Thursday, December 20, 2012

Changing Focus

With Christmas approaching this year, I think I had the same problem as many other parents. My kids were very ME ME ME and focused entirely on themselves. It is hard to know as a parent how to redirect them to look at others and to help them understand the true meaning of the holiday. It is hard also because I WANT to give my kids lots of presents. I love giving them gifts. I love doing things for them. But where is the balance?

We are buying a home this year, so we haven't had much extra money, but after a couple of weeks of "I want this. Can I have that? Oh, I really want that for Christmas!" I decided that we needed to do something. I was really grateful that a friend at my church gave me the perfect opportunity. She was organizing gifts for several foster kids and still needed several kids covered. I was thrilled to see two boys very close to my kids' ages. We prayed about the money and decided to get gifts for these boys. I talked with my oldest son (he is 6) quite a bit about what it means to be in foster care and about what it would be like to not have a mommy and daddy that can take care of him, nice clothes to wear or toys to play with. My son was getting 2 pairs of pajamas and a package of socks for Christmas, so I had him choose one of the pairs of pajamas and 1/2 the socks to give to the foster boy. This was very meaningful for him because he really enjoys pajamas and socks and he had a bit of a hard time choosing which pair of pajamas to give away. I was so proud of him, though, because he didn't complain at all about it and I think it was really good for him to have the opportunity to give something of his own away. Then we went to the store and my son helped me pick out clothes and some toys. It was hard at the store and a little frustrating as I kept reminding my kids that we were there for the little foster boys, not for my boys. But overall it was a wonderful experience, and I haven't heard near as much of the me, me, me as I was hearing before.

I think that it is especially important this time of year to find ways our kids can help us give to others. Little things don't have to cost much and can be really impacting for our kids and for others. One Saturday, my oldest son and I joined a group Christmas caroling at a nursing home. My son didn't want to go, but I had him go with me anyway, and at the end two different ladies pulled him aside and thanked him for coming to sing to them. As we left, my son said he was really glad he went and he wants to go again sometime.

Another little activity we did was I bought 12 little Christmas duckies from Oriental Trading Company for $5. My boys and I took paper lunch bags and cut scalloped edges, punched some holes, added some Christmas stickers, and threaded ribbon to make cute home made gift bags. Both of my boys had a great time making the gift bags and they really enjoyed giving the little gifts to their friends.

It is exhausting and challenging to find the time and energy to do anything extra as a mom, but I'm so glad that we did make the effort to do these small things this year. I think it has really helped my boys see that it truly is fun to give to others and when we focus more on helping others, it helps us to focus less on ourselves.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

I am a reviewer for Bethany House Publishers. This review is for the book Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden. When I read Christian fiction, my mind often wanders and I often get a little bored in the middle of the book, but that was not the case with Against the Tide. I enjoyed the book from the first page to the last page and didn't lose interest at any point. All of the characters were well-rounded and very well developed. None of the characters seemed too perfect and all were struggling with something, which made them seem more real. Even the bad characters were portrayed in a way that you could understand them and none were "too evil" as is the case in many books. I really related to the main character, Lydia, and felt sad and overwhelmed with her at various points in the book. I didn't care for the way Bane often treated her and put her in harms way, but even so, he was believable. Overall it was a very enjoyable book and I highly recommend it.