Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Seeking Our Savior

*** Update: Click here to get the printable in Spanish!

Yesterday, I posted the activities we had at our 2011 Family Advent Night.  Our 2012 Advent Night is coming up next Friday, so I am putting the final touches on the plan.  We will start the night with a Children's Mass for the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception (our parish feast day), and then all of the kids and their parents come over to our parish hall for activities, snacks, and fellowship.

We are talking about 45ish kids ranging in age from preschool to 8th grade, so it is always interesting  to plan something that hits them all.  I am a big fan of multi-age activities, though, because there is such a great opportunity for the bigs to teach the littles and the little to learn from the bigs, even without them knowing it is happening.

The theme for this evening is "Seeking Our Savior."  If you read earlier, the CCD theme this year is "My Soul Magnifies the Lord," so I am playing off of the magnifying glass idea.  The concept is that the kids are looking for clues during Advent, leading them up to the real meaning of the season, which is to prepare our hearts for Jesus, not to celebrate Christmas starting the day after Thanksgiving.  We are doing the whole night complete with lots of little hands-on activities, but this could also be adapted to be a take home activity by just using the coloring book, or to a more classroom-friendly activity by using the coloring book as a group and looking up all of the scripture references. 

All of the paper items are free printables- you just have to click on each document to go to the link.
All of the crafts are intentionally simple and mostly very inexpensive.  I have included basic directions for each station.

Here is the mini coloring book with each of the "clues" leading up to the reason for Advent.  It includes at least one Scripture reference for each clue, a question to think about, some Old Testament Prophecy connections, and a place to record their "detective" work.

 Click here for the link to the coloring book:
Our kids are going to do an activity for each clue, so they will actually get the coloring book at the end.  Here is the bag that they will get at the beginning of the night to collect their evidence.  (And to ensure that I won't be picking up unlabeled crafts from all over the room when the evening is over.)

Here is a link to the printable Clue Collection bag label:
For each of the activities, the table will be labeled with a large sign identifying the "clue."  When the kids need to find where to go, this will be their guide.
Here are the printable signs for all ten clues, meant to be printed on cardstock and used like table tents:
Depending on the age of the kids and your plan for the flow of the event, you can use these clue cards to get the kids hunting.  There are two cards for each clue, one with a question, and one with a verse, both that match the coloring book.  You could use just the questions or just the verse or all of them.  You could have a set for each kid that they collect one by one as they move from station to station, or you could have one that the leader reads to them when they finish one station to tell them where to go for the next...there are lots of possibilities.
I plan to have the cards at the right stations with Bibles open to the right verses so that the kids get some context on their clue quest.  This would also be a way to adapt it for a larger classroom independent station activity.
Here are the printable clue cards:
Onto the activities.  None of them are super awesomely exciting, but I needed quick cheap things that gave the kids just a bit of hands-on-ness to drive home the clue before they moved on.  There will be a Catechist at each table explaining and doing a bit of teaching-whatever works for the audience.  For most of our kids, they will spend less than 5 minutes at a station.  Obviously our 4-6 year olds will need a little more help, which is the beauty of inviting the parents.  They tend to go around with the little ones and help where needed.  The parents of kids who are too cool to hang with mom and dad help by serving refreshments or spending some time in fellowship.  It works well.

A Family Tree: Isaiah 11:1 & Matthew 1:1-16
Have the kids trace their hand and arm on brown construction paper.  Write their family name on the trunk and family members on the branches/fingers.  Connect to Jesus' family tree and that the prophets told us what family the Messiah would come from.
A Crown for the King of Heaven and Earth: Luke 19:38 & Isaiah 9:6-7
***(Keep in mind that not all of these activities are safe for all kids.  I am using several choking hazards, but our preschoolers are at least 4, and we have lots of adult supervision.  Keep that in mind if you adapt this to use with your group.)
Because of our format, I went easy on this one.  Pre-cut out crowns, markers to decorate, and sticky jewels -which will be strictly rationed by the adult manning the table :).  If you have more time, go for glitter or gluing on jewels because it is a lot cheaper.  Our format doesn't really allow for wet glue, so we are going with the stick-on ones.

The Work of St. Joseph: Matthew 1:19
Cue the cool thing for this station-
We had cross sections of wood cut like this:
And the kids wrote "St. Joseph, pray for us" on them.

The Love of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Luke 2:19 & Isaiah 7:13-14
Mary pondered all things in her heart- so we are going to make a heart to remember her and her love.
The kids will cut out a heart of fun foam,
 And punch two holes in it,
And tie a blue cord through it- the little ones might need explanation of the symbol of tying a cord around your finger to remember something- the cord represents that Mary remembered everything that Jesus taught and showed her through His life.

