Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “The 100-Year-Old Secret”

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I love book club days, and this group of girls is always fun.  This month was no exception as we delved into Edison’s Gold""“>Edison’s Gold, which we had a blast working with last summer, but while that book focused heavily on the exciting aspects of history and science, this one centered around art and relationships.

Book Club Plans @ A Nest in the Rocks

There is lots of meat for discussion with this book.  What is theft?  Who owns art?  Can missing art be recovered after a long period of time?  To what lengths is it okay to go to find stolen goods?

After hashing out the answers to those questions, we headed into the kitchen to make a British treat.  The book does take place in London, after all, and Zena and Zander often mention their confusion at the differences between American and British food names.  We chose to make cinnamon scones, and the girls worked together to prepare the dough and get them oven ready.

Book Club Plans @ A Nest in the Rocks

While they were baking, we moved on to our next project.  Knowing that picture frames were, at some points in history, nearly as much of a work of art as the painting or drawing they contained, we decided to build our own gilded frames, like the ones holding the infamous “Girl with the Purple Hat.”  I pre-cut large cardboard frames, leaving wide edges so they could hold lots of texture.  I put ditalini, spaghetti noodles, and old yarn on the table, as well as dishes of Elmer’s glue.  The kids dipped these objects into the glue and then positioned them on the frames in patterns to create different textures.  When they were finished, I spray-painted them to achieve a solid color frame with a ‘carved’ look.

Book Club Plans @ A Nest in the Rocks

When their frames were gilded, the girls moved onto portrait work.  We talked about proportion and scale in faces and body figures, and then the girls chose a friend to paint.  We set up easels with big paper and palettes of paint, and after sketching out their people with some light-colored chalk, they set to work.

After creating some super colorful portraits, we headed back into the kitchen to eat our scones.  They were a hit – just like this book.

What are your kids reading now?

Bible Journaling with Kids: Getting Started

Disclosure Pic For a long, long time I’ve gotten pictures in my head when I read.  I see scenes, characters, clothes, or whatever’s being described well – so when my dad took me to Bible study as a kid, one of the first pictures I ‘saw’ was of Pharaoh with a frog happily perched atop his head. Scripture Journaling with Kids @ A Nest in the Rocks For the past year or so, I’ve been drawing out those pictures.  Sometimes it’s a complete picture, like the froggy and the Pharaoh, but more often than not it’s a mixture of words, colors, and letters.  It’s enough to give me something creative to do with my hands while I ponder the scripture and pray through it. Bible Journaling with Kids: Getting Started @ A Nest in the Rocks The kids have been watching this process, and now they’re interested in Bible journaling, too.  We’ve done several things with it:  we’ve talked about how to draw and highlight scripture in their Bibles so that they can interact with it while still keeping the text legible.  We’ve also purchased simple sketchbooks so that they can make separate pieces of art in there. At first, we journaled together.  We began during Advent and journaled our way through the Christmas story.  After reading the scripture for the day, we read the notes in my study Bible, talked about what specific words meant, about relevant customs of the day, or anything else that popped up. Then we broke out our supplies and got to work. We still journal in this way at least once each week.  We really enjoy the time spent together in scripture, and the artistic endeavor is relaxing.  While we don’t stress about the ‘professionalism’ of the finished product, it is fun to pull out all sorts of art supplies and get colorful.  Sometimes it’s all about the background, others it’s the lettering or a picture, but always it’s about the Bible. So what do we use?  You don’t need anything special.  You probably already have art supplies around the house that will do really cool things.  It is fun, though, to have materials that do new-to-you, special, or unusual things.  With that in mind, these are our very favorite supplies to share among us – and why. These simple Crayola Twistable Crayons – not the pencils – are hands-down my favorite new thing.  I wish I had known about these years ago.  They’re perfect for adults AND for kids for several reasons:  they apply very smoothly to the paper.  That makes them easy to blend to achieve a variety of shades easily.  More importantly, though, you can get great color on the paper and still read the text behind it.  That makes these Twistables perfect for drawing or highlighting in your Bible.  You can sketch in a picture and still be able to read the scripture that inspired the art.  Colored pencils are a basic thing, but you can do great things with them.  My favorite is to color in words that I’ve bubbled or to add shadows or highlights to words.  They’re not too expensive, easy to erase, and easy to sharpen.  Now, to get a little fancier … I’ve always thought of Sharpies as indelible – and they might be, on your clothing or on plastic, but most Sharpies are not waterproof.  This kind, though, IS.  That means that you can use it to outline a drawing, do some creative lettering, and also use in the same piece of art …. Waterpaint.  Waterpaints in the little tubes are a blast to use because you can control the shading and the amount of pigment much more easily than you can the little cakes of color in the plastic trays.  Those will certainly work; but if you’re going to splurge on supplies, the tubes are very fun and they make kids feel as if their artwork and their thoughts are extra important. Gellyroll Glaze pens are new to use, but we’re having a lot of fun exploring with them.  You can use these special, sparkly pens by themselves and enjoy the ink colors, or you can use them (again with the waterpaints) to make a resist.  Basically, you write or draw whatever you want, and when it’s dry, you paint right over top of the whole thing.  The glaze ink pushes the water out of the way, making the ink stand out.  My kids consider this to be almost a ‘secret message’ kind of ink, and they love using it in their Bible art.  (If you’re going to do resists, then white is the most fun color to have.) We keep all of these special supplies in a basket with our Bible and journals, so that we can easily grab it and get to work. Do you journal scripture with your kids?  Want more?  Hop over here to find Six Ways to Turn Scripture into Art. Shared at:

