Archives for December 2011

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


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Don’t forget to enter our giveaways for Penny Love and a YakPak backpack! Winners will be chosen next Monday, when we return from a short blogging break.

Friday Links 12/23

You’re going to be noticing something a little different here on Fridays: Friday links, as opposed to Fun Friday Photos. We have just not had the submissions to keep up with Fun Friday Photos like we hope to. While we might include one every once in awhile (so keep sending them!), for now we’re going to focus on sharing some links from around the Web you might enjoy reading.

Please note that these sites are not all LifeWay-sponsored, and we do not condone everything on every site; but we do feel these posts are worthwhile reads.

  • The Great Santa Debate at I Can Teach My Child – I appreciate the author’s thoughts and would love to hear yours!
  • A Teaching Legacy at Kids Ministry 101 – A great post that might help you reflect on the influence you have as a parent and/or a teacher
  • Last-Minute Ways to Make Christmas Memories at Motherhood Your Way – Good ideas that are completely applicable for dads, too, I promise! (Or aunts, uncles, grandparents, third cousins once removed …)
  • For When Everything is Different at (in)courage – This post is by Emily Freeman, who wrote a guest post for us a few weeks ago. Her writing is gorgeous, and this post talks about how to deal with a Christmas in the shadow of loss.

Have you read or written something lately that you think our readers would enjoy seeing? Leave the link in the comments and you might see it here in the future!

Added to Saturday Stumbles at Simply Staci.

10 Kid Gadgets for Holiday Travel by Ashley Grimaldo

Talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous. But a mid-transit chat pales in comparison to the distraction of driving with one (or two!) children wailing in the backseat. Nothing increases adrenaline quite like crying kids.

As parents, we can mentally cope with crying kids to and from the grocery store. But long-distance trips need more finesse. Careful preparation and a few necessities can prevent a few glitches and keep your travel going smoothly. As you prepare for holiday travels, make the most of your trip with these handy gadgets.

 

Car

 

1. Snack Container
A signature trademark of a kid-friendly car is a Hansel and Gretel-worthy crumb collection on every surface. If you can overlook this completely annoying parenthood perk, I applaud you; otherwise invest in some creative cups. Munchkin offers an ingenious design with handles and no spill rubber top–two for under $7. Sporting a similar design but with an attachable rope (and additional solid top) is the Spill-Proof Snack Buddy Cup from One Step Ahead.

2. Window Shade
Getting on the road is tough enough; stopping to shade a sunset shouldn’t be on your list of priorities. Grab a light-cutting window shade to curb the brightness. Measure your windows and buy the widest shade possible, making sure you have enough visibility in your back and rear passenger windows. Check out your options at Great Baby Products for window shade reviews.

3. Lacing Toys
Kids above age 3 (who don’t suffer from motion sickness) will work on lacing boards for hours. Growing Tree Toys has a fantastic range of simple lacing activities, like necklaces and ABCs, to complex connect-a-dot boards. Bring a bucket to set in your child’s lap so that she can contain the blocks without dropping them on the floor.

4. Finger Puppets
For the dramatic types in your crew, a set of finger puppets can be a space-saving lifesaver. My favorite are high-quality puppets that tell a familiar story, like Thumbelina or the Frog Prince from puppet master Folkmanis, but folks on a budget can definitely afford IKEA’s popular set of circus characters or animals for just $4.99.

5. Favorite Music
Play your favorite kid-friendly music and Christmas tunes. Bring on talk radio or a favorite podcast when it’s time for a snooze.

6. Bubbles
So what if you have to clean up the residue later! Bubbles are total fun for all ages, especially when the road seems never-ending. Unless you have an older child, mom or dad needs to commandeer the liquid and blow them toward the back. The best bubbles on the market, hands down, come from Gymboree. These bubbles float forever and the solution never dries out.

7. Barf Bag
Close to 30% of people are susceptible to motion sickness, and kids are no exception. The barfies can strike at any time–there’s no guarantee that your child will or won’t get sick on a road trip. Prepare for the worst by investing in a few leak-proof barf bags with fun pictures printed on the outside and show your child how to "cough" into it if his tummy starts to hurt. And bring an extra couple of towels just in case.

