Show love to your kids at Christmas (even when you’re exhausted)

Tantrums leading up to Christmas

I wrote recently about what it’s like parenting a child with autism at Christmas and I find myself continuing to reflect on the challenges different families experience at this time of the year. One of the topics under discussion in parenting forums this week is ‘Should children be punished for bad behaviour leading up for Chistmas?’, more specifically, should they be threatened that Santa is watching and won’t give them presents?

One side of the argument, is that children should be told that Santa (or a designated Elf on the Shelf) is watching and will punish children by leaving them a lump of coal (or a potato) in their Christmas stocking if they are naughty in December. Others suggest spending Christmas morning in bed and refusing to give out presents until 4pm (or a few days later) once children are suitably chastened. Some suggest that each time children are really naughty, a present is removed from under the tree and the child has to give it to charity.

My heart goes out to parents who are exhausted and struggling at the end of a long year, wishing for some much needed rest for themselves to recharge batteries, and all of the stress (logistical and financial) that planning Christmas involves. The reality, however, is that we need to constantly put on our superhero costumes, dig deep for forgotten reserves of energy, and remember that our tiny egotistical bundles of dark energy are exhausted children struggling with a see-saw of excitement, fear, change, and emotional confusion. They are also tired at the end of the year; they are tired from growing, from learning, from trying to keep their emotions in check, and they are likely to explode at home because that’s where they feel safe to do so. They are trusting us to love them unconditionally (even if it’s through gritted teeth).

Stop and have a think about what may be triggering your kids to explode. Are they tired? Are they hungry? Are they eating a lot of ‘seasonal treats’? Are they excited about school holiday adventures but then lashing out at the end of the day (or the next day)?

School holidays mean that all of their usual structure has suddenly disappeared and that can be as frightening as it is exciting. Talk with them about what routines are going to stay in place (i.e. will television still be restricted to certain times of day, will bedtime still be at the same time, will parents still be working on certain days). Come up with a visual planning chart for the school holidays and talk with your kids about any planned activities, holidays, play dates, or family visits. Make a list of activities they can do at home (or cut them up in strips and have them pull them out of a hat).

Talk to them about any expectations you have: to spend time reading a book each day, do an art activity, spend time outside, and play quietly with toys? Some kids might feel more comfortable having their free time largely unstructured, while others may thrive on digital timers and structured activities for at least part of each day.

If you’re at home with the kids, take the opportunity to try changes to diet. Put them on a wholefoods diet as much as possible and avoid anything with artificial additives and preservatives (they have a cumulative effect in the body, especially in little bodies, and can have a big impact on behavior). Drink water and milk, eat lots of fresh fruit, make salads, do home baking. Ditch the muesli bars, chips, and cookies, and make smoothies, carrot cake, or flourless pancakes.  Help get the kids involved in meal planning, supermarket shopping, meal preparation, and gardening.

We spend eleven months of the year taking responsibility for our parenting decisions, lets not shift the blame to Santa just because Christmas is approaching. If you want to factor Santa into discussions with your kids then try shifting the discussion from a negative / blame framework to a positive one; instead of threatening coal, try saying something like ‘Mum and Dad and Santa can see how hard you’ve been working all year and it seems like you’re tired and struggling at the moment.” Talk with them about the things they like about themselves and feel they are doing well, and also about the things they feel are difficult. Praise them when they are doing things well.

Consider giving only a few small presents from Santa that they can play with before the main gifts are unwrapped. Maybe I’m selfish but I want my daughter to be thrilled that I’ve spent time saving up and planning her main present rather than thinking it’s magically appeared from Santa’s workshop! Knowing that their main presents have come from family reinforces an understanding of being loved.

