Friday, November 20, 2015

Toddler Advent Reading & Activity Plan

I just wanted to share the Advent Reading & Activity Plan I made to do with my toddler this year (she'll be 22 months old when we do it). I've had several friends ask me for the plan when I told them about it, so I thought others might like to have it as a resource, as well. Feel free to use, not use, or modify whatever you want.

The Reading Plan:

Here's the reading calendar I made (based on the Jesus Storybook Bible). We'll read those, along with the Bible verses listed, at dinner with Daddy as our family devotional time. 

November 29: The Story & The Song  |  Psalm 19  |  CANDLE 1
November 30: The Story & The Song  |  Psalm 19
December 1: The Story & The Song  |  Hebrews 1
December 2: The Beginning: A Perfect Home  |  Genesis 1
December 3: The Beginning: A Perfect Home  |  Genesis 1
December 4: The Beginning: A Perfect Home  |  Genesis 2
December 5: The Terrible Lie  |  Genesis 3
December 6: The Terrible Lie  |  Genesis 3  |  CANDLE 2
December 7: God to the Rescue  |  Exodus 11
December 8: God to the Rescue  |  Exodus 12
December 9: God to the Rescue  |  Exodus 13
December 10: Ten Ways to Be Perfect  |  Exodus 16
December 11: Ten Ways to Be Perfect  |  Exodus 17
December 12: The Teeny-Weenie ... True King  |  1 Samuel 16
December 13: The Teeny-Weenie ... True King  |  1 Samuel 16  |  CANDLE 3
December 14: Operation “No More Tears!”  |  Isaiah 9, 11
December 15: Operation “No More Tears!”  |  Isaiah 40, 50
December 16: Operation “No More Tears!”  |  Isaiah 53, 55, 60
December 17: Get Ready!  |  Nehemiah 8-10
December 18: Get Ready!  |  Malachi 1, 3, 4
December 19: Get Ready!  |  Ezra 7
December 20: He’s Here  |  Luke 1-2  |  CANDLE 4
December 21: He’s Here  |  Luke 1-2
December 22: He’s Here  |  Luke 1-2
December 23: The Light of the Whole World  |  Luke 2
December 24: The Light of the Whole World  |  Luke 2
December 25: The Light of the Whole World  |  Luke 2
December 26: The King of All Kings  |  Matthew 2
December 27: The King of All Kings  |  Matthew 2  |  CANDLE 5

I based this plan off of one I found online that had a different story each day, but I customized ours so there would be more repetition of the stories since she's still pretty young. The one with a different story each day would be great for older toddlers or preschoolers, so I'll be referencing it in the future, I'm sure!

I also customized my plan to start at the beginning of Advent (rather than on Dec 1), and I extended it to the 27th to wrap things up after the dust settles a bit.

The Activity Calendar:

These are the activities I made to coincide with the readings (or some don't too). I got a lot of my ideas from this lady who made activities to go with the original reading plan I found. I also got many of the ideas from my sister. 

I changed a lot of them to fit with our schedule (such as just reading a book on days we're going to visit family, etc.) and to simplify them—for my sake and because my kiddo is still pretty young. One note: some of the activities require toys and books we have around our house already. You could probably pretty easily modify these to use books and supplies you have.

November 29
The word "ADVENT" means "Coming" (just like when we say daddy is COMING home). Jesus' birthday is coming soon, when we celebrate the day He was born as a baby. Each day for the next four weeks, we'll get ready to celebrate Jesus' Birthday on Christmas Day by opening an Advent surprise like this one!! I wonder what tomorrow's surprise will be!
[Tape A-D-V-E-N-T letters on wall]

November 30
Christmas is the day we celebrate Jesus' birthday, the day he was born! The Bible tells us the story of his birth many years ago. Let's read the story together from a book now.
[Read “The Story of Christmas”]

December 1
Christmastime is a great time to give to those in need. We like to show Jesus’ love to others just like He showed His love to us by coming as a man to rescue us. Let’s give to children in need today by choosing one of these gifts for them.
[Choose gifts from Compassion catalog]

