Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Unique Christmas Gift Ideas for Children: Art Supplies

 With two little girls ages three and one, we have quite a few toys around the house, and, honestly, I am not a big fan of toys.  For one, in our house at least, the toys are rarely played with and therefore take up space we don't have and gather dust that I don't care to clean.  For another, toys are usually what my husband calls "uni-taskers", meaning they perform one and only one function (which likely explains why they aren't played with very often.)

Don't get me wrong.  I sincerely believe that play is an important part of a child's growth and development, and my girls have plenty of regular playtime to explore, learn, and create.  The problem is that many toys that are on the "must have" Christmas lists for kids every year are ones that do very little to stimulate imagination and creativity. 
For the next few weeks leading up to Christmas, I want to highlight some of my favorite gift ideas for children that I believe provide children with the tools they need to uncover their individual interests and encourage lifelong learning.  Perhaps this list will help you come up with some fun and unique Christmas or birthday gifts for the children in your life. 

One of my all-time favorite gifts is ART SUPPLIES, and a fun gift idea for children, particularly kids ages 3 & up, is to have their very own art box.


A few Christmases ago, I bought two large plastic containers with lids--one for each of my nieces, then 2 & 4--and filled them full of fun art supplies of their very own.  Basically, I walked up and down the aisles at the Dollar Tree and bought duplicates of almost every creative tool I could find. It is important to keep in mind the age of the child you are shopping for: a two-year-old does not need sharp scissors or permanent markers.   

Some art supply ideas include the following:

Construction paper
Googly eyes
Watercolors & brushes
Scribble pads
Coloring book
Self-adhesive jewels
Regular & colored pencils  
Pencil sharpener
Pipe cleaners

Then, I labeled each item and decorated the outside of each child's box with her name, which is a good way to keep everyone's art supplies in place.  This is especially valuable when you have younger siblings who have to have what big brother or sister has. When the child sees her name on a pad of paper, she knows it belongs to her.   

Essentially, the homemade art box cost me around $20, but it was jam-packed with goodies.  Of course you can spend as much or as little as you like, but for young children, dollar store art supplies are just fine.


Another great place to add art supplies is to your child's stocking.  My daughters both enjoy play-doh, and the oldest loves stickers, both of which will be in their stockings along with mini notebooks (perfect for church or in the car), crayons, and pencils. Why not forgo the candy this year and stuff their stockings with gifts that will inspire their inner Michelangelo?


For older children, I love art products by Melissa & Doug because of their high quality and value for the buck.  Every year I give my nieces little craft projects created by Melissa & Doug.  Here are some of my favorites and other Melissa & Doug artsy gifts for budding artists (FYI: These are affiliate links!):

Melissa & Doug Sticker Collection
My nieces love these fun stickers books, and now my oldest daughter does too.  They're great for illustrating stories or creating a special picture or card.

Decorate Your Own Wooden Jet Airplane
This kit is perfect for little boys who love planes.  It comes with glue, paints, and aviation stickers for assembling and decorating.   

And for the princesses in your life, these super fun wooden mirrors come with glue, sparkling gems, glitter, and stickers so she can custom design her very own looking glass.

Animal Stamp Set
I am looking at getting this for my little girl this year.  She loves stamping!  There are also princess, alphabet, and dinosaur stamp sets available.

A great way to keep kids and their clothes clean when the creative juices are flowing!  I love how you can personalize the smock with your child's name, and the large pocket is handy for holding tools for your budding artist.  
These are just a few gift ideas for encouraging artistic expression in children.  Toys will come and go, but relatively inexpensive art supplies lead to endless new projects and promote creativity and imagination, an important skill to foster in young children.

What are some of your favorite art supplies or do-it-yourself projects for children? 

Stay tuned for more Christmas gift ideas for young children in the weeks to come!

Blessings to you and yours!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Menu Plan for the Week of November 27th

I have been back on the weekly meal planning wagon for about a month now.  The morning sickness officially subsided about two months ago, but I thought I would wing it for a few weeks to see how things went.  And what did I discover?  Frustration, anxiety, and a budget crisis.  When I didn't menu plan, I found that every day was a challenge to decide on what to eat: I even resorted to asking the three-year-old what she wanted for supper.  We can't eat spaghetti or pizza every night, can we?

So, here's what we plan to eat this week. 
Sunday: Shepherd's Pie (from the freezer) for lunch
              Turkey Reuben Sandwiches for supper
Monday: Spinach Lasagna (from Disney's Family Cookbook: My mom had this cookbook growing up, and I found it at local used bookstore this weekend.  I love the recipes in it: very kid-friendly!), Steamed Broccoli, and Garlic Bread

Tuesday: Emeril's Healthy Sweet & Sour Shrimp with Fried Rice

Wednesday: Chef's Salad with Turkey & Hard-Boiled Eggs

Thursday: Burritos with Ground Chicken, Fresh Salsa & Guacamole

Friday: Pizza Night!! (Recipe for Pizza Crust forthcoming)

Saturday: Leftovers/ Family Christmas party

What are you having this week for supper?


