Showing posts with label Faith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Faith. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ADVENTure part 2: Enjoying the excitement!

I wondered, as I built our Advent calendar and created a million extra activities for us to do (because our life isn't hectic enough as it is) whether I was over-doing it. And maybe in a normal December it would have been too much. But, thankfully (did I just say that?) our weather has been super cold for the past week and we haven't been able to do much besides fun Advent activities.

I kind of feel like I dodged a bullet, actually.

And sometimes I look at the activities we (as in my kids and I) picked out and wonder if they're not holy enough? Not serious enough for something as special and as important as Advent. Are we turning the wait for the best gift in the world into something too lighthearted and silly?

But then I remember that when you're waiting for the best gift in the world, the one that gives you hope for our broken world, you should be giddy with excitement. You should be overflowing with joy. Any activity I can do with my kids that makes them laugh and makes their eyes sparkle fits that bill.

Our first nine days of Advent have been (mostly) joyful and giddy. They have been fun, silly, messy, creative, and occasionally a little bit frustrating, too. That's what happens when you ask kids to string popcorn using needles that are too big. Sigh. Every activity can't be perfect, right?

With fifteen days left until Christmas, thinking about our Advent adventure thus far makes me smile and I'm feeling excited about the days to come. And that's exactly what I was hoping for.

Psst...for more on our Advent adventure, check out the intro post here and the first ADVENTure post here.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

ADVENTure: Reminding us of the excitement of the season

The Christmas season is upon us and with just hours to spare, Scott and I got our advent calendar finished. Thanks to the activities in our calendar, so far we've decorated the house, played a few games of Jenga, enjoyed some family time on the floor with Callie's two guinea pigs and Brynn's mouse, and had a broccoli night (I made this broccoli crunch salad and this broccoli soup). The broccoli night was Callie's idea (especially interesting since she doesn't like broccoli). I've been documenting of all of our Advent fun so far on Instagram, using the hashtag AdventAdventure2013. I'd love it if you'd join in – post a photo of something fun your doing to celebrate the season and hashtag it so we can all see!

Here is a link to the document I made with our advent activities – please feel free to use it for your family. The ideas were mostly mine but I also had the girls make a list of their ideas and added those ideas to our activities. We ended up with many more than we needed and are keeping the extras in an envelope as "wild cards," for when we have time to add an additional activity or for activities that are weather dependent (ie: building a snowman doesn't work every day around here, but it might work tomorrow).

Scott was assigned the task of figuring out what activities could go on what days, so with our family calendar in hand he laid out all of the activities (which I'd printed and cut into cards), and slipped them into the right envelopes. Somehow he left out "decorate gingerbread houses" because apparently the man doesn't appreciate the joy of building a home only to eat it a few days later. That activity is a wild card now, which probably works out better so I'll have more time to plan for it.

For the calendar itself, I used an old cabinet door that came from the ReStore (you can buy them for a buck). I painted it with some barn red paint that I already had on hand and added 25 of the smallest cup hooks I could find at Home Depot. The cup hooks were $4 for 100 hooks. I found little 3x3 envelopes at Archivers (25 envelopes for $5) and punched holes into the top corners. We didn't seal them when we added the activity cards, so hopefully we'll be able to use them for a few years to come.

Are you doing anything special to remind you of the excitement of the Christmas season? Instagram it and hashtag it #AdventAdventure2013 so we can all see!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What are you up to for Advent?

Psst...for more on our Advent Adventure, check out this more recent post!

Ever since my kids were little, our Advent calendars have been the kind with chocolate behind the doors of a cardboard calendar. But this year I'm ready for something different. Something a little more challenging.

Don't get me wrong. My kids still want their daily chocolate, and that's okay with me.

As the kids get older, though, I've found myself spending less time wiping butts, checking teeth, and picking up clothes. Instead, I'm spending more time reading and discussing books with them (Black Beauty and Poppy were our two latest reads), cooking with them, crafting together, building, painting...

And like a sudden clap of thunder on a sunny summer day, I realized that I've left the age of needy children and been thrown into a time when my kids are able to contribute to the daily running of our household.

For me, that means more time for fun. For activities. For enjoying my kids and also being able to relax when they've gone to bed.

This is a fantastic stage of life.

Which leads me back to the point: for my first time as a mom, I've got the time and energy to think about Advent as 24 days of connecting with my family. It can be 24 days of preparing for Christmas and 24 days of enjoying the greatest gifts I've ever received, my husband and kids.

And even as I write this, I think that maybe I'm being a little pollyanna. It won't be all fun and games. There will be times when we're running too late and have to skip an Advent activity. Sometimes the kids will want to take our activities too far. But I'm okay with that. I want the challenge. I think the fun will outweigh the eye-rolling. I'm finally ready for this.

So I'm building an Advent calendar. I took an old cabinet door, painted it red, and screwed in 24 little cup hooks. I've got little envelopes to hang on each hook. When it's done, I'll show it to you. But right now I want some feedback. What goes in the envelopes?

