Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sundays are for Togetherness

Four kids in Abby's bunkbed is a regular weekend practice.  Too cute!

A Good Reminder

Make sure you don't take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others.  God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship--a different kind of "sacrifice"--that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.  Hebrews 13:16 MSG

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I have a confession to make.
I have been allowing my children to watch an increased amount of television over the past couple weeks.
The fact is I am usually quite a technology critic.  We have our screen-time ticket system which continues to be a very successful method by which we can maintain limits on our kids’ technological media consumption.  Why do I think such limits are important?  Well, here are a few of my issues with media:
1)      Screen-based media simply wastes so much time.  According to the 2011 ActiveHealthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, youth today spend an average of 6-7 hours per day in front of a screen.  My kids are awake for only 13 hours a day! 
2)      Potential for imagination, focused attention, and language skills can be lost due to reliance on media entertainment (read Neil Postman or Jane Healy for more on this). 
3)      I believe that advertising aims to encourage greed and promote inaccurate perceptions of reality and unchecked exposure to this will impair character development.
But here’s the thing:
It’s NHL play-off time.  And the Tapper family can be found, most nights sometime between 7 and 8, watching some portion of a play-off game.
Now, it is time for me to share my justifications of this behavior:
1)      This is not isolated screen-viewing.  All six Tappers are in this together!
2)      We live in Canada, where snow will fall at least 8 months out of the year.  When you are faced with such conditions, finding enjoyment in things related to ice is very important.
3)      We make the children do exercises during the commercials.  You think I’m joking?  No, I’m not.
4)      We supplement our viewing with educational exercises such as art projects and mathematics. :) (Yes, our downstairs hallway is serving as a giant play-off bracket, complete with daily scoreboard updates, team logos, and each child’s game prediction markers and stat sheets.)
Yes, I’m a bit conflicted on the whole thing.  But one thing I do know: This PA girl will keep cheering, “Go, Flyers, Go!”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April Morning Surprise

This was the scene at our house yesterday morning.  Abby and Ethan were thrilled to see their snowballs still there even when they came home from school in the afternoon.  One last (hopefully) taste of winter!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Les Livres du Lundi

For me, this week's reading has emphasized themes of discrimination and oppression.  Elie Wiesel's Night tells his own story of surviving concentration camps during World War II.  Although I have read several accounts of the horrors of the Holocaust, I did find this book to be especially poignant.  Following this, I picked up a copy Vintage Langston by Langston Hughes.  This collection of poetry and short stories gives expression to diverse experiences of African Americans.  I found this little book to be very captivating and beautiful despite the prevalence of lament and calls for change.  I read most of it in one sitting, delighting in the varied expressions and colourful character depictions.

Our recent read-aloud has been Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink.  Although I found some of the glorification of American pioneer life to be overdone, the adventures of the Woodlawn children certainly fed my children's imaginations.  Tom Woodlawn's story-telling will surely be remembered, as will Caddie's bravery in the face of a threat to her beloved native friends.  Certainly, this book offered significant insights into character development.  Despite some imperialistic overtones, I would still recommend this book.

Jadon's Pick of the Week is A Book About Color by Mark Gonyea.  This little book presents the color wheel in a manner that is accessible and entertaining to kids.  Jadon likes it because "it taught me new words."  Also, he enjoyed the illustrations on the last pages which included imagery and themes from throughout the book.

Other storybook favorites from this week include The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, Jack and the FlumFlum Tree by Julia Donaldson, It's Library Day by Janet Morgan Stoeka, Not in Room 204 by Shannon Riggs, and The Whispering Cloth by Pegi Deitz Shea.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

From the Perspective of a Boy

"Swimming in the deep end is even more fun than eating lasagna!"

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Holy Week Rememberings

It has been a busy time for us. I apologize for posting less often. I am just now feeling mostly recovered from a nasty bout with bronchitis and, well, some sort of evil virus. Also, I have been working hard with an interactive online French program each night after the kids are in bed. This is both an attempt to facilitate better communication patterns within my predominantly French-speaking community and also a necessity for keeping up with my French Immersion-schooled kids! In any case, I still desire to make time for recording the Tapper happenings for our own future reference and for your reading pleasure.

This past weekend has provided several meaningful experiences for our family. Here's a recap of the recent happenings...

Good Friday Labyrinth

On Thursday, all six of us went to the church to help prepare for the Good Friday children's program. We put together a prayer labyrinth similar to others we have used in the past (based on Sue Wallace’s Multi-Sensory Church [Scripture Union Press 2002]; see also this link), but adapted to include younger children. The Tapper kids loved being part of setting up the stations. Laying the tape for the labyrinth pathway was certainly a highlight, too. What a joy to see their excitement in anticipation of participating together with their church family in the next day's services!

