Sunday, December 27, 2009

Get yours too!

Bible Reading Plans for the New Year!

Allen and I read through one together last year and it blessed our socks off! Doing it together was fun, and always gave us something to talk about as well. Once I heard a few other people were doing it, it was great because we could discuss what we were learning through the scriptures, too.

Justin Taylor had a blog post last year with many different Bible reading plans to choose from. Last year we read the ESV Bible Reading Plan and this year we are going to try the Discipleship Journal Plan (with catch-up days), which will work nicely if you fall behind or if you want to research something more fully on the "off" days.

So, don't delay! Go choose yours! I highly recommend it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

From our family to yours...

Thanks for reading updates of our family and joining us in this journey of life. We are blessed to walk through it with you and with a Savior who loved us enough to come to earth as a baby and rescue us from our sin. We are overwhelmed by His goodness and grace toward us as we consider what we really deserved, death. But He who is infinitely holy showed His infinite love to us who are infinitely sinful and instead of giving us the infinite punishment that we deserve, He gave us His infinite grace. What an amazing thing! REJOICE!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Beckett's Birthday

A slideshow from my birthday boy's party...

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Beckett's Second
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Friday, December 18, 2009

Funny Photo Friday

Check out this photo taken of my family.

Never has there been a sillier family photo.

The bad and good news of it all:

Bad news: Not one picture was taken where we were ALL looking and smiling (not including Easton).

The Good News: They are pretty talented Photoshoppers and we ended up with a great one of all of us with my family.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Life Group Christmas Party Pics

This must be the week for pictures...I have more coming from Beckett's little birthday get-together and also, the funniest family photo. You'll want to see this.

But, for now, here are the pictures from our Tacky Christmas Sweater Party with the Newcomer Life Group. Enjoy! This was so fun!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Christmas Party
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Beckett is 2!

I am awed and astounded that my little boy is 2 years old today.

Sweet Beckett,

Two amazing years ago I had no idea what it would be like to raise a little boy.

I went into the hospital anticipating the blue that was going to enter into our world. The balls and bugs and dirt that would become a part of pink everyday life. I was worried I wouldn't know what to do. Anticipating that I would fall short of what a "boy mom" should and could be able to do.

Two years later and I can't imagine not having my little boy. I now have two boys! Double doses of the joys of boyhood are heading my way. I have already experienced the independence that has marked your second year of life. Part of thinking about this year in regards to the way you have grown and changed makes me want to cry and the other part makes me want to rejoice. I cry because your independence has made you need me less and less. You rely on no one fully. You do whatever you need to do and like to play on your own a lot of the time. You only cuddle before bed. Any other time I am blessed to be able to give you a hug in passing.

But, oh do I relish those cuddles before bed. I still rock you and sing your hymn to you, "How Great Thou Art." I rejoice in how great the Lord is and how great His blessings are to me, especially you, sweet Buddy!

I am overjoyed and praise God for the evidences of His grace that I see in your life. I praise Him that you are independent. You still hardly notice Easton. That's great! That means there is no jealousy to speak of. When you do notice him, you are very loving toward him and I can see that you are going to be a great big brother and example for him.

You are a great playmate to your Sissy, Taylor Joy. The two of you play together often and get along very well. You share with Sissy and the two of you make a great team (Word Girl and Captain Huggieface to the rescue!). I love the way that you use your imagination to play together. It is a blessing and joy to watch as you interact and I think of the wonderful friendship that is being built between you two.

You are a wonderful son, so lovable, such a fun personality. You are quite the character and life around the Duty home would not be the same without you.
We pray everyday for your salvation...that the Lord would draw your heart and grant you faith and repentance in Him. We'll continue to pray, holding fast to His promises and continuing to shepherd and teach you. We love you today and always, Beckett!

Happy Birthday!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Couple of Weeks Worth of Pictures

Just a few pictures from the past couple of weeks...

Taylor Joy and her G-pa (Allen's dad)

a little sibling love... and Dinosaur Tales

Allen and Easton at the Christmas Tree Farm

With my family at the farm

On the hayride...

Little helpers watching Papa cut down the tree...

"Easy E" (as we call him) in the Bumbo

A girl who loves to swing...

The smiliest baby I know... Did I mention he made the 4 month mark a couple of weeks ago? So not cool that I missed blogging about it! I'll make up for that later...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

In case you thought...

