November 1, 2012

Big Faith Steps

When I was young (I don't remember my exact age), I was sitting in church with my parents, and it was a communion Sunday.  I was getting pretty hungry as it was almost lunchtime, and sometimes my mom would share the juice and bread with me from communion, so I was pretty excited as the plates were passed from row to row, moving ever closer to where we sat near the back of the church.  But then, shockingly, my mother did not share!

Later, after lunch, Mom came into my room and talked with me about what communion represented.  That people who have made the choice to accept God's love for them, and believe that Jesus died for them, to save them, can take communion, as a way to remember what Jesus has done.  I decided then and there that I believed Jesus is who he said he is, and I wanted to have him always with me, my forever friend.

Fast forward twenty years...

Aria was three, sitting at the dinner table one evening when she prayed and asked Jesus to be her forever friend, always with her, and asked for him to forgive her sins.  It was such an incredible thing to be able to lead our own child through the steps of believing that Jesus had died for her, and accepting him as her savior, especially since Jeremy and I have had the privilege of talking through this decision with several children, and youth about this before.  It has been so incredible to see Aria grow in her faith and purity as she delights herself in her Best Friend, and his incredible love for her!

So the huge event this past summer was that Aria got to take communion for the first time!  Usually Aria goes to VAC Kids during the service, so she doesn't normally have opportunity to take communion.  But in the summer its a different story.  So, I was thinking she would get to take communion at the beginning of July, but we had just arrived home from Calgary that day, and so by the time we got to church on Saturday night Aria was pretty tired.  About halfway through the preach, she fell asleep!  So, I let her nap.

Our next communion service was at the beginning of August, and in a rare event for our family, Jeremy, Aria and I sat together... for an ENTIRE SERVICE!  


That alone is blog-worthy!  But, it was also a special moment for us to be able to talk through communion with our little girl and about the significance of participating in the sacrament as a follower of Jesus.  Its sometimes difficult for kids to grasp  the metaphor of communion: Am I actually drinking Jesus blood?  I think the key teachable moment for kids comes in Jesus' command to "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22; 1 Corinthians 11).  We make a pattern of remembrance in the life of our church to reflect on what Christ has done and is continuing to do for the Body, as a community!  
It is a moment of affinity and unity.  

I think that is why celebrating this with Aria and Jeremy, together, both parents with our child, made this such a significant moment for me.  Not just because my daughter is making these faith steps, but that we are getting to do them together.  And that her faith is coming alongside ours.  Not only am I her mom, but her sister, equally adopted and loved by our Father.  Blows my mind!

What a great God we serve.  To be called His children.

Here's a tidbit about celebrating communion taken from my favorite children's Bible:
 Then Jesus picked up some bread and broke it.  He gave it to his friends.  He picked up a cup of wine and thanked God for it.  He poured it out and shared it.
"My body is like this bread.  It will break,"Jesus told them.  "This cup of wine is like my blood.  It will pour out."
"But this is how God will rescue the whole world.  My life will break and God's broken world will mend.  My heart will tear apart - and your hearts will heal.  Just as the passover lamb died, so now I will die instead of you.  My blood will wash away all of your sins.  And you'll be clean on the inside - in your hearts."
"So whenever you eat and drink, remember," Jesus said, "I've rescued you!"
- the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

October 29, 2012

SUPER EASY Fall Baking Fun

We've had some fun trying new baking ideas this fall.  When I was a kid I remember thinking it was such a special treat when my mom would make cupcake cones!  So I decided to give it a try with the kids... but not just any cupcake cones... RAINBOW cones!

I have to say, this is super EASY, and has a great end result.  We mixed up a white cake mix, divided it into six ziploc bags, and then used food coloring to make the batter yellow, green, red, purple, blue and orange.  I sealed the bags and then the kids mushed up the batter until the color was evenly worked throughout the batter.  Then I snipped the corner of the bag and squirted the batter into each of the cones, layering the colors, one at a time.
 Then we baked the cones in the oven at 350 for 18-20 minutes.  
Here's what they looked like inside:
 And we iced them, of course, just with a buttercream icing.  
Super yummy, and super easy!
We also made my absolute favorite  
I like to tell myself they're healthy because they have lots of pumpkin in them, and I've added whole wheat flour to the recipe and reduced the sugar from the original recipe.  They are light and moist and again, super easy!

