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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christmas-resources

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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melk-christmas-monkey

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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Teaching Thanksgiving

When the 1st of November hits, our attention moves to Thanksgiving. Facebook is flooded with people giving their thankful thoughts each day until Thanksgiving, beautiful, harvest themed memes reminding us of our blessings, and arts and craft projects to do with our kids.

However, we are missing something if our thoughts only go towards the warm, fuzzy side of Thanksgiving, and we skip over the historical aspect of where Thanksgiving actually came from.

Our children need to learn the story of the Pilgrims, how God protected them as they travelled across the ocean, how God came to their defense when the sailors verbally attacked them, and how he allowed their ship to be blown off course causing them to land in Massachusetts instead of Virginia. They need to know that the first winter was not easy. In fact, half of the Pilgrims that came over on the Mayflower died during the first winter. They need to know that God allows trials to happen in our lives to bring us to a place where we can be a blessing to others, as in the case of Squanto.

Our children need to see that although life can be hard, God gives His people hope.

They need to see that the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of Thanksgiving to God for his faithfulness to them during their first year in the New World. Our children need to see a more realistic view of the first Thanksgiving instead of the caricature we tend to present with our perfect dinners, backdrops, and craft projects.

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If you are looking to give your children a more balanced approach to the story of Thanksgiving, here are some ideas to get you started.

Scripture References

The Psalms are filled with references to giving thanks to God. In fact, you can even find verses that specifically say Thanksgiving. Why not pick one and memorize it with your children this month?

Psalms 69:30 “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.”

Psalms 26:7 “…proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.”

Psalms 147:7 “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!”

Psalms 95:2 “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”

Psalms 100:4 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”

Books

thanksgiving resourcesAffiliate links may be used in this post. You can view our full disclosure here.

My absolute favorite book for teaching Thanksgiving to my children is Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember by Barbara Rainey. As I mentioned in this post:

This is probably my favorite Thanksgiving book. Barbara Rainey has written it with the entire family in mind, and it can grow with your family throughout the years. She has written it to be read one of two ways- the larger print is to be read to preschoolers and younger elementary students, and the entire book to be read to mid elementary and above.

The book I purchased also comes with a music CD filled with beautiful instrumentals based on beloved hymns of Thanksgiving. It truly makes the atmosphere feel like Thanksgiving.

Because my daughter is reaching an age where we are encouraging independent learning, I also have several books for her to read on her own: Squanto: Friend of Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla, Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas, The Mayflower Adventure (The American Adventure Series #1) by Colleen L. Reece, and Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans by Rush Limbaugh.

These books teach the reality of Thanksgiving. Squanto is my favorite Thanksgiving personality because his life teaches us that although we encounter trials, hardships, losses, and unfair treatment, God can use those parts of our lives for His ultimate glory and to bless others. That is the story of Thanksgiving our children need to see.

Activities

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From pumpkin muffins and ice cream cone teepees to thankful trees and huge, obnoxious Mayflower hats, the activities are endless! The most important thing to remember about the activities is to pace yourself and chose ones that will fit your purpose in doing them.

Because we were focusing on being thankful, the Pilgrims, and Squanto, we have made the Thankful Tree, which you can read more about here, Mayflower hats (pictured above), and Thanksgiving Teepee Cupcakes. We have also gone into the yard to find leaves (okay, we pulled them off the plants… we live in Florida… leaves don’t actually fall here until January…) and made little leaf men. For us, crafts need to be quick, easy, and make very little mess, and these crafts fit the bill.

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We want our children to experience the warm fuzzies of the season, but let’s not forget to share with them the reason for the Pilgrims’ dangerous journey across the ocean, the hardships they experienced, or the life of Squanto.

Let’s teach our children to be thankful for God’s many mercies to them and those who came before.

Let’s teach our children Thanksgiving this year by sharing the hard times in our own lives that God has brought us through.

Let’s teach our children Thanksgiving by looking back in our own lives and showing how the journey God has allowed us to walk was not only meant for us but was also meant to ultimately be a blessing for others as well.