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Baby Blessings

This morning I went for my second prenatal appointment, my second favorite right after the ultrasound.  I love this visit because of the opportunity to hear our precious baby's heartbeat.  Plus, I honestly have not done a good job keeping track of how far along I am, so I was anxious for an update.  {Bad Mama, I know, but when it's child number 3, it's really hard to keep up with everything.}  And I had an unexpected surprise today: I heard the baby move in the doppler!  So cool!

Just before the midwife checked for the heartbeat, I had a feeling of nervousness twinged with fear that something might not be right.  There's always that chance.  But when I heard that familiar thump-thumping sound, tears came to my eyes.  Even on the third child, you still cry when you know you have a life growing inside of you. 

How precious life is!  How blessed I am to be carrying this child!  

"Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song."

Psalm 95:2

 What has God blessed you with today?  

Praying you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and special time with your family and friends,


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Modeling Forgiveness to Our Children: My Struggle to Say "I'm Sorry"

After writing my most recent post on teaching young children to apologize, I had a moment of clarity in which I realized how difficult it is even for adults--namely myself--to say "I'm sorry."  I have always been a proud person, not wanting to accept help offered and unwilling to admit my inadequacy or shortcomings.  So, when I wonder why it's a challenge for my three-year-old daughter to apologize, then I should look no farther than myself for an answer. I have to ask myself if part of my problem might be that I am not modeling forgiveness as I should.

Saying "I'm sorry" requires humility on our parts.  When I hurt or offend my children or husband, it is very difficult for me to apologize. Pride gets in the way and I try to evade the issue or justify it instead of saying "I'm sorry" like I should.  Just the other day my oldest daughter talked back to me, following her "No, I'm not going to do that!" statement with a smirk the size of Texas.  My immediate response was anger, and I lashed out, popping her little cheek with my hand.  Now I didn't haul back and slap her but I might as well have because she was outraged.  In tears, she said: "Mommy, why did you do that?  That hurt me."

I knew I was wrong, but my position as a parent allowed me to justify my behavior instead of apologizing as I should. My pride got in the way. A few days later when my daughter hit me in the face in a heated moment, I knew we had a problem, and it was my fault.  I needed to act like a parent and apologize.

"Kate," I said, tears running down both our cheeks, "Mommy should never have hit you in the face, and I am sorry. I was upset with you, but I should not have done that.  Mommies aren't perfect; we make mistakes too. Will you forgive me?"

Between heavy sobs--this child clearly knew she was in the wrong for hitting Mommy--Kate whispered, "Yes," followed by, "I'm sorry, Mommy."

How can I, as a parent, teach my child to seek forgiveness when she has wronged someone if I myself cannot say "I'm sorry"?  As a Christian, I am assured of salvation because of my faith.  Yet, I am not perfect.  Sanctification is, I am convinced, a lifelong process.  I am continually striving to be more like Christ and less like Keri every day.  Learning to humble myself and seek forgiveness, especially of my loved ones, is one area in which I desperately need to improve, especially if I want my children to do the same. 

Dear Lord, You are a God of mercy and forgiveness, neither of which I deserve.  Forgive me for my pride, and help me, Lord, to be a better example of humility and meekness to my children. Teach me to seek forgiveness when I wrong others, and help me to teach my children to say "I'm sorry" when they hurt or offend others.  Thank You for forgiving my trespasses.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

In what area do you struggle in teaching your children?  Does it happen to be an area in which you personally struggle?  Doesn't that make it ten times harder?!

I pray God's richest blessings on you as you grow in His glory!


For comments or questions, contact me at: growinginhisglory@gmail.com

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Monday, November 14, 2011

"I'm Sorry": Teaching Our Children to Apologize

This past Saturday the girls and I spent the afternoon with their cousins at the Pumpkin Patch, a playground on Signal Mountain.  Everyone was taking turns sliding down this incredibly fast slide when my three-year-old ran smack into the back of her two-year-old cousin.  Now she didn't hit him very hard, but poor tired Robbie cried, and Kate just stood and stared at him.   

"You slid into Robbie and hurt his finger.  See how he's crying?  You need to go over to him and apologize.  You need to say, 'I'm sorry,'" I told her.

"Mommy, you do it," Kate said.

"No, Mommy didn't hurt Robbie.  You did.  You need to make it right and apologize," I continued.

Kate walked over to Robbie, who was sitting in his Mommy's lap with big fat croccodile tears streaming down his cheeks.  But nothing came out of her mouth.  She just stood and stared.

"What do you have to say to Robbie, Kate?" I asked.

She just shrugged and Robbie said, "I'm sorry."  Sweet boy.

At this point, frustrated and uncertain about what to do next, I recalled what our Sunday school teacher had mentioned in class a few weeks ago about teaching our children things they aren't quite capable of comprehending.  He told a story about his daughter and grandsons: the older child (5) had hit his younger brother (2), and the mother was instructing the older boy to apologize to his brother.  Our teacher explained his feelings that a child that young--a five-year-old boy--could not possibly understand what it means to actually be sorry for something and therefore should not be instructed by his parent to apologize.

