Teaching A Toddler To Be Thankful :: A Family Christmas Tradition

With Christmas being only weeks away, I wanted to share how we are hoping to teach our almost two-year old Emma about being thankful and giving back. My prayer is that you are inspired to join us and millions of others who are participating in Operation Christmas Child. (National Collection Week is only until Nov 19, 2012. So hurry up!)

For Emma, Christmas could possibly be even more about receiving since her birthday is around the same time and she is an only grandchild. She doesn’t lack anything: cute, warm clothes in her closet, delicious organic food on her plate, the latest educational, wooden toys in her toy box, a cozy bed, meds when she needs them and two parents who love, adore and protect her. We know that Emma is still very young and she likely won’t understand the concept of giving but Paul and I believe it’s never to early to begin.
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A few years ago, we have participated in the Fill A Shoe box project through our old church. Thanks to Life As A Mom, I was reminded how beautiful, simple, and fun this concept is and together with Mr. Thrasher decided that from this year on, the Thrashers will participate every year. Go ahead and read the stories on the Samaritan’s Purse website, take a look at the photos of children receiving and opening their shoe boxes. It warms your heart! Such a simple gift. Such a huge impact on a child’s life.

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As we were gearing up to pack our boxes, Emma was getting very excited about all the ‘new toys’ piled up in her room. Now, how do you explain to your toddler that she won’t be able to play with them? I picked two small gifts for Emma, showed them to her and told her that first, we’d have to pack the toys into the shoe boxes for other children but that afterwards she can play with hers. Seemed to work.
I continued to explain that some kids don’t even have socks and that’s why we will be giving them socks. So Emma took off her socks and put them in a box.

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Until it was time to put that plush reindeer with sound into the box. She had to rock and sing to Rudolph before she could put him away. As soon as I turned my back to hand Emma the next item, she had pulled Rudolph out again.

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Eventually, the boxes were filled and I asked Emma to hold my hand so we could pray over the boxes and for the kids who would receive them.

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Last action item before we drop off our boxes: We’ll include a personal note and a photo of our family for each box.
What would you put into your shoe box? Do you have any family traditions to give back or volunteer together? Do share.

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100 Things To Do Before I Die :: My Bucket List :: Part Two

Make sure to check Part One of my bucket list and come back for Part Three.

Travel (34)

  1. Visit South America (completed)
  2. Visit Asia (Thailand :: completed)
  3. Visit Africa (completed)
  4. Visit Australia (completed)
  5. Visit New England
  6. Visit Florida
  7. Go to a luau in Hawaii
  8. Visit Canada
  9. Drive cross-country
  10. Take the ferry to Sausalito
  11. Stay at a B&B/hotel with ocean view (Thailand :: completed)
  12. Go camping with Griffin and Emma
  13. Visit Neuschwanstein (Germany)
  14. Fly First Class (completed)
  15. Ride a train in California
  16. Eat a croissant in Paris
  17. Sail (half)around the world (High Seas High School project :: completed)
  18. Go on a cruise (completed 2007)
  19. Cross the Equator in a ship and get equator-baptized (completed)
  20. Sleep in a rain forest (Equador :: completed)
  21. Snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef
  22. Attend Loy Krathong, the sky lantern festival in Thailand (completed)
  23. Visit the Oracle Of Delphi, Greece (completed)
  24. Gamble in Las Vegas
  25. Attend a wedding in a foreign country (America doesn’t count, it’s my home)
  26. Have a romantic getaway at an exotic location
  27. See the Statue of Liberty (completed)
  28. Go to the top of the Empire State Building
  29. See a performance at the Sydney Opera House (completed)
  30. See the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace
  31. Hear Big Ben ring (in real life)
  32. See the Grand Canyon
  33. Visit New Orleans
  34. Go on a girls-only getaway

Sports (7)

  1. Learn to snowboard (completed)
  2. Learn to surf
  3. Sail the bay (completed)
  4. Go white water rafting (completed)
  5. Play beach volleyball with professional players (completed)
  6. Shoot a gun at a shooting range
  7. Go horse riding on a beach

What fun things are on your bucket list?

Very Happy Merry Christmas Birthday

Photo: Paco and Betty

This Christmas is filled with memories. Memories of last year’s Christmas. We were nervously anticipating the arrival of our little Christkind. Instead of shopping for gifts, we shopped for onesies and diapers. Instead of baking Zimtsterne and Stollen, I pre-cooked casseroles to stock our freezer. Instead of sitting in front of our fire place with a hot cocoa spiked with Bailey’s, I was lying in bed with a heating pad on my back and tea to ease my nausea (yes, I still got sick occasionally).

