Wednesday, November 30, 2011

When Kid Meets Nativity Set

 Christmas 2008

Tis the season for nativity sets.  I lovingly unwrap Mary and baby Jesus every year.  The sheep.  The shepherds.   There they sit.  Holy.  Beautiful.  Lovely.

cue: record scratch

Unless you have kids in the house.  Especially if you have boy kids in the house.

The things poor baby Jesus has been through in this family in years past are truly embarrassing.

I have found him in couch cushions.

In the back of dump trucks.

In the driveway.

I've had to bust up tiffs between siblings when baby Jesus was brought into their super hero battles.  It's just not fair that baby Jesus wins every single time.  Baby Jesus as an action figure is unstoppable.

I have found all the hallowed nativity people hanging with yarn on our Christmas tree. It was disturbing.

I have also picked Lego men out of the nativity scene.

"This is the last time I am going to tell you to stop throwing the baby Jesus.  Last time, Mister!"

"Do not hit your brother with Mary."

"Get that shepherd's foot out of your nose."

"What's in your underwear?"  Oh.  All the wise men.  Good.  Good.

This famous cast of characters have been loaded in a big rig.

This was the nativity set where all the men looked like they worked at a carnival, and I'm almost positive baby Jesus was a four year old wrapped in a swim towel.  Creepy.  Look at him.  He's in the top far right.  He has molars and as much hair as Justin Bieber.

Then there was the year that one of our kids kept breastfeeding the baby Jesus.  These are the things you don't bring up in Sunday School.

It's tempting to turn this story of a baby born to a teenage mother in a manger into something untouchable, off-limits-kind-of-holy, something we fancy up, get dressed up to tell, reading the Christmas scriptures in a strange, hushed, church voice.  How many times have we been to a candle-light service, heard this story of a first-time, young mother giving birth without a midwife or her mother, in filthy conditions, and imagined something more pristine, more perfect, more glamorous than what really went down that night in Bethlehem.  Rarely do I equate Christmas with sweat, screaming, blood, feces, an umbilical chord that needs cutting, a placenta, and exhausting pain.  Yet that is exactly what the first Christmas must have been like.

When I'm tempted to make this story something other than it is, I try to remember that my child is probably dipping Mary in the toilet or nursing the baby Jesus as I type this.

Children know how to approach the manger.  They have a way of taking all the frill, the fake, the phoney reverence out of the Christmas story, and maybe we should thank them for that.  They see Jesus as approachable, someone who would want to hang out with them, someone who would welcome the Darth Vader Lego guy.

The truth is, the story of a King born a baby in a barn is not something we need our best clothes on to hear, or something we need to put on the highest, unreachable shelf.  Yes this story is precious and requires reverence and awe when we really sit and contemplate all that God has done to win back rebellious people.  But, I never want to forget that He came to our filth.  Our dysfunction.  He was born right into our complex, broken lives.  Emmanuel.  God with us.  God with the distracted.  The greedy.  The back-talking children.  The moms who fall asleep at night wondering if they could possibly fail more.  God with the ones with secrets.  The ones who feel left out.  The ones who think they will never measure up.  The ones with failing marriages.  The insecure.  The mean.  The ones who never seem to learn.  He came here.  He was born in the middle of our junk.  He came to be God with us.  God in the middle of our homes.  The middle of our living rooms.  Right in the middle of the madness and mess...He came.  Emmanuel.  God with humans who are so utterly...hopelessly...human.  He was born to a teenage mother who probably would have forgotten to take her prenatal vitamins. 

So let's hear them.  Your favorite nativity set stories.  Will you share those with us?

Will you share something else too?  I'm wanting to know your favorite kid-friendly nativity sets.

If I can get over my obsessive need for all the nativity crew to stay in the same room together, I will probably learn some great lessons this Christmas season from our children and the nativity set.  I'm going to pay extra close attention because I think these little people are onto something.  Maybe they relate best to what actually took place that night with Mary and Joseph.  Perhaps we're the ones perpetually jacking this story up.

Related:  When Baby Jesus is a Pepperoni 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Babies


Lots of attentive, nursing mothers and fat, healthy babies today.
Agathe taught on preventing sexual abuse in children.
For more on what goes down every Tuesday at the Maternity Center, check out this post.

Who Knew Turning 35 Could be Fun?

I squeezed Aaron when my birthday weekend was over and said, "You gave me the best gift ever.  You gave me the gift of productivity in a place where that some times feels impossible."    We were both exhausted.  Aaron spent the weekend building some of my favorite projects I had pinned on Pinterest.  We spent two days painting his handiwork.  Three days later, I still have paint splattered on my feet.  If I get the paint thinner out to clean myself up, it will feel like that glorious weekend of productivity and partying will officially be over.  The paint will stay on my feet until new skin cells replace the old ones.  I've decided that's just the way it's going to be.