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Why My Kids Read Books About Liars

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A few weeks ago, as I was discussing a book with a group of kids at book club, one older child pointed out something with concern.  The kids in the book were liars – and they lied not once, but repeatedly throughout the book.  Although the story was fun and exciting, why did I choose a book where the main character was such a poor role model?

Why My Kids Read Books About Liars @ A Nest in the Rocks

This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this question, and I doubt it will be the last.  And, yes – I am very picky about what my kids read.  We shoot for a variety of literature styles, and we prefer to read books of quality, but I recommended this book to my children, and I would do it again. 


Several reasons:

  • We are not perfect.  Nobody is.  Reading books about characters who are perfect and have no character flaws can create harmful comparisons in our children’s minds.  I don’t want them to assume that they need to be perfect like Suzy from the last book that they read.  On the other hand, neither do I want them to read about people who carelessly and selfishly live only for themselves.  We search for books in which the reader will learn something:  culture from the setting, spiritual or emotional lessons from the character’s growth.  If the character’s major flaw is the problem in the story, we discuss why it is a problem.  We discuss how that person grew from the experiences in the book and which choices s/he could have made differently and why.    If the main character is a liar, as in this book, then we talk about why that person lied and what the better decision would have been, as well as what the Bible has to say about honesty and truth.
  • The lie fit the book.  The book in question was a modern fantasy.  The plot is a bit outlandish because it’s meant to teach, not to be a realistic, contemporary emotional work.  Because it was fantasy, the children found themselves in a completely un-realistic situation.  They distance-traveled magically to another place.  They lied to avoid detection and to blend in to their surroundings, which allows the plot to advance and the reader to continue to learn about the culture of that city.  If the children had not lied, the police would have been called, the children discredited, and the story would’ve been over.  The author had to allow the children to lie about their situation for the magical fantasy to continue.  Will our children begin to lie because this character did?  Since their pizza dinner won’t magically circumvent the space-time continuum and transport them to Italy, I don’t think so.  In our club meeting, we discussed this, and so this lie not only moved the story along, but helped to teach our children about plot structure and writing strategies.  Win-win.
  • The lie was not central to the story.  In many chapter books for very young readers, they assume things.  Like that people can fly or that putting on a cape makes you invisible.  They assume that it’s normal for a moose to come to school or for dogs to grow bigger than houses.  Small children don’t question these things, but see them only as fun.  In the book in question, the same scenario was happening:  the lie was only a small detail in a story that assumed that certain foods allowed you to travel the world magically.  The lie confirmed the assumption that the scenario was magical and allowed the plot to continue. 
  • Flawed characters teach us to evaluate people.  From reading about these problematic people, we learn about how to look below the surface in the actions of the people around us.  We learn look for their motives, for ways that we can be compassionate, for ways that we can help or ways to stay out of danger.  We learn to discern between the good and the bad.
  • It stretches our imagination.  If we only read books about people who were exactly like us, we wouldn’t know much about the world around us – or other people.  Jesus didn’t socialize only with believers, but with all kinds of people.  Children are still children, and we do need to protect them from negative influences, but I don’t think a lie in a story should automatically move it to the ‘don’t read’ list. 
  • The world isn’t only black and white.  Truth is black and white.  God is black and white.  How we follow those aren’t.  My children can read about a lie and then discuss and evaluate it with me.  It works for us.  Maybe it doesn’t for you.  We don’t all have to make the same choices when it comes to books and characters.  The world would be pretty boring if we all read only the same few stories.

This book is fantastic.  It made our children excited to cook and explore the world.  They grew interested in trying new foods and experiment with flavor combinations.  They wanted to learn about travel and European landmarks.  They haven’t taken up lying.

