Fathers Day Ideas

2015-01-05 04.34.35As we draw yet again towards another celebration – namely Father’s Day – it is easy to become overwhelmed by the cost and complexities of yet another special day. In the chaos of it all we then loose sight of actually celebrating the person and what they mean to us. Besides where do we begin to thank and celebrate these special men that hold not only our children’s hearts but ours too!

I would like to offer you a few simple ideas of ways that you can enjoy the day together without it becoming overwhelming and you spending an arm and a leg.

Firstly we all love to get and give cards and gifts on Father’s day. Yet – I’m sorry – but Men are some of the hardest people to come up with ideas for! I have however noticed over the years that the handmade cards, handwritten notes are some of the things that my husband has treasured. For this reason we always make homemade gifts and cards. It can often be hard to think of new ideas so here are a few to help you out….

Having loads of little people’s art all over the house can become overwhelming so why not put up a hook for each child and for every Father’s Day or birthday or Christmas you present him with a new art work. Here are some great ideas of personalised artworks and cards your special little people can make for dad.

2014-12-28 03.54.12Some gifts can include the usual chocolates and other bought items or you can make him something special.

How about making some hot chocolate on a stick (place cooking chocolate in an ice tray and stick a sucker stick into it and then once set package it. Then you simply stir the chocolate stick into a mug of hot milk.) YOu could even turn this into an event of everyone having their hot chocolate on a stick while you look through old photos or watch old family videos.

Another idea is a snack bag for him to keep in the car or on his desk. This could have all sorts of little packets of chocolates, dried fruit and nuts. Then to make it more special you could ask your child to write little notes that they can intersperse with the goodies – so that each time dad opens a pack he gets a little note too. This works well with a jar of biscuits too. If you cut up little pieces of paper and write love notes on these, then roll them up and tie them with cotton. Put these in among the biscuits in a jar for Dad.

Instead of spending huge amounts on visiting crowded restaurants on Father’s day one of our treats is to have a picnic. This can either take place in our own garden or we go to a nature reserve or the botanical gardens. Then part of our gift to dad is the picnic basket packed with all his favourite treats. Living in South Africa the middle of winter can present us with an awesome picnic day or a freezing day. Don’t be discouraged however…. a picnic in the lounge (you could maybe string up a few blankets over some chairs as a make shift tent – is a day always remembered. Taking photos on a special day such as this can then contribute to his gift as you give him and I-Owe-You in the form of an empty photo frame that you can fill with pictures from that day. The photo frame can be a bought one or one of the homemade examples from the link above.

Above all Dad wants to know he is special and loved. This will look different for every family but I can guarantee that taking the time out to do something special as a family and presenting him with something made from his little person’s heart will let him know just how much he means to you all.

We would love to hear from you all about your father’s day creations.

Building Beyond the Holiday Season

As the craziness of the holiday seasons engulfs our reality it is so easy for us to become caught up in the business of it all and in so doing in fact nullify it all. Despite your background or religious preference December has become a time of holiday and celebrating family. We organise our lives around trips to visit long lost family members – be it granny up the road or a cousin in another province – as well as travelling to distant corners of the world. We may not even have to travel far but “getting together” and connecting with each other is what is on all our minds. We race around purchasing gifts, arranging menus, organising food and entertainment. We become so caught up in organising this amazing family get together that we do in fact often miss the family in it all.

This may simply outplay in that as we are finally all gathered that we are in fact all too tired to actually enjoy each other’s company or with all the planning and scheming and imagining, the day doesn’t go quite as we expected so disappointment, hurt and resentment knocks loud at our door – leaving a bitter taste in our lives. These can however be avoided by simply resting well and choosing to keep our minds on the reality that we are all human and that things will therefore not usually play out as we imagined. So keeping expectations real can allow us to experience these family times as something to treasure – even if they are not perfect.

A deeper concern however, is that in the business of this all we totally miss each other – especially our little people. We are rushing in and out to shops, baking cooking, organising outings and playdates and the holidays are bustling and happening all around us. We are all together – in the same house – most of the time, and yet do we really stop and truly see one another.

In his play Our Town, first performed in 1938 Thornton Wilder perfectly captures this in a scene when Emily asks to return from her grave to visit her 12th Birthday. She is then seen observing the day from the future. Her words capture so much that we too often don’t wish to acknowledge:

“Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me….. I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another….. I didn’t realize. All that was going on in life and we never noticed.”

How easily the days and years slip by. How easily it is to provide our children with a beautiful home, amazing food, friends, entertainment and toys beyond their wildest dreams but if we stopped and asked them what they truly desired more than anything else – they would say they would give it all up for your time. All our children – and aunty and granny for that matter – really want from us is our love and attention. They want to know that they are more important than the food being presented just right or the table being laid perfectly. They want to be a part of our lives. They want us to stop running and take the time to push them on the swing or sit on the floor and draw with them. To include them in our shopping and let them help make an imperfect pudding or set the table with us – including the name tags that they have lovingly scrawled out for each guest.

