Category: parenting

Who Wakes Up with the Kids?

For all my married amigos, I have a so serious question–

Who wakes up with the kids in the morning?

And how do you decide?

We’ve used rock, paper, scissors. But perhaps we shouldn’t leave such big decisions to chance.

We’ve said that whoever goes to bed first has to get up with the kids. **laugh** I have a hard enough time making myself go to bed how it is. This idea was not in the best interest of anyone in our family.

We’ve resorted to both of us laying there as kids crawl all over us after their cute alarm clock turns green at 6:30 and they come bounding into our room (which is actually 6:40 in real life, shhhhh, don’t tell them). Whoever gets tired of getting elbowed in the stomach and head sat on first, wins (or loses?).

Okay, well, actually that’s not exactly true. Jake has been getting up with the kids a lot lately. But since we’ve been sharing a lot of “jokes” about me not getting up, I’ve decided to come up with a better way of deciding. So share all of your best decision-making strategies for this incredibly important question!

 

Waiting for God to Show Up

Tonight I was putting one of my littles to bed, and we talked about how she has had some rough days lately. I asked why she was having a hard time controlling her emotional outbursts. She sadly said that she didn’t know; that it was really hard for her. Instead of a lecture or more ideas on what she could do instead of yelling/freaking out (because believe me, we have lots of those conversations), I snuggled in closer to her, and asked her if we could pray about it. She said yes, and asked if I would pray. About halfway into the prayer, she stops me.

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“Mommy, we don’t have to pray anymore. God has already said no to all of those things that you are saying.”

“Aly, why do you think that?!”

“Because, I have been asking and asking and it’s not any easier to control myself.  I don’t know how to do it. His answer is no. Mommy, why did He say no?”

*Heart breaks.*

I said something about waiting and patience and using our methods of controlling our emotions. She wasn’t listening really. To her, God had already said no and she wasn’t going to be convinced of anything different. I laid there a little longer, my heart a little heavy.

God, you have to show up for this little girl. She is trying so hard to control these big, scary emotions that you gave her. Her strength and will isn’t enough. She’s needs your grace. She needs You to say yes.

These are the moments that create faith in a little one’s heart. While I can try and give her the simple answers of why her prayers aren’t “working” (and isn’t that a super loaded conversation all by itself), I can’t solve this for her. This one is between her and God. All I can do is wait, pray, and watch carefully for the Holy Spirit to show up. This may be one of the hardest things I’ve faced in parenting so far.

Parenting Tips from Elephant and Piggie

This post could also be titled: “That One Time When My Husband Read Me a Kid’s Book As I Was Sitting on the Stairs, My Head Buried in My Hands”

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In “Elephants Can’t Dance”, Piggie is trying to teach Elephant how to dance. Elephant tries and tries, but just cannot seem to get it. There is frustration. And anger. And despair.

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But then some little squirrels come along… and they want to learn to dance too!

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But not from Piggie.

But from Elephant.

Moral of the story: there are lots of ways to dance. And lots of ways to parent. Sometimes we get frustrated when we can’t parent the way we think we should parent– a way that we read about, a way that we were parented, or a way that someone says that we should parent. And while sometimes we maybe do just need to try harder, most of the time we need to realize that there isn’t just one way. No more tears. All we can do is give it our best and keep loving our kids like crazy!

3 Resources to Help Your Child Learn, Absorb and Praise God!

Graham Blanchard (that new publisher I was telling you about a couple months ago) just came out with a few more sweet, sweet board books that my two middle girls have been reading and reading again ever since they arrived in our mailbox a week ago.

As a quick overview, Graham Blanchard puts their books into 1 or 3 categories:

Learn: Books that focus on teaching kids various passages of Scripture.

Absorb: Books that help kids connect the information about God to their hearts.

Praise:  Books that redirect kids’ experiences of everyday life to God’s active presence.

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The first one is Close as a Breath (Absorb) and it follows a girl and her dad as they talk a stroll together. The little girl is asking some of those simple questions that are easy to answer if you were talking to an older child, but are quite tricky when answering a little one. The dad answers in ways that show a love for nature and an even bigger love for the Creator. The pictures are lovely and I just love the relationship between the dad and little girl. My Aly loves nature, so this one is her favorite.