Spend time in the lead up to Christmas talking about what it means to your family. In some parts of the world, it’s a time of beautiful lights, decorations, and fattening foods because the outside world is pitch black most of the day and covered in snow (which might look pretty on Christmas cards but is icy and cold most of the time). It’s a little bit different when Christmas is celebrated in the middle of summer with blue skies and sunshine! Even if you’re not celebrating the birth of Christ, talk about why you are giving gifts as a family. Talk about celebrating all the good things you have, the things you are grateful for, and the people that you love. Maybe you could make a gratitude jar, flower, or tree. Older kids might like to keep a gratitude journal for the holidays (bonus – it also helps them practice their writing!)

Step away from the commercial aspects of the holidays, help them to make their own Christmas cards, make Christmas crackers, and write letters to friends they’re going to miss over the holidays. Encourage them to think about others by choosing something they like to eat to donate to a food parcel collection, or by mowing the lawns for grandparents, or washing cars during church service.

Tell them every single day that you love them.

 

For more helpful strategies – consider attending a free Incredible Years Parenting Programme which provides useful strategies for play, praise, academic, social and emotional coaching, positive reinforcement, limit setting, natural and logical consequences, problem-solving and effective communication skills.

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Rewards for Potty Training

Reward Charts can help potty training.

Reward Charts can help potty training.

When starting potty training it’s a good idea to think about how you’ll keep your toddler motivated. Some toddlers will simply want to be ‘just like my big brother/sister’; others will respond to lots of praise; others need something tangible to work towards and that’s where reward charts can be useful.

Potty Training! It’s something that we all experience as parents as we help our children transition out of nappies. I’ve posted previously on:

Reward Charts

Sometimes toddlers need a little extra positive reinforcement to start (or stick with) potty training. Reward charts can be a great way of helping them to see progress, learn about delayed gratification, and learn about working towards achievable goals at a young age.

There are lots of great ideas online for printing out your own reward chart that you can stick on the fridge (like these free to print charts). The important thing is to choose a theme that will tie in with your toddlers interests. I liked this magnetic one from Kmart because I knew Little Miss would like moving the magnets around.

Tip: If you have multiple children, it’s a good idea to instigate reward charts for siblings as well to prevent tantrums, jealousy, and rivalry! If your 2 year old is toilet training, maybe your 5 year old can have a reward chart for homework or chores.

Rewards

These need to be relevant to your child’s interests, realistic for your budget, and appropriate in scale. A trip to the park, a book, a small toy, are more realistic then promising a trip to Disneyland! Also, keep in mind that a reward comes after the action has been successfully taken (and a bribe comes before).

Sit down with your child and be really clear:

  • what they will receive points for (i.e. stickers on their reward chart),
  • what rewards they are working for, and,
  • how many points they need to obtain those rewards.

Encourage your child to brainstorm with you what those rewards are going to be. Possible rewards include:

  • Items (toys / books)
  • Activities (trips to the park, library, the zoo)
  • Food (jellybeans, McDonalds, restaurant)

You may want to start off with reward stickers for:

  1. each wee / poo in the potty (or toilet), and then move towards
  2. stickers for staying dry at home that day,  then,
  3. staying dry at kindy, then,
  4. staying dry overnight.

The important thing is to scaffold your expectations and help your child towards success at a pace that’s realistic to them. Remember that every child is different.

Items

Toys or books can be easily tailored to your child’s interests. It’s a good idea to have a mix of rewards that they can work towards (with larger or more expensive items requiring more points).  If you take them to a store to choose rewards, it’s a good idea to guide their choices by offering them a few options and letting them select one.

It’s also a good idea to guide them towards choosing toys that you were thinking about getting them anyway and which you can afford. Consider items that will encourage open-ended imaginative play and remember that you don’t need to buy ‘branded’ items for your kid to have fun.

We chose a (non-branded) My Little Pony and a wooden pizza – each slice and topping has to be earned so it has a good mix of short and long term gratification.

Activities

Again, these can be easily tailored to your child’s interests. You may want to have activities close to home, or that are free, cost fewer reward points and then have costly activities be something they have to save more points to earn. Not all activities have to be away from home either!

