Tag Archives: family

Resurrection Day

Today is Easter Sunday,  a day set aside to remember our Savior’s death on the cross and resurrection. A day to celebrate our new life in Him.

This past week was full of special activities — egg hunts, Easter parties, craft days, and re-tellings of the Easter Story. We have a few favorites things we do almost every Easter season. They include:

*Reading our favorite Easter picture books — Benjamin’s  Box by Melody Carlson is one we read year after year. It’s written to correspond with the Resurrection Egg set, where each egg contains a different “piece” of the story. Before we purchased one of the sets, I made up my own using regular plastic eggs and filling them myself with items we had around the house.

Another book we really enjoy is The Parable of the Easter Lily by Liz Curtis Higgs. In the story, a young girl named Maggie receives a flower bulb as a gift and, disappointed, tosses it into the garden. When the bulb grows into an Easter Lily, Maggie learns about grace, forgiveness, and the true meaning of Easter.

*Dying Easter Eggs — Sometimes we dye the eggs before Easter, sometimes on Easter Sunday. Either way, it’s always been a great activity for bringing extended family together. Now that the kids are older, we don’t just dip the eggs  in the dye; now we blow the eggs out so they’re hollow and paint them!

*Hunting for Easter Baskets — We had this tradition when I was small, and I’ve continued it with our children, for no real reason except that it’s a lot of fun.  Each child has a designated basket filled with goodies, and Easter morning they hunt around the house for them. Even my 14-year-old still enjoys looking for his basket. Or maybe he just going for the treats inside. Hmmm….

What does your family do to celebrate the Resurrection?

101 Things

While we were visiting with family over the Christmas holidays, a group of us went shopping together at a specialty shop. While there, my sister showed me a book she found entitled 101 Things You Should Do Before Your Kids Leave Home, written by David Bordon and Tom Winters. I thumbed through it and it looked really good, but I was just browsing that day, so I wrote a note to myself to look for it online later. But my sister purchased one, and to my happy surprise, she gave it to me!

The book is organized in a simple yet effective format. Each of the 101 things are listed and numbered in the table of contents for easy reference. (This also makes it convenient to read through the list and mark off the ones you’ve completed.) The text for each item fills up two facing pages; the left page features the number and the activity, while the right contains further details, such as how to do it, tips for making it memorable, and why you should do it. This book is a Christian book, so many of the “whys” include explanations on how you can use the activity to encourage your children to follow the Lord.

After looking through the list, I was glad to see that we have already completed nearly half of the items, especially since my oldest is 14 and will be going off to college in a few years. Some of the things we’ve done include: washing the car together, joining in a parade, inviting a pet (or in our case, a lot of pets) into our home, picking up trash in a public area, gathering for family reunions, camping, flying kites, and telling family stories. Some things are on-going, such as learning the value of hard work, manners and etiquette, and ways to manage conflict.

Of course, this book isn’t a mandatory list of things to do with your children, and if you don’t do them you’re not a good parent. But I think it is a great reference for ideas, and it’s a reminder of the things that we can do with our kids. Sometimes in the busyness of day-to-day living we forget to take the time to just enjoy being with them. And, as every parent knows, the time flies by so fast.

So what’s still on our to-do list? Thanking a soldier, standing together at the edge of the Grand Canyon, serving in a soup kitchen, pitching a tent indoors, and sharing family recipes.

What’s on your list?

Cooking Up Something Sweet

The holidays are the perfect time for trying out new recipes, especially with your children! There are simple recipes for desserts to share with friends and neighbors, as well as foods you can make to give as gifts. If holiday baking with your family is part of your plans this week, here are some websites to check out:

Families Online Magazine – This site features treats you can make with your children, including Candy Cane Cookies and Popcorn Snowmen.

Family Fun – Family Fun is one of my favorite magazines, and one of my favorite websites too. Here you’ll find recipes for advent calendar cookies, cookie kids, and dancing gingerbread people.

Dreams Alive Magazine
– On the page featuring Christmas crafts and cookies just for kids, you’ll find the directions for making chocolate coffee spoons with peppermint and a Christmas chocolate kiss tree. There’s also a recipe for gingerbread cookies in a jar, a nice gift kids can give to relatives or neighbors.

Easy Kids Recipes – While this site has a few interesting recipes posted by the author, there are many, many more on the “Cookie Recipe Contest Page.”  Just click on the link, and you’ll be directed to the 2010 winning recipes as well as 40+ other recipes to try.

Apples4TheTeacher – There are quite a few ads on this site, but once you close them you’ll find a number of tasty recipes, including chocolate fudge and candy cane marble.

NorthPole.com – You’ll find lots of recipes for baking with kids here, so many that they are divided into categories: cookies, cakes, pies, candy and fudge, breads, and other recipes.

Kids Cooking Activities – This is one of my favorite sites for cooking with kids, and they have a page dedicated to Christmas cookies too. Visit this site for the basic sugar cookie recipes for making cut-out cookies, as well as the directions for making jam-filled wreaths, reindeer cookies, and gingerbread men.

