Friday, November 30, 2007

Preparing for December With a Two Year Old

Well, here you have it....our plans to celebrate Christmas with Jonah this year. He's already so excited about all of the Christmas lights or decorations, but I don't think he really knows why yet. He just knows it's going to be a fun month. I'm really thrilled that he's at an age where we can be pretty intentional in teaching him what Christmas is all about. Even though I know he will not fully "get it," so far in parenting I've learned that you can never start teaching about the Lord too early. It's amazing what kids that age pick up and the information they retain if it's repeatedly and consistently told to them. So we'll be talking about a lot and praying that one day truth will sink in and one day Jesus will capture his little heart. I'm excited to know that the foundations laid now really will shape the understanding he will have of God when he's older, and I've been asking the Lord to really lead us during this time of intentionally reflecting with our son on the true reason for Christmas.

Before I get specific with some of our practical activities we have planned, I wanted to share what's been on my heart concerning how to weave together the aspects of the biblical story of Christmas with the fun, silly, whimsical parts of the season. We will include both in our celebrations. And the reason is that in our family, it all has to do with Jesus. Our worldview is one that does not separate the "sacred" and the "secular" into categories that are "holy" and "unholy." Any of it can point to Christ. We hope to grow in such a way that everything we do flows from a love for the Lord. That is a goal to strive for, and although I am far from reaching it, it's still the standard God has set (1 Corinthians 10:31) and refers to the heart-motivation for all kinds of activities, not just the "spiritually"-obvious, churchy parts of life. I'm probably not explaining this well. (Here's a little book that does, in case you're interested.) So we will go ahead and "do" Santa in our family for now and we'll have fun with those kinds of things. But we are making a deliberate choice to explain why we even do things like visiting Santa at the mall or reading books about Rudolph. It's all just a way of celebrating JESUS and His birth. I will take every chance I get this month to explain to Jonah that it all has to do with Him....We put up lights on our house and inside on our tree because Jesus is the light of the world and we want to celebrate it and want others to know about our joy; we bake cookies so we can deliver them to others to share God's love with them, because He is our life and we want others to know how good He is. Those are the kinds of explanations I'm talking about. I am praying for wisdom in these "conversations" because I want nothing less than to connect everything in Jonah's world to the truth of who God is - not just at Christmastime, but this season does offer some great opportunities to communicate that in some fun ways, and we want to jump at them. It's also a good time, for me personally, to focus on these things and be encouraged in a new way to intentionally engage my son in a quest to know more of the God we love.

Above is a picture of a cute little Advent calendar I found at Target. I've seen several cute ideas on the internet for making your own unique one, but this is what I chose to go with. I plan to go beyond its basic design and write 24 different activities on little pieces of paper and insert one into each day's pocket. Starting tomorrow, Jonah will move the candy cane into the Dec. 1st pocket and take out that day's activity and we will do it together. Each morning, before we move the candy cane and do the activity, we will read the story of Jesus' birth and talk about it and make a point to talk about why His birth is the reason for us doing whatever the fun activity is. It will just provide an opportunity for me to be really intentional in communicating the things I shared in the previous paragraph that are pressing on my heart for my son to hear this season. Some days' activities will be as simple as coloring a holiday-themed picture. Some days' activities will center around more involved activities, things we've already planned on doing like a family celebration on the 23rd, driving to look at Christmas lights, etc. So, below are the list of things I have considered for this year:

