Thursday, November 20, 2014

#TBT Drama Camp

Kate enjoys singing and acting out scenes she's seen—quoting funny lines or imitating inflections she likes. So, we knew that classes at Nashville's children's theatre were an obvious choice. Her first experience was a Fall Break drama camp last month. At her age, the class involved lots of games and imagination exercises.

A few phone pics I snapped at the parents' open class...

She can't wait to do more drama classes, and who knows what's in her future?

I did shows all through high school, and did backstage work during college, but way back when, I was just a little deer in a summer drama class, wearing my Brownie uniform pants and a felt headband my mom made. (That's obviously a bunny to my right, an owl to my left, and I think maybe Class of 2001 there was a raccoon?)

And before that, I put on this one-girl-show of Cinderella on our family room hearth. Those teddy bears were my wicked stepsisters!

The grand finale, of course, had me in a crown and glass slippers (jellies!) dancing with my Prince Charming Bear!

Both of our recent birthday parties have ended with impromptu shows. We love Kate's dramatics, and whether she sticks to at-home skits, shines on the high school stage, or goes even further, it's great to nurture this interest of hers and grow her confidence and imagination even more!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Advent Inspiration

Having edited books, a magazine, and a website, I've learned the quirks of the timelines of each media type.

When I edited Ministry Matters, we had to be useful to pastors in their planning for various seasons and events of the church year. So, we kicked off our Advent content with a "Christmas in July" week to help pastors planning their sermons, worship, and outreach efforts for the following November and December.

When I edited Circuit Rider, a quarterly magazine for United Methodist leaders, each issue went to prepress about 6-8 weeks before it arrived in mailboxes, and work on the issue began months before that. So, the issue pastors might read as Advent draws close was on my brain way back in the spring.

Book publishing takes a lot longer. This is surprising for a lot of first time authors, I find. They spend six months or a year (or more, depending on the book) working on a book and are disheartened to hear that it will likely be almost another year before it hits the bookshelves (or the preorders are finally shipped, as the case may be in this online age). So with 9-12 months' gap between manuscript and release, I was working on Advent books way back in . . . the previous Advent!

Yes, this long timeline actually worked out nicely in that last year I had the pleasure of working on Advent books actually DURING Advent! Rather than the dissociative state of writing "plan your summer mission trip" at Christmastime, I got to sit by the tree as I edited, wrote, and compiled essays, prayers, and biblical reflections about incarnation, messianic hopes, preparing for Jesus' coming, and the kingdom of God.

It was a special thing, and now (a year later) I get to share those amazing Advent books with YOU to inspire you THIS Advent . . . which starts in only ten days--whoops!--better order fast!

Every Valley: Advent with the Scriptures of Handel's Messiah

If you love Handel's Messiah, love Christmas music, or love anybody who's into sacred music, this book is a gem. It has forty reflections (good, theological stuff--not just fluff) exploring the scriptures that make up the libretto of Handel's Messiah. From "Comfort ye, comfort ye" (Isaiah 40:1-5) to "Amen" (Revelation 5:14) and every "behold" and "hallelujah" along the way, these essays from a variety of pastors and theologians dig into the meaning behind every Bible passage in the oratorio. Good for a daily Advent devotional, reading by the tree, or gifting to your favorite choir director.

Feasting on the Word Advent Companion

This one is for the pastor in your life (or, knowing a lot of our friends, YOU!) Part of WJK's popular "Feasting on the Word" line of preaching and worship resources, this one offers ideas and tools for Advent and Christmas. Planned thematically (not by the lectionary) this book includes sermon-prep Bible commentaries and complete worship services for the four Sundays of Advent, four midweek services, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

It's a bit late to use for this year's Advent (unless you're a last-minute kind of guy or gal) but maybe for next year. Plus, there is also a Feasting on the Word Lenten Companion for your Lent and Easter planning!

Fighting the Battle against STUFF this Christmas

I often feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of STUFF in our house. For at least five years (my memory of life before kids is hazy) I have declared myself to be fighting a battle against all the stuff in my house. I confess, I usually call it the "War on Crap." But that sounds a little crass. Either way, by "stuff" or "crap," I'm not meaning to insult the quality of objects filling my house, much of which has been gifted to us—and increasingly, to our kids—by kind, generous, thoughtful people.

"Stuff" is the excess, the clutter, the unneeded and often unused things that fill our homes. Stuff doesn't just take up space, but energy as well as we maintain an increasingly cluttered space.