  • At home: build a tent out of sheets & chairs; make a collage; parent play with cars / dolls / animals / trains for 20 mins without distractions; have a tea party with toys; invite a friend over for the afternoon.
  • Free: go to a park; feed ducks; favourite playground; go to a beach; bike ride; art gallery; museum.
  • Paid: go to an indoor attraction (like a playground or trampoline park); go to zoo; go to observatory to see stars; movie.

Food

Food can be a controversial choice because it risks weighting food choices to show that some foods are inherently more desirable than others. In saying that, plenty of parents have chosen to use a jellybean or other small treat as a reward.

For more creative options, why not choose food related activities instead. Reward points could be saved towards things like:

  • doing baking together,
  • helping to make dinner (or choosing from a list of dinner options),
  • buying and planting vegetable seedlings, or micro-greens for the windowsill,
  • going to a cafe for a fluffy or scone,
  • going to a restaurant for lunch / dinner.

How to save money and freshen clothes naturally! Pre-soaking laundry using baking soda.

Replace chemical cleaners with a natural and cheap laundry soaking solution!

Replace chemical cleaners with a natural and cheap laundry soaking solution!

Miss 2 has really sensitive skin (and eczema) which means that I’ve needed to look around for non-chemical options for the laundry pre-soak bucket. Funnily enough, sometimes it’s the mid-range brands of ‘Oxygenated Whiteners’ or ‘Nappy Soakers’, which claim to be environmentally friendly and ‘natural’, which cause her to react more. Of course they’re still packed with chemicals and I know it’s just a marketing ploy but it’s easy to want to believe them!

Turns out all I needed was a 1/2 cup baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) dissolved in warm water (a couple of litres half fills my soak bucket). It helps to freshen and soak laundry (and keep it smell free) before it goes in the washing machine.

Tip: Rinse laundry first and handscrub any stubborn stains. Create a paste using four tablespoons of baking soda and ¼ cup of water. After working the paste thoroughly into the stains, apply a little undiluted vinegar.

Tip: Don’t add white vinegar to the soak bucket. Baking soda (base) + white vinegar (acid) will largely cancel each other out and reduce effectiveness. Instead, add white vinegar during the rinse cycle (instead of fabric softener or an anti-bacterial agent) and line dry in the sun if you can.  Vinegar will help to soften hard water, reduce odours, and reduce bugs. Sunlight will also help (especially if you’re washing cloth nappies!)

How to wash net curtains (cheaply, easily, and with natural products)

Getting great results from washing net curtains with natural products!

Getting great results from washing net curtains with natural products!

My city is humid all year round (often hovering at 95% and still not raining); combine that with winter and aluminium frames and it means sweating windows which need to be wiped down daily. It also means net curtains need to be periodically washed to keep them free of grime and mold.

Miss 2 has really sensitive skin (and eczema) so I’m moving many of our cleaning products to more natural options. I wanted to see if I could find any advice on washing net curtains and found these great step by step instructions.

To summarise:

  1. Put warm water and 1 cup of white vinegar in a bathtub (or large bucket). Swirl around (agitate) and make sure the curtains are covered.  Leave to soak for an hour.
  2. Drain the water. Refill with a fresh batch of warm water and 1 cup of baking soda (bicarbonate soda). Swirl around and make sure the curtains are covered. Leave to soak for an hour.
  3. Treat any stains remaining on the curtains. Create a paste using four tablespoons of baking soda and ¼ cup of water. Apply this paste to your curtain and rub it into the stains. After working the baking soda thoroughly into the stains, apply a little undiluted vinegar.
  4. Wash normally in the washing machine (on a gentle / delicate cycle).
  5. Line dry in the sun.

 

Tip: The reason for needing separate soaking times is because baking soda (base) + white vinegar (acid) will largely cancel each other out and reduce effectiveness if you use them at the same time.

Tip: Don’t put the net curtains in the dryer (not even on Low). They shrink – I speak from experience!

How to give your toddler a spa bath in winter!

Spa bath in a flexi bucket

I love flexi buckets! I have two: one big pink one and a small yellow one. They can be used for so many things from hanging out laundry, to clothes hampers, packing stuff to visit relatives, toy storage, and winter spa baths!

