Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy New Year!

How do you celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new?

Until 1999 our kids didn't know that people stayed up till midnight to see the year in. That year they were 14, 10, 9, and 5 and we figured that the change of a century and a millenium was something we wanted them to be able to remember so we went to a party at the home of another missionary in Bogota, Colombia where we lived at the time.

Colombians like New Years Eve. Fireworks and firecrackers are easily available to everyone. As it nears midnight the noise and light show heads toward an unbelievable crescendo, lighting up the sky and making the conversation impossible.



They also launch "globos"--paper hot air balloons that have their own little fire in them to send them sailing off into the night sky (or crashing into telephone wires). If you aren't terrified by the fire hazard, they are really fun to watch.

We had a great time bringing in the new millenium with our friends and kids and all their neighbors out in the street sending up a cacophony of light and sound.

When our kids went back to school they excitedly told their friends about staying up on New Year's Eve. I remember them coming home and saying, "Did you know that some people stay up till midnight every year to celebrate the new year?" 



But it wasn't just because my husband and I are morning people who don't like to stay up that we kept our kids in the dark about this tradition. It was because we want a more meaningful start to the year.

Probably the most meaningful part of the evening came after the food and games while the kids were in another part of the house playing and the adults were sitting in the living room discussing the future. 

At that time another crescendo was taking place in Colombia--terrorism was on the rise. As foreigners in the land we were tempting targets for kidnapping, and in parts of the country Christians were being targeted for persecution and even death. What did the new year hold for us?



None of us could have predicted what we would be doing 14 years later, but all of us were determined to stay where God had put us until "the cloud moved on". It was so good to talk this through, encourage one another to stay firm, trust God, believe that He is in control of our lives, to, as Hebrews says, "encourage one another to love and good works."

That's why I'd just as soon ring in Bermuda's New Year, or anywhere else that is 2-3 time zones ahead of me and go to bed early. I like to think about the year that has past, the highlights and the difficulties. And on New Year's Day I like to be awake enough to get up and have a good long quiet time with the Lord.

Here are some other ideas for a meaningful New Year:
  • My husband asks the Lord for a verse for the year each year on New Year's Day. He keeps that verse posted where he can see it, meditate on it, and pray through it throughout the year.
  • One of my daughter-in-law's family always has a meal out together on New Year's Day and they go around the table each telling what their goals for the new year are.
  • Use Around the Table's Conversation Starting questions at your gatherings. As you know, I'm a big fan of conversation starters and I've prepared a printable of questions for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. (Click the links below to get printable versions of the question cards. They are formatted to print directly on Avery® Business Cards 28878  (Avery®  Template 8371or print them onto cardstock and the guidelines will show where to cut to get cards of uniform size.)

May your New Year's celebrations be fun and meaningful!



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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Just Enjoy

How is your Christmas season going?

A. Overwhelming
B. Cozy
C. Worshipful
D. Stressed Out

If you said "A" or "D" or "A and D" could you possibly just take the evening off to make it B or C tonight? Come on, this is supposed to be a happy, loving, joyful time of year. Pull back a little. Turn off the Martha Stewart recording in your head. Close down Pinterest. Put your to-do list aside for a few hours. I have some fun ideas for you.

Let's Be Tired Together
A few years ago my husband was traveling the beginning of December. My daughter was involved in a Friday night ministry and I was going to spend another December Friday night alone. 

So I decided not to. 

I wrote in my Facebook status "If you are reading this, you are invited over tonight to watch The Christmas Carol with me." I had some expected guests and some I wouldn't have guessed would come. We were a small group. I made popcorn and we just relaxed together and got into the season.



Cookie Baking Night

Are you and your friends behind on your baking?
What's that? You can't face the work and mess?
Besides you want some accountability on cookie dough snitching?

Whip up 2 double batches of sugar cookie dough, wrap them well and stick them in the fridge. Get a hold of some friends and ask them to come over and bake cookies with you. Bribe them by telling them they can take 2 dozen they choose home with them.



