Monthly Archives: October 2013

Anniversary Dinner for…5

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Recently we celebrated our 5th anniversary. :-) It was also the first anniversary where my oldest 2 were aware of marriage and somewhat conscience of what it meant.

We’ve had 5 weddings this summer, and they’ve learned a lot about the husband and wife concept.

As the day grew closer, I decided to take a slightly different approach to our anniversary then I’d personally seen modeled in the past. I wanted the kids to be aware of our anniversary and how blessed we were to have a marriage so I realized I needed to bring them into the celebration.

 

My Goals for our 5th Anniversary:Goal 1: Celebrate it with my wonderful husband.

  • Money was tight this year, but we did have a special Chicago trip a couple months ago that I counted as our anniversary trip.
  • Romantic date (of course!) :-)

Goal 2: Model it as important and special for my kids.

  • We had donuts for breakfast
  • We ate a special dinner (pictured)
  • We talked to them about how blessed we were and showed them some pictures of the wedding.
  • We kept a celebratory attitude through the day

My kids are still little, but I know that we’ve at least shown them that marriage is a blessing and that their parents are thankful for each other.

What are some traditions that you have implemented to teach your children the importance of something that is important to you?

- Verity

Toddler Activities with Apples: Part 2

In my recent quest to find fun fall activities for my toddlers, I went looking for something different than the normal color a picture, make a craft, play a game… While browsing Pinterest, I found this idea. It was perfect! A hands on invitation to play where my kids could essentially build their own apples again and again! Here it is.Picture

Start by making up a batch of play dough. I used an easy 5 minute recipe I found online, but

there are SO many different options. Whatever recipe you use (or don’t use) play dough is an easy thing to make or buy. As long as I was making it, I added plenty of red food coloring and a few drops of an apple body wash I had found on clearance months ago. That way it even SMELLED like apples! :-)

I let the play dough cool for a few hours and divided it in half and then 4 sections from one half. I figured the kids really didn’t need very much. I rolled each section into a nice ball.
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            Earlier in the day, the kids and I had gone for a walk to the park, so I encouraged them to

pick up plenty of small sticks and twigs to use for our activity later in the day. I also had them find small leaves in our yard. This helped to build the excitement for the activity—always a plus!

I took the play dough balls, leaves, sticks and also some dried kidney beans and put them on 4 different plates—one for each child. I could have used apple seeds, but I was afraid they would be too small for the 18 month old if she tried to eat them. Turns out she ate the dried beans anyway and was fine, so I guess you learn something new every day! Who would have thought a toddler could eat dried beans?!


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            I sat the kids at the table and brought in an apple on a cutting board. We talked about that it was red and a circle and they grew on trees etc. Then I cut it open. We discussed the colors inside and each part of an apple. They were surprisingly fascinated and asked lots of questions! Perfect intro for them to make their own!

I brought out a plate for each child with their supplies and explained that they each got to make their own apples and could do it however they would like. They LOVED this activity and got right to it. The 18 month old immediately started stuffing the beans right into the center of her play dough ball (before she started eating them). One of the 2 year olds flattened her’s out and lined up all the beans inside before rolling it back up. It was great to see their creativity!


            By the end, most of them had their supplies resemble apples and they were proud of their creations. One of the 2 year olds even spent an hour and a half working and reworking on his apples! :-)

-Lydia

faith kids

Finding Faith Among Laundry

In Psalms, the writer portrays an example of gettingg through the lonliest and darkest by relying on God’s

1. Past works

2. Character

Motherhood is an opportunity for Christian women to be sanctified and  to

His Character

When the kids are ‘impossible,’ we can remember that He is the source and can help them to understand His truths and give us the wisdom that we desperately need to reach their selfish little hearts.

When we are pregnant or overworked (or both), we can remember that He is the source of strength for the weary and heavy laden.

When we are sinking into fear because of the economy, finances, family struggles, we can remember His power to turn the ‘heart of the king,’  to provide, and to be glorified in the reconciliation of selfish people.

His Past Works

   -Works in His Word

The Westminster catechism states that God reveals his character, law, and wrath in nature and His mercy toward His people in His word. How often we take for granted the love that He gave us! How wonderful as a Christian mom to have a saving faith to tell our children about!

   -Works He allows us to experience to Grow Our Faith

I used to train teachers to teach in children’s ministry work over the summer. Each summer I’d have the great joy of watching these young Christians grow in their faith as they saw God work through them to share His incredible truths with children and teens.

Over several years I noticed a surprising pattern. God would often give the most exciting experiences to the youngest Christians we sent out.

