Easter Ideas – part 3 of 3

A few more ideas…I’d love to hear yours, too!  Let me know what makes your family’s Easter special.

13. Corsage – This tradition began with my great-grandmother.  Every Easter (and Mother’s Day) the mothers in our family are presented with a beautiful corsage to wear for the day.  Maybe it’s an old Southern thing, I don’t know, but it is a tender way to show appreciation and respect for the matriarchs of the family.  I will never forget after the birth of our first child, I was given a corsage to wear the next Easter.  It felt almost like a rite of passage into motherhood, and every year since I wear them proudly.  Corsages are available seasonally in the floral section of the grocery store, but the florist can also make one using almost any type of flower.

14. Egg Hunt & Bunny Store – Okay, so who doesn’t love an Easter egg hunt?  From little ones who squeal in delight over finding the colorful egg hiding beneath the bushes to the teen who says, “Hey!  It’s free candy!” most kids won’t pass up the opportunity to partake in an egg hunt (provided said older kids are in the respective comfort zone of their family or friends – not at lunchtime at school!).  And for the older ones, a bonus of being a parent is to drive them crazy putting them in places so hard they almost think the free candy isn’t worth it.  Ha!

Between church and Easter dinner, there’s always this lag time when there isn’t a lot of structure.  Some people take naps, some scurry in the kitchen, and some have egg hunts.  It’s just fun.  No, there isn’t really any deep meaning to it, but it’s family quality time and that’s okay!

Here’s how we roll:

Stuff a tons of plastic eggs (that we reuse every year) with something small – like a single piece of candy.  Add to that Bunny Money.  Years ago, my sister and I came up with this idea and it stuck ever since.  We created paper Bunny Money (about the size of Monopoly money), fold it and stuff it in the eggs.

Bunny Money

What does one buy with the money? Glad you asked!  Coupons (we made simple ones on the pc like the money above).  The kids buy coupons for things like: free pass on a chore, you pick dinner, stay up late one hour, iTunes song of your choice, you pick dessert, etc.  Things that make kids smile!  They “buy” these coupons at the Bunny Store set up outside.  It may also have a couple of trinkets (typically something useful for summer like splash balls, diving sticks, etc.  When they were younger it included bubbles, sidewalk chalk, etc.).  These are items that we would probably need to restock anyway, and they see it as a gift – win win!  And, this helps reduce the amount of candy consumed.

15. Easter Garden – This is new to use this year, and we cannot wait to make it!  In fact, we’ve already gathered the elements simply from walking around the house and yard.  What a great idea!  It’s beautiful, meaningful and we will use ours as the centerpiece on the table for Easter dinner.  Thanks to everyone online for sharing this super idea!  There are several versions.  Here are some we found: Easter Garden by Ann Voskamp, Easter Garden 2, Easter Garden 3 and many more on the web or create your very own!

16. Resurrection Cookies – For those who have patiently read to the end, we have an extra sweet idea to celebrate Easter.  One of our all-time favorite Easter tradition is to bake Easter cookies (or Resurrection Cookies).  But wait…they are definitely NOT your typical cookie!  Every ingredient, every step has a special meaning and Scripture to back it.  Don’t be fooled by the ingredients.  These cookies are delicious!  We first received this recipe through our preschool.  The best I know is that the recipe was originally created by Wanda Long and appeared in Home Life magazine.  Bon a petit! Click for recipes: Resurrection Cookies and Resurrection Rolls (different version, very cool and tasty – creator, unknown).

So there is my dissertation of Easter ideas.  Hope they’ve helped get the creative juices flowing for your Easter this year.  If you try any of these, I’d love to see photos!  Also to mention, although we do most of these traditions every year, we definitely do not cram them all in a few days.  We spread them out over a couple of weeks.  Easter shouldn’t be exhausting or merely a list of to-do’s.  I encourage you to take the time to ponder Jesus’ cruxifiction and resurrection, have fun with your family, and spend time with the One who died to give you eternal life.

Easter Ideas – part 2 of 3

More Easter ideas… 🙂

7. Passion of the Christ – Within the holy week, preferably the night before Easter, our family (only including kids 12+) watches this movie every year.  We do not allow any of our children (including teens) to watch R rated movies, but this is the exception.  Once they are old enough to understand that it was for each of our sins that Christ was tortured and nailed to the cross, this movie is an excellent resource to attempt to capture the pain He endured, as well as Jesus’ endless love for us in that it was His choice to suffer physical, spiritual, emotional and mental agony so that we could be reconciled to God (John 10:17-18).

8. Egg Hunt Service Project – The whole family can help bring Easter to those in need.  Find an organization (church, non-profit, etc.) that is hosting  an Easter egg hunt for those less fortunate and help provide candy, stuff eggs, transport & set out eggs, or participate with others in the event.