This morning I read a post about Mary’s first Christmas (you know, the one who gave birth to our King) on one of my favorite mommy/adoption blogs. Missy from It’s Almost Naptime writes:

The Gospels do not tell us what her [Mary's] pregnancy was like, which I think is a sure sign that they were written by men. Imagine if God had chosen a woman to write a Gospel – how many chapters would have outlined her morning sickness and back labor? But I assume Mary threw up like the rest of us and woke up every hour to go to the bathroom and had sciatica and embarrassing gas moments. Which only makes me love her more. [...]

Whether you are a mom or not, grab a cup of coffee, click here and read the whole thing. I promise you a few chuckles and lots of inspiration.

It also reminded me to just be thankful that I didn’t have to give birth to Emma in a stable. I had a warm bed, said heating pad and special-overpriced-maternity pillows surrounding me. My husband took me to the hospital in a car with heated seats instead of telling me to ride on a donkey. There was a huge labor room waiting for us where even Mr. Thrasher had a cot waiting for him (ask him if he would have preferred hay over the cot). Nurses checked in on me every hour. I had an Epidural to ease my discomfort during contractions. As Missy reminds us, poor Mary didn’t even have clean sheets and I seriously doubt she got ice chips when pressing a button near her bed (what bed?)!

Emma didn’t have to take her first few breaths while lying next to a cow in a manger. She was wrapped in a warm towel and both of us were safe and taken care of as we met for the first time.

At Thrasher Home, the meaning of Christmas is amplified as we celebrate Jesus’ arrival and the birthday of our little Emma. It’s a Very Happy Merry Christmas Birthday!

 

Weihnachten + Christmas = Christnachten

Truth be told, my expectations in Christmas or Weihnachten are higher than the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. I LOVE Christmas, it’s my favorite holiday! And now that we have Emma (insert loud squeal to express excitement about Emma’s first Christnachten), I want to make it so fun for her that she’ll love it as much as her Mama. Here’s how we celebrate Christmas + Weihnachten = Christnachten at Thrasher Home.

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  • Christmas is about Christ. It’s not about a fat big man in a red coat with a silly hat and a long beard. I certainly won’t be going all Grinch on my little one but it is important to me that she learns that we are actually celebrating Christ’s birthday on Christmas. While we can play pretend and still like the Weihnachtsmann (Santa), we also put up a non-breakable nativity scene (make sure to watch baby closely as we certainly don’t want her to choke on Baby Jesus). As baby plays with the figurines, I tell her who they are. And we read her the story about Jesus’ birth for bedtime.
  • Christmas is Weihnachten. Or Christnachten. Which looks like this:remote_image20111201-32417-1uelvtu-0
  1. We’re celebrating Christmas on the 24th which is when we have the nice dinner and open our gifts.
  2. I’ve crafted an advent calendar to count down the days until Christmas. This year Paul still got it, next year it will be for Emma.
  3. Emma can put her shoe out in front of her room on December 5th as we celebrate Sankt Nikolaus (Saint Nick) on the 6th.
  4. I usually make an advent wreath: Every Sunday leading up to Christmas, we’re lighting another candle.
  5. Our house smells of Gluehwein or Punsch.
  6. We are eating lots of Stollen (please don’t call it fruit cake) and Zimtsterne.
  • Christmas is about people. Not (just) gifts. Even though gifts are my love language, I want to teach Emma to focus on her friends and her family instead of rushing around trying to find the perfect gift for everyone. Last year we decided to skip the gifts because I didn’t want to go into labor at the mall and we didn’t have much cash left after getting everything ready for the most precious gifts of all. But it was like someone cut out my tongue and I wasn’t able to speak.
  • Christmas is peace. Why bother with Christmas traditions if you can’t forgive or ask for forgiveness? I’ve been struggling with the loss of a once amazing friendship. As I am pondering over Christmas gifts, writing cards and praying for peace, I have reached out to my friend hoping for peace and forgiveness.
  • Christmas is quality time. Guess why this is my first blog post in December? I’ve been busy playing with my daughter, hosting play dates, visiting museums, getting together with other mommy friends for crafting activities and decorating our house with the help of my little elf. And instead of sitting at my computer at night when Emma is sleeping I’ve been spending more face time with my husband.
  • Christmas is not about spending money. I love to host, I love to make gifts, I love to decorate. All of which requires a bit of cash to make it nice. This is probably my first year, where I truly (try to) focus on spending wisely, making a gift shopping list and sticking to it. We also asked our families to refrain from giving us gifts this year. If they wanted to bless us, we’d love a contribution to our adoption fund.

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