Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy 4th of July!


"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness." ~Erma Bombeck

As you celebrate Independence Day with your friends and family we hope you join us in considering the freedoms we enjoy and the sacrifices made for those freedoms.

To allow you (and us) more time for reflection, family and friends we will not be posting on July 2 or 5 but don't forget to stop by July 7 for our first monthly Recipe Swap! Until then...

Happy 4th of July!!!!

- from the Offering Hospitality Team

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Announcements & Housecleaning

First, thank you to all of you who took the time to take our poll and help guide and direct the focus of Offering Hospitality. I cannot stress to you the importance of feedback around here, as it helps us to know how we can be of better service to you.

Without further ado - we have a few announcements to make!

We are most excited to say that we've added two new staff writers to the Offering Hospitality team. Stephanie from Stephanie's Mommy Brain and Crystal from The Prices have both signed on to provide posts and topics both near and dear to their own hearts - as well as to yours. We are quite delighted that they were both so eager to be a part of things here as they both have so much to offer! If you would like to know more about either of them, you can click on their "About" pages up top.

Welcome, ladies!

Secondly, it seemed like quite a number of you were interested in us sharing recipes from time to time. And we could do that. Or we could make it more interesting. . .

What we've decided is to host a "Recipe Swap" which will be hosted by Crystal on the first Wednesday of every month. On that first Wednesday, we invite you all to post a favorite recipe of your own and then link it up to a Mr. Linky which we will have posted for your convenience. Visit around the links and collect recipes that you think you might like to try out! In this manner we will hopefully be able to offer you multiple recipes every month! Visit around and get to know each other also! (That's part of the point.)

Each month the recipe swap will have a particular theme to it. Our first Recipe Swap will be held on July 7th and the theme is: PICNIC RECIPES. Have a good recipe for a picnic food? Write up a post, share your great idea, and link back to us! Here is a snippet of code you can use to put a link on your blog:


<a href="http://offeringhospitality.blogspot.com/p/offering-hospitalitys-recipe-swap.html"><img src="http://www.bluecastlephoto.com/offeringhospitality/recipeswap.jpg" height="128" width="150" border="0" alt="Hospitality"></a>


Other things to look forward to:

1. We will definitely be presenting more book reviews/studies to you throughout the year. Some will involve guest posters sharing their thoughts on particular titles. Each review/discussion will be held by a staff writer from Offering Hospitality. During the summer months, Crista will be taking us through A Life That Says Welcome and we're excited for that!

2. We will maintain a 3-posts-a-week schedule as that suits our life schedules well and allows you all time to catch up and offer your thoughts and commentary as we move along in this journey to learning how to best practice and offer hospitality to others.

3. We will have themes which we will focus on throughout the year (much like our children's party themes which we did earlier on) so stay tuned to participate with us - especially as the holidays roll around.

If you have a good idea for a topic here on Offering Hospitality, or would like to write up a guest post, by all means please e-mail us and tell us so! We'd love to hear from you!

4. Once a month we will host a "Q&A" wherein we will invite you all to ask questions relating to hospitality. The staff at Offering Hospitality will either answer your questions, or find someone who can. We're looking forward to talking over the finer points of hospitality with you through this type of activity.

We're always looking to improve so don't be shy! Let us know how we can best serve you.

Thank you for your time and your readership! We look forward to getting to know you all better as we continue this journey.

~ The Offering Hospitality Team

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sister Shoebox Swap!

by Carrie B.

Sisters Monica (Homespun Heart) and Carrie (with all that I've been given) - both of whom have offered a guest post here or there - host a Sister Shoebox Swap periodically and I've enjoyed being able to participate in it the past two times. Today is the link up day at Carrie's site to show what we received in our swap boxes from our partners for this last swap. I was matched with the blogless (tsk! tsk! ;) Stephanie this time around. I've had fun passing a few e-mails back and forth with her and getting to know her.

