love-tank

Keeping Their Love Tank Full

My favorite part of being a mother is being able to be a memory maker.  I love being able to show my children things for the very first time, and then being able to take them to their favorite places over and over again. I can remember when I took Julia (now 10) to the library for story time for the very first time. She was only 6 months old, but she was one of those babies that was so observant and always had to be face out so she could “see the world”.  She sat there on my lap mesmerized by the teacher, the songs, the stories and the other children in the room.  It was at that moment I knew this was going to be one of “her places,” and I was so excited that I had been the one to take her.

I have four children, Julia (10), Mark (8), Micah (4), and Amelia (3). We have raised all of them in a Christian home. For the past 10 years, I have stayed home with little ones. I was the one in the morning to make breakfast, and then take them out somewhere to have an adventure. We filled our week with playdates, MOPS meetings (Mothers of Preschoolers), BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), swim lessons, library story time, or a homeschool co-op. We were always making memories together and doing things outside of the home because I am the type of person who loves a busy schedule and being out and about with other people.

I would often find that in the car on the ride home from somewhere or at night time, even after a very full day of seeing Mommy all day and spending time together, my children would crave extra attention from me. So I would read an extra book to Amelia even if I already read 3, or hear a long story about something from my Julia “the talker”, or I would find Mark showing me another magic trick, and I would see Micah jumping down yet another group of stairs to show me how he was a super hero. I realized that just because they were with me all day did not mean they got me all day.

love-tank

I might be like you…I love to take pictures, I love to catch up with friends through texting, I like to surf Facebook, so even though I may have been with my kids maybe they weren’t getting all of me. Even though my body was there, my kids picked up on the feeling of mommy being distracted with planning another MOPS meeting, or checking on a friend, or trying to stage the perfect shot of my kids.

Each of us has a love tank.

Our children have love tanks.

It’s an imaginary tank that is either full or empty depending on how much we have shown them or given them the love that they need to get them through the day.

One of my favorite things to do is go apple picking. When we head to the orchards we are given a brown bag and a huge red bucket to fill. I like to picture a love tank like a big red bucket next to each child.  Some days their buckets are full. Some days they are overflowing. Some days they are half full, and sometimes they are empty.

I would say that all of us have great intentions as parents. We love our kids and we want to give them what they need emotionally. But we, too, have love tanks. We have needs. We have responsibilities and the more kids you have the more buckets you need to fill. And let’s not forget our spouses have love tanks too.

There in lies the difficulty.

There is lies the balancing act.

How do we fill our spouses love tank, our children’s love tank, and also manage our own?

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This was something that was so much easier for me personally as a stay at home mom. I had TIME each day to really pray and think about ways I could bless my kids and meet their individual needs. I had time to plan date nights with John and arrange babysitters for the kids.

But when my life changed on September 3rd of this year and I got a full time job as a principal at a Christian school, the balancing act of keeping everyone’s love tank full (and my own) became more complicated.

Sometimes children will act out to get their love tanks full.

When my son Micah (4) isn’t getting what he needs from us, he will act up negatively just to get our attention. He will jump on the furniture. He will bother his siblings. He will become whiny. All because he needs extra love, and he will do just about anything to get it.

Gary Chapman wrote an amazing book called The Five Love Languages. This book is awesome because it gives you 5 ways people respond to love:

1. Quality Time
2. Words of Affirmation
3. Acts of Service
4. Gifts
5. Physical Touch

My husband and I read the book during our premarital counseling. John is a “words of affirmation” and “physical touch” kind of guy. When I am complimenting him and encouraging him, he feels really connected, respected, and loved by me. He also loves physical displays of affection (and I am so not that person…I am super shy), so I have learned to get past myself and my preferences to show my hubby love.

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My love tank is full when I have “quality time” and “acts of service.”  When everyone in the house is helping out on chore day, or offers to help vacuum my van or take out the trash, it is like my bucket is OVERFLOWING.  When John takes the day off work so we all can spend quality time going to Cape May, visiting a zoo, or watching a family movie, I just adore that.
We apply these same 5 love languages to our children. It’s actually fun to think about and see which child has which love language… and then the really fun part is “filling their tank” with what they need.