9. Soup Kitchen – Choose this time of year to help provide a meal for those in need.  Join forces with a church, non-profit, or food bank and spend part of Easter weekend (or any weekend!) helping cook, serve or clean-up.  Or, volunteer with Meals On Wheels or another such organization and help deliver a meal to the elderly or shut-ins.  It’s a beautiful way to get to know your community and demonstrate the hands and feet of Christ to your children.

10. Invite Someone To Easter Dinner – In addition to people regularly included in this day with you, invite a widow, neighbors, or someone without family in town or with whom to spend Easter day.  This is a wonderful opportunity to build bridges, make new friends, and is exactly the kind of thing Jesus was drawn to.

11. Dying Easter eggs – The smell of vinegar any time of year always brings me back to dying Easter eggs.  While many people love this tradition, what helped our family enjoy it more was to move the whole thing outdoors.  Food dye can be tricky to get out of counters and clothes, so we set up an old cardboard table, throw some old t-shirts over our clothes and have a ball.  No need to worry about spills, drips or eggs splashing down into the dye-filled cups.  This is a great activity to get toddlers to grandparents involved in and just play!  (I love watching the egg themes change over the years as our kids get older.)  It also lets us get outside to enjoy the springtime beauty, and makes for a really nice photo op for all of us scrapbookers out there.

12. Easter baskets – This is one of our favorite Easter traditions, and no, our children have not outgrown them. 🙂  Rather than filling baskets with endless jelly beans and dollar-store toys that break in a day, we take this opportunity to intentionally bring the baskets back to the focus of the real reason for Easter:

* An Easter basket is a great time to give children of any age a yearly devotional.  Our children’s devotionals are pretty worn out by the end of a year, so every year I spend time picking out a devotional that is right for their age and season of life.  (They begin the new one on Easter, so for us, that day is our “new year.”)  I would recommend some, but there is an abundance of devotionals out there, and it really depends on what fits your child the best.  Simply go to Amazon.com and type in keywords: devotions for kids, devotions for teens, devotions for girls, devotions for boys, etc.  A plethora will come up for ages from very young to graduates.  To offset the stimulate overload, you may want to go to a Christian bookstore (some mainstream stores also have devotionals, but their selection is quite limited) and there you can thumb through the devotionals and find just the right one – local stores also have good coupons this time of year.  Set aside a good hour for this, but it’s totally worth it.  Here’s a couple to start your search: Random ThoughtsGod’s Little Devotional for BoysGod’s Little Devotional for Girls and Josh McDowell’s Youth Devotions.

* To that, we add a couple of extra divinely inspired books (i.e., Stormie Omartian’ s prayer books for kids & teens, When Teens Pray, Hot Chocolate with God, God Girl & God Girl devotional, and the Chicken Soup Christian series for children, preteens & teens).   Books are an investment for the soul and a great basket filler!  This is something I see us continuing for their entire lives – giving our one-day grown children Bible studies, Christian fiction, biographies, etc. at Easter.

* A special bookmark or small piece of jewelry (cross necklace or earrings, etc.) are also nice touches and functional, too.

* With warmer weather approaching, we also include in their baskets a cool Christian t-shirt.  Something fun and funky and fits their personalities.  There are some really great ones out there and can be found online and in local Christian bookstores.

* We include one special item in the basket for each child.  The gift changes year-to-year, but we keep it on a budget.  As parents, we do not give our children toys, video games, etc. throughout the year (only on birthdays and certain holidays), so we take great delight in treating them with a total surprise in their basket.

* Minimizing candy, we pick out only our children’s very favorite treats and put a few of those in the basket.  It’s easy to pass up the abundance of sugar when focusing only on their favorites…and not overbuying keeps the budget down, too.

More ideas to come in part 3…

Easter Ideas – part 1 of 3

Easter is a time of year for reflection, introspection and celebration!  It’s a time in life when Christians ponder the highs and lows of our Savior’s last days on earth.  We walk through Jesus’ timeline, pausing to consider each word or act He said and did both in the public eye as well as within the intimacy of a chosen few.  It’s also an incredibly beautiful time of year.  Who can’t help but smile at the new woodland creatures discovering their world, or feel rejuvenated by the scent of flowers in bloom?  Grass finds its yearly shade of green, and we begin to pull out recipes for salads, grilling, and smoothies.  However, like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day and other holidays, it can become convoluted with diluted distractions that turn our eye from the cross and onto things that actually have nothing to do with the real meaning of Easter – the ressurrection of Christ.

My family is all about rediscovering the unfathomable sacrifice Jesus gave us at Easter.  We also enjoy exploring creation that so resplendently shows off God’s handiwork at springtime.  How do we enjoy both, without losing focus on Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection?  Some friends have asked me to post some traditions our family enjoys during the Easter season.  I hope you like the ideas and use them if they work for you.   We’d love to know what your family does, so feel free to post your ideas, too.  Have fun!

