Last-Minute Ideas for Your Class Valentine’s Party


Two days until the class Valentine’s Day party. You’re hosting it and don’t have a plan! Oh dear! Sound familiar? This was my situation before just about every homeroom holiday party of my children’s elementary school career. And with three kids, I was either a homeroom mom or volunteer quite a few times. I knew the drill. Why did it always catch me off guard? A great mystery. (I think it has something to do with my personality and/or career choice. I thrive on procrastination and hot deadlines.) However, the “night before” mad rush to get Valentine cards, goody bags and party plans together just might have scarred my children a little. I know it did my husband. So . . . why do it, you ask? Hey, just because I was terrible at it didn’t mean I didn’t love it! What a blast to hang out with my kids, and their friends and teachers for happy events. The hugs and high-fives were definitely worth the stress. And along the way, I picked up a few tricks that helped with my procrastinating ways. If you find yourself in charge of a school Valentine Party or a Wednesday night kids’ class at church THIS February 14 (that’s TWO DAYS FROM NOW), here are a few activities that you can pull together at the last minute with minimal stress. I borrowed them from different websites and resources and adapted them for different themes many times: Who doesn’t love a piñata? No time to order a fancy piñata or even run out to the store. You can make one that the kids will love from items in your cabinet. (I did this for more than one holiday class party and it was always a big hit.) Start with a large brown paper bag. Cut strips of tissue paper (red/white/pink for Valentine’s Day). Glue the strips in overlapping lines all around the bag until it sports a new fun, festive, colorful look. Stuff it with candy and roll down the top, stapling to close. Punch holes for the string to hang it up. Don’t forget to grab a stick or long ruler for smacking it and a bandana to cover the hitter’s eyes. Depending on the goodies in the bag and the tissue colors you use, you can make a piñata for Christmas, Halloween or other holidays. A puzzle race . . . calmer, but … Read More

Everyday Heroes


You see some strange sites in the airport, but this one caught my attention right away. I spotted a young man carrying quite a burden. Not one, but two bags hung from his shoulders. One hand held up a car seat—home to a floppy-eared stuffed rabbit and a pink and purple sippy cup. The other half-dragged, half-carried a collapsed stroller behind him. Here and there a toy peeked out from the folds as it shook and bumped its way down the hall. Occasionally, the heavy-laden man glanced back with a smile and a wink at a woman who followed closely and the giggling cherub she carried. He didn’t seem the least bit concerned that he was juggling an impossible load that looked like it would crash down around him any moment. They continued on in search of gate who-knows-what and I smiled and looked back down at my newsfeed. “What a hero,” I chuckled to myself. Wait a minute. Hero. Absolutely! That’s exactly what he was . . . an everyday kind of hero to his wife and little girl. Here I was reading the latest about men behaving badly when right before my eyes was a man at his best. Enough of the news! Bored and stuck at the airport for a couple of hours, I decided to look for other everyday heroes. Here are a few observations: When I stepped onto the Sky Rail, a tram that speeds around the airport as you hang on for dear life, most of the men automatically stood up, leaving the few seats available for women. Heroes. When a card slipped out of my magazine to the floor, a young man wearing the latest technology on his ears noticed, grabbed it, and returned it to me before I hardly realized it fell. (And he had twice as far to bend down he was so tall!) “Thank you,” I said. “Yes, ma’am.” Yes, ma’am . . . how wonderfully polite! Hero. Two rows up from me on the flight, an elderly man sneezed. A teen nearby with a very suspicious haircut said, “God bless you.” Manners are always a great idea! Hero. As we were preparing to exit the plane, a petite woman struggled to find her carry-on bag in the overhead bins. She wasn’t tall enough to see. However, she didn’t have to wait long before a fellow traveler came to her assistance. … Read More

Oh. My. Word


Well, 2018 is almost a week old and I don’t have my “word” yet. I’m freaking out a little. As we drew near the end of 2017, friends and wise people I heard on the radio began declaring their word for the year . . . a word they would strive toward, keep in mind when dealing with life issues, and be encouraged by over the next 12 months. What a good idea! I especially liked that it replaces New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve always stunk at that. I could never find just the right Resolution to make my life better. And, when I do, I don’t even make it through 24 hours. I’m weak. Maybe “strength” should be my word! No, that sounds like I might have to lift weights or something. Anyway . . . a word. A single, amazing word. Just one. It needs to be all-encompassing, inspiring, fulfilling. One word huh. Really? Committing to one word is pretty daunting. Ooooh . . . maybe “commitment” should be it! Nah, sounds a little confining. I mean thinking about one word the whole year? A lot of pressure. Meanwhile, others have chosen such great words like “grace,” “joy,” “contentment,” “forgiveness,” and so many more. Should I take one of those? Ugh. I feel like that would be cheating. I must make it my own. (You can’t hear it, but crickets are doing their thing right now.) Three cups of coffee later . . . Why can’t I think of an amazing word? I’m a writer for heaven’s sake! How hard can it be to produce a single, life-changing word? Please understand, I’m not trying to be irreverent. I really have a problem here. My husband always tells me that I’m the most indecisive person in the world. Could he be right about me? Sometimes I think he is . . . sometimes not. Well, he could be. But I don’t think so. Hmmmm. I’ll show him! “Decisiveness” will be my word! Wait. Is that really the best word possible? I might have to make more decisions. I’m getting a headache. As I write this, words and thoughts are popping into my head. Suddenly, an idea that sticks! Why not choose the Word . . . you know, like the Bible? As I ponder it, I’m thinking about the verse “the Word was made flesh” . . . Now that’s … Read More

