Roaming Reindeer By: Angela Meju

Head to RoamingReindeer.com and use the code ROAM2014  for 5$ off until November 27!

Roaming Reindeer Review

Roaming Reindeer is a cute story book that includes two stuffed reindeer toys, in the book both reindeer are all about team work and responsibility, reindeer 2 is always around, but if reindeer 1 disappears it means that they have seen something and have gone to tell Santa. The book tells the store of the reindeer and how they wanted to help Santa. Much like the elf on the shelf (only less creepier) the reindeer are there to watch over children to make sure they are behaving.

This is a nice story for the holidays and shows how the reindeer work together and share responsibility to get the tasks completed. My only issue with Roaming Reindeer is that it feels like a tactic to scare children into behaving around Christmas and that you should behave when someone is watching rather than teaching why it is important to behave even when no one else is around.

I received this book complimentary from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Q and A with the Author Angela Meju

  1. Give us a brief summary of Roaming Reindeer.

Roaming Reindeer is a story about two of Santa’s reindeer, Gus and Sam, who see that Santa is overwhelmed with the naughty and nice lists for Christmas. They decide to help Santa by visiting girls and boys. Sam is saddened and runs away whenever he sees someone being naughty. Gus and Sam decide to work together, side by side, to visit each home. Whenever Sam runs away, he should report to Santa, while Gus sticks around to keep watch. When they run out of time to visit all of the rest of the children, the two reindeer decide to enlist their friends in pairs of two to help. They create a system for Reindeer 1 disappear to report to Santa about behavior, while Reindeer 2 sticks around. All of the reindeer leave on Christmas Eve to help Santa deliver the gifts.

  1. What was the inspiration behind the book?

My children were just starting to understand the concept of Santa Claus, and I wanted to write a Christmas book they would enjoy reading year after year.

  1. How did you decide to include two plush reindeer for families to enjoy?

We’ve tried other Christmas book traditions in our home and felt that they didn’t exactly cater to our schedules, and didn’t reinforce any positive behavior for children. I know that children tend to be visual learners, so I wanted to create cute, lovable reindeer who were visually identified as being together as a pair. Children associate 1 and 2 together, so if Reindeer 1 has disappeared, it is more of a visual reminder that the two aren’t together. I think that this allows children to be consciously aware of their behavior, while also teaching them about cause and effect. For children with siblings, it is a great tool for working together.

  1. How does your family use Roaming Reindeer?

Well, my children were exposed to “Gus” and “Sam” (that’s what our Reindeer 1 and 2 are named) very early on—long before Christmas. Our Reindeer 1 and 2 do a lot of travelling, so we have a lot of pictures of them in various (and sometimes random) locations. My children LOVE to play with the reindeer but we officially start our Reindeer countdown after Thanksgiving.

  1. What do you hope children get out of their experience with Roaming Reindeer?

Roaming Reindeer is not a tool for punishment, it’s an activity to help promote positive behavior. My hope is that children have fun playing with the reindeer and see them as friends who want to stick together. I’ve had parents joke with me saying that they want their reindeer to stick around all year long. My hope is that children will continue with these habits of teamwork and great behavior throughout the year.

  1. What kind of research did you do for the book?

A lot. The children’s book industry is so competitive. To have a book published and be taken seriously, you have to read and know your market. It’s also important to have an experienced editor and illustrations that will help to tell your story.

  1. What are other holiday traditions your family has?

It is a big event in our family to take pictures with Santa. We actually give out holiday mugs to family members each year with pictures of our kids with Santa.

  1. This was your first book. What was your favorite part of the writing process?

My favorite part of the writing process was getting to know the characters and their personalities as I was writing. The best feeling was seeing the illustrations and allowing the characters to come to life.

  1. Are you planning on writing any other books in the future?

Possibly….”wink, wink”

  1. Tell us where we can find your book and more information about you.

More information and the book is available at www.roamingreindeer.com and on Amazon.

 

 

Merry Christmas!

I know my posts have been few and far between, and I am hoping that will change soon along with a new look possibly. In the meantime I am wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas, and for my Australian followers Merry Christmas a day late.

I hope your Christmas Season has been filled with the joy and love of Jesus and that you will find Him in everything in the new year.

Praying for all my readers.