Not only are the swaps fun, (because you receive fun surprises in your mailbox!), but you get to meet other ladies from around the country. If you are interested in meeting others and practicing hospitality in each other's mailboxes, talk with Monica and Carrie. (However, I do suspect that they are positively swamped with participants so maybe this isn't a good nudge? ;) At any rate, I think that this is a fabulous idea and so here's a little shout out to Stephanie, who has been reading Offering Hospitality, and here is a picture of what she sent me:

Theme: "Little Trinkets"

I was so excited to see these two items in particular: a table runner (that matches our house perfectly) and goat's milk soap which was made by one of her friends.



As for what I sent her, well, I didn't take a picture of it! I'd probably call the theme: "Randomness." (That seems to be my way most of the time!) She said she likes thrift shops and reading (hey! I could identify with that!) so I found a few summer items I thought she might enjoy and sent them her way.

Stephanie, thank you so much for your gifts to me! I had been wanting a table runner for our table and I was so delighted to pull that out of your box! It helps keep the table looking cute and welcoming and I will enjoy using it. Thank you for taking the time to pick out special-to-me items. Your thoughtfulness shown through as I looked in the box! You were an awesome swap partner and I'm so glad to have met you!

Looking forward to the next swap! Thanks, Monica and Carrie, for hosting!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

*We Interrupt Our Regular Broadcast*

by Carrie

FYI - we'll be sticking to the 3 posts a week format that we've had around these parts for the past few months. We find that works well for our schedules and suits the content of this site. However, this week is a little heavy on posts because we have a few things to announce.

Today, of course, we've announced the next book that we'll be studying around these parts. But it's also a SPECIAL, SPECIAL day that I don't want to let pass without a mention.

#1 - It's Crista's Birthday!!! I, Carrie, invite you to leave her a note of blessing or celebration in the comment section for her to read today!



To Crista - I SO appreciate your friendship and the way you challenge me to 30 Day Biggest Loser-like workout challenges. ;) I love your sense of humor, your heart for God, and your loyal friendship. Thank you for sharing our life with us and for allowing us to share in yours! Love you!



#2 - Speaking of sharing in lives.....yesterday Crista and Dave (and a few others) shared in my family's joy yesterday as we celebrated "Adoption Day!" The adoption of our second born was finalized yesterday and we are praising God for that! I wrote about this extremely special day over at Reading to Know and you can read my post HERE if you'd like.

Life is full of amazing moments to celebrate. Anything that we can congratulate or celebrate with you about? If you have something that you are really excited about in your life, we'd love to know of it and celebrate it with you!

A Life That Says Welcome, by Karen Ehman

SUMMER BOOK REVIEW, COMING SOON!

Hi There! Crista, here. Yep...it's been a while since I've made an appearance around these parts. I'm a middle school math teacher in my other life and it's been a busy spring, but summer is finally here!! Yippee! This means I'm not only free of grading tests for 11 or so weeks, I'm also free to review a book for Offering Hospitality!

Coming this July, I'll be sharing my thoughts from the book A Life That Says Welcome by Karen Ehman. In her book, Mrs. Ehman shares from her heart and her experience about building hospitality into our lives simply, effectively, and with the right attitude.

A Life That Says Welcome is full practical tips for opening our lives and our homes to others, but the foundation of the book is why I chose it for our summer review! As I'll later discuss in greater depth, Mrs. Ehman spends the first two chapters laying this foundation: It's all about our heart in hospitality. It's not about the decorations, the meal, or the externals of hospitality...it's about the heart: doing what we can with what we have to bless others and give them a place of refreshment in our lives. This is a message I very much needed to hear, and I'm really looking forward to sharing it with all of you!

You can click on the picture or link above to learn more about the book. To give you just a taste, though, here's the description from the back cover of the book:
"When it comes to hospitality it doesn't matter what size your house is, how it's decorated, whether or not it's spotless, or what you cook or don't cook. The secret to making guests feel comfortable is more about the condition of your heart than the condition of your home.
"A Life That Says Welcome helps you make others feel refreshed, rather than impressed, in your presence. It's packed with inspiring tips on how to:


  • decorate well on a budget
  • make the most of your space (no matter how small)
  • be prepared for unexpected company
  • create delicious, simple meals your guests will enjoy
"You'll be encouraged to not only open your home but to open your life as an avenue for God's love everywhere you go."
If you can, get your hands on a copy of the book and look forward to following my review during the month of July. I would love to hear from you, too, as I share my thoughts later this summer!
Wishing you a wonderful start to the summer!
Crista

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Fun!

by Carrie

So what did we do to celebrate the first day of summer? Well, for one thing - no one in town really believes that summer has arrived. The extended forecast still predicts cold and rain so we're happy to take whatever little bits of sun we can get.

