Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So Thankful

My heart is filled with thankfulness.  I love so much to look at my darling babies and memorize their tiny faces and sing out thanksgiving to the Lord for lending them to me -- sometimes out loud, sometimes just in my heart.

Susie and I have been enjoying the poem "Over the River and Through the Woods" -- I checked a copy out from the library that was illustrated with fantastic woodcuts.  I'm very fond of woodcuts.  Yesterday after we read it, we made pumpkin pie!  She loves to "make" (aka cook), so it was so fun! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

More Children's books for Christmas

I was fine with just giving my kids 4 books during Advent this year, but now I've more than doubled the number I've collected due to discovering several old titles when visiting my family last weekend.  I've also checked out a couple good library books that I MIGHT wrap up for Susie to open as well (why does that feel weird?  It's not like I'm planning to keep it!). ;)

I wanted to share these other books we'll be reading starting just NEXT WEEK!

1. Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo -- the most lovely illustrations accompany this simple story of a girl inviting a poor homeless organ grinder and his monkey to her church's Christmas pageant.  I'm a sucker for a story that touches on our prejudices -- I think children are more open to dialogue about this tendency than adults!  The little girl has great joy when the man attends her pageant, and you see him welcomed in by the church at the end. 

2. The Christmas Story by Jane Werner Watson illustrated by Eloise Wilkin (my favorite illustrator).  I love how this little old Golden Book uses actual parts of Luke for the wording on the pages.  I also love the illustrations.  I've decided that I'm not taking issue with halos at this point in time.  Maybe down the road it will matter to me, but for now, it's fine.

3. The Night Before Jesus by Herbert Brokering -- this is an out of print title published by Concordia.  It does rhyme and obviously is trying to follow the pattern of the Clement Heard poem, but it's actually pretty good.  I like the way it emphasizes that we are NOW in the "night before Jesus" because earth is still longing for his coming -- his second coming.  It makes a good one for Advent.  I wonder how long my mom had this book stowed away. :)

4. Carol Time by Brimax publishers -- this little board book has the words to several Christmas Carols with precious little illustrations.  This publisher is from Australia, so I don't remember where I got this, but I think someone passed it on after Christmas last year.  I just refound it.  I will be using this when teaching Susie Christmas songs.  We sing carols around the tree before bed -- a tradition started by my parents when I was little.

5. A Stable in Bethlehem by Joy Hulme -- this "First Little Golden Book" is a counting book and counts down to the ONE baby all the others have come to worship.  There is a newer edition than the one I am linking to, but this is the one I have, copyright 1989.  It's not super deep, but it does in fact point to Christ.  Great for very little ones.

Since I will be traveling for Thanksgiving, I guess I better get to wrapping!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Come to the Cradle

I wanted to share a bit of what the Lord has taught me through the past six months in caring for my baby.  Yesterday at his six month doctor appointment, I discovered he'd gained over ten pounds since we brought him home from the hospital.  Despite the fact that Chip is not a great sleeper, he has an incredibly cheery disposition and has never been sick.  My pediatrician affirmed my efforts to exclusively nurse him as much as I have because of his good health and growth.  Of course I would love it if my baby slept through the night.  But he doesn't.  Not even close.  But each night as I drag my sleepy head off it's pillow to respond to his cry for me, I have to remind myself that I have chosen this to care for my baby.  It is easy to be tempted to feel sorry for myself, to complain about my lack of sleep, but in truth, I would not trade that path I have taken!  It would be wrong for me to complain when the Lord has been so good to us, blessing us with Chippy's life and health.  I have prayed for more sleep, and for the most part, the Lord has answered that prayer with "no, not yet".  But truly, the Lord is good even when I'm tired.  I have prayed for wisdom over and over and tonight when I put Chip to bed, I turned on the CD "Come to the Cradle" by Michael Card.  I used to play this for Susie every single night, and the words are just wonderful.  Inside the album jacket, though, I found this encouraging word, and it brought tears to my eyes:

"For the cry of a baby in the middle of the night is not simply a summons to change a diaper -- it contains within it more than our ears can hear.  It is a call to leave the cozy self-interest of our warm beds; to come, saying no to a thousand voices that tell us to remain where we are comfortable  It is a call to come away from ourselves.  No one who has ever heeded this call will tell you it was in vain." (emphasis mine)

 And that is me.  I have gone, night after night to feed my baby when he wakes, and now I look at him, round and chubby and cheerful and know that I have done the right thing.  The Lord is good to bless me with this kind of encouragement, and I hope it blesses you as well.

