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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent Wreath Lighting & a Printable Family Devotional Guide

I'm just not a Christmas before Thanksgiving kind of girl.  I really love Thanksgiving and just can't bring myself to get Christmas boxes down until after Thanksgiving.  I do however make one exception for the Advent Preparation Workshop at our church.  The week before Thanksgiving, our church family gathers for a Thanksgiving feast before making advent wreaths and Christmas ornaments together as a family.  

The family LOVES our Advent wreath and enjoys lighting the candle and hearing a devotion each Sunday as we prepare for the birth of Christ.  My children do see and maybe hear the lighting of the Advent wreath in church each Sunday of Advent, but if I’m being honest, I don’t think that my littles fully understand or pay attention the entire hour of worship.  

Honey and I started the tradition for our family to celebrate the tradition of Advent at family dinner each Sunday when C-man was about 3 years old.  It is important to us that the children learn about the tradition and further impress upon them why we celebrate Christmas.  

The word Advent mean ‘arrival’ or ‘coming’ in Latin and represents the approach of Christ’s birth (and fulfillment of the prophecies about that event.) and the awaiting of Christ’s second coming.  It is composed of the four Sundays before Christmas day, starting on the Sunday closest to November 30th and ending on Christmas.  For a more in-depth look perspective visit The History of Advent.  

For Christians, Advent is a time of reflection about the amazing gift that God gave us in the person of His Son who came to live among us on Earth.  It is also an opportunity to restore Jesus to His rightful place as the center of our holiday celebrations.  

About the Advent wreath 

The practice of lighting the Advent candles began in Germany by non-Christians.  They lit candles surrounded by evergreen branches in their windows on cold winter nights to signify their hope for the coming warmth and light of spring.  Later in the sixteenth century, German Lutherans kept the practice alive and added symbolism of the birth of Christ.  

The evergreen represents Everlasting life.  The circular shape represents God’s unending love and as Christ the true King.  The candles represent Christ, the light of the world.  Our family uses 3 purple candles, one rose colored candle and a white candle. On the first Sunday, the first candle (purple) is lit and is called the 'Candle of Hope' or the  ‘Prophecy Candle’ in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ.  This candle represents hope in the anticipation of the coming Messiah.  

Each Sunday and additional candle is lit until Christmas Eve.  The second candle (purple) is known as the 'Candle of Preparation' or the 'Bethlehem Candle' and represents that God kept his promise that a savior would be born in Bethlehem and that he loved us so much that he sent his son to die for our sins.  The third candle (rose color) is customarily called the ‘Shepherd Candle’ or 'Candle of Joy' and represents the joy in the birth of the Savior.  The fourth candle (purple) is often called the ‘Angel Candle’ or 'Candle of Love' and represents peace.  On Christmas Eve, the white center candle is traditionally lit and is called the ‘Christ Candle’ and represents the life of Christ has come into the world.  The white color represents purity as Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior.  You can read more about the history of Advent Here.  

I let the children take turns reading parts of the devotion each Sunday evening, lead our song and lead the prayer.  It is one of our favorite family traditions and the children were thrilled last Wednesday to make our new Advent wreath.  

You can make your own Advent wreath with just a foam board, candles, greenery, and ribbon.  You can pick up these items at your local craft store.  (Hobby Lobby sells Advent candle bundles.)

Our church’s children’s minister kindly forwarded the weekly devotion that our church supplied this season and you can download the weekly devotions HERE on Scribd.  

I hope that your family enjoys the tradition and symbolism of Advent this season.  What Christmas or Advent traditions does your family cherish?


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ideas for the 'Kid's Table' & the 'Adult Table' during Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving we will have 9 little ones at the Thanksgiving gathering.  What are two things that can help make Thanksgiving a little easier on the moms with littles?  Snacks and activities.

I found this cute snack idea from Handmade in the Heartland that can also be used as a 'teachable moment' during the wait for the big feast.  They are the perfect little snack and can be quickly thrown together for your Thanksgiving feast.  I made several for the Princess and C-man's classes today and the kids LOVED them.  The ziploc bags aren't as cute as cellophane bags but I think the ability to reseal the snack outweighs the 'cute' factor.  That, and, yes, I was out of cellophane bags and it was 9:30 p.m. 

You can download the FREE printable HERE

C-Man at the 3rd Grade Thanksgiving Feast
The activities planned to keep the kids somewhat busy are a coloring page, a list of what they are thankful for, and a word search.  I found these at I Should Be Mopping the Floor and you can download the coloring sheet HERE, the word search HERE, and the Thankful List HERE.