December 2
Let’s make a sweet Christmas treat today! Christmas cookies are a fun way to celebrate.
[Make sugar cookies and decorate them together]

December 3
God made everything! He made the trees. Sometimes we like to celebrate Christmas by decorating trees like this one in our house! Let’s read about the things He made and make a little tree now.
[Read “Poems and Prayers” poems about what God made, make a green paper Christmas tree with ornament stickers]

December 4
God made a perfect home for Adam and Eve, didn’t He? Let’s think about that while we make our own home more beautiful by hanging these pretty ornaments on the Christmas tree.
[Hang 5-10 ornaments together]

December 5
Let’s color a fun Christmas picture together today. This is a picture of the day Jesus was born. Jesus is a special baby. Can you find Jesus? What else do you see in the picture?
[Color Nativity picture]

December 6
One thing people like to do to celebrate Christmas is make gifts and greetings for each other. Let’s make some cards for our librarians to deliver when we see them.
[Make Christmas cards using paper, stickers, and markers]

December 7
While we wait for Jesus’ birthday, let’s go to the library to deliver our cards and get a Christmas book to read today!
[Bring cards to librarians and get a book to read that day]

December 8
Passover, which we are learning about in our Devotions, is also known as the feast of unleavened bread. God’s people left Egypt quickly and didn’t have time for their bread to rise (or leaven). So they eat this special bread when they celebrate Passover.
[Eat Matzo bread, listen to Passover song, and watch Passover video

December 9
Moses and his sister and God’s people danced and sang and made music, praising God for His protection. You can make music to God, too. One great way to celebrate Christmas is with music!
[Make a jingle bell instrument (bells on pipe cleaner), gather other instruments, and listen to Christmas music and play along]

December 10
God provided for His people as they wandered in the desert by giving them manna to eat every day. He provides for us, too. Let’s pretend to eat some manna together while we watch a special Christmas movie.
[Eat “manna” (frosted flakes) and watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas”]

December 11
Candy Canes can remind us of Jesus at Christmastime. Let’s read a poem about candy canes and then make a candy cane!
[Read Candy Cane Poem and then make candy cane craft]

December 12
Candy Canes can remind us of Jesus at Christmas time since they look like a "J" upside-down and "J" is the first letter in Jesus' name! [Hold up like a “J”] They also remind us of a shepherd’s crook (read book and explain about how Jesus is our Shepherd and what a crook is), like King David talks about in Psalm 23.
[Read “The Lord is my Shepherd” book and then share candy cane treat]

December 13
Let’s write letters to your grandparents today, wishing them a Merry Christmas and telling them how much Jesus loves them.
[Write letters on Christmas paper and mail them]

December 14
There are lots of fun stories, pretend and real, about Christmas. The stories about Jesus from the Bible are true stories. Let’s read some make-believe, pretend stories now.
[Read “The Silver Christmas Tree” and “Clifford’s Christmas”]

December 15
Let’s celebrate Christmastime by making a pretty decoration for our Christmas tree today!
[Make paper chain and hang on tree]

December 16
God announced the news of Jesus’ birth by having a very bright star shine down on Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. Let’s make a pretty sparkly star today!
[Make star of David out of popsicle sticks, glue, and glitter]

December 17
Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Here is a picture of the star over Bethlehem, shining on the place where Jesus was born. Jesus is a very special baby! Let’s color this picture while we listen to a song about Bethlehem.
[Color Bethlehem picture and listen to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and other Christmas music]

December 18
One way we can announce good news like Jesus’ birth is by blowing a trumpet loud for all to hear! Let’s read a story about trumpeting the Good News and then make a trumpet.
[Read Good News, page 66, in “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing” and make a horn (cone) out of yellow construction paper.]

