Monthly Archives: November 2011

Advent Activities – Part 2: Our 2011 Advent Activity List

Source

To see my design ideas (okay somebody else’s ideas I swiped from Pinterest) for this year’s advent calendar and to get the rest of my back story to this advent activity list, click here. Here’s what you should know before you get too excited about an elaborate list of activities. It’s not elaborate. It’s based mostly on what I already have on hand or could get at the library or online.

Things to Note: 1) This list is tailored to my child who loves trains, so you’ll notice that several days’ activities include trains. 2) If there’s anything “big” I’d buy if I were you and you have the extra money, I’d consider the toy nativity set. But if that just doesn’t work out for you, do not despair! Improvise with what you have. Go online and find ideas if you can’t come up with a nativity set idea on your own. 3) Use YouTube! I was amazed when I started looking for Christmas carols. I found not only the songs, but tons of cute little Christmas story shows, most of which are the perfect length for a small child to sit through and enjoy. I plan to use several of them to enhance our activities. 4) I made it a point to pay attention to what day of the week a certain day fell upon. I made sure that my Saturday activities were things that would be fun to do as an entire family since Dad will be home then, too. When I’m being realistic, I can envision us not getting to any activity at all on Sundays, so I made those days free days where we could go back and do something we’ve already enjoyed if we have time.

Without further ado, here is the list of advent activities that our family will be doing this Christmas season.

1. Open a gift that explains all you need to know about Christmas. (Last year for Christmas, we got the Fisher Price Nativity Set. This year, I plan to re-wrap it and let him familiarize himself with it.)
2.  Meet a new Christmastime buddy. (Introduce Elf on a Shelf)
3.  Meet our snowy Christmastime pal, Frosty. (Watch Frosty the Snowman as a family.)
4. Everyone loves Christmastime – even trains! (Open Thomas Christmas book. I found it at Lowe’s and couldn’t resist getting it because of Dash’s love for all things Thomas the Train and the fact that it plays Christmas carols.)

(For days 5-7, we will be revisiting the nativity set and focusing on one part of the story each day.)

5. Let’s go on a donkey ride. (Incorporate the first part of the Christmas story – entering Bethlehem.I’m pretty sure I’ll be the donkey and Dash will be Mary, but I’m okay with that.) Color page
6. Away in a Manger (Learn the Christmas carol & tell the story of Jesus’ birth.) Color pages for all parts of the Christmas story can be found here.
7. Meet the shepherd boy. (Make sheep craft & dress up like a shepherd. I’m so excited to pull out the towel and headband for this!)
8. Instead of words, draw a picture of a star for today’s clue. (Tell this portion of the story and make a fun star ornament like this one.)
9. Make an edible Christmas tree (Thank you, Pinterest, for this idea)
10. Send some holiday cheer to those we hold dear. (Make Christmas cards for family )
11. Pick your favorite activity! (Sundays are super busy for us, so I decided to be realistic. If we do anything at all on Sundays, it will be an activity that’s been a hit thus far…like playing with the nativity set or reading the Christmas Thomas book.)
12. Dress up your tree with some candy canes. (Make pipe cleaner candy canes to hang on his tree & eat some real ones while doing it!)
13. Create some extra sweetness. (Make some sweet holiday treats.)
14. Share your sweetness with those around us. (Deliver treats to our neighbors.)
15. Learn about our good friend, Santa (Unwrap and read Santa story books. I’ll probably get these from the library or see what we have on hand.)
16. What’s that choo chooing I hear? (Unwrap and read The Polar Express book.)
17. Let’s watch that Polar Express come around the corner! (Watch The Polar Express movie as a family.)
18. Pick your favorite activity! (It’s Sunday again!)
19. Make your Christmas tree even prettier! (Make salt dough Christmas ornaments.)
20. Add some yummy decorations to the tree. (Make a popcorn chain.Note to self, get some large plastic needles for this!)
21. What’s that? Another Christmas movie? (Watch Santa Clause is Coming to Town.Or something else. We’ll see what we’re feeling on that day.)
22. Help Frosty get ready for Christmas! (Insert cute snowman craft here. I’m thinking it will involve gluing cotton balls onto circles of paper.)
23. Jesus’ Birthday Party! (Make cupcakes and a card to celebrate baby Jesus coming to earth.)
24. Wrap a present (Wrap a simple, small shoe box-sized gift together. My other idea is to gift wrap Daddy. Another Pinterest-inspired idea.)