I am most excited about this new addition to Thanksgiving.  (fingers crossed that everyone plays along.)  During dinner, we will have ‘Turkey Talk’ questions such as ‘What makes you laugh the hardest?’, ‘What is the hardest decision you have ever made?’, ‘What is your most beloved possession?’, ‘What is your favorite Bible verse and why?’, ‘What was your favorite childhood book?’, ‘What kind of student were you?’, ‘If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?’, ‘What are five things you wouldn’t want to live without?’, ‘What is the bravest thing you have ever done?’ and many more.  You can download a printable list Here on Scribd. 

I really hope that everyone enjoys it and hope we might even learn something new about one another.  My grandparents would be so proud!  I can almost see my 'Dear' smiling with pride about the family gathering.

After dinner, our family annually plays our Pictionary Relay Race.  You can read more about this really FUN tradition with a free printable word page to get you started Here

Safe Travels everyone!

The Weekend Report & a Cheerleader Gift Tag

This past weekend, my parents and sister wonderfully offered to keep the children so that Honey & I could go to the Ole Miss football game and have a little less than 48 hours sans kids.  Wahoo!

It all started out wonderfully, except of course for the horrible asthma attack that hit me.  (In hindsight, I think the asthma attack was a foreshadow of things to come).  We met my parents at the driving half-way point after C-man's acting class performance Friday evening.  (He did great and learned so much in his first semester of classes!  He has much more to learn, but we were very proud that his confidence has increased.)

After dropping the kids off, we headed straight to the late movie to see 'Catching Fire' from the Hunger Games Triology.  FABULOUS movie.  Honey & I both enjoyed it and I highly recommend it.

Saturday morning Mama Jane sent me these pictures of the girls having a tea party while C-man was with his cousin at a college football game.  Isn't she an awesome grandmother!!

Tea Party Spread

Tea Party at Mama Jane's House
Poor Honey started to feel awful Saturday morning and realized he was passing a kidney stone.  :(  No football game and fingers crossed that he wouldn't have to go to the ER.  Sadly, about 8:30 Saturday night we had to take a trip to the ER.  Thankfully he was able to pass the terrible kidney stone, but we were there until midnight. 

It was a still a wonderful weekend of just leaving the house we got the notion - such a novel concept.  There were no shoes to find, no snacks to make, and no complaints.  We had needed a day of just us.  Of course we were so happy to see them, but immediately after they got into the car three voices asked for snacks, water, and a bathroom stop all at once.  Honey turned to me and asked, "Hope, please tell me.  Why did we pick them up again?"

We decided Sunday night would be a movie night and here is the precious sight I found after preparing dinner.  The girls were snuggled together watching the movie.  Ok, maybe they were just sharing popcorn, but it was still a sweet sight.  

Sweet sisters
While my sweeties watched a movie, it was time to turn my attention to the cheerleader gift bags that I was responsible for preparing for the cheer banquet Monday night.  (The bags had been neglected during Honey's illness.)  Each bag needed the cheerleader's name on the tag because the gift was a t-shirt and there were 4 different sizes of shirts.  I prepared this tag and thought it turned out cute.  You can download the cheerleader gift tag FREE HERE on Scribd.  You can also personalize them!

I hope y'all are having a fabulous Thanksgiving week!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Elf on the Shelf 2013 Calendar - (FREE Download Printable)

Our children ADORE when our Elf, Jingle, arrives and love that he has a Facebook following.  The girls have actually been asking about Jingle's arrival for some time now.  This year, I have made a calendar for Jingle's shenanigans of what he has up his sleeve to entertain the children this year.  A few are repeats of favorites from past years, but most activities are new.

You can download a copy of the calendar in PDF HERE on Scibed.  Below are some pictures of Jingle's fun from previous years.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the daily Advent plans for this year with daily scriptures & daily family or service projects starting Dec. 1st. 

2013 Elf on the Shelf Calendar

Snow Angels with Flour

On a sleigh ride with Barbie

Battling the Dark Side with light sabors

Going bungee jumping

Drew mustaches and wrote 'Ho! Ho! Ho!' on the children
Left a message in M & Ms

Worshiping baby Jesus at the Manger scene
Playing a game of Candyland with the other toys

A boys vs. girls snowball fight with marshmallows

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Disney - Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom - Tips & Tricks for your new gamers for the fun interactive game

This post was planned for much later but bestie ‘A’ is headed to Disney for the holiday and in need of some info for her littles who are dying to play Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom.  C-man has undoubtedly been sharing how much he has loved the game with ‘A’s’ girls and even gave them all of our extra spell cards to get them started.  