So as we bustle about creating the perfect day don’t forget about the people that are all a part of your reality. People that love you dearly and wish for nothing more than to have you share that love with them. The challenge here is to take a moment in this craziness to spend a quiet moment with each of our special little people. Bake some biscuits with your daughter or make a puzzle together. Single out one of your children to cuddle up on the bed with to watch a movie or take a slow walk around the neighbourhood or simply take the time to stop and listen to what they are trying to say to you – as Sally Clarkson experienced – you may be suitably surprised by what you hear them say.

As much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise it’s not the perfect roast but rather these little intimate moments that our children will remember. And above all its these times that weave into creating relationship with each of them something that will become the fibre who you are as a family. Something they can hold in their hearts as they grow – knowing my mom and dad loved and valued me more and beyond their “to do” list. So let’s be challenged this holiday to not become so caught up in organising family time that we miss the Family in it altogether.

 

 

Finding Spring

This winter has been an exceptionally hard one. It has been bitterly cold – at least for this one Mama it has been – so many long dark days. I am sure the sun did shine many more times than I saw but it was not a fun few months. Having grown up in a lush green suburb that never really felt winter, living now in a place shaded only in brown and dusty yellow, split by streaks for fire burned black, winter bites the depths of my soul. Finding joy in winter is something I need to daily dig really deep to discover!

So spring has been so anticipated, I’ve longed for the longer warm days, to once again walk bare foot upon soft green shaded grass, to watch ducklings scoot across the pond as the weavers noisily build their cozy nests. To be greeted each morning my the sparrows chatter and each evening by the sweet fragrance of jasmine.

The 1 September – the day we use to celebrate the unofficial start of spring – is greatly anticipated in our home. The table is laid beautifully, flowers are collected and then we sit down to sweet fellowship and delicious food. Strangely, as much as spring was anticipated this year, I never really saw it coming. Having gone to bed far too late the night before and then woken far too early by a little person on this special morning, I was already not in the mood for Monday long before dawn! As the fog of sleep lifted slightly I realised it was 1 September and instead of the exuberant enthusiasm I felt only the cold of winter dig into my morning soul. No blissful joy that usually wraps this day only the thought of yet another thing to have to pull off! Yet, in true Mom sense, I rose to the occasion and began to look cheery and bright, yet my heart still clung to the darkest of winter’s days. I helped dash around the garden gathering flowers and quickly bake fresh scones, yet my heart was far from the enthusiasm of the new life represented on this day.

Eventually the candles were lit and we were all seated around the table, heads silently bowed in prayer. It was then that Peace arrived. Silently it invaded the corners of my soul. The flowers, the sweet smell of fresh scones, the warm smiles, homely laughter, candles flickering sure, strong and white…. The next half hour was spent reading poetry as well as many funny attempts of trying to remember spring poems from years gone by. Time stood still as we simply stopped to celebrate life.

Suddenly Dad needed to get to work and school needed to be started and it was time to clear up and move along yet my soul had begun to thaw. In the busy blur of yet another Monday, school, extra murals, friends, dentists and new guinea pigs spring begun to take root.

So often we push through to create special memories and events for our children and yet today I discovered that the pushing through today was in fact for me. And as Mom finds spring she’ll lead the way for others to follow and how blessed I am to have a houseful of little people to walk down this path beside me, encouraging me to keep on.


At last!! We’re 6!!

Oh my for so long we have counted the months, weeks and days and finally Joy-Summer and Lily-Grace can tell the world that they are 6! With their birthday right in the middle of December we decided to have their Princess Party in mid-November.

It was a simple party, they made princess paper dolls, iced biscuits, had to ward of brother dragon who stole the party packs and then they had a real tea-party! They did however savor every moment and it was a roaring success.

This last week however the “real birthday” arrived. True to tradition they woke to find the breakfast table set and they a breakfast treat awaiting. This time it was waffles and ice-cream!!The excitement of opening presents was however too much and so little was eaten – for a change!

We then all got ready to head off to Butterflies For Africa for the day. We had organised to meet up with granny and grandpa there so we had a full day ahead… Browsing their little butterfly shop is a treat in its self but spending the morning holding butterflies and searching for little caterpillars was so special. The girls were in their element!

They fed the fish and stoked the stick insects -aagh! A picnic was in order during lunch time. Oh and did these little princesses eat!! – before heading back into the butterfly house yet again. By 3pm we bundled 5 dirty,full and happy little people into the car to head home. It was such special day and, “Yes, NOW you can tell everyone that you are 6!!!”

