Friday, December 28, 2012

Start Your Christmas Shopping Now!

I've never been an early shopper, and lately I haven't done much shopping at all. But this week, with one year ending and one beginning, I'm formulating a plan.  My plan is to buy things each month for Operation Christmas Child.

I'm excited to say I'm helping with a packing party in January at church.  Yep, January.  It's early, and those boxes will sit still for a while, but come November, they'll be added to a large pile.  As a Christmas gift, one of my school parents gave me a donation for OCC, and I'll be using that money sooner than I thought to get some items for this middle and high schoolers' event.

I cannot wait!

Last night, I went to Target to go through their clearance items and Dollar Spot area.  I focused on my goal of building boxes for 10-14 year old boys, and so while there I picked up a few things.  A few girl things fell into my little basket too, but that's okay.  I didn't go nuts, I kept my age range and environmental impact issues in mind--for instance, no markers this year.  I found some coloring and sticker sets, bracelets, and toothbrush sets ($1.48 for two toothbrushes and a tube of toothpaste).

(Poor areas have poor waste disposal choices, markers don't really ever get used up.)

While putting those things away today, I came across a Samaritan's Purse brochure I'd saved detailing how to shop by months.  The guidelines are good ones, so I'll share them here with some notes from me (you know, 'cause I'm such an expert.  Not!):

Seasonal gifts (on clearance, this is my addition based on the above shopping excursion)
Toothbrushes and toothpaste 
(I make sure there is one of each in every box, can't send candy without dental care items!)
Plush toys  (If you're local, I have quite a stash, and I'll share!)
Hats, gloves, scarves 
(on clearance by then)
Boy toys
Girl toys
Boy clothing items (socks, T's)
Girl clothing items (socks, T's, flip-flops)
School supplies 
(Always send a sharpener with pencils, and only buy Crayola crayons!)
Soap and hygiene items 
(No liquids!  I hope to knit a washcloth for each box I pack. Lip balms.  Hair brushes and combs, and hair ornaments are fun to buy.)
Hard candy 
(Tootsie products, Starburst, and Skittles are great too!  Avoid Jolly Ranchers, they really liquify when hot.)

To each box, I plan to add Lego, something musical, drawing paper cut to fit in the box, one handmade item and a tennis ball (What boy doesn't want a ball to play with? Tennis balls are less than $2.50 a canister.)

A photo of you and a letter of love must go in each box.  This year, I watched a video of a little girl pouring over the photos in her box, and it made me cry.  

As for handmade items, well, I hope to meet with friends to make something each month!

If you participate with OCC, please, share your ideas.

I think this song will be in my mind and heart all year as I work on this special project.  Watch it, it's contagious..."Some say it moves like a Spirit!"

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Readings

Merry Christmas!

Light all your candles and then your white/center candle, the "Christ" candle.

I trust you'll have a wonderful opening prayer for the day we mark the birth of Joy!

Isaiah 9:1-6
Luke 2:1-20
John 1:1-18
Titus 2:11-14

Or, if you have less time due to church, friends and family or other preparations...

Luke 1:68-79 and Luke 2:1-20

A closing prayer.

May we continue to honor, praise, and worship him throughout the year!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 23, 2012, the Fourth Sunday's Readings

There has been some discussion about the order of the candles.  My husband's protestant background said it should have been purple last week with pink for this week.  My friend Maria, who is Catholic, suggested my research was correct with pink for last week.

I have since found sources that reinforce both ideas as correct!  And for those of you who are using different colors, you're good too.  

Light purple, purple, pink, purple (or however you'd like).  This fourth candle is for "love."

Suggested prayer

"Lord, as we draw near to you, we light this candle to thank you for you son Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace.  It is he who came to earth in human form, and out of great love for us gave his life on the cross.  All other love is modeled after this act for all of us.  With his gift comes eternal life.  We who live in discord and strife may find great peace in love's promise through him. Amen."

Malachi 3:1-5
Romans 8:18-25
Isaiah 52:7-10
Revelation 21:1-4

Your own closing prayer.

My plan is to add the readings from 1 Corinthians 13, but instead of "love," I will read "Jesus."

And then, because it's my husbands new favorite song about Jesus' love for us, we will listen to this song:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 16, 2012, the Third Sunday's Readings

 Photo credit, Connie Schaible

Light the last two weeks' candles, and then light the pink candle for "joy."

A suggested prayer:  "Lord, Father, God, we light this candle to thank you for your son our savior Jesus Christ, who brings us great joy even if the darkest of times.  We who have walked in the shadow of the valley of death have found life in the resurrection of Jesus.  This abiding joy holds fast within us. We give you thanks and praise in the name of Jesus Christ, because he lives and reigns with you in your glory.  Amen."

Isaiah 9:6-7
John 1:19-34
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Philippians 2:1-11

Your own closing prayer, but as I type this, I'm thinking and praying the song lyric, "If we ever needed you, Lord it's now, Lord it's now..." 

Unscripted words are hard for me right now, with all that's going on, but he will understand our prayers even if ineloquent, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."  Romans 8:25-27.

