April 25, 2011

Family Connect April 24-30

Jesus is risen!  He is risen indeed!

I've been reflecting a lot on Isaiah 53 this Easter.  Its always been a favorite chunk of scripture for me, as it blows my mind that God gave His people such an incredibly detailed description of His son in prophesy, and yet when Jesus came, they still couldn't recognize Him!  I love the imagery of new life and growth used - he grew up like a tender shoot.  And the wording used to describe both the way he suffered, but also WHY he suffered, and conquered! 

 1 Who has believed our message
   and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
   and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
   nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
   a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
   he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
 4 Surely he took up our pain
   and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
   stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.
 7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
   yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
   and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
   so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
   Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
   for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
   and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
   nor was any deceit in his mouth.
 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
   and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
   and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
   he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
   and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
   and he will divide the spoils with the strong
because he poured out his life unto death,
   and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
   and made intercession for the transgressors.

This past weekend at VAC Kids we really emphasized that Easter is THE most important day in all of history, and that the story we were telling of the resurrection is THE most important news EVER!!!  And if you knew that your friend could tell you about the most important news ever, wouldn't you want to hear it??  I know I certainly would!

This week for a Family Connect idea we thought it would be really fun to do a scavenger hunt of items that relate to the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.  I can't remember where I found this scavenger hunt list, but it is really well put together!  Enjoy!

Take time after you’ve collected all the objects to discuss the significance of each item.  Let your children try to figure out which part of the story each object represents, and have them lead the conversation, taking time to look up the different scripture references.

3 dimes - Judas received 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16)
Cracker - last supper (Matthew 26:17-29)
Chocolate kiss - Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss (Matthew 26:47-49)
Feather - Peter denied Christ three times before the cock crew (Matthew 26:69-75)
Soap - Pilate washed his hands (Matthew 27:24)
Purple cloth - they put a purple robe on Jesus (Matthew 27:28)
Thorn - a crown of thorns was placed upon Christ's head (Matthew 27:29)
Nail - they nailed him to the cross (John 19:18-19)
Sponge - when Christ asked for a drink he was given a sponge with vinegar (John 19:28-30)
Rock - Jesus' body was laid in a tomb (Matthew 27:57-60)
Piece of tape - after Christ's death the tomb was sealed (Matthew 27:65-66)
Empty egg - this represents the empty tomb after Christ had risen (Matthew 28:1-9)

April 22, 2011

Jesus Loves Me

Yesterday, in the midst of coloring, Aria went to her room, grabbed her Bible, a new piece of paper, and then colored this picture.  She said she needed her Bible so she could know how to spell Jesus.
Me: "Why don't you draw a picture of Jesus to go with your words?"
Aria: "I can't, because he wears a glowing white robe, and I don't know how to do that."

We tried to think of some ways to draw that, and this is what she came up with.  We've been talking a lot about Jesus' death and resurrection these past two weeks, so I was so blessed by her self-initiated response to what we've been talking about.  That in her own 5-year old way she understands that Jesus loves her SO incredibly much that he has done everything possible to show her that love.  May you also be impacted by Jesus' love for you this Easter and respond to him in your own unique way... just like Aria did.

Happy Easter!

April 21, 2011

Resurrection Rolls

These were super easy to make and very tasty!  I followed the directions, but the marshmallows didn't really "disappear" like I was hoping they would.  If I do them again, I might try increasing the oven temperature from 350 to 400.  Every recipe I read said to make sure to seal the dough around the marshmallows really well so that they would create a good pocket, but my marshmallows grew, and grew, and grew, and separated the dough.  Maybe its because I used the reduced fat croissants!  So much for trying to make healthy choices!
One that looks like it worked

One that kinda imploded

The empty tomb!

Playing Wii while the rolls were in the oven

His face doesn't say it, but he really liked them!

April 20, 2011

Tangled Up In Birthday Fun!

I took Aria to see the Tangled movie back in January or February.  It was her very first movie theatre experience, and we only had to get up ONE time to go to the bathroom!  Not bad, if I do say so myself.  We both L.O.V.E.D. the movie.  It felt like a classic Disney princess movie, and the bad guys were likable and not too scary, and it proved to be a fabulous inspiration for a 5th Birthday party theme!  Here are some of the fun ways that we celebrated our little Aria turning five, and not really being so little anymore!

