Start now, and read through the 40 days of Lent (not including Sundays), and on the 4oth day, you’ll arrive at the Easter Story. Not only that, but the beautiful thing about this book is how every story is tied back to Jesus.
We’ve checked this book out from the library numerous times and have read various stories from it, but never cover to cover. And since it’s been on my wish list anyway, I went ahead and picked up the collector’s edition which includes both audio and video. Now we’ll have the option to read it, listen to it, watch it, act it out ourselves, or some combination of the above. I am so excited to get started on it with my kiddos, while allowing each of them to soak up stories through the method they learn best!
The kids and I held our 3rdannual Family Valentine’s Ball. Another fun and unforgettable evening. Hearing my little guy’s laughter as we spun in circles…seeing my kiddos rise to the occasion and become such sweet little hostesses…little voices singing along to “our song“. Such precious memories.
Love this menu because so much of it can be done ahead of time and then just put in the oven in time to serve. For the past three years, the kiddos have helped prepare it every step of the way. But this year, I was completely amazed by how much they have grown and matured and were able to take charge of so many of the preparations themselves. Working beside them and watching them experience the joy of creating something so special and meaningful to share with their daddy was such a beautiful thing!
About skunks! It just so happens that we saw one trot across our front step and into our bushes last week…probably right into the little den he’s built underneath it! So, I thought we should learn about another one of God’s amazing creatures, and hopefully ease the kiddos’ fears!
I’m working on…
Finding some fun crafts to do with the kids for another craft week this spring. To organize it all a little better, I finally joined Pinterest! Looking forward to cleaning out all the favorites saved on my computer…it’s gotten a little out of control!
I’ve been reading…
Fully Alive: A Journey that Will Change Your Life - a motivational book by Ken Davis. Through it, Ken shares his life goal of glorifying God by living fully alive: physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. And he starts by asking a really great question, “When did we stop living life and start letting life happen to us?”
The first part of the book focuses on the physical challenges of exercising and eating healthy, because in truth, it’s hard to concentrate on other areas of your life if your health is not up to par. But the book is so much more than that. Through some wonderful stories, Ken also inspires us to seek excellence in all areas of life; to not settle for the comfortable, but to take risks and find joy.
For me, one of his most helpful tips was this: “Living fully alive is only as complicated as the next step I take.” I so often feel paralyzed by everything that lies before me. I get overwhelmed thinking of all I need to do or all it will take to get where I want to be, and then, instead of just taking the next step forward, I give up before I even get started. So starting today, I’ll continue mapping out what I need to do, but I’m going to focus my concentration on that next step.
We finished up making the kids’ Valentines this weekend. To make it easy, we came up with something that worked for all three of them!
Little bags of Goldfish, bubble wands and a fish bowl Valentine…all tied up in a little baggie just like you’d bring a goldfish home from the county fair.
A version for my boy…
And for the girls…
You can easily duplicate our Valentines. Simply find your favorite fish bowl clip art. Add some hearts for the bubbles, and then decide on what text you’d like to add. I made ours just using the tools available in Microsoft Powerpoint.
Or check out some of our previous Valentines here:
The following is a repost from last February. I’m giving my kiddos the gift of TIME again this Valentine’s Day and am currently busy preparing our daily activities (last minute as usual, of course). You can find a link to the printables at the bottom if you’d like to use them as well!
Two years ago, I made the kids each one of these Valentine letter holders to tie on the backs of their chairs after being inspired by the tutorial found here.
And each year, during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, I’d fill it with some sort of little treat along with a note telling each kiddo something I loved about them.
But this year, instead of just adding a treat along with their note, they will each receive a gift OF ME. My time. My attention. My love. I created some labels to be used each day – both a girl and a boy version – and am making them available as a free download (at the bottom of the page) for anyone who wishes to use them. Simply print them out, cut apart and attach them to something that goes with your activity for the day.
Come Away (Read) With Me
Create With Me
Enjoy Tea With Me
Bake With Me
Play With Me
Picnic With Me
Explore With Me
And for Valentine’s Day: Celebrate YOU With Me
The wonderful thing is, you may not even have to leave your home or spend a lot of money to make it happen. Raid the snacks in your pantry. Check out a new library book . Use art supplies you already have on hand. Grab a cookie cutter or jar of sprinkles from your cupboard. Because you see, the gift that you’re giving your child isn’t really any of these things, but YOU.
Here’s a little inspiration for each of the categories:
1. Come Away (Read) With Me:
Spend a few minutes browsing through the library shelves or ask a librarian for help picking out a book that will “Wow!” your child…something that’s all about their current interests. Attach the printable bookmark, present it to your child, and suggest building a fort to read it in!