Alternate reading for little ones:
Luke 1:26-45 (when reading this with children, I use "am not married" instead of virgin)
and, if you still have a captive audience,
John 1:19-34
In the Luke selection, Mary meets Elizabeth--John's mother, and in the John chapter, John the Baptist is proclaim Jesus' reign.  It's a great way to remind kids (and myself) that Jesus was born to save us.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gifts for Teachers

    This is a post that I've run twice on my old blog.  Please, give it a look see if you have kids in school...One update:  all the things I've seen as suggestions for teacher gifts on Pinterest are cute and thoughtful, but times anything cute by 20 or 30, and you'll just see a lot of, well, useless stuff.
     This is one of those risky posts.  One, I may seem greedy.  Two, I may seem presumptuous.  Three, I may seem judgmental or demanding.
     You can tell me shame on me after you read it.
     I always got my son's elementary teachers Christmas gifts.  I wanted to.  I liked to.  Even when money was tight, I thought it was important to scrimp elsewhere and spend a bit on them.  They, each and every one of them, were important to my son and his learning.
     (In middle school, Mac selected the teachers he wanted to buy for. We used to give them lottery tickets! I should have done more for all of them.)
     It's been my experience some of my students give me Christmas gifts.  It's been my experience that some of you wonder at what to give your kids' teachers.  Since some of you have asked me for suggestions, I'm giving them.
     I keep EVERY gift of writing I receive.  That's the best gift.
     My class usually selects a service project to give to and I ask that the kids give to it instead of me.  (Admittedly, when they did this at Mac's elementary school I gave to both, service project and teacher.  I had to.  I couldn't ignore the teachers!)  This year, we hope to bring gifts to the Elder Day Center.
     Here comes the risky stuff...
     When it comes to choosing a gift for your child's teacher, realize your child is one of 20+ kids who may be sharing a present with the teacher.  Avoid trinkety things, even though some can be quite touching to receive. Twenty plus trinkets is a lot of stuff.  Multiply that by 20+ years of teaching, and you've got an episode of Hoarders in the making.
     When I was single, I lived in a tiny condo.  I couldn't keep much.  Right before I moved, I went downstairs and visited a retired teacher who had kept EVERYTHING any student had ever given to her.  Her unit was beyond cluttered--and that was in May, who knows how many teacher ornaments she pulled out in December.  Yep, she bordered on a hoarder.
     One teacher I know once got 17 candles for Christmas.  Seventeen.  When something like that happens, I donate the duplicate gifts to a local thrift store.

     Anything "teachery" or "appley" isn't the best plan.  Being a teacher defines who I am.  Absolutely.  I don't need to decorate with or further adorn myself with my job--I wear my job with my exhausted expression and my colored fingers--dyed by overhead marker on a good math day!
     Lotions or similar can be allergenic.  Avoid.
     Avoid jewelry unless you are familiar with the teacher's style.
     Services, a gift of a manicure or pedicure would be such a welcome indulgence!
     Never give a mug.
     I get mugs even though I drink only diet pop (I wish I could say water) in front of my kids. One year, a mom said, "I almost got you a case of diet Pepsi."  I wanted to say, "And you didn't because?"
    Gift cards are wonderful.  To get a gift card to just about anywhere?  What a treat!
     Class gifts are great. Things for the class.  Ask your child's teacher what she needs.  Some teachers spend a lot of their own money on their classrooms.  Games in my game closet and books on my shelves have been given to me by students and enjoyed by many.
     Class gifts are great.  Collect five dollars or so from each kid and get something from the class.  A gift card to TJ Maxx, Target, a restaurant.  My first year in 5S, my 29 kids collected (with the help of a mom), and I received gift certificates to the teacher store, a bookstore and dinners out.  After Christmas, I brought in much of what I bought, and we had Christmas all over again!
     Two years ago, I had a mom who sent in a personal questionnaire and had me answer all sorts of neat questions about what I did for fun, my favorite colors, and favorite foods.  I felt so cared for!  She wound up giving me a thoughtful gift of payment for one month of Netflix and some movie watching snacks.
     Snacks...just like any holiday, too much food is, well, too much food.  So unless it's something special and homemade, maybe not.  I share mine at my family Christmas celebrations, but I usually wind up throwing some things away because we can't eat them fast enough.  I hate that.
     A few from a trusted kitchen are perfect (these were from a friend, 2012.)
 Pretend you are buying for a male teacher.  Most of the gifts on this list that we get too many of are never given to our male peers. Because they are hard to buy for, they get more practical things.  Sometimes, we women teachers are a little envious...
     Truth, it IS the thought that counts.  I can tell.  My kids love me to open their gifts in front of them. They are excited.  And when it comes down to it, really gets down to it, that's all that really matters!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

December 9, 2012, the Second Sunday's Reading

Light last week's candle, and then light a second purple for "peace."

A suggested prayer:  "Lord, Father, God, we light this candle to thank you for your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world.  We were like sheep who went astray, but now we have found the way to you through Jesus.  We offer up thanks and praise in the name of Jesus Christ, because he lives and reigns with You in Your glory.  Amen."

Micah 5:2
Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
Isaiah 2:1-5
Matthew 3:1-6

Last week we added a closing prayer, unscripted, as I'm certain many of you did too.

Extinguish the candles.

Alternate reading for little ones, Mark 1:4.  Since that's so short,  you might was to peruse the above readings and pull out one or two.  The little girl I'm doing this with is in fourth grade.  She described the Bible as being "about God," in the Old Testament and "about Jesus," in the new.  So we talked about Jesus also being in the OT, and how He was found in Isaiah (last week's readings).

Peace to you all.

If you haven't yet joined our Advent event on facebook, please do!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December 2, the First Sunday's Readings

Light a purple candle for "Hope."

A suggested prayer:  "Lord, Father, God, we light this candle to thank you for your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world.  We who have sat in darkness have seen a great light, the light of Jesus, our salvation.  We give you thanks and praise, all in His name.   Amen."

Isaiah 11:1-10
Luke 1:26-38
Isaiah 7:10-14
Matthew 1:18-24*

Extinguish the candle.

I will be doing this with a fourth grader I know each Monday with the hope her mom will continue on Sundays during winter break, and because our time is short, I am doing an alternate plan:
Isaiah 9:1-2 and Isaiah 60:2-3