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St Nicholas Celebration

Many years ago when our first son celebrated his first Christmas something just didn’t sit right with us regarding the whole Santa Clause – Father Christmas experience. This was strange as these childhood fantasies were the structure upon which my childhood was build. That aside… we chose a different route for our growing family.

We are in a difficult situation as the rest of the cousins believe in Father Christmas, sleigh , reindeer and elves overseeing their annual behaviour… Therefore in a bid to maintain family relationships and not foster pride in our children (explaining to them that other people choose to celebrate St Nicholas day on Christmas day) we chose to create and celebrate our own St Nicholas day.  This began with us making a pope’s hat – which is looking a bit weathered after 11 years of use. Then on the 6 December, after dinner we sit the children down and using very basic pictures off clipart we tell the wonderful story of how a real pope called Saint Nicholas helped pay for 3 girls to get married, by throwing gold down the chimney into their stockings. During the story Dad leaves the room and as I end the story he reappears in the hat and a big jacket or bathrobe. How funny how the children don’t recognise him! Only at the age of 6 does one of them say, “but it’s dad!” Only for us to hear another whisper, “He just has Dad’s shoes on!” St Nicolas then greets the children and says he’s so glad to hear us telling of how he gave and he then gives each child a tiny gift. This may even be just a small bag of sweets – the one year they got a tub of ice-cream to share with the family. He then reminds them about God and how he gave Jesus and how we must now prepare our hearts to give during the Christmas season.

After a quick photo shoot he leaves and the children head off to bed. This is the beginning of our time of thinking of others. This is out played in that each child is to personally make gifts for other family members. Another activity is that when we put up the nativity set Jesus manger is empty and we have a small tub of straw. Every time someone helps another or silently serves someone they get to put a piece of straw in the manger. It’s the hope that on Christmas morning there will be a soft bed for Jesus to lie in.

St Nicholas day has become a much loved family celebration that lasts maybe 45 minutes and yet speaks volumes to not only the children, but our hearts too.

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Christmas – Our Way

Christmas has always been an interesting time in our home. And in the homeschool circles you come across many families who no longer celebrate this holiday. I have always been so grateful that during our first years of marriage we lived in a town far from family so that we could work through some tough thought processes and decisions. On our return to living amongst the family we had managed to establish our own traditions, beliefs and who we were.

The most obvious of these was Christmas. We came to realise that this season has so many roots and evokes huge emotion within people. We could spend hours discussing the different world views and the pros and cons to various views. Instead I’ll simply share how we as a family spend this special season. We have spent a great deal of time learning about the different Jewish festivals and how these link to Christianity. From this study we have begun to celebrate Hanukkah which celebrates the miracle of light. This we find is an awesome introduction to Christmas as it keeps us focused on Jesus, the Light of the world. The 6 December then finds us celebrating St Nicolas Day. This we found fundamental as all the cousins have father Christmas arrive on Christmas day and whilst we chose to move away from this we found it important to honour them and not teach our children to be filled with pride by saying “we right and they are wrong,” – we simply do things differently. So by us celebrating a ST Nicolas day we could simply explain they celebrate St Nicolas day on Christmas day.

The the decision as to whether we should celebrate Christmas at all… After much deliberation we decided to continue celebrating it, for a number of reasons. Firstly the rest of our family does – many of whom are not saved so we saw this as an excellent chance to witness to them. We found it was an entire month of celebrating our savior and focusing on him. Christ himself recognised and celebrated Hanukkah which was not a God ordained holiday but rather a man made one. Therefore if our hearts are right we too are free to celebrate man made holidays and traditions.

So as a family Christmas is an exciting, much anticipated time of year. It does require much preparation and heart searching but that is what makes this time so special to us all.

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Christmas Hope

Every year, for Christmas  we choose a theme and colour scheme for the season. This year it was Hope with the colours gold and white. What a special and beautiful Christmas it turned out to be.

Throughout December we have spoken about Hope an how we need to have Hope in Jesus alone as it is only through Him that we will have true joy and peace. We decorated the lounge in line with the theme using candles and butterflies. It so beautifully reflected the theme and the message to our children.

On Christmas morning we were unable to attend church so instead I sewed little paper pockets and placed butterflies with Bible verses, and a chocolate, inside each one.

For our Bible time we then read through the verses and stuck them upon a gold cross. This was a very special time and helped us focus upon Jesus and the hope we have in him before we opened our gifts.

Having a theme is such a simple idea and yet it helps keep us focused on a different aspect of God every year and makes each year that little bit extra special.

Here are some of the verses we used:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Titus 3:5-7 He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Romans 5:3-5 We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 8:24-25 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Romans 12:12 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Psalm 39:7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.