I’ve noticed that at night time right before bed, if my child doesn’t have a full tank, bed time is harder. It forces me to think about the day, think about that child, and ask myself:

Did I hug them today?
Did I tell them I love them?
Did I say I was proud of them?
Did I help them with their homework?
Did I really even talk to them?

Sometimes we don’t mean to but we get so busy shuffling our children from one place to the next- school, taekwondo, bath time, bed time- that we forget to really see them, care for them, and meet their deep needs, not just their immediate physical needs of clothes, food, and shelter.

Keeping their love tank full now is so important because as they grow older, if we consistently neglect their emotional needs of love, quality time, words of affirmation, etc., I fear they may look to other people/things to fill it.

love-tank

When I was growing up both my parents worked full time jobs in NYC. I barely saw them except for the weekends. My parents didn’t sit with us when we ate dinner. They cooked and then went upstairs to their room, and we were left to eat and clean up alone. I was put in public school and day care until they came home. This wasn’t because they didn’t love me. I’m sure they did.  But this left me feeling resentful and lonely, and I always felt a deep desire to be loved differently than what I was getting at home.

I always told myself that when I grew up, married, and had kids I would do it differently.  I would make time for my kids. I think that is why homeschooling was such a great option for us for so long. I was a stay at home mom, and I enjoyed teaching my kids at home and being with them.

Working moms just have to be more creative when it comes to filling our children’s love tanks. We may not have as much time as stay at home moms, but that doesn’t mean we care any less. Now that I am a working mom, when we are in the car, I use that time to really talk to my kids and pray with them. This doesn’t always happen, but being intentional about it helps. Our nighttime routine is longer because I know my kids need face to face time with me. I know they need that extra book (quality time).  I know they need to be tickled (physical touch). I know they need to hear me say, “I’m so proud of you!” (words of affirmation) as I go through their take home folders and see the work they accomplished throughout the school week.  Sometimes they need a trip to Target and some alone time with Mom/Day (gifts).

And I am also learning that it is ok to tell people what you need!  It’s actually healthy.  Instead of expecting your hubby or your kids to read your mind, tell them you could really use help with your car (acts of service) or folding laundry. I tell my kids I really miss them and just want to watch a family movie and snuggle (quality time).  It has helped our family connect on a deeper level to just be honest about what we need from each other instead of being mad or sad when we don’t get it.

Keeping our family’s love tank full is challenging. But when you ask God to help you, He really does give you creative ways to love on the people He has blessed you with, and He also fills your tank at the same time!

Kristi is a full time wife, mother of four, and principal of a Christian elementary school. You can read more about Kristi and her beautiful family at her blog Keeping Up With Kristi.

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books-kids

Great Books to Start the Year: For Kids

Reading to my children has always been important to me. Maybe it is because my mother and father read to us a lot as we were growing up, maybe because I inherited my father’s love for reading and books.

When I find a great book or series of books that will teach my children biblical truth, reenforce what I have been teaching them from God’s Word, or build their faith, it finds a special place on our bookshelf and I add it to the rotation to ensure as much use out of it as possible.

Authors Agnes and Salem de Bezenac have done a fantastic job of putting together a series of books that walk children through passages of Scripture, teach godly character, or explain life lessons with easy to understand words and beautiful, childlike illustrations and all from a biblical perspective.

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Because the author is also the illustrator (and an excellent one at that!), the pictures show the heart of the passage in the way the author truly intends them to. The illustrations are very engaging and childlike, with lots of color and plenty of movement, but not too busy to overwhelm little eyes.

I would definitely recommend these books for preschool through early elementary aged children. As children learn to read, these would be great practice for them, while building their faith and spirits.

The Psalms Series

In the Psalms series, each page features a phrase from the actual passage and a simple interpretation/paraphrase for easy understanding. Although there is an entire series, I have, have read, and recommend the following titles:

Safe with God: Psalm 91
A Psalm of Praise with Psalm 100
My Shepherd: Psalm 23
Psalm 119
Psalm 34
Psalm 121

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Character

In the Bible Thoughts On… books, an initial verse is given and then a rhyming story follows depicting the character trait focused on in the title. The accompanying activity book  gives parents ways to take the lessons from the book and bring them into the home to help children learn to develop good, biblical character traits.

Bible Thoughts on Responsibility and Responsibility Activity Pack

Bible Thoughts on Anger and Anger Activity Pack

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Miscellaneous

I have also had the opportunity to preview several of their books that just deal with life or just fit in the “other” category.