Miss 2 loves asking for a bucket bath when the temperatures start dropping. Just sit the bucket in your bath, fill it to a nice warm temperature from the taps, add a gentle-on-the-skin bubble bath, and pop in your toddler.

The Goldilocks principle applies when choosing your flexi bucket: not too big, not too small, but just right. You want your toddler to be able to sit upright comfortably and have water up to their armpits (parental supervision is recommended as per any bath). You’ll find that you use much less water than a normal bath and they’re warmer because more of their body is consistently covered.

The great thing is that this also works in a shower! I’ve also seen friends put multiple buckets in one bath (of assorted sizes) so that siblings can spa together (and without fighting).

You can even do this during summer! Put the empty bucket outside on the lawn (water is heavy) and ferry warm water to it. Presto! An outdoor bath in the sun and a happy excited child!

Tip: These are also great to take to a beach so that you can create a mini pool for younger siblings or wash off sandy feet.

Spa bath fun!

How to make allergy free Peppermint icing

After Dinner Mint Chocolate Cupcakes (Gluten Free!)

After Dinner Mint Chocolate Cupcakes (Gluten Free!)

It continually amazes me how many products contain hidden sources of soy. I wanted to make a peppermint icing but Natural Peppermint Essence at the supermarket contains: Glycerine, Alcohol, Water, Peppermint Oil. That might not sound so bad but our lengthy food allergy journey had me wondering what Glycerine actually is.  Research shows it’s sometimes made from animal fat but mostly it’s made from vegetable oil..with soybean oil being extremely likely.

I liked this on the Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes 🙂

Ingredients

  • 100% Peppermint herbal tea bag
  • Boiling water
  • Icing sugar

Directions

  1. Steep the tea bag in 1/4 cup boiling water.
  2. Make your cupcakes. (This gives the peppermint time to steep and the water time to cool.)
  3. Slowly mix the peppermint water into icing sugar.
  4. Ice your cooled cupcakes. We like them on gluten free Chocolate Cupcakes.

Note: Herbal / fruit teas work to create other flavour icings as well. Check out this naturally pink icing on vanilla Gluten Free cupcakes.

What methods can I use for potty training my toddler?

Potty Training

What methods can we use for potty training?

Potty Training! It’s something that we all experience as parents as we help our children transition out of nappies. I’ve posted previously on:

 

Slow

The slow method is great if you’re wanting to stretch toilet training over a number of months.

Maybe it’s winter and you want to wait for warmer weather before fully embracing nuddy time; maybe you have an eldest only child who is showing signs of being ready but isn’t ready to embrace going nappy free; maybe you have a spirited child who responds badly to pressure, or a your family frequently faces change, or your child has health concerns or other stress factors.

I note this is the method I’m using with stubborn and spirited Miss 2!

  1. Regularly embrace talking about bodily functions. Talk about needing to wee or poo. Read stories about potty training.
  2. Storybots have a great video for toddlers about how the human body works, including how food gets turned into energy (and waste products!).
  3. Buy a potty and place it somewhere in the house where it’s easy for your toddler to access.
    • I was resistant at first to having it in the lounge but toddlers really do only think about what’s right in front of them. It’s good to put it next to their picture books, or in front of the tv, or by a window they can look out of. It’s also useful to have a plastic mat under it if you have carpets!
  4. Encourage your child to sit on the potty regularly. It helps if you read them a story to keep them occupied.
    • Try giving them regular naked time. This helps them get accustomed to their body and it also means they don’t have to grapple with clothes when they get to the potty. Watching themselves accidentally wee or poo can also help them form a connection in their mind between how they felt beforehand and what then happened (it’s not like they can see when it’s all conveniently happening in the nappy!).
    • Make a happy fuss about buying them underwear. Keep in mind that although different brands will use the same sizing on their labels, the real size and the way they actually fit will vary hugely. It can also help to buy underwear with decorative bows or buttons at the front so that they can easily see which way to put them on!
  5. See what works for you and your child.
    • If they’re having lots of accidents and you’re getting frustrated cleaning up messes, you may want to have them out of nappies just for a set time each day (i.e.  nappies in the morning and undies in the afternoon).
    • Maybe your child took an interest in potty training for a week or two and then adamantly decided they wanted their nappies back. That’s fine! Keep gently encouraging them to use the potty and offer them the choice each day of whether they want to wear nappies or undies.
    • Have a think about whether you want to use nappies, nappy pants, training pants, undies; or a mix. Some toilet training experts advise against nappy pants and say that they delay things but they are really useful as a parent and if you’re taking the slow approach anyway….
  6. Take time off and try again later.
    • Some toddlers won’t be ready on the first try.  You may need to wait 4-6 weeks and then try again. LOTS of parents find that their eldest will take the longest to potty train and that younger siblings will be much quicker (a big part of that is because they really, really want to be like their big brother or sister!).

