Monday, June 28, 2010

Wacky Water Week

It’s steamy and hot here in Texas! No matter where you live, I want to give you some help on beating the heat with wild and wacky water ideas to use for another fun-filled theme week with the kids. If you have been following our theme weeks then you know that I am offering ideas focusing on one theme idea per week with your kids. I give the ABCD tips for making it a memorable week (A –activities, B – books, C – crafts, D – devotional). Let’s jump right into Wacky Water Week, as I’m sure it will be a big splash for the kids.

Activities: Play in yard sprinklers, go to local pool or lake or beach, fountain hop (more and more cities are offering fountains that kids can play in - search online for several near you), visit a water park, go to a local aquarium, get new pool floats for your own pool, water gun or spray bottle play.

Books: Make Way for Ducklings, Time of Wonder both by Robert McCloskey. I Wish I had Duck Feet, One Fish Two Fish…both by Dr. Seuss, The Very Funny Frog, by Jack Tickle, Corduroy Goes to the Beach by Freeman, McCue. Ocean World by Discovery Kids.

Crafts: Paint Plastic Water glasses. Create water color paintings of the ocean. Make music with jars filled with different levels of water, use food coloring to color the water and watch it dissipate. Add oil to a jar of colored water, place secure lid on top and shake to show separation of water and oil. Play Sink or Float with items around the house. Try to guess what will sink and what will float.

Day one: God Created the bodies of Water, Genesis 1:6-23
Day two: Parting of the Red Sea, Exodus 13 & 14
Day three: Elijah and the floating axhead, II Kings 6:1-7
Day four: Jesus calms the wind and the sea, Matthew 8:23 – 27
Day five: Jesus offers Living Water, John 4:1-26

Be sure to read my Thrive Blog
about being ready for Christ’s return. You’ll appreciate Rev 22:17 which says, “ 17The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”

Have a great week! Next week is Prince and Princess week.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tree-mendous Nature Themes

“Nature is a volume of which God is the author.” - Harvey

Summer runs with a smooth flow if you add a few theme weeks to your family’s summer program. A “theme week” is a concept I started when my kids were young in focusing on one particular area of interest for the entire week by choosing activities, books, crafts and even devotionals that center on the theme. Today I want to offer ideas centering on nature as a theme. Now nature can encompass a wide range of creatures and creation, so use it as an opportunity to teach about God’s mighty handiwork. I’ll give you a several ideas to help you get started, but certainly you have room to add to it as I recognize the expanse of the topic on nature. You may even want to turn these daily themes into weekly themes for the summer.

Day One: Bugging Out
Activities – Make or buy bug catchers and go on a bug hunt, visit local natural history museum or university, rent a bug movie, chase fireflies in the evening, look at bugs through a magnifying glass.
Books - The Grouchy Ladybug, The Very Quiet Cricket both by Eric Carle, Ms. Spider series by David Kirk.
Crafts – Create your own antennae using a headband and pipe cleaners, make tissue paper butterflies, make and decorate bug catchers using plastic jars and netting.
Devotional – Consider the Ant, Proverbs 6:6-11

Day Two: Flower Power
Activities – visit a garden or nursery or arboretum in the area. Purchase seeds and plant a small garden or plant flowers in a pot.
Books – Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert, My Backyard Garden by Carol Lerner
Craft – Paint and decorate flower pots and visors, make tissue paper flowers, color or water paint pictures of a garden, make ice cream treats with ice cream in clay pots, use chocolate cookie crumbles for the dirt and put a plastic flower on top. Add a gummy worm for effect!
Devotional – The Four Soils. Mark 4:1-20

Day Three: Super Skies
Activities – Visit planetarium, lay down outside and cloud watch talking about the different shapes that you see, star gaze at night, look through a telescope.
Books – The Cloud Book, by Tomie de Paola, It Couldn't Just Happen: Fascinating Facts About God's World by Larry Richards.
Crafts – Make drawings of both the day sky and the night sky. Use glitter for stars on the night scene and clouds for the day.
Devotional – Creation Genesis 1:14 – 19, The Heavens Declare the Glory of God. Psalm 19

Day Four: Amazing Animals
Activities - Visit the zoo, local farm, doggy park, rent or go to movies about animals, dress up like animals using face paint and making ears using felt and headbands.
Books – Anamalia, by Graeme Base, Animals Born Alive and Well, by Ruth Heller.
Crafts – Make animals out of clay or foil or recycled items. Bake and decorate animal shaped cookies. Draw pictures of the zoo and Noah’s Ark. Put together photo album of animal pictures from magazine or from the zoo.
Devotional – Creation Genesis 1:20 – 25, Noah’s ark Genesis 6,7