Judging from the number of articles I see to this effect on Facebook these days, and the response when I share them, I know I'm not alone. A lot of parents of young children feel this way. Kids aren't great at picking up after themselves, parents tire of picking up after them, and generous people are always eager to add to the collection of toys and other things, especially at Christmas. I've seen articles from the angle of how to purge the stuff once you have it, and I try to thin the herd as I can, but it's hard for me to part with things a loved one gave so kindly, and I'd rather find ways to free ourselves from the excess and consumerism in the first place, rather than enabling a "revolving door of stuff."

As one other mom asked me when I shared one such article, "how do you tell these generous people to dial it back a bit, without hurting their feelings?" I don't have a great answer. The time I've spent trying to get every word of this post right shows what a touchy issue it can be.

First rule of thumb, I don't say anything to the people outside our family (except on birthday invitations, when I've started saying "no gifts please"). I do tell my kids' grandmothers over and over how much the kids have already and how hard it is to keep the house neat with so much stuff, etc., but I also know how the giving of gifts is special for the giver as well as the receiver. So while I say, "Don't get them anything; they have enough!!" I know that is not realistic and that I need to make some reasonable suggestions.

Rather, I think suggesting alternatives to stuff-gifts is a good way to introduce new ways of gift-giving that kids love, parents can appreciate, and (in some cases) the giver can enjoy alongside the child. Things that won't wind up scattered all over the floor of their room—and every other room! Or, at the very least, bring a fun twist to things we need anyway.

So here is my list of non-stuff gifts one might consider this Christmas.

Experience Gifts
  • passes to go roller skating or ice skating
  • tickets to a kid-friendly concert, play, or sporting event
  • restaurant date to a fun place like Rainforest Café or even a fast food place with a playground
  • movie date with a big tub of popcorn
  • gift card for an ice cream shop
  • visit to a museum or science center
  • registration for a season of soccer or a series of swim lessons
  • subscription to or a magazine like Highlights
  • ingredients for a recipe to make together
  • seeds to plant and watch grow
  • art supplies, bubbles, chalk
  • supplies and instructions for a science experiment
  • a fun food like the ingredients for s'mores or cookies the child can decorate
  • stickers or temporary tattoos
  • balloons
  • a disposable camera
  • a notebook and fun pen
Fun Necessities
  • socks or tights with a fun pattern (even underwear if you're a close family member!)
  • a light-up or character toothbrush
  • lotion, body wash, or bubble bath
  • hair accessories
  • shoes or clothes
  • room décor (a bulletin board, special pillow, or art for their wall)
  • a cool box in which to house all their little "treasures"
And for the grown-ups...
  • restaurant gift card
  • gourmet food items (wine and cheese, a fancy dessert, etc.)
  • free babysitting
  • tickets to a concert, play, or sporting event
  • mani/pedi gift card
  • overnight at a hotel
  • gift card for something they wouldn't ordinarily get for themselves

What do you get someone who already has too much?

Something they keep in their hearts and memories, not on their shelves.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Claire's Halloween Birthday Party

When we heard that Claire's due date was October 30, we knew we just might have a Halloween birthday on our hands. No problem—my birthday is July 4, and having a holiday birthday has been so much fun over the years! Claire ended up being born late on November 1, but her big day is still always intertwined with the Halloween holiday. Last year, we even trick-or-treated on her birthday because of heavy rain the night before. I knew she'd have Halloween-themed birthday parties at least a few times throughout her growing up.

So this, her third birthday, was her first holiday-themed party, partially because the church had the audacity to schedule its fall festival on her actual birthday, a Saturday, so if the party was going to be before Halloween anyway, might as well go all out! With our family Wizard of Oz costumes Claire was the witch, a classic Halloween figure in its own right, and she was the wickedly precious star of her party.

Theme and Décor
It was a classic, kid-friendly, non-scary Halloween party. Orange and black and a bit of green, witches, ghosts, spiders, and pumpkins. I bought a big pack of orange and black cardstock at Michael's and used it for the invitations (thank you, Pinterest, for the ribbon bat idea!) and for pennant banners to hang on the mantle and doorways.

I reused some of the paper fans from BGC's bug party a few weeks ago, adding some white yarn for a spider web on the wall. Usually there is a collection of crosses hanging on that wall, so there were plenty of nails to wrap the yarn around, and on which to mount little Styrofoam ball and pipe cleaner spiders!