  • Watch a Christmas movie.
  • Make a red-and-green paper chain to decorate Jonah's room
  • Color nativity picture.
  • Make s'mores and drink hot chocolate, singing Christmas carols.
  • Buy a gift for an Angel Tree child.
  • Go to the drive-through Bethlehem scene at one of our local churches.
  • Make a photo ornament.
  • Bake Christmas cookies.
  • Visit Santa and have picture taken with him.
  • Make Christmas cards for friends.
  • Visit a hospital or nursing home to deliver small bags of goodies to patients.
  • Make a reindeer puppet.
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus and have a party.
  • Make white chocolate-covered pretzels.
  • Pick out a present for Daddy all by himself.
  • Make a collage of Christmas pictures from magazine cutouts.
  • Make a paper plate snowman.
  • Drive through a Winter-Wonderland or drive around neighborhoods looking at lights.
  • Go to a cookie-decorating part with friends.
  • Make a handprint wreath.
  • Make a gingerbread house ( graham cracker one in a box that requires very little assembly because really now, who are we kidding)
  • Make scented pinecones.
  • Attend the Christmas in the Park celebration at the Children's Park.
  • Decorate plain white dishtowels with red and green paint.
  • Make gift tags to go on our presents.
  • Make paper snowflakes.
  • Celebrate Christmas in Athens with family (surprise horse-drawn carriage ride!)
Ok, so I am going to be realistic about which of these are actually doable for us, because I know I can't possibly pull off all of that. The crafts alone might do me in. But hopefully by writing it on here, I'm inviting some accountability with the crafts. I hope they're not the death of me. Anyway, these are obviously geared for a two-year-old, but many of them will work for older kids as well, and there is a plethora of resources on the internet. Now, I have to admit that my main reason for ever wanting to blog about this topic is so that I can hear YOUR ideas for doing fun things with kids at Christmastime. I am not at all an originally creative person, but I do have a knack for stealing other people's ideas. =) So please please please leave me a comment if you have another activity that I should add to my list of possible daily Advent activities. We'd all love to know it, I'm sure.

Here are a few websites I have found that may spur you towards some fun ideas:

Family Fun
Family Crafts
Christmas for Kids
Christmas Crafts
Pinecone Craft
Coloring Pictures

And some more random Christmas thoughts....

One idea a family I know has adopted was to repeatedly tell their kids every Christmas season that "Easter completes what Christmas begins." That was their line. They chose to divide their present-giving to the kids evenly between the two holidays. Anytime they had those conversations about why we do these things at Christmas, they always connected it to Easter and made the story of Jesus' birth much more complete. Now, the kids in that family are pretty much all grown now, and they tend to get one "big" present at Christmas and another "big" one at Easter. Such consistency. And it shows where those parents' hearts are. I'm afraid that my excitement at Christmas often overshadows my excitement for Easter, and really all that does is reveal motives of mine that are probably not right or a focus that is off-centered. I am convicted just by learning of that family's example.

Another practice we started at Jonah's first Christmas was to set a standard for how many gifts our kids would get. It is easy to say we don't want to go overboard and buy our kids too much stuff or have such a large focus on gift-receiving, but we think it's hard to actually enforce unless we have some kind of system that sets ground rules that will remain over time. There are plenty of ways to do this. Some families decide that every family member will receive three gifts only, as a representation of the three gifts that the wise men brought to baby Jesus. Others use a system of gift-receiving based on the child's age. There are lots of ways to practice discipline in the areas of spending too much or buying too many toys. Rather than tell you on here the exact details of what we have chosen to do, I will say that if that's something you feel you may need to consider, ask the Lord for direction in it. He is full of good ideas like that! We have complete peace knowing that some limits concerning buying things for our child have been set in our house, and we feel really good about them, believing that it will help us to stay true to our convictions about what is most important to teach our children about the holiday season.

Ok, well, I'm exhausted. I'd love to hear from you on some of your ideas. Really, I would. Maybe somebody has been just a little inspired from all this talk. I'm feeling excited....and tired already. =)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Oh, Lots of Stuff...

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We had a great visit in Oklahoma with Joel's side of the family. We've just been readjusting back to normal life all this week. This week has been officially dubbed the "Get My Life Back Together Week" and I've been at home every day except when absolutely necessary to get out for something. I couldn't even think about getting out Christmas decorations until my house was in better order. Time for confession. You see, I hadn't cleaned my house (or cooked a meal) in months. It's sad. It really is. I've spent the last two months feeling entirely overwhelmed by every task and in every area of my life. I was so far behind in everything. So I decided upon returning home after Thanksgiving that I couldn't live in this kind of environment any longer! Thankfully, how I felt physically had finally improved to the point where I could unload the dishwasher, enforce the picking-up-toys-rule with my child, and do some more of the very basic housekeeping chores. I'm nowhere close to normal yet. But at least two rooms in my house are clean right now. That's right. I spent the last four days at home cleaning, and I only have two rooms actually all clean. My productivity rate has gone way done. But I don't care. I just won't go in those other rooms. And I won't let you either. But finally, I'm starting to feel satisfaction from knowing that the dirty clothes are no longer winning. They defeated me for about nine weeks and more than one member of the family had to naked on occassion, but that is not the case anymore. I'm back. And no one is happier than my husband. Evidently, he missed me. =)