I was done talking about Advent, I'm not.

I wanted to share an Advent Calendar that my friend Sarah and I came up with to do with our MOPS group. It is really simple. Really.

We made it out of a placemat that I found at Bed Bath and Beyond. We purchased an awl at Home Depot and ribbons at Hobby Lobby. Each calendar will need either one roll of Christmas ribbon or 2 rolls of regular ribbon. Choose one that is thin and soft (grosgrain wasn't the easiest...)

So, supplies:

1 placemat
1 awl
1-2 rolls of ribbon
kid's needle (one with a big eye)
Advent scriptures formatted into a square, printed and cut

Steps to make your placemat Advent calendar:

It's never too late to make this now... or save it until next year. But, it really won't take you longer than an hour.

1. Poke holes into the placemat with an awl. Measure and mark 4 dots across and 6 dots down. Then poke 2 holes per dot that you marked. This way there is a hole for your ribbon to go through and one for it to come out. So, you will have punched 48 holes.

2. Thread ribbon through the needle and through the placemat, with the loose ends coming out of the front. Do this 23 more times. (or more reasonably, do it 5 times, take a break, 5 more, get some coffee, 5 more play with kids, and then only 8 are left). My hands hurt a bit after doing this!

3. Print and cut out your formatted Advent scriptures/lessons and roll them up like a scroll. Tie them inside of the ribbons on your calendar and make cute little bows.

Here are the "preschool" Advent pieces we used on this calendar. We have 2 Advent calendars and this one has been way more suitable for Beckett and possibly Taylor Joy, as well. We let each Christmas story fact build on the other so we talk about all that we have already learned each day up to that point, in hopes that by Christmas they will be able to tell us the whole story of Jesus' birth and the way it all went down.

I know you either are or aren't doing Advent this year already, but I just wanted to go ahead and pass this along for those who have asked what we do with our littler kids during Advent.

Happy Advent to you!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

One Snowy Night

Much to our surprise, we experienced SNOW on Friday. Not a ton (in the slightest), but flurries still make us happy. We played outside and then sent Allen to go get some wood to throw on the fire. Add in some homemade hot chocolate, graham cracker house decorating and good friends and you've got a night to remember.

Here are some pics:

Can you guess which one is Beckett's?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent Scriptures for your Calendar

Here is this years' Duty Chronicles Advent Calendar...

Advent 2013

And in case you haven't seen, here are some ideas for Advent activities to do with your kids. The point being to spend quality time with them, not rushing around trying to get the right supplies or check this off your to do list. Add some to your family time together and just enjoy it!

Hopefully the Advent Calendar + devotional will help all of us to become more consistent in worshipping with our families each day. Let me know if you have any other fun ideas to reinforce Christ this season! Here are some great ideas that our family uses or that I have heard of other families using:

Christmas Card Prayer Box – make a prayer box that will hold your Christmas cards from last year. At family worship every night, have the kids choose one card from the box and  pray for that family.
Christmas Card Prayer Sticks - we are utilizing these throughout the year and the kids love it! They even ask to keep some in their room to pray for them on their own. I love that!

Advent Wreath – a picture of ours is here as well as a description of the 4 weeks of Advent

This goes along nicely with the Advent calendar to reinforce the “waiting” period. We use battery-operated candles so the kids can take charge of doing this without burning the house down.

Kids’ Play – reenactment of the Christmas story, do a scene each day or reenact the whole thing on Christmas. Don’t worry about costumes, pull out sheets to wrap around yourself, grab a kitchen towel and keep it on your head with a headband or rubberband. Get creative! Your kids will love putting their costumes together!

Manger Ritual – putting Jesus in a “manger” on Christmas Day, empty basket under the tree until Christmas (great for small toddlers, with knowledge that you will explain “waiting” to them everyday)

Christmas Songs – O Little Town of Bethlehem, Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, Go Tell it On the Mountain, Angels We Have Heard on High, Away in a Manger, What Child is This (these are just a few well known Christmas/Advent songs). Focus on one song per week so that your kids can actually learn the words and tune.

Stargazing - pretend you are a Wise man, grab a constellation map and gaze at the stars. Imagine where the Star of Bethlehem would have been and talk about how bright it would have to be to guide you miles and miles to the newborn king!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Toilet Paper Roll Advent Calendar

I've been wanting to make a tutorial since so many people have asked me specifics about how I made this last year. Well, after getting the Christmas stuff down from the attic this weekend, I decided to take it apart and re-number my calendar so that it would be a countdown rather than just the dates on the rolls.