Indeed, the Good Friday service and children's prayer labyrinth afforded a special chance to contemplate God's love ansd provision of salvation. Andrew and Ethan both spoke of sensing the wonder of God's forgiveness as they participated in the communion service. Abby and Jadon commented on the experience of feeling some nails and thinking about what Jesus must have felt. Discussing the reality of Jesus' sacrifice together was truly meaningful.

Blessing Bag Giveaway

On Saturday, we enjoyed Easter dinner with Mike's family. On the drive over to his parents' home, we had another meaningful family experience. Stopped at a red light in the city, Mike suddenly called to the boys in the back seat: "Get one of the bags!" The boys scrambled to reach under their seat and grab a gallon-sized plastic bag, stuffed with an assortment of small food items and toiletries. Mike rolled down the window and motioned to the young man who was walking slowly along the row of cars, hands reaching beseechingly. He responded eagerly to Mike's communication, jogging over toward our van.

"I don't have money, but you can have this," said Mike.

The man reached out, took the offering, and turned it over, examining. Suddenly, his face lit up. "Are those socks?" he asked. "Those are socks in there!" he exclaimed, as his feet danced a bit and his smile grew. The light changed, and we drove away--six Tappers sharing smiles with a stranger.

(The "blessing bags" were an idea promoted by another mom from our church. She organized a day when several families gathered for a meal, contributed supplies, and together filled dozens of bags which were then divided among all the participating families for passing along to needy individuals encountered around our city. Saturday's gifting was the first time our entire family delivered a bag together.)

Prayer Techniques

Of course, our best efforts to facilitate spiritual understanding and to promote spiritual disciplines sometimes have unexpectedly humourous results. We have been experimenting with various "techniques" for encouraging thoughtful prayer. One recent approach has involved a hand prompt. In this technique, each of the five fingers, starting with the thumb, represents an area of concern which can be discussed in prayer: 1) the thumb represents those closest to you, especially family and close friends, 2) the pointer finger represents those who seek to give direction, such as teachers, coaches, or pastors, 3) the middle finger represents those in leadership or authority positions over others, 4) the weak fourth finger represents those who have needs relating to illness, life trials, loneliness, etc., and 5) the pinky represents one's self. After several nights of using this technique and discovering new and varied areas for prayer, we have found our children increasingly expressive during our prayer time. It was, however, hard to keep a straight face when Jadon, having volunteered to pray before our Easter dinner at the Tappers, bowed his head and offered one succinct prayer: "Dear God, thank you for the Canadian government."

I'm Sorry Box

On a more serious note, significant meaning to our Easter weekend through the use of an "I'm Sorry" box. Created before the start of Lent, the box is quite simple--all closed up except for a small slit in the top. Throughout Lent, we encouraged the children (and ourselves!) to confess our "bad choices" not only to each other, as necessary, but also by writing a small note and placing it in the box "where only God could see." On Saturday, we took the box outside, lit it on fire, and burned it away. Nothing remained. While we all knew from the beginning that this was the plan for our "I'm Sorry" box--a symbol of God's absolute forgiveness of our sins because of Christ's atoning sacrifice, watching that box that contained our symbolic "bad choices" disappear was clearly impacting for us all.

Easter Egg-Hunting Tradition
Finally, we continued our tradition of egg-hunting on Easter Sunday. Rather than filling eggs with chocolate or other treats, we--each individual member of the family, that is--take time before Easter to write encouraging notes to each other. The notes are sorted by recipient (each with his or her own particular color of egg) and placed in plastic eggs. The kids hunt in the backyard for their own color as well as Mom and Dad's eggs. After all the eggs are found, notes are read aloud together. I love to see the beaming faces that result from this uplifting tradition.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

Les Livres du Lundi

My recent reading has included Atonement by Ian McEwan and The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I especially enjoyed reading The Help, even though I had already seen the movie. (I usually try to read first and watch second!) It is certainly a very entertaining story, and its emphasis on human similarity despite divisive social norms is, of course, a welcome theme in my life.
Jadon's Pick of the Week may seem a bit odd, but, this boy is all about the details! He chose Punctuation: The Write Stuff by Budzik from the library bag many times this week. This little book uses creative language to describe the function of symbols of punctuation from the period to the possessive apostrophe to the hyphen. Jadon loved the DO and DON'T examples.
Other storybook favorites this week included Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore (the story of a young girl who wishes to be rid of her freckles) and The Orange Shoes by Trinka Hakes Noble (a tear-jerking story about a family's richness in love despite being considered poor in other ways).
Happy reading!

Sundays are for Keeping Traditions