What We’re Reading {Easter Edition}

A friend stopped me in the hallway at church last Sunday and said, “I remember you talking about getting your boys the book, “The Three Trees” for Easter last year. What other books did you buy them?” 

And here we go. The next holiday is coming, just as I tossed my son’s valentine’s cookies in the trash today (yes, he had been saving them).  After two months of celebrating birthdays and half-birthdays, Valentine’s days and an anniversary, I’m going to need the next month to get my heart in the right place for Easter.

Because this is the big one..the one holiday that really matters. The reason for Lent makes sense to me now. We all need a time to prepare our hearts to truly grasp the meaning of this holiday. Our kids need help knowing Easter is not just about bunnies, candy, and brightly colored eggs.

So I’m thankful for my friend’s question because she helped me be proactive in planning for Easter. Maybe you need help too as you recover from a Valentine’s Day coma induced by assembling 200 Pinterest perfect superhero lollipops. Whether you’re starting to think about how to talk with your brood about the life of Christ, his death & resurrection or you’re wanting to buy books for their Easter baskets, here are some books we’re reading…

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If you’re on the fence on whether or not to “do” Easter baskets…check out this post I wrote last year –> Making Easter Personal for Preschoolers <– (click this title)

Easter book ideas:

  1. The Three Trees **must own…three trees are transformed into manger, boat, & cross…but so much more to this story!
  2. Benjamin’s Box **goes along with the Resurrection eggs (see below)
  3. The Parable of the Lily **simple story illustrating the often undervalued gift of Jesus
  4. Easter Story (by Brian Wildsmith) **gorgeous illustrations (don’t own it though)

Here are a couple of our new favorite Children’s Bibles if you want to read the gospels leading up to Easter:

The Children’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos

We read a chapter out of this Bible each night (and by “we” I mean, “Bruce & the boys”). Beyond a typical picture Bible, I love the way the stories and historical events are written, not too advanced for my littlest guy (3yo) while still engaging for the oldest (7yo).  contains 110 chapters of old testament stories and 92 of new testament stories.

The Children’s Illustrated Bible (Selina Hastings, published by New Leaf Press)

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For the kids who need more than even the traditional picture Bible…my 5 year old (a tactile & visual learner) always chooses this Bible for our “tea time”. What makes this Bible special are the color photographs of real plants, animals, people, artifacts which coincide with the story. As he sees a picture of the Mount of Olives as we read about Jesus praying in the garden, these places become real. The Bible comes alive for him.

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For the next couple weeks leading up to Easter if you need some “tools” to help you talk with your kiddos. Here are a couple of ideas: 

Resurrection Eggs

Basically they are 12 plastic eggs with little surprises inside which become a talking point in the story of Jesus. I know these eggs have been around awhile, but my boys still love them. I find it’s best to do this activity before your first real Easter egg hunt. Otherwise the little guys are pretty disappointed to find a little piece of cloth instead of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (who can blame ’em?).

If you don’t have time to buy them before Easter or don’t want to spend the money here are some links to how to make your own: Homemade Resurrection Eggs (like how she did one a day & hung on an easter tree).

What’s In the Bible: Jesus is the Good News (Vol.10)

I don’t know if you’ve gotten any of these videos yet, but I think they are really well made. Silly, yes. But they deliver the Truth of the Bible better than any other video series I’ve seen. This one specifically tells the story of Jesus’ life, death & resurrection from the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John).

What is your favorite Easter book? or favorite children’s Bible? (please help me fill some Easter baskets)

when you blink…

and your littlest one…IMG_3412

turns one.

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 A boy who generously shares his smile…

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plays fetch by himself…

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survives his adoring brothers…

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and

stands on his own.

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you try to open your eyes a little wider between blinks.

we love you Knox David. happy birthday baby!

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*thank you aunt andrea & aunt christina for the encouragement to celebrate this milestone with y’all.

**thank you mr. Dallas police man for showing me grace. Next time I’m driving home from the grocery store, running late to my son’s first birthday “party”, and talking to my husband on my cellphone about what outfit he should put on my 1-year-old for his party, I will make a full and complete stop before turning right. I promise.

The Words that Carried Me in 2012

Today ends a year I previously dreaded.

Last New Year’s Eve I worried about my future sleepless nights, caring for 4 young boys, and losing more of my freedom. Little did I know my year would also include a home robbery, colicky newborn, ER visits (crutches for me, concussion for Price), a contract with a literary agent, and some therapy sessions.

And despite the challenging events, I end the year feeling lighter and more joy-filled than I begun. 