8. Neck Pillow
This is a tricky one. Your younger child may or may not like the feeling of something so close to her neck. Try it on short stroller trips ahead of time to practice. If your kiddo will wear it, she’ll be far more comfortable during naps. Pillows like the Dora neck pillow attach to the straps of your car seat or stroller, making it a bit more accessible.

9. Small Baking Sheets
This ingenious idea from Family Fun keeps the ever-present I-dropped-it-on-the-floor wail at bay. Use a conventional (but smaller) lipped baking sheet as a drawing, magnetic, and keep-it-all-in-one place surface. Glue one or two layers of foam shelf paper on the bottom to make it less likely to fall and affix white contact paper to the top for the drawing surface. Turn it into multiple activities by attaching magnets to buttons for checkers or bingo games. Older travelers might prefer a more sophisticated travel kit like this one from Martha Stewart.

10. iPad
No, I’m not a fan of hours of screen time for little eyes, but during a road trip this godsend is a total catchall. From apps for all ages to music and movies, the iPad is the perfect device for tiny travelers. Purchasing gift cards at a discount from sites like GiftCardGranny can help you pay for the pricey device at such retailers as Target and Walmart, who are currently offering deals on iPad 2 bundles. Then, let your kiddos learn letters with Starfall or everything nursery-rhyme cooky from Duck Duck Moose. (Even little toddlers can play with the Crayola Paint and Create app!) When all else fails, strap it to the seat and watch a movie.

What are your favorite distraction tactics for long car trips? I (Jessie) just took my first overnight car trip with our two little kids, and I might be sold on that technique! Definitely keeps stops to a minimum and sleeping to a maximum!

Ashley Grimaldo comes from a long line of penny pinchers and enjoys blogging on money-saving tips and advice for frugal-minded parents. She lives with her husband and three children in Bryan, Texas. Ashley has been featured among such media outlets as Redbook, The Chicago Tribune, Time.com, and CBS News-Houston.

Added to Top Ten Tuesday at OhAmanda. Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. Click on photo for source.

Christian Christmas Music

 I realize that perhaps saying "Christian Christmas" is an oxymoron, but in our society … it’s sort of necessary. My aunt has often said that there is "snowman and shopping" Christmas and "Jesus Christmas." 

I enjoy finding Christmas albums, then, that truly do focus me on the Christ of Christmas. 

 

One that was released this year is Christmas by Jadon Lavik. I’ve enjoyed Lavik’s hymn arrangements in the past, and his youthful voice brings light to classics like "Silent Night" and beauty to the original "Hallelujah the Lord Has Come." The album is very mellow and would make excellent background music for opening gifts Sunday morning.

My personal favorite Christmas album is Nativity Story: Sacred Songs. While I don’t hold any special affinity for the movie, these songs are truly inspired. "The Virgin’s Lullaby," featuring Todd Smith from Selah, Point of Grace, Natalie Grant, and other Christian artists, so gloriously reflects the story of Jesus’ birth from the viewpoints of the major players. "Labor of Love" by Andrew Peterson affects me like no other Christmas song, as a mother. These songs speak truth and the album is filled with beauty.

And honestly, I just don’t think Amy Grant’s Home for Christmas can be beaten. Grant’s Christmas albums are classic for a reason. "The Night Before Christmas" definitely ranks in my top 3 favorite Christmas songs ever. And who can forget "Breath of Heaven" and "Grown-Up Christmas List"? 

What’s your favorite Christ-centered Christmas album?

Overwhelmed by Becky Suggs

Here is the third in Becky Suggs’ series on her first pregnancy. Enjoy! You can read the first and second installments if you missed them. 

 

Day 302

 

My husband and I visited our first baby superstore last week. We are pregnant with our first child. Not having done much research on baby things, we were really just going to get the lay of the land – to figure out what we were going to need and get a ballpark figure of what it was going to cost.