The morning started out cold and overcast so we began our day together by reading some books. (Because reading books is really what I do best.) We started out with a book which is is published by Sylvan Dell Publishing entitled Blackberry Banquet:


To me - one of the most fun things about a summer in Oregon is that you can go pick berries! Growing up in Texas, I can't say that I ever went berry picking. But it's a really fun thing to do now. We kicked off our berry picking this past weekend with some local strawberries. Next up - blueberries! (We wait with eager anticipation.) If you are in the berry picking mood at any point this summer, I recommend Blackberry Banquet (which is about a crowd of woodland animals who are enjoying their berry feast until a bear rambles up and joins them!) and Jamberry which is a super cute story by Bruce Degen. Here's a picture of the cover art:


This book tells the story of a boy and bear who are out to pick all sorts of yummy berries together.

"One berry
Two berry
Pick me a blueberry
Hatberry
Shoeberry
In my canoeberry."


This is a favorite of both of my kids and it's always a pleasure to read. It has a song-like quality when you read it aloud.

Tip: Visiting friends with small children for the summer? If you are a guest in someone else's home this summer, overnight or for dinner, and you are looking for fun and different hostess gift to offer - check out these two books. Jamberry is a small-sized board book and makes for a great addition to any themed-gift involving berries and jam!
More ideas: Stephanie at Stephanie's Mommy Brain has spent some time this week talking about picking berries with her children. She offers 6 Tips for Picking Strawberries With Children if you'd care to check that out.

Back to our day - since it was rather on the dark side, we were unable to go out and play. Instead, I pulled out a tunnel set which we picked up at Costco for a song several years back. I set it up in the bedroom and let the boys play.

That provided a decent amount of entertainment as the toy boys maneuvered in and out of tunnels, chasing each other along. I don't think tunnels really represent tunnels, exactly, but they are quite fun.

During my youngest son's nap time, my eldest and I made "First Day of Summer" cards and wrote letters to various friends and family. I pulled out some stationary and envelopes and selected some summer-themed stickers and let him go to town. My oldest really likes making cards for people and he likes declaring who they are each for. It's kind of fun to sit down and do that with him, and it allows me a chance to catch up on my correspondence at the same time! It's a win-win situation and a fun way to mark the changing of seasons.

(Note: never throw away scraps of paper or little stickers. Stick them in a box and pull them out for your kid to make cards for friends and family. Two birds with one stone kinda deal there.)

Gratefully, after my youngest woke up, the sun had decided to peek out of the clouds. I declared it a good enough time to go out on the deck and eat some popsicles we had made about a week ago (in anticipation of the sun which was supposed to have appeared this past weekend!) That was great fun and they very much enjoyed their popsicles.



Not related to our summer celebration, but definitely a lot of fun, we've had a dog sharing our home with us this past weekend. Our youngest ADORES this little gal and so it's been kind of fun to have a dog sharing our company out of doors and made the day extra special as they got to play with a dog! (That's highly unusual around these parts which made it all the more enjoyable.)

And there you have it! A simple day at home with some fun things to mark the change of season and the beginning of summer!

I'm looking forward to seeing how others decided to celebrate the day and I do hope you will decide to write up a post and share your ideas and fun plans. Visit this post to link up and share your moments with us!

Happy Summer Everyone!

Summer is Here (well, mostly!)

by Carrie
We had a bit of summer ourselves here in the PNW this weekend and had some fun welcoming in the new season! (Now. If it will just decide to stay, that would be great! We've had a super wet spring and I'm not sure that the weather has made up its might just yet!)

At any rate - today we have invited you to plan fun ways to welcome in Summer either with your kids, or perhaps with some friends as well.

Hopefully Mr. Linky will work for us today. If not, simply leave your link in the comment section below. We are looking forward to visiting around and seeing how everyone decide to welcome this season into their homes (and lives) this year.



