Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Life with Lana today (5 years, 4 months)

This month's Life with Lana is picture heavy -
I can't help it, she gets more beautiful by the day.
So, here's a snapshot of my favorite 5 year old:

She would prefer to be barefoot all the time, her whole life long.
Most days, the bottoms of her feet are black and require vigorous scrubbing.

She is very thoughtful and quickly remorseful: 
we never have to tell her that she should be sorry for something she's done.

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up, Lana?
A: "a skydiver - I wanna jump out of planes."

She's still a natural at gymnastics, 
and can fly across the monkey bars faster than any boy.
We hope to get her started back in gymnastics in January.

She & Tucker got balloons at a restaurant.
His popped.  
Her immediate response?
"Here, Tucker, take mine!"

Her new love this month has been writing stories.

She's processing all the new information she's learning in kindergarten.
A few days ago, she came home and said,
"Mommy, my friend ____ said that she's dating ____.
What does that mean?"
When I asked her what she thought it meant, she laughed and said,
"I have no idea!  Maybe their families are going to meet at a restaurant or something."

Just in the past couple of weeks,
she's started sleeping in her Daddy's t-shirts at night.
She says it keeps her from missing him while she's sleeping.
She is a Daddy's girl, through and through.

She is adored by her little brother.
He asks about her when she's at school.

Her love language is time, no doubt about it.
Her favorite thing to do with Mommy these days is play board games.
Sequence for Kids is our favorite right now.

She can read anything she gets her hands on,
and she comprehends it, too.
When people ask us what we did, 
we literally have no idea what to say.
We didn't teach her this - she did it on her own.

She is a complete princess,
and also does things like this:
Her favorite cartoon to watch these days is Power Rangers.
We're letting her watch the 1993 episodes on Netflix,
and she is enthralled.

She has this goofy side that is very tongue-in-cheek;
she has no idea she's being funny.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas traditions

Dan and I have spent the last day or two making final preparations for the Advent season.  

Advent is a Latin word that means "coming."
We want to enter this Christmas season with an expectant hush,
instead of a feverish rush.

Here are a few of the traditions that we're so looking forward to this year:

Jesse Tree
Last year, we did daily Advent readings to learn the story of Jesus' birth.
This year, we're taking a little different approach.  
We are so excited about starting our Jesse Tree!  Our main resource is from Ann Voskamp - click here to view the pdf, including printable ornaments.  Here's another link with lots of free printable kits!
My hope was to have "real" ornaments to go with each daily reading, but I ran out of time and had to make a choice: use the printable ones, or not do it at all.  I decided to let go of my perfectionism, and just go with it.  I printed the ornaments out on cardstock, and we're all set to start our tree on November 30.
A Jesse tree is a tree with roots deep into the past, that finger right out through the stories of the Old Testament, back to the very beginning, and with branches that stretch so high and wide you can see the whole grand panorama of God's story from the first blink of the first star over Eden to the blinding light over Bethlehem.

We seek daily to teach Lana and Tucker that the Bible is not just a compilation of stories - rather, it's a Story, a grand narrative....every word, every story - it all points to Jesus, to the Cross, to our Rescuer.  It seems to us that there's no better time than Christmas to develop that sense of anticipation for our children - the anticipation that God's people were experiencing in the Old Testament as they waited for the birth of the Messiah, and the anticipation that we as God's people experience now as we wait for Him to come again.

So, for our family devotions each night in Advent, beginning in Genesis - we'll read Scripture and hang a corresponding ornament on the tree.  We'll have to keep it very simple this year for Tucker's sake, and I'm not how much he'll get out of it, but Lana is ripe for this teaching.  I'm excited to see what this does for all of our hearts!

Advent Calendar
Last year, I bought this little Advent house on clearance at Target, and Lana absolutely loved opening the little door each morning and seeing what was inside.  I always put a piece of chocolate, and last year there was a Scripture reading for the day.  
This year, since we'll be using the Jesse Tree for our Scripture reading, the Advent calendar will be filled with activities: 
fun things/traditions that we'll do as a family, like going to look at Christmas lights in our pajamas, baking cookies, our church candlelight service, etc.
and something I'm particularly looking forward to this year is the random acts of kindness we've included.  
About half the days in this calendar are filled with activities that we'll do for someone else.  Things like taping quarters to vending machines, leaving candy canes on ATMs, paying the toll for the person behind us, and lots of other things that I can't write about here because they might be about YOU.  :)  
My original intention was to have 25 family activities and 25 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, one of each for every day.
However, I got overwhelmed and had to edit that plan, too.  We're doing a combo, and that feels much more manageable to me.  I think the kids are going to love it!

Christmas Books
I heard this idea last year, and loved it - couldn't wait to do it this year!  
I collected all of our Christmas books, and my wonderful husband (who is the gift wrapper in our family) wrapped them up individually.
We tucked them under a small tree on the table in our reading room, and each day the kids will choose one book to unwrap for us to read to them!  How fun!!
A friend asked on Facebook earlier today about which books we used, and honestly - I have no idea.  I just collected every holiday book we had.  They range from the Polar Express to a book and cd of the Christmas story from Luke to the Grinch.  I'm not picky about this.  I don't have a certain day for them to open a certain book, either - it'll just be chance.  Lana is holding her breath for December 1 so we can start unwrapping!