So, here is your handy dandy tutorial...for making a toilet paper Advent Calendar.

Toilet Paper Advent Calendar


25 toilet paper rolls
25 toilet paper sized pieces of coordinating scrapbook paper
several rolls of coordinating ribbon or tulle
stickers that number 1-24, plus an additional "Christmas Day" sticker (depending on if you are counting down or simply putting the dates)
Decorative accents (rub-ons, stickers, etc.)

1. Cut out papers to fit around toilet paper rolls so that they cover the entire roll. Tape the top piece.

Glue the wrong side of the paper.

And tape the end to secure it.

2. Cut pieces of ribbon or tulle about 6 inches if you want it to stick out and sort of "poof" at the edges (for tulle).

3. Tie two pieces together. Feed through one toilet paper roll, making sure the tied part is staying on the outside. Feed the other end through another toilet paper roll and tie the loose ends as tight as you can. If you fail to tie them tight enough you will be able to see spaces in between toilet paper rolls. Continue this until you have completed.

Make sure you are putting them in the order you would like. Last year I used the calendar starting with 1 and going up to 25. This year I decided I would prefer to start with 24 and end on Christmas Day (0), to make it more like a countdown.

4. To hang the Advent Calendar, I tied a piece of ribbon and fed it through the very top toilet paper roll so that the knot wasn't showing and hung it from a wreath hanger that is in our dining room.

It's just a fun and cute way to remember where we are (in relation to Christmas and how far away it is) and to let the kids feel involved in getting them out each day. It also serves to keep us consistent. My family goes through scriptures of Jesus' birth as well as prophecies that point to Christ. We ask questions to focus our day on Christ and sometimes we have an activity that reinforces what we have learned. We sing Christmas songs and pray as a family.

If you would like a very simple Advent devotional, here is the link to download ours.

Duty Chronicles Advent Devotional

Show some link love if you make this craft or use our devotional. Thanks!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Advent Crafts, Activities and Traditions

Here are some ideas for making your Advent/Christmas season more meaningful. Some are just plain fun, but you can certainly make wonderful memories doing them together!

Building Graham Cracker Houses – we’re going to make houses out of graham crackers, frosting and candies. We might even have a contest in which everyone will win some prize (most festive, tallest, cutest, most symmetrical…)

(picture and idea courtesy of my friend from MOPS, Ellen Palomo)

Graham Cracker House Frosting
3 egg whites (room temp) NO YOLK
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 box powdered sugar (confectioner's) 16 oz.
Some Ideas for decorative accents: Mini Shredded Wheat for the roof, Necco wafers, licorice strings, Lifesavers, candy cane sticks, gum drops, mini marshmallows, Red Hots, Hot Tamales, Sprees

In large mixer bowl beat egg whites, cream tartar as you slowly add sugar. Beat 7 minutes until smooth and thick. Store in tightly covered container. Can be made ahead if tightly covered and kept at room temperature up to two days. Makes two cups.

Lay a damp cloth over frosting as you work on houses as it will dry out quickly. Make frosting one batch at a time. If for any reason the frosting isn't thick, add more sugar a few spoons at a time. It needs to be firm but not so thick it can't spread. It dries on graham cracker houses quickly if made correctly.

Christmas tree ornaments – green triangle and brown rectangle construction paper glued together and decorated with markers, stickers, jewels, pearls, stars, whatever you have around. Punch a hole and tie with a cute ribbon at the top.

Talk about the symbolism: Greenery in the midst of winter symbolizes eternal life, which we are to receive from the One to Come, the Christ Child (Matthew 1:21). He has come to save us from our sins.

I’m going to make a garland out of ours and string them in places that don’t normally get decorated, like the kids’ rooms.

Watch Christmas Movies together – we love Boz Christmas, Veggie Tales Christmas, Muppet Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th St.

Read Christmas Books – books we like or that have been recommended to us:

Who is Coming to our House? By Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff
B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner
Alabaster Song by Max Lucado
One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
The Legend of the Christmas Tree by Rick Osborne
The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg
Jacob’s Gift by Max Lucado

Christmas Memory Book – take pictures, write about the holidays, where did we go, what was an unexpected blessing, trace your children’s hands, and pull it out to add to the next year. It’s fun to look back on!