The following books are all ones with lying characters – and great lessons to teach about survival, family relationships, and world culture.  Do you allow your children to read any of these?


Lenten Devotions for Young Children

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**I am excited to share this new subscriber freebie with you.  Read on for details about how to get your copy of “Lenten Devotions for Young Children” FREE!

Each year we talk about how we’re going to recognize Lent as a family.  Usually we each choose different things that we feel called to fast from for the duration of the Lenten season.

I didn’t realize that this had such a big impact on My Big Helper until she started talking about Lent immediately after Christmas.

She talked about it so much, sharing all her ideas for things that she could give up, that finally My Little Man, who doesn’t seem to remember much about this season yet, said, “What is Lent, anyway?”

As I got ready to answer him, he quickly added, “And will we have more special devotions like the Jesse Tree with Advent?”

Lenten Devotions for Young Children @ A Nest in the Rocks
He stumped me with that one, because while we try to have a family devotional time each night, we’ve always just continued with our regular devotional book right through Lent.

But he really liked the Jesse Tree format, and he seemed to get a lot out of the stories, so I decided to create our own Lenten devotions centered on the Jesse Tree format and the idea of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

Each devotion comes with a scripture reference, an objective, a simple lesson, a prayer, and the matching ornament.

We’ve printed ours off – cut out the eggs, glued them onto triangular banners, and we’re going to attach one each night to a string over the mantel or a doorway after completing that devotion.  You could also just go with the square shape as is – it would certainly be easier to cut out – and hang them from a branch like the Jesse tree, or maybe just look at them and skip the crafty part altogether.

But for the next 46 days we’re going to walk through Lent this way – each sacrificing something important to us, praying our way through the wanting-it times, remembering how very much more Jesus gave for us.In case there are any other curious four-year-olds out there, I thought I’d share.    And if you choose to use any or all of these devotions, I hope they bless your family.

Because this is such a large file, I’ve struggled to find an efficient way to share them with you, and I think I have it figured out!  These devotions are now a subscriber freebie here at A Nest in the Rocks.  Just sign up on the right side of this page, and you’ll get a code in your next Nest update that will allow you to download the devotions for free.

Do you recognize Lent as a family?  If so, how? 

Looking for a great set of devotions for yourself?  Check out this devotional that Candace Crabtree has written! 

Wait Only Upon the Lord

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Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “Paris” by Giada de Laurentiis

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I always look forward to book club events.  I have a blast planning them and watching the kids learn and interact – but it’s been a long time since I anticipated a book event as much as this one.  Why?  Because Book Club, Girls' Edition:  "Paris" @ A Nest in the Rocks

We read DSCN0974

After talking about the book, we started to prepare.  We made chef’s hats out of poster board and tissue paper to get into the spirit of things.  They came out really well!


 I asked each child to bring a French bread and a French cheese to this event, so the next thing we did was to taste it all.  I put small selections of each on platters on the table and asked each child to sample everything.  (I forgot to take a picture before they sampled, but as you can see, they liked their choices and didn’t leave much behind.)  We tried some wonderful new things:  Smoked Gruyere, French sticks, boule, and more.

After that we teamed up for a Jeopardy-style game.  The questions centered around the information found about France and French food from DSCN0991

When the girls were ready, they brought their creations over to the griddle I had preheated for them.  I watched closely as they grilled their sandwiches.  They worked together really well! 

I sliced each sandwich into three pieces and distributed one to each girl.  I passed out the rubrics, and we sampled them one at a time and then shared our opinion via rubric.

In the end, the girls were so excited about creating foods that they wanted to make more, so while they played around with a new French foodie creation, I added up all the points on the rubrics to determine the highest-scoring team.  After sampling their latest creations – which were surprisingly yummy – I announced the winner (the open-faced sandwich team) and passed out their certificates.

We had a lot of fun cooking competitively.  My Big Helper is already dreaming up her next creation.  I can’t wait to sample it!

Paris Girls 2

Don’t they look great in their hats?

Do you let your kids experiment in the kitchen?


Happy Birthday, Adventures in Odyssey!


Did you make any resolutions or goals this year? Perhaps you made personal resolutions, or maybe your goals are family-focused. If one of your goals is to find your kids or grandkids a safe place online to have fun and to learn more about biblical truth, consider that checked off your to-do list! The Odyssey Adventure Club is celebrating their first birthday, and to celebrate, they’re offering a special promotion!

The Odyssey Adventure Club is a safe, fun environment where children can explore, create and imagine, all while developing their faith—the perfect platform for your kids to explore while they’re stuck inside this winter.

