Great Gifts

As we settle into a new year I thought I’d just take a few moments to re-look at some of the great gifts we either received, gave or made over the Christmas season. Many of these were inexpensive and easy to make and yet were so much fun and were loved by all.

We made our own tags and wrapping paper and then…..

Knight #1 made everyone calendars with personalized photos for each person. we then laminated these and they were so well received by every one.

Knight #2 made stress balls and these were a great hit.

The twins made Ginger bread flowers for the girls and gingerbread men for the boys.

Maiden#1 made an assortment of gifts. Including notebooks and a fantastic biscuit recipe book for me! Yum-yum!!!

Gifts that our children recieved that were a great hit were a hairdryer for Maiden #1 (and her own tube of toothpaste – so she doesn’t need to share with the other little people) The boys were over joyed with their FIFA computer game. Knight #1 was thrilled with a bird call CD whilst Knight #2 is enjoying a soccer activity book. The twins are loving their Sylvanian families toys.

But the best gift by far was from their aunt huge piece of plastic, some dish-washing liquid and the garden hose!

Unexpected Christmas Eve Magic

After a full month of Christmas preparations it was finally time to sit down and begin our annual Christmas Eve traditions. As we had indulged in a huge braai over lunch time we had decided to forfeit out traditional Christmas dinner for snacks instead. The evening was to run that we’d begin by lighting our Hanukkah candles and reciting the blessings; this would be followed by acting out the Christmas story. We would then have our snacks before having a time of Christmas carols. Knight#1 had spent the past 3 weeks typing out carols to make us each a carol book and he’d spent every spare minute practicing them on his violin so we were all looking forward to this part of the evening. We were then to have pudding before trying to herd 5 very excited little people into bed.

Well that was the plan….

Just as we lit our first candle and begun reciting the first blessing the house was filled with the most awful, painful cry. On jumping up Lord Dad and Grandpa discovered our Labrador puppy had fallen into a full convulsion. As they tried to help it onto a softer surface it began foaming at the mouth and then turned on them. At that moment Lady Mom arrived to witness our adorable pup turn into a ferocious animal that wanted to only attack. The puppy then took off running around the garden barking hysterically.

Having worked in a rabies laboratory Lord Dad had seen movies of rabid animals and Christmas Eve or not he’d take no chances. As we had all played with and been nipped and scratched by Molly in the past week he insisted we were all to be inoculated against rabies. Knowing all the vets were closed we managed to coax the puppy into an outside room. We then quickly made brown bread and peanut butter sandwiches and herded the entire family into the car to try find some rabies inoculations for the family.

Prior to leaving we’d called various hospitals to only discover each private hospital only kept one or two vaccines and we’d need to pay at least R800 per person to walk into the emergency room and then R500 per injection. The rabies course also runs over 4 injections so we were looking at about R2800 per person! With this all in mind we headed off to our local government hospital.

What a joke.

Our adventure began with a clerk who could not spell and kept mixing our names up. I offered to help fill in the basic details but he said he had to fill it all in. An hour later we had our files and now had to speak to a nurse – before we saw a doctor who would do the injections – she was not amused with the situation and simply told us, “Do you realise how busy I am and how many forms I’m going to have to fill in?” She then disappeared and arrived 15 minutes later with another sister. She explained to us that as it was Christmas Eve and they would deal with the stabbed, wounded, accident cases and dying first we would not be seen to for at least another 6 hours or so! Having already been there for 3 hours we sat in the car park in desperation and phoned anyone and everyone we thought could help. We eventually discovered another small government clinic open 24/7, which were referring all their patients to the hospital and were therefore pretty much empty. We quickly rushed across to them. An hour later we had all had our injections and were heading home.

During all this time the children had dozed in and out of sleep. As we headed home now the clock struck midnight and it was officially Christmas morning. Amazingly enough no one was upset or moaning instead as the clock struck the older children burst into song – rocking the neighbourhood with Joy to the World. As we negotiated the thickest mist I’ve ever driven in we crept home to our Christmas Eve – now forever changed.

Not sure whether we should have more peanut butter sarmies or tuck kids straight into bed we gingerly opened the door and put on the kettle. Then the most amazing evening began to take place. The children headed to the supper table and began eating the Christmas treats, another began to play the piano and while others collapsed on the couch and began to nibble on some chips. The next hour was spent in a surreal dream of laughter, song, jokes and ice-cream. The children then drifted off to bed whilst we finished wrapping gifts and ensuring everything was ready for when they woke.