Thank you, Michael Card for writing beautiful songs and words that feed this tired mommy's soul!  Let me recommend his book Sleep Sound in Jesus which has the words to other lullabies by Card as well as outstanding short devotionals for parents that have fed my soul so well as I stumbled through the earliest months of having a baby.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Some Advent Activities

I thought I'd wrap up my posts on planning for Advent by sharing some of the activities I'm hoping to do with Susie (and Chip, at times) this year.  My children are very young, so this won't be what everyone would want to do, but perhaps it will help get your ideas flowing.  As I mentioned before, I've been writing down in my planner something for each day to make the entire season of Advent a celebration, beginning with the first Sunday of Advent.

That Sunday we will get out our regular Nativity set, candles and do our Advent Scripture reading.  This will also be the first day Susie gets to open a book.  The next day is when we will put up the Christmas tree, and the day after that is when we will get out the toy Nativity set and a few days after that, the Advent calendar.  I feel like having a good amount of Christmas decorations beautifying our home increases a child's awareness that we are celebrating something special!

On the days that we do not have a scheduled event, I am writing "Advent craft" on these days.  I have started gathering some fun craft ideas that I think Susie will enjoy.  Here are a few:

This free downloadable preschool pack has lots of activities with colors, numbers, letters, etc, all based on people and characters in the nativity story.  I'm not sure we will do all of it, but it's very cute, and I think Susie will dig it.

I want to make salt dough ornaments with Susie and Chip's little hand prints on them.  I found the directions for the dough on this blog. 

This blog post has quite a few adorable craft ideas for nativity scenes, including a gingerbread nativity, one with people made from toilet paper rolls, etc.  I'm planning to have Susie and Chip act out the nativity story as well, complete with costumes (like she shows in the pictures) even though I only have enough children to play Mary and baby Jesus. :)

Here are some great little lessons written by Amy Brown (who I know from my days as a student in SWI at SBTS) as well as Advent coloring pages on "Ministry to Children".  I definitely plan to use coloring pages!  Susie is into coloring big time.  I like how Amy focuses on different characters in the nativity but points to Christ each time!  These could easily be tweaked for family devotions, or even just playtime with the Fisher Price nativity set.

I don't currently have a structured plan for teaching Scripture memory or Christmas carols, but I've found with Susie it works well to just go with the flow.  We say verses at dinnertime, before bed, in the car. . . wherever.  We sing while she goes potty, cleans up toys, in the car, wherever.  I want to make learning enjoyable, not burdensome for her at this point.  When I was a child, we sang Christmas carols around the tree before bed, and I've done that the past couple years with Susie, so I'm planning to do so again this year.  I feel like making up hand motions helps young children with memorizing -- songs, verses, etc.  So we do lots of motions. My motions are pretty predictable, but if I come up with anything really fun this year, I'll try to post it here.

Pepper into all of this some family outings to see lights, special baking projects and most likely shopping for gifts!  My thinking in taking Susie shopping (especially for other children) is for her to see things that look pleasing to her, and to buy them to give away to someone else.  I cannot give her a heart that is not prone to selfishness, but I can try to foster a love for giving.  In the past, we have shopped for a child Susie's age from the Angel tree or elsewhere, and if our finances allow, I hope to do that again this year.  I want her to pick out gifts for others that we won't even be able to enjoy seeing them open, and certainly won't be able to play with herself. :)  

Anybody out there do a Jesse Tree or celebrate Saint Nick's day?  I'm thinking about both of those, but maybe not for this year.  Still have time!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Christmas (or Advent) books for Kids

In general I think it is easier to find good Christmas books for children than, say, Easter or Lent books.  Christmas -- a celebration to be sure, and one of a baby at that -- is just already closer to a child's level of understanding and enjoyment.  So there are many more quality books that could be written about, but I'm going to share the ones I have for my kids this year.  We will continue our tradition of giving a book to each child during Advent and pulling out the books they were given in past years as well.  Since this year we have a total of 4 books, I'm wrapping them up and letting Susie open one each Sunday of Advent. 