Anyone who signs up during January (promo code: BIRTHDAY) will not only receive their first month for only $5, but they will also get three Last Chance Detective audio dramas and an Odyssey Adventure Club post signed by cast and crew members.

Members receive:

—24/7 streaming access to more than 750 Adventures in Odyssey episodes (a $1500 retail value).

—A new, members-only Adventures in Odyssey episode every month.

—A subscription to Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine.

—A web quest of video stories and online activities reflecting the biblical theme of that month’s episode.

—On-the-go access with the OAClub mobile iOS app.

—Growing access to Odyssey books, a daily devotion, access to select Radio Theatre dramas and more.

In the coming months, members will also be able to look forward to:

—An exclusive, downloadable, cut-and-fold Odyssey character craft.

—In February, members can sneak a peek at the second Candid Conversations with Connie book. 

Additionally, a portion of each Odyssey Adventure Club membership benefits Focus on the Family partner organizations, such as Carry the Cure and Mission Aviation Fellowship, providing parents with an opportunity to teach children about the value of serving others. The Odyssey Adventure Club hopes to spend another 25 years hand-in-hand with parents seeking to teach biblical truth to their children while inspiring the theater of their imagination.

To learn more about the Odyssey Adventure Club, visit
, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Studying France: A Grocery Store Scavenger Hunt

Studying France:  A Grocery Store Scavenger Hunt @ A Nest in the Rocks

Our homeschool geography fair is coming up, and so we’re embarking on a study of France.  One of our favorite ways to learn about a new place is to study the culture of food in that place, and so we headed out on a foodie scavenger hunt.

The idea is simple.  Each child loaded up with a clipboard, paper, and a pencil. Since I have two children, each one was assigned a certain side of an aisle.  They could not leave the aisle until both people were ready to move on to the next one, and they had 40 minutes to find as many French foods as they could.  The winner could choose a reasonbly-priced item to take home for us to share.

The kids LOVED this project!  They were able to find several breads and cheeses, as well as pastries and cookies, all throughout the store.  Since we’re at the beginning of our unit, we haven’t studied much about this yet, but it spurred on their interest, so much that they asked to do it again.  We’re having a rematch at a fancier store on our next trip out of town, with the same stakes and rules.

The best part? 

The kids are VOLUNTARILY, EXCITEDLY studying the foods of France in preparation for the rematch. They can’t wait to play the game again – and then we get to try more yummy French food.

Sounds like a win-win to me. 

What’s your favorite thing about studying other cultures?

Changing the World, One Candy Cane at a Time

Changing the World, One Candy Cane at a Time @ A Nest in the Rocks

When we’re young we think we can change the world.  We plan to join the Peace Corps, stop world hunger, end poverty, and write the Great American Novel.  We think that we have all the answers needed to exact change on our hurting world.

Maybe we don’t.  But maybe we do.

Every year our family spends a day out and about together just before Christmas.  This began as a way for us to serve in some sort of missional capacity, while also having some quality time together.  This tradition has become very meaningful for us – but it isn’t always easy to plan.

We live in a super small town, and some opportunities are rare.  We want to serve a meal at a shelter at some point, but that’s permanently scheduled here.  Usually I come across an opportunity while scouring the local news sites, but nothing popped out this year.  We always look for people who might be able to use a Blessing Bag, but we wanted to do more than that.

So … we bought a few boxes of candy canes and printed out “The Legend of the Candy Cane” on small tags.  We cut and taped the two together and filled a bag with candy telling about Jesus, and then we headed out.

Changing the World, One Candy Cane at a Time @ A Nest in the Rocks

Our first stop was to a small, liberal-minded town with a fun new park.  We hiked and had boat races in the river before heading to a locally-owned restaurant for lunch.  The kids handed out candy canes liberally and watched the wait staff beam with delight with each candy. 

Changing the World, One Candy Cane at a Time @ A Nest in the Rocks

When we left that town, we headed to nearby Chapel Hill, where we stopped in at the Carolina Inn to see the Gingerbread House competition.  As we left, the kids handed out candy to each of the valets and doormen – and one was so excited that he asked the kids to wait for a minute while he ran – literally – into this fancy hotel.  After a few minutes, he returned with cookies from the Inn’s snack shop.  Bubbling over with a warm chocolate cookie in hand, both kids wanted to know why this young man – perhaps a teenager or a student at UNC – would be so moved that he would run to purchase snacks for them.

This gave us all the opportunity to talk about people in service positions – those people whose work is invaluable but often goes unnoticed.  People like bus drivers, janitors, cashiers, etc.   They do important work, but how often do we take the time to thank them for it?  We discussed the importance of serving others, as Jesus said to do, and the importance of recognizing others doing so.