Jonah and I decorated our living room Christmas tree this morning, and I had such a sweet time with my son. He got so excited about the "ormanents" or "ornerments" and has picked out his favorite one already - a green one (his favorite color) that we got in Kentucky when visiting my brother's family last has a horse on it, of course, and that is just the most exciting thing in his world so far today. This Christmas decorating has been a slow process though. I didn't realize how much I'd be slowed down this year by a 2 year old. Jonah sustained two minor decorating injuries this morning. First, he cut his finger on a box that holds Christmas ornaments. It was bleeding a lot, but he was very insistent on NOT wearing a band-aid. I thought all kids liked band-aids. What little boy doesn't want a Spiderman one on his finger? I had to bribe him with chocolate. Strange. And then, he poked himself in the eye with the star that we were about to put on top of the tree. But eventually he realized that it probably wasn't in his best interests to get into all of the stuff Mommy had told him not to touch, what with the bleeding and sore eye and all, and we finally got it done.

So, for those of you wanting the pregnancy details...I am 14 and a half weeks pregnant right now and finally feeling like it's real. I spent four weeks in intense nausea. I felt a lot like I did with Jonah, just didn't throw up quite as much. (If you don't know, I spent the first 19 weeks of pregnancy with him throwing up pretty much everything that went into my mouth -even sips of water- and then was still fairly sick for a few more months....the last time I threw up was at 29 weeks. So much for the "you'll feel better in the second trimester" advice people give you. I wanted to slap those people. I still do.) So I thought things were going to be that way again, but then at 9 weeks pregnant, I started to notice a definite improvement in my nausea. I throw up when I first wake up in the morning, but that's pretty much it. And I get really nauseous if my stomach gets empty. But I was able to function a little better the last month than that first one. And then, this week, I've seen another significant improvement in how I've felt. Finally, most foods are tasting good again. So I'm really thankful that the sickness hasn't been so extreme this time. I think it's more normal pregnancy sickness, which is a huge blessing, because I don't know how I could survive the extreme kind again since I do have a child to take care of this time! And I've even been thankful to have been sick at all. It's been somewhat of a reassurance to me during the last couple of months that things are looking ok with this pregnancy. All of the emotional issues of this pregnancy will have to be saved for another post! Let's just say it was a really good thing that I was doing a Bible study called Calm My Anxious Heart! But I'm feeling really excited now. Jonah has already been very affectionate to this baby and wants to give it lots of hugs and kisses. My belly is often covered with slobber, and it's sweet but pretty gross. I have already started showing a little and have been wearing some maternity clothes. My, how things have progressed faster with this pregnancy than with my first! I guess keeping food down really makes a difference. Jonah says it's "a girl baby" and he assures us that it's a sister. We think he's crazy. I'd be very surprised if it was a girl. And I'd probably be in need of some therapy. But we'll find out who's right on January 7th, assuming baby cooperates.

Sorry for this long post, but Jonah is with my mom right now, and I finally have some uninterrupted time to catch up with some blogging. My parents are taking him to our town's Christmas parade tonight. I'm sure he will come home all wired and hyper before bedtime. Daddy will be the one to have to deal with that, as I'm having dinner with a few friends at one of my favorite restaurants. I'm really excited...mostly about the company but also a whole lot about the eating part. I need to cut this short now so that I can go wash and dry my hair. I figure since I am, after all, getting my life back together this week, I should probably start fixing my hair again. And I had planned on writing about the Christmas ideas on this post. Sorry for the delays on that one! It will come before December 1st. I would promise, but since there are people in my life who have a history of making life exciting for us...oh, by having heart attacks and things like that, I can't make promises about blogging. Whenever I do, something comes up. And I don't want anything else to come up!!!

You may have noticed that I finally added links to friends' blogs, but please know that my brain is not a normal brain right now, and if I've forgotten yours, I didn't mean to. Please let me know. I just added them really quickly, and I know I've forgotten some. My memory is my enemy right now. I have had a few friends start blogging recently, and I want you to be able to check theirs out. Like Christa, for example. She tends to have very insightful things to say. She'll hate that intro, but oh well, it's true. Now....if only Amy Luce and Ame Hanson will get their acts together and start blogging, I'll be a happy girl.