Play Christmas carols and cut, bake, and decorate. Your friends will help you wash the pans and wipe the counters I'm sure. If you don't have disposable plates, tell them to bring their own dish to take their cookies home in.

(Cheat: Buy ready made cookie dough at the grocery store!)

Carol Sing

Our brother-in-law started this. There was a very musical college student attending our church whom our brother-in-law invited over along with anyone who could come for a carol sing. But even if you don't have a musician handy, you just need someone who's not afraid to start the song and can basically carry a tune. Get copies of the words from somewhere (we sometimes borrow hymn books from church) or only sing first verse. 

Ask everyone to bring along some plate of snacks to share if they can, but come even if they can't. Provide coffee, tea and water if you can. Remember, we are trying to relax here!



And sing yourself into the joy of the season!

Do you find yourself saying, "But my family..." Get into the spirit yourself, get some other people over who enjoy it, too, and you'll be surprised what your family will do.

You might not be around the table, but you'll be connecting in a great way!

Have a very Merry Christmas!





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Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Real Christmas Story

My ever serious three year old son was concentrating hard. As my husband pointed to each figure on our cross-stitched advent calendar he recalled who they were. 

"John the Baptist. He came before Jesus to tell people Jesus was coming."

"Mary. An angel told her that she would be Jesus' mommy."

We were reviewing the days we had already done before our devotions that night moving on to Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born.

Fast forward twenty-five years.

This year his two year old daughter will have her own grandma-created cross-stitched advent calendar. Three years ago before she was even born I promised her parents I would make one for them and they told me what they wanted in it.




I really didn't expect the project to take this long, but it is finally finished (with the help of a friend). I am excited to think of those adorable toddler hands placing the pieces on the calendar each day and learning the story of that first Christmas. I'll even get to be with her next weekend to help her do that and sing a carol or two.



What are you doing around your table to help your children get to know the Christ of Christmas? For more ideas on how to tell the story in your family see this post.




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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Making a Memory Instead of a Wish List





This letter from my daughter-in-law started our family on a new chapter in our lives.

We set about thinking of ideas for the making of our memory and settled on a 


Team Competition Photo Scavenger Hunt!


Here's the plan --
Goal: To find and photograph the most “F”s you can on our memory making outing.

(See below for exact rules and scoring.)



We chose the letter "F" because it is the first letter of our last name. We also had a destination about an hour out of town where they make the Worlds Best Malts. We ended up there together and shared five different flavors of malts between us and then headed home to show our pictures on the "big screen" and keep points. We decided to do the teams girls against the boys.

We found a lot of "F"s on signs...


But it was more fun (and more points) to find them other ways like making them ourselves...


This photo is not placed wrong--we turned it sideways to form an "F"!


We made sure to include everyone...




And we even found some in nature...


Was the outing a success? Well, there's no scramble or stress now for gift giving. And we had a great time. Our granddaughter didn't have a clue what was going on, but she was a great sport and chattered the whole way. We laughed. Lots.

And the rest of Thanksgiving weekend we heard things like:
  • Next time we should look for every letter of the alphabet!
  • Next year we could make a list of things we have to do in photos!
  • We could do a treasure hunt!
  • Next year we should play "Bigger or Better"!
If they want to do it again, I'd say it was a success!

Oh, and the girls' team won!


Rules:
  1. Every photo must have the face of at least one team member. 
  2. “F”s can be on signs, license plates, carved into buildings, occur in the design of a structure (for example bricks or a picket fence), or naturally occurring in nature (as in laying sticks on the ground to form an “F” does not count as natural). We will vote on dubious “F’s seen”
  3. You may make a human “F”, but each one must be different (as in you can’t photograph each team member holding out their arms to form an “F”. You can only do that pose once per team.)