Day Five: Tremendous Trees
Activities – Take a hike through a forest, visit a wooded area and do bark rubbings, collect leaves, plant a tree.
Books – The Legend of the Three Trees, by Angela Elwell Hunt and Tim Jonke, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein.
Crafts – Create tree bark rubbings by holding paper on the side of a tree and rubbing with a crayon to get the impression (collect several and compare different barks), draw a forest, make a collage from items collected on your hike, preserve leaves between wax paper or clear contact paper, write a poem about trees.
Devotional – All of creation sings God’s praises Psalm 96:11-12

Well I hope these ideas sparked your thinking and gave you some fun ideas to do with the kids this week. May the Lord bless you as you celebrate His creation. Be sure to add your own book suggestions in the comment area. Next week is Water Week and I’ll give you some fun and easy ideas to do with the kids all focusing on the theme of water. Be sure to check out my Thrive blog at for some thoughts from this past weekend.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Terrific Travel Tips

"Good company in a journey makes the way to seem the shorter." Izaak Walton

Yes, I promised travel tips last week, but then again I wanted to share with you just a little about our daughter’s wedding. Now we are back on track, and I know for most of you summer is already in full swing, so let’s talk travel. As you consider a summer family vacation here are several important tips to make it a great family time together.

Pre-prep for Success: Vacation Preparation is everything! For a memorable trip, begin preparing the kids beforehand for what they can expect or which family members they may be meeting. Together, you can look up on line some of the possible activities to do while you are at your destination. Talk about the importance of being flexible as weather or other circumstances may change even your most perfectly laid out plans. Buy tickets on line to save you the hassle and time once you get there. Check out comments from other families and make sure you are planning age-appropriate activities. Recently I was at the Tulsa zoo and saw a mom, dad and grandma all pulling their little bitty toddler along in a red wagon. It was obvious that the young thing had no interest at all in the animals, despite the fact that the family kept pointing and saying , “Look at the animals.” He was just too young, and definitely too hot and tired to enjoy the experience, which leads me to my next point.

Schedule for Enjoyment: You know your kids and you know what they can typically handle. Please don’t overload your little ones by trying to fit way too many activities in a day. They are already going to be on over-stimulated by the new environment, so don’t overwhelm them with too much to do. A good schedule for younger kids usually includes getting up and getting out early, a time to eat lunch and rest (or nap) then another late afternoon activity and dinner. For older kids, you may want to let them sleep a little longer and enjoy a mid morning brunch, then a full day of afternoon activities and sight-seeing. Plan out your days as much as possible ahead of time making your schedule work for your family’s needs, but always remain flexible. Teaching your kids to be flexible and adjust to new situations is a quality they need to learn for life, and they learn it as they watch your example on vacations. Schedules should not rule your vacation, they are simply a guideline to help you work through your day.

Throw out Complaining: Make one clear rule before the trip even starts, “No whining or Complaining allowed.” Now mom, you set the tone by guarding your own mouth, but also have a talk with the kids telling them how whining and complaining can be quite draining not only to the rest of the family but to the whiner himself. The energy used for complaining can always be better used toward choosing to enjoy an activity or work through a difficulty. We are happier people when we stop whining, and change our focus to something good about the situation. On one trip I had my daughters memorize the apostle Paul’s words in Philippians, “I have learned to be content no matter what the circumstances.”

Give Goodies: A goody bag became a fun and expected item on Ladd family trips. I took great joy in putting together a fun little tote bag of games and snacks to keep the girls occupied while we traveled in the car or by plane. They even served to be helpful as we waited at restaurants. A quick trip to Walmart or the Dollar store will help you fill a bag with healthy snacks, water, markers, note pads, small books, pocket sized games, chewing gum, activity books, little toys, magazines, you name it! I built the anticipation by waiting until we got in the car or boarded the plane to give the kids their bags. They loved it, and it sure made travel much more enjoyable.

Bring books: You are never bored when you have books. My mom used to read to us on long car rides and it made the time go by so much faster for both her and us kids. I suggest you go to Half Price book store and pick out a few books that will suit your family. You may even want to bring a fiction book to read as a family on the trip such as Chronicles of Narnia. Books on CD offer another good idea for car or headphones. Yes, I would bring a few DVD’s along on the trip, but don’t neglect the value of inspiring your kids to read.