We had seven little girls over for the party, which I have to say, is the perfect number!  We had invited a couple boys as well, but they weren't able to make it, which I think was a blessing in disguise for me!  For the invitations we took some inspiration from some other invites I had found online, and then adapted them to use an image of the tower found here.  I printed them on cardstock I bought at the dollar store, added in a braid from the huge ball of yellow yarn that I bought from WalMart for $9, and voila!  An invitation that I was quite pleased with!
 So, speaking of that giant ball of yarn...  It came in pretty handy for several party-oriented uses...
One afternoon Aria helped me braid...
and braid...
and braid!
Yes, it took forever.
No, it did not get overly tangled.

I looked at a couple other blogs some moms had done about their daughters' Tangled parties, and learned from their tangled braid messes!  I used 24 pieces of yarn, cut to the length I wanted, then divided the yarn into three sections, and THEN (here's the secret to my success, and lack of frustration) I wound up the yarn into a loose ball, allowing me to braid with shorter section.  Everyone thought the braids were great.  I tied little ribbons on them for a bit of visual interest. 

I also used the yarn to decorate the party space with bunting flags, like from the movie.  These were super easy to do, and very effective!  I'm tempted to leave them up, as they really liven up our boring basement.  I used purple construction paper (I cut three triangles out of each sheet), and then created a stencil with contact paper by tracing an image of the Kingdom's sun logo I found using a google search. Aria helped me string up the flags on to the yarn.  Its great doing a party for a 5 year old; she was very helpful in getting things ready this year!

 My husband made the paper lanterns for the ceiling.  I know they're not exactly like the ones in the movie, but they're easy to do.  In fact, we ended up making some with the girls as one of the crafts that we did at the party.  A good way to practice their scissor skills!
 Last month, we showed Tangled at VAC Kids during spring break, and my friend Sue and I had traced a bunch of wanted posters for Flynn Rider to play a game.  So, waste not, want not, and I brought home the posters to use for the party.  My husband and I colored them in a bit, and the girls thought pinning the frying pan on Flynn Rider's nose was a great game.  I can't begin to tell you how many times I heard them say, "They just can't get my nose right!".  Some jokes never grow old... for five year olds!
 Every year I draw a poster for the front door to welcome our guests to the party.  Usually the poster ends up hanging on Aria's door for most of the rest of the year.  Last year it was Fancy Nancy, and the year before that was Dora.
This year, I really used the Disney Family website for helping me put together the party.  They have tonnes of great printables, and ideas.  I used their cake design as an inspiration for the cake I made for Aria, and I have to say, it was probably the easiest birthday cake I've done for her in the past several years!  We bought some happy silk flowers together one day at Michael's, and the cupcake wrappers and purple sprinkles too.  Aria wanted Rainbow Bit cupcakes, and I iced them using my favorite Pudding Icing (super easy).  The top of the tower is an ice cream cone that I iced and covered in sprinkles.  And I used some store-bought icing that I colored to decorate the tower with vines and Rapunzel's braid.

 She loved the cake!

Here's how we spent our time during the party:
Crafts - the lanterns pictured above, and a Pascal the chameleon party blower.

Games - Pin the Frying Pan on Flynn Rider, and Hide and Go Seek with Pascal (I hid him, they found him).  Oh, and we used our milk carton blocks and built a tower together and decorated it with flowers!

Gift opening, a lunch of pinwheel sandwiches and Build a Tower kabobs, cake and a little bit of free play took up the rest of the time.  And of course some reenacting of the movie.
I guess the last thing to mention was the goody bags.  I really wanted to find some cheap but nice watercolor paints for the kids, but all I could find was the four-color one below.  We also put in a little canvas from the dollar store, some coloring sheets, a princess ring and some stick-on earrings (just like I had when I was their age!), and a heart crayon that Aria, Roscoe, Jeremy and I made out of some old crayons the other night (I'll include a post about that later).
All in all, it was a great party, great memories, and I still think I have a little bit of cleaning up to do downstairs.  

Happy 5th Birthday Aria.  I can't believe how much has changed since you joined our family, and how much you've grown.  I am in awe of your joy and sweet spirit, and of your love Jesus, and your trust in him.  Thank you for everything that you bring to our lives and our family.  You are a beautiful little girl, inside and out.  I love you!