Blessings,

-Elle

In the meantime check out this version of The First Noel

The Nativity Story App

Christmas is just around the corner and the new interactive Nativity Story is a great gift for kids. With Iphones and Ipads being the new way to entertain kids this app will keep them entertained as well as teaching them what Christmas is all about. Kids love apps, to the point that they can operate our phones and tablets better than we can, rather than getting a new game The Nativity Story App is a great addition for kids to learn and read the Nativity story again and again.

This is a great idea for kids just learning to read, they can read the story themselves or read along with the narrator.

This app shares the Nativity Story in a new and interactive way, the voices of the characters keep you entertained and following along the story as well as the ability to interact with the story as it goes on. The sound effects and music are fun and add to the story rather than distract. Unlike most apps and games the illustrations are beautifully detailed and come to life right before your eyes.

The whole family will love going through the Nativity Story App together just in time for Christmas.

Get the App here! Or search in the app store.

-Elle

I received this app complimentary in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

The Sparkle Box By: Jill Hardie

Christmas is right around the corner, but if you have noticed we’ve been staring at Christmas decorations and holiday deals since September. I am not against celebrating Christmas but each year Christmas is becoming more of a show and what deals each person can find rather than the birth of our Savior. Each year it becomes a little more difficult to show kids what Christmas is all about. The Sparkle Box is a beautiful reminder of what the spirit of Christmas really is.

Sam is so excited for Christmas day! He cannot wait, but he is very curious about the sparkle box sitting on the mantle and what is inside of it. Each night he asks his parents if it is time to open it, but they tell him something was added to it but it is not yet time. Until on Christmas Day Sam gets to see what is in the Sparkle Box, and what is inside will remind everyone what Christmas is about.

This story is a fun, captivating story that fills you with the excitement of the season and will remind you what Christmas is all about. With vivid illustrations this book is a great story to help show kids that Christmas is not about the toys under the tree or how many presents they get but helping others and reaching out to people during a tough time of year. The Sparkle Box comes with its own sparkle box at the back of the book that can become a family tradition for years to come.

I received this book complimentary in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

-Elle

The 12 Days of Christmas!

Thomas Nelson & Zondervan Fiction are hosting the 12 Days of Christmas! They’ve teamed up with three of their authors for a Merry Facebook Party on November 12th {5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern}. Colleen, Tricia, and Beth will host an evening of book chat, Christmas traditions, and of course plenty of presents!



But wait! There’s more! Each day between now and November 12th a different book (10 copies of each book) will be given away on the Thomas Nelson & Zondervan Fiction Facebook Page. Ring in the holiday season and warm your heart with some great reads from Thomas Nelson and Zondervan!

xmasparty-500

Click here to ENTER each day’s giveaway here.
RSVP for the Christmas Party here!
Good luck and hope to see you on the evening of the 12th!

What is Christmas all about?

Merry Christmas Everyone! Today is the day! The day we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior, our Lord, the one who came as an infant and would one day redeem us all.

With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season we quickly forget what this season is all about. We get caught up with the busy-ness of planning the perfect meal, figuring out how to keep family drama to a minimal, keeping everyone schedule coordinated, rushing through the crowds at the local mall. We often forget what Christmas means and exchange it for consumerism and focusing on material things.

Every Christmas A Charlie Brown Christmas plays on TV  and there is one section of the movie where Linus shares the meaning of Christmas by reading from Luke chapter 2, but there is a moment in this clip that I had never noticed until about a month ago while at the KLove Acoustic Christmas Tour, Dave, from Sidewalk Prophets pointed it out. Take a moment to watch this clip.

Did you notice it? Did you see what happened? Linus, the very smart, loveable character, who is known for always carrying his blue blanket, a blanket he keeps with him at all times, it is his safety, his protection. Notice at the moment he reads the word ‘Fear not’ he drops his blanket. Linus drops the thing he has clung to for most of his life, the thing that he feels safest with, that brings him peace.

In that moment Linus leaves his blanket behind, reading the remainder of the passage without it, he speaks of the hope and joy and peace that the birth of Jesus will bring.

What are you clinging to this holiday season? Do you hold onto a safety blanket like Linus? It may not be a literal blanket, you may cling to your career, your plans for the future, your money, you may cling to the people around you, to worldly possessions. What are the things we put our trust in? What do we use as a safety net in the everyday?

Today let us be like Linus, let us drop the safety net we build around us, to let go of the things we cling to and instead cling to Jesus and the hope that He brings. So ‘fear not’ and remember what today means. Christmas means hope, it means love and most importantly it means the birth of our Savior!

Merry Christmas everyone!