3/4 c sugar
1 c canned pumpkin
1/2 c margarine
1 c white flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c chocolate chips

I always double this recipe.  Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

Our third attempt at baking fun was making these super beautiful fall leaf cookies that I found on Pinterest.  
We made a nice sugar cookie dough (super easy), and then divided it into three. One ball we colored red, one yellow and one orange.  
Then we rolled them together with the rolling pin and cut out the cookies with a leaf cookie cutter.  The colors will meld together, but will remain distinct.  The coolest thing about these cookies is that as you continue to roll the dough each time, the fronts and the backs or the cookies don't look the same.  
Each cookie is totally unique!
 After we finished baking these beauties we packaged them up and took them over to some of our new neighbors as a welcome to the neighborhood gift.  These cookies turned out so pretty, we didn't even have to ice them!  
Super easy!
The kids were thrilled to do something kind for our neighbors, and it was a great reason to meet them again (especially since I'm terrible with names, and needed a refresher on what to call them!)

October 25, 2012

Individuality Books

This month at VAC Kids we've been exploring the virtue of Individuality.  So, we decided to pick up some books from the local library that celebrate individuality.  Here's a list of some of our favorites:

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

A great book about a little mouse who LOVES her name, until she starts school and is bullied by peers because its too different and too long!  There's a great little twist in the end, and this book sparked a tonne of discussion about being careful not to make personal remarks about how people look, or talk or what their names are, because it is not kind.  Its also quite funny to see in the illustrations how the parents respond to their daughter being upset and not liking school.  My cousin who teaches grade 3 says this is an excellent book for talking about anti-bullying strategies, specifically WITS: walk away, ignore, talk it out, seek help.
 Chicken Big by Keith Graves
A very silly book about a chick who is so large when he hatches that the other chickens can't quite figure out what he is.  This book is written in a comic-book style and would really appeal to boys and girls as it is quite silly.  In the end Chicken Big saves the day and the chickens realize that he really is a chicken!  Again, this is a great book for discussing the way our words can be hurtful when we comment on a person's appearance, and that each person has unique abilities and talents that they can use to help others.

 The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane and Herm Auch
This was such a fun princess book.  I think the reason I like it so much is the princess is always saying "For Pete's sake" which just reminds me of my dad!  She is put through a series of predictable princess tasks which don't truly measure who she is or what she's good at until in the end, quite by accident she discovers her unique talent.  Very cute and not a fruffy princess book! 

 Ten Big Toes and Prince's Nose by Nancy Gow
I loved this book!  Again it looks at the age old problem of judging a person by their outward appearance, even though what makes a person who they are is what's on the inside.
 The Apple-Pip Princess by Jane Ray
Such a sweet tale of a young princess, overshadowed by her two older sisters who are totally focused on themselves.  This young princess sets out to make her father happy and in doing so brings hope and joy and beauty back to the kingdom.  A great story about simply doing one little thing a day with what's in your hands right now.  Could spark conversations about resourcefulness, being kind to the earth, helping others, teamwork and not doubting yourself.
 I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont
This is a book we were given when my daughter was quite young.  Its a silly story where the little girl says she would like herself no matter what she looks like on the outside because the inside is what makes her who she is.  Wild illustrations that are sure to make your imagination soar!

October 20, 2012

Inveremere Camping Fun

In August we did a big family camping trip to Invermere 
and had a sweet surprise with Jeremy's brother from Hamilton 
and his family doing a last minute trip out West!

One of the highlights of the trip for us was our day trip to Fort Steele, near Cranbrook.  We have visited Fort Steele before, but in March, when nothing is happening, so we were excited to explore the townsite with the hustle and bustle of shops and street actors.  I worked for a couple years in Barkerville as a historical interpreter in the Anglican church and as a shop worker, so to say historical villages are right up my alley is an understatement.  When I was in Junior High my parents planned a trip to the Maritime provinces (Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland and New Brunswick).  For three weeks we traveled in a van, camping, exploring the Maritimes and visiting countless historical sites: Halifax Citadel, Fort Louisbourg, Signal Hill, etc.  It was an amazing trip!

