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Russ and I are heading out on a short road trip this morning with Dimples. A friend who used to work in the cottage at Dimples’ program invited her to come visit for a few days. Dimples is beyond excited. Not only will she see some of the adults who were integral to her life and path toward healing, she’ll see some of her friends as well. One of her closest friends has a family now (!!!!); they’ll get to visit and have fun outside of the more structured environment where they met.

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Well friends, it’s early on Christmas Eve morning and I suspect I won’t get back here until all of the festivities are over. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas.

Last night we realized that our water storage tank is nearly empty, which means there is a problem with the pump in our well, or something in our house isn’t working. This means: no showers, flushing toilets only when necessary, and minimizing water consumption. Talk about bad timing. Russ is going to call the well people this morning and see if they can come out, but it’s Christmas Eve, so I suspect it will be costly. Sad!

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O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie…

I hadn’t given much thought to the significance of Bethlehem, until a couple of weeks ago. This is a busy day and our attention spans are short, so I’ll get right to the point.

In comparison to powerful and grand Jerusalem, Bethlehem was a small, lowly town. Yet the Messiah, the savior of the world, was born there.

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giving thanks #1551 – 1560

celebrating Katie’s birthday today

Amazon Prime (thank you, thank you)

This post was originally published last year, but it bears repeating. Reading it this morning, I was reminded of some helpful preparation I can do with my kids in the next few days.

Christmas is coming and gifts will be exchanged. Even the healthiest, happiest kids have difficulty navigating how to receive and give thanks appropriately, and it can be a huge challenge for our kids who came to us from “hard places”.

How do we teach children to receive a gift with grace and gratitude? It may take years, but we want them to grow in their ability to do this well.  These five hints will help them along the way, and make holiday celebrations more pleasant for everyone.

1. Let your child know what to expect.

One of our daughters lived in an orphanage where she watched many Disney movies – her dreams of a mountain of shiny, wrapped gifts heaped under the Christmas tree came from Hollywood, not reality. We’ve become much more structured in gift giving in order to help our children have realistic expectations of what will happen Christmas morning. We explain that they will each receive a book and two other gifts. Whatever your plan is, be sure to repeat it many times, especially the first few years.

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Advent goes best when I keep my expectations low – that’s actually true of all holidays at our house. We’re one day behind on our Jesse Tree and Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas, and nearly a week behind on Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent. But it doesn’t matter one bit because Advent is a time to anticipate the coming of Jesus, so simply enjoying the celebration is enough.

We’ve come up with a good rhythm. On school mornings, we gather at the table at 7:30 and read Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. The kids take turns adding an ornament to our Jesse Tree, which is a gangly  and rather large branch off a bush in our backyard. I found a tall, square vase at Ross and filled it with ornaments (Katie’s idea) and small white lights. Katie put it together one Sunday and we’ve enjoyed it every day since.

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Comfort in her father’s arms – 2012

Thank you, friends, for leaving comments of hope and encouragement. God answered your prayers in an interesting way – my child got sick and couldn’t go to school. I was able to give more nurture and let her rest. I could make a long list of the many possible triggers, but Christmas and sickness are big enough to account for nearly anything. I have a strong sense that giving a loving, warm greeting this morning might secure our progress toward landing in a better place today.

Two years ago we had a very big crisis just before Christmas and I’m sure that is impacting all of us. While we don’t want to linger in the past, those memories don’t evaporate. We need to build good Christmas memories, year after year, and regain our sense of peace about celebrating this holiday together. 

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Life is filled with ups and downs. The last two weeks we’ve had more downs than ups with one of our kids and I find that fear is creeping in and weighing on me.  Each day I wake up telling myself that God’s mercies to me are new every morning, and my mercies toward my child need to be the same. But then the morning starts and challenging behaviors begin; the other children’s eyes grow big and they scurry to stay out of the way — and it’s difficult.

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One of my goals during this homeschool sabbatical, is to declutter our home. Fifteen years in the same house, 11 kids, 30 years of marriage, have added up to too much stuff. Emptying our garage in preparation for remodeling was just the impetus we needed.

We are a book-loving family. We also have 23 years of homeschooling experience, which means packed bookcases in many rooms and boxes overflowing with curricula for each grade. I’m working my way through them, acknowledging that some of theses books are no longer needed.

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Yesterday’s Tuesday Topic brought a lot of silence. Those who answered responded with wise, compassionate, transparent comments, and I’m so grateful for each one of you. Be sure to read those comments.To be honest, I didn’t want to answer this one, because even reading the post again this morning brought up memories I would rather forget.

It is terribly traumatic to parent a child who is physically and emotionally out of control. When a child rages and hurts the people around her/him, we are changed. Just writing this, I feel tension in my throat and pressure in my chest; PTSD is not uncommon in parents who have children from “hard places.”

I’ve never shied away from hard topics here at One Thankful Mom, so I’m going to give this question the best answer I can bear to write – and as quickly as I can write it so I can move on to happier things.