Medium

Ideally, this method will allow you to toilet train in the space of 1 – 2 weeks. You do need to plan for it in your schedule but there’s a bit more flexbility in it. Make sure that your child is showing all the signs of readiness and they have good bladder control (1-2 hours).

It’s a good idea to do this during warm weather when your child doesn’t need to wear a lot of clothes. You can even put the potty outside and encourage them to use it while running around the garden naked.

It’s helpful to start this once your child shows clear signs that they are getting ready to do a poo. Some kids might have a ‘poo face’ that they start to make, some kids might have a corner they go and hide in (like in a closet or behind a chair), some might assume a squatting position.

Make sure that you stay at home for the first 3 – 7 days so that your child can relax into the change without the stress of accidents and distractions.

Have a think before you start about whether you want to use rewards as a potty training incentive.

  1. Make sure that you are starting at a settled time when there are no big changes to the family routine (like a new baby, moving house, starting kindy).
  2. Immerse your child in toilet training preparation. Go shopping for a potty and undies. Read potty books. Watch videos about using the potty. Talk about the steps for using the toilet.
    • You can even take photos of them practising each step and print these off. Encourage them to talk about each of the steps they need to take.
  3. Have your child in underwear all the time (except when sleeping). Encourage your child to sit on the potty at regular intervals each day and build these into your routine (i.e. when they wake up, 20 minutes after meals or bottles, before the bath, before bed etc.). Make sure that you stick with these every day so that your child comes to expect the reminder.
  4. Praise them when they’re successful and don’t make a big fuss when there are accidents. There will be accidents at first but these should decrease quickly if they’re ready.

Fast

In theory, this will help your child toilet train in a day or two. It is very reward orientated and won’t suit every child (or parent!)

Make sure that your child is showing all the signs of readiness and they have good bladder control (1-2 hours). Also, make sure that they are confident removing clothing and can easily pull pants up and down.

Decide in advance what rewards you will use.

You will need to be at home for a few days and may want to wait for warm weather so your child doesn’t need to wear lots of clothes.