2. Create With Me
Gather up some favorite art materials or choose those that usually remain in the back of the cabinet because they’re just too messy, and take the time to create something wonderful with your child!
3. Enjoy Tea With Me
Though I made this tag specifically for the end of a tea bag , you don’t have to be a tea drinker to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of an afternoon tea! Choose a favorite beverage – lemonade, hot chocolate, or the ingredients for a smoothie. Tie a ribbon around your item of choice and attach the tag to the end of it if you wish. To make it more special, serve it in a special cup or glass that isn’t used very often, engage yourself, and enjoy a wonderful conversation while you drink.
4. Bake With Me
You don’t have to bake from scratch or even bake at all. Buy a roll of refrigerated cookie dough, slice and bake. Or simply melt some chocolate, dip in the end of an Oreo and add some sprinkles. The process doesn’t matter, just invite your kiddo into the kitchen and enjoy one another’s company!
5. Play With Me
Play a game. Play outside. Build with Legos. Do whatever it is that your kiddo would most enjoy. Grab a snack to go with it.
6. Picnic With Me
Whether at the park or in your own backyard, pack a meal and enjoy it together. Too cold to go outside? Not a problem. Throw a blanket on the floor.
7. Explore With Me
Go for a walk, follow a trail, walk around the pond, discover nature. Can’t get outside? Bring it indoors! When it’s too cold to play in the snow, we make an indoor snowbox from a plastic tub. Get creative!
8. Celebrate YOU with me!
And finally, one specifically for Valentine’s Day. Attach it to whatever you wish and celebrate your loved ones for exactly who they are.
If you’d like to download the labels, just click on the picture below. It includes both a page of boy labels as well as a page of girl labels. Be sure to come back and leave a comment! I’d love to hear the creative things you did with them!
You’re probably familiar with the advent book countdown that many people do during the month of December. You know, the one where you wrap up 24 different Christmas-themed books and let your kiddos unwrap one to read each day until Christmas. I’ve always loved the idea, but it just never worked for our family. First of all, I am fully committed to a couple of other daily advent activities that we do (which you can read about here and here), and secondly, I want to be able to read our Christmas books as many times as the kiddos ask for them during the season…I have a hard time leaving any one of them tucked away until the end.
But, it did get me thinking…why not do something similar around Valentine’s Day? No matter how old my kids get, there are some absolutely precious picture books about mamas loving their babies that I’ll never get tired of sharing with them. So, I decided to find my top 14 picks that were either available through our personal collection or through the local library. Here they are:
I Love You With All My Heart by Noris Kern
You’re All My Favorites by Sam McBratney
I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
God Gave Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren
You Are My I Love You by Maryann K. Cusimano
I Love You as Big as the World by David Van Buren
I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak
If I Could Keep You Little by Marianne Richmond
Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman
Because Your Daddy Loves You by Andrew Clemets
Mama, Do You Love Me? By Barbara M. Joosse
I Love You, Little One by Nancy Tafuri
I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt
Once I had my stack of books in hand, I thought it might be fun to have a few hearts fall from between the pages as we read. So, I cut some hearts and tucked them inside.
But on one heart from each book, I added a scripture passage for us to look up in our Bibles. Some of them tell us of God’s amazing love for us, while others remind us how God wants us to love others. Here they are:
1 Corinthians 13:1-8;13
1 Peter 4:8-11
1 John 3:16-18
1 John 4:7-12
I chose 14 books & verses because my original plan was to use them as a countdown the first 14 days of February. But then life happened, and I didn’t get it ready in time. So beginning today, we’ll read half the books leading up to Valentine’s Day, and the other half after. And you know what, looking back, I think I kind of like it this way. After all, sharing and showing love isn’t just something to focus on during a Hallmark holiday, right? It should be ongoing. Who knows, maybe I’ll even add to our list of books next year and extend it even further. What books would you add to our list?
We bid farewell to wonderful man. My husband’s grandfather passed away at the age of 96. It was a blessing to be able to go and celebrate his life with family and to hear so many stories about him, some of which we’d never heard before.
My brother-in-law sang this song during the service:
I wish I had his actual recording to share, because he rocked it…particularly at the end on “Fly to Jesus”. So beautiful! I’ll always think of Grandpa when I hear this song. In fact, I imagine he was in heaven singing along…or maybe just dancing to it with Grandma. I hope my kiddos always remember stopping by and singing with Grandpa when we were in town. During our last visit, just after Christmas, the kids sang their Christmas program for him and then he joined in on singing Jingle Bells with us.