-Elle

DIY Tree Skirt

So I have my first Christmas tree that is over 3 feet tall! In celebration I found that I needed a tree skirt and decided to be crafty so I turned to pinterest and found one I loved! Here are some pictures throughout the process.

This is the pattern I used

No-Sew Tree Skirt

 

Ignore the purple and blue, instead of purchasing extra fabic I pieced together some fabric I had leftover from some previous projects. (What can I say I love bright colors!)

 

I know that the gray was an odd choice but my Christmas tree is themed in Silver and purple, once the tree is decorated I will post a picture tree skirt and all!

I warn those of you that take on this project, it takes a good chunk of hours and the ruffles will drive you batty! But beyond that you end up with a beautiful tree skirt!

 

-Elle

 

 

Advent

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from some of today’s most beloved writer’s (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun … there’s also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 – 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

*** 

Advent By Sibella Giorello

Consider the bride’s walk down the aisle. We all know where that woman in the white is going but somehow waiting for her to arrive at the altar is an essential part of the ceremony. In fact, the waiting is so essential that even cheapskate Vegas chapels include wedding marches.

Why?

Because the wait adds meaning to the moment.

At Christmas time, we tend to forget this essential truth about anticipation. We’re lost to shopping malls and checklists, rushing toward December 25th so quickly that we forget the quiet joy of the month’s other 24 days — and then we wonder why we feel so empty on the 26th, amid ribbons and wrapping paper and our best intentions.

Because the wait adds meaning to the moment.

And that is why Advent is so important to Christmas.

I’m as guilty as the next harried person. This Advent was particularly tricky because just six hours before it started, I was still trying to finish a 110,000-word novel that was written over the course of the year — written while homeschooling my kids, keeping my hubby happy, and generally making sure the house didn’t fall down around us.

It’s an understatement to say my free time is limited. But waiting adds meaning, and Advent is crucial to Christmas, so I’ve devised several Advent traditions that are simple, powerful and easy to keep even amid the seasonal rush.

When my kids outgrew the simple Advent calendars around age 7, I stole an idea from my writer friend Shelly Ngo (as T.S. Eliot said, “Mediocre writers borrow. Great writers steal.” Indulge me.)

Here’s how it goes: Find 24 great Christmas books, wrap them individually and place then under the tree. On the first day of Advent, take turns picking which book to open. When we did this, we would cuddle under a blanket and read aloud — oh, the wonder, the magic! We savored “The Polar Express,” howled with “How Murray Saved Christmas,” and fell silent at the end of “The Tale of The Three Trees” (note: some of the picture books I chose were not explicitly about Christmas but they always echoed the message that Jesus came to earth to save us from ourselves and to love us beyond our wildest imagination. In that category, Angela Hunt’s retelling of The Three Trees definitely hits the Yuletide bull’s eye).

This Advent tradition lasted for about five years. It gave us rich daily discussions about the season’s real meaning, without being religious or legalistic, and it increased family couch time. But like the lift-the-flap calendars, my kids outgrew the picture books.

Because the wait adds meaning, and Advent is crucial, I prayed for another way to celebrate anticipation of Christmas. By the grace of God, last year I found an enormous Advent calendar on  clearance at Pottery Barn. Made of burlap, it has large pockets big enough to hold some serious bounty.
 
But my husband and I didn’t want the kids focusing only on the materialist stuff for Advent — we already fight that on Christmas day. We decided to fill the daily pockets with simple necessities and small gift cards. We also printed out the nativity story from Luke 2:1-21 in a large-sized font and cut each verse out. From Day 1 to Day 21, there is one verse to read aloud. The kids memorize it, then get to open their present (again, on alternating days for each person). Then we tape the verse to the wall in order. By Day 22, all the verses are on the wall, in order, and the kids now try to recite the entire nativity story from memory. That’s not as difficult as it sounds because they’ve been memorizing one verse each day. Still, the entire recitation — verbatim — usually requires Day 23 and Day 24. Whoever does memorize the entire thing — without mistakes —  earns a bonus gift of $25.

Does that sounds extravagant?

It is.

Because we want our kids to understand that God came down and humbled himself and taught us about love right before He suffered and died on behalf of the undeserving — which is every one of us.

“That’s” extravagant.

And in the waiting, we find even more meaning.

***

Sibella Giorello writes the Raleigh Harmon mystery series which won the Christy Award with its first book “The Stones Cry Out.” She lives in Washington state with her husband and children, and often wishes there were 36 hours in a day.