14 Jesus Tales: 2 Minute Stories While On Your Way, or At the End of the Day These stories are fictional stories about Jesus as a little boy designed to teach character and to remind children that Jesus was once a child, too. The author is very clear to parents the importance of making sure children understand the stories in this particular book are not true and are not given equal status as Scripture. (Personally, I have a hard time with books that portray Jesus as a child in situations that are outside of Scripture. Although, Jesus is always shown in the best light with great character, it’s just a step I’m uncomfortable with.)

Where is Grandpa? My Visit to the Cemetery I love how the concept of death and life are portrayed in this book. The entire book is a conversation between a grandmother and granddaughter which beautifully describes why the grandfather died, where his body is, where his soul is, and how one day God will reunite us with our loved ones who are saved. If your young child has experienced a loss, this is a great book to read to them.

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God Talks With Me About Comfort How many children are afraid of sounds that go bump in the night? This story takes children alongside a little girl who is afraid of the dark and the scary  sounds they hear at night. Throughout the story, Bible verse phrases are given to help calm the child’s fears until she realizes the sound she is hearing is a family of birds outside her window. My favorite part of the book is the end, however. The author devotes an entire page to giving the references and Scripture to the verses given in the story, another page for conversation started to help children express their fears, and a final page with ideas for 4 activities to help children overcome their fears.

The Lord’s Prayer As with the Psalms series, this book takes the individual phrases from the passage and gives a side by side paraphrase for easier understanding.

Reading to our children is important, but far more important is imparting the truth of God’s Word  in their hearts. These books do just that.

balance

God Knew: Learning From the Ultimate Balance Sustainer

Kristi and I have been friends since our youth group days in New Jersey. When my family moved to Florida soon after I (Suzette) graduated college, we lost touch with each other. After my mother passed away, Kristi and I reconnected and found that over the course of ten years we had lived somewhat identical lives, which caused us to begin referring to each other as “twin” or “my twin.”

Kristi is now a full-time working mom (principal of a private, Christian elementary school) while juggling a beautiful marriage and four gorgeous children. I am so excited to share this post with you as she shares what God has had to teach this very Type-A mom about trust and balance.

God has taught me some important things this past year.

First, He is always in control.  There have been many days in the past four months where I felt completely overwhelmed or at my wits end with four kids and a brand new job and all the same duties at home. God taught me that His peace is not the “calm after the storm, it’s the steadfastness during it.”

Second, He always has a plan.  My favorite part about the past year is that I have been able to look back and see exactly how God made all the puzzle pieces fit together and make sense.  He worked things out that I had wondered about for a long time. Questions like: Why did I even get my Masters Degree if I was just going to keep having babies?  Will I have a chance to pursue my dreams?  After 9 years as a stay at home mom I was starting to feel a little lost and ready for a change.  However, God is always working, and I have learned that I can fully rest in Him knowing that He is in complete control and He will guide my steps.

Labor Day was pretty exciting for us.  We were about to spend a leisurely day in Peddler’s Village, PA eating ice cream, shopping the small mom and pop shops, and spending some much need family time together before our homeschool year began.

God had other plans.

Twenty minutes into our car ride I got a call from Dr. Hartzler that drastically changed our lives…for the good!  My husband is a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley in NYC. He and I are the type of couple that constantly have a 5 year plan…we pray, we prepare, and we plan.  I was going to homeschool one more year and then start applying to Christian private schools to teach again.  Little did I know that God was working out all the details for me to end up back at Timothy Christian School where I had taught before I became a mom… and as Principal!

 

balanceI am extremely thankful for that call on Labor Day even though at the time I was thinking: I haven’t had any time to plan for this! How will this work out? How will I prep dinner? How will we get four kids and ourselves ready and out the door by 6:20 am? In fact, we had invested time and money into homeschool co-ops and classes for the kids well in advance. Now that time and money would be wasted. Could God in fact work out all those details?

He did and He will.

God knew that what we needed most was a summer filled with fond memories and quality family time. It was filled with me giving every waking moment to my family…we went on weekly trips to the beach, Liberty Science Center, Turtle Back Zoo, Philadelphia Zoo, the park, and endless back yard fun days with the pool and slip and slide.