A Little Town Called Bethlehem:  John 7:42 & Luke 2:1-7 & Micah 5:2-5
Printable of a big B with Bethlehem landscape inside.  All the kids can use a coloring break at this point.

 Here is the Bethlehem printable:

A Humble Manger: Luke 2:6-7 & John 6
I am making these simple mangers ahead of time because it involves hot glue.  These are mini popsicle sticks, but you could do the same thing with big ones.

Glue together two slightly squished x's.
 Then glue three or four horizontal pieces for the sides.  viola.
 That night the kids will add a heart stamp or sticker or marker drawn heart of some kind- I haven't decided yet.  The heart shows that Love became incarnate and rested in a manger, a feeding place, which is a great connection to the Eucharist.

A Bright New Star: Matthew 1:1-2

Thank you, last year's mega after Christmas sales.  The bright new star is just an ornament.
 You could also get some glitter involved if you are brave...

The Sound of Angel Wings: Luke:2:13-14 
The kids will collect a feather and a bell at this station, representing that angels are swift messengers from heaven (feather) and that they sang in the skies over Bethlehem (bell). 

The Visit of the Shepherds: Luke 2:!5
Brown and white pipe cleaners twisted together.  Pretty simple.

The Gift of the Wise Men: Matthew 2:10-11 & Psalm 72:10-11
On-sale small boxes, decorated with markers and stickers and tied up with a bow.  (I am sure the kids will be much more creative than me.)  Inside the box, the kids will write on small slips of paper the gift that they want to give Jesus.  This is a great time to remind them that Jesus really wants our whole hearts, not gold, frankincense and myrrh.

And we wrap up with a bag stuffed with clues and a coloring book to bring it all together.  The last page of the coloring book has some thinking questions for the kids about what they can learn about our Savior from the clues they have collected, as well as what Advent really means.
 I think that our kids are in for a fun evening! I will post after the event with some pictures and an update of how it all goes :)

***After a couple of requests, and while getting ready to run this with ten or so volunteers, I made a Discussion Guide with directions/questions/answers/etc.  Click here for a copy.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving is over...

Thanksgiving is over...
so something big must be coming...

No, it is not Black Friday.
Or Shop Local Saturday.
Definitely not Cyber Monday.

And I am not talking about Christmas.

I am talking about Advent.

My family couldn't even get through our Thanksgivings without being inundated with Rockin-Around-the-Christmas-Tree on the radio, gift ads galore, and enough outdoor lights to land a space shuttle.  I still have my fall wreath on my outside door 'gasp'- but you should remember that it is only November 25th.  I want to celebrate one season at a time, thank you very much, and the next season I plan to celebrate is Advent.  I am honored to have been asked to add to Bonnie's Advent line up at A Knotted Life, which was perfect, because I already have a stash of Advent things to share with you.

First up, a couple of cute printables focusing on waiting for Christ.

We coupled this gift tag and ornament with the book A Stocking for Jesus at an Advent Family Night for our CCD program (ages 5-13 with parents and other siblings in attendance).

We read the book, and then each family made a giant stocking by lacing together two posterboard stocking cutouts.  The tag above was attached, with Jesus in the "to" section and something like The Smith Family in the "from." 

Each family then filled the stocking by writing things they would be giving Jesus- acts of service, love, and time, which were all written on Christmas themed die cuts.  They took home the stocking to hang during Advent to remind them of what we are preparing for. Here are the instructions they were given:

Click on the three printable to be linked to the actual documents.

Stay tuned for more Advent ideas!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hot this fall

Have you noticed that orange and lime green seem to be the hot colors for the fall?

I am a fan.

Point and case: this still life study.

Forgive the poor lighting and low quality picture, and just soak in the trendy beauty.

Wait, what is this a picture of?

This is my lovely orange lily and lime chrysanthemum flower arrangement...

Next to my cousin's compost bowl.

Her tea bags, egg shells, clementine peels, and onion shoots matched -perfectly-  this (I'm sure expensive) hot house creation.

The lesson?  If looking for beauty, forgo the florist and look to the compost.*

*Unless you are going to send me flowers.  Then go right ahead :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Don't say you weren't warned

A warning to everyone-
If you give a group of ten-year-olds a writing assignment, and the subject of the writing assignment is you, and you give them free license and creativity, you might have some very interesting ideas and thoughts shared.
Just sayin.

So, this post has been in draft form for, well, a month and a day.  But considering it was 70 some degrees today, I think I can still pull off a post about fall.  I also think something light and funny should be on the docket to start this week off.

I spent a lovely evening with my dad several weeks ago.  The events of the evening included me harvesting the last remnant of the corn crop, which he had saved for me.  We then proceeded to have a very lovely dinner together, just us, as my mom wasn't home that night.  What did we dine on?  Pizza and beer, of course.