A Christmas of Kindness

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from some of today’s most beloved writer’s (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun … there’s also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 – 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***

A Christmas of Kindness
By Suzanne Woods Fisher

“You can give without loving, but you can¹t love without giving.” Amish proverb

I do it every year.

I plan for a simpler, less stressful Christmas season and, every year, by Christmas Eve I’m exhausted! After our delicious and very-time-consuming-to-make traditional Swedish meal to honor my husband¹s relatives (think: Vikings), it’s time to head to church. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but the last few Christmas Eve’s, I have sent my husband and kids head off without me. The pull to spend an hour of quiet in the house feels as strong as a magnet.

It’s odd. My children are young adults now. Wouldn’t you think that Christmas would be simpler? Instead, it’s just the opposite. Jugging schedules to share the grandbaby with the in-laws, trying to include our elderly parents at the best time of day for them, dancing carefully around recently divorced family members whose children are impacted by the shards of broken relationships.

The thing is: you can simplify your to-do list, but you can’t really simplify people. We are just a complicated bunch.
Here’s where I borrow a lesson about simplicity from the Amish. It’s easy to get distracted with the buggies and the bonnets and the beards, but there’s so much more to learn from these gentle people if you’re willing to look a little deeper.

Yes, they live with less “stuff” and that does make for a simpler, less cluttered life. But it’s the reason behind it that is so compelling to me: they seek to create margin in their life. Not just empty space but space that is available to nourish family, community, and faith. Their Christmas is far less elaborate than yours or mine, but what they do fill it with is oh so right.

Christmas comes quietly on an Amish farmhouse. There is no outward sign of the holiday as we know it: no bright decorations, no big tree in the living room corner. A few modest gifts are waiting for children at their breakfast place settings, covered by a dishtowel. Waiting first for Dad to read the story of Christ’s birth from the book of Luke. Waiting until after a special breakfast has been enjoyed. Waiting until Mom and Dad give the signal that the time has come for gifts.

Later, if Christmas doesn’t fall on a Sunday, extended family and friends will gather for another big meal. If time and weather permits, the late afternoon will be filled with ice skating or sledding. And more food! Always, always an abundance of good food. Faith, family, and community. That is the focus of an Amish Christmas.

And it’s also how the story begins for A Lancaster County Christmas, as a young family prepares for Christmas. A winter storm blows a non-Amish couple, Jaime and C.J. Fitzpatrick, off-course and into the Riehl farmhouse. An unlikely and tentative friendship develops, until the one thing Mattie and Sol hold most dear disappears and then. Ah, but you¹ll just have to read the story to find out what happens next. Without giving anything away, I will say that I want to create a Mattie-inspired margin this Christmas season. Mattie knew inconveniences and interruptions that come in the form of people (big ones and little ones!) are ordained by God. And blessed by God.

Creating margin probably means that I won’t get Christmas cards out until the end of January, and my house won’t be uber-decorated. After all, something has to give. But it will mean I make time for a leisurely visit with my dad at his Alzheimer’s facility. And time to volunteer in the church nursery for a holiday-crowded event. And time to invite a new neighbor over for coffee. Hopefully, it will mean that my energy won’t get diverted by a frantic, self-imposed agenda. Only by God’s agenda the essence of true simplicity.

And that includes taking time to worship Christ’s coming at the Christmas Eve service. You can hold me accountable! This year, I will be there.

***

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, The Search, and The Keeper, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Christy Award nominee and is the host of an internet radio show called Amish Wisdom and her work has appeared in many magazines. She lives in California. www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.

The Journey to Christmas

Cover: Journey to Christmas Journey to Christmas

We’ve all heard it before, the same Christmas carols, the same Christmas story, we get mixed up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and forget about what the true meaning of Christmas is. Every year we claim we want to focus on that meaning but moments later we are rushing to the nearest toy story to get that new released toy that someone just has to have.

The Journey to Christmas invites you into the lives of five very different people who have never met and are taking the trip of a lifetime. Joining a local historian the five travel the path that Joseph and Mary took to Bethlehem, they learn the culture and hardships that were faced along the way. Each person has their own beliefs and their own reasons for taking this journey but together they will learn about the meaning of Christmas and the history of the people that surrounded the nativity.

The Journey of Christmas is a DVD that will give you a fresh look the birth of Christ and give you insight to the hardships faced during the time.

This DVD was provided complimentary from Tyndale Publishing in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

-Elle