The last two weeks I’ve had real help in my home. My parents cared for my children while Bruce and I spent 36 hours away. My mom cooked meals and washed dishes and folded laundry and changed diapers. My dad drove boys to practices and held Knox and bought groceries. With help came freedom to laugh with the boys, crochet a “too small” hat for Knox, watch the amazing “Les Miserables”, fight with snow balls, read books, and …

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, what value do I give a word? For each word I wrote I found an outlet. For each word I read I found comfort. God gave me encouragement from His Word, from time spent with Him & from the writings of others.

Here I’ve gathered my favorite words (if you click on the blue ones the link will take you to more words). The ones I’ve repeated. The ones which transformed my perspective. May they continue to carry me as I boldly step into 2013:

“He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” 2 Corinthians 1:10

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

“Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.” Deuteronomy 33:12 

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

The Value of the Gift Increases with the Anticipation

I grew up in a ‘wake up first thing and open presents in your pjs’ kind of family.  My little brother and I rarely overslept.  Having the love language of gifts, my father (and therefore us) found great delight on Christmas day.

How could I forget the year my requested Barbie dream house sat next to the piano? Or the year we discovered two full-size go-carts in our living room?

One particular Christmas we sat around in pjs and misplaced hair, wrapping paper strewn across the floor, the frantic excitement had worn off and the reality of missed sleep kicked in.  My father walked around the couch picking up the pieces of paper discarded hastily in the unwrapping ritual. Then I heard him say, “Well, what’s this bag doing here? It’s awfully heavy. Did Santa forget to put all the presents under the tree?”

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My little brother and I shot right up, adrenaline pulsing back through our tired little bodies. “What? More presents? From Santa? Really?”.  Our chipper questions and Tigger-like bouncing brought a smile to my dad’s face. Off to the side, my college-age brother sat, “too cool” to be giddy over Santa’s bag.

My father reached inside the bag and handed me a reasonably large box. Ripping off the paper I saw the face of Samantha, an American Girl doll staring back at me. “Thank you, oh thank you! She is beautiful (in my memory I gushed gratitude).”

The reason that Christmas stood out was more than just the expensive gifts. It was time and energy my dad put into the giving.  The excitement and surprise of finding a gift behind the couch.

Advent, counting from Dec 1st to the 25th means more than remembering the day a Savior was born, the first gift. Advent is a counting down to remembering He is coming again. The arrival of the tiny baby marked the start of the Church age. From Christ 1st coming until His second coming, we are in the middle of a time when our main purpose is to spread His good news.

“let us give our time, our strength, our money, our days to the mission distinctively committed to the Church, namely, to make the Lord Jesus Christ known ‘to every creature’!”~ C.I.Scofield

 

Jesus came, died, & rose again. Then He sent us a Helper, the Holy Spirit, so we can tell others about His coming, dying and rising again. Our main job living in this period of time is to keep living the good news and sharing the good news in anticipation of the greatest gift to come, eternal life with our risen Savior.

Because as great a gift of salvation and His first coming; the next big gift we receive is life forever in His presence. No more tears. Lions lying down with lambs. No more death.  No more brutal murders of innocent children. Just praising the King of all the Kings.

How will I spend this season of waiting for His second coming?

Will I be like Jovie in the movie “Elf” who responds to Buddy’s excitement over all things Christmas with, “I’m just trying to get through the holidays.”

Am I just trying to get through this life here on earth? I’ve already got my ticket to heaven so I’m just biding my time until I arrive on streets of gold?

Or am I as excited as Buddy to talk about my favorite things and to spread cheer?

Am I a “Buddy the Elf” believer or a “humbug” Christian?

My greatest Christmas memories were opening the presents that involved more time and skill to prepare.  Similarly the struggle and anticipation of time here on earth brings value to the gift of eternal life.

H. Clay Trumbull tells the story in“Hints on Child Training” book about a man who created a hunt for his nieces and nephews one Christmas morning.  They awoke to limp stockings and no box in sight. Upon further examination they found their stockings were not empty after all. Inside rested a little card attached to a little thread strung across the mantel. On the little card a little rhyme written by hand: “Follow this string throughout the house, wherever it goes-you will come to a pretty thing.”

“Every child stood holding a frail thread, wondering to what it would lead, and waiting the signal for a start.  At the word, all were off together…they led hither and thither, the children following, almost holding their breaths with the excitement of pursuit and expectation.”

Each string led back eventually to one great room. In the middle of the room were mammoth cardboard boots full of presents. And the children each sat by a boot and carefully opened one present at a time.

“It matters not, whether the home be one of abundance or close limitations, whether the gifts be many or few, costly or inexpensive…(You) must give (yourself) with (your) gifts, thus imitate and illustrate, in a degree, the love of Him who gave Himself to us.”

The greatest gift is yet to be opened for those believers here on earth. May you enjoy and treasure the anticipation of opening the gift, which is meant to satisfy all your longings.