I hope you are able to use some of this to create a fun, memorable holiday season for your little ones! Let me know if you do. I don’t care if you use any or all of it, but please be sure to link back to my site if you choose to share it online anywhere.

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Advent Activities – Part 1

I’m excited to begin celebrating the Christmas season with Little Man, whom I have decided should be called Dash from now on because of his incredible speed. Christmas has become more and more special to me each year since becoming a mother, but this year is really the first year that Dash will be joining in on the excitement. At two and a half, he’s becoming so much more involved in everything that we do and say around here, so when we pull down the boxes of decorations and begin fluffing out the tree, I think it could very well be even funnier than last year.

Last year

Now that he’s reached an age where he will be storing away a few more long-term memories, I want to start teaching him some of the important and fun stuff to know about Christmas. I’ve adored numerous advent calendars and considered trying my hand at them, but then I came to a realization. Every time I try to go all out on something new like this, it blows up in my face. I want it to be perfect, or at least close to perfect, and when I add in all of the factors of unexpected illness, having an active boy who doesn’t want to sit  and paint for hours, and overall holiday busyness, perfection never happens.

So, I’ve decided to get my feet wet in the simplest way possible. Each day’s advent activity will be short and uncomplicated, and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just abandon it and move on with our day. There’s not going to be someone secretly grading me, and I’m not even going to make a point to take a picture of each day so I don’t get caught up in that mindset. It will just be fun, and if the fun stops, then we will too.

Since I’ve spent some time compiling my list, I thought I’d share it for any other moms of young children who might be interested in doing something similar. To start with, let’s talk design of the advent calendar.

I thought long and hard about this because I knew the amount of time it would take to create one of the beautiful ones I’ve seen displayed online.I pictured what would happen if my child got excited around one those beauties, and it involved quite a bit of torn paper and some held-back tears from me. So I kept looking for other options, and came across this genius, far more age-appropriate one.(Thank you, Pinterest!) I love it because it involves working on fine motor skills, which is something we’re needing to do anyway. Plus, I can hang it out of reach and lift him up to choose the advent activity of the day.

Tomorrow I’ll share my activity list with you if you’re looking for inexpensive ideas of how to spread the holiday cheer throughout the month of December.

 

 

Minestrone

I remember the glorious day that my mom made minestrone for the first time. I believe it was somewhere in the middle of my high school years that she came across the recipe and thought, “Why not give it a try?”

Since that day that my taste buds first experienced the comforting flavors of this delicious, hearty soup, I was hooked. I love it, too, because it’s versatile in the method you can use to cook it. If you need it quickly, you can have it done in 30-40 minutes, or if you want to make it earlier in the day and enjoy the scents it exudes while it simmers in a crock pot, you can do that, too!

Here’s what you need to make your own:

1 lb. hamburger (I’ve also used                                  1 tsp. Italian seasoning
ground turkey, and it was yummy, too!)                     2 med. stalks celery, thinly sliced (1 c.)
1/2 c. onion, chopped                                                 1 small zucchini, sliced (1 c.)
1 c. shredded cabbage                                              1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes (I like
1 1/4 c. water                                                              the Italian flavored ones)
2 tsp. beef bouillon granules                                        1 can corn (I’ve also used frozen)   1/2 c. uncooked elbow macaroni                               salt & pepper to taste
1 can black or kidney beans (rinsed)

Brown beef, onion, and garlic in a skillet. If you’re going with the stove-top method of cooking the soup, add the beef mixture plus all of the other ingredients except the elbow macaroni to a pot and heat to boiling. Once it’s reached boiling, reduce heat and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Add macaroni 10 minutes before serving.

Crock pot method: Brown beef, onion, and garlic in a skillet. Add beef mixture plus all other ingredients except the macaroni to the crock pot. Simmer on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Add macaroni in the last 30 minutes before serving.

I’m linking up with

Meditation Monday – The Power

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

I learned this verse when I was a little girl and have heard it no less than a hundred times since then. Counting the number of sermons I’ve heard preached on these very words is impossible for this tired mind, yet in church yesterday I heard them afresh. I love it when God revives words from His letter to me that, because of my sinful tendencies, I’ve allowed them to be too familiar.

