Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Traditions

I'm thankful to have a blog where I can actually say the word "Christmas."  It seems that everywhere you look these days, people are replacing "Christmas" with the word "holiday" and it's so very disappointing.  As the room mom for H's second grade class, I was forced to send out a "winter" party informative letter to the other parents.  Really?  Don't even get me started. 

Each year, I'm trying to do a better job about showing my boys the true meaning of Christmas.  We talk a lot about the birth of Jesus and they love their Little People nativity set that sits under our tree.  I know it's a process, one that will take a while for them to truly understand.  It's something that does take intentional effort since our society has turned it into such a commercialized holiday.

However, I certainly want to enjoy the other fun aspects of Christmas with them- especially since they both still BELIEVE (and who knows how much longer I have with H) so I try to do fun things with them throughout the month.  I'm a big believer in traditions!  Here are some that we do around here:

1.  We have a "cookies for Santa" plate that we use each year.  We make cookies and place them on the plate on Christmas Eve night.

2.  The boys get new Christmas jammies

3.  Read books by the tree.  I have a big stack of Christmas/winter books next to the tree and we gather around the tree and read together before bed.  This doesn't happen every single night (some are just crazy nights) but this is a favorite for them!

4.  Make crafts or ornaments together

5.  Drive around to see lights

6.  Make a gingerbread house with Grammy. 

7.  Watch Christmas movies- throughout the month we watch some favorites like The Grinch, Frosty the Snowman, Polar Express and a few others.

8.  The Advent Countdown calendar.  They love doing this each morning and it's a great visual for them to see how many days until Christmas.

9.  Elf on a Shelf- we've had "Cronko" (named by our then 3 yr old H) and he's been a highlight in our home for 4 years now.......when I can remember to move the darn thing. 

10.  Decorating the tree together.

11.  Listening to Christmas music

12.  Praying for families as we get their Christmas card

(I'm sure there are others but this is all that's coming to me right now)

What traditions do you have with your kids?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

For the Love of Cards

December is such a fun month with all the Christmas activities we have planned but one of my favorite things of all is going to the mailbox each day to check for Christmas cards.  I enjoy the pictures and seeing how each family has changed since the last year.  I have a card hanger that goes on the wall as you walk into my kitchen and each time we get a new card we place it on the hanger.  It's so much fun to fill that hanger up and it's a reminder of how blessed we are with so many friendships.  One tradition we started last year was to pray over each family as we got their card.  It's something I hope we continue to do from now on!

Over Thanksgiving break, I took the boys to the park in order to get a picture that was card-worthy.  I'm not so convinced that I took amazing pictures but I do think there are a few that would look cute.  It really helps when sites like Shutterfly have so many precious card templates to choose from.  I have ordered from Shutterfly in the past and not only were my cards beautiful, the turnaround time was really fast. 

While browsing their holiday card choices, I found a few that caught my eye:
I LOVE the stripes at the bottom of this card!  It's simple yet cute all at the same time. 

In the past, I've sent cards like this:

.....because I love having the option of including multiple pictures. Sometimes it's just too hard to pick one photo!

I love this one too.......
The font at the top is greatness!

See, it's hard to pick.  They just have so many to choose from.

Wonder if I'll end up with this one.......

And want to know something else that's awesome?  Shutterfly is offering 50 free cards to bloggers who blog about this giveaway. You can read all about it here. 

And don't forget that they also have other photo items that could be used for gifts or stocking stuffers.

Go check it out and get yourself some free cards!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Challenge 5

So we actually completed the "bag trash" challenge and we had a great time doing it.  The boys each had a bag and I pulled our wagon (in case a certain 4 year old got tired or if we found something big) and we made a game out of finding trash/items that didn't belong on the ground.  By the time we got back to our house, our bags (and part of our wagon) were full.  I love that I listened to my sweet son's heart and did this challenge.  I know this is something we will for sure do again.

Last week at church our preacher started preaching on the topic of listening to God's whispers.  Some of his sermon comes from this book and all I can say is WOW.  I love this sermon series so far.  I guess you could say that this blog was started because of a "whisper" from God.  A nudge.  A push to change our mindset and step out of our comfort zone.  I encourage you to get this book if you haven't read it.  I haven't read it yet myself, but I can tell you that the info that has been shared from it has been wonderful.

Challenge 5 starts today and will go through next Sunday.

