Saturday, November 27, 2010

Avoiding "The Gimmies"-Part 3

I have been so blessed to hear from you about all the Thankfulness trees and turkeys that were growing in your homes! I pray that your families are also being blessed with the joy that a grateful heart can bring!

Another way that we try to avoid "The Gimmies" is we...

4. Celebrate Advent at home

I'll just get it out in the open right away...we don't do Santa with our children. I only reveal that fact to give you a little background on how we began celebrating Advent in our home. We do exchange gifts but we really felt God leading us to keep our main focus on the best gift of all, the birth of our Savior.

In an effort to find a Christ-centered tradition for our family, I researched the celebration of Advent. I was raised in a denomination that observes the season of Advent and remember the purple banners and decorations, the lighting of candles, and a special time of anticipation leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. When my husband and I starting having our children, our home church did not observe Advent. But I was very interested in the idea of celebrating Advent at home, so we got our own Advent wreath and began doing a specific reading each night when lighting candles on our wreath. We have used Getting Ready for Christmas: A Daily Advent Prayer & Activity Book for the Family by Yolanda Browne
and The Christmas Touch: Making Christlike Connections during the Holidays by David and Karen Mains (and others).

In my research of Advent, I discovered the tradition of the Jesse tree. If you want an excellent, detailed explanation of the Jesse Tree tradition, you can find one at this link. The name "Jesse Tree" comes from Isaiah 11:1: "A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots." (referring to the coming of Jesus Christ). The ornaments you place on the tree tell the Story of God throughout the Old Testament, and focuses on the faithfulness of God and the anticipation of the coming Messiah.

A simple way of explaining our Jesse Tree tradition is that each day we do a specific scripture reading and make an ornament based on a particular person or event in the Old Testament. This Jesse Tree link is where I found a wonderful detailed plan for daily scripture reading and ornament making for your tree. Here are some examples of ornaments that we have created for our tree. We like to use all types of materials, such as rocks and straw. The kiddos think it's super fun!

We choose to make our ornaments for several reasons:
1. the lil Shoes enjoy being crafty
2. it gives them something to do with their hands while their ears listen to the Scripture reading
3. and they really enjoy looking at the ornaments that they made over and over again, year after year, which gives us even more opportunity to talk about the meaning of each ornament, which helps the kiddos retain the information we have learned through Scripture.
Now again, it doesn't have to be crafty. Here's a link for Jesse Tree ornaments that you can download and print. The craft is not the focus of the Jesse Tree. The reason for the Jesse Tree is to keep a Christ-centered focus as you anticipate the celebration of Christmas.

Advent begins tomorrow, but don't think you can't celebrate because you're not prepared. It doesn't have to be fancy. All you need is a desire to keep Christ at the center of your Christmas preparations, the rest will fall into place.

A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots. Isaiah 11:1

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"My plate runneth over:)"

I'll be posting more about avoiding the gimmies soon but I thought right before Thanksgiving was a great time to share this with you.

I really enjoy reading. I try to read as much as possible, but I'm sure I don't have to tell you, I don't read as much as I would like because there is not a lot of space for quiet, grownup reading time in our "schedule" (and I use that term loosely).

I do consistantly read daily devotions from Proverbs 31 Ministries and also follow the blog of one of my favorite P31 authors, Lysa TerKeurst. If you don't know anything about Lysa, she has an amazing testimony and is hilarious and down to earth and so relevant, while at the same time seriously crazy about sharing her faith in God and her knowledge of God's truth through Scripture.
I say that like she is my best friend but you almost feel like you've just been talking to her after reading her writing. God has blessed her with an amazing ability to help women apply Scripture to real, everyday life. I'm working through the end of her book, Becoming More Than A Good Bible Study Girl. Such a great book! I would encourage you to check her out at her blog and also at Proverbs 31 Ministries!

Anyway, she is about to release a new book, called Made To Crave and I thought the trailer was so cute and clever (I especially like the "my plate runneth over" part), I had to share it with you! So without further ado, here it is...

I may have to run out and get this book after eating Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday...and Saturday:) Have a wonderful day giving thanks!
Come back soon! Blessings until you return!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Avoiding "The Gimmies"-Part 2

I used to be "that mom". You know, the mom who thought she would never let her children watch too much TV.

I was a preschool teacher, remember, so I was used to managing a room full of preschoolers, while also facilitating specific learning activities. But what I didn't envision is trying to manage five children (ages 7, 5, 4, 2, and 1), that are all wanting to do age appropriate stuff, while at the same time, doing laundry, making lunch, planning my late night grocery trip and finding the appropriate coupons, picking up what seems like a hundred toys that find their way on the floor, changing diapers, sneaking in sips of coffee because I'm running on about 5 hours sleep, helping the 2 yr old "go potty", while spelling "tornado", finding lunch burning in the oven, sending someone to the "time out" step for hitting, taking a book away from the baby as he rips the pages, then fishing the marker lid out of his get the idea.

So, sometimes, if I really need to get something done without too much interruption, we have TV time. And sometimes, when the children wake up at 5:30 and I'm slightly grumpy because I didn't get to bed as early as I should have, we have some TV time. And Tuesday nights are "Daddy works late" nights, so it's movie night (with popcorn!) And when the kiddos are sick, well, those days PBS is my best friend. Most days I try not to abuse it, but we are getting into cold and flu season, and when one (or more) of the five is really under the weather, TV often helps us get through what could otherwise be a some very, very hard days. Just being honest. Please tell me some of you can relate.

Anyway, as hard as it sometimes is for me, for the months of November and December..

