Operation Christmas Child: Packing Shoeboxes for Children, with Children

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It’s something my husband and I have done for years and years: packed a shoebox or two full of toys and hygiene items and candy and trinkets for a child overseas. It’s not hard. It’s not very costly. And yet, it can change another child’s life.

I learned this firsthand when I got to hear Alex, a recipient from Rwanda, speak at the Allume Conference last year. (I would urge you to watch this video about Alex’s testimony, although please screen it before you show it to your kids. There is a lot about the genocide and war in Rwanda.) Alex’s life and heart were truly changed, all because someone cared enough to pack a little shoebox – and then Samaritan’s Purse was able to minister to him, following up with him, continuing to share the gospel story with him.

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, and literally millions of boxes have been delivered worldwide since the ministry’s inception in 1993. Personally I think OCC is an amazing way to introduce your children to the ideas of poverty, giving, and having a multicultural worldview.

Here are some tips for packing shoeboxes with your own children.

  • Let them choose which gender and age group to pack for. Often kids will want to pick out things that they like themselves – so maybe choose to pack for a child the same age and gender as your own.
  • Add homemade elements: ask your child to make a Christmas card, write a letter, or draw a picture to go in the box. If he or she is older, maybe he can crochet a small scarf or sew a fleece lovey or even make a rubber band ball.
  • 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.
  • Pray over the boxes and ask God for guidance on what items this child will need.
  • Make sure to include hygiene items, even though they aren’t as much fun. What toothbrush and toothpaste do you kids like? What soap? What about a comb or brush? A trip to the Dollar Store can go a long way to completing your shoebox with toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, bar soap, and a few fun hair bows.
  • Remember the rules! Here are the items you should not include: used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; chocolate or food; out-of-date candy; liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.

Will you pack a shoebox this year? Even if you don’t have time to shop, you can still put one together online on the Samaritan’s Purse site for $25. Smart!

Box drop-off is November 17-24. If your local church is not collecting boxes, you can find a collection site here.

What IS Labor Day, Anyway?

Maybe it’s just me, but when my kindergartner wanted to know why she had Labor Day off from school, I was a little tongue-tied. I’m never quite sure why exactly we have Labor Day! If you’re in the same pickle as I am, here are some resources for you.

From Time for Kids:

A New York City carpenter named Peter McGuire is credited for coming up the idea for Labor Day. In 1872, after working many long hours under poor conditions, McGuire rallied 100,000 workers to go on strike. The workers marched through the streets of New York City, demanding a better work environment.

McGuire spent a decade fighting for worker’s rights. In 1882, he proposed the idea to create a special holiday for workers. On Tuesday, September 5, 1882, more than 10,000 workers hit the streets of New York City for the first ever Labor Day parade. Two years later the celebration was moved to the first Monday in September. And in 1894, Congress passed a law making Labor Day a national holiday.

Read the whole Time for Kids article to get a little more background.

Here is a great video from the History Channel about the history of Labor Day as well. Watch it with your kids. (No language but a brief show/mention of violence against a strike.)

I thought it was funny they chose September to fill the long holiday-less gap between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful holiday!

Making Easter Dinner in Advance

Easter 06 I [Ham]

source: boodoo via Flickr Creative Commons

I really love to cook. In my fantasy lands, I am a chef, or at least I get to go to culinary school and learn more about the art of fine meals. In reality, I’m a mom of three little kids and my bad back makes it hard to stand in the kitchen for more than an hour. But who knows? Maybe someday …

What I don’t love is just attempting to get the cooking done. With kids and time restraints, it can require a small miracle to get everything cooked at the same time and on the table. Multiply that times 60 when we’re having guests over.

I love having people for dinner, truly I do. I love entertaining. But – without fail – every time we do I make myself insane in the hours leading up to the event, trying to bake and cook and decorate and get our home into a passable state. (No one wants to show her guests to the bathroom to find out her kids have colored on the toilet and left used Kleenex on the floor.)