At first I thought it was that their faith was stronger or purer – you always hear that new Christians have that excited, idealistic faith, but no, slowly I started to see that in His incredible grace, God would allow the less mature Christians to see His working hand so their faith would grow in Him.

I realized that:

Getting to see God work is a gift.

It’s God who brings the opportunities.

It’s God who brings the increase.

Him using us is a gift of grace we don’t deserve.

All the teachers we sent out were willing, faithful, and fulfilling their callings yet some just didn’t see as much fruit. And usually the ones who saw less fruit were the less likely.

I’ve thought back to those summers many times. Seeing God open closed hearts, work in churches, and provide funds, spiritual lessons, and witnessing opportunities. There was one time, I unknowingly met with a witch. Verse after verse of truth came to my mind as she tried to undermine God’s word. Never had I been more in awe of God. He used the conversation to grow my weak faith.

Those times of ‘spiritual fireworks’ seem far away now. I’m on to a new lesson – learning contentment amidst laundry, dishes, grumpy, selfish children, and my dealing with the wickedness of my own mind day in and day out.

This time more then before I need to rely on His character and remember His past work that I’d experienced – and much more importantly that He revealed in His word. He sent His son to conquer sin and death. He saves us from our own depravity. He has kept me from Hell and my own wicked heart’s desires again and again.

This morning my heart was breaking to see some ‘spiritual fireworks’ again. 

 

I was praying in the office, sitting on a chair with my eyes shut tightly to hold in the tears as I asked God to show His power and grow my weak faith. I was very earnest. I leaned forward with my elbows on my knees and head bent downward but eyes still shut.

I wanted fireworks not faithfulness in monotony.

Where was God’s working hand now?

Finally, I opened my eyes not knowing that God had already brought the answer.

3 inches from my nose was the smiling face of my 15 month old.

“Mommy!” She sang out.2028713.jpg
Unbeknownst to me, she had come in quietly and was standing just in front of me for probably the end of the prayer.

It was a good reminder.

Little miracles are right in front of us. Sometimes we focus on the prestigious or exciting ministries and miss the precious ones right in front of our faces.

Our children.

I’m glad that God helps us to see His working hand.

Organizing: Prime Real Estate

A few years ago I started implementing one of my FAVORITE organizing concepts. I’d never read about it before though it is probably completely common sense to the naturally organized (and a total revelation to the not-so-naturally organized).

The concept is to realize some parts of your home are “prime real estate” and others are not.

Examples of ‘prime real estate’ around the home.
-Entry way table
-Countertops
-Kitchen Cabinets
-Bathroom Cabinets
-Nightstands
-Living Room End Table

‘Prime’ areas are areas you have easy access to and use often during the day.
PictureThe items you use every day should be in the ‘prime’ areas. The items you use rarely should not be in the ‘prime’ areas.

Example 1: Kitchen counters are prime real estate. The items left there should be used every day. Although the $400 Kitchenaid mixer that you use once a month looks cool, it is getting in the way of you doing what you actually need to accomplish on the countertops every day – like make school lunches, dry dishes, etc.

Example 2: An entryway closet is prime real estate. It is a good spot for items you need on your way out the door.

When a ‘prime’ area keeps getting unorganized, it could be that it’s loaded with rarely used items.

PictureExample 3: Kitchen cabinets are prime real estate. Most people use them every day.  My turning point was the day that I packed up the cool springform pans I used about once a winter, the whole fondue set we use only  for New Years, and all the silverware that are for special occasions. I needed to keep these items because I did genuinely use them, but I felt like they were wasting space in my small kitchen. I filled one single plastic box, labeled it clearly, and put it in any easy to access spot in the basement.

I was SHOCKED at how much faster my work became in the kitchen. Even though I’d had ‘room’ for the items I removed, clearing up my kitchen gave me space for speeding up daily tasks I performed every day.

Here is an example of prime real estate using my entry-way closet. It’s fairly small so I have to make sure the items stored there are only the ones used often.

In the first picture, you can see that I have way to much stored in there. Actually, I just needed a spot to store outgoing items. (Returns, items to take to church, random items to send…)

Random bags littered the space. However, they could easily be condensed into a drawer.


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Actually, the solution was just clearing out a single drawer that contained 2 baby carriers and a sling.

I never use those items as much as I intend – especially in the winter time when it’s easier to snuggle the baby in with blankets into his or her car seat and and carry it all out to the car.

This freed up space for outgoing items.

Hats, mittens, scarves, jackets, and all of my husband and my shoes (except the 2 we were wearing when the picture was taken and his hunting boots) are all easy to access.

The carriers went downstairs with the luggage. I will reevaluate in a few months when I have a baby to carry around, but for now I don’t need them.


Here is a picture of the finished outgoing drawer.