Anyways, many of my students are fascinated with my farm background, and all of them are essentially city kids, so before we closed up the shop, I grabbed a couple of ears of corn and my dad filled an old coffee can from the hopper so I could do a little show & tell.

The unlabeled coffee can full of corn evolved into a creative writing assignment in my head by the next morning.  I told my kids that I had an interesting evening the night before, and they had to write me a letter about what I had done.  (We had been working on letter writing.) However, the only hint they got about my night was the coffee can.  At first, they could only gently pick it up. Then, I let them shake it.  Later, one student with closed eyes got to smell inside.  Another got to close his eyes and feel inside and share his observations.  Based on that information, I got some hysterical letters guessing what I had done.  After the letters were composed, I opened up the coffee can, showed them the contents, and then told them that I had combined a corn field the night before.  Some added a P.S. to let me know what they thought about the truth.

Here are a few of my favorite contributions: (For the most part, I left incorrect spellings and awful grammar for you to get the full feel of the writing.  Be assured that I don't condone it :) My comments are in blue.)

There in that bucket thing, I think there are marbles with your Grandpa.  I couldn't with my Grandpa.  Maybe my Grandma, but not my Grandpa he's grumpy.  You got one hour of sleep because you are Miss Bogner and you said you don't get a lot of sleep.  P.S. My grandpa is crazy.  You are not there yet. Oh, good.  Not crazy. Yet. Check.

I think you need to put down the can and act like yourself.
  Well excuse me for having a little fun.  Let's get back to our normal boring selves, shall we.

I think you robbered people of their teeth and robbered coin banks and made teeth coin necklaces and dipped them in mud and sold them on ebay.
But the mud just makes the pieces.  Don't judge.

I really think you should be a tooth fairy.  That might be fairly fabulous.

I think you ate jelly beans, graded homework, and counted your collection of marbles. Living the life.  That's me.

I think you are Mother Nature and you beat up Jack Frost. I totally could.

P.S. I was way way off!  And it is really cool that you drove a combine.  Thank you.  Anything to elevate my coolness factor.  With ten-year-olds.

Last night I saw you in your house through the security cameras I have in your house. (Long story- I have placed them in the houses of everyone I know)
  WHAT!  Someone needs to tell this kid that this is not funny...oh, wait, maybe that someone is me.

Or you are a cat burglar.  That's right, you stole a bunch of dirty cat toys. Oh goodness.  But Mr. Whiskers needed them!

Or maybe you are going to make beans as a midnight snack but you droped them on the way from your car, they roald down the road and hit your neibor in the head, causin amnishia.  Then you sued the bean company for 5 million bucks but they gave it to you in pennys and you put it in the coffy can. Yes.  How did you know!  That's me.  Causin amnishia.

P.S. I did not see that coming. It was a real nail biter.

(After guessing that I was a candy thief)- P.S. I was way off.  But you will leave me candy, right? Yes, it is my calling in life.  Sugar you up, and send you home.

P.S. You are weird.  Really.  Wow, you drove a combine? Yes.  It was a required class in my teacher education program.  I took it the same semester that I had Repairing Random School Machinery 212 and my Growing Eyes in the Back of Your Head lab course.

P.S. I know where you live. What!
P.S.S. I think driving a combine would be fun.  What do you wear to do that? Because, after all, it is all about the clothes.

Here is to the start of a new work week that makes you laugh and think outside of the!

Monday, November 5, 2012

10 Stories about the Zimmermans

Well, it's official.  I have a brother.  The wedding went off with few (very small) hitches, and after flying through several days of crazy planning and celebrating, I can't wait to see more beautiful pictures like the one above. (I was so busy, I have a total of two pictures of the entire weekend on my camera. darn.)

For those of you who have been tolerating my stories of the engagement, showers, and plans, I thought I'd share some stories from the weekend.  It was wonderful, and everything that you would hope a big country wedding would be.  As tired as we are all were, I know most of us didn't want it to end, because you just can't beat all of that time together with family and your closest friends.  I loved it all.  So here are several funny/interesting/memorable moments from the nuptials of Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman.

