Friday, November 26, 2010

Advent Preparations

"Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life." -- Simone Weil

Advent has the potential to be such a meaningful time. We are seeking to be intentional about how we approach this season of the year. Here are a few things that we have been doing to prepare...

1) Our family advent wreath is ready for mealtime lightings.

2) I created these banners to hang at the front of our church during the Advent and Christmas seasons.
3) We've collected children's books that focus on the real reason for Christmas. These will be wrapped and numbered to serve as a countdown for Christmas. Each day, we will open and read one book. (You may notice that I shamelessly borrowed from the public library in order to round out our collection!)

4) All of the kids have been hard at work with various homemade decorations and gifts...I can't say much more, because I might ruin a surprise or two!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Moon Fun

Our "preschool" theme of the week has been the moon. Having already had a week on the sun and another on stars, I was thinking that a week on the moon might be a bit dull...but I was wrong! We've had a lot of fun learning about all things lunar! (For a fascinating read on this topic, I would recommend Buzz Aldrin's book, "Reaching for the Moon.")

Now every circular food item is an opportunity to review the phases of the moon! First the full moon...

...then a gibbous moon...

Next comes the half moon...

Everybody loves the crescent moon!...

And don't forget the new moon!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ideas I've Borrowed

I love to hear about the great ideas of others. Especially when I can borrow them myself! Here are three great ideas I borrowed from others and have put to use today.

1) Curried Eggs

All of my children get excited about hard-boiled eggs. That makes me happy since eggs are a relatively easy and inexpensive source of protein. However, most of my children prefer to eat only the white part of the egg, leaving sticky yellow yolk balls behind while asking for more eggs. That isn't particularly pleasing, especially when they are coming home in lunch bags, smelling less than appealing. I tried regular deviled eggs, but the creamy yellow yolks were still not well-received. When searching online for a recipe for an international potluck, I came across instructions for making simple curried eggs. These basically add a little scoop of red curry paste and mayo to the smashed yolks of hard-boiled eggs. Then the mixture is reinserted into the hollow of the egg white. These, my kids get so excited about!

2) Screen-time Tickets

This idea was passed along from a neighbor friend. Basically, I printed off some "tickets" that the kids can earn. Each one is good for 15 minutes of screen-entertainment (TV, movie, computer games, wii, etc.). These tickets have been great. They have encouraged helpfulness around the house and have enabled what we feel to be very reasonable limits for screen-time activities. I say: "Hey, guys, it is time to turn it off--you used up your ticket time," after 15 minutes, and they actually do it without any complaining or badgering!

3) Hammer and Nail Practice

A while ago, I got a book from the library--something like 365 Rainy Day Activities for Preschoolers--and it had this ingenious idea in it. We've used it at our house before. It can literally provide hours of fun. All you need is some styrofoam blocks (in our case, left over from some packaging), a golf tee, and a small hammer. Over and over and over again, Jadon and Abby hammered in their "nail," pulled it back out, and started over again!

If you like these ideas as much as me, feel free to borrow them yourself!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Small (Noisy, but Still) Blessings

My kids can snore. Tonight, it is three out of four, filling the air with knuffles and rasps. Whenever I sneak into their dark rooms and hear these peculiar sounds coming from their little sleeping bodies, I am thoroughly amused.

Hope you've enjoyed some small blessing today.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Princess Hair

We started, and now we can't stop.

About a week ago, I found this blog with splendid tutorials on how to create all kinds of fabulous hairstyles for girly-girls. Although Abby likes all things girly, she has often balked at hair-styling because it involves combing out knots--a procedure that she considers on par with various other forms of torture. However, since this website has drawn to her attention the the definitive connection between finely-styled hair and being princessly, Abby has been willing (even eager!) to submit herself daily to all necessary processes of princess hair. She even tells me that she'll be as quiet and still as the princess girl in the videos!

I haven't quite managed the 7-strand braid yet, but--at our current pace--I'm sure I'll be a pro soon!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Motherly Secrets

Abby looked up from her own lunch to eye mine.

"What's in your bowl?" she asked.

"Leftover squash soup," I replied.

"Is there more?"

"No. This is the last of it."