So here are some highlights from camping and our Fort Steele experience:

Blacksmith Shop
School house - the teacher was quite direct and made Aria cry after talking to her about the length of her nails and not sitting facing forward!  Yikes!
Jeremy's scared of the teacher face!
Enjoying the sun and the swings.
Super yummy cookies from the bakery.
No, there isn't an animal in the bag, its ice.  For making ice cream!
Churning the ice cream.
Mmmm, yummy Fort Steele Cinnamon ice cream.
Panning for fool's gold.  There were several free activities in Fort Steele that made it super family friendly, such as panning for fool's gold, making and tasting the ice cream, and all the street performances and tours.
We also did a short hike up Mt Swansea.  We drove up the mountain, and hiked for 15 minutes.  We had met a couple at the bottom and they hiked the entire way up!  I'm glad we drove as we weren't wearing proper hiking footwear!

Camping was lots of fun in our friends' tent trailer that we borrowed.
Roscoe LOVED fishing!  Every night he'd say "I go fishing tomorrow?"  and every morning he'd say "I go fishing now?"  We didn't catch many keepers, but we sure caught a lot of squaw fish!

August 10, 2012

Love Jar

My kids are driving me crazy with the constant fighting, biting, kicking, hitting, pinching, tattling... you get the picture.  
Summer is great, because we all get to hang out together and do fun things, but it is also a time of rediscovering sibling (and parental) dynamics!  
My kids haven't spent this much time together in a year, 
since Aria started Kindergarten!  
And now they're together from morning to night.  
So what's a mom supposed to do about it?  
I didn't really sign up to be a peacekeeper this summer!

Last summer on Pinterest I saw lots of ideas about the "I'm Bored" jar, and I thought that's a nice idea, but I don't hear "I'm bored" very often (probably because my kids are too young to be familiar with that concept, thank goodness!).  But it occurred to me that that idea could work as a "discipline" method, or a way of solving the constant bickering!  
So we made a LOVE jar.
Its chalk full of ways to change gears from fighting to loving (and forgiving). 
A lot of the time kids just need to have their focus shifted if they aren't getting along.  So, we made the list together, and each time I hear the "He bit me", "She punched me", etc. they have to pull a slip out of the jar and do what it says.  I tried to keep things simple because my kids are 3 and 6 years old.  As well, I tried to keep the activities to be self-directed (so I can keep doing whatever I'm working on, as the whining usually starts when I'm in the middle of something!), and a good mix of fun ideas, loving ideas, and some discipline ideas... to keep them on their toes!

Here's a list of what we included:
Hug for one minute
Play badminton
Jump through a sprinkler holding hands
Make a waterslide together, and take turns using it
Clean up Roscoe's room
Clean up Aria's room
Brush the dog
Play Ring Around the Rosie
Hug for two minutes
Time out for two minutes
 Give a high five
Sing "Where is Thumbkin"
Sing "Johnny Whoops"
Sing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm"
Dance party for one minute
Say 5 nice things that you like about each other
Pray for each other

Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love.
John 13:34

August 5, 2012

Its an Olympic Summer!

 The Olympics this summer have been providing a great sense of direction for the kids and I over the last two weeks.  Sometimes I get to the middle of the summer, and I think, "Yikes!  What are we going to do now???"  Maybe its the age of my kids this summer, and how much more capable Roscoe is or something, but I've hardly thought that!  We've been going to the beach a lot, and had family visiting, and so much more.  All the same, I love working within a theme, my kids love having a craft to look forward to every couple of days, and the honest truth?  I just need an excuse to start another Pinterest board (check out my Olympics Kid Fun Pinterest board)!!!
 So, last week we did a great painting activity using toilet paper tubes to paint the Olympic rings.  Have to say, pretty low mess, and easy clean up (I threw the tubes away... no washing brushes!).
 As we painted I talked to the kids about how everything always points back to Jesus' love for us: nature, the seasons, the Olympic rings...
BLACK reminds us of our sin, all the bad stuff we do, say or think.
RED is for the incredible LOVE that Jesus has for us, and because he loves us, he died for us, shedding his blood and taking our punishment, 
that we deserve for our sins.  
He loves us that much!
WHITE is for forgiveness.  For saying that we're sorry to God and others for our bad choices, and having our sins cleaned off us, forever!
GREEN is for new life, for the new, fresh start we get to have 
because of being forgiven: freedom!
YELLOW is the hope that we have of spending the rest of our lives 
with our true best friend, Jesus, every day.
BLUE is for telling others about Jesus and his love.  
One way we can do this is through baptism, 
as well as through our kind words, kind hands (actions) and kind thoughts.