1. Corn husk crosses.  Every year, my mother-in-law sends each of us a handmade corn husk cross.  It’s simple to make and costs nothing.  They last year after year, so we collect them and use them with our Easter decorations, like sticking them in the basket of colored faux eggs on the kitchen table, to quietly reaffirm the true meaning of Easter.  This is a great craft for kids to make and give away to friends, neighbors, or as a service project for teens to give away. (Side note: One year, our mail was stolen from our mailbox just before Easter…yep, the crosses were in there.  We knew that whoever took our mail would find the crosses, and then hopefully find Jesus!)

Corn Husk Crosses

2. Resurrection Eggs – Beginning twelve days before Easter, we gather as a family each night and work our way through the eggs .  After several years of using them the kids know what is in each one, yet still it amazes me (even at their older ages now) how much they look forward to them.  It’s a great way to reiterate Scripture so they know it is history and not just a story.  Resurrection Eggs are sold online, and I’ve also seen them at Wal-Mart and local Christian booksellers.  The accompanying picture book, Benjamin’s Box, is lovely, however the eggs come with Scripture sufficient for enjoying the eggs.

3. Easter plate – Opinions vary about the Easter Bunny.  This is a family matter, but I will suggest what we’ve done.  For the younger years, we put out a plate for the EB with carrots on it.  However, the plate makes the difference in the message we send to the kids.  We bought ours from Abbey Press.  Check it out below!  We really liked that it helped bridge the two.  I couldn’t find this one currently for sale on the internet, but you could paint one yourself, which nowadays is pretty easy.  Ceramic painting kits are available in the kid craft section of Target, Wal-Mart, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, etc.  Or, if you feel extra creative, you could spend a little time at a do-it-yourself pottery store and design one.

Easter plate

4. Books – When little children aren’t so little anymore, Easter Bunny, Are You For Real? by Harold Myra is a great book that helps explain the tradition of the EB. (Shh – there’s one about Santa, too.)

5. More books – Speaking of reading, some favorite books we pulled out for many Easters are Only God Would’ve Planned It That Way by Todd Barsness and Easter ABC’s by Isabel Anders.

6. Tenebrae service – Attend a Tenebrae service at church.  This is a solemn service offered within the last three days of the holy week.  It symbolizes the seriousness of the suffering Christ endured for our sin.  This inspiring opportunity is great for families with children who can sit quietly for 30min-1hour.  All ages are touched by the dramatic silence, soft music, candles, communion and prayer.

More ideas to come in part 2…

The Easter Dress

I took my daughter shopping last night for an Easter dress.  Drawing in a deep breath, I knew this trip would be different because we went to the junior’s section first – not the girls, though she can wear both.  She picked out a dress, but I suggested we also look in girls.  As we meandered among the girl racks, glancing at dresses in princess style and Easter-egg color, she said, “I’m looking for something more teenage-ish, not little girl-ish.”  I thought my heart would burst.  Until now, she has always measured an Easter dress by how poofy the skirt is and if it’s “twirly” enough.  I walked behind her, slowly running my hand on the dresses she used to want to wear.  At some point, her childhood turned a page and I didn’t notice.  Why?  Because she is still so whimsical, silly and creative; she loves climbing trees, dressing up the dog and finding frogs.  Tired from a long day, I sat on the sofa outside the dressing room and tried to remember when was the last time I had to be with her in the dressing room to help her.  I can’t remember.

She tried on the junior’s dress, the one that I questioned on the hanger, and to my surprise, it is adorable on her.  She looks so cute!  As I waited while she gathered her things, I fully realized that this dress suits who she is right now perfectly, and she is beautiful in it.  She makes the dress.  And she loves it.  My little girl isn’t so little anymore.  Her Easter dress (modest, I might add) was found in a department playing creepy music videos and donning skimpy clothes.  No Hello Kitty or footie pajamas as far as the eye can see.

However, more than I want to stay in the girls department, I want to stay by my baby girl’s side through every phase of life.  I don’t want to miss who she is now, and is becoming, because I can’t let go of who she was yesterday.  I know what it feels like to cross over from girl to young woman alone…without a mom to show me the way.  It’s hard.  Really hard.

For my daughter, I will ask for strength from God to help me let her grow, and I will be grateful I am here to guide her, because although growing pains can really hurt my heart, it would be more painful to miss out on what an incredible, amazing young woman she is becoming.  Every day, I am thankful to be a part of her life, and even more thankful that she wants me to be a part of it.  Just like the dress, adolescence isn’t one size fits all.  May my daughter continue to wear it well.  Dear Lord, let me never forget to tell her how beautiful she is in simply being who she is today – while enjoying the mystery of who she will become tomorrow.  Oh, and God, please give me a granddaughter one day so I can once again shop in the girls department for princess dresses with poofy, twirly skirts.