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Practicing our scooters.

Reading some good books.

Playing in the snow (not that there was much worth playing in).

Family Game Nights

And just having fun!

But don't worry!  This blog has not been forgotten.  Look for some interesting new posts coming this month. :)
 
 
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About a month ago, my daughter found some coins and eagerly shared she was going to save them to buy a movie she has been wanting.  At the time, I thought this was a great idea!  It provided a perfect opportunity to teach and reinforce saving towards a goal.  Now, one month later, she has only about $1.50 saved and she is still focused on saving for this movie.  

The issue is there isn't anything in place that allows her to earn money.  We don't pay her to clean up her toys and do other small jobs to help out around the house.  Since she is only 3 1/2, there really aren't many tasks she can do above and beyond what's expected.  The bottom line though is I want her to help out around the house because it's her contribution as a member of the family or because she is showing generosity to others.  I also want her to learn that you can't automatically have everything you want, but sometimes you can save over time to get the item you desire.  I'm struggling with how to accomplish both. Right now I'm leaning towards discussing with her the option of taking over one of mommy's jobs to earn money until she has enough to buy her movie.  This idea means I would most likely have to go behind her when she isn't around to ensure the job was fully completed because most of the things I have come up with really aren't jobs she is able to do well independently.

Do you give your kids an allowance?  If so, do they have to earn it or is it a flat sum of money you give them each week?  Can you share some creative ways to help younger children earn money?  I'd love to hear all suggestions!

 
 
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Restless anticipation, winds of change, daring expectancy.  Phrases that come close to explaining the feeling I'm experiencing that has been growing for weeks now.  Something is being stirred within.  I feel like there is something more; something spectacular on the horizon.  God has great things for us; for me.  Perhaps it is just a growing awareness of people God cares about and wants me to see as He sees them.  Perhaps it is me fully settling into this non-career oriented role I've chosen and seeing that God has a new purpose for me.  Maybe God has changes in store for us that I cannot even fathom yet.  Whatever it is, I am eager to press in and see what is in store.

Our church is about to embark on a 4 week focus on prayer using a book called The Circle Maker.  Now I will be the first to admit that I am not a fan of the "fads" I see move through churches.  Those fads where churches and Christians across the nation read, study and listen to sermons on So-and-So's book.  Then, 6 months later the emphasis is past, there remains little evidence it ever came through, and if it comes up in conversation with other Christians, the response is, "Oh yeah, we did that at our church."  I am not saying it is wrong to have a church-wide emphasis based off a book written with a spiritual focus, but churches need to be careful that they don't jump on something just because it is the trend, and it is important to study the Bible and weigh everything others say against the word of God.  The Bible is our primary source.

That being said, I have started reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson and have already sensed confirmation within that this is something I need to read.  I know God is capable of anything, but I don't always pray with this faith.  In my first night of reading, this sentence jumped out at me, "God honors bold prayers because bold prayers honor God.  I definitely need to step up my prayer life.  This is going to be a key element in realizing what God has in store.



In addition to bringing bold prayers before God, I need to endure.  Too often I bring a need/request before God and grow weary of asking when the answer is not quick to come.  Mark opens his book by sharing the story of Honi, a first century sage who believed God was still there and listened to His people.  The land was suffering from a severe drought and the people were suffering greatly.  They went to Honi as their last hope  and asked him to pray for rain.  Honi went into the city(Jerusalem) and in front of everyone drew a circle around himself with his staff.  Then, he stood inside the circle he had drawn and prayed, " Lord of the Universe, I swear before your great name that I will not move from this circle until you have shown mercy upon your children." His prayer was bold and backed with resolve to continue to pray until God had heard his prayer and answered.  Wow!  As Honi prayed before everyone, God did send rain and rain abundantly.  


I want to pray with boldness and expectancy, but also a resolve to continue praying until I feel a release or as long as the need exists!  


Stay tuned to see where God takes me...  

 
 
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We travel often to visit family and over the years I have found there is a list of tasks and procedures I always complete as I prepare for each trip.

Laundry
One week before departure, I start washing dirty clothes I might want to pack. Then I move on to any other dirty clothes, followed by towels, bed linens and the final load of laundry the day before leaving consists of any clothes we dirtied during the last few days.  
Goal= Leave no dirty laundry 

Packing
I pack each child about 5 days before departure.  I lay everything out organized by day making sure everything is there that they might need (underwear, socks, accessories).  Then I check to see what shoes I need to take based on all the outfits chosen.  I try to pack only 2 pairs of shoes per child (tennis shoes and dressy shoes) so, I try to keep that in mind as I choose outfits.  Finally, I pack their toiletries and bedtime items.
Goal= Kid's suitcases packed and set aside 4-5 days prior to departure