I'll have a post going up later today to share how I welcomed in the summer with my family. In the meantime, link up when you are ready and visit around!

Hope you found/are finding some fun ways to mark the day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thanks & Follow-Up Notes

by Carrie B.

If you click on our site, you'll notice that we've changed the design layout a bit. We've also added a new symbol on our sidebar which we think captures the spirit of the site. (A pineapple, you ask? Why?!) Here is the reason we chose the pineapple.

We have also very much appreciated those of you who have taken the time to share your thoughts in our poll. This really does help us know where to go with the site to make it beneficial to you. If you haven't yet taken the poll (it will take all of three minutes to do!) we would certainly appreciate your input. We don't feel like we're very useful on the whole without some interaction! We definitely want to use our time wisely and well and so hearing where you are at and what would be helpful for you to hear about would bless us tremendously. CLICK HERE to participate in the poll.

We do have some things in the works coming up, but we're holding back a bit until we get some additional response from you. Again, we want and need to know that we are using OUR time wisely. (Can you guess what my love language is?)

As a reminder - Monday is the first day of summer and we've invited you all to find someway to celebrate the day with your family or friends. We've invited you to come and link up to share your summer celebration plans so that everyone can learn, glean and fellowship with one another. Come back Monday or Tuesday to link up your own post, sharing what you and your family did to mark the first day of summer.


Hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Bit of Housekeeping & Request for Help


We've been talking about how we might like to change this site or revamp it a bit but we need your help.

We've been at this for a few months, but in order for this site to fulfill any type of purpose, it needs to be a sharing and blending of ideas - so that we can encourage one another to seek out ways to offer hospitality to others. We've created a little poll and would sincerely ask that you take a moment to vote in it.

Multiple answers are allowed and if you would, please elaborate on anything in the comment section.


What would you enjoying seeing (or seeing more of) on Offering Hospitality?
Book Reviews/studies
Q & A opportunties
Guest posts
Recipes
Tips from Around the Web
More posts during the week
Fewer posts during the week
Other (please specify in the comment section)
Free polls from Pollhost.com

IMPORTANT NOTICE - We are looking to add a new staff writer to Offering Hospitality. If you would be interested in being a regular contributing member of this site, please e-mail us at offeringhospitality (at) gmail (dot) com

If you are interested, we'd love to know:

1. What is prompting your interest;
2. What do you feel passionate about when it comes to offering hospitality to others; and
3. Please provide us with your blog address.

OR - If you are interested in providing a guest post during the summer months, to talk about something related to the subject of hospitality that is near and dear to your heart, we would love to hear from you!

Thank you for your time! We look forward to hearing from you to know how we can make this site, er, more hospitable for YOU!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Practicing Hospitality: Chapter 8, Conclusion

by Carrie
If you are just checking in with us here, I'm going through the book Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others chapter by chapter and sharing what I'm learning as I go along.

Click here to read my thoughts on Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

This has been quite a journey and I have to say that I've really rather enjoyed discussing this book by chapter instead of as a whole. I personally got a lot more out of it than I typically do. Not that I'm going to make a regular habit out of discussing each book I read by chapter, but I'm happy to do that on this site since our focus is more finite.

Chapter Eight of this book is entitled, "Hospitality and Ministry" and beyond a few points, it mostly sums up the rest of the book and offers a variety of different tips and ideas that were collected from women whom Ennis and Tatlock have known. The last chapter is kind of a community affair, not unlike this Offering Hospitality site.

The chapter opens with the following verse:

"For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead." James 2:26
Does this mean that unless you practice hospitality, you are not a Christian? Well, no. But how are we supposed to identify Christians in our midst?

* By their love *

What are we supposed to be demonstrating by practicing hospitality? Christ's love to others and His generosity to us. For when we were yet sinners He died for us. (Romans 5:8) We have much to be grateful for and to share with others as a result!

We have a clear command here to offer hospitality (and do it without grumbling) and it very much appears as if every Christian is called to it. We all have different gifts and abilities to carry out this command, so it will look different to a person. But we aren't given exemptions. We're just supposed to do it and find and learn the best way we can minister to others in this way.