Looking back, if I had known about my new job to come, I never would have spent so much time at the beach or doing fun day trips. I wouldn’t have read as many books to my kids. I wouldn’t have gone to the library. We wouldn’t have spent time with our friends. I would’ve planned and prepped for the school year ahead, and I would have missed out on playing with my kids.

God knew that once I had this role I would have to learn how to balance mom-life and work-life. I am thankful that God continues to show all of us just what we need to learn at exactly the right moment. Whether it’s learning to be patient with our children, learning to be a better listener, learning to lean in at work and striving for excellence, enjoying the blessings of a snow day, hosting a holiday event He has given us, or keeping short accounts and just being broken over our sin to Him, God is in control. He will guide our steps.

And He always has a plan.

This past year I have had to let some things go. I have had to say no to things that I love like MOPS, teaching Sunday School, and gourmet dinners. I have had to be ok with messy hair in the morning, cranky kids waking up super early, eating breakfast on the go, and getting home later than normal and ordering a pizza. God has taught me to trust Him, ask for help, and rely on my team mate and amazing husband John, who has turned into a rock star for me each morning.

balanceWe work together. We divide and conquer. We take turns taking showers and each dressing 2 kids (I get to be in charge of the girls who are VERY cooperative…and he takes care of Mark and Micah who are rather slow and sleepy). We have come up with our own system, and we make it work. It took me four months to finally feel settled and confident at work. And I am proud of that. I am proud of my team, my family, and so thankful for the Lord’s hand in my life. I never would have imagined going back to work after 9 1/2 years at home as a stay at home mom, but I am loving it.

If I could pass on any advice or encouragement to anyone out there struggling to find a good balance between work and family, this is what has kept me sane these past few months.

First of all, I had to remind myself and my kids that Mommy is not a superhero. Mommy is a person, and it is okay for me to slow down and take a breather. Kids really do think we are magical creatures that can do it all, even after a full day of waking up at 5 am, working all day and coming home to cook, clean, and be a taxi driver.

I had to stop, have a family meeting with my kids, tell them how hard all of this was for me, and ask for their help and understanding. I had to get my team working together as a unit and set healthy boundaries about how we use our family time.

Secondly, we had to let some good things go. Not forever but for a season. I used to host friends and family all the time for every occasion and holiday. But this past Thanksgiving we told everyone we were taking a much needed break and just using those few days to get away with our family, reconnect and recharge, and not host.

Surprisingly, the world did not fall apart.

What did happen was that we created some awesome family memories. I had to realize that when a huge change like this comes our way we all have to make sacrifices, and we might have to let things go that we love doing just for a while until life gets a bit easier and we can start adding things back in.

balanceThrough it all I have learned that my physical health is not worth sacrificing to “do it all”. In October/November I developed a horrible eye twitch. It was actually kind of funny. I was getting so worried about it. My whole eye would shake and tremor and people could actually see it happening. When I finally asked a family doctor about it he said, “Kristi it is because of three things- 1. Stress 2. Lack of Sleep 3. Extra caffeine.” He was right about all three of those things. After getting some much needed sleep the twitch went away.

On the last Tuesday of winter break, I took the kids to Liberty Science Center, our absolute favorite family place. After going on each of the four floors of science fun, we ate lunch and saw a 3D movie about Hurricanes. I am a firm believer that all things happen for a reason, and as we watched this 20 minute movie, I started to hear exactly what God wanted me to hear. Even though hurricanes are absolutely devastating and fierce, after the storm passes it actually allows new life to burst through. In the ocean new coral starts to grow adding food for the fish. In the rain forests new seedlings are able to sprout through and get the sunlight they need. What seems like an actual nightmare during the process, with the winds, rains, and devastation, new life bursts through. I felt like God was talking right to me. He was assuring me that, yes, the past few months were difficult and challenging, but it was all part of the process of growth for me and for us as a family.

God makes all things new. He is constantly shaking up our world and our lives to push us forward, grow us, and change us. While it is happening, sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. Sometimes it feels impossible. But with God all things are possible, and God is the ultimate balance Sustainer.

You can read more about Kristi and her beautiful family at her blog Keeping Up With Kristi.

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book-list-2018

My To Read List for 2018

I love to read. Ever since I was a kid, you could find me with a book in my hands curled up somewhere reading to my heart’s content.