Scoring:
1 point for every “F” on a sign or license plate
1 point for every human “F”
3 points for “F”s occurring in the design in structures
3 points for an “F” engraved in a building (or worked into a wrought iron fence, actually part of the of the building, not written on it)
5 points for “F”s naturally occurring in nature
+1 point for every face of team members in your photos (each photo with 2 or more team members gets extra points)

+5 for one most creative photo voted on by everyone 


Here are other ideas: 

  • Give each team $10, find the most unique items with that money that start with each letter of our last name!
  • Get "photo booth" props for family photos or to take around and use in the most creative ways.


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Friday, November 29, 2013

Today I'm Thankful For...

Time with our family this weekend.


Three of our four children and our two grandchildren are with us along with other extended family. While we are missing our daughter and son-in-law, we're enjoying each other, "Making a Memory." 

Next week I'll tell you what we did instead of giving Christmas gifts (because some will be with their "other" parents at Christmas.)

In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!



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Friday, November 22, 2013

Like the Queen is Coming

A friend of mine told her son to "clean the bathroom like the Queen of England was coming." After a while he said he was finished and the mother went to check on the bathroom. To her amusement, she found a Union Jack flag taped to the door, a variety of teas set on the vanity alongside his double decker toy bus, a note saying, "Welcome to Our Country," and, finally, for her reading pleasure a copy of Harry Potter on the back of the toilet. Oh, and the bathroom was spotless!



Sounds like her son had a lot of fun, a good imagination, and the ability to clean.

Have you ever told your children to "behave like the Queen is coming" or "like the President were here"? Let me ask you, who is scarier when it comes to your children's manners, the President, or your children's grandparents? Or how about great Aunt Evelyn?




It's probably more likely that one of the latter will be at your house (or you'll be at theirs) and it might be as soon as this Thanksgiving or Christmas. Is there time for a quick brush up on mealtime manners?

Yes!

If you make it a game. 

So play, "Like the Queen is Here". Here's some ideas on how:

  • Tell your kids that tonight you have a very special guest and you want them to behave appropriately.
  • Set out your good dishes and silverware on a pretty table cloth. 
  • Have an extra place for the "Queen". Print out a photo of her face (or get one from a magazine) and tape it to her chair.
  • Serve a nice meal--doesn't have to be fancy. Make sure it's not difficult to eat--like spaghetti that might spill on your tablecloth and tax their willingness to attempt good manners.
  • Call them to the meal with your best British accent (If you don't know how, check out youtube video below on how to do that.)
  • Introduce your children to the "Queen" and tell them to say, "How do you do, Ma'am?"
  • Now demonstrate and ask for "Proper Manners" (say that with a British accent!) Your children will  probably be picking up your accent and I think you will be surprised at how they will rise to the occasion. (China, lace, and royalty bring out the best in all of us.)
  • Have fun with this, but all the while encouraging (not nagging!) good manners.

If you do this I think your children will pick up the idea of what good manners are. Talk to your children during dessert (after the Queen has left for her next appointment) about how they would behave if the Queen really had been with you. 
Ask them 
  • why it might be important to have good manners.
  • why certain manners are expected on different occasions.
  • when they think manners need to be more formal than just a meal at home
  • how they would feel if the Queen came and they didn't know what was expected of them
Our children are quicker studies than we think. They should pick up on the application to which events you are referring. 

Just remember: they won't catch on if you aren't setting the example.

For more ideas on teaching manners see Good Manners Build Connected Families and Manners Mimic


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Friday, November 8, 2013

It Happens Every November



Just as sure as the leaves change color and fall off the trees.



And then it is all undone in December.

Facebook friends begin using #30daysofthanksgiving hashtags and talk about a Thanksgiving Challenge. At churches and in homes paper turkeys and trees boast of all the things for which we are thankful.

But in December we begin to make lists--mental, written, or on Amazon--of the things we want. 

Does that strike you as incongruous? 

I did it with my kids every year, but a few weeks ago I was asked to speak to some college girls on "contentment" and it gave me a whole new perspective on thankfulness.



The world thinks we'll be content if we have a little bit more. 
Or if we learn to want a little bit less.

Is that what the Bible teaches?