Changing the World, One Candy Cane at a Time @ A Nest in the RocksLater we ended up at Bass Pro Shop.  The kids love to visit the Winter Wonderland display – and this reindeer needed his photo taken!  Before leaving, each kid passed out candy canes to several of the cashiers and customer service representatives.  All of them immediately asked for the child’s name and reached out to shake his/her hand.  This might not seem like a big deal, and it’s not much of one for my gregarious Big Helper, but for my quieter Little Man, this is huge. 

See, to give any of these people a candy cane, we first had to approach them – out of the blue, with no prompting, and usually no interaction first.  The kids walked up to each person and offered the candy with a simple “Merry Christmas,” and it was always well received – but it was a ‘cold call,’ so to speak.  My Little Man was really scared to do this at first, but he gained confidence throughout the day, and by our last stop, he was eager to pass them out.

And the staff at Chick Fil-A was happy to receive them – so much that when the kids tried to trade in their toys for ice cream, it was up-sized to a much larger portion than the one usually given to the kids.  And the woman who was cleaning the lobby while we ate?  She talked up a storm from the time she accepted her candy cane until we walked out the door.  She smiled and chattered and cleaned, no longer the Invisible Woman.

Will our simple candy canes end world hunger or kick off the beginning of world peace?  No, but they did prompt a lot of smiles.  They caused people to pay forward these simple acts of kindness.  They made my kids search for people in need of a bit of kindness, and the excitement they received in return gave them the confidence to try again – and will make it easier to perform a random act of kindness later.  Since each tag told the symbolic story of the candy cane, which is all about the salvation offered by Jesus, dozens of people read this message, because the very first thing that each person did was to read the tag. 

Candy canes may not cause any cease fires, but they could change someone’s outlook, and thus, his life.  Passing out this candy certainly made a difference to our family – and who knows how it might affect our kids as they grow, or the candy recipients in the future?

How do you teach your kids to give?

Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “Isabel’s Secret”

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This month our girls read Book Club, Girls' Edition:  "Isabel's Secret" @ A Nest in the Rocks

I was very excited for the girls to dig in to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Each girl could take home two different items.  We discussed the various heath benefits to coconut oil, beeswax, and essential oils, and then the girls whipped up a simple body butter.  This pair went to town on one scent, while the other group chose a different one.


Next they each made their own variety of sugar scrub.  They chose their ingredients and how rough they wanted it to be, and when they finished, we put their products in large baby food jars. 


Afterwards, they designed labels for each jar and decorated them to give as a gift for Christmas.  They ate some fudge we had prepared while they worked, because that was one of Holly and Isabel’s favorite treats! We wanted to make our own, but we knew there wouldn’t be time for that.

Book Club, Girls' Edition:  "Isabel's Secret" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Lastly, the girls made fun placemats out of scrapbooking paper, stamps, and old Christmas cards.  They had such a blast that My Little Man got in on the action after the girls went home.  I love that we’ll have these personalized keepsakes for years to come.

DIY Simple Nativity

DIY Simple Nativity @ A Nest in the Rocks

A few years ago, when My Little Man was a preschooler, we made this nativity together.  Its construction requires only a few materials, but that translated to a very independent – and exciting! – project for him.

Every year since, this nativity takes center stage on our kitchen table, and My Little Man loves moving it around and talking about how it was made.  I’m amazed that he still remembers, because he was quite small, but he’s excited to put it out each December.

The bonus side for us moms?  I found these flowerpots at The Dollar Tree as a package set and I had all of the other materials on hand – making this a very affordable and memorable project.

Want to make your own simple nativity set?  Here’s how!

You’ll need:

  • 3 small flowerpots
  • scraps of cloth
  • scraps of a neutral-colored yarn, like tan, brown, or cream
  • glue
  • scissors
  • 3 small balls, like bouncy balls or ping pong balls
  • a piece of balled-up paper

Here’s what you do:

  1. Flip two flowerpots upside down.  These will be Mary and Joseph.
  2. Wrap the three balls in the yarn.
  3. Glue one ball each to the bottom of the upside-down flowerpots.  These will be the heads of Mary and Joseph.
  4. Choose scraps of cloth to wrap around Mary and Joseph and more to cover their ‘heads.’
  5. Put the balled-up paper in the bottom of the third pot.
  6. Wrap the last ball in yarn.
  7. Swaddle the yarn-covered ball in cloth.
  8. Place the swaddled baby Jesus in the ‘manger.’

There you go!  A super simple nativity that your children will remember for years – but will take only minutes to make.

Do you have a favorite Nativity?