About the Game

If you have a child age 7 or older (especially if they are gamers like my C-man), they will love the new Interactive game ‘Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom’ at the Magic Kingdom that was rolled out in spring of 2012.  The game allows kids of all ages to become an apprentice sorcerer and help the wizard, Merlin, protect the Magic Kingdom from Hades, the god of the Underworld, and his gang of villains.  Hades wants to take over the Magic Kingdom and has recruited Disney villains to help him.  Your job as an apprentice sorcerer is to help Merlin by battling the villains.  

The game is free with your park admission ticket and you can register to play at the Firehouse located just before you enter Main Street on the left or just behind Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square.  I suggest you register at the Firehouse for your first time to play the game so that you can see the portals on Main Street.  After that first time of play, the Liberty Square location usually has a shorter line.  

The Map to find portals

The Map for Frontierland and Adventureland
The map for Main Street U.S.A. and Fantasyland
How does it work?  

Each person in your party can use their admission ticket to register and obtain a pack of sorcerer spell cards.  If you have a member of your party who really wants to play, I would suggest that your entire party go with their admission tickets to obtain the card packs, even if they don’t play.  The more card packs that you obtain, the more fun your player will have using different spell cards.  It is important to know that you can’t just take 10 admission tickets with two people and get 10 card packs.  Each person obtaining a card pack must be present to obtain said pack and you can each obtain new card packs each day you attend the Magic Kingdom.  

I know having your entire party do this sounds very inconvenient, but I believe the inconvenience is worth the time for a few reasons.  Last fall and this spring, C-man absolutely LOVED playing Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.  It made his trip even more magical and he would tell you that it was his favorite part of both trips.  Also, he and his sisters have enjoyed pouring over the cards and devising plans for card combinations for our upcoming trip.  (Hours y’all.)  

What do you put all of those cards in without ruining them?  (Those Florida rainstorms usually pop up out of nowhere.) There are a few options.  On our fall break trip, Honey treated C-man to a Disney Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom book that can be found in the Emporium and other shops around the MK.  I will warn that the these books are pricey.  In order to save a little money before the trip, I picked up a trading card book at Target that works just as well protecting the spell cards.  After C-man upgraded, the girls were thrilled to receive his leftover book.  

Once you are registered, have your cards and sorcerer map, you will be sent to one of four areas in the Magic Kingdom for game play.  The four areas are Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Frontierland.  There are portals in each area with a Key Box that your player will place their key card on to start or continue their game.  Your player will hear a beginning story by Merlin where you will learn which Villain you are battling and then be led to other portals in the area to use spell cards to defeat the Villain.  There are 9 villains, including Hades, to defeat.  Once your player has defeated all 9 villains, your player can go to the Firehouse and obtain a new card set and ring the firehouse bell.  C-man really enjoyed ringing the bell and we were lucky that the cast member working at the time made a really big deal out of completion.  

A Key Card Box

C-Man is loving it

How do the spell cards work?

There are a few things to remember when using the spell cards -   
Make sure you gamer stands directly on the Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom gold crest.  The camera and computer are designed to read the spell cards with the player standing on the crest.  

Hold the card by the outer edges so that the reader can adequately read the card.  (Another reason the books are a good idea.)  

Hold Card on the outer edges if you don't have a book

  • Don’t reuse the same spell card when battling the same villain.  The game makers designed this game well and the program is designed to weaken the strength of the card’s spell if it is used more than once against the same villain.  
  • You can use more than one spell card at a time - Up to 6 at the same time from what I understand.  My kids loved seeing the different spell combinations.
  • C-man says that cards from the same movie work well together.  (ex. - Eve & Wall-E; Tiana & Prince Naveen; Flynn Rider & Rapunzel; Princess Aurora & Prince Philip; etc.)
  • There are 3 levels - Easy, Medium & Hard.  Your first time player will start at Easy.  When your player is only level 1, any spell will defeat any villain.  As your player reaches the ‘Medium’ or ‘Hard’ levels, defeating villains is more difficult and time consuming.  (C-man has worked up to the ‘Hard’ level and even beat ‘Hard’ last trip.  
  • There are 70 different spell cards that can be collected. The card packs that they give you when your register for play include a key card and 5 spell cards.  You can collect up to 60 spell cards in mix of cards given at registration or if you complete the game.  The last 10 cards can be purchased in packs sold at the Emporium and are very rare cards known as 'Thunder' cards.  Each pack contains only 1 'Thunder' card. 
  • The more your use a spell card against different villains, the stronger the spell card becomes.  
  • If your gamer reaches the 'Medium' or 'Hard' level have them listen carefully to the storyline.  The villain will usually mention something in the storyline that reveals their weakness and give a clue as to what type of spell will work best to defeat that villain.  (i.e. - Warrior, Hero, Princess, Fairy, Toy, Machine, Animal, Monster, Mystic.)