As a mom, my reading time has been significantly cut back (slashed is probably a better word for it), and when I do manage to get some reading time, I am usually found asleep curled up with a book in my hands (or falling out of my hands).

I learned a couple of huge lessons this year as I worked my way through my reading list for 2017.

  • Do not aim to read more books than I actually have time for.
  • Keep my list small, and if I find that I read more books than are on the list, then yay for me!

This year my book list reflects devotionals I want to work my way through, goals that we are working towards as a couple, authors who will encourage me to slow down and remind me that it’s okay to live life in the slow lane, classic books I want to read with my children, and launches I’ll be a part of.

book-list-2018

The List

Spiritual Goals

Financial Goals

Lifestyle 

Classics 

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Book Launches

  • The Eden Concept: Marriage God’s Way by Dana and Kimberly Williams (Book launch coming in February). I’ve had the privilege of viewing Kimberly’s book Home Discipleship: Much More Than ABC’s and 123’s, and I am excited to be a part of her launch team for her newest book which she and her husband have collaborated on.
  • The Revolutionary by Kristen Hogrefe (Coming in March) I read The Revisionary last year and absolutely loved it. The story takes place in a dystopian era United States, but it is written from a Christian world view. The storyline kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end, I connected with the characters, and I could not wait to find out what  happened to Portia (the main character and heroine of the story). So when Kristen reached out to me earlier this month, I immediately agreed to review her latest book. I cannot wait share this review with you! If you have teens who love dystopian based literature, this is definitely a series you want to look into.

Do you enjoy reading? What books do you have planned to work your way through this year? Feel free to share your reading recommendations in the comments. We would love to hear which books are on your bookshelf or nightstand. It may even give me a few more titles to add to my list!

book-list-2018

investing

Two Simple Steps for Investing

“She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard.” Proverbs 31:16

As women, we are always thinking of how we can grow the money we have. Whether we are looking to coupon to use less than we have at our disposal or putting what we haven’t used into our savings account, we women are resourceful at taking what we have and doing our best to grow it.

Someone else who was good at investing what she had was the woman in Proverbs 31. I couldn’t help but notice the two steps she took in making her money grow. (Note: I am not a professional investor. These are just two observations I have made from reading this passage. Any financial actions taken by the reader are done at their own risk.)

  1. Think through an investment before purchasing
  2. Take the earnings and invest them

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Think through an investment before purchasing

Before her purchase, she considers it well. Her decision is not made on impulse. It isn’t done because of a knee-jerk reaction. Her decision has been thought through with reason and logic. She considers all aspects of the purchase.

What is the cost?
Is the return worth the investment?
How much effort on her end will need to be put into this investment?
Does she have the time to put into this investment?
Does she have the know how to enter into this investment?
In addition to the know how, does she have the ability?

take the earnings and invest them

She doesn’t take her initial profit to spend it on a night on the town or a new wardrobe, instead she looks for ways to use her profit to put it back into her investment. She looks for ways to put her profit where it can increase over time. Notice, she plants a vineyard. It will take time to grow the grape vines, for the fruit to ripen, pick the fruit, and either sell them or turn them into another substance for sale.

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Our investment doesn’t have to be a field. There are so many ways to invest the resources God has given to us. Think of what you have at your disposal. How can you take that and invest it?

One young mom I know, who I’ve mentioned before, has taken her ability to sew and uses that ability to provide a supplementary income allowing her to stay home with her little girl.

One of my favorite women to follow on Facebook is Rachel Cruz. She is a woman who not only teaches other how to get out of debt, but how to wisely invest their resources. She has several books which will help you learn to consider your purchases and how to use your money well. I will be sharing more about these books in my upcoming 2018 Book List post.

This week, memorize Proverbs 31:16 and may it guide you as you plan your budget for the new year.

You can read the other posts in this series here.

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warrior-child

Bring Out the Warrior in Your Child

We live in the age of superheroes. Superman, Batman, Captain America, Ironman, Spiderman, and the list just goes on and on.

We like superheroes.

Trust me.

My son has the masks and the shields and the pajamas and the action figures and… well, you get the idea.

