Thursday, December 27, 2007

True Christmas Lessons

Amazing how busy I can be WITHOUT teaching school! But I guess I just feel like I've got so many things that can be done while we are taking a break, that it turns out not to really be a break (for me anyway). But I'm not complaining - I love getting things done, making progress on projects, checking things off of "The List." Those of you with this type of personality understand what I mean. It's always easier for me to keep house, run errands and cook meals than to manage school first and put those other things aside for second. Teaching and planning lessons is always more challenging than regular menial daily tasks. So although I'm busy, it sure is a nice break for all of us!

Christmas was a wonderful time (although hectic, as usual) for us this year! We are so blessed to have most of our family close enough to visit at the holidays. We were all sick (thankfully, not hospital sick) and had to keep 11 boxes of tissues around the house. But there is always enough excitement for opening gifts, eating cookies, and laying around in a turkey coma to get past a head cold! My sister and her new dh are finally on the east coast again so it was especially nice to see them this year (although the kids were more excited about their new dogs than seeing Auntie M). It was the first time for them to meet little Lincoln. And my mom's cooking! All I can say is 'Holy Cow!' - yum! What a true gift that she (and also my mil) let me have a break from cooking or meal planning this, Lincoln's first Christmas.

This year Jefferson received quite a few "kit" type gifts which required much assembly time and help from Daddy. He just eats that stuff up and it occupies him for hours! They really help him develop focus and determination. He loves to follow the directions to achieve something 'cool' in the end. Not to mention how great it is to have 'Daddy' time!

In the same line of thought, we gave Reagan a Lite Brite. I was thrilled at how she already knows her colors and the letters with which they start. She was forced to concentrate on using her fine motor skills to get the pegs in the right positions. I liked this gift because she also learned to continue through to the end where she was rewarded with something nice to look at to show her work. The beautiful wooden easel she recieved from my mom will be great in encouraging her sensory learning skills - she just loves to be creative!

As far as 'toys' go, Dh got a very nice remote control atv and raced it against his dad and bil all afternoon. Jefferson and the rest of the cousins were thrilled with this! Obviously no learning skills involved here! Just plain ol' fun! And I have been pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to run off the energy that the kids have when they are stuck inside in the winter. Found a small trampoline to use inside. It gets them moving and also encourages their health by moving the lymph system (gravity system). The kids all LOVE it!
Here are some shots of the fun with our gift - a new dig cam:

Amidst the chaos and the clutter of paper and leftover bubble wrap, I remember thinking "Even though the kids are excited, this is my least favorite part of Christmas." Each year as they get older and more knowledgeable of the true reason for the season, I wonder if they are just learning head knowledge about the birth of Jesus or if they are understanding it's importance. With so many gifts coming at them from every person and direction, how can we keep them from focusing on the materialistic and often dominate part of this 'hoiliday'? I can only control what we teach them and how many gifts we buy for them. But even there, I find myself wanting to load them up with all kinds of presents in order to bring them joy (even knowing full well that this doesn't bring true joy). Then I later don't understand how they show such little appreciation for these things. It's no wonder really - how can these little minds even focus long enough on one gift to enjoy and appreciate it when another is being thrown at them 3 seconds later? They are encouraged to be impatient (rip & tear hastily, "When can we open, when, when, when?") and selfish ("How many are for me?", "Do I get more?")! Am I right? Do other believers struggle with this as well?

How is 3 minutes singing 'Happy Birthday' to Jesus around a cake and even a couple minutes reading the Christmas story from the Bible supposed to compare in young minds that learn so easily from cultural 'things' and are only just learning the difference between Truth and that which isn't? So all this to say that I'm always looking for ideas on how to live the truth of the Lord through the Christmas season so that my children will value the things which should be valued - Jesus's birth, His blessings, family, friends, nice weather, good food, etc. What types of things do you do with your kids to encourage selflessness and giving in this season of God's gift to us?
I will say that until now, the kids haven't really been old enough to know how to take initiative to give to others. Last year we shopped for things for the local charity, which Jefferson didn't seem to remember this year when I brought it up again. And when we are choosing which existing toys that we are going to give away in expectation of recieving more, they don't choose their 'good' ones. However, this year Jefferson got a chance to "shop" for us at our homeschool co-op. He was so excited about what he got for us that I think he started to understand how nice it really is to give instead of get! So, we will continue to encourage this throughout the year. But other ideas from families with different traditions are also welcome!