Barf.  Who talks about skin cells on a blog?  I'm constantly surprised that you people stick around.

When Aaron and the boys told me they hacked my Pinterest account to get some ideas for my birthday, can I admit that my crush on Pinterest reached psychotic levels?  During birthdays and Christmas, can I also confess that there have been many times that I'm opening my gift and think, "For. The. Love.  I really, really need a daughter."  This year I had to admit:  Who needs a daughter when you have Pinterest?  I'm officially putting Pinterest on our family tree.  She is now a person, and I adopted her.  If I start buying her dresses and making her hair appointments then I's time for me to be committed.

 Pallet coffee table.
Is it just me or does upcycling feel like a joyful, redemptive, spiritual act?  I keep staring at this table, marveling that a few days ago these pallets were junk.  Now my monkey boys are doing puzzles on this pallet-turned coffee table.  We're gathering around our advent candles in the evenings, elbows on this new creation...junk turned into beauty.  Common thread in all of life's story.  Upcycling feels like beauty wins.

pallet coat/bag rack inspired by

Aaron had this video cued for me to watch when I woke first gift on my birthday.  
I laughed until I cried.  Then I watched it three more times.  It got more and more funny.

Next it was time to party!  Paige Livesay and I share the same birthday week.  We also share a love for Texas, wide open pastures, Gilmore Girls, bacon, and a hatred for hot dogs.  I love this girl, could not be more proud of her, and am thankful for the influence and impact she has on our kid's lives.  We tease our boys that if they are ever in doubt they can think, "What would Paige do?"  Note to self:  WWPD bracelets would be the perfect stocking stuffers for four little boys we know.

Tara Livesay knows how to par-tay.
She has a gift for making people feel special and loved. 
Birthdays are her thing!  She does them up right.
Thanks for the party, T.  It was the bee's knees.

Just Dance on the Driveway

 In my mind I am Beyonce when I dance.  Until I saw this picture, I didn't think anything could convince me otherwise.

It was a perfect weekend!  And to think 20 years ago, I would have thought by the time I turned 35 I'd be in a nursing home eating mashed potatoes.  I guess I was wrong.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Anticipating Advent

 We've spent the weekend getting ready for Advent.  I wonder what you call the period of time before advent begins when you wait in anticipation and expectation for advent to start.  Tonight we'll snuggle up with the ones we love and begin this month-long journey of retelling the greatest story ever told.  We will tell of Jesus' birth to children who make sure the atmosphere is anything but holy.  I'll marvel that God's son was born in a manger.  The least likely of places.  I'll look around the room at little boys who are rowdy and distracted by the candle fire, and at the grownups who some times get a little frustrated with said little boys.  This scene will cause me to be teary-eyed thankful that God seems to surround Himself with misfits...the people who fail and fall short.

the book page garland was inspired by Shannan as well

We hung cousins on the tree cause our hearts ache for them.
Ashton burst into tears looking at this picture of KK.
I held him and cried too.

Inspired by this Etsy shop. 

Advent is a time of longing.  A time of sweet anticipation.  My soul is thirsty and eager to be reminded of Emmanuel, God with us.  We'll remind each other that though this world is broken it is not forsaken.  The same King that came as a baby, just like He said He would, is coming again to right every wrong, to break the chains of oppression, and heal the wounds of this world.  It's tempting to wait without hope when it seems as though it has been too long.  Will He come again?  There is so much pain.  So much sadness.  Why does He tarry?  We will tell the story of His faithfulness to the faces of our precious sons.  We will savor the story.  We will long for a savior.  We will long to believe.  Long for faith. 

We will sing of God's love.  His grace.  His gift.

inspired by Stephanie Lynn's website

 paper wreath inspired by Paper Craze
My sister-in-law, Lynsey found two of these perfect candle holders
at a thrift shop this summer.  Then she gave me one.
 She is the. very. best.

{{Advent Resources}}

"The snow may be soundlessly falling in piles of white all around you as you read these words. Or waves may be lapping up outside your door, a steady rhythm under palm trees. Or rain may be coursing in slow and silent rivulets down your windowpanes. But wherever you are on this tilted, spinning globe as you read these words, each of us, the whole planet, we are all sitting close — waiting. Waiting for Christ’s coming.

For this is the season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas.

The word, advent, it comes from a Latin word. And it means “coming.”

Aren’t we, the whole of the globe, aren’t we waiting for the coming of Christ? For the God in the manger who makes Himself bread? The Saviour in swaddlings who makes Himself our robe of righteousness? The Christ who makes precisely what none of us can — Christmas. 