PS - Some of the blogs where I found great ideas and inspiring photos were:
Oh Amanda and Super Mom Moments

April 19, 2011

Family Connect April 17-23

I had the incredible privilege of storytelling this weekend at VAC Kids; a role that I always enjoy stepping in to.  This weekend was particularly special, as I got to share with the kids about Jesus trial and death... leaving the story hanging a bit, to build anticipation of what is to come next weekend!  It was a really neat weekend, and the power of the story was evident in the way all 125 kids tracked with me through out the weekend, because I just straight up told the story.  No bells, no whistles, no creative acting or costuming or lighting or props or computer graphics.  Just the simple story of God's incredible love for us and the lengths He will go to let us know that love and relationship first hand!

So, in light of what we learned about at VAC Kids this weekend, we have a recipe below to pique the mystery of Jesus' resurrection in the hearts of your kids.  I haven't yet tried this with my kids, but I'm super excited to.  For the past couple of years our family has made Resurrection Cookies (a merangue cookie that so sugary sweet even my kids won't eat them, and I end up eating them all because I feel guilty about wasting perfectly good food... yeah).  SOOOO, I was really excited to come across a recipe for Resurrection Rolls.  I know my kids will love it, because it has a marshmallow in it!  Enjoy!
Here is a recipe for a fun and intentional baking activity that explores the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Take time discuss the symbolism of the different steps involved in the recipe.

Resurrection Rolls
You Will Need:
Crescent rolls (the Pillsbury kind)
Melted butter
Large marshmallows

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Give each child a triangle of crescent rolls. The crescent roll represents the cloth that Jesus was wrapped in.

Step 2: Take the white marshmallow. Jesus was pure and sinless like this marshmallow. Roll the marshmallow in butter and then in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. The butter represents the anointing oil and the cinnamon-sugar mixture represents the spices--both items were put on Jesus' body before they laid him in the tomb.

Step 3: Wrap the biscuit around the marshmallow and seal the dough around it. This part is very important--make sure the dough is completely sealed around the marshmallow. After they put Jesus in the tomb, they rolled a large stone in front of it to seal it.

Step 4: Roll the ball of dough in butter and then into the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Step 5: Place on the cookie sheet. Tip: Wrap the dough around the marshmallow and pinch the dough together. Make sure that the side that you did the most "pinching" and "sealing" becomes the "bottom" of the tomb/roll. This will help keep the roll sealed. Otherwise, the roll will bake apart, exposing the marshmallow.

Step 6: Place the tray of rolls in oven for about 10-12 minutes or until done. Let the rolls cool and then serve.

Step 7: Encourage your child to break open the tomb to look for Jesus. Where is he? He has risen! The marshmallow melts and the crescent roll is puffed up, but empty.  How do the rolls taste? "Taste and see that the Lord is good..." Psalm 34:8  The rolls taste sweet, of course. Easter is a time to celebrate the sweetest gift of all--our salvation through Jesus. Although he was blameless, he died on the cross for our sins; was buried in a tomb from three days; then rose from the dead.

Read Matthew 28:1-10
At the tomb, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary saw an angel, who told them not to be afraid. No one had taken Jesus' body, but He Had risen from the dead! The angel told the women to go and tell the disciples what they had seen, that Jesus had risen from the dead. They were so excited that they ran all the way home to tell the disciples the good news! He is risen from the dead! Alleluia!
By rising from the dead, Jesus proved once and for all that He was the Messiah, the Savior of the World, the Chosen One, and the Lamb of God. By dying on the cross and rising from the dead, Jesus did what no other had ever done before. As both God and man, He overcame sin, death, and hell. And now because of what Jesus has done, these things no longer have any power over those who believe in Jesus and allow His Spirit to lead and direct them. 

Oh, and if you want to read an incredible blog about getting your kids to do an "Easter Hunt" for rocks, check out Impress Your Kids.  They have fabulous ideas, and are pretty much my new favorite blog.

April 13, 2011

Blossoming Mother's Day Cards

I'm a little early, I know.  But, I'm heading out at the end of April for a week to Atlanta for the Orange Conference... and I've been really bad lately with birthday, Christmas and Thank You cards!  This way, I can pop the cards into the mail when I get home and voila!  I'm somewhat prepared!

I say this every season, but I really think that this is my favorite time of year.  I'm so blessed to live in a part of the country that experiences distinct seasons, and weather that is, for the most part, appropriate to the season!  Right now the forsythia bushes are just starting to explode with vibrant yellow, and I'm looking forward to the double flowering Plum shrub that the kids bought me for Mother's Day two years ago to actually flower this year (I can see the buds, I KNOW its going to be beautiful!).  And, we didn't massacre our Cherry tree this year with the pruning like we did last year, so that promises to be a thing of beauty as well this year.  And maybe it will yield more than just one cherry later on as well! 