A little one’s half-birthday with our traditional “Yes Day”.
Her requests were really quite simple…
a menu of mini donunts, hot dogs with mac & cheese, and breakfast for dinner
and having me sit in the back seat, sandwiched between her and her sister, on our drive to Grandma’s.
I love our Yes Days because they are a wonderful reminder for me. A reminder to pay attention to how many times I say yes to my kiddos…or more accurately, how many times I don’t, when I should. On an ordinary day would I have played Sleeping Queens 4 times? Probably not. I would have played once, maybe twice, and then come up with excuses…the laundry needs done, I’ve got dishes to do, I need to clean the bathroom, it’s time to get lunch. When in reality, it wouldn’t hurt for any one of those things to be delayed just 15 minutes! The kids love having a special day where they get to call all the shots, but more importantly, I love having a reminder to say “Yes!” to more of those important little moments that I will never again get back.
The Face of Heaven by Murray Pura. It’s the story of an Amish man who enlists in the Civil War, and his sweetheart who becomes a battlefield nurse. Both risk being shunned by their families, but are nevertheless compelled to take a stand against the injustice of slavery. It’s a wonderful story with the perfect blend of historical events, action-packed battle scenes, a display of the characters’ faith in God, forgiveness, suspense, and a touch of romance.
If you like historical fiction, I also recommend Pura’s other book in his Snapshots of History series, The Wings of Morning, which is set in 1917, during America’s participation in World War I. And I’m so looking forward to his next book in this series, which is to be released later this spring!
In the meantime, do you have any other Christian fiction books that you’d recommmend?
I’m inspired by…
The following two blog posts that I read this week:
When Mama Ain’t Happy… - We didn’t watch the Super Bowl and therefore (luckily) weren’t exposed to the questionable ads, but Lisa-Jo’s words ring so true. We are the “shelter from the storm…the warriors who will battle for our children’s hearts, souls, attention, innnocence, and memories.”
I’m excited about…
Doing monthly missions with the kids! You can join in too! Every month on her blog, Amanda will be introducing her kids to a ministry or organization that helps, protects or loves on kids and families in poverty and extreme need, and then finding ways to support the ministry that month, whether it involves raising money, sending cards, or simply praying.
This month’s mission is Sweet Sleep, an organization that provides beds and mosquito nets for beds to Moldova, Africa and Haiti. You can read more about the organization and find out how Amanda introduced it to her kids here.
Now tell me about you! What were you enjoying this week?
Inspired by friends, I decided to start keeping a short little journal of our weeks…a simple place to record a few precious memories, but also a guide to keep me accountable and ensure that I’m careful in the way I spend my moments.
In my life this week…
Thinking a lot about Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) and trying to find the balance. By nature, I am so task focused that it’s hard for me to just rest in the presence of Jesus…or in the presence of my family…and simply enjoy them. Instead of just reading through the Bible, I’m learning to sit quietly and listen awhile. Instead of just planning activities to do with the kids, I’m learning to just follow their lead and simply play.
“Now let’s go laugh!” – spoken by my middle girly to her little brother as they ran off to peek at each other (while giggling uncontrollably) from opposite sides of a bedroom door.
Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts(again) and naming my own 1000 gifts. Though I normally have a hard time marking in a book, this time, I just couldn’t help myself. This time, I read the book with a pencil in hand and just went crazy…underlining, circling, adding asterisks. Here is one passage that actually received all three:
“But when Christ is at the center, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks to Him, joy rains. Passionately serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all.”
Ann goes on to quote Mother Teresa, “The work we do is only our love for Jesus in action. If we pray the work…if we do it to Jesus, we do it for Jesus, we do it with Jesus…that’s what makes us content.”
Perhaps that’s why our house seems a little more sparkly clean this week…and I seem be smiling more through it all.
Finding tiny little flour toe prints found on the foot pedal of our trash can. Just as I was about to sigh in frustration from all the clean-up before me after a morning of baking, God left me this little unexpected gift that changed my heart and my attitude!
What makes me smile…
Seeing our cheery aprons finally hanging in the kitchen. I’ve only had those hooks sitting in the cabinet for 9 months before I finally got the courage to hang them this week. I’m not so good at making decorating decisions ; ) Now I just need to work on making an apron for my little guy so he doesn’t have to wear the girly ones!
I’m working on…
Figuring out weekly chore routines that work for us and creating new compensation sheets for the kids. I included ones to help them divide their compensation total into their own giving/saving/spending totals. I plan on sharing them once we use them for a few weeks to work all the kinks out.