Wow, I just realized that I'm feeling pretty fiesty today. Pregnancy-brain has definitely begun its takeover.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

Oh, you'll still get the 1000 words anyway, I'm sure! Just not right now because I'm supposed to be out the door to meet someone. But I couldn't help but go ahead and post our news. We are thrilled to death that God is increasing our family. Baby is due in May, and we're crazy about it already.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Long Day....With a Happy Ending

My dad's heart procedure was done this afternoon, and he just got out. Everything went well! His heart looked good, his previous stints were still open, with no clotting. He did have a very small heart attack, but it was minor enough (meaning a tiny artery was blocked) that there wasn't even any repair necessary. The attack was due to the stress of surgery and the effects of anesthesia. He is doing well in recovery and will be in the hospital for another night. (We are praying for quick healing for his knee so that he can quickly resume his walking exercise to help control his diabetes.) This was the best news we could have received from the doctor's report of the surgery, and we know God did a gracious thing today for our family. Thank you again for your love and prayers.


Well, some of you know this already, but yesterday when my dad was in recovery from his surgery, he began having bad chest pains similar to the kind he had in March with his two heart attacks. So yesterday afternoon was spent waiting in an ER, then getting admitted to the hospital yesterday evening, not really knowing much of anything. Late last night his cardiologist came by and they received blood tests back that showed an elevated enzyme level, indicating a problem with his heart. He will have a heart catheterization this morning to take a look at what is happening in his heart. Please pray that whatever injury to the heart that exists is a minor condition resulting from surgery "trauma" and can be easily fixed while they are already in there.

Thank you so much for your prayers. And to those of you who have been calling and sending text messages, please know that your thoughtfulness and care has meant so much. It is hard for me to respond to all of the text messages, especially since the information to give isn't usually all that concise. So I will mainly rely on this blog to communicate the details of his situation and health. Thank you for understanding that! Unfortunately the hospital doesn't have wireless access, so they may not be the most timely updates, but I will do it when I can. Again, a big thank you for your prayers and support to our family.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Real Quick

This morning my dad will have surgery on his knee. It is a fairly minor outpatient surgery that should require just a few days' recovery time. However, yesterday at his pre-op appointment, there was some discrepancy among different doctors as to whether or not he should be having surgery. There were questions as to how long he's supposed to be on Plavix before having surgery of any kind and it depended on what kinds of stints he had put in his heart last March. One of his stints is the kind that the one doctor says Dad is supposed to be on Plavix for a year before having surgery. So it almost got postponed until next year, but based on two other doctors' opinions, they then decided to go ahead with it. Needless to say, the disagreement or uncertainty makes us a little nervous. So even though this should be a very simple procedure today, I just feel it is really important to pray for no blood clots!! That's the possible danger for him during this surgery. So, today I just want to ask you to remember my sweet daddy and pray for him with a daughter's heart during the next few days. I'd appreciate it so much.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

As You Wish

Well, a big thank you to the four of you who responded to my survey! I don't feel quite as helpless now. I had hoped to hear from more of you, but I'll just go with it for now. You're still welcome to share your requests though. The first topic on the writing agenda is "Celebrating Jesus with your Children at Christmas." I'm working on it, and you'll have it soon. But for now, I just wanted to check in and say hello.

I'm quite giddy right now, as my hair just received a much-needed color job. And guess how much I paid for it. $6.99. Yes ma'am. I'm thrilled with the results, and now all I need is to make an appointment for a haircut, and my life will feel all together. A big thanks to my mom who did the color for me - she did a great job! I was nervous, because I am used to having it done by a professional. However, the last two times I got it done at a salon, the color did not hold up at all. It just faded immediately and looked horrible. So I decided there's no need to pay that kind of money when it hasn't been turning out well. And I am really glad I did! I do apologize for spending so many words on the issue of MY HAIR, but this is a big day for me!