If you've held back your thoughts on this book, I'd really love to hear what you have to say about it.

For my part, I gleaned a lot, was chastised and encouraged and am eager to continue learning what it means for myself to offer hospitality to others.

Looking forward to our next book which we will be announcing shortly.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Children's Parties: Time to Start Planning & link up!

by Carrie B

Spring is almost over! Hard to believe it, perhaps, but SUMMER is right around the corner!

So many of you sent in some great ideas for children's parties and we sure do appreciate the feedback. We're about to switch topics here (more on that soon) but we've got one more thing to celebrate with you all before we move away from children's parties - SUMMER!

The first day of summer is just about a week and a half away - Monday, June 21st.

We'd like to encourage you to find ways to celebrate the day, either with someone you love or find a stranger to invite in some festivity. Does your library have an activity or event you can participate on this day to usher the new season in? Or, perhaps you can just eat ice cream for breakfast and call it good! (Personally, I'm liking that idea.)

Whatever you do, we'd like you to share it with us!

What we're asking for is for you to start thinking of a way that you can celebrate the day! THEN! Blog about it and on Wednesday, June 23rd, we'll have a post set up for you to link your post up to. Share what you did and let's visit around, get to know one another, and learn from each other. Sound good? We really do hope you'll choose to participate with us in this way and have some fun yourself!

In the meantime, want some really cute ideas for seasonal foods to make?

Crystal at The Prices made these absolutely ADORABLE snail biscuits that you've really got to see! I think she wins for creativity, don't ya think?



Or, perhaps a rainbow cupcake is just the ticket?



Visit Crystal's Spring Celebration posts - #1 and #2 to see how her family celebrates the season.

Gleaning from each other is a fantastic way to improve our skills at hospitality. I hope you'll consider sharing your own ideas so that we can glean from YOU!

Think on it, prepare a blog post and come back here to link up on Wednesday, June 23rd! We're excited to celebrate the arrival of summer with you!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Practicing Hospitality: Chapter 7

by Carrie
If you are just checking in with us here, I'm going through the book Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others chapter by chapter and sharing what I'm learning as I go along.

Click here to read my thoughts on Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

We've only one more chapter to go after this one! I hope you have been able to glean a few things from these discussions, but even more importantly, I hope you pick up a copy of this book for yourself and really dive into it!

Here we are on Chapter Seven which is entitled, "Hospitality and Culture."

This chapter was written by Lisa Tatlock and it is clear that she and her family have had multiple opportunities to offer hospitality from people of various nationalities. She writes as one who expects and encourages her reader to explore the options that they might have to invite people of other cultures into their home. Tatlock's father was a Navy man and so she lived in multiple countries as she was growing up and experiencing other cultures is a joy and a delight to her. I have a friend who has lived all over the world and as I read this chapter, I speculated that she would be shouting loud "AMENs" all throughout.

I'd kind of like to deviate a little from the book this week and talk about what it means for us to offer hospitality to strangers/wayfarers/people from other cultures we aren't as familiar with in a more practical way (if it can be called 'more practical'.) I just want to scale back from the international scene and talk about home cultures - which can work against us sometimes in causing us to want to withdraw into the familiar instead of reach out to families with different ways of approaching life.

Your family has a culture all its own. What I mean by that is that you do things in certain ways. You have certain habits and practices. You eat certain foods and your collective family manners are predictable. You understand why all the people in your family say and do the things that they say and do. As a home schooler myself, I would argue that if you also home school, your home culture is more pronounced than your public/private school peers and counterparts. You have more time to be a family unit (more secluded) which then forms a particular personality.

It is hard to invite people with different ways of doing things - different cultures - into your home.

One of the most beautiful things about being a part of the body of Christ is that you learn to operate with one another. You learn to work with people who aren't exactly like you and you grow with and compliment each other. To make this personal: the home schoolers should be friends with the public schoolers and vice versa. Each family brings its own spiritual giftings and ways of living to the table. Then we collectively, as a body, sift through and learn how to function with one another effectively - and in a loving manner - for the glory of God.