We’ve been learning about…
Polar bears! The girls remembered all the fun we had last year and requested to watch the Knut and Arctic Tale videos again. We also found some fun new books to go with it this year: The Magic Tree House # 16: Polar Bears Past Bedtime, and the companion book, Polar Bears and the Arctic by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce.
Polar Bears and listened to the keeper chat at the zoo! Isn’t God’s creation just so amazing!!
What treasures did you experience during your week?
Well here we are, just two days before Christmas, but I’ve saved the best for last!
Each year when we get out our Christmas decorations, the kids get so excited to set up their Little People Nativity set. We put it out in its entirety, and the kids thoroughly enjoy interacting with it and using it to tell the Christmas story. But we also display a second, beautiful nativity scene that is placed out of reach. Only this time, one crucial piece is missing: the Baby Jesus.
On Christmas Eve, after we’ve celebrated with our birthday cake for Jesus, we give Him our gifts. In reality, we’ve been giving gifts to Jesus all month long as we’ve worked through our Advent countdown. But the gift we give to Jesus on Christmas is about what we will do going forward. It might be donations to the food pantry, volunteering for a mission trip, sponsoring a child, or saving for a gift through the Samaritan’s Purse or World Vision catalogs. But it could just as easily be something that doesn’t cost us a thing. For the kids, it might be reaching out to that kid at school who doesn’t seem to have any friends. It might be making a more concentrated effort on sharing and peacefully working through conflicts with a sibling. Maybe it is inviting people to church or over to our home to join us for dinner and fellowship. Each member of our family decides what gift is on their heart, and writes it on a piece of paper that is placed in a box under our tree on Christmas Eve.
Those gifts will be what we focus our efforts on as we begin a new year.
On Christmas morning, the very first gift we open is the gift box that we gave to Jesus. But instead of finding our pieces of paper inside, we find the Baby Jesus.
We place him in the Nativity scene with Mary and Joseph, and then read the Christmas story from the Bible. Therefore, our first gift is the true gift of Christmas.
There are a couple books I discovered this year that are wonderful resources in helping your child understand what it means to give a gift to Jesus.
Ronnie Wilson’s Gift by Francis Chan – When a little boy learn’s of Jesus’s sacrifice, he wants to give him a gift in return, but doesn’t know how. Then, after he reaches out to those in need, he learns that in giving to them, he’s been giving to Jesus all along.
The Sparkle Box – This story is actually similar to our tradition, with the exception that instead of the family putting slips of paper into their box stating what they are going to give to Jesus, they put in the good deeds they have already done throughout the Christmas season. Then, on Christmas morning they open their box and talk about how all the things they’ve been doing for others are really a gift for Jesus.
My oldest came to me as I had just typed the title for this post. She read it and then began to narrate her own post. “Every year we give three gifts, just like the wise men gave Jesus,” she said.
In truth, we just started this tradition last Christmas. I had wanted to make the gifts we give at Christmas more meaningful and somehow make them feel more connected to the true reason we celebrate Christmas. And that’s when I came across this fabulous idea from Nap Time Journal.
Basically, we give three gifts at Christmas (not including what’s in stockings).
1. A gift of wonder – which is either something the person really wants, or something that would be fascinating to them.
2. A gift of usefulness – anything useful, obviously. For the kids it’s usually clothes or new shoes.
3. A gift of meaning – typically something handmade.
I love this tradition because honestly, in the past, I was prone to over-buying at Christmas. I’d pick up cute but unnecessary things for the kids just because I found a great deal on something I thought they’d have fun with. But with only three gifts, it causes us to take greater care in selecting the gifts we will give our children, making all of them that much more meaningful.
And in case you’re looking for something fun to make for your own kiddos next Christmas…or just curious…here are this years’s gifts of meaning (click on the links for the source of the tutorials):
This is another one of our traditions started by my children. It’s something I had never done, nor had I ever thought of doing. But, when my middle daughter was just 3, she came to me asking, “Mama, if it’s Jesus’s birthday, how come we don’t we bake him a birthday cake?” And you know what, I had no good answer. Why didn’t we bake Him a cake?
So that year, we baked our first birthday cake for Jesus and we’ve been doing it when we celebrate Christmas Eve ever since. We keep it really simple. A boxed cake mix and a can of frosting. Sprinkles and candles. Things the kids are able to do almost entirely on their own. And of course we light the candles and sing “Happy Birthday”, too. A simple, sweet tradition reminding us of who we are truly celebrating.