To be a blessing

So every year we have a Thanksgiving tree.  Its our way of having a visual aid to remind us of all that we have to be thankful for.  It's also a really great art project for the kids and I to do together.  We work on our tree for about an hour and they get to draw, dream of ideas, cut and tape it all together.

Here is our tree!

Notice the bike lane on the road.  Clearly Middle has grown up in Mpls where bike lanes are everywhere!  Ha!  It made me laugh out loud.

Our twist this year as we, like so many others, are trying to be thankful, is that we have two different colored leaves.

The green leaves are for what we want to thank God for that day.  Notice I didn't just say, what we are thankful for, but what are going to Thank God For.  Small word change, but huge implications.  I believe scripture when it says, that every good and perfect gift comes from God.  So, if all blessings come from heaven, then its important to give credit where credit is due.  I don't just want thankful children, I want children who praise God for every good thing in their life.

The red leaves are for how we can be a blessing to others. I was thinking about how great it is to be thankful, but what if we focused on how we could be what others were thankful for?  So that is our challenge each morning.  My kids need to think about a blessing they received that day that they want to thank God for, but then I ask them how they can be a blessing to someone else.  This can seem like a pretty big concept for little people.  So each day I have the kids pick one person they would like to try to be a blessing for.  Then we brain storm some ideas of how they can be a blessing to their teacher, their friends, their sister, a stranger, etc.

I think this is a wonderful way to help encourage children to be outward focused.  To think about how we can be a vessel for joy, for thanksgiving, for love, for hope to those around us.

Anyway, I hope this post doesn't make you feel frustrated if you don't do one, or maybe you think its overkill.  You don't need a tree to talk about this, you don't need to do it everyday.  Talking about it once a week still is an opportunity to focus on how to be a blessing for someone else.  This can be done with children, roommates, friends, spouses and co-workers.

So, don't just be thankful, but thank the one who blesses you.  And if you have a little time in the next few days, find a way to bless someone else.  Be the vessel that brings a little bit more of love into the brokenness.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Bible based advent Calendar

So for the last two years I have wanted to have an advent calendar that looks at the Old Testament prophesies and how they are fulfilled by Christ the Messiah. I also saw this really fun idea of using lost mittens as a way to package small gifts, so I decided to marry the two ideas.

Here is what I came up with.

So I took some of my T-shirt yarn, (I have cut pieces of my old T-shirts and stretched it out to use for projects and Jewelry.) You can use whatever you have on hand, string, ribbon, yarn, whatever.

I then dug up a bunch of old mittens, lost mittens and mittens too small to be worn anymore.

After I had found 22 mittens, (We are leaving for Texas on the 22nd of December, so I only needed to do a calendar for that many days.) I went and gathered up 22 of our clothes pins from our clothes line.

I have all sorts of crafting paper in hopes that I could some day be a scrapbooker, (that day will never come), so I snagged three fun colors. A yellow, a red and green with stars and cut out 22 squares to label the days and glued them on the clothes pins. I am sure if someone else were doing this, they would cut beautiful shapes, or emboss or glitter or do something that Martha Stewart would approve of, but I'll stick to my kid scissors cut out with sharpie numbers. It took me five minutes and my time is needed else where.

Since we have our stockings by the fireplace, I needed to find a different location that the kids could reach each day. I picked our built in hutch, and added those pull away hooks to the side so I didn't have to ruin the woodwork with a nail. I hung my T-shirt string, then added the hooks with the mittens.

For the last few days I have been typing out a Prophecy for each day with a verse from the Old Testament and a confirmation verse to its fulfillment in the New Testament. My goal is that each day we can sit down with the kids, open our Bible and read what was foretold about the coming Messiah. Then we can look it up in the New Testament and discuss it. I don't have questions posted with this yet because I am going to do that this year while we are doing each day. That way, I know for next year which questions worked and which ones didn't.