Psalm 31:24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

Psalm 147:11 The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Lamentations 3:24
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him / hope in him”

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Native American Party

What an epic week we have had. How did we ever manage to have a four year age gap between our boys and then have end up with their birthdays being a day apart!

One of our highlights of all our parties is that they always have a theme. This year was more difficult as Raine turned 10 – so moving out of the kid stuff, whilst Reid being just 6 is still into any thing that involves cake, face paint and friends.

 

The Native American idea worked well as firstly we have been learning about them in our school work and Reid has just spent a term at music where America has been the focus. So the boys had a bit of back ground and this type of party also involved lots of activity and running around – always good when there is sugar involved!

The party “plan” was fairly basic. Boys were split into 2 tribes (older and younger), Raine and Reid were made the chiefs – by being presented with feathered headdresses that Lady Mom had made for them. Raine has now decided that he needs to wear it whenever he’s with his friends as it made them listen to him. How funny – maybe Mom should get one too!

The boys began by needing to build a wigwam in their teams, they then had to make their own headdress with feathers on a trip of paper, paint their faces and make a tribal band from fruitloops. This done they needed to shoot some balloons with a bow and arrow. They then progressed onto making a fire. Once the fire was made they were able to cook their sausages for lunch.

The party worked out to be a fairly great balance as the older boys were not too keen on the fruitloops and headdresses – whereas the little ones were. However the older boys spent ages building their fire and collecting more and more dry sticks to make it bigger and bigger – whilst the younger boys didn’t enjoy the smoke and moved off to other activities.

Due to the big age gap we always have extra siblings hanging around at parties so this year we decided to have a family braai for anyone who wanted to stay. Therefore once the boys had finished their challenges and had eaten to their full they spent the afternoon shooting arrows, sliding on the bank with boxes and playing soccer. It was so great to have the families there as it meant a number of dads stayed to help make arrows, build fires and to generally see no one got hurt.

We are not mad on sugar highs so we simply gave each child a small party pack with some chips, 4 sweets and 4 biscuits. Each child then had a sausage roll for lunch and we had ice-cream, jelly and birthday cake for pudding.

The Birthday Cake

At the last minute we realised that on the day of the party it was a year previously that we had moved to our new town and as we stood around with all these amazing people it was not simply a celebration of the boys’ birthdays but a celebration of God has done in our lives and all these wonderful people we now call our friends!

The day was filled with fun and laughter and much to Lady Mom’s relief no one was hurt with flying arrows! This party was also so special as it involved the Dads and will be a memorable day for the whole family.

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Homemade Gifts, Wrapping and Tags

It’s one thing wanting to give gifts but another being able to afford it. It’s our heart to teach our children to give, however with five of them this can often be hard as it all adds up so quickly! For this reason for Christmas and birthdays we make our own wrapping paper, cards / tags and when possible gifts.

Wrapping Paper

This Christmas was made very simple wrapping paper in that we simply hauled out some large pieces of brown paper we had, handed the kids some paint and brushes and set them to work – hint don’t use poster or powder paint as this tends to rub off and make a HUGE mess. I was very surprised how some children painted paterns, others random smudges and others detailed pictures.

Eventually Maiden #3 figured out that one could fill a spoon with paint and flick it across the page. This was a huge hit with every one and I was very grateful that we were wearing painting clothes and that we were in the art room so blue paint on the wall wasn’t too much of a problem 🙂

By the end of an hour we had enough paper for all our gifts and so many different wrappings to wrap with.

And then before we all run away it is SO important for everyone to learn that cleaning up is part of the “fun.”

Gift Tags

We made the most simple gift tags this year. I simply cut white card into small squares with fancey scissors. The children then stamped yellow stars in the middle.

Once the stars were dry we added some gold glitter to their centers.

You can then use them as they are or stick them to a coloured back ground.

 

For gifts we made gingerbread biscuits, calendars and stress balls. All were so appreciated and enjoyed by their recipients and so easy on the pocket too!

Stress Balls

This year for Christmas gifts I allowed each child to choose one idea that they could then make for everyone they wanted to give gifts to. Knight #4 chose the wonderful idea, that we found on the se7en website, to make stress balls.

These were so easy and fun to make and everyone loved them.

It started by us making some playdough.

We then cut the tops off some ballons, filled one with play dough and then pulled 2 more over this one to create a sealed ball.

Hint we found it better to cut off the whole neck as it pulled better like that. We also tried cutting holes in the top ball so the underlayer was more see visable. This didn’t work as well as planned as the playdough crept out some. I think next time we’ll leave the holes or add a forth layer with holes in it.

He then took great care to use our home made wrapping paper and tags to wrap everything himself. What a proud Mommy I am 🙂
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