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Real mountains make my molehills look absurd

One afternoon last week I sat at the table spoon-feeding Knox. I couldn’t help but keep my eyes locked on him as he flashed a smile between bites. Our home is always full of noise from the brothers…fighting, pretending, running. On this particular day I vaguely remember hearing Watts singing.  Suddenly something smashed against my back, alerting me to pay more attention to my surroundings.

I turned around to witness the following scene:  a naked bottomed boy spinning in circles, his Pull-up held high above his head, belting out the Muppets Movie hit song, “Me Party” (for those unfamiliar…the lyrics are, “I’m having a me party, a party just for one. A me party.” Over and over).

Technically there is no problem with a preschooler singing naked in the comfort of his living room.  Unfortunately, in this case my son’s Pull-up had been full of pee. By “had been”, I mean while swinging the diaper (cuz really that’s what it is) above his head the pee-soaked granules were flung out. Which would explain the substance I felt hitting my back.

I quickly surveyed the damage trying not to freak out. I found granules on my laptop bag, on an Avenger Croc, piles splattered around the floor and even a tiny piece sitting on Knox’s high chair tray. Awesome.

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After telling Watts to “never, ever do that again”. I considered how to clean up a mess I had never, ever encountered. An exploding Pull-up? Seriously.

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As I carefully swept each little piece into the dustpan (like cleaning up rice or pasta, this material smeared when pushed), I heard Quade say, “Mom what’s up there?” I looked up to see a huge chunk of Pull-up mush stuck to our wall right next to the lovely Christmas wreath I had hung on the window.

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I laughed. Out loud. In the middle of the mess. Because I knew I had the choice to laugh or cry (or yell). Any other day I probably would have yelled. Maybe even thrown down the broom in frustration and run to my bedroom to cry. Not that day. That day I laughed. And I liked it.

Last Thursday night, I stayed up too late listening to an author share stories from his life. I felt an odd sense of freedom when he said, “If you take yourself too seriously, you will be miserable.” He was right.

With the weight & responsibility of rearing four young boys and keeping up with life in Dallas, I’ve taken myself too seriously. It’s not a joyful version of me.

The next morning each time I wanted to respond to a little thing in a big way I repeated in my head, “Don’t take yourself too seriously”.  10 minutes later the same phrase. Then again 20 minutes after that…”Don’t take yourself too seriously”.

That same morning evil walked into a school on the east coast and did the unimaginable. The truly serious happened making my overreactions seem even more ridiculous.

Because when you come up against a legitimate mountain the one you created from a molehill looks ridiculous.  My prayer for you and for me is to take ourselves less seriously because life is serious enough on it’s own. We don’t need to add to the weight with our unrealistic expectations.

In these days leading up to Christmas even though we grieve with those who grieve, may you find joy in your children. I know I’ve hugged mine even tighter. Enjoy the humor of “A Christmas Story”-leg lamps & tongues stuck to flag poles. After kids are safely tucked in bed watch the “mostly clean” humor of Jim Gaffigan’s “Mr. Universe” on Netflix. Or laugh out loud to Buddy the Elf’s childish antics in big, serious New York City. Whatever brings you joy this season…do it.

“Joy is the serious business of heaven” C.S. Lewis

 

Pep Talk for Perfectionists

She called to talk about my son, but I was the one who benefitted. As she spoke of his desire to perform perfectly, I nodded my head knowing how he feels.

Two missed phonograms lead to a meltdown in class.

Haven’t I melted down over feeling like I failed. 

She wanted to make sure he knew God loved him no matter what he does or how well he performs. 

Yes, I know: “God loves me no matter what I do right or wrong”. But knowing and living are two different things. I know His love is unconditional but I feel I have something to prove. 

She goes on with the words which stuck in places needing to be comforted:

“I want him to understand God only expects him to do the best he can do.” (uh huh, yes). “His best may change. Some day he’ll have a demanding job, kids, church responsibilities and he needs to know his best may look different.” (silence on my end of the phone).

Some day his best may look different.

My “some day” is now. Pre-kids my floors rarely held a stray toy; a place for everything and everything in its place. Now I feel like I’m suffocating with stuff. There are more “undoers” in our home than those who can help put things back in order. How many stickers or Legos have I fished out of Knox’s mouth now that he can crawl? 

But I’m doing the best that I can do. My best in this time looks vastly different from my best six years ago with one tiny toddler in our home. When the 4th baby came I had to let go of my ideals of how my home would look or how my children would be entertained because I’m only one person…doing the best she can do. 

So sweet perfectionist friend, as you head into the last two weeks before Christmas breathe deeply and know confidently you are doing the best you can do. That’s all God asks from you.

