Sunday, December 31, 2017

"Can I Help?" Putting Aside Independence for the Sake of Independence

Today is the last day of 2017. It is also the last day of the NFL season, and, based on the way my Bears and Cardinals have played this year, it is the last game for any team that I care about. So while watching football and enjoying the last day of Christmas decorations, I decided to do a little baking.

With our lemon tree producing an over-abundance of lemons again, I decided that today was a great day to make a Sour Cream Lemon Pound Cake. If you have never had this, you should probably stop reading right now, click on the link, and make this phenomenal cake before reading any further.

I got out the ingredients and got into my zone. The butter and sugar were getting creamed, I was zesting lemons, and I heard, "Hey dad, whatcha' doing?" I explained to my five-year-old that I was making a yummy cake. And then I heard the words that are sometimes sweet, but usually not at the time when I want them. "Can I help?"

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

DIY Lego Advent Calendar

For as long as we have had kids, my wife and I have enjoyed creating a homemade advent calendar - a countdown to Christmas. The first year we did it, my wife hand folded and glued paper bags out of wrapping paper, numbered each one, and we inserted a Christmas story/Bible verse, a song, and some treat. Yeah, you do things differently when there is only one kid.

Over the years, this has slightly morphed.  A couple of years ago, we ditched the homemade paper bags for some small cotton bags that we got at a local craft store. We also got numbered buttons that we put onto each one, numbering them one through 24. In addition to the slips, we added something that we could do as a family to show love to others. These include things like take a treat to a fire station, call a grandparent, or sell a toy and give the money to a charity. While we don't get to every task, they help keep us in the mindset of thinking of others for the season.

Additionally, since it is an Advent calendar, we have traditionally included some treat for the kids. Candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup... Actually, scratch the last two, but we reluctantly gave our kids treats because we wanted them to have something to look forward to.

This year, however, my wife and I had a game changer. We saw a Lego Advent calendar, but at a cost of close to $50, without our homemade focus on acts of kindness, and looking like it would only work for one kid per calendar. So we decided to adapt a Lego set to our existing Advent set up.

We snagged a great cyberdeal on a Lego Friends set--$24 for 300 pieces, which included a boy and a girl (a definite must for multi-gender families). We printed the PDF of the instructions and cut them into 24 manageable steps. Then we separated the Legos into the bags, along with the verse, the daily task, and the day's instructions.

Each night, as a family, we read the story and think about ways to show love to others. The kids then each get some of the Lego pieces and the day's instructions, and add to the set. The great thing is that they have no idea what they're building, so we get to hear their guesses each day. As we move through Advent, they will get a clearer picture of what they are creating
as more and more pieces come together.

May you and your family have a wonderful Christmas season as you spend time together, look for ways to show love to others, and celebrate the traditions and joy of Christmas.

Merry Christmas! 

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