  1. Make sure that you are starting at a settled time when there are no big changes to the family routine (like a new baby, moving house, starting kindy).
  2. Immerse your child in toilet training preparation. Go shopping for a potty and undies. Read potty books. Watch videos about using the potty. Talk about the steps for using the toilet.
    • You can even take photos of them practising each step and print these off. Encourage them to talk about each of the steps they need to take.
  3. The Day Before: Tell your child that tomorrow will be a special day and that you will be having a toilet training party. Practice the steps of toilet training with a special doll that can pass water. Explain that the aim is to stay clean and dry, and to do all wees/poos in the potty. The night before show them the special treats they will get the next day.
  4. The Big Day: Give them lots of fluids when they wake up and at breakfast. Take off the wet nappy and put on new undies/knickers. Introduce a reward chart and tell them they will get stickers on the chart for keeping their undies/knickers clean and dry by using the potty.
  5. Roleplay with the doll straight after breakfast. Go through the steps of toilet training. Have your child feel inside the doll’s underwear to check if they are clean and dry. Praise the doll and clap. Ask your child if they are clean and dry; check and if dry, praise them and put a sticker on reward chart. Give the doll a drink and then have the doll wee in the potty. Praise the doll and give the doll a treat.
  6. While sitting next to the potty, ask your child if they need to wee or poo. Have your child sit on the potty. You may need to read a story or sing a song to encourage them to stay on. Praise them for practising sitting on the potty. If they do a wee or poo, flush the waste down the toilet, wash hands, and then give them an instant reward.
  7. Set a timer and sit them on the toilet every 30 minutes. Praise them if they have stayed clean and dry, put a sticker on the reward chart. Praise them for sitting on the potty. If they do a wee or poo. give them an instant reward.
  8. Give your child lots of fluids, foods that will make them thirsty, and foods with lots of fibre. Keep practising with the doll. If they accidentally wee or poo in their underwear, don’t make a fuss just quietly clean them up and remind them to do wees/poos in the potty.  Let them associate receiving attention with using the potty.

Easter according to Miss 2

Allergy Free Easter Egg

Allergy Free Easter Egg

For the last week, I’ve been talking to Miss 2 about Easter. I used ‘How to explain Easter to kids‘ as a starting point and also the Easter story from “The Big Little Bible”. (Check out this review of the free storybook bible app which is free to download from Apple and Google app stores). She was also very excited because an awesomely kind friend dropped off an allergy free easter egg (i.e.dairy free, soy free, gluten free, nut free). She ate the chocolate buttons straight away and we went for an Easter egg hunt on Easter. We’ve also been painting and decorating eggs to eat.

So I asked her what she thought about Easter:

Miss 2: eggs!

Mum: Yes, we’ve decorated eggs for Easter.

Miss 2: chocolate!

Mum: Yes, we eat chocolate at Easter. Why do we eat chocolate at Easter?

Miss 2: Yum! Num num num. Yummy chocolate.

Mum: God loves us. God is awesome. Chocolate is awesome. We eat chocolate at Easter to celebrate that God is awesome.

 

Yup, chocolate and God is awesome, that basically sums up Easter this year 😛

How can I help prepare my child for potty training?

Potty training

 

You’ve decided that your child is developmentally ready to potty / toilet train and you want to pave the way for starting soon; or, you have a younger sibling who wants to understand what all the fuss is about and be involved (me too!)

Here are some things that you can do to help get them thinking about their body and the potty:

Read books about potty training. Often there are lots of picture books at the library so read a few until you find ones that work for you. Miss 2 is quite fond of Pirate Potty, (the same author also does Princess Potty) and Dinosaur Doo.

Talk to them about their body;  Storybots have a great video for toddlers about how the human body works including how food gets turned into energy (and waste products!). If they have particular ‘tells’ that they are about to do something in their diaper (like squatting, grunting, pulling a face, going to find a quiet place) then call their attention to their body’s signals and the ‘feeling’ that they need to wee or poo. Encourage them to tell you as soon as they have wet or dirtied a nappy so that you can change it straight away.

Get into the habit of talking to them about your own toileting habits; i.e. “I need to stop washing the dishes and go do a wee on the toilet.” It might feel a bit ridiculous at first but no more (hopefully) than pretending to be a monkey, or having your umpteenth imaginary cup of tea, or answering ‘What’ and ‘Why’ over and over and over again. The lesson that your modelling is that your listening to your body, stopping what you are doing, and going to the toilet.

Have an open door policy at home (if you can) and let them come to the toilet with you; let’s face it, most toddlers want to anyway! Talk about needing to go to the toilet and verbalize the steps (like flushing, washing hands etc.).

Get a potty and have it available. For a long time, I had it in the bathroom because I wanted that association of needing to go a particular room to do wee / poo. I’ve learned that it’s far more effective to have it on a plastic mat in the lounge, where she can see it all the time and it’s easy to reach, now that we’re actively potty training.

