Christ’s Cake

Rating: :) :) :) :)

Christ’s Cake is the story of five-year-old Jackson, who is cast as an angel in a Christmas play. But Jackson gets a different kind of cast after he falls and hurts himself. Will a broken arm keep him from playing his part as an angel?

Through Jackson’s eyes, children are introduced to Jesus on a personal level, which may open the door to further discussion of faith. Jackson learns about the unconditional love Jesus has for him, stirring his heart to give back. Readers may be inspired to join with Jackson’s family in a holiday tradition – baking a special birthday cake to remember the true meaning of Christmas.

The illustrations added depth and emotion to the story. I especially enjoyed the expressive faces of people (and animals) throughout the book.

The book has one minor caveat related to food safety. When they baked a cake in the story, Jackson “got to lick the spoons.” Unless you’re mixing a cake without raw eggs, eating the batter is not recommended, due to risk of Salmonella.

As a bonus, there are two coloring pages in the back of the book. Parents can help children upload scanned images of their colored birthday cake pages to the author’s “online bakery” on the book’s website. Fun! :) I recommend this book for families, churches and Christian school libraries, at Christmastime or throughout the year.

This is my own honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation of any kind for my review.


How to Raise a Child Who Helps

We’ve all seen them, kids who clear their plates from the table and take them to the sink without complaint. Children who take out the trash without being told. Kids who genuinely seem to enjoy helping. How does that happen? A freak of nature? Here are a few tips to train your child to help.

  1.  Begin when your child is a toddler. When she’s taking the silverware out of the dishwasher as fast as you can load them in, compliment her. “Thank you for helping! Can you put the silverware back in the dishwasher for me?” Show her where it goes. Helping becomes a fun game.
  2. Give kids a voice in their chores. Write down the things that need to be done. Divide the list by the number of people who will be helping. Then let them take turns choosing the items they’d like to do. So, for example, you have four people in your family old enough to help. Divide your list of 20 items by four. Each person will do five chores. Have the youngest choose one item from the list first. Then the next youngest does the same and so on until all items on the list are crossed off. Obviously, not all chores will go on this list since you don’t want a five-year-old mowing the lawn.
  3. Provide training. Take time to teach them how to do a job. It’s easy to say, “it’s faster to just do it myself.” Of course it is. But it doesn’t help your child learn or feel valued. Accept the fact that for a few years, things won’t get done as quickly as they might if you did them yourself.
  4. Celebrate after chores are done. Give positive feedback or gentle correction if something needs more attention. “The bathroom you cleaned looks terrific! Oops! Looks like you might have forgotten to clean the mirror. As soon as you do that, you’ll be done!” To celebrate, choose a movie to watch together, go get an ice cream, take a bike ride, or call Grandma.
  5. Give age appropriate jobs. Nothing is more discouraging than always failing at something. So make sure your kids succeed far more than they fail. For a list of age appropriate jobs for kids, click here.
  6. Work together on some jobs. Sometimes a big job like cleaning a room is just too overwhelming. Help them do it if they seem to need a hand. And break big jobs down into small steps like make your bed, pick up your clothes, etc.
  7. For very young kids, make a list using pictures. Instead of just listing clean your room, give them specific directions like ‘pick up your toys’ and draw a picture of a teddy bear so they’ll know what that list item says. My kids loved having a list to work from that they could actually “read.”
  8. Show appreciation. This is a biggie. When a child helps in some way, whether asked to or not, thank them. Let them know you noticed and that their contribution is appreciated.

Raising kids to be helpful doesn’t come easy. It takes consistency, patience, and guidance. But I remember one day working in the kitchen with my ten-year-old daughter and realizing that her help was really helping, not hindering my progress. All those years of letting her work beside me were finally paying off. And it was worth it!

How do you get your children to help? How do you instill in them a good work ethic? What special tips would you add to this list?

Caterpillar hunt – a golden opportunity for parents and grandparents to get kids outdoors

Gulf Fritillary on Passion Vine

Caterpillar of a Gulf Fritillary butterfly feeding on a leaf of a Passion Vine.