Photo by cohdra

Let’s Have a Parade!

This week, we met up with family to spend a day together at a children’s museum. While we were there, we began talking about Christmas parades, and my grown niece commented that one of her dreams was to be in a parade.

“Really?” I replied. “That’s funny, because we’re going to be in a parade this Sunday. We’ve been in one every year for the last five years.”

“But I thought you had to represent a business or an organization,” she said.

But in our little country town, you don’t. Participation is open to anyone willing to pay the entry fee, which ranges from $10 – $20 depending on what you are entering. The categories always include commercial and non-commercial vehicles and floats, classic and antique vehicles, recreational vehicles, horses, pageant winners, and walkers/marchers.

Those may seem like difficult categories for a family to fit into, but they’re not. We enter every year as a non-commercial vehicle. We decorate my husband’s old pickup truck and dress up to fit the theme of the parade. My husband drives the truck, and the kids and I all ride in the back, waving and tossing out candy and wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas.”

Our parade offers plaques as prizes for the entries with the best decorations, and would you believe it, for the past five years we’ve placed either first or second in our category? When I first came across the entry form six years ago, I thought it’d be fun to enter it on a whim; now it’s become a family Christmas tradition. And the kids are always anxious to see if we’ll win again.

If your children would like to be in a parade next year, check into your town’s entry requirements. If you do need to enter as a group, you could enter as a club, a church organization, or a homeschool co-op. Then, with a little creativity and a lot of planning, you’ll be ready to join in the fun!

Photo by gracey

Free Things to Do in the Summer

Our lazy days of summer haven’t been too lazy yet. We’ve had family visit, spent a week with art camp, and worked on math. There’s so much we can do, and even for those (like us) who are on a tighter budget this summer, much of it is free.

If you’re looking for things to do as a family, check into some of these:

Library Programs:  Many times libraries will bring in presenters for programs. They might be magicians, animal handlers, scientists, musicians, or puppeteers, and the hour-long program can be a lot of fun. Some libraries also offer free craft classes for kids.

Kids’ Movies: Check with your local movie theater to see if any free movies are being offered. Our area has three theaters that offer free movies in the summer, usually once or twice a week. One of our local universities is even offering free kids’ movies in the evening.

Concerts: Often, community bands will offer free concerts in the summer. Check the Sunday paper or your city’s website for more information.

Festivals: Our state has festivals going on all through the summer, from the Peach Festival to the Watermelon Festival to Fourth of July Festivals. Take along some extra water and enjoy the arts, crafts, and music.   

Parks: Enjoy the outdoors with your family with a picnic at a city park. Pack your food in a cooler, take along a Frisbee or football, and enjoy!

Zoos and Museums: Depending on where you live, entrance into the local zoo and museums may be free as well. Check your city’s website or visitor’s guide for more information. You might even want to get a group of friends together and make it a field trip!

Whatever your family does this summer, be sure to slow down and enjoy it!

Back to Bedtime

kevinrosseel_032008_056This past week, we’ve been visiting with relatives, so our schedule’s been a bit off. The children participated in a lot of fun late-night activities, such as basketball games in the park, movies with snacks, and just hanging out with their cousins. Now that we’re home again, we have just a couple of days to get back into a routine — and get back to a regular bedtime.

The first thing we need to do is re-establish just what time is “bedtime”, and then get back to our bedtime rituals. After the younger three get ready for bed, we usually read a couple of picture books together, and then head upstairs to listen to a radio theater drama on a CD or online. Then it’s lights out for Luke and Lillie, while Cassie does some silent reading. During this time, John is finishing up the day’s school assignments and reading on his own as well.

If you’re working on establishing (or like us, re-establishing) a bedtime routine for your children, here are some other things you might want to include:

  • Warm bath or shower
  • Reading aloud from a novel with all of your children
  • Snuggle up with your child and talk about the day’s events
  • Say bedtime prayers together
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Sing to your children
  • Brush their hair for them
  • Make up a story and tell it to your children
  • Hug and kiss them

A smooth and consistent bedtime makes getting up in the morning that much easier — which will be the next thing we’re going to work on. We need to get back into the groove before co-op on Monday. At least, we need to be able to get up on time. 🙂

Large Family Stuggles — or Benefits?

mfgroupDuring the Easter holiday season, we took off some extra days for spring break and headed to Florida to visit with family. This week, my children have spent time with cousins ages 6 months to 26 years, and for the most part, they’ve had a lot of fun together. Interacting with so many people, though, means there will likely be some problems. Even within the immediate family, personalities are so different that they’re bound to clash sometime; multiply that number by four or five, and there will be more than a few arguments.  Small disputes and bickering are likely to occur, especially when so much time is spent together.

But if you have a large family, you know that’s actually one of the benefits of having so many relatives. Within the safety and comfort of the extended family, my children can learn to relate to all kinds of people, ones they get along with as well as ones that don’t share their same views. They learn how to be kind and include someone in a game even if they don’t want to, and they can come to adults they know well for help if difficult situations arise.