Let’s teach our children Thanksgiving by reading to them the Thanksgiving Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln and show them that Thanksgiving was created to be a day where our hearts and attention turn to God Almighty.

Let’s teach our children Thanksgiving this year and make this a Thanksgiving that will be foundational in their faith and lives.

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operation-christmas-child

Operation Christmas Child | A Family Christmas Project

We may only be in October, but Christmas is in the air in our home because of Operation Christmas Child.

I’ll never forget the first time I participated in Operation Christmas Child. I was very pregnant with my daughter, and the Christian school I taught at was participating. Brian and I chose to make a box for a 2-4 year old girl in our daughter’s name.

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Four years later, we took our daughter to the store to fill her very own box for another 2-4 year old girl. When we reached the cashier, this woman had a huge smile on her face. “I couldn’t help but feel so happy as I heard your little girl trying to pack the entire store into that little box. Who is this for?” And we were able to share with her about the ministry of Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child.

When I served as interim Children’s Ministry Director at our church, I had the privilege of heading up the Operation Christmas Child drive for our congregation, and this time, both of our children were able to participate in helping to serve. We not only built boxes, stuffed them, and organized a packing party, but we were able to help take the boxes to our local drop-off location. We also chose to pay for our shipping online in order to track where our boxes went to really give our children the global perspective of the impact their shoeboxes were having.

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What is Operation Christmas Child?

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry through Samaritan’s Purse which  provides a shoebox filled with practical and fun items for children around the world through the donations of people like you and me. When children around the world are given this gift, they are also presented with the Gospel, providing them with the greatest gift they could ever receive.

Operation Christmas Child is a beautiful way to encourage the hearts of our children to think of others before thinking of themselves. Because Operation Christmas Child kicks off before the Christmas season does, it causes our children to think of others before their thoughts have a chance to turn to what they will receive on Christmas morning. Operation Christmas Child gets our children thinking beyond their own four walls to children around the world and gives them a hands on way to put into practice Matthew 25:40, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

How can I get involved?

Many churches and Christian organizations around the country are participating in Operation Christmas Child. If your church is not participating in Operation Christmas Child, don’t worry! There are still ways you can participate.

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Where can I get my shoebox?

Many participating locations will provide a cardboard shoebox free of charge, but you can use a large shoebox from your own recent shoe purchase or purchase a plastic shoebox from the dollar store for longer durability. Hobby Lobby sells official plastic Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

What can I put in the boxes?

If you have participated in the past, be aware that this year, candy and toothpaste are not allowed for customs reasons. Otherwise, Samaritan’s Purse has a list of suggestions which are allowed, such as a “Wow” item, personal care items (no liquids), clothing (think t-shirts and socks), crafts and activities, toys, and a personal note.

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Where do I take my shoebox when I’m done packing it?

If you are looking for a drop off location, you can find the nearest one to you here, but you need to be sure to drop your box off (with your $9 shipping enclosed) during National Collection Week, November 13-20, 2017, in order for your box bless a child.

Most importantly, don’t forget to add $9 for shipping in your box, either in your box or by paying online and attaching your tracking label to your box so you can find out where your box ends up.

Operation Christmas Child is a tradition in our home, and our children look forward to as just as much as I do. It is a great way to kick off the Christmas season and simultaneously be a blessing at Christmas time to another child somewhere in the world.

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twas-the-evening-of-christmas

Twas the Evening of Christmas | Review and Giveaway

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I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Christmas is coming!

With Christmas comes all the feels and wants of making this the most wonderful time of the year, and in our home, there are three ways we make that happen: books, traditions, and beauty.

Christmas Is a Great Time for Books

When you think of Christmas books, what comes to mind? Go ahead… I’ll give you a second.

I have a list of books, which I will share with you next month, that come to mind for me. But now on that list are two books by author Glenys Nellist.

