Monday, November 30, 2009

On the first day of Christmas...

Tomorrow is December 1st and the ushering in of the Christmas season. In an effort to create a more meaningful home life and enforce our family values and the meaning of Christmas, we are beginning our own homemade family advent calendar!

Here's our list of activities for the next 25 days to celebrate Jesus' birth, family and fun memories:

*Snuggle up and watch a Christmas movie together

*Write a letter to a family member expressing your love for them. Tell them why you like them and why you are thankful for them. Say a prayer of thankfulness for our family members.

*Make Christmas cookies and enjoy!

*Read about Jesus' birth in the Bible. Discuss what it must have been like!

*Go Christmas caroling with our Cub scout pack to the convalescent home

*Make paper snowflakes and hang them around the house

*Make a list of 10 things you are thankful for and hang it where you can see it daily

*Family Game night

*Bake batches of cookies and take them to our neighbors

*Read a Christmas story together with some hot chocolate and a cookie!

*Stargaze tonight with the telescope. Learn about the start that led the Wise men to Jesus

*Make special, handmade gifts for Nana and Great Nana

*Check out Christmas lights around town! Don't forget the snacks, Christmas music for the car ride and make sure to wear your jammies!

*It's Christmas Day! Happy Birthday, Jesus! Remember, on this day we celebrate Jesus' birth! His coming to save us is the greatest gift of all!

*Make paper chain decorations! On the back of each slip, write something that you are thankful for.

*Go to Christmas Eve service tonight!

*Bundle up because we're going for a nighttime flashlight walk! Be ready to snuggle and drink hot chocolate when we get home!

*Snuggle up and watch "A Nativity Story" together!

*Go through the kids books and donate the books we no longer want to kids in need.

*Make old-fashioned caramel popcorn and watch another Christmas movie!

*Have a family worship night to celebrate Jesus' birthday! Enjoy a birthday cupcake also!

*Go to the snow today!

*Create handprint in plaster Christmas trees!

*Write another two more letters tonight to the other family members that you didn't write to before. Tell them how much you love them and WHY you love them. Tell them what you like about them. Pray a prayer of thankfulness together.

*Dance and sing to Christmas music!

I can't wait to get started on our celebration nights! I hope you can incorporate this into your home life!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

keep it simple...

As Christmas quickly approaches, I am faced yet again with the attempt to teach my children (and myself) the simplicity and the true meaning of Christmas despite the bombardment of the media saying otherwise. This year, my husband and I do not want to give our children lots of presents as we have done in the past. We don't want our boys to get caught up in the message of the world and lose the intended message of Christ.

Having lots of presents doesn't move our children any closer to the reality of celebrating Christ (which is the point) and it certainly contributes to an insatiable appetite for 'things' and an unhealthy sense of entitlement and ungratefulness. So many of the toys bought go unappreciated and unused each year. I see it with my own kids. Of all the gifts that they receive from us, from friends and family - only a few are played with any frequency.

I think it's funny that we move from Thanksgiving, a holiday to express being grateful for what we have to a man-made frenzy that feeds the mouths of overabundance and overindulgence. Somehow over the years, Christmas has become the time where people break the banks, max out their credit cards, deplete their savings... for what?! This only serves to contradict a grateful heart for the things in which we already have. This contradicts the simplicity of the season.

Now, don't get me wrong, our boys will receive presents at Christmas this year but the amount will be reduced drastically. We have talked to them about this change and instead of a long Christmas wish list, they have been asked to pick 3 things (each) that they would really like to receive. This has been an interesting assignment. Instead of complaining and sadness, it has sharpened our boys' deduction skills. Now, instead of creating a two page wish list, they have to really consider if an item is worthy of making the "top 3". Through this, they have really honed in on what they really want as opposed to random stuff that looks fun but is unappreciated moments after opening. Instead of receiving toy after toy ad nauseum and to the point of glazed over eyes, the focus has shifted to the true meaning of Christmas - celebrating the arrival of Christ our King, that was promised long ago.