It’s one way I know I have the Holy Spirit living within me. He can’t let those promises stay suppressed forever. He shines light on them, gives me hope with them, uses them to convict me of sin, and transforms me with His Words. How?

Acts 1:8 explains it clear as day. I receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon me. Power. I have just begun to truly grasp that I have power. Me. The scatterbrained mama who annihilated my car’s rear view mirror when backing out of the garage. The insecure woman who can point out my faults far too quickly. I have power.

I’m still not exactly sure why God has called me to do this blog, but I do know that the second I started to wonder if maybe God was talking to me when He promised that He strengthened the weak, I began to feel Him challenge me to go for it – to completely ignore my fourteen million reasons why I couldn’t and just step into the unknown, demanding world of writing for more than myself.

The reasons will only be revealed in the future, but if it’s been for nothing else than to grow my personal walk, I’m grateful. That has already been accomplished in more ways than I would have even thought up before.

I am seeing His power in all areas of my life because of one timid step out of my comfort zone. I’m called to be a witness to that power and most importantly to Jesus, the source of the power. May you be encouraged to take hold of His power in a way you’ve been resisting. The rewards are far greater than suppressing your hope and strength.

Five Minute Friday – Remember

I’ve been wanting to become a part of Five Minute Fridays for a while now. Free writing is something I learned to adore in college, and for whatever sad reason, I just haven’t taken the time to do it since my teaching days. Thankfully, the Gypsy Mama inspired some other beautiful bloggers I’ve found in my blogging journey to take part in her Five Minute Friday. Finally, today is the day I’ve taken part in this fun venture into writing for the sake of writing. No worries about mistakes, editing, or rhyme or reason. Just writing for five minutes without interruption on a given topic. Today’s topic is “remember.”

*Picture courtesy of Photobucket.com

Remember

I remember those days of being a little girl enjoying the fall. I loved being able to go out and help my daddy cut wood in preparation for the winter. I remember hauling buckets and gunny sacks all over our forty acres so I could fill them up with walnuts. I remember that proud, satisfied feeling that came with getting an entire truckload of walnuts to haul to the huller’s. My sister and I took great pride in our hard-earned money. I remember my granddad, a man of few words taking my sister and I out to get even more walnuts. He believed in hard work and being rewarded for it. He didn’t say much when we were together, but he would go dig up a new root to try brewing for his tea.

I remember being a teenager walking through the woods when fall was in full swing. I remember the love I had, and still enjoy, of leaves taking over the yard. As a younger girl, I’d transform our entire back yard into a “Leaf Town.” I loved that smell of leaves burning, bonfires forming with the remnants of our firewood tree, and whittling down our sticks to cook hot dogs and marshmallows. There was something so invigorating about the brisk fall breeze when I’d ride my bike down our bumpy dirt road. Everything about fall made me feel a bit more alive.

Now it’s your turn! Go ahead and link up to Five Minute Fridays!

Guarding my Mind

Over the course of this year, I’ve participated in Living Proof Ministry Blog‘s Siesta Scripture Memory Team. That involves memorizing two verses per month, one staring on the first and the next starting on the fifteenth of each month. I had already started working on another memory verse as of a couple of days ago, but I just hadn’t had an opportunity to write it down yet. Then today happened. I had an unexpected encounter with someone who stirred up some unwelcome feelings, memories, and information. I was caught off guard and my mind started reeling with all of the facts that I didn’t want to know.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I witnessed a crazy downward spiral brought on by gossip. I wasn’t involved in that mess directly, but as I watched the effects unravel before my eyes, I was reminded of the importance of something crucial in my daily life. Guard my mind!

 

I did nothing to bring on either situation, but both times I was given a wealth of information that I just didn’t need to know before I even knew it was going to hit me. Suddenly I was responsible for what I was going to do with the information. I could dwell on it; I could share it; or I could pray that God would take EVERY thought captive. Honestly, even though we all know the last option is the right one, it is just not the easiest one. That’s why I’m claiming the promise in Philippians 4:7:

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Quite frankly, I’m not strong enough to guard my mind on my own. I needed so desperately the prayers of the sweet, Godly woman who went before the throne while we talked on the phone a few minutes ago. And I need the peace of God. It truly does surpass my understanding in this moment, and I’m so grateful.