Last year, Mrs. Nellist wrote a beautiful book, Christmas Love Letters from God, which filled every one of my personal requirements of a good, solid Christmas book. It now has permanent residence in our Christmas book basket. This year, Glenys has outdone herself… again. She has taken a well- loved classic Christmas poem, and created a beautiful version of her own, charmingly retelling the biblical account of the Christmas story.

Twas the Evening of Christmas demonstrates Glenys’s ability for taking a story, setting it to rhythmic poetry, and letting the words paint a picture on their own. As I read the story to my children, the words flowed so easily, and I couldn’t wait to read the next page to see how she would retell each part of the story in the way only she could.

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Christmas Is a Great Time for Traditions

As each Christmas rolls around, I want my children to expect specific recurrences. I want there to be expectations in their hearts that I can fulfill. Reading certain books under the tree during the evenings in December is something I want my children look forward to. Twas the Evening of Christmas is one of those books that will continue to be read year after year, and one day will be read to the next generation as well.

Christmas is a visual treasure

When I think of Christmas, the first thing that comes to mind is what Christmas looks like. Twinkling lights, beautifully decorated trees, full evergreen garlands, large green wreathes, and wrapping paper in every color and print imaginable. The images of Christmas leave as much of an impression as the smells and sounds do.

One of my favorite aspects of Glenys’s books, outside of her skillful authorship, is the illustrators she chooses to tell the visual story. Whether you are looking at her books for toddlers and preschoolers, her Love Letters books, or her newest book, Twas the Evening of Christmas, her illustrators tell the story with artistic beauty.

Elena Selivanova has done an amazing job of illustrating Twas the Evening of Christmas. There is such a nostalgic look to her art, and it fits this book so perfectly. When I asked my children which illustrations they loved the most, each chose something different. Ian, 6, loved the illustrations of the Baby Jesus. Addie, 9, loved all of the illustrations depicting the animals.

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I want to send a huge thank you to Zondervan for sponsoring this giveaway so you can possibly win your very own copy of this visually beautiful, beautifully written book, Twas the Evening of Christmas. I hope you take the time to enter the giveaway below.

Note: This giveaway is open to residents of the USA only, who have a physical street address (no PO boxes).

Next week, Shawn Howell at Prayer Lights will be sharing her review. I look forward to tuning in to hear what she has to say!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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back-to-school

4 Simple Back to School Ideas and Traditions

Back to school time comes with so much excitement and anticipation, but sometimes, also, with a feeling of dread and anxiety.

For some, new classes, new teachers, new clothes, new friends, and a brand new year to grow and learn are reasons to wake up ready to go on the first day of school, while for other kids, those same reasons bring anxiety levels to a breaking point.

Going from 3rd to 4th grade was a bit of a transition for Addie (we homeschool using Classical Conversations). She knew the work load was going to increase as would the difficulty, so she was not particularly thrilled to start school this year. Ian, on the other hand, was starting Kindergarten- seriously, what’s not to love about Kindergarten! He couldn’t wait to start school!

I found that these four ideas, which have become traditions for us, help bring a sense of excitement to the first week of school. And, yes, we allow ourselves a week to celebrate.

Photo

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I have always taken a photo of the first day of school (like every mother out there!), but this was the first time I printed out signs for it. It will be neat (and heartbreaking) to put Ian’s “First Day of Kindergarten” and “First Day of 12th Grade” photos side by side one day.

We took these photos the day before we began school (because it was Sunday and we were already dressed up) so we wouldn’t take any time away from our actual first day of school.

If you want a copy of these signs for yourself, you can find them here at Homeschooling’ Mama.

Questionnaire

I love the idea of asking kids the same questions year after year. What better way to see their growth than by how their answers change!

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This year, I scoured the internet looking for a few questions that the kids could answer, and I posted Ian’s answers on Facebook. These are the questions I chose to ask them:

  • What is your favorite color?
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • What is your favorite book?
  • What is your favorite show?
  • What is your favorite sport?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?

Every year, I will ask those same questions. And I am sure that every year the answers will change in some way.

Special dinner

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One night during “Back to school” week we make an effort to either go out to dinner or have food brought in. It gives everyone something to look forward to (including Mom), and time around the table always lends itself to opportunities for great conversations.