Interestingly, this time there was even peer pressure at work among the teenage/pre-teen cousins. When my daughter Cassie was looking for something to do, she asked her cousin if she had any ideas. “No,” the cousin replied. “I just do what the others want to do so they’ll include me.” Cassie , who at 11 years old falls in between the “older” and “younger” groups of cousins, was very surprised, but it was a good lesson. Even among family, someone can feel pressured to fit in.

So while this week has been a nice break, it’s been a time of learning as well. Time for my kids to relate to others  a little better, and a time for me to sharpen my parenting skills. And as the extended family continues to grow and change, I know we’ll grow and change as well.

Homeschool Resolutions

New_YrsAlthough it seems I’m always assessing how well our schooling is going, there are generally two times of the year when I make big changes. The first is in August, as I plan for the new school year, and the second comes at the end of December, before school starts again after the holidays. Now, for the new year, I have several homeschooling resolutions:

1. Focus more on school during school time: I tend to get easily distracted with “life” during the school hours, so naturally, my children become distracted as well. For me, this resolution means that I’ll be unplugging the phone and leaving the computer off until after lunch.

2. Include more of the fun stuff: Some days, it seems that it’s all we can do to get the academics covered well. But part of the joy of homeschooling is being able to explore, investigate, and create together. Whether it’s taking nature walks, working on projects, or trying out new recipes, I want enjoyable activities to be a regular part of our school days.

3. Get dad involved: My husband has a full-time job during the day and then works a few extra hours a couple of nights a week. It’s hard to imagine that he’d have time to help out with the schooling, but there are some easy (and relationship-building) things he can do with our children. He can snuggle up with them on the sofa and listening to them read, or he can choose a story to read to them. Or, he could call out a few of those math facts while they sip cocoa together. Either way, the children would enjoy spending that time with him.

4. Make the most of trips: Because we have a lot of extended family living within a day’s driving distance, we often travel to visit and spend time with them. This year, we’ll make the most of those trips by using each one as the focus of a unit study. Before we go, we’re going to research our destination, locate it on the map, and trace our travel route.

All in all, I think it’s going to be a good year. Are you making any changes in 2010?

A Gentle Reminder

DSCF5054This year, I was going to be ready for Christmas early. I had finished much of my shopping after Thanksgiving, and I was going to have all my Christmas cards addressed and ready to go by the first of December. And to add a special touch, I was going to make the cards or have the children help me make them. I planned on printing photos of the family to include in the cards as well.

But then, one day slipped by, then another, and another, until finally it was too late to send the cards — again. Too late for the cards to arrive in time for Christmas, too late to send a holiday greeting to friends and loved ones that we don’t see very often. Another year, and another missed opportunity.

But is it? I could set my cards aside, and plan on doing better next year. But then, would I let another year pass by before I sent them a note saying I’ve been thinking about them?

But Christmas isn’t a deadline — it’s a reminder. A reminder for people like me who, in the day-to-day busyness of life, too often forget what matters most. It’s a reminder to reach out those we care about and to care about those less fortunate than ourselves. It’s a reminder to do those things we should have been doing all year, but may have let slip by.

And most importantly, it’s a reminder of God’s most precious gift to us, His Son, Jesus. It’s a reminder that He sent Jesus to die and rise again so we might spend eternity with Him. It’s a reminder of His incredible love for mankind, a love He wants us to share with each other.

So the cards may not go out on time this year, but I’ll still send them out — and I’ll remember.

Lessons on Parade

JGS_mF_AndHeresSanta…Or perhaps this should be entitled, “Lessons from the Parade?”

This past weekend, we followed a family tradition we began five years ago: we entered the Christmas parade of a neighboring small town. For a small fee, we enter the “Non-Commercial Vehicle” category, decorate our old pick-up truck according the theme of the parade, and dress up appropriately. The children and I ride in the back and toss candy while my husband drives. At the end of the parade, plaques are awarded for first, second, and third place in each category. All in all, it’s a really fun time.

This year, though, the theme was a little harder to develop, so I waited… and waited…and waited for inspiration to hit, which it never really did. We worked hard on the decorations, though, and we thought we had a chance of placing. But the weather was damp, and the duck tape we were using to hold our decorations to the truck wasn’t sticking. We were still rushing around as the parade was about to begin, fixing this, taping that. During the parade, I even had to hop out of the truck and walk along beside it so I could pick up anything that fell off!

We made it past the judges in one piece, though, and they gave us a good score. We took first place in our category (yay!), and we were all surprised. But there were some good lessons learned:

1. Cuteness counts!  My youngest, Luke, was dressed as a chick in an egg, and Lillie, my nine-year old, dressed as a farm cat. I think that helped a lot!

2. Prepare ahead of time! I waited too long to get started on this project. While we finished our design in time, it was stressful trying to get it all done.

3. Enjoy the process!  While the kids enjoyed the parade, they also enjoyed working on it. They painted almost all the props, and Luke especially was proud of his work. To me, this was the best part of the parade this year.

So, are we going to be ready next year? I’ll answer with a “Yes!” — that is, if we’ve learned our lessons!