Yes, Christmas day was quite a blur but no one fought or moaned. Something special and magical had happened the night before and in the words of Knight#1, “Our adventure last night made this my best Christmas ever.” Well let me add, “It was my best too, my boy, mine too!”

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Postscript – Looks like the puppy may have simply had a convulsion and is still in isolation and under observation to determine if it is rabies though it is looking more like it was fit.

Christmas Decorations

As we spent this year celebrating Christ as our king we decorated our table in red and gold. To do this we made crackers, serviette holders and angels as part of our Christmas decorations. I’d say above all the serviette holders were easiest to make and yet so effective.

All you need is some gold cardboard, scissors, glue, tape and sequins.

We simple cut some gold card with zig-zag shapes and then cut the strips in half.

Using wood/cold glue, we added 3 red and gold sequins to the strip.

Lastly we taped the strip shut to make the ring and added the serviettes.

We then make a thinner and longer crown to add to the top of our Christmas cake. It was decided that we’d simply make a small Christmas cake this year, so we cooked it in a bowl that looked a bit like a crown. We then iced it with royal icing and added gold and red balls to it, with the odd red icing flower. The crown was the final touch. The cake was so simple yet so effective in summarizing our advent celebration of Christ our King.

As a final gesture and touch we added little gold gift bags that was personally tagged and had a chocolate and homemade magnet inside – each magnet had a Bible verse on it celebrating Christ our King.

Although the decorations were simple and easy to make the theme and colour scheme meant a lot to the children and not only made it memorable but helped them remember why exactly we spent a day celebrating a baby born 2000 years ago birth today.

Christ The King

Every year before Christmas we pray about our Christmas theme.  The one year we had the colours yellow and white for Jesus the light, last year we focused on white for peace and this year God gave us the colours red and gold. So we made red and gold angels, crackers and serviette holders.

The red representing the blood that resulted in the babe born in Bethlehem becoming our eternal king, which was reflected in the gold. Through Bible readings and prayer with the children we realised that a baby born in a foreign land had not significance to us – let alone a baby born 2000 years ago having any eternal significance to us. It is purely through this baby’s life, death, resurrection and kingship that we can remember, rejoice and celebrate this babe’s birth.

We spent time discussing how we would treat a king. What gifts we would bring and the time we’d spend trying to see his face. We then looked at what gifts our king would like – “a broken and contrite heart.” We also discussed how much time we spend searching Our King’s face.

Later we spent time asking ourselves what a King would expect from his subjects – he’s want loyalty, respect, trust, love, submission, honesty and such. What attitudes do we bring before our king?

This time has been so special and the children have learned so many valuable life lessons. We have all developed a deeper love for our heavenly king. As we set our table with red and gold, placed the crown on our crown Christmas cake, put up the red and gold balloons and the crown serviette holders we were constantly reminded that the babe’s birth we celebrated is today sitting upon His kingly throne. What a special blessed time we’ve had together.

Christmas Angels

This year we spent our advent time focusing on Christ our King so our colour scheme for Christmas was red and gold. At the last minute I decided the table looked a bit bare so I had to figure a quick fix for the next day – here are the instructions for the gold angles we decided to add to our Christmas table.

You’ll need some gold cardboard and gold doylies, if you don’t have gold ones you can use white and spray paint them – but then you need to allow time for them to dry, tape and scissors.

Cut the cardboard into circles the same size as the doylies for the bodies and smaller circles for the heads. Then cut a straight line from the edge of the large, body circle to the centre of the circle.

Then fold these to make a cone and tape them closed.

Cut the doyly into quarters. Use 2 quarters to make the wings. Place them in the correct position and tape them together then tape them to the body. You may need to use your fingers to place them in the correct position.

 

Next roll some tape so it becomes double sided tape and use it to add the head to the body.

 

There you have it some lovely angels for your Christmas table!

Christmas Crackers

Not sure about your corner of the world but here we all love popping Christmas Crackers on Christmas day – however we find they are so expensive and the contents are always so disapointing!

For his reason, as part of our year end celebrations, we have over the past six years made out own crackers. We have found a shop that sells the cracker part very reasonably and that is what first inspired us to try make our own. If however you can’t get your hands on these I’d still suggest trying to make your own as your are then able to choose prizes that suit your family, you can choose your own colour theme and your children are able to be apart of the making of them. We’ve found that what makes our Christmas times so special is that the children are fully involved – no things often don’t look perfect and are often not as I imagined them but the fun we’ve had making them always outweighs that.