So, to celebrate spring blossoms, and the upcoming Mother's Day, the kids and I worked on some cards and pictures today.  They were super easy!  I followed the tutorial by Pink and Green Mama.  She has at least 1000 different art activities that I want to try with the kids.  I have to admit that although we enjoy creating, I often lack the energy to be creative enough to come up with our own activities.  But I'm not beyond confessing that I seek inspiration from other moms who are doing amazing activities with their children.  In fact, I'm becoming somewhat addicted to mommy blogs, and their creativity.

What I loved about this craft, is that it stirred up memories of art classes from elementary school days gone by.  It was okay to get a little messy, but easy to clean up.  Even my 2 year old boy enjoyed it... for four minutes or so.  He really liked blowing the watercolor branches out with a straw.  He put a lot of himself into the pictures... mostly his drool, but he had fun.  Aria loved choosing which colors to use for the blossoms, and enjoyed squeezing out more glue onto the plastic lid.

April 12, 2011

Family Connect April 10-16

This past weekend our storyteller Donna shared the story of Jesus praying in Gethsemane and his arrest and betrayal by his disciple Judas (Luke 22:39-44 and John 18:2-11).  The bottom line was that to put others first, you need to put God first. The thing that always strikes me most about Jesus in this story is how completely human he was, that he could be, in a sense, "conflicted".  Our human nature is to shy away from pain and to lean towards self-preservation.  But here we see Jesus, in light of his human nature making the wise choice.  The most wise and loving choice he could make, in order to redeem his creation and restore the potential for relationship with us.  

Aria and I have been reading the Jesus Storybook Bible before bed each night.  I have been SO impacted by the way this book is written for children, but some of the language and phrasing causes me to stop and reflect on the God I know, and challenges me to stretch my understanding of God's love for me.  Here's an excerpt from Psalm 23:
God is my Shepherd
And I am his little lamb.

He feeds me
He guides me
He looks after me.
I have everything I need.

Inside, my heart is very quiet.
As quiet as lying down in soft green grass
In a meadow
By a little stream.

Even when I walk through
the dark, scary, lonely places
I won't be afraid
Because my Shepherd knows where I am.

He is here with me
He keeps me safe
He rescues me

He makes me strong
And brave.

He is getting wonderful things ready for me
Especially for me
Everything I ever dreamed of!

He fills my heart so full of happiness
I can't hold it all inside.

Wherever I go I know
God's Never Stopping
Never Giving Up
Always and Forever
Will go, too!

The family activity for this week will help to build anticipation as we continue to head towards Easter.  This idea is adapted from Mustard Seeds Blog.  Check it out for step by step pictures and more info. 

Hill of Calvary

Note: It's best to start your Hill of Calvary at least 2 weeks before Easter.

You Will Need:
  • Potting Soil or Jiffy Mix
  • Gravel
  • A few small rocks
  • 10 inch terra cotta dish
  • 4 inch terra cotta pot
  • 4 inch terra cotta dish
  • Grass seed or wheatberries (make sure they are organic and untreated) for the grass.
  • A good spray bottle
  • Sticks (for crosses)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Raffia and purple ribbon (optional)
 Step 1: Lay the 4 inch pot on its side in the 10 inch dish. Use smallish rocks to hold the pot in place.

Step 2: Pour in a small layer of gravel for drainage.

Step 3: Make mud! The best way to apply the soil/dirt is by first making mud in a separate container.

Step 4: Take handfuls of the mud and pack it all around the pot and in the dish. You will want to create a nice rounded hill.

Step 5: Spread a thick layer of seed over the ENTIRE soil area. You may have to kind of push it into the soil a bit on the steep sides. This is very important: Don't be stingy with the seed. If you want nice, dense grass, the seed needs to completely cover the surface of the soil. (Don't just sprinkle it.)

Step 6: Cover seed with a very thin layer of your mud mixture.

Step 7: Bring your dish garden inside and put it in warm sunlight. The terra cotta is porous so it's going to leak some moisture. Put a tray, plate, etc. underneath it.

Step 8: WATER! For the first 3-4 days you will need to spray and water your hill three times per day. Before the seeds take root, the soil will run off pretty easily...(think erosion) so at first you will mainly need to rely on using a spray bottle to irrigate...
Once the grass takes root and matures, you'll be able to slowly drizzle water on it, without losing your hill.

Step 9: Watch it grow! Within 2 days you will probably see small white roots shooting out.