I've come up with some ideas of my own. Here are a few of my favorites:
  • Watch a Christmas movie
  • Take a drive to see Christmas lights
  • Take an evening walk as a family
  • Make popcorn strings and hang them on a tree outside
  • Write a letter to one of your teachers teacher telling her why you like his or her class
  • Pick up litter
  • Make s'mores
  • Share three reasons why each person in your family is special
  • Make snowflakes to hang in the windows

One of the best parts of creating this calendar has been getting input from the kids. They're so creative and...unpredictable. Here are a few of their ideas:
  • Do everything by candlelight for the rest of the night
  • Make crazy hats
  • Make whipped cream
  • Have an eating contest (I wonder if those two are related?)
  • Have a broccoli night

Yep, the kids' ideas rock.

So my plan is to gather our ideas, print them out, and put them into envelopes that correspond with the days when we have the right amount of free time to enjoy those activities. We won't be making Christmas cookies on Thursday nights, our busiest night of the week. But we could play a game of Jenga.

What do you have planned for Advent? Or has it even crossed your mind?

Friday, November 30, 2012

{outside the box} 2012 Sustainable Gift Guide

This is not the be-all and end-all to gift guides. Instead, it's just a few thoughts and suggestions for giving sustainable gifts or gifts that get you thinking outside the box. These are gifts that might make a difference to the receiver, to the environment, to the people involved in creating the gift. These are gifts that could have a long-term positive impact, and maybe they are gifts that won't turn into clutter in the receiver's home.

Locally made
Check out local boutiques and nurseries to see what you can find that is made by artisans in your area. Even here in Colorado Springs, not exactly a bastion of arts and crafts, I can find locally-made products. Also, check with friends who have a crafty hobby. Just off the top of my head, I can think of friends who sew, woodwork, bake and preserve food...I know that any of these people would be willing to create something that I could give as a gift. Also be sure to check out craft fairs -- we had one at my house a few weeks ago and I know that lots of locally made gifts were purchased!

Etsy! If you can't find the handmade item you're looking for locally, try Etsy! I've used Etsy for gifts a few times in the past and been so pleased with everything I've purchased. Are things more expensive than the version you'd find at Kohl's or Target? Um, yeah. Of course. Is it okay to adjust and buy fewer things in order give something that is handmade in the USA? I think so.

Great vintage finds are available on Etsy, but also on your local Craigslist in the antiques section and at local flea markets. Vintage quilts, enamelware, kitchen tools, furniture, decor items -- all of them are unique and sustainable items.

I love food. I love to give food, I love to receive food, I love to eat food. I especially love it if it is food that I can feel good about. Here are a few ideas for food and food-related gifts:

What about gifts for people who are working to improve the outdoor spaces around their home? Here are a few ideas for them.
  • A gift certificate to a local nursery.
  • A month of service from a local, organic lawn care provider, like this one in our town. Because who wouldn't want a pro to work on their lawn for a month or two?
  • A gift certificate to a mail-order nursery that specializes in plants for that person's region. I use this one because I can get a lot of xeric plants for not much money.
  • Gardening tools! I once got a garden cart as a gift. And a composting bin. Both gifts made me giddy. Both came from my mom, who knows me well.
  • A ticket or tickets or even a membership to your local botanic gardens.

They may not be locally made on organic paper, but I have a hard time resisting great books -- especially those that can make a difference in the life of the reader. Right now I'm crazy about Shauna Niequist's books and can't wait to get my hands on her newest one that comes out this spring, Bread & Wine. I would also be inclined to give cookbooks, especially the new Forks Over Knives book. A book like that can change a person's health for life. As a groomsmen gift, my brother-in-law received Dave Ramsey's book The Total Money Makeover. It has completely changed his life and the life of his family. Books inspire, books change, books entertain. You can't go wrong with a good book!

Fair Trade
Do you have a local fair trade shop? I do. Ours is called Yobel Market. My kids will be getting stockings stuffed with jewelry, headbands, scarves, note pads, and who knows what else from Yobel. And I'm thinking...if Colorado Springs has a fair trade shop, you probably do too. Here are a few other spots where it is easy to find fair trade products.
  • Fair Trade USA
  • Whole Foods Market (Have you seen that Whole Foods is selling Toms now?!)
  • World Market (World Market used to be a fun place to shop for fair trade stuff, but now that it's been purchased by Bed Bath & Beyond, I'm not as tread lightly along this path.)

Non-Toxic Body Products
Even Scott likes to receive high quality body products. His favorites are the Ava Anderson lip balm (they come in a pack of 4 for $13, which we think is totally worth it) and the (sadly now discontinued) Burts Bees Bay Rum line. We prefer to buy non-toxic body products from Ava Anderson because we don't have to look at the labels -- we know every ingredient is trustworthy. I also buy body products from Whole Foods, but only after checking the ingredients on the label and checking them in the EWG Skin Deep database.

It would be kind of sad to give someone a gift that's full of carcinogens.