The Christmas miracle


  “Christmas is pish-posh!” Thus says the grumpy leading character in “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.” Gathering round Susan Wojciechowski’s touching Christmas classic is one of my favorite family traditions. The heart-touching tale reveals a Christmas miracle! You see, Jonathan Toomey carries a heartbreak that colors everything in his life. After the death of his wife and child, he no longer sees joy or hope. The village children call him “Mr. Gloomy.” Always complaining, he never smiles or laughs but hides in his corner of the world sorrowfully working his woodcarvings. However, one Christmas season a knock on his door changes everything. A local widow and her son Thomas ask him to carve a replacement for their lost wooden nativity scene. Young Thomas becomes a regular visitor as he watches the woodcarver shape and form each figure . . . BUT he offers very definite opinions on how the carvings should look. His suggestions are most often met with a growling “Pish-posh!” Undeterred by Jonathan Toomey’s gruff demeanor and grumblings, Thomas shares his view of the holy scene—with happy sheep, a proud cow, important angel, well-dressed wise men, protective Joseph, smiling Jesus, and loving Mary. As the story unfolds, Jonathan Toomey begins to see Christmas through Thomas’ eyes. The simplistic wonder he sees through Thomas’ innocence and faith eventually helps warm and heal his own heart! On Christmas day, “the village children saw Jonathan throw back his head . . . and laugh. No one ever called him Mr. Gloomy again.” This story always reminds me that God placed magic in a child’s eyes. And it is never more evident than at Christmas. I know you agree that when you see a child squeal at Christmas lights, belt out Christmas carols (in tune or not) or stare wide-eyed at a manger scene, your heart literally feels warmer. I’ve never seen an adult look at a baby and not smile. Children touch us deeply. What a gift for adults who are burdened by life’s challenges and worries to return for a moment to wonder and hope! Perhaps that is why God’s story of grace begins with a child—a treasure born of love. That precious baby boy was God’s greatest gift to you and me in a form he knew we could understand and relate to . . . WOW. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only … Read More

Christmas Coloring Sheets: Mary Had a Secret


If you have littles in need of an activity this Christmas season, try these coloring sheets featuring a Christmas poem I wrote and the illustrations of my dear friend and artist Dinah Jameson. Merry Christmas! COLORING BOOK Cover COLORING BOOK Mary Page 1 COLORING BOOK Joseph Page 2 COLORING BOOK Innkeeper Page 3 COLORING BOOK Shepherds Page 4 COLORING BOOK Wisemen Page 5 COLORING BOOK Manger Page 6 COLORING BOOK Christmas tree Page 7    

5 Principles To Teach Your Child About Prayer


With the launch party of my debut children’s book about prayer last weekend (The Bubble Who Would Not POP!), children and prayer have been on my mind all week. I think raising a man or woman of prayer is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. I’m still working on it with my kiddos, but a few principles came to mind that I thought I might share with you. If we can imprint these fundamental truths about prayer onto our children, it is a great start to equipping them for a life of prayer.   Truth #1 – God ALWAYS hears your prayer. This principle is my favorite and something I address in my book. Isaiah 65:24 says, “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.” Isn’t that just the coolest?! If you want your child to grow into a person of prayer, this is step one . . . the most basic belief necessary to pray. God hears your prayer. Period. In all of my favorite biblical stories about prayer, the heroes and heroines have one thing in common. When they pray, God hears them. Now, his answer might not be what they want . . . or they may have to wait to see how God is working. But, no matter the result, God hears them.   Truth #2 — You can talk to God about ANYTHING. Remember in Genesis right after Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit? Scripture says God was walking in the garden in the cool of the day and called out for Adam. Looks to me like God would often hang out with his creations. God wants a relationship with us . . . and that means talking. Children should know that God wants time with them through prayer. If they see God as a loving Heavenly Father who wants to hear from them about what is going on in their lives, they will be open later to spending time in prayer about bigger issues.   Truth #3 — Timing is everything. This is a hard one. I’m an adult and I like to see immediate results . . . so how can we blame children for wanting everything now? But to maintain a faithful life of prayer and faith, we must understand that God has a plan and an answer for … Read More