Writing on Return: Coming home from a trip can sometimes be a bit of a downer, but you can make it fun by taking time to reflect on the trip. I used to take a blank journal on each trip, and we put pictures in it and wrote reflections in the journal on the way home. Our favorite memories about the trip as well as funny things that happened along the way made good entries into the journal. We also added tickets stubs and brochures. You can even write a family poem about the trip allowing everyone to share in the creative process. Ask everyone to make a drawing or sketch of their favorite part of the trip. Years later it is a joy to pull out a journal and reflect on a memory.

Hopefully some of these travel tips will assist you in experiencing wonderful and memorable family vacations. For the next few weeks I will be sharing Theme Ideas to use week by week to make your summer a blast!!! Also, you may want to visit my other blog to read about “Flowers that Fade, but the Word of God Stands Forever.”

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Life Lessons from the Mother of the Bride

Yes, my daughter Joy was married this past Saturday, and it was a glorious celebration! Adam and Joy are tremendous young people who want to honor God in all they do. It was beautiful event, and everyone seemed to have a fun and memorable time.

In the days following the wedding, I have reflected on the memorable moments of the ceremony and the reception. I thought about how happy I was to see everyone else so very happy, most importantly the bride and the groom. To tell you honestly throughout the entire planning and celebration I was continually filled with peace and joy. As I considered the specific reasons why I never felt frazzled it occurred to me they may be worth sharing with others, because they not only apply to the Mother of the Bride but to life in general. So here are a few life lessons learned from the Mother of the Bride:

1. Focus on what really matters. In a wedding, what really matters is honoring the bride and groom and making it a wonderful experience for the guests. It is not about showing the world what a great event-planner I am. Also, it is important to continually keep in mind that the marriage is more important than the wedding. In life we must always readjust our focus in order to remember it is not about me, it is about honoring God and serving others. We must continually and deliberately turn our focus to the bigger picture of eternity and fix our eyes on Jesus.
2. Fret not about gossipers and complainers. “What will others think?” ought to be four little words that are banned from your brain as you plan a wedding. Remember, you will never be able to please everyone. Someone who enjoys gossiping and complaining will still do it no matter how perfect or traditional or expensive your wedding is, so don’t try to please them. This is your daughter’s wedding, not theirs. Generally speaking we ought to always live to please one person and that is God. He wants us to love Him and love others. He does not call us to live our lives with the goal to impress others.
3. Enjoy the moment. The wedding goes by so fast. Before you know it the couple is preparing to run through the gauntlet of rice, birdseed or bubbles and drive away. During the entire event I encourage you to set worrying aside, be flexible and enjoy the people and the festivities. Live in the moment! Embrace it! Similarly, choose to enjoy the place in which God has placed you and the people He has brought into your life. Why waste time complaining and arguing? It all goes by so quickly.
4. Put the right people in place. We prayerfully and carefully selected the florist, photographer, DJ, printer, cake lady and wedding coordinator. They all did their jobs incredibly well and made the event a great success (email me if you want their names and numbers). It makes all the difference when you have people in place who do their jobs well. In life we must recognize we can’t do everything, but we can associate and connect with others who are talented in specific areas where we are weak. Be wise and prayerful as you bring others on board to help you do what you cannot do on your own. We need each other and most importantly we need the Lord. Where we are weak, He is strong.
5. Love. That’s what a wedding is celebrating anyway. Love your guests, love your family members (even the annoying ones) and also extend God’s love to the wait staff and people who are working with you. There is great joy when we sincerely reach out and love those around us with a kind word, a warm smile and a helping hand. Love is patient and kind, it does not envy or boast, it is not proud or rude. It is not easily angered…love never fails. The wedding event will be a success if you extend love and kindness to all. Equally, you will experience joy in life as you reach out and choose to love the people around you.

Well, that’s my top five lessons learned as we went through the wedding process. I hope you found them helpful. One last thing I must mention, I can testify to the fact that when you pray and give your cares to God, He will give you a peace that passes all understanding. Every time I felt even a twinge of fear or worry, I gave it to God and sought His direction (with thanksgiving) and I want you to know He is faithful! Joy and I decided that every Wednesday leading up to the wedding would be “Wedding Wednesday Prayer Night,” so on Wednesday’s we got on our knees together and gave every aspect of the wedding to Him. Remember to cast your cares on Him for He cares for you!