What about the ol' Jolly guy?
Here's how we handle Saint Nick:
  • From the time Lana was very small, we have tried to think through our Christmas traditions carefully.  I wrote a blog post when she was very small about an experience I had as a teacher that disturbed me, in the best way possible.  Here's an article from John Piper's wife that helps explain some more of the reasoning behind why we don't "do" Santa Clause.  
  • We are not anti-Santa.  We are simply pro-Jesus.  We want our focus to be on the birth of Christ, and for our children to learn how all the prophecies were fulfilled in His birth, life, death, and resurrection.  The arrival of this tiny Messiah is such a pivotal event in our faith, we don't want to dilute the celebration of it at all.  
  • We can't get over the way that teaching our children to believe in Santa would blur the line between truth and lies.  We can't get over the way it feels like we would be deliberately confusing Scripture for them.  Just one example: a popular holiday tune tells children that Santa "sees you when you're sleeping, he knows if you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness' sake!"  Now read this beautiful truth from Psalm 139: "You (God) know when I sit down or stand up.  You know my thoughts even when I'm far away.  You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.  You know everything I do.  You know what I am going to say before I even say it, Lord.  You go before me and follow me.  You place your hand of blessing on my head.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!"  Eerily similar.  Too close for comfort for this mama.
  • We realized early on that if we said with our mouths that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season," but our activities were focused on Santa, that wasn't going to add up for our kids.  Stated Beliefs + Practiced Beliefs = Actual Beliefs.  We want our practiced beliefs to reflect that we really think Jesus is worthy of all our honor and praise, all the time.  Including the Advent season.
  • We know that some choose to simply deny the existence of Santa, and if that works for their families, fine.  That doesn't work for us - it just seems futile to us.  If our kids walk out our front door in December, they see Santa, hear about him, and are asked what he's going to bring them for Christmas.  Instead of demonizing him, we've decided to treat him as what we think he really is: a beloved character.  In the same class with, say, Mickey Mouse or Tinkerbell or Diego.  We wave to him when we pass him in the mall, and if the kids ask to sit on his lap, they do.  We have books about him, and we watch movies about him, and it's all fun - we just acknowledge that those are made-up stories.  We teach our kids that this is clearly different from the true account we read in Scripture.  We don't want this to be fuzzy in their minds at all.  Santa = fun fiction.  Jesus = Life and Truth.  Fairy tales are fun, but we will not ask our children to believe them.
  • Lana knows the story of Saint Nicholas, and enjoys the spirit that his story brings to this holiday.  We think the Veggie Tales Christmas movie does a great job of telling small children about St. Nick.  It's on Instant Play on Netflix right now.  (Disclaimer: in general, we are not Veggie Tale fans.  We don't like the way they water down the stories of Scripture, and think they make the truth confusing and distorted.  However, in this movie, they do an excellent job of teaching about St. Nick and keeping the focus on Christ.  In our opinion, this is their very best production, by far.)
      • Here's how a recent conversation with Lana went about this.  We were in the mall, and passed by the mall Santa, with a little girl on his lap and a line of children and their parents waiting.  I deliberately paused and looked, just to try to engage conversation about this.  Here's how it went:
        • Me: Oh, Lana, look.
        • Lana: Oh yeah!  Fun!  It's a guy dressed up as Santa.  He's not the real one.
        • Me: Hmmm.  Who is the real Santa?
        • Lana: You know, Mom.  He's the one who used to do kind things for others.  But that guy isn't real right now.
        • Me: I see.  Well, what is that little girl telling him right now?
        • Lana: I have no idea.  
        • Me: Sometimes those guys who are dressed up ask kids what they want for Christmas.
        • Lana.  Oh.  I bet she's telling him she wants a dog and a doll and a Happy Napper or something.  But maybe he'll just tell her parents.  You know, Mommy, if he asked me what I wanted, I would just go ahead and tell him because I wouldn't want him to feel bad.  
        • Me: Lana, that's thoughtful.  I like how you're considering the feelings of others more important than your own.  So if a friend at school tells you that Santa is going to bring them something, what will you do?
        • Lana: I'll just smile at them, and say "That's fun," or something.  But I hope their parents tell them the real story about Christmas, Mommy.
        • Me: Well, Lana, what is the real story about Christmas?
        • Lana: Mom!  You know!  It's about Jesus being born just like God said He would, and then that's the start of all the good stuff!!
  • Basically, we just want to spend our words and time and thoughts on Jesus.  That's all.

....he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things and through whom he made the universe.  The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
Hebrews 1:2-3

Saturday, November 26, 2011

a dream come true.

The other day my kids were being really quiet,
and you know what that usually means.

I went looking to see what they were up to,
and look what I found:

This is my dream come true.
My son, bringing his favorite book to his sister - 
her reading it to him, so sweetly.

Love, love, love.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

One year ago today,
we were 12 hours away from our family.
Dan was preparing to graduate,
and we had no idea what the future held for us.

our wonderful home was filled with over 20 of our relatives,
and we are so thankful for the plan God had for Dan & our family at

 Our celebration today made up for the many that we've missed.
Here is a glimpse into our Thanksgiving Day 2011:

Dan's parents came early in the morning to help us get ready.

 I'm just telling ya, it was sweet to be in the kitchen with my 2 mama's:

We did the food potluck style,
and I can't imagine a better spread:

And we forgot to take pictures of the desserts!
Pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie, bread pudding, dirt cake, and more.

The weather was so beautiful - 
perfect for opening up the windows and doors.

There was lots of cousin time!

These next few pictures require an explanation.
The 3 oldest cousins (or "bigs", as we call them)
were rolling cars down the slide.
They didn't want to keep having to go down and get them,
so they devised a system with a bucket and a rope to pull them back up.

 The adults had plenty of fun, too:
these two goobers are talking to each other.

We had a wonderful, full day.
Around 3:30, everyone headed out towards home or another Thanksgiving Day celebration.
If it's any indication of how much fun we had, 
by 6:30 p.m., our kids were fed, bathed, and in the bed asleep.
It's now 7:00 p.m., and Mommy & Daddy are not far behind them.

We don't ever want to get over this....
how much we have to be thankful for.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is He who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100:1-5