Tree Trimming – play Christmas music while you are putting out your decorations, while you are trimming the tree, anytime after Thanksgiving have Christmas music ready to play. We love Denver and the Mile High Orchestra, Andrew Peterson, Mariah Carey (yes, I know…). Drink egg nog, hot chocolate, cider and enjoy the time together.

God’s Greatest Gift Wreath Craft – from Oriental Trading

Paper Plate Angel – we are doing this the day that we read about the angel approaching Mary and telling her that she will be “with child”

Cinnamon Ornaments – I haven’t made these, but know people who have. Combine 1 C. applesauce with 1 C. cinnamon and mix well. Roll out to ¼ “ thickness onto ungreased cookie sheet or heavy aluminum foil. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Peel away excess dough. Use a toothpick to make a small hole for ribbon. Bake in warm oven (about 200 degrees) for 2 hours.

GFA and Samaritan’s Purse Catalog – choose gifts together from these catalogs, perhaps have children save up money and use it to give as their “gift” to Jesus

New Pajamas on Christmas Eve

Christmas “crackers” – cracking them together, pictures with crowns
Buy them,
Or make your own and fill it with whatever you want
You could even make these and put your advent devotions in here and crack them everyday!

Christmas pickle – hiding it in the tree and having a reward for the one who finds it

Birthday Cake for Jesus – sing happy birthday, bake foil-covered papers into the cake with strings attached. Answer the question you get in your piece for reflection and sharing

“Boxing Day” – Dec. 26th to box up old toys to give to charity

3 Gift Guideline – Jesus was given 3 gifts, give kids the same amount

We are certainly not doing ALL of these. We will pick and choose based on what works for our family and the ages of our children. These are just ideas to get you thinking about how to make your Christmas season intentional in terms of looking to Christ as the focus of our season and spending quality, meaningful time with your children.

Just a reminder...

"May our decorations, gifts, festivities or lack of them - never block our view of him but always point us toward him." -Noel Piper

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Advent've heard me talking about Advent...what is Advent?

You know that last year I made a cutie Advent calendar out of toilet paper rolls (or you do now)...

You know that some sort of wreath goes along with it...

But you have no idea what Advent is.

Advent is the season leading up to Christmas, beginning 4 Sundays before Dec. 25th.

What's the point, you ask?

I'm glad you did.

It's best put by Noel Piper, in Treasuring God in Our Traditions:

"We are a people of promise. For centuries God prepared people for the coming of His Son, our only hope for life. At Christmas we celebrate the fulfillment of the promises God made - that he would make a way to draw near to him."

So, during the 4 weeks of Advent we are anticipating the coming of Jesus. Advent means "coming." Just like God's people were waiting for the salvation that was foretold all throughout the Old Testament, so we wait as they did, only we know the outcome, JESUS!

Again, Noel:

"Advent is a season of looking back, thinking how it must have been, waiting for the promised salvation of God, not knowing what to expect. And at the same time, Advent is a season of looking ahead, preparing ourselves to meet Jesus at his Second Coming."

What's the purpose of Advent Candles?

As far as Advent Candles, we light one each Sunday, so there should be candles for four Sundays plus Christmas Day. As the lights get brighter and brighter, we reflect on how Jesus truly is the "light of the world." Here is my Advent cheat sheet:

Week 1:
This week we light the very first candle--the Prophecy Candle. This candle represents not only the Biblical prophecies about Christ's birth, but the very feeling of anticipation which God's people experienced over hundreds of years as they awaited His coming. Advent encompasses both the arrival of the Christ child and His second glorious coming!

Week 2:
This week, we will be lighting the Bethlehem Candle. First light the Prophecy Candle, then the Bethlehem Candle.
The Bethlehem Candle represents the preparations made for the coming Christ child. Even though no room was available for Mary and Joseph when they came, God had orchestrated events so that Caesar Augustus called for a census to be taken. Joseph and Mary had to leave Nazareth so that they could register in Bethlehem and the prophecies were fulfilled.

Week 3:
This is the week of the Shepherds' Candle for Advent.
The shepherds represent the message of great joy that is brought to the world about Jesus' birth. Light the first two candles and then the Shepherds' Candle.