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The second is Ada’s favorite– Jesus Saves Me: Knowing My God series (Learn). The author, Callie Grant, leads kids through John 10 where Jesus is talking about how we will know God’s voice when we hear it because He is our shepherd. One of my main goals in parenting is to help my child recognize God’s voice/prompting in their hearts. If I can help them understand that, I will have succeeded. This book is a small tool that helps in that goal through breaking down the verse and explaining what each section means. I think it can be very tricky to teach kids some of the passages of Scripture because much of what is going on is so foreign to them. Sheep? Shepherds? Well, I’ve seen a sheep in the zoo, but have no real idea what it’s like to watch shepherds interact with one another or with the shepherd!

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Finally, we received Little Seed: A Life (Praise), which is about a seed that falls to the ground, is buried in deep for the winter, and begins to grow when the spring comes. After the seed grows into a big sunflower, birds carry those seeds to places far away and they are then planted in the ground. While I don’t think my 3 and 4 year old can make the connection between the seeds and their own lives, but my 6 year old was interested in making that connection. Because this is a praise book, I think the message is — look how God created something like a seed to stay buried and safe while the conditions were not right, and then it sprouts up into something wildly beautiful, and that it is a cycle! Also, we had a good time talking about our sunflowers we grew while in Philadelphia– oh how we miss our little backyard! 🙂

An added bonus: if you visit their website, each book has its own “Tips for Grownups” .pdf that provides questions and extensions that you can do while (and after) reading the book with your child!

 

Graham Blanchard Publishers sent me these three complimentary books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine!

**the links are amazon affiliate links**

Anaya’s Dedication Prayer

Anaya just turned 9 months and we just today finalized her dedication prayer and verse. Obviously she’s the fourth kid. Poor kid will probably never have a scrapbook. 🙂

Here’s what we came up with!

Our prayer for you, Anaya, is that the creator of all would through you shift the eyes of the broken toward the beauty of the Trinity and the ears of the hopeless toward the One who answers so that they may find their true selves.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” – Ephesians 4:32-5:2

In case you’re interested, here’s the other kids’ prayers and verses.

Review: Experiencing God at Home (book + devotional)

Experiencing God was a big piece of my new-to-Christianity journey and I’m so thankful for the basic but powerful principles that I was taught through the Teen Experiencing God workbook. When we were going through our gazillion books before this latest move, I had a fun time looking through the workbook and seeing how I answered some of the questions.

The sons of the writers of Experiencing God have recently come out with several books in an “Experiencing God at Home” line. I reviewed a picture book, Sammy Experiences God,  awhile back that we really liked. The publishers also recently sent me the two other books: Experiencing God at Home and Experiencing God at Home: Day-By-Day  Family Devotional.

I was excited to review these books because I’m always on the lookout for resources that are going to help us guide our children in their spiritual development. I was reminded during a recent sermon given my our children’s minister that our kids are pushed to achieve in all areas of life, and that they often carry this “achievement’ attitude in the church and their spiritual formation. Sometimes we parents encourage this achievement mentality, even if we don’t intend to. So, I’ve been thinking about that lately, and am hoping to help my kids know that they don’t have to achieve for God or for me. He’s so not interested in that game. So, that’s kinda the lens through which I’m viewing spiritual development resources these days. Onto the reviews :).

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Experiencing God at Home is a book written about raising a family with kids and how to incorporate the 7 Experiencing God realities into daily family life. Tom and Richard Blackaby each have almost completely raised children and share that they have been wanting to write this book for awhile, but felt like they needed to wait a couple decades before doing so. They not only use experiences from their raising of a family, but also their experiences in their own home growing up. While the introduction to the book turned me off (throwing a bunch of discouraging statistics at the reader about the demise of our culture, etc.), the book itself had some great stories and lessons that were encouraging and thought-provoking.

