Celebrating Christmas with ParentLife!

Over the years, we’ve posted quite a bit about Christmas here at ParentLife Online. As you celebrate Thanksgiving and look forward to the Advent season, I wanted to provide an easy way to look through all of the Christmas and Advent-related posts here.

Making Christmas Traditions


Thinking about a Pet? – “After talking with a rep from the ASCPA about a ParentLife article, we found that many families adopt pets at Christmastime. Our monthly Real Life Solutions writer, Dr. Linda Mintle, has some good advice for families considering getting a pet.”

Holiday Safety Tips – “In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a young child to eat them.”

The Advent Season – Three Advent books to share with your children.

That Perfect Christmas Card – “Select a photo with special sentimental value. Don’t worry about the finding the photo where everyone looks ‘perfect.’ ”

The Perfect Gift – Short review of a Christmas movie featuring a ParentLife writer!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year – “Our time with family was precious, traffic or no traffic! These are the occasions that make lasting memories for parents and children alike.”

Holiday or Headache? – “What have you been doing because it is expected or a habit but could probably be dropped from your schedule?  What truly makes Christmas meaningful for you?”

Christmas Ramblings – “I was dreading putting out the Christmas decorations with a toddler underfoot, I was sure finding time to Christmas shop was going to be next to impossible, and I was concerned that all of the holiday festivities would throw Jack’s schedule completely for a loop!”

Helping Kids Connect with Jesus – Advice from prolific children’s book author Dandi Daley Mackall.

More Childproofing Tips for Christmas


Exposing Children to Drinking Relatives – A Q&A with Dr. Linda Mintle.

To Santa or Not to Santa? – “Hamlet almost had it right. ‘To be or not to be’ is a great question, but for many Christians, ‘To Santa or not to Santa’ is truly the question to ask in December.”

Choosing the Right Toys Per Age Group – “The toys your children want are not necessarily the ones that are of great quality or of any value for that matter, but they are the ones advertised constantly.”

Christmas mantle


Blended Life: Making Holiday Plans – “Perhaps the hardest time to juggle a blended family is during the holidays. How should time be split? How do you even begin to decide?”

Christmas Gift Guide: Baby to 2 Years

Christmas Gift Guide: 3 to 8 Years

Real Life Solutions: Christmas with Family – “You and your husband need to make a plan that makes sense for you and that you can manage. Then talk with your families and see if you can agree on an arrangement.”

Christian Christmas Music – “I realize that perhaps saying ‘Christian Christmas’ is an oxymoron, but in our society … it’s sort of necessary.”

10 Kid Gadgets for Holiday Travel


Fun Traditions and UnTraditions – “Families were encouraged to celebrate meaningfully and playfully in ways that create lasting memories, not lasting fatigue.”

Gifts That Give Back – “But I don’t know that our Christmases would have suffered without half of those things we wished for on long lists.”

Celebrating Jesus’ Birthday – “Use a child-friendly manger scene to teach the Christmas story to younger children. They can make their own manger scene out of blocks, fashioning figures from toilet paper rolls.”

Helping Children Celebrate Christ This Christmas -“With the celebrations of Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Santa Claus, it is easy for many messages to be infiltrated into the true message of Christmas.”

Need a Gift Idea? – Reviews and comparisons of some of the craft/toy subscription kits like KiwiCrate, Citrus Lane, and Green Kids Crafts.

Real Life Solutions: Divorce and the Holidays

Strategies for Reducing Stress During the Holidays – “If she is terrorized by the sight of a big stranger in a red suit, respect her emotional distress and show your support by not forcing her to sit on Santa’s lap.”

Christmas Break Training 101: Making Yours a Success – Whether you’re sleep training, potty training, going to a big kid bed, or more, Christmas break might be a great time to do boot camp.

Merry Christmas from William Summey

The Doggie in the Window – “Christmas is an exciting time to bless our children, and you may be thinking about finally giving in to their request. Here are some things to consider before adopting a new pet.”