Firstly you need to gather your materials:crepe paper, raffia, toilet roll insides, glitter, glue, scissors and treats.

The process is as easy as cutting the paper, adding glitter to it.

on the back of the paper add a strip of glue along each of the longer sides. Set the toilet roll on the glue and then roll it closed.

Once this is done take the raffia, cut it into small pieces and tie one end of the cracker – this also teaches important fine motor skills such as tying knots.

place the treat inside….

And tie the other end shut!

These are so easy to make and the children really enjoy this Christmas activity!

Have Fun!

Hanukkah Celebration

As a family we have been exploring the Hebrew festivals and celebrations. What a blessing and insight this has given us!

This year, for the first time, during our year-end celebrations, we’ve celebrated Hanukkah. This is not a “biblical holiday” – in that God didn’t instruct His people to follow it but it was created by the Jewish people in a time between the testaments. We do therefore see Jesus go up to Jerusalem to celebrate this Jewish Festival of Lights – John 10:22-23.

The story goes that after Alexander the Great died his kingdom was divided and Antiochus Epiphanes took over Jerusalem in 176 BCE Judaism was outlawed and the temple was desecrated. An image of Zeus was erected and a pig was slaughtered on the alter. Any Jew who did not bow down and worship Zeus or continued to practice Judaism was murdered. A small band led by Judas Maccabeus conducted gorilla warfare upon the Greeks until they were able to reclaim the temple. They then spent time restoring the temple and building a new alter. Once everything was ready for the re-dedication of the temple – exactly 1000 years after the first temple was dedicated – it was found that there was not enough oil to light the menorah, which was to burn day and night. There was only enough oil for one day and it would take another eight days to produce more oil. However they lit the menorah with the oil they had and it miraculously stayed burning for the full eight days! Hence the Jews spend this time celebrating the miracle of God’s provision and they rededicated themselves to Him. It is also thought that this festival maybe where Christmas derived it’s date from as the Jews celebrate Hanukkah on 25 Kislev, and Kislev is the closest month they have to December. Therefore the early Greek or Roman church may have used this date to create their own festival to celebrate the birth of Christ.
I’ve just stumbled across this great review on some books to read to your child during Hanukkah – you’ll find these book for sale in our store.

As Christians however this time has a far deeper significance. Firstly Jesus is the light of our lives, the word is the lamp to our feet and we are the light to the world – so this celebration reminds us as we rededicate ourselves to the Light that we too are to keep burning for him. Looking at when Jesus and John the baptist were born, it is suggested by some that Jesus, the light of the world, was in fact conceived during the festival of Hanukkah.

As we didn’t have a  menorah to light we’ve created our own one with tea-light candles and a bigger “servant candle.” Before supper each night we light our candles, says the blessings and then read through Psalms 114 -118, which often results in us wanting to sing songs of praise! We then enjoy dinner together – which we are adding a special pudding to every night as a treat. Hanukkah is a family holiday that is celebrated with joy and love. As we have said the blessings – knowing that thousands of people are saying the same blessings at the same time and that in fact thousands of years ago on this day Jesus too said these blessings – we have stood in awe as to how partaking in this festival has deepened our own and our children’s understanding of how Jesus is the light of the world.

Year End Celebrations

 

We love Christmas. It is such a special family time that allows for us to re-look at our  basic believes, celebrate family and helps us train our children in the art of giving.

I still have the desire to do a full-out Christmas of giving to the poor and lonely on Christmas day but with little people this has not yet been a reality. Therefore we spend time focusing on giving to family and close friends. This involves every child making gifts for others.

As a family we’ve decided to separate Christ’s birth and St Nicholas. We therefor celebrate st Nicholas day  – in our own family way – on 6 December. This has been great as St Nicolas was an amazing man and his life teaches our children to give. This sets the tone for our festive season.

This year we added the celebration of Hanukkah which happened  to fall over Christmas and this too has helped us focus on Jesus as the light of our lives.

Finally we celebrate Christmas by making our own Christ centered decorations, we make Christmas crackers, our Christmas cake, cards and gifts. On about the 16th December we go tree hunting and spend an evening putting up our tree – which is a whole adventure in its self. Christmas day then begins with stockings, us going to church, Christmas cake and gift giving and which is then followed a huge family-lunch.

It’s taken us 10 years to formulate what works well for us, how to keep Christ the focus and how to have relevant fun activities running through out this time of year and with that we have created many fun family traditions and memories that will last for ever!