Or how about:



In other words: God is enough.

How can we teach our children this? I am not sure I succeeded with my children. I'm not sure I have come to truly believe this in my own life. But I'm working on it.

I'll give you a few of my ideas of how we can teach this to our children, but I would love to hear from you and know how you are working on this. Please let me know.


  1. Be an example. Are you someone who is always talking about wanting the newest, the better, the improved? Or do you exhibit contentment? What do you talk about?
  2. Talk about contentment. If you look online you will find all kinds of quotes about contentment. Read one to your kids each night at dinner and ask if they think it's true. Is this is a clever statement or the path to contentment?
  3. Read what the Bible says. Look at the verses I have mentioned here and others. What does the Bible say is the basis for a Christian to be content? Ask who they can think of in the Bible that lived contentedly...or didn't.
  4. Look for real life examples. Talk about people who are living life content with having God in their lives. Ask your children, "What would true contentment look like in your life?"
  5. Be thankful. This year I challenged the college girls and myself to not just list things they are thankful for, but start their thanksgivings with "I'm thankful for God's presence in my life because..."
Leave me a comment and let me know your ideas for living and teaching true contentment.

P.S. I took these photos the other day while on a "leaf crunching" walk with my youngest daughter who is a college sophomore.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Lessons from China Plates and Little Boys

Today's guest post is from an online friend, Jessica Morris, whom I found out had my children's books read to her when she was a child! (Yes, I'm feeling old.)

A few years ago, inspired by a picture seen somewhere (pre-Pinterest) I decided it would be adorable to have mis-matched fine china dish set for our every day dishes. Beautiful pieces can be picked up at thrift stores for about $1, so I knew that the investment was do-able and that, should any break, they would be easily replaced. With two little boys that is important.

What I failed to anticipate was how using fine china dishes as our every day dishes would change us. Change me.


1. It has been an incredible lesson for me learning how to respond to my children when they break a plate (or anything else that is breakable.) I want my children to know how to properly handle fragile things, and thus they are exposed to them. But they are children, and accidents do occur. God has used the breaking of earthly things at the hands of childish mistakes to teach me to consider my words carefully; to be prepared with something to say that conveys concern for the child rather than an emotional response to whatever item is broken. And it has been incredible to watch my boys compassion develop; when they break something they show a sincere sorrow, free from the fear of shaming or anger from their mother. (more on this - When Things Break.)

2. As time has passed with the usage of china dishes (they were 2 and 3 when we started, they are now 5 and 6) they have developed excellent discernment and self control when carrying a stack of china dishes. It might sound silly, but it is incredibly precious when I realize that I trust them fully. They have developed a skill as a result of a few $1 plates having met its death. A worth while investment for young boys who are now fully capable of setting and clearing a table full of breakable dishes and serving platters.


3. They have developed an eye for details. Certainly, more goes into this than can simply be attributed to random China dishes, however because each of our plates are unique they have their favorites among them, as well as their reasons for them being their favorite. My youngest likes the plate that has dark flowers, as uneaten food blends in to the plate. The daintily painted flowers, leaves and swirls - and the colors! - have all been noted and discussed too.

4. The dishes, along with other thrifted pretties for our table, make for a nice looking table. To my surprise, my boys have noticed and commented on how special they feel when the table looks nice. It is such a simple way to cherish my family and make our home a haven for them.


Jessica enjoys photographing every day moments, playing Lego with her boys, cooking (without a recipe, to her husbands chagrin), and long car rides with the husband to talk to en-route. She has been blogging since the early 2000's, back in the days when it was "live journaling", and can be found at jessicalynette.com where she writes about home, life, schooling and her two boys. 



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Do you know someone who would like some inspiration for family mealtimes? Please send them to this blog! Thank you.

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mealtime Matters! Dessert


In my home, most of us love dessert, but are trying to watch our weight, so I don't go for hugely fancy, high calorie foods. Often it's just ice cream. But when I serve it, it's because I want everyone to stick around the table a little longer.