Week 4:
This week's candle is called the Angel Candle and it represents the love which God shared with the world when He sent His Son, Jesus! Light all four Advent candles this week.

Christmas Day –
Today we light the past 4 candles of Advent and then the white candle, which represents Christ! Our Messiah, Jesus, Light of the World is finally here!

What's with the Advent Calendar?

We use the Advent Calendar for our daily devotions each day. I print off our reading and we put them in the toilet paper rolls that are hung on the wall. It's just a fun and cute way to remember where we are and to let the kids feel involved in getting them out each day. It also serves to keep us consistent. We go through scriptures of Jesus' birth as well as prophecies that point to Christ. We ask thoughtful, provoking questions to focus our day on Christ and sometimes we have an activity that reinforces what we have learned. We sing Christmas songs and pray as a family.

Sometime this week I am going to make my Advent calendar available, as well as post some ideas for Advent/Christmas crafts, activities and traditions. Please let me know if you have some good ones I can post with mine. I hope this helps and I hope you will consider starting this with your family. I am going to try to make it really easy for you to get started by making mine available and sharing all of the good ideas I have learned from others along the way.

Some of Noel's questions I want to always consider...

Can others see why I am celebrating?

Am I celebrating Christ?

Am I focusing on God's gift so that my appreciation for Him grows?

"May our decorations, gifts, festivities or lack of them - never block our view of him but always point us toward him." -Noel Piper

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What's the Scoop?

So...what's going on with us, what have I been crafting, how are we doing, what about New Life, what's the scoop?

Things are going well, we are blessed by our sweet family of five and praising the Lord each day with thanksgiving each day this month of November.

We have the Duty Tree of Thanks, which is posted in our dining room (on the craft closet door, hence the skinniness of our tree) and each night at the dinner table we go around and say one thing we are thankful for from that particular day. Each person has a different paper design and so we know who was thankful for each thing on the tree. We have had lots of sweet ones, hilarious ones and silly ones (with an almost two-year-old what can you expect?). Another friend of mine also does this but with real twigs...very cool!

A sampling of thankful leaves would be: for flowers, sparkly pumpkins, God's grace in my studies, evidence of God's grace in my life, sweet friendships, Diego, Word Girl, Mr. Don and Mrs. Kelli, the Kinnard's, Asher and "Kayne", new life, long showers, and lots that include thanks for each other.

My friend Ashley had the idea to keep the leaves and make placemats out of them to use during November next year. I think it's a great idea to remember the things God blessed us with the year before. I'll let you know how they turn out. I'm thinking scrapbook paper and a laminating machine and we should be good to go. I think I'll include some pictures and handprints on the back as well.

We went to Dallas a couple weekends ago to celebrate with my cousin Greg as he got married to Megan. It was wonderful to see so many family members that we hadn't seen in ages. Most out-of-state family hadn't even met Beckett yet, so it was a pretty exciting weekend to meet both our boys.

As far as crafts, I made Taylor Joy's ballerina tutu, which was so simplistic, even the most un-crafty person could partake. Here is the tutorial I used. I also tied a big bow in the back and sewed fabric flowers on the ends of the skirt all around, hot gluing rhinestones in the middle.

I've been working on Advent stuff (I'll post about soon) and a baby prayer book that I am designing in Photoshop that I want to make available as well. But as for now, that's about it. I've got lots of traditions/holiday ideas and I want to hear yours as well. So, let me know yours and maybe I'll post some along with the ones we are doing or have thought of or heard of.

New Life is going through the Sermon on the Mount = compelling and convicting!
Here's a link to the sermons: Righteousness Redefined

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Dress Up Day!

Here are our pictures from Halloween, which is really just a dress up day for us!

Our annual pumpkin carving tradition...this year was Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc.

Sweet Easton as a precious cow.

Taylor Joy as a "pink sparkly" ballerina (her outfit request...I simply complied with the request, as if I would have an objections to that!?)

Beckett boy as a firefighter and Mommy as "Kelly" from Handy Manny (Taylor Joy's idea also.)

Taylor Joy and Beckett with their sweet friend, Tinkerbell Annie

Our block party in full effect. We got to meet some wonderful neighbors. Isn't Halloween a great excuse to do that! We had a cupcake walk, beanbag toss, football toss, cookie decorating, coloring pumpkins and cinnamon apple cider. So fun!

The whole family, including Handy Manny dad. We had a great night together.

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