But there is something these superheroes have that my son will never have. Super powers. My son will never fly or be bulletproof like Superman. He will never be able to glide through the night like Batman. He will never have a boundless amount of energy like Captain America (although, sometimes I wonder about that one…). He will never have a suit of armor that talks to him, allows him to fly, and save the world like Ironman. He will never be able to crawl up a wall like a spider and shoot webs at people (and we are all thankful on that account).

warrior-childYet the other day, when I told him we would be having a photo shoot with him dressing up like David the shepherd boy, he got so excited and ran around letting Daddy and Sister know. Why?

Because he could be like David.

David was a young boy, like him. David didn’t have super powers, and neither does my son (although sometimes he works his cuteness like it is a superpower). David was found doing his chores, which my son can relate because he has chores. His only weapon was a slingshot, and my son has a toy one he plays with and actually pings things with.

My son can relate to David in a way he can’t relate to the superheroes.

And I’m glad.

Because David did amazing things in his life, but God, the same God my son has access to through Jesus, was the power behind the amazing in David’s life. David called on God before he ran towards the giant Goliath on the battlefield. My son is learning how to call on God when he is afraid. David gave God the glory for the victory, a lesson in humility my son will never learn from a TV superhero.

That’s why I love books like author Virginia Finnie’s books in the Hey Warrior Kids! series. They not only showcase the power of God through the life of David, but they teach our children about the armor of God in an entertaining and interactive way that kids will enjoy.

 

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Virginia Finnie has taken her books, Hey Warrior Kids! Put On Your Armor! and Hey Warrior Kids! Grab Your Slingshot! and revamped them. Not only are they larger than before, but now they are interactive!

I previously reviewed both books on Christian Children’s Book Review here and here. One of my favorite aspects of Virginia’s writing is how natural it was for me to read to my children. Her writing style is so close to how I speak when teaching my children, it was easy to read and easy for them to follow along.

The best part of each book is the plan of salvation that is given. It is written in a way that children can easily understand, and a place is provided for children to write their name if they have accepted God’s gift of salvation. A prayer is included in each book that coincides with the story in  its respective book. It takes the principles taught and helps children ask God to help them take what they have learned and apply it.

I especially love the updates made to these books. They have been made larger than before, and coloring pages have been added to the end of the book creating a more interactive experience for children after reading the book.

If you are looking for a great gift or stocking stuffer for the kids in your life, the Hey Warrior Kids! series is a great place to start.

 

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art-of-giving

Teaching Children the Art of Giving

Between commercials and store displays, our children are being bombarded with all of the gadgets, toys, and knick knacks they need to make them happy this Christmas.

But the reality of Christmas is that God gave us His one and only Son. But rather than focusing on the gift that was given, children in general tend to relate more to the gift received. I know I did.

So how can a Purposeful Mom help her children see the beauty of giving? How can we help our children realize the heart of the season, and learn to give the way God gave to us?

How do I teach them?

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My favorite movie and book for teaching these lessons are Really Woolly: The Gift of Christmas and Red Boots for Christmas.

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Really Woolly: The Gift of Christmas is one of my all-time favorite movies. I first bought it when Addie was 10 months old, and it became a fast favorite. The story begins in the autumn (unusual for most children’s Christmas movies) when young Jacob sees a toy he really wants. After asking his parents to buy it for him (and being promptly turned down), he decides to work hard all autumn and winter to buy it for himself. When Christmas arrives, because he has spent all of his time focused on himself and his wants, he finds he has forgotten to get a gift for the family gift exchange. After his very understanding Grandmother explains to him that she has already received the greatest gift of all, Jacob decides to take the one thing he owns and loves and uses it to give gifts to his family the next day.

Red Boots for Christmas by Carol Greene is a beautiful story of a busy man who is visited by an angel and told that he will receive a special visitor on Christmas Eve. He decides to create the most beautiful pair of boots for this surprise guest. When Christmas Eve arrives, several of the townspeople drop by, and the cobbler offers them some of the fancy meal he has prepared. After they leave, the man is visited by the angel again. He becomes angry that his special guest has not arrived. The angel explains that the man’s neighbors were the guests and that he gave them the gift of friendship that evening. The cobbler realizes that the act of giving is a gift itself. He takes the beautiful boots and finds a poor, young girl to give them too.

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What next?

Take the lesson from Really Wooly: The Gift of Christmas and encourage your children to make gifts using their skills and what they have available to them.

Do your daughters sew? Can they crochet? Do they use perler beads? Are they still in the rainbow loom phase? Are they able to bake with a little assistance from you? This is perfect! Have them make a list of relatives and a few dear friends, and then have them work on some simple projects that can be given as gifts.