Ask them each day if they’d like to sit on the potty. Sometimes they might want to just sit on it, fully clothed + a nappy, and roleplay wiping their bum with toilet paper. This is fine! Just keep an eye on the toilet paper because they will happily unwind an entire roll.

Encourage them to roleplay with a doll/teddy. Help them to undress their toy, sit it on the potty, wipe its bottom with a cloth, and praise the toy .

Provide easy access clothes (i.e. no more overalls!). They need to be wearing pants they can pull down easily or a skirt that they can lift. Play games to see who can pull their pants down the fastest when getting changed into pyjamas at the end of the day or encourage them to pull their pants down themselves before each nappy change.

Ask them each day if they’d like a nappy/diaper or undies/knickers. One day they may surprise you and say ‘Undies!’.

Sometimes they will ask for undies before they’re ready to use a potty (because their friends are wearing them). That’s fine! Let them wear underwear over their diapers and get used to the idea. Encourage them to practice putting them on and off themselves. Let them help you choose ones that they like (i.e. they think are pretty / cool / exciting / awesome).

 

How can I explain Easter to children?

easter

Easter

This explanation of Easter, including both Christian beliefs and the various festive foods, as an imaginary conversation with a 4 year old is a lovely starting point for working out how to explain it to your children in a Christian household. Thank you Oh Baby magazine.

(I note that scholarly works, including Bede in 8th Century England, acknowledge that festive spring-time celebrations pre-date Christian celebrations of Easter in many northern European countries and elements of these were incorporated into Christian celebrations. It is believed that the hare (rabbit) and collecting eggs (or candies) are very old folk traditions / symbols that have morphed into something far more commercial and chocolatey in our present day than rabbit pie! I do like the explanation below that at its simplest can be that Jesus wants us to have fun and celebrate life, including Christ’s resurrection, and, well, chocolate is awesome.)

“My nearly four-year-old is busy studying the latest flyer from one of the big stores, so conveniently deposited into our mailbox ever other day. This one is seasonally filled with chocolate eggs. Big ones, small ones, hollow ones, marshmallow ones, licensed ones featuring the latest cartoon star/movie star/pop star. She is dreaming, mouth almost watering. I am curious:

Hey darling, can you tell me what Easter is really about?

Ummm… Eggs?

No, not really.

Ummm… Chocolate?

Nope.

Ummmm…. Chocolate eggs?!

No, not even chocolate eggs. Do you remember what happened at the first ever Easter?

Ummm… Jesus was born?

No, not quite. Jesus was born at Christmas time. He came into this world as a little baby, but he was actually God’s son and God was sending him to this world because we needed a Saviour.

Why did we need a saviour?

Well, this world is pretty amazing and beautiful. But people do some dumb stuff sometimes. They hurt each other and that makes God really sad. They also forget about God and try and manage on their own. But God loves us so much, He doesn’t want us to hurt each other, or ourselves, and He misses us if we just go off doing our own thing. So he came up with a plan. He would send his son Jesus to be with people on earth for a while, so they could learn more about God and the way God wants us to live. And then Jesus could take all the punishment for the wrong things people do, so us people – God’s precious children, would not be separated from Him forever but could stay connected to God and one day live with Him in heaven for eternity.

What’s eternity?

Forever and ever. But back to Easter. Jesus had been living on earth for about 33 years.

Daddy is going to be 33 at his next birthday!

Yep, Daddy is nearly 33. Jesus had been working as a carpenter…

What’s a carpenter?

A carpenter is a builder.

A builder like Daddy!

Yes, a builder like Daddy. Jesus had been building, but also telling people amazing stories, and teaching them really helpful things about life, and making sick people better again, and performing miracles.

What’s a miracle?

A miracle is something so amazing that only God could have made it happen.

Like me?

Yep, you’re a miracle. But back to Easter. People were hearing about Jesus and all the cool stuff he was doing. And some people knew he was a great leader and they wanted to follow him. But other people were afraid of Jesus. They were worried that Jesus might make trouble for the rulers, that Jesus would get people to fight against their rule and try and take over.