Here are the verses that we will be looking at this advent.
1. Be of the offspring of the woman, shall bruise the serpent's head Gen. 3:14,15 and Galatians 4:4, Heb. 2:14
2. Be of the tribe of Judah gen. 49:8-10, Micah 5:2 and Heb. 7:14
3. Be born in the town of Bethlehem of Judea (Judah) Micah 5:2-5 and Matt. 2:1-6
4. Be born a king of the line of David Isaiah 9:7 and Matt. 1:1
5. A child to be born Isaiah 9:6 and Luke 2:11
6. Be born of a virgin Isaiah 7:13,14 and Matt. 1:18-23
7. Kings shall bring him gifts, fall down before him Psalm 72:10 and Matt. 2:1-11
8. Be a firstborn son, sanctified Exodus 13:2, Numbers 3:13; 8:17 and Luke 2:7, 23
9. Massacre of children Jeremiah 31:15 and Matt. 2:16-18
10. Be called out of Egypt Hosea 11:1 and Matt. 2:13-15, 19-21
11. Be rejected by his brethren Psalm 69:8 and John 7:3-5
12. Call those who were not his people Isaiah 55:4,5 and Romans 9:23-26
13. The King comes to Jerusalem riding on a donkey Zechariah 9:9 and Mark 11:1-10
14. Upon his coming, the deaf hear, the blind see Isaiah 29:18, Isaiah 35:5 and Matt. 11:5
15. Fulfill promises to Jews, be a light to the Gentiles Isaiah 42:6, 49:6 and Luke 2:25-32, Acts 26:23
16. A new everlasting covenant Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Luke 22: 15-20, Heb. 10:15-20
17. be hung upon a tree as a curse for us Deut. 21:23 and Galatians 3:13
18. Be struck on the head Micah 5:1 and Matt. 27:30
19. Have soldiers cast lots for his coat Psalm 22:18 and John 19:23,24
20. Be accused and afflicted, but didn't open his mouth Isaiah 43:7 and Matt. 27:12, Luke 23:9
21. Be Passover male lamb, without blemish, slain, with blood applied as protection from judgment Exodus 12:1-11 and John 1:29-36
22.The 30 pieces of silver buy the potter's field Zech. 11:12,13 and Matt. 27:3, 6-10

These verses I got from Rose Publishing in a small book called, "100 Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus". I have given you the key verse where they make the connection, but in most cases, we will read more of the text around each verse offered. For our family I tried to pick the verses that carried the most weight of connecting the prophecy with the fulfillment.

Also for each day, when we pull out the scroll to do our devotion, there will also be a little treat for each kid in the mitten. Treats will include stickers, straws, silly bands, new crayons, coins, suckers or something else small.

I am excited to finally have gotten this project this far. Maybe next year it will be complete with questions and all.

Have a wonderful Advent season preparing your hearts and homes for the coming king.

Thanksgiving for kids

FYI, I am not a crafting blog. There aren't step by step instructions to anything I do. I am not a photographer, so the pictures are not top quality. But I am a gal who tries to engage her kids in the creative process, instill good values of reduce, reuse, recycle, and respect God's created, his earth and each other. I just try to share little lessons I learn along the way.

So I realized last year how much I allow Christmas to creep in on Thanksgiving. It stood out to me last year and I didn't like it.

I love holiday prep, and I found I would listen to Christmas music while preparing for Thanksgiving. Some may say there is nothing wrong with that, to others I have truly committed a crime. It doesn't matter, because the truth is, I wasn't allowing Thanksgiving to sink it. I wasn't letting it be what it is, a day of giving thanks, not something to skim over to get to Christmas.

No more this year. This year, Thanksgiving stands in the spot light and Christmas will have to wait.

Also new this year is my children's ability to truly make their own projects and have an opinion about it. In years previous, I would research great crafts and we would "do them together" meaning they would eventually get bored and I got to finish the project. That usually meant that it still looked Martha Stewartish with a little kid twist.

Not this year. It is all kid imagined and kid created, which means lots of construction paper, personal drawings that have nothing to do with Thanksgiving and lots of glue. I found myself wanting to direct them. Wanting to in a small way manipulate the project so it would look better or resemble at least a little of my idea.

And then I remembered. This is how they contribute. This is how we nurture their good ideas and praise them for their creativity. This is where original happens. Those things are the real things I want.

So, Paul was gone this weekend. It was just me and the kids and the house was a total disaster all weekend. The kids slept in a fort in the living room and I allowed all the toys to stay out for the weekend. We ate plain rice, a can of corn, bowls of cereal and sweet potato chips for meals. It was beautiful and easy and they were happy. The dining table was covered in paper, glue, feathers, markers, crayons, tape, pipe cleaners, and pom poms for two days straight. We just put our plates on top or laid a blanket in the kitchen and had a picnic. It was great.

I asked the kids what we could do to make celebrating Thanksgiving special. They suggested placemats, like they did at school. I loved it. So I asked the boys what verse in the Bible they wanted to put on the mats and they decided they liked our Thanksgiving verse, so I typed Col. 2:6-7. I let Big pick the font, I showed them how to multiply the verse to get more on one page and not waste our supplies. I let Middle print the verses, and both boys cut out the verses and glued them to the placemats. They picked the colors of the mats and I taught them how to make turkeys out of their hands. (They really thought I was the smartest person on the planet. It was great.) We made a list of everyone coming for Thanksgiving and they were able to recreate their names on the mats. They drew, colored and glued. We worked on math, colors, and art.