It is autumn, the best time of year for finding caterpillars – an activity that offers enough excitement to pull kids of all ages away from their cell phones and electronic gadgets and get them to go outdoors with you!

A little advance planning will increase your chances of finding caterpillars. If you know the favorite host plants for various kinds of butterflies and moths you will have a better idea about where to look for them. For instance, Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed plants, so look for the kinds of milkweed that grow in your area. Two common kinds of milkweed are Joe Pye Weed and Asclepias or Butterfly Weed.

Gulf Fritillary butterflies lay eggs on Passion Flower vines which can be found along the roadsides in all but the most northern states in the US. Here is a YouTube video that will help you identify the Passion Flower vines which may have flowers and/or “Maypop” fruit hanging from them.

Black Swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on parsley and fennel so your best place to look might be in garden spots or even at a nursery where you might be able to purchase a plant complete with eggs and/or caterpillars and take it home with you. Beware of trying to keep too many caterpillars on one plant however. Here is a link to such a caterpillar story with a very sad ending.

There are many more host plants you might look for. Click this link for a long list of host plants for butterfly and moth caterpillars.

Choose your weapons carefully. A camera makes a short commitment weapon. Bring only the pictures home with you and enjoy them.

But if you are prepared for follow-through (keeping the caterpillars alive until they pupate) then carry large jars (quart or gallon size) or make a butterfly house from a box with one or more sides cut out and replaced with a sheer fabric you can see through. You can also use a net laundry hamper turned upside down over your plant and caterpillars. This might work if they are on a low growing plant in your yard.

If you bring your caterpillar finds indoors, make the commitment to keep them alive. Bring them fresh leaves from the same kind of plant that you found them on. They won’t eat just any kind of leaves, they need the same kind of food they were eating when you found them.

Thank you Lord for Laundry?!

Today as I was folding the laundry and thinking about the dryer which was full of sheets and towels that would need to be folded next, instead of complaining about a task that I’d rather not be doing, I found myself saying a silent prayer of thanksgiving to God. Thanking Him that I have people to love and take care of, and people that love and take care of me as well. It’s interesting what a little perspective will do for you.

If we think about it, there are probably plenty of mundane tasks that we engage in on a daily or weekly basis, that could be turned into moments of praise. Preparing a meal could be a call to pray for the farmers who have grown and harvested our food and a chance to thank the Lord for the people who will sit around the table and fellowship with us as we eat it. Dusting, mopping, vacuuming, scrubbing and generally tidying up the house are chances to ask God to remove the dirt and clutter from our lives which keeps us from enjoying His presence and to thank Him for washing our sins away and leaving us whiter than snow. Unloading the dishwasher or unpacking the groceries and putting everything in its place might be a chance to thank God for the order that He brings to our lives.

These are just a few ideas, but the possibilities are endless! So the next time you find yourself doing another mundane task, before you allow a spirit of complaining to enter in, stop for a moment and relish the fact that in many ways the very act of doing this task proves that you are blessed beyond measure. If you decide to give it a try, I would love to hear about the ways that God speaks to you in the simplest of activities!

Transitioning Pre-teens and Teens into Youth Leaders

One of the challenges for many churches is transitioning pre-teens and teens into youth leadership roles. I feel this is vital to a young person’s walk with the Lord.

During the pre-teen and teen years, many temptations can draw youth away from the church. At this age they seek greater independence and continue to express their individuality. Some feel the need to decide if what their parents have brought them up to believe is truly what they believe.

Transitioning pre-teens and teens into youth leadership roles takes time. One of the ways we have opted to begin the process at our church is to assign each student a week to draft a Sunday school lesson and applicable activities, which they present to the group. They can choose to share any story from the Bible, even if it is one previously covered in class. The one rule is that they must find a new take-away from the story to share with the students.

My daughter’s turn comes up in October, and she is both nervous and excited. I have agreed to help her a bit, but overall this is her assignment. She has expressed interest in getting involved in a more meaningful way at church. While she is still young (11), beginning the process now will better prepare her for her future role in the church.

How does your church help pre-teens and teens transition into leadership roles?