Act 1
Purchase something for a child/family through Compassion, World Vision, or some other organization.

Earlier this week, we got our World Vision Gift Catalog in the mail.  While eating breakfast one morning, I had my oldest son read some of it to us.  One page that really made an impact on my boys was a section that talked about a little boy that had worms in his bloated tummy.  As H read on, he learned that most kids living in Africa only have dirty water to drink and many of them get dangerous diseases because of it.  They kept asking lots of questions and this really sparked some good conversations about this topic.  In my head, I knew that buying something from WV was something our family would for sure do this year but I kept thinking that the impact on my kids would not be as great if we simply opened our checkbook and made the purchase.  After some brainstorming, we came up with the idea of the boys having a hot chocolate stand in order to raise money.  They thought it sounded fun and this is a pretty simple way for them to earn money themselves to put towards this purchase.  You can come up with lots of good ways for your kids to earn money to go towards these gifts.  In my opinion, it will make a bigger impact on them if they really have a part in it.

Did you know that:
  • $18 will provide 3 ducks for a family in need? (these will produce hundreds of protein-rich eggs to feed a family year round.  They will also multiply fast and allow them to be sold for extra income)
  • $25 will provide 2 chickens
  • $30 will provide 5 fruit trees (oranges, mangoes, bananas, papayas and apples)
  • $40 will provide a fishing kit for a family
  • $75 provides a goat
  • $100 buys a goat and 2 chickens

You get the idea.

How many times have you walked into a store ( it's Target for me personally) and walked out with $50+ worth of things you don't need and didn't go into the store initially wanting.  When I look at these small amounts, yet the HUGE impact they will make for these families, I can't imagine not buying something from the list.  So, I encourage you to make a purchase for a family this year - one that will keep on giving!

Act 2
Make and deliver cookies, cupcakes, or treats for firefighters, police officers, etc......  and express how THANKFUL you are for their service.  I know that I take these positions for granted and we don't carve out enough time to say thanks.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Our Week and Challenge 4

I hope everyone had a good Halloween!  We did......especially my husband, who went to the World Series game with his dad.  My MIL and SIL came over and went trick-or-treating with us.  The boys looked super cute.  I mentioned a few posts ago about the idea of collecting canned food while going door to door.  We did it this year and had a pretty good turnout.  My youngest was really more concerned with the candy but I have to say that I'm so proud of H for asking at almost every house.  I was quite surprised at how many people told him no- but that's okay.  That's life and hopefully it taught him to just keep on asking.  We did manage to get over 20 cans and some people were really sweet about it.  I loved this idea and plan to do it from now on.  It was a simple way to impress on my boys' hearts that we can do for others while having fun for ourselves.

We are still working on our challenges for this week and hope to finish them by Sunday.  It's been pretty cool here this week and we have yet to bag trash.  I'm not letting this one pass without getting done!

Week 4 challenges will start this Sunday, November 7 and will end next Sunday, November 14. Don't forget to turn your clocks back on the 7th!

Act 1
Clean out your closets and toy boxes and donate toys/clothes

You can donate your items to a family in need, Goodwill, a church that accepts donations, or any other place that will get these items to others less fortunate.  With Christmas just weeks away, this is a great way to help others and simplify your home at the same time.  Allow your kids to be a part of this process.  Again, the conversations you have with them are just as important as the act itself.

Act 2
Turn off the TV for a day (or a week!)

That's right.......have a TV Free Day!  It's so easy to flip the TV on and before you know it, several hours have gone by.  We've got a pretty good handle on our TV time (more on that to come!) but I have lots of friends that admit that their kids watch way too much.  Think about all the productive things you can do during that time.  Play games, read a book, go for a walk, help someone else, just talk.......as parents we often miss out on these sweet moments with our kids because they are stuck in front of a TV or video game.  So, I challenge you to have at least one day of zero TV.  Then, see if you can turn it into two.......

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Family Nights

Over the past several years we have tried to have regular "family nights".......meaning we turn off the TV, get out the games, and just hang out.  I love the idea of family nights, although it's been hard for us to be consistent with them.  Like most things, you have to be intentional about keeping them going and often life gets in the way.  We get busy and time just passes us by.