 On another day we were watching tennis with the kids, and thanks to my Pinterest board, I had organized several crafts ahead of time for us to do, and pulled out this beauty!
 Little Tennis Puppets!  Aren't they cute?  We used supplies that I had around the house: pompoms, googly eyes, and feathers.  The kids had fun picking out the colours and then I glue-gunned them on to the balls.  
The puppets are great for storing treasure in too!
We've also built different models of boats to test which ones float the best, but were too busy having fun to take pictures!  Here are some of the ideas we used from other blogs:

August 4, 2012

Little Mermaid Party - Aria Turns 6!

Yes, this post is a little slow in coming!  The party was way back in April, but... better late than never!  Right?  So, apparently April is a busy birthday month for Aria and her friends!  It was a challenge finding a day that worked for everyone, and I think most weekends in April had a party scheduled!  We ended up combining Aria's party with one of her closest friends, Stella, as their birthdays are only a week apart, and I'm SOOO glad we did!  It was such fun!
Stella's mom and I were talking one day, and we quickly realized we should just combine the parties, as both girls wanted a mermaid party
both girls had the same friends they wanted to come, 
and neither of us moms thought the friends should bring gifts!  
So instead we had a loonie and twonie party, where the birthday girls had little treasure chests that their friends filled with money!  Aria needed a new bike this year, so her money went towards that purchase.
 I had been planning Aria's party for several months already, as I really enjoy the creative end of decorating and planning towards a good theme!  
So I took care of hosting, decorating and some food, and Stella's mom made a super fun cake!
 There are so many great ideas out there for doing a mermaid party, 
and the trouble is focusing in on only a couple ideas.  
We decided to go with a turquoise, purple and green colour scheme, 
and then started finding decor that fit in with that!  
Aria and I had fun shopping for jewels and stones and shells at the dollar store to decorate the table.  And then Superstore had plastic dishes for outdoors this spring in a great turquoise, and for super cheap!
 I've decided that as cute as cake-pops are, 
dipped marshmallows are WAAAAY easier, 
and just as big of a hit with the kids!  
So we used some purple dipping chocolate and the purple sprinkles 
(left over from last year's Tangled Party) for those!
 The mermaid tail towels were an awesome take-home/thank you gift for the guests, and doubled as chair decor!
 I found this fish net at the dollar store and filled it with balloons for an under the sea theme in the living room.  
The starfish were made with sandpaper (again, courtesy of the dollar store), and I made the tissue paper flowers - super easy!  

Just use about 8 sheets of tissue paper, 
accordion fold it, 
use a twist-tie in the middle to hold the folds together, 
shape the two ends (I rounded them off, or cut a a triangle), 
and then fan them out.
 My hubby helped out by making these super cute "sushi" sandwiches.  He spread cream cheese on slices of bread, and then put sliced cucumber, cheese, and ham in them, rolled them up and cut them into rolls.
 Here's our new pet fish that acted as a centrepiece on the party table!
 Isn't that cake so cute?!  
The birthday girls got to keep the mermaid dolls that were on top.  
I made the ruffled streamers the night before.  Again, super easy!  

Double up the streamers, and then force them into the sewing machine, allowing them to bunch as you sew to get that ruffled look.  
And then cut them to the length you want them.  
The more imperfect the better!

 The birthday girls!
 I ended up not planning much for party activities, which turned out to be a good thing, as the girls were happy to play barbies for the whole party!  I think thy really enjoyed just being together, without the school agenda to contend with!  We did play musical chairs to the Little Mermaid soundtrack, which progressed into a full-on Mermaid dance party!
Our six year old!  Where has the time gone!  
And now starting into grade one in less than a month.  
I can hardly believe it!