Special breakfast

My son goes to sleep asking “What’s for breakfast?”

Knowing how important it is for kids to have a great breakfast (especially on the first day of school), I try to make breakfast something they will really enjoy. Some years, I have made their toast look like a bear with cream cheese, a few banana slices, and raisins. but this year we went with cinnamon rolls… because I know it’s a family favorite.

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However you choose to celebrate the first day or week of school, be sure to only take on what is comfortable and doable for you and your situation. Then, sit back and know you have added a brick to the foundation of love in your children’s hearts.

celebrate-ordinary-days-summer

Celebrate the Ordinary Days: Summer Edition- Part One

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Although Summer vacation has already started for some and will soon be starting for others, the official beginning of summer happens on June 21.

Here in Florida, summer means more time at the beach, sunscreen, sand, afternoon thunderstorms, more freedom to go out, and patriotic celebrations. The way we think of our northern friends during the fall and winter, they think of us during the summer.

I look forward to the summer because there are so many ways to make simple memories and traditions that our children will remember for many years to come.

Although we do not need to fill every moment of our summer with an activity or special over-the-top activity for our children (boredom is a good thing!), here are some upcoming days that we plan on celebrating or recognizing in passing throughout our summer. If you are looking for more days that your family might enjoy, check out National Day Calendar. There are so many “national” days, it is impossible to list them all here.

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Jun 21- First Day of Summer- This is the day with the most daylight hours, so to celebrate, we are staying up till the sun goes down. How will you celebrate?

June 21- National Selfie Day- Gather those kiddos together, and if hubby is available grab him, too, and smile big for the camera!

June 23- National Pink Day- Since as far back as I can remember, my girl’s favorite color has been pink (for a really short time, purple was thrown in there… but that was very short lived), so finding a day to celebrate this color was pretty exciting.

June 26- National Beautician’s Day- Those people who are dedicated to keeping us looking our best need a bit of recognition. This is also a great day to teach our children to show gratitude to others.

 June 26- National Chocolate Pudding Day- This  day lends itself to an easy snack idea.

celebrate-ordinary-days-summerJune 27- National PTSD Day- During my research for special days, I noticed that from Memorial Day thru the end of summer there are many patriotic observances and holidays. Today is a great way to bring awareness to our children that some of our soldiers have returned home with wounds that cannot be seen. It’s a great way to round out the honoring and observances of these patriotic days.

June27- National Sunglasses Day- Does your child own a pair of sunglasses? If not, today would be the perfect day to gift them an inexpensive pair to shield their eyes from the sun this summer.

June 28- National Paul Bunyan Day- Do your kids know about the Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox Babe? If not, why not show them a cartoon or read a book to them about this famous lumberjack legend.

June 29- National Handshake Day- Do you appreciate a good, hearty handshake? Give your kiddos a lesson in greeting others with a good handshake.

June 29- National Bomb Pop Day- Why wait for the 4th of July to enjoy these red, white, and blue treats? Grab a box and go outside to enjoy these with your family… let’s be honest, it’s more for the clean up aspect than for the fresh air.

June 30- National Meteor Watch Day– Go outside after dark, look to the skies, and see how many meteors you can count.
celebrate-ordinary-days-summerJuly 1- National Postal Worker Day- Have your kids write a card or if you can, leave a small gift for your postal worker. Day in and day out, they bring our mail to us. It’s a great way to show a little appreciation for their service.

First Saturday in July- Hop-a-Park Day- Do you have a local park you enjoy going to? Hop-A-Park day is designed to get families out of the house, away from technology, and enjoying the great outdoors together.

Jul 4- Independence Day- Get out and celebrate the declaration of our country’s independence. Until it’s time for us to get together with our family and friends, we have a Liberty Kids marathon where our children see and hear the struggle for our country’s independence alongside the young characters portrayed in the show. In the evening, after we have returned home or our guests have gone and the kids have gone to bed, Brian and I watch The Patriot together. It’s a tradition, and always makes us thankful for those who fought and died and are continuing to fight for our nation’s freedom.