And the whole time instead of listening to Christmas music, we listened to praise and worship instead. It created the perfect atmosphere to prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving. While the kids created, I tried my hand at pumpkin scones to capitalize on our fall day while the snow fell outside. What I love about my kids is that they knew this was a new recipe and it was a Thanksgiving training day in the kitchen so they gave me tips on how to make it better, but not before thanking me for a good try.

"It needs more Cinnamon, maybe a touch of honey or maple syrup to add sweetness." Oh my, what have I created in them!

Here are our placemats.

Now I will admit that they couldn't stick to the task for very long. They would cut and then go play. They would come back and glue and then go play. They would color a little and then play some more. It was a very laid back art project.

After the placemats were done, I brought out our remaining foam balls and feathers.

I need you to know that this year, it is our goal to make as many of our Christmas projects and presents as possible with supplies we have here at the house or at a reuse center or thrift store. We are trying to honor God and our family with not only our resources, but with our time and money. So I went to the craft bin to see what we had left over from years previous to decide what we would make our center pieces out of.

This was going to be perfect!

The boys made turkey's to add to our already homemade scrap fabric pumpkins that sit as our centerpiece. Now the pumpkins will be guarded by the two turkeys.

This is Big's. He colored the foam balls and only choose small feathers to make a baby turkey.

This is Middle's. This turkey is confused, but he's made with love. He started out as a snowman and then decided he was a turkey. He was probably confused because it was snowing outside.

So here is our homemade Thanksgiving decorations. I'll be honest, it felt really good to keep Christmas at bay. Listening to fun worship music kept our hearts full of remembering God's goodness and all we have to be thankful for.

Thankful Tree

So when you look around craft sites or pinterest you will discover dozens of beautiful, artsy, decorative, mature ways to help your children discover being thankful for the month of Nov.

Well, every year, we as a family usually just write what we are thankful for on a leaf that I previously cut out and then we hang them from our fireplace. On Dec. 1 we usually take them down and then I keep them in a box to look at the next year. We put them in a jar and then read them the next Nov.

I always liked this idea until I realized I had to not only cut out leaves but then also hang string, cut string and tie up each leaf. It seemed really high maintenance to me all of a sudden.

This year I decided to cut out a tree with branches and then we can just tape up the leaves after we discuss what we want to thank God for that day. I am trying to find ways to streamline my life more each day and only do the important things, whether they be big or small.

Well, here is our tree.

As you can see it's not just a tree anymore. What I love about my kids is how much they LOVE arts and crafts. When we were preparing for the Thankful leaves again this year, the kids decided they wanted to help "create the scene". So while I cut out the trunk of the tree, the kids were busy cutting out the grass, the sun, the clouds and moon and stars. Every tree should have have these things around them right?

I would like to point out the absolutely perfect star at the top. Yea, that is my best work. The boys called it our wishing star because it was pefect. Maybe I should make a career out of this.

After we cut everything out, Little just ripped a bunch of paper and threw it all over the floor, but she was trying to be helpful, we went to work tapping everything up. This is also part of the project that I let the boys do. It was their idea, so they can put the stuff wherever they wanted. In the meantime, I read about five different verses on being thankful and this is the one they choose.

"So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith you were taught and overflowing with Thankfulness." Col. 2:6-7

They told me the reason they picked this verse was because,

"It says rooted and trees have roots!"
"It says faith is taught and you teach us!"
"We are being thankful and the verse to be thankful."
"We have Jesus in our hearts."

It was fun to have this moment with my kids. I LOVE beautiful and artsy and creative projects. Martha Stewart even.

But my kids got to make this make project with me. It wasn't me who took time to do it in the evening and then presented to them. We did it as a family and got the chance to talk about our faith and giving thanks to God in the midst of family fun.

So, it's not very pretty to the outside world, but its beautiful to me. Our Thankful tree.

(What I love the most is that on the second day, Big was thankful that all our friends in Haiti were safe after the earthquake. That reached down and grabbed my heart.)

Cheers to all of us learning to give God thanks in all situations, good and bad.

Random Wed. part 1: Fun fall craft project

I saw this project on a family craft website and really thought it was right up our alley. So middle and I went to the fabric store with our coupon and choose what we thought were some really fantastic, aesthetically stellar fabrics in sight and in touch and we were ready for our fun fall project of making pumpkins.

Tomorrow at Noah's school it's teacher appreciation day and so this project idea lined up perfect. I don't ever know what to get my husband as a gift and I've known him for years. How am I supposed to find something for a woman who is teaching my son everyday, empowering him with knowledge and gracing him with patience as he learns to live in a whole new world? And we've only known each other for three weeks? What the heck do you get a teacher?

A homemade present of the best kind!

So I cleared off the kitchen table.

I gave big and middle each their own set of fabrics. We had fuzzy white, soft bumpy brown, traditional pumpkin orange, fleece green, and a fun random array of fall colors on one single fabric.