Let me just tell you about my weekend last weekend. I was able to spend two days in Dallas, all by myself, shopping to my little heart's content! It was amazing. I was able to do a lot of Christmas shopping without the distraction of a two-year-old, and the best part was the quiet hotel room that I had all to myself. Yep, just me. Nobody else. I had wondered if I would get bored. HA! It may have been one of the best nights of my life. No one was there to mess up anything. I could put my things wherever I wanted and know that no one would move them or make additional clutter. The sheer joy and satisfaction that resulted was a clear reminder that I have some serious OCD issues. (Thanks, Dad.) It's just that it's so nice when things are in order and they stay that way. And those of us who have more than just ourselves in our family know how rare that is! Well, I don't know. Some of you may have figured out how to create order in your homes and maintain it despite children ,and you might actually "manage your household." For me, that term is such a joke. But anyway, it was a marvelous weekend. I felt so refreshed. The only downer was hitting my knee hard on the corner edge of the coffee table in the hotel room. No great story there. I just walked into it. That's how graceful I am. I was in great pain for one whole day, a day when no one was with me to listen to me whine about it. Such a shame. I was quite dramatic about it in my head though.

There's one other thing I wanted to say because I tend to forget the cute little things my child says, and I hate that. This morning he heard me wonder aloud if Gigi could color my hair today, and he looked at me with the strangest look. I didn't think much about my words, but then I saw the wheels turning in his brain as he looked towards his basket full of crayons. I assured him that she would not use crayons and reminded him that we don't color on anything other than our coloring books or paper Mommy gives him. (By the way, coloring has been his favorite activity the last two weeks. It's ALL he wants to do.) I explained what Gigi was going to do to my hair, and he just kept looking at me with the most bewildered look. I asked him what he thought about that, and he sighed and slowly said (as if giving up on understanding this strange thing), "I don't know anything." HEEHEE. He's funny.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Trick-or-Treating and Time for a Survey

Joel and I walked with Jonah to some neighbors' houses last night, and he really had a fun time. At one house, an elderly man answered the door and greeted us, and as he called for his wife to come get a look at Jonah, our little lion walked right in the door and stood in their front entry hall to wait for her. It was funny how comfortable he was! I guess he was just making himself right at home. When we turned to leave, we reminded him, "Say 'thank you,' Jonah" and he turned to look at them and enthusiastically said, "thank you Jonah!" It was a very hilarious moment for all of us.

Now, time for some business. I've had a lot of things on my mind lately that have made me think, "I need to blog about that." Some posts I've already started writing in my head. But this is what happens....everything comes at once and I get overwhelmed because I don't know where to start, and then somehow I end up not blogging for ridiculously long periods of time. I don't want to go a long time without writing something, so I'm asking for your help in knowing where to start. Below are some possible topics I'd like to write about:

  • Thoughts on a book I'm currently reading called Beyond the Masquerade, Unveiling the Authentic You

  • My excitement over something I found out about the next season of 24. (All you fans/fellow obsessed ones, I am DYING over the new trailer for the 7th season. Just dying. Care to know why??)

  • Why my 2007 could also be called "the year of surrender"

  • A "review" of the movie High School Musical

  • How I would encourage The World to help a friend through miscarriage, if The World wanted to know

  • In anticipation of Oprah's upcoming most-popular-show, I'd like to share my very own list of favorite things

  • Thoughts on politics and the upcoming election - Can a conservative Christian who loves Jesus vote for a moderate/more liberal candidate? (Sure to be full of surprises. IF I decide to write it. I could very well chicken out of this controversial topic.)

  • Ideas for celebrating Jesus with your little ones at Christmastime. Hopefully creative.

  • Basic grammar/spelling help geared towards assisting The World in more effective usage of the English language. =)

  • Possible new once-weekly scheduled post, with installments focusing on the topic of "What I Saw in the Bible Today"
So, tell me. What would you like to read about? Please leave comments, sharing your top-requested post-topic(s) or rank these in the order you'd find most interesting for me to write about. I'm aware that you're not exactly requesting anything from me. It's not like I'm promising them to be any more interesting or special than they've always been. In fact, I'm sure they won't be. Don't expect too much! But I'd still like help because I'm stuck in my decision-making process here!!!

Just know that I am on the verge of falling out of blogging if I don't get some direction here, so I will hold you personally responsible for my disappearance if I don't hear from you. =) Oh, and I'll only count the votes that appear via comments on my blog. Because I'm strict like that.

Happy November!