July 7- National Father Daughter Take a Walk Day- Imagine the forever memories that can be made when our daughters take an annual walk with their fathers. Imagine the changes in topics that will occur over the years. And before they go on their walk, be sure to snap a picture… and take one each year so you can see the growth and change in both of them.

July 7- National Macaroni Day- Grab that box of macaroni, some paint, glue, and string and let your children’s imagination soar! You may even want a second box to use in your dinner plans!

July 9- National Sugar Cookie Day- Gather your children and baking supplies in the kitchen, and make a batch of sugar cookies. Then settle down with a book (If You Give a Mousse a Cookie is a good choice) and enjoy your freshly made cookies.

July 11- National Blueberry Muffin Day- Blueberries are a summertime staple. Find your favorite blueberry muffin recipe (mine is from this cookbook) and bake up a batch or two.

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July 11- National Cheer Up the Lonely Day- After you bake your muffins, you may consider taking some to someone you know who may be lonely- a senior saint, a widow, or an empty nester- and bring them some cheer.

July 11- National 7 Eleven Day- Don’t forget to go out and pick up your free slurpee at 7 Eleven! It’s been a summer tradition in our family for years.

July 11- All American Pet Photo Day- Although we do not have pets, many of our friends and family do. Take a photo of your fur baby and then share it with your friends and family.

July 12- National Simplicity Day- Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817. As an advocate of a life of simplicity, today has been dedicated the National Simplicity Day in his honor. Use today to read a few of his writings. You can pick up his book Walden in digital form free of charge here.

July 12- National Paper Bag Day- Paper bags and a life of simplicity have always gone hand in hand in my mind. With the ability of being useful in so many capacities, paper bags can be used to carry groceries, pack lunches, hold gifts, and make crafts. Hoe many ways can you use a paper bag today?

July 13- National French Fry Day- A quick trip through the drive thru will take care of this day and put a salty smile on any little face!

July 14- National Mac and Cheese Day- This is an easy day to celebrate! Grab a box of mac and cheese and serve up dinner.

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July 15- National Give Something Away Day- This is a great day to get our children thinking beyond themselves to others. Have them go through their things in order to pick something to give away. Then take them to your local Salvation Army, Goodwill, or a local shelter to give their items away.

Third Sunday in July- National Ice Cream Day- A lot of very easy days are coming up! And all you really have to is, “Guess what guys, today is…” and then let that day direct your meal or dessert. Today, why not go out for ice cream to a local ice cream shop, and celebrate National Ice Cream Day!

July 19- National Hot Dog Day- Frankfurter… hot dog… whatever you call it, celebrate the hot day today. Serve it for lunch or dinner and you are all set!

July 19- National Lollipop Day- You know those big obnoxious lollipops that you only pick up on special occasions? Today is the day pull them out and let your little ones have a taste.

July 21- National Junk Food Day- I know we are supposed to shun junk food, but in all reality, we all enjoy some from time to time. While teaching our kids healthy eating habits, don’t be afraid to grab a small bag of chips or a candy bar or a slice of cheesecake and enjoy it!

July 23- National Vanilla Ice Cream Day- A half gallon of vanilla ice cream and a few toppings are all that is needed to mark this day at home.

Fourth Sunday in July- National Parent’s Day- Today is a great day to teach your children Ephesians 6:1-3. Then recognize your parents in some small way. Our children will do as we do, and if we remember our parents, they will most likely remember theirs.

July 24- National Cousins Day- They say cousins are the first friends you ever have. We have been blessed to have a very close bond with many of our cousins. Give them a shout out on Facebook, post a picture of you all as kids, or recall a special memory you have with them… and teach your children to do the same. Talk with them about their favorite things about their cousins, put a handmade card in the mail, FaceTime or Skype with them, and remember the necessity to stay close with family.

Jul 27- National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day- Do you have a family member that was in the Korean War? Talk to your children about this hero that lives among them, and maybe make a visit or make a phone call to ask him or her questions about their experience (if they are willing to share. I guarantee you will make their day.