Instead of giving your child one more 'thing' that may be tossed out or given away (or still sitting on a shelf) come next year's Christmas season, consider giving gifts that make an impact in the life of a child. Here's what I'm thinking for our sons in the new year:

1) Give of yourself. Life is busy. How much quality time are you giving to your child? Each child? One on one time is so precious and so important. Play some ball. Take a bike ride or a walk. Grab some ice cream together. Talk. Listen to your child. What a great coupon book this would make! Regardless of the presentation, make a commitment in your mind to do this more often.

2) Give to others.
Volunteer to do a good deed with your child or children. Teaching our children to serve and help others is an excellent way to teach them about the spirit of Christmas and combat what the world says Christmas is. Make a welcome basket or cookies for a neighbor. Give to those in need. Find a charity to volunteer some hours. Help an elderly person.

3) Commit to creating some family moments in the new year. The reality is if you don't plan for them, they might not happen. Set aside a day or two each month that is just 'family day'. Create a time that is uninterrupted by any outside influence and just be a family together. Whether you go to the park, visit a museum, or take a road trip, make a plan to create some special
moments for you and your kids. Monthly family days have been a hit in our household!

4) Create a tradition.
Traditions create wonderful moments for kids. They are special and set your family apart from what other families do. Traditions give kids a sense of security and a sense of fun. Come up with something fun and that your kids can really get in to!

Those are just a few free and fun ideas that my hubby and I will focusing on this holiday season and finding fun ways to present them to the boys! They each help capture the spirit of the season and help us to keep it simple!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Garden wish list

So, here's what I want to grow in my backyard...
* Blueberries
* Strawberries
* Peaches
* Apples
* Pears
* Currants
* Raspberries
* Green beans
* Bell peppers
* Tomatoes
* Onions
* Cucumbers
* Zucchini
* Lettuce
* Sweet Basil
* Oregano
* Cilantro
* Thyme
* Rosemary (already have)
* Lemons (already have tree started)
* Oranges (already have tree started)

This is an ambitious list, I know. This may be a long term list but my goal is to implement as many of these foods into my backyard as possible this Spring. I'm convinced the benefits will outweigh the work that will go in to it. My family will be eating healthier;my carbon footprint on God's earth will be lighter by growing my own food; my boys can learn how to take care of and grow plants and food (ah, who am I kidding?! I'll be learning that too!)

You may be wondering what kind of backyard space I have. I can assure you it is small but with the help of the three books I have been reading, I'm confident the above items will not be a problem. I plan on using a combination of container planting, as well as a small patch of a designated garden in a planter box in addition to some fancy tricks I discovered in those awesome books!

Both the Organic Garden book and The Kitchen Garden book teach how to train a fruit tree to become a hedge, a climbing plant or to train it to grow on an arch or trellis! I'm purty excited about that!

However, most of what I have chosen must wait until after the winter in order to begin growing. So, what's a girl to do between now and March?? Once again, I turn to the books! The Organic Garden has, at the back, a chart of what to do during each season of the year! That's perfect for a novice like me!

I'm going to begin what I can now such as the herbs and plan layouts for WHERE my garden foods will go. I'll also be venturing into the unknown (for me) world of composting and learning about soil prep as I get ready to plant for late Winter/early Spring!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A garden we will grow..

I know, I know... we're heading into Winter, so why am I thinking about and researching growing a vegetable garden in November?? Shouldn't I be more focused on the more immediate? On, say, Thanksgiving??
Well, for starters I'm neurotic. And a planner. I'm a neurotic planner and I know that vegetables have seasons. And in order for those lovely vegetables to be ripe and "in season", I must start my planning BEFORE the "in season" arrives. Are you following me?!