I had the boys pick out bowls of varying sizes and gave them markers to start tracing. They delighted and succeeded at the task from the word go.

They took turns with the fabric scissors. One would trace and the other would cut.

After circles were cut, we would get our thread ready and the boys would do a light stitch around the outside of the circle.

Once the outside of the circle was stitched, I took over and started to pull the thread tight. Pulling the thread tight created a fun little pocket and the boys would take our recycled plastic grocery bags and stuff them inside.

Once stuffed, I would tie them closed and vola', a ball!

Well, it was a ball until we stuffed a stick in the top and then, magically it became a pumpkin.

We were having a grand ole time making a huge mess with markers, scissors and fabric all over. We went and hunted sticks outside and collected a large number that means we have many pumpkins to make.

Big picked his favorite and we decided that was the one he would give his teacher to sit on her desk.

We found the perfect size box, found some old green tissue paper and cut it up into strips. We then had lots of fun scrunching up the tissue paper to look like grass.

Here is the final gift.

Here is a small handful of our final product.

This is a really fun project to do with kids and I highly recommend it!

Rainy day Castle

It was a rainy day today and for over a year now I have been casually saving cereal boxes and cracker boxes for just such an occasion.

We are going to build a fort, or a castle, or something awesome!

We have gathered over 100 boxes, and ended up creating King Arthur’s castle.

I’ve had this idea for some time now, and I never told kids I was gathering the boxes, I just was. I had expectations and an ideal in my mind. When you have expectations, you learn a lot. This is what I learned.

The goal is not the castle or fort. The goal is a really fun experience with your kids. While we were taping boxes, I used the opportunity to ask the kids all sorts of questions about what we were creating. They would hand me boxes, I would tape them shut, and we piled them high. We talked about creating a castle in dinosaur time, in the desert, in the rain forest. Who is the king, what are we doing in the castle, etc. It was a great 45 min of really creative imaginative time.

After we tapped all the boxes back together, Noah’s specific job was making sure we had fun music to listen to. The the boy’s job was to hand me the right size box. They were in charge of creating the shape of the castle, which included a special chair section and bed. And so we tapped the castle together. It was a lot of fun.

I should preface this with the fact that this castle was not the kid’s idea. It was mine. So I couldn’t have expectations that they would love it or want to play in it. For them to love the fort was a gamble.

After the castle was built, the boys had lunch in it. The castle was fun with sheets on top, but not very sturdy, so we eventually had to take the sheets/roof off. I think the boys thought it wasn’t quite as much fun without the roof. They were ready to take it down after about an hour after lunch.

I had to keep reminding myself, the goal was to have an experience with the kids. The goal was not the creation. They were really excited to destroy it, and so continued our experience. They had fun ripping the whole thing apart.

So this morning while it rained, we dreamed up our imagination kingdom, built a castle, and dinosaurs destroyed it before nap time. It was lot of fun.

The other really great part about this project was it is a really creative way to reuse our materials before we recycle them. We talked about that as a family on earth day, and today we got to get creative with our reusing abilities. Go green or go home right?

fun kid service project

Today I had two sick kids and we were getting squirrely inside the house, and wanted to be outside, but close to home. Yesterday when I was doing some yard work, I was astounded by the amount of garbage in my yard left after the snow melted. So I decided to take the kids for a walk just down our street and pick up garbage. This was our service project today to love the earth that God has given us and maybe feel a little less ghetto in our hood.

So I loaded up the sickos in the stroller, packed a snack, seven grocery bags, and my oldest on a scooter. Off we went down the street. Just our one block. Down to the corner and back.

We were singing songs, playing eye spy, and getting our hands dirty. It was so much fun! We ended up collecting ALL seven bags full of garbage. The only reason we stopped, is we ran out of room in our bags. I couldn't believe how dirty our street was. They boys loved our activity and time together and we counted the bags as we hurled them into our garbage.

If you are interested in doing this with your kids, which again was really fun, here is what I learned. This will make it more enjoyable for you and for us next time.

1. Pack a snack and water bottles. You never know when they need refocus energy.
2. Bring hand sanitizer.
3. Wash your hands as soon as you return home.
4. Pick a bag for garbage, a bag for glass, and a bag for plastic. Its great that you can recycle too, but you don't want to dig through the garbage twice.
5. The parent gets to grab the garbage in the street, but the kids get a point if they spy it!
6. Make clear rules about what they can't touch; cigarette butts, broken glass, animal droppings, and whatever else you deem full of germs and not worth touching.
7. Give each kid a fun pair of plastic gloves. This is the fun part for them.
8. Bring enough bags, because you never know how much garbage you will find.
9. Have fun!
10. Thank and encourage your kids for taking care of the world around them.
11. Always have a plastic bag with you at this point forward. Now that they notice garbage, they will always want to pick it up!