Does your son love Legos? Is he older and whittles (parental judgement required)? Is he old enough to handle yard work without assistance (parental judgement required)? He can make some Lego creations or create something for family members. He can even offer his services free of charge to older family members who have difficulty doing their own yard work.

For the last few years, Addie has made perler bead items for grandmas and other family members. When she was really small, she made bead necklaces for her grandmother and great-grandma. Great-Grandma still wears her necklace.

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This year, Ian was able to participate in the act of giving by using his handprint to help decorate the gift bags for his AWANA teachers. It is a simple way to get younger children started in the practice of giving.

We also include the kids in the delivery of the gifts. It is important for them to experience the joy of giving to others. I have seen the excitement in my children as they hand their gifts to their teachers, and the look on their faces as their teachers draw them in for a hug.

This Christmas, may your children learn to give, and may they receive the blessing that can only be received by giving to others.

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My Favorite Christmas Resources

Tis the season to pull out all of our favorite activities, books, and movies!

Every year, as I begin to put the Thanksgiving decorations away and pull out the Christmas boxes, my children begin asking about all of their favorites which have been hidden away for the year. Their excitement gets my creative juices flowing to find new ways to use our time-tested favorites to make new memories.

From activities to books to movies, we squeeze the most out of every moment in December with the ultimate goal being to bring our hearts to the manger as we remember that the reason for celebrating is the birth of our Savior, Jesus.

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Activities

Melk the Christmas Monkey- This little monkey visits us sporadically throughout the month of December with the express purpose of teaching us about the character of God. My favorite aspect of Melk the Christmas Monkey is that he visits us based on our schedule. It does not have to be a daily activity. Because of this, my children are still experiencing new activities because there are still lessons we have not yet learned with Melk over the last couple of years. You can read more about our experiences with Melk here. (Note: The actual monkey is not part of your purchase. The monkey I purchased several years ago is no longer available, but you can find a similar monkey here.)

Little People Nativity– When Ian was two years old, I knew I had to do something that would keep my ceramic Nativity set from becoming an item of interest to him. I decided to purchase the Little People Nativity set. He is now six years old, and he still enjoys playing with the set. This is one set that continues to grow with children, and each year, as their knowledge and understanding of the Christmas account grows, so will their storytelling as they play with the characters.

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Books

Our family has grown a collection of Christmas books over the last nine years, and each year our collection grows by one or two books. For the last two years, we have received copies of Glenys Nellist’s newest Christmas books Christmas Love Letters from God and Twas the Evening of Christmas which have become family favorites and are on my list of “must have Christmas books.” You can read more about them here and here.

My friend, Aryn the Libraryan, who shared her list of Christmas books yesterday, recently gifted us with Max Lucado’s An Angel’s Story. It is a powerful adaptation of the Christmas account through the eyes of the angel Gabriel. My children are currently nine and six years old, but because of all of the discussions we have already had, I felt they were ready for this book. You may want to read it through on your own to decide when your children would be ready for it as it does deal with the spiritual realm.

A few of our other favorites in our book basket are:

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Movies

One of our favorite things to do in the evenings is to gather on the sofa and watch a Christmas movie while eating popcorn (for the record, my husband makes the best popcorn ever!). Movies can be a great visual for our children when depicting the Nativity or a lesson in character or love, just be sure to point out to your children when the movie has taken creative license.

The Nativity Story (upper elementary/middle and high school) is a family favorite. Although it is not an animated film, we chose to show it to our children last year. It can be a bit harsh and realistic, for example, when Elizabeth and Mary each give birth, there is nothing cute and cuddly about it. But it beautifully portrays the reality of the situation. Again, as with any biblically based movie, be sure your children know what the Bible says and can discern the truth from creative license.

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Our other favorite is Veggie Tales: St. Nicholas. (preschool/elementary) This animated depiction beautifully explains to children the truth behind the idea of Santa Claus by introducing them to the real St. Nicholas by creating a story based on one of the legends surrounding his generosity.

Other family favorites are:

As you move into the Christmas season, may the activities, books, and movies you share with your family bring you all closer to Jesus and His gift of Salvation.

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Countdown to Christmas

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This week, an adorable little monkey began creating quite a stir in the Ladouceur residence!