While I consider both of us fairly educated people (we both have graduate degrees), as we walked down aisle after aisle, we realized just how much we have to learn. We looked at cribs and gliders, strollers and high chairs. We then moved on to bouncy seats and swings, changing tables and car seats. So many frills and fancy gadgets. Where was the basic car seat I sat in when I was little?

Each aisle brought more questions and more realization that we have no idea what we are getting ourselves into! By the time we left the store, my mind had shifted to the thousands of choices we would have to make. How do we decide between the swing that vibrates or the swing that rocks? What about the stroller? I don’t jog, but do I need a jogging stroller in case I start? How will we know what brand of diaper to use? What method will we use to potty train? Where will my child go to preschool … much less, college?

On the drive home, I laughed to myself. Yes, we’ve got a lot of choices to make. Yes, there are a lot of unknowns. But, I think it’s okay if we just start with the small stuff – like picking out a crib this week and maybe researching strollers next week. We have a lot to learn, but this is going to be a great adventure for all three of us!

Do you have any suggestions for Becky? What’s your no-fail product that you love to tell others about?

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Becky Suggs and her husband, Robert, live in the mountains of Glorieta, New Mexico, with their pug, Sadie. They are expecting their first child in April. In her spare time, you can find Becky reading, enjoying the great outdoors, filling in squares to the latest crossword puzzle, and spending time with family. She has a passion for both kids and camping ministries.

 

Superstore picture used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. Click on photo for source.

Fun Friday Photo 12/16

Cutie-pie Andrew is home on the range … or in his momma’s arms.

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Photos wanted! Send us your funny, cute, or just plain fun pictures for our Fun Friday Photos. Each Friday we will post a new "Fun Friday Photo." E-mail your photo and a suggested caption describing the photo to parentlife@lifeway.com. Visit the blog each Friday to see if your photo was chosen!

My Miracle: A Joyful Testimony by Katie Buckley

Mom and Baby

 

Life could not get any better than this! That was my view on life about three years ago. I had a beautiful 5-month-old baby girl named Grace. She was the light of our lives. My husband and I had a precious little starter home that felt so cozy to us. We were working hard to be debt free, and I had found myself fortunate enough to be able to stay at home full time. Life could not have been any sweeter.

Double the Love
Things began to change when sickness came over me one morning. I figured I must have gotten a stomach bug, but I soon realized that sick feeling felt a lot like morning sickness. Being a new mom, the feeling was fresh on my mind. Surely I could not be pregnant, I thought. How can you get pregnant when your baby is still a newborn?

A few days later, I made my way to the store and purchased a pregnancy test. Sure enough, it was positive! What a shock!! We were planners, and this was not planned. What would my husband say? What would my friends say? My mind was buzzing with questions.

Later that evening, I told my husband the news. I was surprised to hear him say, “The more the merrier.” Mark was excited, but he was not the one who would have to stay home all day and manage life with two babies. My emotions were all over the place. I knew there was no way I was prepared to do it again.

One day I was doing laundry and watching Grace playing, and I thought to myself, if I love Grace this much, how great would it be to have doubled that love in this house? I knew then what my husband had known for awhile. Our house would be more exciting with double the amount of love.

Heartbreak & Anger
Later that same day, I made my way to my doctor’s office because I had begun to experience bleeding. It was confirmed the next day that I had in fact lost the baby. Complete and utter heartache overtook our home. My husband and parents cried and mourned the loss of the baby. I, too, cried but was more angry than sad. I had never been angry at God. But I was angry now. How could God give me this surprise baby, help me adjust to the idea of having two babies to care for, and then take the baby away from me? My mind just could not wrap around all these emotions.

A few days passed, and I could feel myself growing more and more upset. My friends took me out to lunch and tried to comfort me with encouraging words, but I felt as if I was in a fog.

The Miracle
One night as I lay in bed, I cried out to God and prayed, Ok, God … Your Word says you want us to bring everything to You in prayer. I am hurt that I have lost this baby. My deepest desire is for You to give me back the baby I have lost. I do not want a new baby or a different pregnancy. I want the baby I have lost.

With those words, I ended my prayer and fell asleep.