Although summer doesn’t end at the end of July, this list will get you started at turning a few of your ordinary days into special ones. Stay tuned for Celebrate the Ordinary Days: Summer- Part Two where we look at August and September.

Other posts in this series:

Celebrate the Ordinary Days: Fall Edition

celebrate-ordinary-days-summer

summer

How to Make the Most of Your Summer Without Breaking the Bank

Every time I think of summer, I think of the summer of 2013. For me, it was the best summer ever!

It truly was.

I felt as though we took each and every day of our summer and squeezed as much fun and adventure out of it as we possibly could.

But, I could not have pulled it off alone.

As someone who loves being (and staying) at home, I needed help finding ways to get out with the kids to enjoy this season of lazy days, rainy afternoons, and looser schedules.

I discovered that our community was filled with opportunities for us to make memories together and individually by keeping my ears (and eyes thru Facebook) open for announcements. Here are some of the things we found here in our county that have worked really well for us over the last few summers.

summer

Library classes- Our library system does a series of classes throughout the entire summer. They are educational, entertaining, and the kids really had fun. We have brought home meal worms, planted seeds, learned about our local wildlife and participated in fun science experiments through some of the activities the library provided.

Our library also has a Summer Reading Program that encourages children to spend at least 24 hours worth of time throughout the entire summer reading. At the end, our children can earn a ticket to see the Tampa Bay Rays play. Our sports loving family really enjoyed this in years past and will continue to participate for years to come.

Check your local library system’s event calendar to find out the activities they have lined up for the summer.

summer

Arts and Crafts- We discovered that Michael’s Crafts Store has a program called Passport to Imagination which runs all summer long, three days a week. The cost of the 2 hour class is $4 per  child per day. It’s a great way for kids to explore their artistic side… without giving Mom a mess to clean up. That’s a win/win in my book!

Movies- Check into your local movie theater’s schedule to see what they are offering for children during the summer. We have a couple of theaters in our area that offer $1-$1.50 movies once or twice a week. We have taken advantage of these. It is a great way to get out of the house but still be in the air conditioning.

Season Passes- Do you have season passes to a local theme park? Summer is a great time to use them and get the most out of that pass. On evenings when you find yourself wondering what you could do, pull out that pass and enjoy your theme park for a couple of hours.

July 11th- Don’t forget that on 7/11 each year, 7 Eleven offers free Slurpees!

summer

Fruit Picking- Here in Florida we kick off our summer break with blueberry picking. It is always a great way to get us outside, and we bring home pounds of blueberries for a fraction of the cost of buying them in the stores. What fruit comes into season in the summer in your area? Look into where there may be a U-pick farm near you and have some fun!

VBS- Vacation Bible School is a free week long program that churches offer to their communities. Many times, the churches in an area or community stagger their VBS weeks so parents can utilize as many of these programs as possible.

Beaches and/or pools- Are you located near a beach? Are you a part of a community that gives you access to a pool? Do you have friends who invite you over to use their pool? Does your area have a sprayground? These are all great ways to get out into the summer sunshine, keep cool, and get that summer glow. Just be sure to keep the sunblock generously applied, hats on small heads, and lots of liquids on hand.

summer

Sporting Events- Baseball season is under way and football season is gearing up. Summer ballgames are almost an all-American must! Some ball fields will allow you to bring in your own food which helps to keep costs down to a minimum.

Football season is also gearing up. Our local team (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) has a Fan Appreciation Day and open the gates (free of charge) for the fans to watch a practice. Check your local team to see if there are any free fan events happening in the summer.

Cow Appreciation Day- One day our children look forward to each summer is Chick-Fil-A’s Cow Appreciation Day. The idea is to dress like a cow (as much or as little as you want). For minimal participation you get a free chicken sandwich. For maximum participation you get a free meal! Each year, we haven’t paid a dime for our dinner.