“Party On Mommy”

It’s 1:25pm and the party starts at 2pm. I still need to find my children let alone get them dressed, ready and spick and span for a Bob the Builder party starting in 35 minutes. Why does this always happen? I’ve known for two weeks that today at 2pm we had to be there, yet once again here we are trying to get ready – no wait I still haven’t found anyone to get ready.

Right one childwas playing rugby, another picking flowers and the other two were in the mulberry tree. (During which time they seemed to have lost most of their clothing) Note to self: Find missing clothes in the garden before it gets dark….   Right the eldest is going to a friend he’s got a jersey, forget the shoes – check – he can start locking the house and garage and strapping the others in the car. Surely he should be able to take the car out by now. Oh yes he’s still only 9, but maybe we should measure his legs sometime soon… focus – Mommy –  focus we have a party to get to.

Ok the twins are also going to play at friends – “No you can’t wear my 30 year old ballet tu-tu to go climb trees!” After we’ve searched through the entire wardrobe for an item of clothing a 3 year old and I can agree on I give up and turn once more to the dress up box. Fine, she can wear the frilly red dress marked 18-24 months. No it doesn’t button up but it does cover her pants – well enough to be with girls for the afternoon.

The present aaah… yes I did buy it, I was really organised I bought it last week… but… where did I put it? hhmmm A card!!!!

Breath … in …. out…. “Right someone make a card PLEASE.”

Ok almost there! “Girls go get in the car – no wait let’s brush your hair and aaaah – look at me … mulberry everywhere.” After much protesting their faces are fine, maybe no one will look at their feet!

Suddenly my 5 year old appears – “Mom I need the loo.” Oh my I’d forgotten all about him – the one going to the party! What a joke. He’s covered in mulberry, his legs are so muddied that they are actually brown and here he sits like a lord on the loo whilst the clock ticks!

Slowly I take a cloth and wipe his grubby face – at least they’ll know who he is when he arrives. (Even if the don’t recognise his legs.)

At this point an image floats into my mind. One long forgotten – an image of arriving at a friends party when I was probably 5. The entire day had been spent sitting around waiting to go to the party. We had bathed and washed our hair. Our hair then was brushed and had pretty clips and bobbles adoring it.  I had my favourite dress on. It was long and pink and had a petticoat and when I spun it twirled. The gift was wrapped beautifully and the purchased card sat perfectly in place. As we arrived I felt like a princess floating into a royal ball. How our mommies did it I’ll never know.

As I finally herd my mottly crew into the car and lock the house I think that at least once we arrive I can sit down and enjoy my desperately deserved cup of tea.  It’s then that I notice that although the kids are dressed – albeit nothing like royalty – and are all strapped in the car, my 5 year old clutching his proudly home created card – that Mommy doesn’t have a clue as to whether she brushed her hair or looked in a mirror herself and she definitely has no shoes.

Spring Celebration

As a new mom I remember reading Sally Clarkson’s book Mission of Motherhood. One of the family aspects that stood out for me was her thoughts on celebrations. We not talking about Christmas or Easter here but rather everyday celebrations.

Since then we have selected a handful of special days and created our own personal celebrations around it. When our children look back on their childhood it’s my hope that they will say, “Our family was special because we always celebrated…..”

One of our favourite celebrations is Spring. This has evolved over the years depending on where we have lived and how old the children have been but this is how it looks today. Mom gets up really early to start making scones for breakfast. Once everyone is up we trek out into the garden with baskets to collect flowers and leaves to decorate the table with. Then while the children decorate and set the table we finish getting the scones, fruit, yogurt and fruits raw oats ready to eat. We then all sit down to breakfast with soft music playing, sweet flower scents drifting from the table and candles burning. Breakfast begins with a prayer thanking God for spring, hope, life and all things beautiful.

This year we focused on the Bible verse Song of Songs 2: 11- 13 , “See! The winter is past;    the rains are over and gone.  Flowers appear on the earth;   the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves  is heard in our land.  The fig tree forms its early fruit;  the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.”

So after breakfast the older children wrote out and illustrated the verse while the younger ones illustrated theirs (we cut out some butterfly wrapping paper too – just to add to the effect.) As we had moms group that morning we spent the time making flower arrangements with our friends. W aim to have a lovely supper too at the end of the day during which we all either recite or read a poem that speaks of spring, hope, or new life. The evening is ended by Daddy praying for us.

It is always a beautiful, happy day that has become a focal point in our home

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