We’ve had standing Easter plans with friends of ours since 2006; we’ve been together every Easter except last year (when I had a 2-week-old) during that time, even when we moved 2 hours away. So I’m preparing to host them for Easter dinner in a few weeks. And today it struck me that JUST MAYBE I should go ahead and get some things ready so I won’t be so stressed on Resurrection Day.

Here are some great, special-dinner foods that you can make ahead and freeze!

  • Some of my friends swear by potato salad for Easter dinner, but I have to have Special Potatoes. Cheesy, creamy, potatoey goodness.
  • What can I say, I’m a traditionalist. I love Green Bean Casserole. I love this one even more because it uses homemade cream sauce and real mushrooms!
  • I love making bread, but it can be tedious and near impossible when you have a lot of other things going on. These rolls can be made ahead, but baked on Easter for fresh taste.
  • For dessert, this Rice Krispies White Chocolate Trifle sounds amazing! Or you can bake cake layers ahead of time, wrap them well in plastic wrap and then foil, and freeze until you’re ready to use them.

With just a ham to make the day-of, I might find myself actually enjoying the preparations for the holiday this year. Happy Easter!

Giveaway: The Jesus Film

Have you ever seen, The Jesus Film? Billions of people all over the world have! Did you know that it’s the most-watched film in history and has been translated into 1,197 different languages? Check out this trailer!

Maybe you’ve thought about watching the movie as a family, but you were afraid it would be too graphic for your kids. Great news! The movie shares a biblical version of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection in a kid-friendly way, suitable for all ages. It shows an accurate portrayal of Christ’s death, but in a way that is appropriate for a younger audience, which the film’s G rating reflects.

In honor of the movie’s 35th anniversary, it has been remastered in high definition with a new musical score and is being released on DVD and Blu-Ray on April 1st  (that’s tomorrow)!

We actually have three copies of The Jesus Film to give away! Use the form below to enter for your chance to win! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Seeing, Hearing, Touching, Believing: Leading Your Children to Experience Christ’s Resurrection

I bet many of our ParentLife readers have led their children through Truth in the Tinsel at Christmastime, haven’t you? It’s an ebook from our friend, blogger Amanda White, that helps you create an ornament with your child for 25 days in December – while talking about the Advent Scriptures.

This year, Amanda released an ebook called A Sense of the Resurrection. In it, she leads parents and teachers to guide their children through 12 experiences helping the little ones grasp the meaning of Easter. As Amanda says, it’s not as easy as Christmas. Parents are scared of telling their kids about blood, sin, crucifixion, murder. But as Christ’s resurrection is the absolute central truth of our faith, it’s important to start teaching it to children as early as possible.

A former children’s minister for a large church, Amanda is well-equipped to help parents through these sensitive topics. The projects she describes are to do as a family and most will decorate your home for the Easter season (a canvas, an incense jar, etc.). Children will use their five senses to experience the Holy Week and Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

 

We’ve long been a fan of Amanda’s work and featured her in ParentLife and HomeLife magazines. I do not believe you will regret for a second spending the few dollars to purchase this book and work through it with your children!

This post was not sponsored, nor will we make any money if you buy it through these links. Just wanted to bring the resource to your attention!

Last-Minute Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Are you stuck at home in this snow? Our roads are actually not bad in Chattanooga, but it’s still a little gross outside and schools are canceled. Two of my kids and I were supposed to go to Atlanta to visit friends for Valentine’s Day, and I am bummed our plans have to be changed! But such is life.

So for Valentine’s, we’ll be at home, doing some of these fun activities. Hope you can grab onto a few of these ideas and make the best of it, too!

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Christian Valentines

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Valentine’s Day will be here before we know it. Despite my indifference toward the Hallmark holiday, my kids ADORE it. (Balance Time Day, according to my daughter at 2 years old.) I like to use their infatuation as a tool to reinforce the gigantic love of God – and help them pass it on to their little friends.

Here are some Christian Valentines ideas!

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These beautiful cards are downloadable from Etsy so you can print as many as you want once you buy the file.

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Sweet, free printable Valentines from RachelWojo.com. Link goes directly to the printable PDF.