December 19
We like to celebrate Christmas by spending time with the people we love. Let’s read a book about that as we visit with our family this weekend!
[Read “Willow at Christmastime”]

December 20
Let’s read a Christmas story about one of your favorite friends, Charlie Brown!
[Read "Charlie Brown Christmas"]

December 21
Today we can read the Nativity Story in Mom's Bible. We can act it out with our little nativity people while I read.
[Read Luke 2 in Bible, use Little People nativity to reenact the story]

December 22
See how mom's tummy is betting bigger with the new baby growing inside? The same thing happened to Mary when she had baby Jesus! But even before Jesus started growing in her tummy, an angel named Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would have a very special baby! God made angels to help Him and help people. Today, we can make an angel decoration together!
[Make a Paper Plate Angel]

December 23
Jesus is the shining light. He shines in the darkest of night.
Later we'll have a special treat, you'll wear PJ's in your car seat!
We'll take a family drive tonight, to find the fanciest Christmas lights!
[Drive through Christmas Lane this evening]

December 24
Today is Christmas Eve, which means the day before Christmas!! Remember the word "Advent" that we talked about and taped on the wall? Do you remember what it means (“coming”)? We've been waiting for Christmas a long time now, but soon we won't have to wait anymore! Let’s make a Nativity Scene with your Nativity stickers today!
[Make a scene with construction paper and Nativity stickers]

December 25
Merry Christmas! Let’s go visit Grandma and Grandpa and celebrate!

December 26
Let’s read about what it might have been like in the stable where Jesus was born!
[Read “The Stable Where Jesus was Born”]

December 27
Did you have fun with these Christmastime activities? Let’s do one more as we end our Christmas celebrations. Here is a picture of Jesus, the special baby, for you to color. Let’s watch a Christmas movie while we draw!
[Color picture of baby Jesus in manger and watch Nativity video]

The Finished Product:

I then put the slips of paper with the daily activities in these little bags so she can open one each day to find out what the surprise is. If the materials for the activity were small enough, they went in these bags. 

I also gathered a basket with the books and other too-big items for each daily activity. I knew I wouldn't be able to follow through as easily if everything wasn't in one place and ready to go!

Hope this helps and blesses you as you prepare for Advent with your kids!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dairy-Free Chicken & Rice Casserole

Recently, I've needed to eat a dairy-free diet on and off. One thing I've been missing a lot are those tasty creamy casseroles that are so easy to make and so yummy! But, alas, they usually contain cream, cheese, milk, and/or other dairy products. I went on a hunt for a dairy-free casserole and found this gem. It seemed like it might be a bit bland, so I made a few modifications, including adding onions and french fried onions.

  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups cooked shredded or cubed chicken
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3-4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder
  • 3 cups water
  • 1-1/4 cup frozen peas 
  • 1/2 cup sliced frozen carrots
  • 1/2 cup sliced onion
  • 1/4-1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs (make sure they are dairy-free)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup french fried onions (make sure they are dairy-free)

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. In large skillet bring 2 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp water to a light simmer.
  3. Add flour slowly and blend until smooth.
  4. Add 1/4 t. thyme, 1/8 t. onion powder, 1/8 t. garlic powder.
  5. Slowly add 3 cups of water and bouillon then continue blend until its a smooth consistency.
  6. Add cooked chicken and stir.
  7. Lightly grease a casserole dish and layer rice in bottom.
  8. Layer peas, carrots, and onion onto rice and sprinkle with salt and any additional spices you want.
  9. Carefully pour chicken mixture over vegetables.
  10. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the casserole.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes. 
  12. Top with french fried onions and bake 5-10 minutes more.
This casserole turned out better than I'd expected a dairy-free casserole to be! For not having any cheese, it was very good! It hit the spot, and I hardly missed the cheese and milk (ok, I did kind of miss them).