Keep It Going: Service after Christmas


Preparing for Advent – A little about the popular resource Truth in the Tinsel and another fun Advent family activity.

15 Unique Advent Calendars

He Sets the Lonely in Families – “Bless others by taking them into your family and loving them. It will set a wonderful example for your children and who knows … you might be entertaining angels (Hebrews 13:2).”

5 Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes

Real Life Solutions: Preventing Kid Mayhem During the Holidays – “Remind yourself that during the holidays, kids are out of their routine, sleep in strange beds, get little sleep, eat too much sugar, and get a lot of attention from family members”

Wrapped Up with a … Oh Wait, I Forgot the Bow – “The thing is, if you love cutting out letters while listening to carols and sipping peppermint tea, I think it can be holy. Perhaps wrapping gifts is one of your favorite things. Perhaps it is a gift God gave you to bless others. It’s just not mine!”

Special Needs Families Can Celebrate the Season Too! – “Special needs parents often feel isolated. I encourage you this season to reach out. Reach out to just one other family, or friend. It might take some work, but it will be worth it!”


Operation Christmas Child: Packing Shoeboxes for Children, with Children – “Explain gently that these will probably be the only gifts this child will receive this Christmas. Answer questions in a straightforward and truthful manner, but don’t over-explain.”

The Relief You’ve Always Wanted for Christmas by Ann Voskamp

Joy in the Midst of the Messy – “Our joy is not found on the presents – although that is a pretty great part of the season – or the traditional Christmas events. Our joy is found in knowing that Christ is with us now. In these moments, in the middle of our circumstances.”


Building Holiday Traditions within Your Family – “While struggling to celebrate this most commercial of American holidays without letting the secular emphasis take over, we found a mixture of fun traditions balanced with sacred traditions that did the trick for us.”

A Simple Gift Kids Can Make


I will update this list as we add to it this year and in the future!


Weekend Links

Have a wonderful weekend, friend! Enjoy the fall weather, give thanks, and let us know what you’re thankful for, too!

Activities for Little Hands: Thanksgiving Crafts

thanksgiving 9
source: Harris County Public Library via Flickr Creative Commons

Having a hard time keeping your little one out of the kitchen while you prepare for Thanksgiving’s festivities? My daughter thinks the oven is her personal playplace, much to my chagrin. Thankfully, we will be spending the holidays with extended family and letting others cook for us (and the baby in my 36-week-pregnant belly rejoices).

Here are some activities for distraction … I mean, education …

Thanksgiving door hangers would be a fun addition to the front door even a toddler can help decorate.

Older kids can do a Thanksgiving Day word search. You could have your kids cut out the word search and glue it to sheets of construction or scrapbook paper for any children coming to your Thanksgiving feast. It will give the kids something to do while they wait on the food! Fall or Thanksgiving-themed scrapbook paper would give the word search a festive feel.

Oreo Thanksgiving turkeys are adorable to see, easy to make, and yummy to “gobble” down!

Napkin rings made of paper-towel tubes and scrapbook paper add a festive touch and keep little hands busy gluing while you’re basting the bird.

Even toddlers can rub a leaf on newspaper. You can cut them out and then together string them on some twine to hang. Adorable!

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving craft?

Happy Thanksgiving from the ParentLife staff and Jessie, Resident ParentLife Blogger!


Originally published November 24, 2010

Bold Middle School Faith {Bible GIVEAWAY}

Bold Middle School Faith
photo credit: Lauren Macdonald via Flickr Creative Commons

Tweens feel like they are in a constant state of change. And they’re right. With all of the adjustments they go through physically, mentally, and emotionally, nearly every aspect of their lives is changing! If you know anything about middle school, you know it can be a pretty tumultuous time. Sometimes friends embarrass each other on purpose because they think it’s funny. Gossip and B.O. abound. Blending in is a survival tactic. First crushes develop. Things get plain awkward, scary, and upended at this age. Most who survived middle school would never willingly return.

Could you imagine if you knew then what you know now—about the Bible, God, faith, and prayer?