It is obvious that these two men care much more about their child’s heart than about outward appearances of morality or righteousness. They strived to have a grace-filled home, which I think might be a key– because really, this grace is what makes the gospel good news. If not for grace, lots and lots of grace, we’d be just a moral people. I love reading the real stories of issues that they’ve dealt with and being relieved to find that they break some of the traditional parenting rules in exchange for fighting for more important ones (i.e. who cares if you make your bed but I do deeply care about you acting in love towards your brother/sister). I haven’t read quite all of it yet, but what I’ve read is quality and real. The only critique I would have is that it seems like everything has turned out so well for these two families. I could see that if a family is really struggling, it could be a bit annoying.

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The family devotional aims to help families experience God together through spending a bit of time each day reading and talking about Scripture together, and then providing an activity or thought for younger and older children to do or think about in their own personal quiet time. The devotions are set up without a date assigned, so you can start whenever you want. The devotions walk through Scripture in a chronological fashion, so you start by talking about creation, the exodus, etc etc until you end up in the New Testament. It also has some special day devotions (birthday, holidays, game days, etc.) in case you want to substitute in one of those for a special day.

One of the greatest things about this series is that it’s not about teaching kids about God or about the Bible. It’s about helping to guide them to God and to help them to recognize God’s activity in their very lives. Not only in my life as the parent, but in their kid-sized life. I love it, because during those days when doubt threatens to overwhelm my soul, I can remember the work of the Spirit in my life, which most often calms my doubt.

I think it’s important to note that this has the content of a full-size book, and while it’s the length of a full-size book, it’s small; it looks more like a gift book. The words are tiny, so if your eyesight isn’t that great, then this won’t work for you. You could get the kindle version instead. As for age of kids that this would work best for, I’d say that “younger children” means elementary school kids.

Overall, these are two books I’d recommend to a family looking for encouragement and wisdom in helping to guide children in their spiritual formation. If I had to choose one, I’d say go with the first one (Experiencing God at Home) as it is more principle-based and will provide more of a daily moment-by-moment foundation to work from.

Thanks so much to Shelton Interactive for giving me complimentary copies of these two books in exchange for an honest review. 🙂

Let me introduce you to Graham Blanchard

You probably have never heard of Graham Blanchard…well, because it’s not an actual person. It’s a new(ish) publishing company that focuses on putting out books that are designed to help kids grow spiritually. The books they publish fall into one of three categories:

Learn: Focuses on teaching kids various passages of Scripture.

Absorb: Helps kids connect the information about God to their hearts.

Praise: Redirects kids’ experiences of everyday life to God’s active presence.

I recently had the privilege of reading 4 of their soon-to-be released books, each falling into a different category.

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1. Mud Puddle Hunting Day (Praise): This cute board book walks through one girl’s experience of exploring the outdoors during a rainy morning. She has fun jumping in mud puddles and discovering how the world looks different when it is raining.

2. All of Me that You Can’t See (Absorb): This one was my favorite. The character in this one is a little blonde boy in a superhero cape who is talking about the part of him that he can’t physically see– his soul. I like it because it does a great job of introducing the idea of our soul (because it can be a tricky thing to explain!).

3. Knowing My God: Jesus Invites Me (Learn): Each page has a portion of a picture, a Scripture passage (Matthew 11:28-30), and a few sentences that explain it in kids’ language. The explanations relate it to something that kids understand. Then, at the end, it has a page of suggestions on how parents can use the book at different ages to deepen the conversation.

4. Knowing My God: Jesus Shows Me (Learn): This is a close second favorite of mine. It has the same format as the one above, but this time it uses John 15:9-14 to talk about how God loves us and how we can walk in this love. The pictures and descriptions all relate to various animals and how the parent and child animal relate to one another in their own unique ways. We are really into animals these days, so this one was a favorite.

Another thing I like about this publisher is that they give back to the community that they are in. They give both books and money to a few select organizations in Austin, TX. The first one is Young Life, Young Lives…. an organization that helps middle school and high school moms to care for their children.

I’m interested in keeping an eye on this company! If you want to learn more, you can visit their website, FB page or follow them on Twitter.

 

 Please note, I received complementary copies of these books from the publisher and was free to express my own opinions!

