Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Advent Calendar

Last year, I posted about a cute advent calendar using a mini muffin tin.  I was packing my bags to head to China to meet our daughter, so the whole idea of making anything crafty was just not going to happen.  However, this year I was blessed to be a part of a ladies' Bible study/ craft group.  Guess what we made??  Yep, the muffin tin advent calendar.  I just -totally procrastinated!- filled each little cup with a slip of paper naming a Christmas activity for the day.  So tomorrow we'll get to remove #24 as we count down to Christmas and Jesus's birthday.  If you want to do a last minute calendar, even using 24 envelopes would work, here are some activities you could include in your count down, I listed more than 24 so pick what you like or make up your own...  Sorry I didn't post this sooner!

Our very own advent calendar; my kids are so excited.  Everything is attached by magnets.  

Read a Christmas story.

Memorize a Christmas verse.

Name 3 things you are grateful for.

Sing a favorite Christmas song.

Call your grandparents and tell them you love them.

Make a surprise for Daddy.

Have hot cocoa as a family.
Make a Christmas card and send it to your grandparents
Watch a Christmas movie.

 Color a picture of the nativity. (Look on-line for free color sheets to print out.)
Go on a drive to see Christmas lights.

Make a special Christmas treat. (I have a super easy recipe for peanut clusters on my blog!)

Deliver treats to neighbors.
Act out the nativity story and read Luke 2:1-20.

Make a gift for Grandma and Grandpa & wrap it.

Shop for a gift for a cousin, friend, or family member & wrap it.

Give a gift to a child in need.

Look at the stars if the sky is clear.

Play a game as a family: hide & seek…

Finger painting (which could potentially be a gift if framed.)

Build a snowman or make a snack for the birds to eat.

Go on a nature hike

Wrap a gift for Daddy

Memorize a Christmas song to sing for our family on Christmas day.

Help clean the house for company (my kids actually think it's fun to help clean!)

Open one gift on Christmas Eve

Remember that the greatest gift ever given was Jesus.  God loves you very much! (John 3:16)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Transition Times & Other Challenging Moments

I am a very slow learner when it comes to life lessons.  I wish it wasn't so, as I have to keep going through the same hard stuff over and over before finally...I get it!  Recently I had one of those moments where I realized a pattern that had been happening repeatedly for the past two and a half years.  Good grief, why didn't I notice this sooner??  It has to do with my kids and times when they are most likely to misbehave.  We all know that when our kids are tired, hungry, or bored they are more likely to be hard to get along with.  What I did not notice until a couple of weeks ago is transition times are also a major time for misbehavior.  You know, like stopping one activity to move on to another.  Perhaps it's getting on shoes and coats so we can go somewhere.  It might be time to stop playing and head to the dinner table.  A major one for us is pausing the movie so our son can go use the bathroom.  He often fights that one.  Or maybe it's the transition from being away to coming back home.  I have so many memories of standing at the coat closet trying to put away coats after an outing and having an all out battle with my kids about something inane.  "Why?!?" I pondered this after a particularly ugly confrontation in the hall next to the coat closet recently.  Then it dawned on me that these moments are all on the heels of something else.  We had a change in pace, change in location, change in activity and now there's a struggle to transition to something new.  Once I got it I started reminding myself in my head: "Ok, this is a transition time so be more patient.  Don't be surprised if there is noncompliance.  Remember they are still quite small and changes aren't easy for them."  All this self talk- when I remember to do it- has really helped me and I've often been able to see something brewing and ward it off.  I also pointed out what I'd learned to my husband.  The other day we shared a knowing look as we dealt with our daughter melting down at the end of a fun bike ride.  We just nodded and said to each other,  "Yep, it's a transition time..."  Then to the kids,  "Who wants a juice box??"  The meltdown subsided and we moved into the house for some juice.  Seriously, I wish I'd known this when they handed me my son!  Sorry, my sweet boy, that it took me so long to figure this out.  Thankfully, my dear daughter will have an easier go of it through ages two and three than my son did.

Some other moments when my kids are likely to be"difficult" are: when I'm on the phone, when I'm trying to do my hair and makeup in the morning, while I'm making dinner, when we are paying for something at the store...  Hey, parenting isn't easy!!