3. Turn Off the TV (as much as possible)

As I mentioned in the previous post, the onslaught of holiday advertising has begun and most times, the target is our children. Now, we don't have cable or satellite, so it's a little bit easier for me than most to limit what and how much the kiddos watch. For those of you who have the fancy DVRs and whatnot, you could just skip commercials, which is really a good idea all the time anyway. It's a blessing for us that PBS doesn't even have commercials:) But even without commercials, once the pre-holiday programming begins, children can become totally consumed with the thoughts of Christmas presents.

And the fact that everything has characters on it these days...Now stop right there, I'm not totally anti-character. I, myself, was a hugh Strawberry Shortcake fan back in the day. And Smurfs and anything Disney and Care Bears...the list could go on and on. But to give you an example-we have a Blues Clues Memory game but my crew saw a Toy Story Memory game at Target and well, apparently, the Toy Story Memory game would be SO much better, because it's Toy Story.

Sorry, no can do. It's still Blues Clues memory at the Shoe house. Don't think the Lil Shoes are immune to "the Gimmies". We just do what we can to keep it to a minimum. What I'm trying to say is, don't feed the "I want" monster. Limiting TV and character exposure, as much as you feel you can, helps keep "the Gimmies" manageable. We still watch some TV during the months of November and December and we enjoy many of the Christmas specials (especially Charlie Brown). But the reality is, children can't WANT what they don't even know exists. So we try to keep the TV off, as much as possible. And we avoid the toy stores and malls like the plague:) Another way that the Shoes try to AVOID "THE GIMMIES" next time...

"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good" -Psalm 136:1

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Avoiding "The Gimmies"

Well, my cup runneth over again...this time with blog visitors! First off, I'd like to say a BIG thank you to those of you who are regular visitors. While I was gone my visitor counter moved to over 1060!!! Yes, some blogs get that many visitors in an hour, but to me, that's really something exciting! Apparently, my 12 "followers" must re-read the blog about 5 times a day. Wink. I can’t really explain it any other way, unless of course there are some of you reading that I don’t know about...I’d love to know who you are out there, so if you are feeling spunky enough, leave me a comment and let me know how you found your way to Simple Living With Seven.

Speaking of simple living... It's something we try to embrace here at the Shoe household. Now don't get me wrong, we are blessed beyond belief with "stuff". Sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed. But one of the things my husband and I have really tried to be intentional about with our children is avoiding"THE GIMMIES". You know, like when the onslaught of holiday advertising begins and you hear children saying, "I WANT THAT" about every toy/game/electronic thingamajig on the planet. I thought I’d share a few strategies/activities we’ve used, not only to avoid the Gimmies but also in an effort to cultivate an attitude of gratitude throughout the year.

1. Celebrate Thanksgiving all month long...
On November 1st, we started adding leaves to our thanksgiving tree as a fun way of listing people, places or things for which we are grateful.

We’ve done this several different ways, depending on how creative I was feeling at the time. Another idea, if you are up to the challenge of something a little more artistic, is creating a turkey and adding feathers each day.
**Now, keep in mind that I was a preschool teacher before I became a stay-at-home mom, so I am fully trained in Cut and Paste. But seriously, you don’t have to do a tree or a turkey, just make a list on a big piece of poster board. If you have older children, you could start a Gratitude journal together or have each family member write what they are grateful for on slips of paper, place them in a jar and then share them with each other on Thanksgiving day. The basic idea is making an extra effort each day to “count your blessings”.

This activity helps us focus on the fact that we have more than enough to be grateful for and changes our thought process from "I WANT" to "How can we share our abundant blessings with others?".

2. Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes

This is a relatively “new” tradition in the Shoe household. This will be our 3rd year packing shoeboxes.
I believe that supporting organizations financially is wonderful and can also be a very important part of teaching children about giving and about how to be good stewards with God's money. But young children often need something more concrete when learning about giving to others. They need to be able to see and feel the actual items that the child in a far away country will be receiving, which is why I really like doing the OCC shoeboxes with the Lil Shoes.

My crew is always amazed at the list of suggested items to pack in the boxes. The fact that some children don't have soap or toothbrushes is so foreign to them. Here in the "Land of Plenty", stores sell special soap for kiddos that is colorful and foamy and comes in different fruity smells. We have hand soap at our sinks and different soap for taking baths and even fun "kid" shampoo. There are motorized toothbrushes with characters on the handle or even ones that play music to help them brush longer. Don't get me wrong, we really dig that stuff sometimes. But the OCC shoeboxes are always a great reminder that even the simple things that we take for granted, like soap and toothbrushes, are a blessing to have.
Last year was the first year we were able to track our boxes and find out where they went. The children were really excited/interested about that and we were able to turn that into a mini geography/world culture lesson:)

The Shoes enjoy music AND the VeggieTales AND the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox program, so I absolutely have to share this video with you...(it's not just for kids, it's for you, too, and just to warn you...I got a little teary when I watched it)

Shoebox collection week is coming up soon (November 15-22), so if you are interested in this idea, you'll have get a move on it! If you have never done this, whether or not you have children, I would really encourage you to try it. You can put together a shoebox relatively inexpensively. They suggest that you donate $7 to cover the cost of shipping, but if that's tough for you, no worries. They have people that "sponsor" boxes and donate money to cover the cost, if you aren't in a position to do so yourself.

For more about Operation Christmas Child or to find a drop-off location near you, go to
(Sorry, my link insert isn't working for some reason, so you'll have to copy and paste)

More on how the Shoe Seven tries to avoid "The Gimmes" to come...

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. Psalm 107:1