gift you ever received was.

Summa Summa Summa Time

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This summer has been a lot of fun so far. Bear has been working on brushing his teeth and NOT been working on his potty skills.

In June my baby cousin Lindsay got married to a wonderful young man and Bear and I had the pleasure of attending their wedding back home in Missouri. Lindsay made a beautiful bride (as is the norm for the women in our family. Am I right girls?)


Have you ever seen such a good looking group of Bartons in all your life? Congrats Tim and Lindsay!

We took the opportunity to get a good pic of all the grand kids with Papa while everyone was all cleaned up.


We got to spend a few days in Oates and the cousins had a fun time throwing rocks in the creek. Amber and I spent many a summer day playing in that creek growing up.


‘E’ really loves Cousin Bear.


Grandma Metta and Aunt Enid came up from Florida for a visit, but none of my pictures turned out, too many squirmy kiddos.

Wish Amber could have gotten in on this shot.


Our good friends, the Taylors, threw an awesome party for the 4th of July with great food, fun times and awesome weather (interrupted briefly by a hail shower. Thank you Oklahoma weather.)
We all had a great time, especially Bear as you can see.



Happy summer everyone!

The Big 0-2

I’m about a month and a half behind on this one but….Bear turned 2! I can’t believe my little munchkin is such a big boy. He loves playing with puzzles (mostly on the IPad), reading, playing in the sprinkler at Mama Dub’s house (have I mentioned that we have the best nanny ever?!), reading, talking, climbing daddy like a jungle gym and reading. 17 books a day might seem a bit excessive, but not for Bear.

We had a small get together with family at the house. Got this awesome shot of 4 generations. Gigi, Nonie, Bear and Josh.

And then we partied it up!

Pretty great pic right? Thanks Hayley!

Check out this sweet little guy.

And this even sweeter even bigger guy.


Too much cuteness for me to handle.

B Hearts Cake

In May B turned 1! It’s hard to believe that he is such a big boy already. Josh and I threw him a little party for family and some close friends. More than anything I just wanted an excuse to decorate and feed people. We aren’t very extravagant people so we wanted something simple, but fun. I think it turned out great and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Food table! Please disregard the super wrinkled table cloth.

Milk bar! We got milk-faced for sure.

I made B his own cake.

The easiest and super yummiest homemade cake ever. Recipe to follow on another post. I also made the two cake stands, with help from this blog, out of Salvation Army finds.

We covered a couple of old window frames in some of our favorite pics of the little dude. Top left is the best.

Josh found these canvas letters which were perfect for the entryway table. Guests signed B’s baby book in the 1st Birthday section. And what birthday party would be complete without a giant bowl of gummie bears with to-go cups?

Prepare yourself for the following onslaught of preciousness.

Massage the cake…love the cake.

He was a little timid at first.

He got the hang of it.

He’s a sharer.

Happy Birthday Bear!