Sunday, November 28, 2010


Today marks the first day of Advent. I know it's not a big deal in all churches or families, but we're finding the importance of rhythms and celebrations in our children's spiritual development. I remember fondly as a child the candles being lit each Sunday by a family in our church congregation as one of the family members read the Scripture reading for the day.

I didn't prepare well for Advent this year. In the past we've had an Advent wreath with our own candles at home. We've had interactive Advent readings to do together as a family each evening. I know some families buy the advent calendars that have a little gift behind each day's window. I remember a homemade advent calendar when I was young--I think it just had something like lollipops tied to it. The calendar's aren't always very meaningful, though. Often they just add more sugar to a child's diet--or more trinkets that they probably don't need.

I was given a book a few years ago, Seeking the Christmas Lamb: Forty Days of Celebrating Christ's Sacrifice Through The Season by Tamara Buchan, that I may try and use this year. Most Christian bookstores will have some Advent devotionals. Check with your pastor or priest, too. If you want to make Advent more impactful and less about materialism, be sure to check out Advent Conspiracy. Their resources page has a download for a children's ministry curriculum.

One easy-to-access online resource we've used a few times is The Jesse Tree. It has short daily readings, a question for reflection, a prayer and a picture with which to make a mobile.

May you find something memorable and meaningful for your family.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ham and Potato Soup

We had ham this week. So tonight it was time for some yummy potato and ham soup. I used the ham bone to make some stock.

I added some water so that I had probably 4-6 cups of liquid.
Then I added 5 medium sized potatoes.
Next came a cup or two of chopped ham, a chopped celery stalk and a diced onion.
I sprinkled in some thyme, dill and paprika. I let it all boil for about 15 minutes.

In a separate sauce pan I melted 5 tablespoons of butter and stirred in 5 tablespoons of flour. After this mixed together smoothly I added 2 cups of milk and brought it to a boil until it was thickened. I stirred this into the soup.

We served this with some cheese. It was delicious.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Spiritual Development of Children

Yesterday morning my wife and I attended a workshop at our church. Viv Houk, author of Parenting by Developmental Design: You, Your Child and God and a member of our church, shared about the spiritual development of children. It was a good workshop--no big "aha moments," but plenty to think about.

She hit on the spiritual development progress of children: the need for protective love, order, fairness and justice, forgiveness and heroes to follow. We talked about a child's spiritual experience--how it's innate in all children, even if they don't have exposure to faith within the home. We talked about what children need in order to have their faith nurtured.

One of the main things that stuck out to us was the importance of including children. We're thankful to be in a church that values the presence of children in worship. Not only do children learn from us, but we need them to learn from as well. Too often, children are encouraged to be "seen and not heard" in churches. And too often in homes as well. It's important for children to belong, to be needed.

We discussed the importance of including children in chores around the home. It's not easy--sometimes they cause tasks to take much longer than they need in times when we want to get things done quickly. Children just want time with us, though. It's important for their development.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pirates, Pajamas and Pancakes

This last Saturday we celebrated Nils' birthday with his friends. Of course, it was also the first big snowfall of the season, so everyone had to contend with driving through inches of snow to get here.

Borrowing the breakfast idea from another friend's birthday party, we chose to do a Pajama & Pirate Pancake Party. It partly stemmed from someone giving us a pirate ship cake mold and the boys receiving a pirate costume hand-me-down from their cousin. The morning idea was fun, though. Kids came in pajamas or pirate costumes (or a mix). We started with pancakes (and all the fixin's), bacon, fruit and juice. We read a pirate story, played some pirate games (Pin the Parrot on the Pirate and Hook the Pretzels) and opened presents. The "cake" was actually banana bread (though is just as rich as cake) that my wife made with cream cheese frosting "waves" on the side.

It was a simple birthday party--as we try to keep them. I stressed too much about "programming" everything and worrying about the amount of people and everything. Kids just like to eat, play and have fun together.
And afterward, of course, Nils had to check out the snow. We got around 9 inches (the week before had been in the 60s). Winter is here, and I've got a four-year old who is ready to play in the snow and on the ice.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Boys on Beauty

We were watching an old episode of the Muppet Show tonight with Marisa Berenson as the guest star when Nils (who just turned four today) said, "She's beautiful."

To which Anders (his six-year-old brother) replied, "Yeah, you have to admit, she really is."

The Birthday Outing

I ended up not having to watch my niece and nephew today, which is my youngest son's 4th birthday. When I realized this last night, I looked into taking him to Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America. They have an offer for a free wristband on your child's birthday. I was still able to sign up for it last night. So Nils and I headed down to the mall this morning. He's never gotten to go on a ride there (in fact, the only reason we ever go to the mall is to go to Legoland--not to buy, but to look and play). So this was a special treat.

When we arrived and got his wristband, we also received a special birthday coupon book. So, after riding a lot of rides (some I was allowed to go on with him if it required a "chaperon"), Nils partook of free mini golf (we had a coupon for if I purchased, but didn't need since under-five-year olds are free), ate a free cookie from Nestle Tollhouse and got a free chocolate birthday cake ice cream cone from Kemps. We had a fun, full day and our only out-of-pocket expense was $3.75 for a couple hot dogs, a slice of pizza, chips and a drink across the street at Ikea for lunch.

It was a fund day for a four-year old to spend his birthday without having to spend a lot of money to do it. If your child has an upcoming birthday and you live near the Twin Cities, check out Nickelodeon Universe.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Creamy Rutabaga Soup

My almost-4-year-old has been going through a phase lately. And not one of the fun ones. Part of it involves complaining every time he comes to the table--which we don't put up with. So he often doesn't eat, by his choice. One of the things he did eat recently was Creamy Rutabaga Soup (I know, right? Who is this kid?).

I'm all about fresh, seasonal produce and rutabagas (along with other root vegetables) were available at the farmer's market lately. So, I found a soup recipe online (soups are a staple in our house this time of year) and tweaked it a little. Here's the recipe:

1 medium rutabaga, about 2 pounds
1 small carrot
2 bay leaves
3 T. butter
4 T. soft unbleached flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black peppercorns
2 c. milk
grated nutmeg
cheese/cream cheese

Peel the rutabaga, and cut it into thin slices. Put them in a large pot with enough water just to cover them, and the bay leaves. Peel, slice and add the carrot to the pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the butter, flour, salt and pepper together in another pot until well amalgamated. Lower the heat, and add the milk, a little at a time and stirring constantly to prevent it from forming lumps (this is a basic white sauce). Once the mixture is thick, set it aside until the rutabaga is done.

When the rutabaga is done, put the white sauce into a blender or food processor with the pieces of rutabaga and carrot, which should be lifted out of the cooking water with a slotted spoon. Purée the rutabaga, carrot and white sauce until very smooth.

Put the soup back into a pot that the white sauce was in. Put three cups of the cooking water from the rutabaga into the food processor, and whizz it around to clean the sides. Pour this water into the soup, and stir well until smooth. Grate a little nutmeg over the soup, and mix it in.

Reheat the soup just before serving. Serve garnished with parsley, chives or a little more grated nutmeg.

Knowing that my family might need some coaxing, I added a bit of cheese and cream cheese to the soup to lessen the rutabaga flavor and make it a little creamier. I probably used about a quarter cup of cream cheese and another quarter to half cup of whatever cheese was already open in the refrigerator (it may have been muenster or farmers or possibly some cheddar).