It is only Christ alone who can make Christmas.

We are waiting for the glorious coming of Christ. Sometimes the heart yearning for the gift— is part of the gift!"

-- From Ann VosKamp's free Advent Study

Perhaps you'd like to wait with purposeful longing this holiday season.  Perhaps your soul needs to hear this story again and again.  Advent starts today, so maybe you'll be tempted to throw your hands in the air and declare,  "All is lost, there is no hope, I'm too late."  I have good news.  The baby we celebrate came for the late, the lazy, the slackers, the hurried, the ones with good intentions, the busy, the ones who forever struggle to get it together.  What a relief!  It is never too late.  Grab the ones you love and whisper in their ears this rich story.

tree topper inspired by hostessblog

inspired by Ucreate

{{December Activities}}

For young children:  Countdown to Christmas with books.
Kids open a book every day in December.  Review of Kirby's favorite books.  You can check these out from your library or grow your own collection over the years.  

Tahoe Express:  Take your kids on a special night to see Christmas lights.  Such a cute idea. 

Two really cute ways to create an advent calendar.

Gingerbread Nativity

Popcorn bar paired with a Christmas movie will make for a sweet night.  This popcorn bar is over the top cute.  We will go with a more lame version.

Cute mason jar lanterns.  Jar + tissue paper + glue + votive candle = instant wonder at bedtime

Shepherd's Pouch - a great way to teach kids about giving gifts to Jesus in December.

More links to come...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Feast and Videos

photo by Tara Livesay

To celebrate Thanksgiving we went to Beth's house for a feast.  I have no idea how this lady not only figures out how to get four turkeys into Haiti but also knows how to cook four turkeys.  I've cooked one turkey in my life and then quickly made sure my aunts know that they can't die until I have daughter-in-laws who know how to cook turkeys.  I plan to never cook another one ever again.

"What are your thoughts on Jesus, the movie UP, confident are you that you could pull off cooking a turkey?  On a scale from 1 to 10?"  I don't think those will be weird questions to ask girls my sons begin to fancy one day.  Not weird at all.

Moral of the story:  Beth is a cooking saint.  She makes holidays special in a place that desperately needs some special.

  photo by Beth McHoul

The boys ate.  Ran around with friends.  Ate.  Ran around with friends.  Ate.  Ran.  Ate.  You get the picture, right?

 Aaron and I ate.  Then sat on our duffs.  Ate.  Then sat on our duffs.  Ate.  You get the picture, right?

The kids have been working on a Thanksgiving presentation to perform on Thanksgiving Day.  The curriculum we use to educate our crazy crew is called Classical Conversations.  This curriculum is heavy on public speaking.  Every Monday each child gives a 2-3 minute speech in front of all their classmates, tutors, and parents.  We've been incredibly pleased to see our kids progress into fearless public speakers.  The first few weeks their presentations were hilarious enough for the parents to mock them behind their backs.  We mocked them until it was our turn to give a speech.  Not easy.  The kids did a beautiful job today.  We were very proud of this wonky bunch.  We waited until last night to break the news to them that there would be about 75 people at Beth's house this year.  It did not even phase these little public speakers.  They were ready to go! 

 Paige was a top-notch director.  She worked with the kids for weeks.  She dominated her role as encourager, boss, and woman with the plan.

Isaac Livesay recited Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation.

Hope and Hayden recited this poem:

The kids said a heart-felt thank you to Beth for all her hard work.

And our favorite?  Inspired by Jeff Foxworthy's "You Might Be a Redneck" the kids put their heads together (along with some Haiti friends) to write their own version called...

You Might Be Celebrating Thanksgiving in Haiti if....

It was a beautiful day.  This month spent with our thankful tree, counting our blessings, and reading Ann VosKamp's One Thousand Gifts has made November extra sweet.  My word, I want to be a thankful person.  I want to see God in all things...the hard things and the lovely things.  I fail often.  Yet even in failing I'm in awe of His grace towards me.  He is good to people who do not deserve it. 

We pray you were surrounded by people you love today, and reminded of God's grace, love, mercy, and kindness.  We can never say it enough:  We're thankful for the way you love, encourage, pray, support, and fill our lives with laughter.  You pray when we're too weary to pray.  You send notes of love on days when we wonder why we're doing this, if any of it matters, when there is so much more to do.  When I am afraid or worried you spur me on, and it makes me all kinds of weepy to think that people across the water are praying for us and for our children.  God sees.  We know He does because of the way you remind us that we're not alone, we're all in this together.  Thank you for caring for us and for the women and children here in Haiti that we love so much.  Thank you for helping us bring truth, education, value, and justice to women and babies around us. You are one of the gifts we've counted this month.