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I am IN LOVE with these little Valentines from Etsy seller Cherry Berry Design. You can download them for $6 and print on cardstock.

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Take inspiration from Grace Elizabeth’s and make your own beautiful cards with Scripture.

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These lovely printable hearts with Scripture from 1 Corinthians are free and gorgeous! What a beautiful little gift for your spouse.

How do you emphasize God’s love on Valentine’s Day?

Wrapped Up with a … Oh Wait, I Forgot the Bow.

source: Bugs and Fishes

I thought about doing something like this for my presents this year. Really, I did.

Just about every year I try to convince myself that pretty wrapping matters, it will make people feel special, etc, etc.

And every year I wrap up my gifts in dollar-store paper, sometimes covering a cardboard Amazon shipping box, and stick a 200-for-$1 label on it. Because, really, does it matter?

I was contemplating this yesterday. I’ve always enjoyed wrapping; I rarely use gift bag. Unwrapping is half the fun, right, especially when you’re a kid? But the fanciest I ever get is making gift tags from old Christmas cards, and it’s been three years since I even did that! Looking at those meticulously cut letters, all I see is extra time I don’t feel like I have in this season. My naptime quiet minutes are few.

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!

At Christmas, I LOVE reading Christmas books to my kids. Every night, and all the time. I would read 10 in a row while they snuggle up on me. I love baking cookies and other goodies to give to people. Anyone! Everyone! Those are my special things, the things that make me feel alive, God-given loves, I think.

In our Post-Pinterest world, sometimes we think we need to be good at everything. Everything must be picture-perfect. But y’all, to make things look good, I have to do a whole lot of creative cropping. I am just NOT good at everything – and I’m guessing you aren’t, either. It’s OK to admit it and happily dive into those things that we do love, while eschewing the tasks that just aren’t important to us. (As long as those aren’t biblical things, of course!)

I wish you a simple Merry Christmas and a happy, imperfect New Year.

Real Life Solutions With Dr. Linda Mintle

1. Last Christmas, we were really surprised by how poorly our children behaved when we visited our families. I know they are toddlers, but they really acted up. We’d like to do a little prevention this year so we don’t repeat last year. Any ideas would be appreciated.

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. This disruption of normal can lead to acting out more than usual. Planning ahead is a good idea. The best prevention is to try and stick with some type of schedule—feed the kids at regular times even when there is a late or special meal, get them to bed no matter their begging to stay up late because you recognize how sleep deprivation influences their behavior, take naps to handle less sleep, monitor their food intake rather than giving them free reign to cookies and desserts, allow for some quiet and down time in a room by themselves, and nip whining and begging in the bud so they don’t escalate to tantrums. There is a fine line between excitement and melt down! If you need to discipline, don’t hesitate. Take them into another room and reinforce your rules and expectations and consequences. And it really helps to get them outside to play whenever possible. I also like structured activities like crafts and games. Even though you may feel this is your time to relax because you are in the home of your parents, stay on top of your children and let them know that they are not allowed to wander the house and do what they please. I’ve seen too many parents collapse at their parents’ houses because of exhaustion and needing a break, and then let the kids do whatever. This is not good for the kids and places an undo burden on grandparents. So even though it is a holiday and you are on vacation, stay consistent and involved even when grandparents and relatives are enjoying your kids. It will make everything go so much better.

Resource: You can’t make me (but I can be persuaded), revised by Cynthia Tobias (Waterbrook, 2012).

5 Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes

Do you still make cookies at Christmas? Fudge? Other family favorites? There is something in me that just feels like I MUST bake cookies in December. Two years ago – since I was pregnant last year – I made cookies for weeks. Our kitchen overflowed with red velvet crinkles, chocolate chips, and iced sugar cookies.

When I was growing up, we spent a whole Saturday make cut-out cookies and decorating them precisely – from reindeer to stars to, on occasion, a dinosaur in a Santa hat or Bob the Tomato. I try to carry on this tradition with my children, too. I think my daughter is to the phase now that she’ll really have fun this year!

Here are my favorite Christmas goodies to make. Share yours in the comments!

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