1.  My sisters and mom are beautiful, inside and out.  Check out the picture for proof.
2.  Steph was the easiest and calmest bride I have ever seen.  The thing she said most frequently all day? "Whatever you want."  On her wedding day.  The photographers were friends from our early college days (check out their business here, and see a few of the shots of the day here).  Mary the photographer said, "I love Steph.  I mean, I loved her before, but seriously, she is the easiest bride ever.  I love her."
3.  Steph and Steve have phenomenal guy friends.  It was a busy day, but as we ran around, it was nice to be around such gentlemen.  Opening doors, giving us their coats, dancing partners, carrying things all of the was nice to be taken care of.
4.  If you were to ever have a medical emergency, I would hope it would happen around the new Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman and their friends.  The make the story brief, my aunt started having chest pains at the reception.  Emily and I happened to have just snuck out to another part of the building to have a quick chat about our toast when my aunt and her two daughters came in, and my aunt was not in good shape. Fast forward a minute, and we had a very sick lady, an ambulance on the way, and me running down the hall and then walking sedately across the dance floor to the head table. (Think the missing FOB scene in the Wedding Planner)  My new brother-in-law is a volunteer firefighter and EMT, and there were many many medical professionals/first responders in attendance.  To Steven, I said, "Everything is ok, but tell me who is an EMT who is not in the wedding party."  He immediately jumped up, and I said, "Not you. Tell me who else." He got up to get a friend who was sitting in the balcony who has lots of years of experience.  Fast forward a few more minutes, and despite me trying to keep the wedding party in the reception (because not even the parents knew what was going on yet), the groom was on the floor in front of my aunt with his EMT bag from his truck, another groomsman was taking her vitals, and a bridesmaid was talking to her and trying to keep her conscious.  The bride was hugging my crying cousin, and the best man and I were outside flagging down an ambulance.  Fortunately, the DJ just kept people going by starting the slideshow, playing some tunes, etc.  No one even knew what was happening until we had to have the DJ announce the situation because we could hear sirens.  The ambulance crew loaded her up, and (after blowing a tire) took her to the closest hospital.  Even more fortunately, she returned a couple of hours later with the rest of the family after being released by the doctors there.  I am so glad that she is ok, and even more glad that we had so many people to help in such a scary situation.  And it made me admire and love Steven and Steph even more, as I watched them be the first ones to react and help even at their own wedding.
5. Speaking of ambulances, I fell down the stairs at the church about 15 minutes before the ceremony.   I tried to hold in my scream so that no one would hear and come running, but didn't quite succeed.  I remember immediately thinking that I would rather die than draw attention to myself by getting hurt at their wedding.  Fortunately, I just had several new bruises and some gorgeous rug burns, which looked lovely on my dayglow white legs in my knee length dress. However, no one was looking at me because Stephanie was so beautiful.  I am so grateful that I fell down the stairs then, not during the ceremony, or during the entrance at the reception.  I am also grateful that I did not break my ankle, neck, or shoe.  Especially the shoe.  I really liked my shoes.
6. There were a few little flubs that happened throughout the day, as is to be expected.  I don't think hardly any of them were noticeable, but one of them was really annoying to me.  The bridal party had a really long entrance, because the guests were seated on two levels.  We walked in through the balcony and then down a huge flight of stairs.  The DJ (who was great overall) announced us really slow, and he played this terrible jazz elevator muzak, which seemed to make us walk even slower.  Blek.  However, it was a fun contrast to the sirens and fireman call he played as Steph and Steve were introduced, Steven in his fire helmet and the wedding party dancing to Party Rock Anthem.  It is all about them, anyways.

7. Changing into cowboy boots for the reception was the best. idea. ever.  My feet were so happy, especially after the earlier stairs incident. One of the top reasons that I love being a bridesmaid is that after all of the stress of the day, it is time to party.  The wedding party is required to keep the floor moving, and we had a great time.  And a bridesmaid's dress is a free ticket to dance and not care if you are a bad dancer.  Or maybe that is just what I kept telling myself...
8.  Emily and I did our toast together, and it was improvised kind of at the last minute (our prep was interrupted by #4).  It included a purple plastic knife as a prop, jump ropes, the Oregon Trail, and a reenactment of the Exodus.  I guess you just had to be there.
9. As the MOH, I tried to make like a boy scout and be overprepared and packed a ton of stuff that we might need.  Surprisingly, we used a lot more than I thought.  Here are a few of the things borrowed from me by other people- needle and thread, chapstick, lipstick, deodorant, disposable toothbrushes, medical tape, hair pins, writing pens, sharpies, paper, lint rollers, mascara, bandaids, first aid cream, curling irons, hairspray, copies of the schedule, qtips, nail polish, and cotton balls...just in case you needed to pack an emergency wedding kit sometime soon.
10. My amazing mom and Steph made all of the wedding cakes, including an awesome firetruck groom's cake.  All night as I mingled and visited with people, we talked about the cake.  How good the cake was.  How beautiful the cake was.  How it was amazing that my mom made the cake.  How it was fun to have so many choices of cake flavors.  How people tried more than one kind of cake.  Fast forward a few hours, and the best man and I collapsed onto a couple of stray chairs while we were cleaning up after kicking out the newlyweds.  We were both so happy and tired and excited for how the day had gone.  He brought up something about the cake, and I mentioned how many people enjoyed it.  He said that it was cool that there were so many choices and then in a sleepy way said, "You know, all that talk of cake...and I don't think I even got to eat a piece."  I had to stop and think, and I said, "Neither did I!" :)