Frightful Food

There's always a point in the day or two before a party when I start to feel I'm going overboard with thematic food and such. I'm proud, at least, that I let a couple food items go at the last minute, telling myself "It's okay just to sit and rest for the 20 minutes before guests arrive!"

My mom made chocolate-covered pretzel rods, which I thought of as "magic wands" when combined with these witch hat cookies made from Hershey kisses and inverted Fudge Stripe cookies.

I bought a pack of Halloween picks months ago (as an add-on to get free shipping on VBS supplies from Oriental Trading, I recall!) and they were really cute on the cheese tray, as were the clementine "pumpkins" with celery "stems."
Also from Oriental Trading were the little pumpkin cups that I put out for the kids, beside our "witch's brew" green lemonade and "pick your poison" ice bucket with beer and sodas.

I had planned on cake pops being the main sweet, but it would have been awkward to stick three candles in one for blowing out, so I'm glad I found this little mini-cake ready-made at Kroger. It had a candy Frankenstein monster on top, which I replaced with this little witch figurine we already had around the house.

Ghoulish Games

I planned three games/activities for the kids to play during the party. 

First, "Pumpkin Bowling." I made the pins with empty water bottles (a little water in them to weight them) and styrofoam balls glued to the top covered with scraps of a worn-out sheet set. The kids knocked down these ghostly pins with pie pumpkins—the perfect size for little hands.

I positioned the game on the front porch with a wall behind it, but pins and pumpkins still ended up rolling down the driveway and into the storm drain. Alas!

Another activity was "Make-a-Monster." I'd originally planned to have little pumpkins the kids could decorate but the more I thought about that, the messier it sounded, and I didn't want little costumes smeared with paint or even Sharpie. So instead, I used the leftover green plates from BGC's party as faces to be decorated monstrously!
I cut out a variety of shapes, and had googly eyes and glue laid out for the kids to go to town with their creativity.

Third, "Pin the Broom on the Witch." Kate had enough practice with it before the party to learn to feel her way to the witch's hand and get the broom right on there (a trick she promptly taught the other kids), so we had quite a lot of "winners." There was still some spontaneity to it for the smaller kids, though!

Even the grown-ups got in on the dress-up action for the party. My in-laws were Mary Poppins and Bert, my mom was a black cat, and my dad was the Great and Powerful Oz to complement our family Wizard of Oz ensemble. We also had Elsa, a dragon, a cheerleader, tennis pro, and football player. A rocket, shooting star, and the cast of Peter Pan were unable to make it at the last minute :0)




I'm sure it won't be the last Halloween birthday party for my little fall baby, but it was a fun first!
Happy birthday, Claire!

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Project Life: June and July

I'm in a quandry: I need (and want!) to share all about Claire's birthday party from going-on two weeks ago, especially since a dear friend took tons of photos of the party FOR me, which was such a gift. But, I only have five minutes, and since said friend also mentioned how much she loves my scrapbooking posts, I won't feel too bad about sharing some scrapbook pages instead. (Especially since I only catch every other monthly Project Life linkup with The Mom Creative, and she missed last month herself, I better take advantage of the linky motivation :0)

Soooo . . . here's my June and July!

The week of Memorial Day, we had our little vacation-staycation, including some fun at-home things like swimming, the zoo, and a baseball game, plus three days at Wilderness at the Smokies.

In June, I finally got to use some fun boyish papers I'd had in my stash for a while for a traditional 12 x 12 page. Our brother- and sister-in-law came to visit, and we got some sweet pics with our nephews and of the girls with their cousins. They are more private about social media stuff than we are, so I'll just share a little snip of the page. It was too cute.

And Matt's parents took the kids to a Frozen-themed event, which made for a fun "Let It Go" page, another 12 x 12. Sometimes, if I don't have the embellishments or fancy paper the page seems to need, I'll just paint the paper. They're not the best swirls ever, but they fit the bill to round out the page.
 Some more summer fun made for a mashup page with just a pic or two for each event.
 I love embellishing my month divider cards with extra papers and photos. I used packing tape to "laminate" this whole card-photo combo to keep it all together.
 Gotta get those extra words and pics in wherever you can!
I really love the Becky Higgins Design F pages, with just one 4 x 6 and a bunch of 3 x 4 slots. You can make such a montage of photos from one event, and all these red, white, and blue pics from our Fourth of July were perfect.
Also in July were a few things about Kate making the transition from preschool to kindergarten, but maybe I'll share all that in a school-themed post soon. Have a great day!


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