How long does it take to complete the game?  

It depends on if you play continuously or take breaks for rides and character greetings, but it usually takes about 4 plus hours. In May, Honey and I switched off with the girls and C-man so that C-man could play.  Both of us will readily admit that we enjoyed the one on one time with C-man and I doubt C-man will ever forget getting caught in the rainstorm or my lost iPhone.  (I REALLY REALLY REALLY love the Find My Phone app!)

All 3 of my littles are very excited about spending some time at the Magic Kingdom playing sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom during our upcoming Christmas trip.  We usually have them wait until the 3rd day to play so that many of our ‘Must Dos‘ have been checked off the list before we take time out to play.  That said, it is a fun addition to the Magic Kingdom that our family has truly enjoyed.  


Friday, November 22, 2013

Operation Christmas Child

Did y’all know that it is ‘Shoebox Collection Week’ for Operation Christmas Child?  You can STILL pack and turn in your shoeboxes filled with goodies for a impoverished child until Monday, November 25th. 

Honey and I have packed shoeboxes for at least 13 years and have loved this ministry.  Operation Christmas Child is a branch of Samaritan’s Purse ministry founded by Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham.  My sweet cousin and her husband have worked for Samaritan’s Purse in North Carolina and have shared heart-warming stories about the glee and happiness that the shoeboxes bring the children who receive your lovingly-filled shoeboxes.  Most of these children would not otherwise receive a Christmas gift and many have never received a gift from anyone.

Packing Shoeboxes

I try to buy things on sale after the back to school rush to keep costs down so that we can pack as many boxes that I can and stay in the budget.  I also grab some of the hotel included bar soaps and save the dental samples to include in boxes.  (See Honey, I do try!)  We head to the dollar store for the other needed items.  This year I printed off the list of gift suggestions from Operation Christmas Child and gave a copy to each of my children.  The Baby can only read about 18 sight words but I don’t want to leave her out.  With lists in hand, we headed to the local dollar store to buy gifts for these special children. 

What do you need to pack a shoebox? 

It’s simple.  You need a shoebox (or plastic box with lid).  You can wrap the box (wrap top separately) but wrapping isn’t required at all.  Decide whether your gift will be for a boy or girl and the age range (2-4, 5-9 & 10-14).  We usually pack 2 girl boxes and 2 boy boxes so that each of my children can pack a box for a child their age and gender.  Next, fill the box with goodies! 

What should you put in your shoebox?

Toys - Include items that the child would immediately embrace such as a doll, toy truck or stuffed animal.  Other fun toy suggestions are kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, balls & toys that light up. 

School Supplies - Pens, pencils and sharpeners, crayons or markers, stamps and ink pad sets, writing pads or paper, solar calculators, coloring books, etc. 

Hygiene Items - Toothbrush, mild bar soap (in a plastic bag) (*I often use fund Mickey head soaps from Disney.), comb, washcloth, etc.

Accessories - T-shirts, socks, ball caps, sunglasses, hair clips, toy jewelry, watches, flashlights.  (The girls and I also usually make sweet little purses for the girls boxes as well.)

A personal note - You can include a note to the child and family photo.  I have each of my children write a note and try to make this a family event.  I also include a family Christmas card photo from the previous year because I always have extras and it saves a trip to the store for photos. 

What not to 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; medicines or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans. 

After you packed your shoebox, go online here and pay $7 per box to help cover shipping and other costs related to delivering the shoeboxes.  You can write a check but we LOVE keeping up with where our boxes are delivered.  In the past several years, our shoeboxes have been delivered to children in South Africa, Congo, and the Dominican Republic.

Four of the packed shoeboxes
Last, find a drop off location near where you live and drop off you gift filled box.  You can look up local drop off locations HERE.

There are so many things that I love about this ministry and I hope to someday go on a distribution trip.  Receiving a shoebox shows these precious children that someone across the world loves them and cares about them.  I love that the process teaches my own children how fortunate and blessed they are and how important it is to give to others who are less fortunate.  I love how making these boxes connects my children to other children all over the world.  My children get so excited when we receive that email  that tells us where our boxes have been delivered.  I use that time as a learning opportunity to teach the children about the country and how children live in that part of the world. 

How sweet is this?
You have until Monday November 25th to drop off your gift filled boxes.  You will not regret including your sweet littles in this process and you absolutely can do it within a budget.  You have all weekend too.  :)