Friday, February 13, 2015

50 Reasons Not to Watch "50 Shades of Grey"

It seems like 50 Shades of Grey has gotten a lot of attention—both positive and negative—lately. I haven't seen it and don't intend to, but for some reason I felt compelled to write this post. Here are 50 reasons, in no particular order, why you should NOT see the movie (or read the book, for that matter)—though not all will apply to everyone:
  1. You value beauty.
  2. You are married, and you value that marriage enough to protect it.
  3. You are single, and you value your sexuality enough to protect it.
  4. You appreciate good literature. These are real lines from the novel: “Finally, my medulla oblongata recalls its purpose, I breathe.” and “My inner goddess is beside herself, hopping from foot to foot.” Really? Need I go on? Could we be more ridiculous?
  5. It's pornographic. Don't think so? Here's a definition of pornography from Merriam-Webster: "movies, pictures, magazines, etc., that show or describe naked people or sex in a very open
    and direct way in order to cause sexual excitement"
  6. You are a Christian.
  7. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Phil 4:8
  8. You believe our culture needs more good men—not fewer of them.
  9. "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:28
  10. Because there are better ways to spend that movie ticket money—like donating the money to a shelter for real-life abused women.
  11. You could spend those two hours experiencing real, life-giving intimacy with your real, flesh-and-blood spouse.
  12. You believe our culture needs more good women—not fewer of them.
  13. You love your children and you want to set a good example for them.
  14. You know you can't "un-see" things you've seen.
  15. It blurs the lines about what real love is.
  16. It blurs the lines on whether it's ok to have a "sex-without-love" mentality.
  17. It glorifies and trivializes domestic abuse.
  18. You are a feminist. Last time I checked, there's nothing empowering about a woman being abused.
  19. Just because the story has been used for some good, this does not mean we should in any way endorse it. Just because God can take the broken (e.g. losing a home to a fire or a losing a loved one) and use it for good, doesn't mean we should try to make these things happen (e.g. arson or murder).
  20. You are sexually hungry. Why try to satiate that desire with this disgusting film?
  21. You are sexually satisfied. Why ruin that by watching this film?
  22. You liked the Dove Men+Care Super Bowl commercial so much because you believe that what makes men, men: loving others, not abusing them.
  23. "For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does." 1 Cor. 7:4
  24. Because you are a woman and can't endorse something that glorifies a woman being treated in such a way.
  25. Because you are a man and you can't stand men being portrayed so poorly.
  26. Because you are a woman who is sometimes tempted to find a man who is broken and needs to be "fixed."
  27. Because you are a man who is tempted to be domineering or violent.
  28. Because you could spend that money to watch a movie, such as Fireproof, that portrays real love and grace and victory over sexual sin, instead.
  29. Because, since when did it become ok to watch people having sex on a movie screen? Is that something we would ever watch in real life?
  30. "Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love." Proverbs 5:15-19
  31. Because marriage is hard enough without confusing ourselves about what real love is.
  32. You don't want to confuse yourself about what real, God-endorsed sex should be like.
  33. You could spend those two hours on a night out with friends.
  34. Single? You could spend those two hours filling out an eHarmony profile and find a real single man out there who is not a tyrant. (Not trying to sound flippant here. I know it's much easier said than done!)
  35. Because you want to follow Jesus.
  36. "Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body." 1 Cor. 6:18
  37. You could spend those two hours and that money on a dinner date with your spouse/significant other, where you can get to know each other's heart & soul better with these 50 date night questions.
  38. You believe that we need to be reminded what real love is.
  39. "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers." 1 John 3:16
  40. Because you are lonely. Don't fill that hole here.
  41. Because you wouldn't know what to tell your child when they ask what the movie was about that you went to go see.
  42. Because you could go out dancing with your spouse instead.
  43. Because you fear God and you believe He is in authority.
  44. Because you could take that time to befriend and counsel a real-life abused woman by volunteering at a women's shelter.
  45. "Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? For a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray." Proverbs 5:20-23
  46. Because you are young and impressionable.
  47. Because you are old and don't think you're impressionable.
  48. Because you care about yourself and want to protect yourself.
  49. You could spend those two hours doing pretty much anything more useful. Here are some ideas: organize your basement, catch up on sleep, call an old friend, write a snail mail letter, write a list for your spouse of 50 reasons why you love them.
  50. "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." 1 Cor. 13:4-8
There you go. 50 reasons not to watch "50 Shades." I thought it would be hard to make a list that long. It wasn't. What is your reason for not watching?