Home schoolers grouped together, not allowing anyone else to come in and "touch" them risk being remarkably ineffective if they keep to themselves. Likewise, the public schoolers who choose not to associate with homeschoolers will also be lacking a significant source of inspiration and determination if they ignore people who think more outside the box. Like I said - we each have our own giftings and talents to bring to the table. We risk potentially great sources of encouragement and creativity when we look for those who mirror us as closely as possible. Worse than that, we risk crippling the body of Christ as a whole.

We need each other, working together, for the glory of God. It's not about who home schools and who doesn't. It's not about how many kids Jane has and how many kids Mary doesn't have. It's not about whether or not you are married or still single, whether you work a part-time job or are a full-time stay at home mom. It's about God and working together to further His kingdom here on earth.

We get so caught up in our mini cultures that we think we can only invite people over who are "just like us." Certainly it's easier to make and stay friends with people who share our same visions and goals. It's human nature to want to come along side a sympathetic friend. But this is the command:

"Do not forsake the assembling of the saints."

It doesn't say, "Do not forsake the assmebling of the saints who are just like you." The list of cultural differences between families and their preferences is endless. (I'm not talking about sin issues here. I'm talking about choice of basic lifestyles which create cultures unto themselves.)

So I would expand this chapter to say - invite someone outside of your family's particular culture INSIDE to enjoy their fellowship, minister unto them (who knows! A friendly relationship may spring up and you'll come to a place where you are more likeminded than you are initially!), bless them, encourage them, build them up. Do not forsake them but understand that the body needs eyes and ears, toes and elbows, cheeks and pinky fingers.

There is certainly SIN to be avoided. We've already talked about how we need to take care to protect our families while we're practicing hospitality and to be wise in who we seek to fellowship with. We definitely need to be discerning but what we do not need to be is discriminating on these "culture issues." We need to remember what the heart of the matter is and I'll let Tatlock speak on this point:
"At this point, some of you may be thinking - only missionaries need to consider culture; why discuss culture in a book on hospitality? However, if hospitality lovingly meets the needs of others, how can this goal be accomplished if we do not understand cultural differences? I would like to suggest tha thospitality is missions. Hospitality is a tool you can use to love people and make "disciples of all nations" of the world (Matt. 28:18-20). Consideration of culture is a key element in practicing hospitality as you endeavor to model Christ's love - so "that they may be saved" (1 Cor. 10:33)." (Chapter 7, page 200)
And that really is the heart of the matter.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Children's Parties: Tips from a Seasoned Mom

guest post from tmu who is my roommate's mom, an adopted mom to me - Carrie B. - of sorts, a proud, proud grandmother in her own right (thanks to my former roommate) as well as a nurse! Here are tmu's thoughts on children and birthday parties:



The conventional wisdom is to invite as many guests as the age of your child: turning 6 yrs. old? Six guests come, not counting the other crumb-snatchers at home (who are the designated official "helpers" for the day, at whatever level they are capable.) This is a wise choice. Three year olds can be great helpers!

Other than that, i am appalled at the trend these days to make each party bigger and better than the last one, than the neighbors', than the cool kids' at school, etc. If we have pony rides when they are 4, what will be done for an encore when they turn 7?

Keep in mind: Kids do not retain specific memories of most things before about age 7. When s/he does "remember", most usually they are remembering the family stories and photos of the event. Exceptions: a trauma (such as car accident, abuse, the house burned down, hospitalization) or sometimes a particularly impactful event.

However, they DO retain the feelings / impressions of events. Going to Disney: they'll remember it was a good time, or meeting Mickey (which will likely scare them, depending on personality!) ... but the younger they are, the less they remember.

So, back to parties: even in this technologically sophisticated world, most kids still like interactive events during which they can spend time with a parent (or at least an adult or the older kid helper hired for the occasion), too.

Crafts, simple games, helping to make the goodies (such as slapping together the cheese and tomato sandwiches for frying; using cookie cutters to cut out the cookies for baking; helping to mix the bubble solution for the bubble blowers; helping to color the home-made playdough) ... all these are fun, adjusted to the child's age. Yup, this takes more effort on mom's part, but the memory-making is worth it.