I'm trying a new game plan for when I'm on the phone.  If my kids are getting too crazy, loud, or doing naughty things on purpose (since I'm on the phone and they think I won't notice) I hold up fingers and count to five.  If I get to five fingers, that means there will be a consequence when I get off the phone.  It's still in the testing phase but worked well yesterday with my son.  I'm not sure that my daughter, at 21 months understands this yet.

Here's the biggie: when I'm making dinner... ugh!  This seems to be the time of day that tries moms' souls!  My goal is to start dinner at 4:30 so it's ready by 5:30.  When I start making dinner, I declare a work zone that is off limits to kids.  They know exactly where they can and can't roam in the kitchen.  That way we are all safe and nobody is literally underfoot while I'm cooking.  Usually, I have to reinforce the boundaries of the work zone at least twice while I'm preparing a meal.  If I'm desperate, I put on a video for the kids to watch.  (We have a one movie per day limit so I make sure to not use the video option up earlier in the day.)  Another method that works is putting miss M in her high chair with toys or a small snack.  Then I set up big brother K at the island with a drink and something to do that isn't normally available.  For example, I have white erase boards with activities that he can doodle on and feel like he's getting to do something special.   On the nights when my husband is working and it's just me and the kids, I rely on leftovers that can be prepared in a hurry so I can avoid blow ups, melt downs, and all the other miserable misdemeanors that seem to sneak up on us during the pre-dinner hour.  At least twice a month I just wave the white flag and we grab a pizza from Papa Murphy's.

My two angelic children: K & Miss M.  They never misbehave...Ha Ha!

What are some predictable times that your kids are likely to misbehave?  And what do you do to try and redirect them into positive behavior? Please share your ideas.  I love to hear from you all!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Preschool at Home: Finger Painting

I discovered a great resource for doing preschool at home.  It's a book called: Slow and Steady Get Me Ready by June R. Oberlander.  It suggests age appropriate activities for each week of your child's life from birth to age 5.  I decided to try out the activity listed for M's age (almost 21 months old).  Personally, I'd never offer my less than two year old paint, but if the book said they could handle it then I was willing to give it a try.  My sister was visiting, so each kid had an adult nearby to keep things from going crazy.  I cut up some celery, carrots, and apples so we could use them for making prints on paper.  Eventually, it turned into finger painting and we got quite messy.  But everybody had fun and M actually enjoyed it the most.  She's quite the little artist!  

Our lovely Miss M jumped right in and started stamping away like a pro.  

Our little group: K (in Daddy's old shirt), Auntie, Miss M, and Mommy.

Celery seemed to work the best for little hands and made neat designs.

Big Brother K refused to smile while Daddy took pictures of our happy group.
Auntie knew how to make Mr. K smile though!  No faces were actually
painted in the the making of this smile.  :) 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Author Spotlight: Nancy Tillman

For K's 2nd birthday, he received a wonderful book called On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman.  It's message is simple: you are a miracle!  The author never mentions God in any of her books, but there are hints that point you to Him as you read the text.  Each of her six picture books has a similar theme: we are all loved and each person has value.

I love that this book is applicable to adopted kids too!

Not only are Ms. Tillman's books uplifting, but the illustrations that she paints are fantastic too.  I don't know how she does it, but the pictures are very realistic and yet dream like at the same time.  There are often bits of fantasy and whimsy woven into beautiful scenes of nature.  Sometimes you will notice animals, instruments, or faces hidden in roots of an old tree or in the sparkle of the stars.  Her work is truly unique and beautiful.

Written by Eric Metaxas and illustrated by Nancy Tillman.

I happened to see four Nancy Tillman's books on display at Kohl's this week.  They are selling her books: On the Night You Were Born, It's Time to Sleep My Love (by Eric Metaxas), Wherever You Are, and The Spirit of Christmas.  Each book is hardback and on sale for only five dollars, yes that's $5!!  All the profits go to help local children; our Kohl's is donating the money to our local children's hospital.  Very cool, I think.  So now might be the time to grab a few books by Nancy Tillman to give as Christmas gifts.  At least, that's what I'm thinking of doing.  :)

Get four of Ms. Tillman's best selling titles at Kohl's for only $5 each!