Back-to-School Prayer Challenge


The countdown has begun! School begins in only weeks, days for some. I know you are crazy busy finding just the right backpacks, shoes, notebooks and folders (with the tabs and pockets that no stores actually seem to carry …. Ugh!!). But every year, I must remind myself of the most important preparation I can make as a parent—covering my children in prayer. That is why I want to challenge you to join me for the Back-to-School 10-Day Prayer Challenge. Starting August 1, will you commit to spending time each day in specific prayer for your child’s success and protection this fall? I think praying together for our children will be awesome and effective! Prayer is our most powerful spiritual weapon . . . let’s stand together. Here are the daily prayer focuses and some prayers to get you started. I’ll post one each day, starting August 1. Let’s do this!   DAY 1, Prayer for My Child “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) Heavenly Father, Thank you for (child’s name). I love this gift from You with my whole heart and ask You to be with my child today and for the entire school year. My child is full of life and love, but is still so vulnerable. It is hard to entrust my child in the hands of others, but I know ultimately my trust is in You. Please walk with him through the halls of school. Give him understanding, focus and clarity in their studies. Open his mind to learning, yet give him strength, courage and discernment to stand firm in his faith. I place my child in Your hands this school year. Amen. DAY 2, Prayer for Safety “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12) Heavenly Father, The world is full of danger. Will You protect my child? According to Scripture, You have commissioned guardian angels to watch over us. I stand on that promise today for my child. Send Your angels to keep my child safe from harm. I pray that You hold my child in Your secure hands today and throughout the school year. Keep my child safe from physical harm. Ward off predators. Protect my child physically, mentally … Read More

Well, bless your house!


As a child, one of my favorite houses to visit was right next door . . . my grandparents’. When my sisters and I saw grandpa sitting on the porch, it was our cue to run down the hill to share a sleeve of saltine crackers and a can of Vienna sausages. (Don’t judge . . . anything is a treat when you share it with grandpa.) The house was a fascinating dichotomy—a garage crammed with tools and truck parts that smelled of oil and gasoline next to immaculate flower beds teeming with pristine, sweet-smelling roses . . . grandpa in his coveralls smudged head to toe in oil and grandma with her neatly coiffed hair and manicured nails. When I think of that home, memories flood in of summer evenings on the porch with my family, Christmas Eve parties, and Easter egg hunts. One constant ingredient in every visit to that cozy house, however, was laughter. I loved to hear my parents chuckling at grandpa’s latest joke, my great aunts and uncles howling with laughter as they shared stories from childhood, and grandma giggling at all of our silly antics. That house was blessed! Recently, I attended a house blessing for a new home. It was so cool! And it reminded me of what makes a house blessed—faith, family and laughter. My grandparents’ house wasn’t very big or extravagant, but it was full of those essentials. I’m hoping yours is, too! Here’s my prayer and blessing for your home: I pray your home is built on a foundation of love and faith that stands firm in life’s storms. (Matthew 7:24-26) I pray your family is sheltered, provided for and safe always. (Philippians 4:19) I pray your door opens to those you love often. (Hebrews 10:24-25) I pray your rooms are filled with the sounds of pattering feet. (Psalm 127:3-5) I pray your walls echo with much laughter. (Psalm 126:2)  

Punishment stinks!


When you got in trouble as a child, did you ever hear this phrase before the boom was lowered? “This hurts me more than you.” Ummm, I don’t think so. Whose behind is stinging right now? As a parent, I understand it’s not as simple as that. Discipline is no fun for the one who has messed up, but it’s no cakewalk for the one handing down consequences either. For example, when my kids were in elementary, playground time after school was a reward for good behavior. I loved chatting with other moms while they played. On days when they didn’t hit the behavior mark, I was just as sad as they were when we walked past those giggling children and cackling moms on our way to the car. Why did I have to be punished, too? Fast forward a few years and my daughter recently got a speeding ticket. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with an extra driver around. So I was just as bummed as she was to take her keys away for a bit. Now I have to drive her to work and her siblings to a myriad of sports workouts and practices. Good grief . . . how inconvenient! On top of it all, the moment you deliver the consequences you see the “face.” You know the one . . . that you-just-stuck-a-knife-in-my-heart face. No matter how disappointed or even angry you are, when your children hurt—even as a result of their own actions—it matters. Parenting is already pretty difficult. Is discipline really so important? In the midst of my whining, I got an image of God walking through a pristine garden in the cool of the evening . . . alone. Remember in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve made their big boo-boo? Prior to then, God hung out with them in an incredibly beautiful place he created. It looks to me like he really enjoyed their company. But when they disobeyed, there were consequences. God had to look them in the face and tell them how they would suffer as a result. I can only imagine their heartbroken, frightened expressions. God created them . . . of course their pain mattered to Him. But I think, most of all, God was saddened that he could no longer be in their presence. I believe he missed them. If God didn’t take the easy way out and let his … Read More

Silly Poem Day: Once I met a fine lady


Silly poems are so fun to write on a whim and tuck away to remind yourself later to smile. Here’s one I wrote that you might want to read to your kiddos and then see what they can create. Have a great day “click-clacking” off to whatever you do . . .   Once I met a fine lady with a most unusual hat. She held a rather large purse and walked on shoes that went click-clack.   How do you do? she inquired as she passed by without stopping. Waving a hankie, she sped away before I could begin talking.   Then, I saw a well-dressed man who had no time to chat. He was moving very fast so that his feet went tap, tap, tap.   Everyone is so busy. How I wonder where they all go. Maybe when I’m much older I’ll go, too. Then I’ll surely know.