But you said Jesus was only doing cool stuff?

Yes, he was. He wasn’t going to fight with anybody. He was doing what God had asked him to do – teach people about the kingdom of God. But the really powerful rulers felt so threatened by Jesus that they got soldiers to arrest him, saying that Jesus had broken the laws of God. He hadn’t broken any laws, but by now the priests had told lies about Jesus to the Governor. The Governor didn’t want Jesus killed, but people were all getting really upset and out of control, so the Governor thought Jesus had to be punished and then hopefully people would calm down again.

Did Jesus get time out?

Well, sadly not. They did a really awful thing to Jesus. They nailed him to a big wooden cross, which is really, really bad for your body, and after a while Jesus couldn’t breath anymore, and he died. And we remember that day on Good Friday. We have Hot Cross Buns, and the crosses remind us what happened to Jesus that day.

Good Friday? That cross thing doesn’t sound very good.

Well, something really good was about to happen. And the cross thing – well, that was very, very important, because it was part of God’s plan for Jesus. So it was a holy thing to happen. And another word for “holy” is “good”.

Did Jesus stay on the cross?

No, his friends were allowed to come and take him down from the cross. They took his body and wrapped it up, and then they carried it to a tomb.

You mean a room?

No, a tomb… a tomb is like a cave in rock, and in those days that’s where they put people when they had died. And then a big rock was rolled in front of the tomb and a guard was there keeping an eye on things.

Were his friends sad?

Yes, they were really, really sad. And they comforted each other. And then on the third day, the Sunday, some of Jesus’ friends, some ladies, went up to his tomb.

To take Jesus some flowers?

Something like that. But do you know what they found? Nothing! No Jesus!! And the big huge heavy stone had been rolled away! The tomb was empty, and the guard had no idea what had happened. And then they saw a couple of angels who told them that Jesus was alive! He had come back to life, he had risen from the dead! We call that resurrection. That’s why Easter Sunday is called Resurrection Sunday. The friends of Jesus were amazed, and ran back to their other friends to tell them the good news. It was hard to believe it was true, so Peter, another one of Jesus’ friends came up to the tomb and all he could find were some of the bandages they had wrapped Jesus in before.
Jesus was alive, and he visited with his friends and talked to them some more before going up to Heaven to be with God.

Why did he go back to heaven?

Well, his work on earth was done.

His building work? Had he finished his house?

Not his building work, but the job God had sent him to earth to complete – Jesus had to die as punishment for our sins – the things we do wrong. Because Jesus took the punishment for us, we don’t have to be punished, we can be forgiven and still stay really close to God, even though we make mistakes and do the wrong thing sometimes. But God’s plan was not just Jesus dying on the cross, the most amazing part was that empty tomb. The empty tomb showed us God’s amazing power – God is more powerful than death, so Jesus came back to life! God is the greatest, most powerful king and ruler EVER. And because of Jesus dying on Good Friday but then coming back to life on Resurrection Sunday, we too don’t need to be afraid of dying – we can live forever with God. In fact, with God we don’t need to be afraid of anything!

So… why do we have Easter eggs?

That’s a good question. The hollow chocolate eggs, the ones with nothing inside, can remind us of that empty tomb… there was nothing inside the tomb because Jesus was alive!

Does Jesus know the Easter bunny?

He might do. Jesus is actually really into fun stuff, and people having a good time. The bible says he came so that we may have life, and life in abundance! That means a really fun, happy, full life! At Easter there is heaps of fun stuff around. Some things – like eggs and baby chickens represent new life, the new life we can all have because of what Jesus did. Other things are symbols of spring because in the Northern Hemisphere Easter happens at springtime. It’s not Spring here in New Zealand though, its actually Autumn, but that’s ok – we can still think about Spring and all the new life that happens then when animals are born and chickens hatch out of eggs…

So why does this Easter Egg here in the magazine have a picture of Dora on it?

That, my darling, I just can’t really explain.”

 

 

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16