American Girl Movie Premier- I don’t know how it is in your house, but in our house the summer television premiere of the American Girl Doll of the Year movie is a big event. It is a free night, we don’t have to leave the house, Addie gets to pick out her own fashionable outfit, and I give her a special hair style using my hair supplies. It’s a tradition.

summer

Make the Most of the Holidays- Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day are all considered summer holidays. Why not make the most of these with crafts, special snacks, and activities? My 4th of July Pinterest board was a huge help to me last year in coming up with a week’s worth of stay-at-home activities and fun.

Kids Bowl Free- Although the Kids Bowl Free program has been around for a while, we plan on taking advantage of it for the first time this year. Through this program, children receive two free games per day throughout the summer (cost of shoes is not included). There are also discounted rates for parents to play throughout the summer, too. It’s a great way to get out as a family for some fun. (Check your local bowling alley for restrictions)

I hope I have given you some ideas on how to make this summer your best one yet. I think the most important lesson I learned during the summer of 2013 was to make a big deal of the little moments.

Those are the moments that our children will always remember.

summer

graduation

Why Every Homeschooling Mom Needs to Attend a High School Graduation

My kids are 9 and 5.

We are a long way off from high school graduation.

Or are we?

This week I had the realization that my daughter is entering 4th grade- the grade I used to teach in my pre-mom life. I used to think those kids were so “big,” and now many of them are graduating college, getting married, having families of their own, and sending their little ones to school for the first time.

I remember these same kids wearing their private, Christian school uniforms, sitting in class, and learning their spelling words using the say-spell-say method. These kids stood just below my shoulders and many of them (especially the boys) now tower above me.

graduation

Now my daughter is entering 4th grade. If these last 9 nine years have flown by so quickly, how quickly will the next 9 years go? Because when she’s 18, she will graduate.

A few years ago, I attended a our local homeschool graduation ceremony. As I looked around at all of the families attending, I knew these parents had thought graduation was a long way off for them, too.

I was there for one particular student. I had known this young lady through church since she 4 years old and had the privilege of being her fifth grade teacher when I taught at the Christian Academy. When she was entering 9th grade, her mother began homeschooling her.

From the moment the processional started and she walked in, the tears began. In my mind, I could see the little 4 year year old her with two pigtails walking down the aisle…. and then I envisioned a grown Addie and Ian making that same march.

Right now, the graduation of my own children seems to be a long way off. I am still very deep in the trenches of homeschooling. Ian is entering Kindergarten, and Addie is going into 4th grade.

graduation

There are days when I wonder why I have chosen to homeschool my kids and take on myself a responsibility that others actually get paid for.

There are days when it takes my super smart nine year old five minutes to give me the answer for a simple division problem…. not that she doesn’t know it. Her mind takes little trips and she asks me a million unrelated questions in between finding the answer and writing it on her paper….. like “Mom, why do mosquitoes bite? Is it because of Adam and Eve?”

There are days when being wife, mom, teacher, home-keeper, cook, and launderer are overwhelming.

There are many days when I have to remind myself that my goal is not to have super smart children but to raise godly people.

Attending that graduation ceremony gave me the long term perspective I needed.

graduation

I was able to see the tape across the finish line as each parent handed their student a diploma.

I was able to remember all of the answers to my “why’s”.

I was able to picture Brian and myself handing our children their diplomas and sending them into their next life adventure knowing that we had completed our purpose in the first part of their lives.

I was able to celebrate with these families who had once been in the trenches and had now reached the end of their race.

At one point in the ceremony there was a recognition of the families who were not only celebrating their child’s graduation but the end of their homeschool journey because this was their last child to be homeschooled.

I cried… again!

It dawned on me that homeschooling does not last forever.

graduation

This race has a finish line.

My children will not stay little forever.

I will have to let them go at some point.

I am so glad I attended that graduation. Sometimes, you need to see the bigger picture to appreciate the small strokes you are making in canvas of your child’s life on a daily basis. These strokes can add beauty or can ruin the overall portrait.

As my friend Kristi often says, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

I’ll rephrase it: the school days are long….. but the school years are short.

graduation