Cleaning
My husband finds it amusing how much cleaning I do in order to LEAVE on a trip.  In truth, it is probably more detailed than when guests are coming over to our house. I cannot stand leaving a dirty house and find it very refreshing to come home to a clean house with fresh linens after traveling for a week or more.  The downside is this preference makes for some mad cleaning for 3 days before a trip.  Floors are swept, mopped, vacuumed in all rooms.  Baseboards are cleaned.  Every surface is dusted.  Kitchen gets a deep cleaning (refrigerator, stove, cabinets, etc.) and all bathrooms are scrubbed.  All the toys and miscellaneous items are organized and put away.  Finally, right before we leave every dirty dish is cleaned and fresh linens are put on every bed.  The added bonus to all this cleaning is that it allows me to relax the day after returning home because there aren't any tasks to be done!  Most of the time, I don't even have laundry to complete upon returning because I wash all our clothes at Nana's house before heading home.
Goal= Leave a clean house; return to a clean house


Travel Bags
Regardless of which side of the family we are going to visit, the drive is long and having plenty of in-car entertainment is vital.  Two to three days before embarking, I put together a bag for each child and and an electronics bag.  The kids' bags have coloring supplies, books, small toys and a few new items as a surprise. We take two Tag Jr reading bags as well.  The electronics bag holds the iPad, nook, chargers, laptop, cameras, etc.  These bags combined with our van's movie screens and dvds help make for a very pleasant trip. :)
Goal= Happy Passengers


More Packing
I wait to pack the suitcase for my husband and I 1-2 days before leaving.  I pack in a similar fashion as when I pack the kids.  Our suitcase isn't completely finished until the morning of departure when the toiletry bag is added.  I also grab our pillows that morning.
Goal= Parent suitcase and ready by morning of departure


Snack Bags/Cooler
The day before leaving, I pack a snack bag for the ride.  I choose things that are not super junky and not messy.  I also make sure and have some special driver snacks like sunflower seeds or peanuts.  My kids rarely eat in their carseats so it is a special treat to have snacks in the car on long trips.  I pack a cooler with drinks and add ice on our way out.
Goal= Occupy kids and buy time between stops; keep the driver awake


Load the Car
Hooray!  The time has come.  All the preparations are finished and we load the car the night before leaving.  If we have multiple stops, we keep that in mind making sure things we need first our last to be packed.  All travel bags and snacks are accessible to the passenger and all that's left is to leave.
Goal= Be prepared to hop in the car and leave bright and early

For me, all of these tasks pay off in the end.  The drive goes well, we enjoy our vacation and I love coming home to my spotless house!

 
 
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There are many good people in the world and I know that people show love and compassion to others daily, but those moments do not get broadcast because the media chooses to air more sensational stories.  That being said, I couldn't help but be saddened when I heard the details surrounding the death of Ki-Suck Han.

The photographer is receiving a lot of heat for snapping a picture of the man as he was attempting to climb up off the tracks while the train is coming at him.  I agree with those saying it was wrong for the photographer to be snapping photos while a man needed help.  I know many in the world of photojournalism would disagree and view it as their responsibility to document and report truthfully and objectively.  
*Disclaimer: the photographer says he was attempting to use his flash to alert the train

I am even more stirred to disappointment by the fact that these choices were rewarded by the NY Post as they published the photo depicting the moment before Han was struck and killed without ANYONE coming to his aid. This, in my opinion, points to a bigger problem and that is the issue that saddens me most: We live in an every man for himself culture.  The subway is a busy place and all it would have taken to save Ki-Suck Han was a few good people who, in the heat of the moment, quickly stepped in to lend a hand.  If this had happened, instead of a lone man struggling to climb up off the tracks, the photographer would have snapped a picture of people working together to pull the man up.  This story would have sparked an entirely different, more positive discussion.  

Where were people who were willing to jump in and help a fellow person?  In the heat of the moment why was EVERY person waiting for the train too paralyzed to help?  Was it fear, self-preservation, shock, self-involvment?  Why don't we value the life of others in the same way Jesus values us?  It comes down to a heart issue that Jesus illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  We need to love each other as much as we love ourselves.  We need to be willing to step in and help someone when we see a need.  If every one of us carried this message in our hearts and lived by this belief, there would be far less stories of people suffering.

I have never been placed in a situation like what happened in the NY subway, so it is easy to say, "I'd find a way to help," but even as I'm tempted to think that, I feel a prick in my conscience forcing me to ask myself, "Would I really?"  How many times have I passed by a person in need and ignored the need because I was too busy or because it would require more of me than I wanted to give. Ouch!  Even worse, how many times have I not helped another because I had already passed judgement on them.  Finally, there are the needs I never even saw because I wasn't looking beyond my self.  Everyday, there are people in need that cross our paths- strangers and friends.  Maybe the need is money, food, a caring word, a listening ear, time...  