Step 10: Make three crosses out of collected sticks. Use hot glue to connect the sticks and then wrap raffia around to secure it and hide glue. Note that the grass will grow faster and higher than you think. Make your crosses a little bit "jumbo" sized because they will need to be nestled down in the grass and yet, you still want to be able to see them.

Step 11: The grass will be fully mature by day 7...and from then on out, you will be amazed at how fast it shoots up. Get out our scissors and give it a mow.

Additional Ideas
  • As you work on creating the project, watering, etc. talk about the Easter story with your child.
  • On Good Friday, wrap up a clothespin in white cloth and lay it in the tomb (Jesus).
  • On the Eve of Easter, remove the clothespin, leave the cloth and leave the tomb open for your child to discover first thing on Sunday morning.
  • The path to the cross was paved by my sins. Put these rocks in the tomb...to once again die...with Christ. "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."  Romans 4:25
On Easter Jesus not only rose from the grave, conquering death, but he conquered our sin - FOREVER.

April 7, 2011

Family Connect April 3-9

This month we're learning about HUMILITY—putting others first by giving up what you think you deserve.  I think this is such a fabulous virtue for April, as we're heading towards the Cross, and reflecting on who Jesus is and what he has done for us!  Our memory verse is, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3, NIV
This week we explored the story of Jesus washing his disciples' feet in John 13:1-17, focusing on the bottom line that we should treat others like they’re more important than you.  My K/Gr 1 group LOVED getting their feet dirty, and then taking turns washing one another's feet.  It was a really great lesson that is a perfect launching point for parents to continue the learning at home!

Our idea for a family night this week is to have a family dinner party with a twist!  You can make it as simple or as fancy as you like (think dressing up silly, just for fun), the only rule is that you can’t serve yourself.  Someone else has to help seat you at the table, dish up for you, fill your water glass, and clear your dishes (but not their own), so that everyone is serving someone else within the family.

Take some time to brainstorm ways that you can serve other people in your community as a family (ex. Picking up garbage at the park, helping to clean up an elderly neighbor’s yard, planting flowers at the church, visiting shut-ins, making freezer meals, etc, etc).  Choose the best idea, and then do it!

April 5, 2011

Fun, Free, Personalized Art

Yes, its true!  I came across a new website today called Wordle.  I had a great time creating some FREE, personalized art for my kids rooms.  The site was super easy to use, and I could choose what layout, colours, and font I liked best.  If you want a certain word to appear larger (like a name), you just have to type it in a couple times.  Here's what I created for my kids.  I'm planning on matting and framing them.

I can think of a million uses for this - especially for scrapbooking!  Or baby gifts! Or birthday cards!  And the best part is that its a fun way to expand your child's vocabulary.  Sit down with them and think up words that remind them of Spring, or to describe their pet, or what their favorite foods are.  The possibilities are endless.

April 4, 2011

The Miracle Maker

We watched The Miracle Maker one year during Spiritual Emphasis week (I think) when I was at Canadian Bible College, and I remember being blown away how an elementary-oriented movie using mostly claymation could carry such power, and convey the story with such truth.  Jesus' story truly is the Good News, and no matter how you share it the Spirit will move in power and love that you cannot deny! 

I was watching this movie a bit today with my almost 5 year old, and felt the need to skip some parts of it (mostly the stuff involving "Mad Mary" - their take on Mary Magdalene).  I think it would really connect with kids in Grade 3 (maybe grade 2 as well) to Grade 6.  It tells the story of Jesus' life and ministry, with flashbacks to his birth.  I love that it is told in relation to the friendships he built, and the people he healed.  Check out the review below done by Christianity Today.

The Miracle Maker
Shown in theatres in Europe and on television in North America, this follow-up to the Welsh-Russian TV series Testament: The Bible in Animation was the first major animated cartoon about the life of Jesus. Like the series that preceded it, The Miracle Maker employs a mix of animation techniques, and in a very purposeful way. The day-to-day experiences of Jesus and his followers are depicted with stop-motion puppets, while the parables, flashbacks, memories and spiritual encounters are depicted the traditional, hand-drawn way; the scene in which Jesus casts the demons out of Mary Magdalene is especially striking, as it segues from one style of animation to the other. Co-produced by Mel Gibson's Icon Productions and written by Christian author Murray Watts, the film stars the voice of Ralph Fiennes, whose Jesus is by turns tender, humorous, exasperated, and above all very, very engaging.