You may have heard about God’s unconditional love and His faithfulness back then, but the longer we walk with God, the stronger our faith becomes. Chances are, you’ve learned to depend on God much more as you’ve seen His faithfulness and consistency play out in your life. Most likely you’ve learned to extend grace to others more freely as you’ve experienced God’s mercy and unconditional love firsthand.

Imagine if your middle-schooler’s faith was resilient and flourishing at this young age!

What would happen if your middle schooler prayed more faithfully? worried less? trusted God more? navigated friendships and hurtful or humiliating situations with more grace, care, and understanding? What if your middle schooler had bold faith?

Each one of us is on our own journey. Our particular paths may look different, but as Christians we are all seeking to follow Jesus every day of our lives. We are continually gaining new perspective on life and faith and seeing more clearly our purpose here on earth. To walk with God is to be in a constant state of change, not unlike middle school. The minute we become stagnant in our relationship with God, our growth suffers.

How can we help tweens fully embrace their faith in God and live boldly?

The Bible is God’s love letter to us. Every word in it was written just for us. God speaks to us through the inspired words on the pages of Scripture, and the more time we devote to reading God’s Word—the Bible—the stronger our foundation will be.

One of the most significant influences in your child’s faith is you. What are they learning about God by observing your actions, your words, and your prayers? Do they see you reading your Bible? praying? depending on God in tough times? modeling bold faith?

Practical ways to encourage middle schoolers to be bold and courageous in their faith:

  • Model it for them!
  • Pray and ask God for wisdom and insight into how you can encourage and deepen your child’s faith.
  • Seize the big and small opportunities to encourage your child’s relationship with God each day.
  • Reflect on ways you can help them notice and discover God working in their lives.
  • Talk about what they have read in their Bible, then explore how God might be speaking to them each day through their Bible reading.
  • Discuss ways to apply the Bible to their own life in specific situations they are going through currently.
  • Talk about what God is doing in your life. Share ways that you personally are depending on God, or ways that your family is.

As we teach middle schoolers to always trust God—even when things get hard at school, with friends, or at home—they can develop a faith that withstands the trials. God loves them as much as we do—and way more! God speaks to them through his Word, and he speaks directly to their hearts.

Faith becomes real for kids when it connects with their world, and the New Living Translation is great for tweens because it is so easy for them to understand. The language isn’t archaic or difficult, which can cause barriers to understanding and application. Instead, they can glean more from reading their Bibles with confidence. When tweens read the Bible and understand what it says, God can work in their hearts!

Girls SlimlineGuys Slimline

The Girls and Guys Slimline Bible covers were designed just for tweens! In fact, they were chosen by a focus group of tween students! The Bibles also include a dictionary/concordance to help tweens look up key words and find passages on subjects they are interested in, full-color maps, a matching ribbon marker, and a presentation page. The extra-special Girls Slimline Bible has a BOLD FAITH theme on the back cover and endsheets, and the cover is made of soft, bright neon material with a glittery silver lining around the edges! The Guys and Girls Slimline Bibles make great gifts for the tweens in your life! Be encouraged as you begin (or continue!) the exciting and joy-filled blessing of walking alongside your tween on their faith journey through middle school and beyond.

Want to win a copy of one of these Bibles for a tween in your life? Let us know in the comments whom you would give it to and whether you’d want the Girls or Guys version! We will choose a winner from the comments on November 15.

Giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winners: Debbie, Angela Barnes, Ken Ohl, Marianne Sandling, and Charles-Linda Bradshaw.

Weekend Links

Happy reading!

A Simple Gift Kids Can Make

Made by kids coffee mugs

Last Christmas, the kids and I discovered this fun craft that is so simple! They made coffee mugs for all their grandparents and aunt and uncle, and a platter for the other aunt and uncle who are newlyweds. Their sweet drawings were a big hit. This gift is sentimental, adorable, and inexpensive – you can’t beat that!

Here’s what you need:

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Have kids draw on clean mugs/dinnerware however they want. You will want to prep the paint pens since they take a minute to get going, but then the kids can do the drawing themselves.