During the Christmas season more needs are highlighted and more people are in the giving mood.  What a great time to start looking beyond ourselves and asking how we can love our neighbor!  I want to walk in a greater awareness of the needs around me and a willingness to help where I'm able.  Will you join me in becoming a "good Samaritan" this Christmas season and BEYOND? 


                                    Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same"
                                                                                     Luke 10:37


 
 

Banner

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My favorite craft we've made.  It's incredibly easy and the finished product looks less like a children's craft project.  We discussed what it means to "give thanks" and who we should be thanking while we glued the beans.

Materials:
4.5 x 6.5 textured cardstock
White glue
Beans
Cotton Twine
Tape

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  1. Decide on the message you want the banner to display.  We chose "Give Thanks"
  2. Choose a variety of colored paper; one piece per letter.
  3. Cut off the lower corners so bottom end of each paper comes to a point. (Make a template and use it to mark where to cut each piece so the papers are consistent)
  4. Decide how you want to order the colors

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5.   Write each letter on the appropriate piece of paper.  I recommend doing this
      in pencil.

6.   Trace over each letter with a thick layer of glue.

7.   Place beans along glue to make the letter.  Let dry.  (This is the best part for
      kids to help with.)

8.   Measure twine based on where the banner will hang.  Allow for the amount of
      draping you desire.  I measured a second piece of twine with a little more
      draping so I could have 2 lines to my banner.

9.   Place each letter on the twine and secure the twine to the backside using strong tape.

10.  Hang banner and let it be a reminder to give thanks in all situations.

Education tip: Take time to identify letters, review sounds the letters make, learn the chosen word(s)

Placemats

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Placemats add festive decoration to the table and provide opportunity to talk about how we celebrate thanksgiving and, more importantly, why.  If all the materials are prepped prior to beginning, this can be a relaxing project with everyone sitting around the table weaving and talking.

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  1. Fold a piece of construction paper in half (one per person) and cut slits stopping 1/2 inch from edge.  I cut slits close together for the adults and wider slits for the kids.
  2. Cut strips of various colored construction paper from the shorter side of the paper.  Again, I cut wider strips for the kids.

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3.   Choose strips of paper and weave through the slits going over, 
       under for the first strip and then under, over for the next strip. 
       Slide each strip over as close to the previous strip as possible, 
       before adding new strip. Continue to alternate until you have 
       filled the placemat.


Education tip: Discuss patterns: color patterns you could make; over/under

Cornucopia- filled with thankfulness

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This traditional symbol for thanksgiving isn't filled with fruits and vegetables, but rather things we are thankful for.  When your family finishes this craft, you will have a true "horn of plenty" filled with all the goodness in your life


  1. Cut a cornucopia shape out of cardboard. (We cut the circle and the horn separately and then glued them together)
  2. Cover the horn with orange construction paper and decorate the edges of the circle with glitter.
  3. Choose photos and magazine cutouts to show people/things you are thankful for.  Glue them in the round "opening" of the cornucopia.
  4. Write the word of each person/thing you are thankful for on the horn.  We wrote ours in lines curving across the horn to look like bands.
  5. You can complete this craft in one sitting or add one everyday leading up to Thanksgiving.  We do this craft as an ongoing project on thankfulness and add to it each day (hence the unfinished product in the picture)



 
 
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If asked whether or not my kids have a grateful heart, I would have responded with yes.  They are thankful for what they have. They offer up a thank you when served a meal, assisted with a task, offered a compliment or given an item.  You know...basic good manners.  I felt like my husband and I were well on our way to developing grateful children.  

   Then the toy catalogs from all the major stores started arriving at our house (just in time for all the holiday shopping, of course).  Already, at age 2 and 3, they are masters at materialism.  As they perused catalogs or walked through shops, I heard their chorus of "I want that!" and "I can get this!"  I realized as the world unfolds before them and they begin to look beyond our little family, the task of fostering a thankful heart has only just begun.  We have a laid a good foundation, but we must continue to help grow thankfulness through modeling, discussions, expectations and opportunity.

       Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 
                                                                                                                                        Colossians 3:15

   November is a natural time to focus on thankfulness with greater intensity, but it can't stop once the Thanksgiving holiday passes.  We all must learn to meet each day with gratitude that extends beyond the materialistic.  We have just begun the journey of embracing the life God has given us with gratitude.  I can't share every conversation, prayer and object lesson we have with our children, but I will share some of the ways we are building thankful hearts this month.  

   How do you foster thankfulness with your family?
      

 
 
I've crossed the point of no return.  Blogging has been on my mind for a year now.  I started jotting down ideas 6 months ago. Then, a month ago, I opened my account on Weebly and have been working up the courage (and searching for time) to bite the bullet and hit publish. 

My goal is to build a blog that is interesting, practical and encouraging.  Please stop in regularly to see what's new and don't hesitate to leave comments!

Check back soon to read my first full blog entry!
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My inspiration for writing, ironically, is the greatest factor in what prevents me from writing. I love my family!