Who is this little Monkey?

His real name is Melchior Noel Yule, but he prefers being called Melk the Christmas Monkey. Melk’s mission in life is to tell children all about God and His great love for us.

Melk is nocturnal, so he is awake while your children sleep. When they wake up, your little ones will find out what Melk has been up to! He is never mischievous, but he is always involved in some kind of activity that your children can join in when they find him.

From making paper chains and gingerbread houses to taking family photos and making tree toppers, Melk engages your children in activities which ultimately teach them about the character of God.

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Some reasons I prefer Melk as a daily Christmas visitor

I love Christmas, but sometimes, the act of preparing so many different activities can become overwhelming. Melk is our only daily activity for Christmastime. Katie Hornor (the author of Putting on the Spirit devotional and the new book In Spite of Myself) has already done all of the planning. All I have to do is follow her directions. She has given a list of what is needed, links to the downloads of the crafts suggested, and what activity Melk should be working on when the children find him in the morning.

I appreciate that Melk is never found getting into mischief. He is always doing something sweet, fun, productive, or enjoying Christmas with the innocent wonder of a child (like the morning my children find him sleeping under the tree).

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Rather than being someone who reports back to Santa about how the children are behaving, Melk points children to God and explains Biblical truths in easy to understand ways.

Melk, the Christmas Monkey: Teaching God’s Character through Bible Lessons and Activities the Entire Family Can Enjoy is available through Amazon as a paper back book or Kindle edition. (Note: The actual monkey is not part of your purchase. The monkey I purchased several years ago is no longer available, but you can find a similar monkey here.)

You can follow our family’s Melk adventure on Instagram.

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Redemption of the Picture-Perfect Moment

With Halloween over and the Christmas season beginning basically the next day, it means I have to mentally prepare myself now for the supposed “picture-perfect moment.”

For all you Dads out there, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Everybody is having a great time, the kids are content and you finally have a moment to sit and relax. Out of nowhere, you hear the words, “Alright! Time for a picture!”

If I’m your typical guy, I gladly volunteer to take the picture of everybody else. If I get stuck in the photo, I reluctantly give a half-hearted smile and rush to get it over with leaving everyone a little frustrated.

But what if you could redeem the picture-perfect moment? What if there was a way to take the typical guy response and transform it into a moment for the purposeful dad?

Here are three things to help you get through the infamous picture-perfect moment.

  1. Prepare yourself ahead of time. Mentally prepare ahead of time knowing you will have to take some pictures as a family. Be proactive and be ready to take the picture. Ask your wife ahead of time when the photo will happen so you can plan accordingly.
  1. Smile and have fun with it! If everybody smiled, posed and participated for the picture, it would literally be over in less than 90 seconds. Have fun with it! Think of something fun to say that’ll make the kids laugh. Tickle your wife (after the good picture was taken!) and have a blast with your family. Don’t let a picture get you down or ruin the rest of the day. Let the kids see you having fun… this may even condition your kids to be okay with taking pictures!
  1. Think about the picture-perfect future. This last one is the most important one.

In the age of social media, I originally titled this post, “The Curse of the Picture-Perfect Moment.” I feel like almost anything we do has someone’s smartphone capturing the moment rather than being in the moment. The five minutes following are spent on creating the right caption with the perfect filter. Then, I realized it really isn’t a curse after all.

Just a couple weeks ago, I pulled up old pictures on my phone and my 4-year-old daughter started looking at them with me. She would laugh and look at specific photos more than others. Anytime Halloween costumes came by, she would snicker and talk about how much she loved her outfit that year.

As we continued looking at pictures of our family, (you know, those picture-perfect moments that drove me nuts at the time?), my daughter looked up at me and said, “Daddy, I love our family!” Does she remember what we did that day? Probably not. Does she see our family having fun together? Absolutely.

Redemption! It all made sense now. She now associates those pictures with the love for our family and the time we spent together. All because of a “picture-perfect moment.”

That’s when I discovered my purposeful dad perspective on pictures.

The pictures weren’t for benefit in the present. The pictures were meant for the picture-perfect future. A future looking back on the past and remembering the good times we had as a family.

And that’s why, as a Purposeful Dad, I choose to be a part of the picture-perfect moment.

This post is a part of the Purposeful Dad series. If you know someone you can encourage with this post, feel free to share!