The general guide is to have some sort of activity as you wait for everyone to arrive; then do something very energetic; then something quieter, then gifts, then the thank-you to Jesus prayer, and food. Then home!!! Longer is not better. Keep a trash bag handy for the discarded wrapping paper. Your official helper writes down who gave what (for the thank you notes.)

The caveat is that this works less well as they grow older, and are influenced by school mates. Twelve-year olds aren't so easily impressed, and are much more conscious of being cool or not being cool. It takes a good bit more creativity then. But even then, kids deep down crave interaction with a caring adult more than a magic show, or being given $5 worth of tokens for the video game room. This is also a good witness to kids from homes in which they don't get such attention.

I read a very interesting suggestion: that the moms of a group of friends or classmates meet to discuss, and band together, to avoid one-upsmanship. Can't hurt to try! Obviously this works better if you actually know those moms, but what a good reason to get to know them (to band together for the good of the kids!)

Don't be so involved in taking pictures or video that you are not "with" the kids. Have someone else do that.

Preparing for the expected deviations is a good thing, too. Keep a throw-up bowl and towels to wipe spills very handy. Get down at kid level to observe safety dangers. YOUR kids may be well-trained in not touching mom's prized African violets, but other kids may not be so disciplined. Emotional breakdowns or fights? -- not uncommon on such a high emotion day. Plan for a distracting activity. Keep first-aid materials very handy. When a kid falls and cuts his knee is not the time to go hunting for a bandaid.

Also, many times, I was shocked to see visiting kids opening cabinet or closet doors, or wandering down the hall to open bedroom doors, without permission, even when mom was sitting right there! Be aware that this can happen. That's why it's helpful to have at least one other adult or teen helper for supervision. (Needless to say, you teach your offspring to not do this at someone else's home!)

Your kid needs to say good-bye and "thank you for coming" to each kid when they are leaving, if possible. This teaches the manners of a good host (putting others first.) Have your child also help clean up a tad, even if it's in the most rudimentary way,

Finally, teach and role-play with your kiddo to say thank you (loudly) for the gift s/he is opening. Teach her that even if she already has this item, or just doesn't like it, she can still be thankful that the other kid was generous in giving it to her. Also, thank you notes are a good habit to start at an early age. When the child is very young, you can write the note and just have them print their name (if they can). Some like to draw a picture of the gift, and you can just write the "Thank you" on the paper. Even the littlest can lick or place the stamp on the envelope.

I didn't allow my kids to get the cash from the checks from grandparents till the thank you note was written and mailed! In the note, they were required to say what they might use the money for (a game, saving towards such and such, etc.)

Happy partying!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Children's Parties: Birthdays II

guest post from Angel Navy Wife

I love throwing birthday parties! For me they are a creative outlet, like a giant craft project. Even better, they are a blessing to my children! I love pointing out how special they are to me and going all out!

We start by choosing a theme, usually months in advance, then as we plan out the details we try to see how we can tie that theme in to every detail!



I let the birthday child choose the main food, and then try to find themed sides to go with it. Investing in some mini cookie cutters was probably the wisest thing I have ever done! For my daughter's first birthday, we had flower and butterfly shaped everything! Flower bread, butterfly bell peppers in the salad, butterfly crackers and flower shaped cheese. I used the same cutters to decorate the cake. At another party we used some copy paper and kebab skewers to turn boring hot dogs into pirate ships, served with goldfish crackers on the side! We made a blue jello "ocean" with gummy sharks and fish "swimming" in it. And cakes are so much fun! We've done paw prints and treasure maps with chocolate rock islands... Next month I get to attempt a tank shaped cake!



I like trying to use things we already have on hand to keep the party in budget. For an army party (this child has chosen an army theme for the THIRD year, talk about being difficult to come up with fresh ideas!). We found creative uses for Daddy's camo uniforms and accessories. We wrapped his gifts (the grandparents leave wrapping to me!) in brown paper from inside out paper bags. Then I just used a sponge and some green, brown and black ink pads and sponged a "camo" print on the gifts! I let him help too! For my daughter's second birthday we didn't have a tablecloth to go with her "Magenta from Blue's Clues" theme, so I used upside down wrapping paper and we drew pink paw prints all over it in marker!