The next morning I was due for a check-up with my doctor. He wanted to make sure my body was taking care of the miscarriage. As I lay on the crinkly paper, my ears were filled with the swooshing sound of a heartbeat. As the ultrasound technician turned the screen toward my face, I found myself staring at a baby with a strong heartbeat. The doctor was called in immediately, and it was confirmed that the baby I had “lost” days earlier was actually still there and alive!

The next few days were filled with tears of joy, exciting phone calls, and prayers of thanksgiving. God had chosen to work a miracle. We will never know all the reasons why God does what He does, But I do know that God used this experience to teach me several things. I am always to bring my worries and cares to Him.
 

  • God knew I was hurting at the loss of a baby, and He desired for me to share that with Him. He is a God who desires to have a relationship with me.
  • I also learned that my children are God-breathed. Getting to be their mom is a privilege and honor ordained by God.
  • Daily, I pray that God will remind me that I should love them with the love He has given me. My love for my children does not come from me, because that would be a love that comes from selfish and failing ways. By loving God first in all I do, I am able to love my children with God’s love and grace.

This type of love is perfect and pleasing to our Heavenly Father.

Praise be to the Lord of miracles!

Thank you, Katie, for this beautiful testimony.

Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. Click on photo for source. 

Extra Growth Spurts: Preteens

Gabriel Rocha UNPLUGGED

Unplugged!

Want to teach your preteen about prayer? Have your family unplug for a day — no TV, no Internet, no phone. At the end of the day, read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and share how everyone felt about being disconnected from the world. Emphasize that too often, we are even more disconnected from God, the One who loves us and knows our every need.

-- best friends

Forever Friends

Friends are important to your preteen. Continue to monitor and guide your child’s activities and choices as she strives for more independence in choosing relationships. You can help your child make safe and successful relationships.

  • Communicate your expectations about the types of relationships your family deems appropriate. Talk in honest and open ways.
  • Encourage your child to develop positive relationships in your church, school, and community.
  • Get to know your child’s friends and their parents. Welcome them into your home, creating a safe, loving environment for friendships to develop.

How much do you "tend" your preteen’s friendships?

Photos used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. Click on photos for sources.

Real Life Solutions: Christmas with Family

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: My husband’s parents live about three hours away and mine are six hours away, in opposite directions. Both sets of parents want us to spend Christmas with them. How do we handle this without upsetting either family?

A: It is really important to have this conversation when you first get married and later when you start your family. That way, you can make a plan and communicate that plan to both families. Some families are flexible and will easily accept any plan you make; others are more rigid and want certain traditions kept with you participating. There are usually four options to consider:

  1. Alternate holidays by holidays or years. For example, go to one family for Thanksgiving, the other for Christmas; one for Christmas, one for Easter, etc. Or alternate the years, one year Christmas at one family, the next year Christmas at the other.
  2. Dine and dash. Try to make both families for part of the Christmas season. This will be more stressful, require travel, and time off from work but each family gets you for part of the holiday season. I call it Dine and Dash because it feels like you eat and run to the next home. This works better for families who do not live very far apart.
  3. Host the holiday at your home. Invite both sets of parents to come to you if you can handle the accommodations or they are willing to arrange their own. Or if you go to one family for Thanksgiving, maybe have the other family at your house for Christmas and then alternate the family that comes each year.
  4. Visit at other times. You stay home for Christmas and make your own traditions and visit both families at other times of the year.

Bottom line, 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.

How do you deal with multiple family holiday events?

Fun Friday Photo 12/9

I thought for our Fun Friday Photo this week, I’d share with you some of the Advent ornaments my daughter and I have made while going through Truth in the Tinsel.

 

 

 

These are a candle (for the light of the world), Zechariah (isn’t that obvious??!!), and the angel Gabriel.

Some people might see these as craft fails, but going through Scripture and relating an activity is really hitting home with my daughter. I am LOVING this resource and our time together.

Photos wanted! Send us your funny, cute, or just plain fun pictures for our Fun Friday Photos. Each Friday we will post a new "Fun Friday Photo." E-mail your photo and a suggested caption describing the photo to parentlife@lifeway.com. Visit the blog each Friday to see if your photo was chosen!