I'll admit I'm clueless when it comes to starting a garden, particularly the kind that I'm wanting to create. I mean, there is pest management; soil issues; disease; seasons in which to plant; seasons in which to pick... there's a season for everything! With the prices of organic fruits and veggies creeping up, though, this will be an excellent way to eat healthfully while watching the budget. Did I mention my garden will be organic to boot?!
So, journey along with me as I learn the ins and outs of growing my own organic fruits and veggies for my family!

First, we must start with a firm foundation of knowledge. So, I'm rotate reading(what I call my odd phenomena of not being able to read one book at a time) through 3 books on how to grow my own veggies and fruits (and when). Here's what I'm reading:

1)Organic Crops in Pots: How to Grow Your Own Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs (Green Home)
2) The Organic Garden (A practical guide to natural gardens, from planning and planting to harvesting and maintenance)
3) The Kitchen Garden: Simple Projects For The Weekend Gardener

I'm HIGHLY impressed with The Kitchen Garden so far. It blends growing fruits and veggies with a beautiful garden and each idea includes a blueprint on how to execute the idea. It even teaches how to train an apple tree to grow as a hedge!

The first step, though, is deciding WHAT to grow. I'll post my list tomorrow. Based on these three books, I am learning that space (or lack of it) doesn't have to be a limitation. So, I'm not going to start with WHERE to grow because then my space defines my crops. No, I want my crops to define my space. Even if it is in suburbia.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Reading List for 2009/2010

I turned 35 in August and the yearning to require more of myself began even then. I decided I would challenge myself to read 35 books between August 2009 and August 2010. I'm currently on my 5 book. I can do this!

Here is my reading list...

Currently reading: Faith Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham Jr. and Organic Crops In Pots by Deborah Schneebeli-Morrell

Holy Habits - Mimi Wilson & Shelly Cook Volkhardt
Confident Parenting
Messy Spirituality
Parenting the Heart of Your Child: Teaching Your Kids to Make Good Decisions Even When No One Is Looking
That's My Son: How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Men of Character
Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it
Habits of a Child's Heart: Raising Your Kids with the Spiritual Disciplines
Keep the Siblings, Lose the Rivalry
Parenting the Way God Parents: Refusing to Recycle Your Parents' Mistakes
The Shack
Love This!: Learning to Make It a Way of Life, Not Just a Word (Invert)
The Martyr's Song (The Martyr's Song Series, Book 1)
The Gift of a Year: How to Achieve the Most Meaningful, Satisfying, and Pleasurable Year of Your Life
Building the Christian Family You Never Had: A Practical Guide for Pioneer Parents
The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ's Example in Reaching the Hearts of Our Children
The Jesus I Never Knew
Grace-Based Parenting
Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids!
Gorgeously Green: 8 Simple Steps to an Earth-Friendly Life
Mom Talk - Sally Clarkson
From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out
The Pillars of the Earth (Deluxe Edition) (Oprah's Book Club)
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives (Re: Lit Books)
The Kite Runner
Homeschooling with TLC in the Elementary Grades: A Practical Guide with Fun and Effective Teaching Tips
Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit
The Strong-Willed Wife: Using Your Personality to Honor God And Your Husband
Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God
Homeschooling the Child with Asperger Syndrome
The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition

I'm missing a few! I'll have to check which ones were on my list! So many books, so little time!

Requiring more of myself...

Life seems to throw a continual barrage of obstacles at times. It can be downright overwhelming. Health issues. Time constraints. Finances. teachable moments (READ: hard and stressful moments). Day to day responsibilities. Plans don't go...well... as planned.

This is when what I require of myself slips. Not intentionally. It's not something I'm conscious off (I don't think). My eye is taken off focus. I just wake up one day and realize that I have dropped the reins and life isn't necessarily how I want it to be.

Change begins with me, though, and so I announce to the world (through this little blog) my plan to require more of myself. Small steps. Small changes. Changing life for a more meaningful (and eternal) impact... for me, for my kids, for my husband and for our home life.