At the time, my teacher's story and explanation really caught my attention because we have taught Kate to say "I'm sorry" since she was two, the time when we knew she had a pretty clear understanding of the difference between right and wrong.  I began to worry that what we had done was wrong.  And now, as I insisted that she apologize to her crying cousin, was I trying to force her to do something that she is not fully capable of grasping?

Uncertain what to do, I apologized to Robbie for my daughter, warned Kate that she needed to wait before sliding until the person ahead of her was off the slide, and let her continue playing.

But my decision didn't sit well.  I knew she knew that what she had done was wrong, but (1) her pride, coupled with (2) her shyness in social situations, especially when she's being disciplined, kept her from doing what she needed to do, what she should have done. 

So when, not five minutes later, she slid into her poor little cousin AGAIN, I was all over her like white on rice.  Kate looked at me with dread because this time she knew I meant business.

"Tell Robbie you're sorry.  Give him a hug and apologize for hurting him," I said.

No movement.  My strong-willed child just looked at me, waiting for an ultimatum.

"If you disobey me, then you will be punished: we will leave the playground this minute," I said to her.

With her head held low, my daughter walked over to her cousin, who was now on his Mama's back in the baby carrier, and attempted to hug him.

"I'm sorry, Robbie," she said. 

Did she apologize solely because she feared the consequences, leaving the fun playground?  Probably.

Did she realize that she had done wrong by hurting her cousin?  Most certainly!

Was I expecting too much of her by asking her to apologize?  I honestly believe that I did not.

I believe my children need to learn--as soon as they are able to discern right from wrong, as soon as they feel guilty and conscious-stricken when they hurt or offend someone--to ask for forgiveness and say, "I'm sorry."

Yes, there are times when children will abuse the "I'm sorry" phrase by immediately apologizing as soon as they've done something they now is wrong in hopes of getting out of the punishment.  Yes, young children may not understand what it truly means to be sorry.  But if we don't get them in the habit of saying "I'm sorry" when they've made a mistake, when we don't teach them to have compassion or empathy for others that they've upset, then we deprive them of an essential life lesson: forgiveness.  And if our children are unable to say "I'm sorry" or ask for forgiveness, then how can we ever expect them to obey God who has forgiven us, the worst of sinners?

"Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you."

Colossians 3:13

What are your thoughts?  At what age did you begin teaching your children to say, "I'm sorry"?  


For comments or questions, contact me at: growinginhisglory@gmail.com

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Quest to Uncover the Necessities of a Christian Home

The month of October is a blur.  Aside from the repeat illnesses and sheer exhaustion from pregnancy, we celebrated two special birthdays: Kate turned 3 and Cora 1.  We also began some serious home improvements: Daniel tiled our bathroom and laid flooring in the kitchen, living room, and utility room.  With child number three on the way, the tight quarters are not so cozy anymore, which is why we are in the process of preparing our home to sell.  Sure we could feasibly bunk the two girls together, leaving a spare room for the baby, but there is very little space anywhere in the house for the kids to actually spread out and play and certainly no privacy.  

However, as I research the homes for sale, I feel an internal struggle.  It's a question of needs versus wants, of necessities versus luxuries, of living humbly within our means and desiring more.  Certainly a home with four bedrooms--one for each child, a guest room, and a master suite--would be lovely, but is that truly necessary?  Children can share rooms.  Plus, how often do we really have a guest overnight?  It's pretty rare.  Also, granite countertops are beautiful, but laminate works just as well.   

It is so easy to get caught up in thinking that we need this and that in our new house because we feel a sense of competition among our peers.  We see people with brand new, custom-built homes with all the best amenities and 2,000+ square footage, but while we do need more space for our growing family, do we really need all that?  I'm not saying there is anything wrong with having a nice large home because there isn't. Trust me; I would love all of those things and more.  But, honestly, I don't think they are best for me.  (Of course I am speaking only for myself.)  

Thoughts of cleaning and maintaining anything considerably bigger than our humble 1,000 square foot home make me cringe.  Even more importantly, I fear how a larger home will affect my relationship with God and my family.  Right now, I have to make a real concerted effort to spend quiet time with God and quality time with each child and my husband every day because I am constantly doing things a homemaker does: cleaning, fixing meals and snacks, doing laundry, etc. (the same things you do). There are days when the kids watch TV or run amok just so I can "get things done."  What will happen when the house is bigger, and there is even more room for even more messes? What or who will get the short end of the stick?

Sure it's a question of priorities.  I could maintain a clean home and play with my kids and find quiet time with God each day and spend time with my husband and have a minute to write and maybe half a second to breath.  It's possible but, for me, not feasible. Something will be shortchanged.

The question for me is this: What is truly necessary for a Christian home?  Hardwood floors, or a safe, inviting place for our family to rest and enjoy each others' company?  A fenced-in backyard, or a place of love and tranquility?  A bonus room for the kids' toys or a space where the Lord is feared and honored?
 "How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.  When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, you will be happy and it will be well with you.  Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table.  Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord."

Psalm 128:1-4
As I pray about our future home and consider the necessities, I want to make sure that I am following God's will and keeping Him front and center at all times. 
"Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it..."
Psalm 127:1
What do you consider essential to a Christian home?  I would love your thoughts!
I pray God's richest blessings on you and your families.