For Chip -- Christmas in the Manger by Nola Buck illustrated by Felicia Bond.  I stumbled upon this book and ordered him a good used board book copy and I am delighted by it!  It reads well and has sweet illustrations -- just perfect for a baby's first Christmas book.  Susie will love it as well, and will probably memorize it since it rhymes.  I tend to look for books by Christian writers/publishers, but not in this case.  It's truly not important to explore the depths of the incarnation with an infant, so I'm happy with this little book that ends with "I am the baby asleep in the hay; I am the reason for Christmas day".

For Susie -- Song of the Stars, A Christmas Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones.  This is a new title just out this year and it's very good.  I checked it out of the library just to be sure it was going to be on Susie's level, and I would say it is a touch above her, but it's so beautiful and she enjoyed it anyway.  I'm getting my copy from LifeWay with a 33% off coupon tomorrow which is a better price than Amazon!  As Sally Lloyd-Jones does so well, she has brought to life real drama and excitement that is particularly fitting for a book you'd read during Advent.  All over the world creatures are announcing "it's time! It's time!" as the Savior is born.  Younger children will enjoy all the animals in the pictures even if they can't grasp the idea of all creation yearning for Christ's arrival (and thus, his 2nd coming).  

Two other titles I considered this year, and would still like to get down the road are Little One We Knew You'd Come also by Sally Lloyd-Jones (but out of print, bummer. . . gotta find out what the deal is with that) and Mary's Happy Christmas Day by Kathleen Bostrom.  The former is a gorgeous hardcover with rich words and the latter looked like a cute board book for Chip (I have not read it in person, so don't bank on it being amazing! In this case, I am quite literally judging a book by its cover!).

I have written about the books I've given the past couple years in past posts, so I'm linking to those below.  Keep in mind that I have a 2 year old, so we've done really young books!  I tend to jump ahead of myself, but Lord willing we have many more years to get to those deeper things.

Here are links to what I have done for Advent in the past:
Last year
Pre-children years here and here (there are some kid-affiliated ideas in these posts) 

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Plan ahead for Advent

I just love celebrating Advent, and focusing on the coming of Christ over the weeks before Christmas!  It's not just "pre-Christmas" or some countdown to Santa coming, but a lovely celebration of Christ spread out over several weeks.  I've started planning for our Advent celebrations already, and wanted to post some of my ideas to help you plan a Christ-focused holiday season!

First, on the 4 Sundays of Advent, I'm giving my kids their "new" Christmas books.  I've chosen some really good children's books about CHRISTmas -- not Santa, Frosty, Christmas trees, or anything else -- and I'm going to wrap them up and let Susie open one each week (Chip just isn't old enough to care yet -- but I do have one specifically for him -- more about that later).  I will also wrap up the 2 books Susie got the past 2 years during Advent to let her open.  Also on those Sundays we will do Advent candles around our Nativity set.  Haven't quite decided where we are going to put that yet, but I do want to reinstate that tradition this year -- I think Susie is old enough to enjoy this and be careful as well.

Second, I'm planning something (even a small something) special to do each day during Advent.  For instance -- put up the tree/decorate for Christmas (what makes a celebration more celebratory than decorations?), get out the Little People nativity to play with, go caroling, shop for an Angel tree child, crafts, etc.  I'm not saying that there will NEVER be anything Santa/Frosty/Reindeer in our Christmas season, but the things I am planning are not along those lines.  They are focused on Christ's coming (and 2nd coming) and serving others and enjoying time together as a family.  I've actually pulled out my planner and written in things to do.  I still have more days to fill, but the point is that I'm planning now.  When I remember being a child, and anticipating Christmas, I honestly have such warm memories for some of those days leading up to the Holiday where we did these things as a family.  I want to help Susie create a category in her mind for Advent being special.

Third, Scripture memory and Christmas songs -- Susie has a quick memory and does well learning her verses for Sunday School and LOVES to learn songs.  I'm going to do a little better capitalizing on this this year and work with her on memorizing portions of Luke 2 and as many carols as we can!  We will sing around the tree before bed at night again . . . I'm not sure if we will ever get Susie to go to bed this year! 

Fourth, we will use our new Advent calendar!  My mother in law sent us this from Fisher Price last year, and I'm thinking Susie will be ALL ABOUT IT this year!  I'm going to try to use this along with the words Noel Piper used with her Advent Calendar, since I LOST MINE!! :(  

In the next several days, I will be posting some ideas for Christ-centered children's Christmas books and maybe some craft ideas I come across (on Pinterest, of course!). 

The first Sunday of Advent this year is at the end of this month -- just 3+ weeks away -- so start planning now!  What will you do?