At our pirate party, we used free refrigerator boxes from an appliance store in town to make a "pirate ship" and all the children had a blast playing in there!



Letting the birthday child help with the preparation and planning extends the excitement and fun beyond just the one day! My children are planning their next birthday the day after the previous one is over!

Have fun! Make it a family affair, get everyone involved in coming up with ideas and making those ideas become reality!

Visit Angel and browse for more good ideas on her blog: Angel Navy Wife

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Practicing Hospitality: Chapter 6

by Carrie
If you are just checking in with us here, I'm going through the book Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others chapter by chapter and sharing what I'm learning as I go along.

Click here to read my thoughts on Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. We're over halfway done with this book, folks!

Chapter Six is entitled, "Hospitality and Others" and this chapter has me hoppin' with excitement! I thought this chapter ROCKED and I so wish you'd grab a copy of this book if only to read this one chapter!

For starters, they opened with the following scripture verse:
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?" James 2:14-16
The rest of the chapter dealt with offering hospitality to particular groups of people who have need of fellowship, and offered specific suggestions as to how you can include these groups into your service of others.

The group I'm going to lecture speak on behalf of are the singles. We haven't talked about singles much around here, everyone just kind of assuming that if you read this blog you have to at least be married and you probably have a family. But that's not the case and I'm hoping to have a few single gals (and guys?) share their thoughts on what hospitality means to them as time goes on.

The reason I want to hone in on the singles here is because I think they are a sadly neglected lot by those who are married and who have families. This is a big problem. When I moved away from home, I moved halfway across the country. I joined a new church and not one family invited me into their homes. (It wasn't because I refused to bathe either. I wasn't altogether odious.) They just...didn't think of it! But I was alone, lonely, next-to-friendless and definitely lacked family in the area. I would have said yes to anyone who asked me over for a meal but, in fact, no one did.

Part of this, I realize, is a West Coast thing. I moved from the South to the West Coast and there is a dramatically huge difference in the extent to which people offer hospitality to others. It's a lost art on the West Coast! However, let me drive this point home:

No matter where a single person lives, they crave fellowship, community and a sense of belonging.

A smile will take them a long way. Communication can move mountains. Inviting them to be a part of your family life and home is a blessing beyond description. So DO IT! Speaking from the perspective of a former single and very lonely new-person-on-the-block, make an effort to offer them hospitality.

I loved that the authors of this book called in Nancy Leigh DeMoss to address this topic. DeMoss shares the following in this chapter:
"When singles are assimilated into families, everyone benefits. The single adult can have a strong spiritual influence on children that reinforces the training provided by their parents. Singles can meet the needs of parents, such as to have time alone without the children. Families can provide friendship and encouragement to singles. Both families and singles can offer each other mutual support, counsel, accountability, and prayer." (Chapter 6, page 167)
That is so true. You don't need to be a parent in order to know how to connect with a child. In fact, some of my favorite babysitters when I was growing up were some single gals that my parents had befriended. They would come to our home to be around our family and frequently my parents had an opportunity to dash out of the house for a bit on their own. I assume that they enjoyed that freedom because I know I would enjoy the same situation now that I'M a parent!

In fact, I clearly remember two college aged girls that helped my mom host my first slumber party. I thought it was SO COOL that they came and were a part of celebrating my birthday.

My own children absolutely adore their single aunt who loves on them fiercely. They are also quite the enthusiastic fans over an adopted aunt that is a wonderful part of our lives. (In fact, we're excited that this adopted aunt is marrying an awesome guy this summer and now we'll have an adopted uncle to boot!) We are looking forward to sharing our home for a month this summer with a single friend and I know that will be a fun adventure and one that I'm very much looking forward to. We've just had fabulous experiences including singles in our life and I never want to stop doing that! I never CAN stop doing that because I remember what it was like to BE a single and to be seriously alone - away from everything I knew - and sometimes just generally lonely.

Befriend a single. Keep an eye out for them. Bless them with your GOOD fellowship. Listen to them, talk with them, and remember to make time to have FUN with them. Let them be a part of your life and I think you'll find it a delight to be a part of theirs.

With appreciation for the points Ennis and Tatlock make here...

Carrie