The Best Parenting Book I’ve Read So Far

christian_parenting_handbookI have read a lot of parenting books- some good, some bad. Most of them start out really good, and then slowly digress from awesomeness as the chapters unfold. Often I finish the book simply because I have a high need for completion. Jake is, of course, used to this about me and will ask me how it’s going as I’m approaching the middle of a book. Typically I respond with a tirade of how the author has lost the vision of the first chapter, or how beautiful the book could have been, etc., etc. This time, my friends, was different.

The Christian Parenting Handbook: 50 Heart-Based Strategies for All the Stages of Your Child’s Life is the best parenting book I have ever read. Each of the short (3-5 page) chapters contained just enough information and ideas to get one thinking, but not so much that the point is over-explained. Some of the chapter titles are really intriguing–

  • Consistency Is Overrated
  • Affirm Approximately Right Behavior
  • Children Can Only Take as Much Pressure as the Relationship Will Allow
  • Teach Kids to Be Solvers Instead of Whiners
  • Firmness Doesn’t Require Harshness
  • Good Character Qualities Misused

Another bonus is that the content can be applied to a wide age range- preschoolers to teenagers.

At the beginning of the book, the authors emphasize that this is a heart-based approach to parenting, not one based on behavior modification.

The problem is that behavior modification embraces humanistic thinking, the belief that people are just a higher form of animal. The Bible teaches something very different. God created people different from animals. He gave each person a spiritual ‘heart,’ and that heart affects the learning process. The heart contains things such as emotions, desires, convictions, and passions. In short, the heart is a wrestling place where decisions are made. … Simply focusing on behavior may provide some quick change, but lasting change takes place in the heart. We’re not saying behavior modification is wrong. We’re suggesting it is incomplete and, in the end, lacks the depth for long-term and lasting change.” (p. 2)

Another aspect the authors emphasize is that it’s never too late for heart change. Sometimes we hear things like, “a child’s self-concept is formed by the time they’re 5” or “A child’s worldview is developed by the time they are 12,” which makes us believe that we’ve lost our window of opportunity if we’ve made bad or uninformed choices about how we raise our kids. Instead, the authors say, we know that God can and does change us at all ages and stages, and that by appealing to a child’s heart, major changes can happen with the help of the Spirit.

I must admit that I was a bit worried because the authors talk about how we need to develop a biblical philosophy of parenting. Sometimes when people use the word “biblical” as an adjective, I get a little worried. “Biblical” has been turned into a word that means “I’m about to say something and use this word that will make sure you don’t disagree with me and if you do disagree, you are actually disagreeing with God.” Good for you if you don’t have this hang-up, but if you do, then you don’t have to worry. The authors do a GREAT job of emphasizing that each family is different- different parents, different kids, different age ranges, different life circumstances- and how parenting is going to look different in light of how all this works itself out. There are general character traits, attitudes, and values that the Bible emphasizes as part of God’s design, and in our own ways, with the leading of the Spirit, we can help those things to be part of our family culture.

I would recommend this book to every parent. It’s one that you’ll want to keep on your bookshelf but also give away, so be prepared to buy more copies! Beware, if you are having a baby soon, you just might be getting a copy for your baby shower gift…. 🙂

Jake and I are going to begin reading and discussing a chapter a day together. There’s a ton of good stuff to munch on, and I have a feeling this is one we re-read every couple of years. So get a copy now and start reading!

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Why I Allowed the Disney Bedding

imagesToddlers in Tiaras.

Bedrooms filled with pink, lace and crowns.

Disney movies showing how wonderful it is to be helpless and rescued by a prince.

Not in my house….but that was before I had a girl who caught the princess bug.

It started out with a dress-up costume. And then some shoes. A couple dolls. Then  one night when it was Aly’s turn to pick our movie for Family Movie Night, she choose Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty or something like that. Jake and I decided to go ahead with it, since we’d all be watching together and we could all talk about it afterwards. One thing lead to another, and when it was time to pick out bedding for their new twin beds, Aly wanted [Disney] princess sheets and an Ariel bedspread (but i did think it was funny when, after getting them on her bed, she asked who that person on the blanket was).