A twinkle of triumph lit in her eyes. "Good, because I don't like it!" she exclaimed, stuffing a large bite of her own lunch into her mouth--a leftover-squash-soup-spice muffin.

There might have been a twinkle in my own eyes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Ritual of Blessing

This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to share a testimony about our family during a children's ministry event aimed to encourage parents as they seek to nurture their children in faith. The main focus of the event was "family blessings." Honestly, this ritual is something that we sort of fell into, rather than something we intentionally developed. Now, though, we are purposeful about keeping it up, because we believe it is planting small seeds of faith in our children and also keeps us as parents properly-oriented toward God as the True Author of our children's lives.

Our story goes like this:

Rewind about six years, and our family would look a lot different. You would find Mike and I alone, having struggled for a couple years with infertility. At first, the doctors couldn’t find any discernable reason for our failure to conceive, but further testing did show that—for unknown reasons—my eggs appeared to remain small and underdeveloped throughout my cycle. In the fall of 2004, we finally made the decision to apply to an international adoption agency. We were accepted into their Ukraine program and began the arduous task of document-collection, putting together all the paperwork required to adopt from another country. By the first week of February, we had accumulated a huge stack of papers with every signature, seal, stamp, and certification you can imagine. Off it went to Ukraine, giving us our “spot in line” for a child.

The next week, I stood in a bathroom, staring with disbelief at TWO pink lines on a little stick!
Yes, Abby was on her way. So, while we waited for news about a Ukrainian orphan, we also prepared for the arrival of an unexpected blessing. Abby made her appearance on October 8, 2005.

In those first weeks after Abby’s birth, I remember being in awe of her. I specifically remember one night, rocking her in the darkness of her room and thinking about what a tremendous gift from God she was. But, I realized, there was a danger there, too. Do you see it? I recognized in myself a lurking temptation to “own” her too much. To mistake my love for her as the best love for her. As God’s Spirit spoke to mine in the quietness of that night, I was reminded that she was his first and foremost. So, as I tucked her back into her crib, I kissed her soft cheek and whispered, “Good night, beautiful treasure, made for God!”

It stuck. Every night…okay, more times per night than I might have preferred…I tucked baby Abby into bed with those same words: “Good night, beautiful treasure, made for God.” In my mind, those words reflect Deuteronomy 7:6, which says: “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”

That winter, we received word that it was time to head to Ukraine. So we packed up 4-month-old Abby and headed over an ocean to find a son. On February 27, 2006, Ethan joined the Tapper family. I remember pondering potential bedtime ritual phrases for him. I wanted it to be something that resonated with his Ukrainian roots, was true to him as his own unique little person, and pointed him toward his future in Christ. We started calling him “Prince of the Kingdom.” Even years later, I believe that Ethan struggles to overcome patterns of thinking that he developed when he was a neglected infant and undernourished orphan in Ukraine. I continue to pray that he will internalize an understanding of himself as a true prince—prepared to do great things in God’s Kingdom! I often think of the verse from Romans 8:15—“For you, Ethan, did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.”

Fast forward a few years. We are now officially crazy. We chose to change jobs, move to a different country, pursue further education, renovate a home, and—just to make sure we weren’t bored—oh, yeah, let’s add two boys from Africa to our family mix.

Of course, there was a lot going on with getting those boys home and integrating them into our family life, but determining appropriate bedtime catch phrases was a family priority. It didn’t take long to figure out Jadon’s special blessing! He has joy, joy, joy, joy—down in his heart! We call our youngest: “Joy of the Father’s Heart!” He is a daily reminder to me of Zephaniah 3:17, which says, “For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Andrew, joining our family as an older child, seemed to be the biggest challenge. What would capture his tremendous courage, his determination, his capacity to overcome against tremendous odds? Finally, as his love for sport became clear, we just began calling him: “Champ.” We remind him that he is a champion because, in Romans 8:37, God says that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Every night as I kiss my children to sleep, I try to remember to bless them with these names. Sometimes, it is just: “Goodnight, Champ, Prince, Joy, and Beautiful Treasure!” But sometimes, it means telling the story of who they are—not just to me—but to a God who loves them more than I ever could.