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I answered the challenge.

A group of bloggers do a 31 day challenge for the month of October: 31 days blogging about one topic. 

My "topic" is Mealtime Matters. Because it does! 

I hope you enjoyed this month of quotes. And that you will challenge yourself to have family meals more often! 




      Get a Conversation Starter question each week night by *liking* the Around the Table Facebook page! 

      Linking with these great blogs.  

      Disclosure

      Wednesday, October 30, 2013

      Mealtime Matters! - Never Forget


      Whether with your own family or friends there is nothing more important or more impacting. I have always said that being an example is probably the biggest ministry I will ever have, and I have no idea when it's happening.




      *   *   *   *   *


      I'm answering the challenge! 

      A group of bloggers do a 31 day challenge for the month of October: 31 days blogging about one topic. 

      My "topic" is Mealtime Matters. Because it does! 

      Come back every day this month an inspirational quote and fun photo to inspire you to make family mealtimes a priority! 

      There are two ways you can join the fun: 

      1. Open a new Pinterest board and call it "Mealtime Matters" (or "Inspiration for Family Meals" or just "Quotes") and pin the new quote every day so you have inspiration when you need it to keep up this important family tradition. 
      2. Challenge yourself and your family to have a meal together every day for the rest of the month! I bet you can!




          Get a Conversation Starter question each week night by *liking* the Around the Table Facebook page! 

          Linking with these great blogs.  

          Tuesday, October 29, 2013

          Mealtime Matters! -- It's Not Complicated


          Your meal doesn't have to be conventional, it just has to be together. Sandwiches, breakfast for dinner, a can of soup, boxed mac'n'cheese all count. Even take out!





          *   *   *   *   *


          I'm answering the challenge! 

          A group of bloggers do a 31 day challenge for the month of October: 31 days blogging about one topic. 

          My "topic" is Mealtime Matters. Because it does! 

          Come back every day this month an inspirational quote and fun photo to inspire you to make family mealtimes a priority! 

          There are two ways you can join the fun: 

          1. Open a new Pinterest board and call it "Mealtime Matters" (or "Inspiration for Family Meals" or just "Quotes") and pin the new quote every day so you have inspiration when you need it to keep up this important family tradition. 
          2. Challenge yourself and your family to have a meal together every day for the rest of the month! I bet you can!




              Get a Conversation Starter question each week night by *liking* the Around the Table Facebook page! 

              Linking with these great blogs.  

              Monday, October 28, 2013

              Mealtime Matters! -- Favorite Ritual


              Mine, too, Dennis. Mine too. We did it with kids at home for 27 years and we still sit down together to eat every night. We love it when they come home to eat. We love it that they want to come. We love it when they bring friends. 

              I'm away in the Persian Gulf right now on a ministry trip. We've been away from home since October 6. I'm looking forward to having dinner with our daughter and her friends as soon as we get home. And the others as soon as they can come.




              *   *   *   *   *


              I'm answering the challenge! 

              A group of bloggers do a 31 day challenge for the month of October: 31 days blogging about one topic. 

              My "topic" is Mealtime Matters. Because it does! 

              Come back every day this month an inspirational quote and fun photo to inspire you to make family mealtimes a priority! 

              There are two ways you can join the fun: 

              1. Open a new Pinterest board and call it "Mealtime Matters" (or "Inspiration for Family Meals" or just "Quotes") and pin the new quote every day so you have inspiration when you need it to keep up this important family tradition. 
              2. Challenge yourself and your family to have a meal together every day for the rest of the month! I bet you can!




                  Get a Conversation Starter question each week night by *liking* the Around the Table Facebook page! 

                  Linking with these great blogs.  

                  Sunday, October 27, 2013

                  Mealtime Matters! -- Making Memories


                  We had the oldest son's 4th grade teacher over for dinner and she showed them how to hang a spoon on their nose. So, yeah, it wasn't great manners, but boy was it funny. We even took a picture.

                  That was 1993.