*Gulp*. And as I recounted in a previous post, it was a hard decision for me. It weighed on my mind for a couple days, and I spent HOURS thinking and looking for alternatives. I was in the car, by myself, thinking and praying about what the best response would be, when I realized that I needed to allow the princess sheets.

1. Princesses are not the enemy. Disney isn’t necessarily the enemy. Their goal is to tell stories that will capture the imagination of boys and girls of all ages. Some of these stories are ones that I celebrate. Others aren’t. Still others are a mixture of good and bad. While it’s true that I don’t want Aly (or Ada) to get obsessed with princesses to the point of thinking that they are helpless women who just need to be rescued in life, I know that there’s a lot of OTHER factors that create that idea over a long period of time. If our family is living a great story, then I don’t know that I’ll need to worry about the other little competing stories that every child/teenager will inevitably stumble upon as they grow up.

2. Aly has a unique sense of style and the last thing I want to do (or should do) is squash that. Sure, Disney princesses aren’t very unique or stylish, but as Aly is experimenting with what she does and doesn’t like, I want to create an environment that supports her exploration instead of stifling it. So, if she wants Disney princess sheets, it’s fine. I would have chosen something more classic, but it’s not MY room. Aly loves to pick out her own clothes in the morning, and one of her favorite outfits is hideous to me (a busy red flowered shirt with busy lavender flowered pants). But she really loves it, so I don’t forbid her from wearing it. Soon enough she will either realize they don’t look good together, or she’ll make it look good by adding other components to it. I think this is especially important to me because I see how she is drawn to art, fashion, music and the like, and I want to help her to grow in the ways God has created her instead of trying to get her to be like me (who has a different sense of style).

And to be honest, it’s not so bad. Aly enjoys princesses, but she is just as content to be the dragon in the story as well. The princess sometimes needs rescuing, and other times is the one who slays the dragon and protects the queen from being eaten. There’s something about that kind of story that is alluring to young children. How Jake and I interact with it, and play with her in that story is going to speak volumes as she is figuring out her world.

So, my sweet Aly falls asleep with her head on Belle every night. And I’m just fine with that.

 

 

Learning Generosity through my Littles

When our family was just beginning, Jake and I went through a big family dreaming time- thinking about what we wanted our family to be about- who we wanted to become. We knew that if we aimed at nothing, it’d be easy for life to pass us by without making a dent on our part of the world. Part of this process was coming up with family values. We chose five, in no particular order:

  • faith
  • creativity
  • generosity
  • equality
  • compassion

We try to be intentional about talking and doing things that integrate these values into the fabric of our lives.

Anyway, all that to say- my kids totally rocked the generosity value the other day. The university at which I work was collecting supplies for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Before leaving for work one day, I talked to the kids about boys and girls who are without homes because of the Hurricane, and how wouldn’t it be great if they chose a toy or two that they would like to give to the kids who were living in the shelters.

I got an email later that day from Jake, telling me that the kids were really getting into it, and at one point Asante came up to him, tears in his eyes, and said, “Dad, I think I’m okay with giving away our ipad.” The ipad is probably Asante’s most treasured possession. Jake never said anything about the ipad, but Asante’s sweet heart felt the need to offer the thing he loved best. True generosity.

Later when I got home, I expected to see a few toys in a box, ready for me to take the next morning. I came home to our entire hallway upstairs filled with things- mostly toys. I must admit, my first reaction was- no no, we don’t need to give all this stuff away. Just a couple things. But, thankfully I didn’t say that out loud….after thinking about it for the rest of the night, wrestling with a few items I saw in there that I didn’t want the kids to give away, I realized that I needed to let my kids give extravagantly. The last thing I need to teach them is to temper their giving.

Unfortunately, I think they will probably learn that soon enough.

all the toys were piles onto the couch before I loaded them in the car

I’m so proud of them- their giving, compassionate hearts that gave some of their favorite toys because some other kids didn’t have any. They reminded me that sometimes we’re called to give until we feel it– and then give a little more.

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. ~2 Corinthians 9.11