I've also been known to make my own body products, package them nicely, and give them away as gifts, especially for teachers. Last year I made sugar-lemon-ginger body scrub with ingredients similar to this recipe.

Gifts that change the world for one person, one animal, or even the whole planet.
Why not make a financial contribution in a loved one's name? We've done this in lieu of physical gifts and been really happy with the results. Here are some of the organizations that are favorites for individuals in my family.
  • Wild Aid. This is one of Scott's favorites, because they go after the demand end of the endangered species problem. There are lots of great organizations working to protect endangered species, but Wild Aid is the only one we know of who has created a huge ad campaign aimed at reducing the demand for ivory and other parts of the bodies of endangered animals. Anyone who has been through an introduction to economics will tell you that if there is a demand, a supply will always be found. We love to contribute to an organization that attacks the demand.
  • Atin Afrika Foundation. This is my daughter Brynn's favorite. Our friend Chelsea founded the organization and we absolutely believe in the work she is doing. Atin is a transitional shelter that cares for, feeds, and educates street kids in Uganda while seeking a permanent home solution for the kids. The kids eventually go back to their families -- sometimes grandma or an aunt or uncle, because mom and dad are gone or unable to care for the kids. Once a child has gone through Atin, the child will always have the support of Atin in helping to pay for school and clothes, and a place to come back to if they need help.
  • Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians. I realize that the Sea Shepherd organization is a slightly controversial one, but it is my daughter Callie's favorite. Lately she's been watching the livestream of the dolphin hunts and slaughters in Taiji via the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians. The Cove Guardians seek to publicize and, eventually, end the Taiji dolphin slaughter. Because it is something that is important to Callie, and because I can see how learning about the slaughter is shaping who she is and the impact she will have on the world, I will happily support the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians with a gift this Christmas.
  • Compassion International. About ten years ago, we gave the gift of Compassion Sponsorship to a member of our family. We were ready to take on the financial commitment of supporting a second child through Compassion and we knew someone special who would appreciate that commitment as much as we did, so we sponsored the child as a gift. Compassion is able to set it up so that you are responsible for the financial end and the person who receives the gift is responsible for corresponding with the child, or you can be responsible for both. Compassion sponsorship is a great gift for someone who has a heart for children or a certain culture or country.
  • Blood:Water Mission. My brother and his wife are strong supporters of Blood:Water Mission. B:WM implements programs of prevention, treatment, and support for HIV/AIDS as well as programs that increase access to clean water for people living in Africa. I love that B:WM recognizes that both HIV and clean water are extremely complex problems and approaches those problems with humility and reliance on the local communities as those communities work with B:WM to create solutions.
  • Therapeutic Living Centers for the Blind. This is a small organization in Southern California that has personal meaning to me and my family -- my older sister used to live there and was treated with the utmost respect and compassion. If I were to to contribute to an organization as a gift for my mom, this is where it would go. Because a mom's heart is blessed by the organizations that help her children and, for us, this one is the top of the heap.
Where would you donate if you were making a contribution as a gift to a friend or family member? Maybe the animal rescue organization where they adopted a pet? Maybe a food pantry in their town? An organization that supports prevention of a disease that touched that person? The person's church? Maybe it could even be your child's school or the summer camp where they go. There are so many great organizations out there -- finding one is not difficult.

This Christmas when it comes to gifts, will you be thinking outside the box? What can you give that would bless someone locally or be sustainable, healthy, or even world-changing?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Raw photography.

Ever since my first mission trip to Mexico in the spring of 1992, I've known that photography is most moving when you're shooting in a developing country. The rawness of it, the truth, the emotion. It's just a different world. As I traveled on Semester at Sea in 1998, I was lucky enough to have a photographer for a roommate. She was actually the apprentice to the ship's photographer and she worked in the darkroom on the ship. She taught me a ton about light and she revolutionized the way I took photos. But my photos were only as spectacular as the subjects and, somehow, the more forlorn the backdrop, the more authentic the subjects, and the better the photos turned out. Semester at Sea was like being on a 100-day shoot for National Geographic. It was amazing.

Since then, I haven't spent a ton of time in developing countries (six weeks in Nepal and a few other trips sprinkled about) and I've gotten used to shooting normal American photography. So today when I read Pastor Ryan's post about his recent mission trip to Honduras, I was taken back to that different world. And I love it. I long for bursts of it to shake me up and get me back to reality. Check out Pastor Ryan's photos here. Pastor Ryan is the one in the photos with the sleeves of tatoos. And the weird earrings. He looks like he should work in a biker bar or a tatoo parlor or something -- it tickles me that he's a pastor. In Cincinnati.

Somebody told me a few weeks ago that the Peace Corps runs a family program, where families can volunteer together. You better believe I was googling "peace corps family" as soon as I got my hands on my computer. Unfortunately, it appears that somebody was wrong. Or we'd be filling out the paperwork today. The thought of being back in a developing country, of doing something to make life better for people...that's the kind of life that makes me feel alive.