Bake your mugs/dinnerware in the oven for 30 minutes. Let cool.

THAT’S IT! Seriously!

These should be dishwasher-safe, too, although I haven’t tested that hypothesis.

Do you have a favorite easy gift for kids to give?

[Craft inspiration from Glued to My Crafts.]

Weekend Links

Gentleness by Jessie Weaver

Around this time seven years ago, I had my first-ever contraction. It was the night before my due date, and my mom, husband, and I were hanging in our condo’s living room, watching an Indiana Jones movie. I don’t remember one scene of the film, but I remember the sudden knowing, the realization that ah, this was what a real contraction felt like. I had worried I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a real one and a Braxton-Hicks, but I knew instantly.

(Note to my pregnant friends: if you start having contractions, guzzle a whole lot of water and see if they keep up. I had aggravated labor due to dehydration and thus it was a mere 36 hours later that I finally gave birth to my beautiful daughter.)

baby Libbie

On Tuesday, it will have been seven years since this girl came into our lives. She’s a first-grade fireball, a rule-follower for others and a rule-stretcher at home. And oh, I wish my 26-year-old self knew what I know now about parenting.

Not that I know a lot. But I do have seven years and three children worth of experience. Not to mention in those seven years we moved to a new city, my husband went from being a student to a teacher, we’ve lived in four different homes, and we’ve gone through a foreclosure that broke and put back together our hearts.

What I wish I could tell that younger Jessie laying on the microfiber couch and thinking finally! is this: they say love covers a multitude of sins. And it does. But love takes many forms. And let yours be a gentle love.

I think of a few ways I disciplined my tiny girl that now seem simply ridiculous. Because she could talk very well, I think I treated her as older than she was at times. I look now at my 2-and-half-year-old “Toddlerzilla” and think, I never would have disciplined him in _______ way. What was I THINKING with Libbie?

In the book Love and Respect in the Family, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs proposes that parents long for respect while kids just want love. And also we often misinterpret their simply childish behavior for disrespect and discipline it as such. When really … sometimes kids are just kids. And we are there to teach them how to be more mature, in time and in a godly manner.

My biggest parenting regret is the many, many times I have parents from my first response instead of stepping back, saying a prayer, and “trying a little tenderness.” Living in guilt does no good, though; all I can do is move forward, ask for forgiveness, and keep praying and practicing gentleness every day.

Libbie Easter

Jessie is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer, editor, and social media-y person. She writes at JessieWeaver.net, is the manager of ParentLife Online, and curates for ForEveryMom.com.

Three Not-So-Spooky Books for Kids

We all may have varying ideas on Halloween, but we can probably all agree that celebrating evil is not fun or something we want to do with our kids. My young children like the general idea of ghosts, monsters, etc. – but mostly as the silly versions we find on cartoons. And that’s OK. I’m not ready to go deep into these topics with them yet.

But for some lightly spooky fun, we head to picture books.

Here are a few that are a wee bit spooky and very funny.


Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems – Willems, author of such favorites like Elephant & Piggie and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, hits it out of the park with this silly Goldilocks remake. The very intrusive narrator tells us of three dinosaurs (Mama, Papa, and one visiting from Norway) who obviously did NOT leave their house set as a trap for capturing a little girl. Nope. No way. He pokes fun at Goldilocks’s naivete, but it all turns out OK in the end. And both the girl and the dinos learn valuable lessons.


Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer – Bernadette is mostly monsterly. But she also likes to pick flowers, bake, and sing. When she goes to school, she doesn’t quite fit in with the other monsters. The way she does is slightly gross for grown-ups … but kids will love it. And little Monster Bernadette is just so cute you can’t help but love her.


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School by Davide Cali – A student gives a long list of excuses as to why he is late for school – including being mistaken for a banana by a giant ape, being attacked by ninjas, and encountering giants ants and a time machine. These normally scary apparitions are instead hilarious when stacked one on top of another.

And because I can’t help myself, here are some more general fall picture books that I love:

Do you have any favorite children’s books for fall?

Weekend Links