In doing my best these are the memories I’m making and some verses I’m meditating on…

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

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“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

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“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” Psalm 29:11

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“Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

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The Weekend I Babysat my Boys

The first time Bruce mentioned going duck hunting with guys from work I said “no way”. I actually used harsher words than that, but “no way” was the generally theme of my response. There are only so many weekends leading up to Christmas and I didn’t want to “waste” a single one.

This particular weekend we were invited to a fun Christmas party on Friday night with the kids and then a real-deal grown-up Christmas party on Saturday night. My desire to go to those parties trumped my desire for my husband to go hunting (btw…hunting does not fit the normal profile husband. He has never actually been duck hunting before…just so you keep the right image of him in your mind. ;)).

But when Quade woke up sick Friday morning, my plans for the weekend changed…completely. There would be no fun parties. If there would be no fun parties maybe Bruce should get a fun weekend away. So I made the offer and he took me up on it. Phone calls were made immediately. I watched him excitedly pack a bag and figure out what he would need for a “duck hunt”.

While he packed I decided that in order to enjoy my next 48 hours with the boys I would need to take on a temporary persona. I would no longer be “mommy”…I would be “the babysitter”. Because babysitters play games. Babysitters don’t have to worry about the way kids turn out. Babysitters have fun & keep kids safe.

When I picked up Price from school I shared the news with the crew. While daddy was gone I would be their babysitter. The boys decided to call me “Megan”, because Megan is my friend who showers them with love…and candy. 😉

As Megan my first move was to get fast food for lunch. After naps we played games. That led to the oldest two boys writing the books “How a Car Works” & “How a Dinosaur Got Born”…which they then illustrated and “published”. writing books

The next meal scheduled was pizza (because a babysitter is not concerned with dietary needs). While eating we watched the “Christmas Carol”.  Day one completed. 

The next day started with more Christmas movies (this time “Santa Clause”). While they giggled at Tim Allen antics, I cooked a big breakfast. Unfortunately it took a little longer than I’d planned. They became a little hungrier and grouchier. By the time I presented them with these fun pancakes, they quickly ate them rather than praised them.

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(But you think they are cool, right? That feeds my “super mommy” ego.)

While Knox napped that morning we had hot chocolate and cookies…at 9 am. Sure did.

But I usually don’t let hot chocolate moments go by without a little Bible lesson. As we picked out mini-marshmallows from our cups, I read the four days we had missed from our Jesse Tree devotions.

One thing I really wanted to do with the boys that Saturday was an idea of first learned about while researching for an article I wrote for the MOB Society blog–> “Better to Give than Receive” (over there today).

Last year, Courtney DeFeo, a mom of two little girls, decided she was fed up with all the expectations and busyness of the holiday season. She didn’t love the message she was sending her daughters about what Christmas was all about. So she decided they would focus on everyone else around them and “light up” a stranger through kindness. She started“Light em up!” (Families Light up the Community with Kindness). 

She has a list of 100 different activities to do with your kids. The boys and I sat down at the table and looked through the list. We picked out the couple we wanted to do. I printed off labels and gathered supplies.

Then I made the crazy decision to take all 4 boys to Toys ‘R Us…on a saturday…before Christmas. Um, yeah. I’m not a huge fan of the attitudes that emerge when surrounded by shelves and shelves of toys. Suddenly they become “I-want-give-it-to-me-now” monsters. Each time they asked for a toy I said, “add it to your list” (a list I prayed they would never remember).

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After an hour of picking out Christmas gifts for nieces and nephews, birthday gifts for friends and ways to spend their own money, my head hurt from all the consumerism. Standing in line to check out I kept reminding Watts not to run out the automatic doors. As I counted the big boys’ dollar bills and quarters to pay for their toys, Watts started pushing Knox in the cart out those same automatic doors (grabbed him just in time).

With receipt in hand we made our exit from Toyland, Then I remembered the “Light ’em up” ideas we had prepared for. I reached in my diaper bag and pulled out our kit. Suddenly the boys “give me” attitude changed. They were fighting over who got to tape the money to the gumball machine. 

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Then Price said, “I want to give a candy cane to the lady we paid our money to.” He snatched the cane from my hand and ran towards the cashier. I caught this picture afterward. I love not only the smile on her face, but the looks of those waiting in line. You see how kindness grows? How it surprises people? Because “selfishness” is the norm and giving is surprising. 

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The same boy who was standing in line in the picture, came out to see what we were doing. He asked, “Why are you giving away money?” I told him, “God gave us the greatest gift when He gave us His Son. So at Christmas we thought we would give gifts.” 

When we walked to our car at the far end of an over-crowded parking lot, my boys were beaming. Not from the toys they had purchased but from the joy they just witnessed. They had been bit by the giving bug…and they wanted more. “Mommy, can we give him a candy cane? When can we do that again!” 

“Remember my name isn’t mommy, it’s Megan.” 😉