When my friend posted about the Family Nights at her house, I was immediately intrigued. I shot her a quick email and asked for more information.  She sent me to this site and I started looking around at all the products they sell.  There were so many to choose from- most of them looked like activities I'd like to use.  (fyi.....I actually found a used copy, in excellent condition, through Amazon and paid about $6 total with shipping)

Like Jessica, I decided to start with this one:

My oldest loves science.  The fact that this book combines science with Bible/life lessons is a huge bonus.  I know my boys will love learning this way. 

I got my book last night and am so excited to start.  More than anything, I'm excited to have resources that will help me keep our Family Nights meaningful.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children."  Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Joyful Heart is Good Medicine

A couple of months ago I had the privilege of hanging out with one of my best college friends- just the two of us- no kids.  It was bliss.  We went away for the entire weekend and had a blast.  We did lots of shopping, eating, laughing, and even crying.  Don't you love friends like this?  They are a rare find, I can tell you that!

During our weekend, we spent some of the time talking about our kids and things we do to shape them into better people.  We discussed Bible lessons, activities, community outreach projects, and all sorts of things geared at making our children well-rounded, Christian kids.  Whew, what a job we all have.

She told me about these CD's that she plays while riding in the car and she shared with me how helpful they have been for her.  I decided to order them and I'm so glad I did.  Not only do they teach Bible verses...but they also teach character traits as well.  There is a mix of fast and slow songs and my boys LOVE them.  They probably don't love that I start to sing "do everything without complaining" or "children obey your parents" when their behavior becomes less than desirable but I can say that we've all really enjoyed the overall message these songs deliver.  My 4 year old will often ask for the "joyful heart" song and I love that he wants to listen.  So, if you are looking for some new songs for the car or home, I'd definitely say these are worth getting!

Speaking of joy...........
.......these 3 girls have brought a lot of joy to my life the past 14 years!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Challenge Week 3

"The greatest reward is not what we receive for our labor, but what we become by it."
John Ruskin

It's been so neat to hear stories from many of you and it's encouraging to know that so many of us have the same goal in mind:  to bless others.  What's been really cool has been hearing my boys talk about ways to be kind to others.  Although it's a process, I feel we are getting better each week.

You still have until Sunday (Halloween) to finish week 2 challenges.  I'm going to post week 3 today for those of you that are planners, like me.   :)  Week 3 starts Oct 31 and goes through November 7.

Act 1
Cut and hand out/leave coupons at various stores.

This might sound silly to you but in this economy, many people are struggling financially.  You may not be a big couponer but there are a lot of people out there that provide food for their families only because they find ways to cut down on their grocery bill.  I want to encourage you to look for coupons and then share them with others.  You can easily purchase a Sunday newspaper for $2 and have an assortment of coupons just from that.  Some of you may receive coupons via email.  That's perfect.  Take your children to the grocery store or any store for that matter and make a game of it.  You can either hand them out (if you happen to be on a certain aisle and notice someone looking for an item you have a coupon for then hand it directly to them)  You can also just lay coupons down right on top of the food.  This is a great opportunity to talk to your children and explain to them that some people really struggle with providing food for their families.  You never know how a few coupons will bless someone!

The other day I decided to start this challenge.  I got a coupon from Bath & B*dy Works that basically allowed you to get a free full-size product with any $10 purchase.  I decided to print several of these off before I went to the store.  Once I got inside, I started walking around and handing them out.  One lady was so appreciative.  She went on to tell me that she was looking for a couple of birthday gifts but didn't have a lot of money to spend and that this was going to help her with that.  This lady looked "normal" and nothing about her appearance led me to believe she was struggling financially.  (the reason I point this out is that we often walk right past people and assume they are okay because they look okay)  I walked out of that store feeling so great that day and realized this is something so simple and inexpensive to do.

Act 2
Bag trash

This challenge actually came from my oldest son, H.  This summer while taking my boys to swim lessons, my son asked me if we could pick up the trash on the side of the road.  It never failed that he would ask me on our way to swim and I'd always tell him to remind me at a time we were not rushing to get somewhere.  I'm embarrassed to say that we never picked up trash and I let this opportunity pass without making it a priority.  Shame on me!!  When thinking about acts of kindness the other day, I knew this was one we needed to do.  For some reason it was important to him that the Earth be kept clean and he's right.......we all need to do our part.  So before it gets too cold, I wanted to find an afternoon/evening to bag some trash.  You could do this while on a walk around your neighborhood (just take some sacks with you) or you could drive to a specific area.  It's up to you!  At this time, talk to your children about littering and how we can respect the world we live in.