                  *   *   *   *   *


                  I'm answering the challenge! 

                  A group of bloggers do a 31 day challenge for the month of October: 31 days blogging about one topic. 

                  My "topic" is Mealtime Matters. Because it does! 

                  Come back every day this month an inspirational quote and fun photo to inspire you to make family mealtimes a priority! 

                  There are two ways you can join the fun: 

                  1. Open a new Pinterest board and call it "Mealtime Matters" (or "Inspiration for Family Meals" or just "Quotes") and pin the new quote every day so you have inspiration when you need it to keep up this important family tradition. 
                  2. Challenge yourself and your family to have a meal together every day for the rest of the month! I bet you can!




                      Get a Conversation Starter question each week night by *liking* the Around the Table Facebook page! 

                      Linking with these great blogs.  

                      Saturday, October 26, 2013

                      Mealtime Matters! - So Laugh!


                      I don't know Kent Hughes, but I want to be at his family table for dinner sometime! When was the last time you laughed with your family?




                      *   *   *   *   *


                      I'm answering the challenge! 

                      A group of bloggers do a 31 day challenge for the month of October: 31 days blogging about one topic. 

                      My "topic" is Mealtime Matters. Because it does! 

                      Come back every day this month an inspirational quote and fun photo to inspire you to make family mealtimes a priority! 

                      There are two ways you can join the fun: 

                      1. Open a new Pinterest board and call it "Mealtime Matters" (or "Inspiration for Family Meals" or just "Quotes") and pin the new quote every day so you have inspiration when you need it to keep up this important family tradition. 
                      2. Challenge yourself and your family to have a meal together every day for the rest of the month! I bet you can!




                          Get a Conversation Starter question each week night by *liking* the Around the Table Facebook page! 

                          Linking with these great blogs.  

                          Friday, October 25, 2013

                          Mealtime Matters! - What Spice?


                          It's really not fair. We have to plan the meal, buy the food, peel, chop, scrape, saute, an stir in a hot kitchen with whiny kids around. And then we have to model a good attitude too? Stop. Take a minute. Breathe deeply. Think about why you are doing this. Now ask God for help and enjoy your family.





                          *   *   *   *   *


                          I'm answering the challenge! 

                          A group of bloggers do a 31 day challenge for the month of October: 31 days blogging about one topic. 

                          My "topic" is Mealtime Matters. Because it does! 

                          Come back every day this month an inspirational quote and fun photo to inspire you to make family mealtimes a priority! 

                          There are two ways you can join the fun: 

                          1. Open a new Pinterest board and call it "Mealtime Matters" (or "Inspiration for Family Meals" or just "Quotes") and pin the new quote every day so you have inspiration when you need it to keep up this important family tradition. 
                          2. Challenge yourself and your family to have a meal together every day for the rest of the month! I bet you can!




                              Get a Conversation Starter question each week night by *liking* the Around the Table Facebook page! 

                              Linking with these great blogs.  

                              Thursday, October 24, 2013

                              Mealtime Matters: - The Gift


                              My granddaughter loves to help. She's 2. But when she's 12, her mom will still have her helping, I'm quite sure, whether she wants to or not. It's a gift to her--she just won't realize it yet.





                              *   *   *   *   *


                              I'm answering the challenge! 

                              A group of bloggers do a 31 day challenge for the month of October: 31 days blogging about one topic. 

                              My "topic" is Mealtime Matters. Because it does! 

                              Come back every day this month an inspirational quote and fun photo to inspire you to make family mealtimes a priority! 

                              There are two ways you can join the fun: 

                              1. Open a new Pinterest board and call it "Mealtime Matters" (or "Inspiration for Family Meals" or just "Quotes") and pin the new quote every day so you have inspiration when you need it to keep up this important family tradition. 
                              2. Challenge yourself and your family to have a meal together every day for the rest of the month! I bet you can!




                                  Get a Conversation Starter question each week night by *liking* the Around the Table Facebook page! 

                                  Linking with these great blogs.  

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