The whole project took me about 10 minutes, and the closet looks SO MUCH nicer. Moving rarely used items out to better contain the often used items makes out getting-out-the-door routine SO MUCH FASTER!

- Verity

Mom’s Musings: Coming Up for Air

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On Saturday my husband handed me a handful of ones, offered to take all three kids for the morning and sent me off to a coffee shop.

I would love to say that this was a spontaneous show of love based on nothing but his amazingness. While he is amazing, the real reason is that he perceived that I desperately needed to get away to think, pray, be alone, and plan and prioritize for the upcoming weeks before the next birth.

He perceived this partly because I’d been such a grouchy wreck for some time before that, partly because I’d been crying to him that I didn’t even know where to start with all that I was behind on, and partly because he just knows me better then almost anyone. (He and Lydia might be tied; it’s hard to beat a twin!)

I felt guilty for going away.

I felt MORE guilty for needing to go away.

However, the time was needed. Not being surrounded by the unfinished tasks around the house and knowing that I was not going to be interrupted by any little person with a need or a [not-so-much-a-need-but-great-excuse-to-get-out-of-bed], allowed me to step back from all my goals and plans for the fall and objectively consider what was most important based only on the Bible and my bigger-picture goals.

Afterward, I DID feel like I’d finally gotten gulp of fresh air.

It helped me see myself more clearly. Sins (namely getting mad at the kids) that I’d been dismissing had to be dealt with objectively.

  1. When I got home, I could see the kids more clearly. I bubbled to my husband that night about how they all seemed to have matured more that day. “No,” he said. You are just seeing them differently.
  2. It changed my goals. I’ve been very stressed about some chipping paint on the front of our house. Our house is not the sharpest on the street right now. However, I realized that that goal came AFTER other goals like not getting stressed, helping each child with some character issues that I’ve been letting slip, basic new baby prep, small projects my husband asks me to do, etc.

It can be hard sometimes to step back when we are in the middle of life. If you feel inundated, stressed,desperate, I’d highly suggest setting aside a couple of hours to think, pray, and prioritize. (Preferably hours during your most mentally with-it time of day.) I’d tried to implement this sort of thing before at night when they kids were finally in bed, but I’m not a night person. I couldn’t focus enough to even begin. I wasn’t mature enough to get a babysitter so I could go off on the morning to think.

I’m glad my husband volunteered.
Do you ever feel like you need to come up for air?

-Verity

Having a School Spot

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Last year the kids and I did our formal preschool between the couch and dining room table.It went fairly well, but I was always a little frustrated because to them, the couch is a hang-out and relax spot and school was sometimes hard to focus on in their comfy zone.

I hadn’t actually realized this until I read a fascinating article about how our bodies respond accordingly to different locations if you use those locations for the same activity every time.

Example:

If you always work and focus at your desk, your body will respond by being more alert when you sit down there.

Similarly, if you have a favorite chair where you always relax, your body and mind will also relax when you sit there.

I know that kids have to obey and sit still, but I was completely intrigued by the idea of making it EASIER on them (okay…and me!) by creating a spot that they could more automatically focus.

I began to think about how to create a school zone in our small home. I wanted it away from their normal hang-out and play areas.
PictureWe do have a spare room where my husband’s desk and my desk is located, and it gets great morning light.

Also, I found my garage sale find of the decade last week – a PRESCHOOL SIZED ROLL TOP DESK!

I moved the desk into the spare room and we set up school! :-)

I was surprised at the difference in the kids natural responses during school time. 

By having a ‘school zone,’ I’ve been able to set a different precedent for our ‘classroom.’

We sit straight in the class room (like a soldier and like a pretty princess), we practice our three classroom rules (ahem…we are learning to practice our three classroom rules), and we try to stay focused during the time we are in there.

During book time, the kids take turns at their little desk and my husband’s desk.

So far, it’s been a great change that has helped us immensely in the start into a new school year!

What environmental changes help your children with their school?

-Verity


Finding Out the Gender at the Ultrasound

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Our 4th baby is due in 4 weeks.

No. I don’t know the gender. :-I My husband doesn’t ask for very many things, but for baby #3 and baby #4, he asked to be surprised.  (And I would hate keeping a secret from him for 20 weeks…so there we are.)

I’ve been reflecting on the pros and cons of finding out the gender.

Pros:

Preparation: This is the biggest one people talk about. It IS nice to get clothes and toys and room stuff ready! It is nice to have clothes that are not yellow and green. Admittedly, we don’t have this problem. My kids are all in a teddy-bear themed room and I have an older girl and boy. Therefore, prep for me is bringing up exactly 2 boxes of baby clothes and taking one box down to the basement when the baby comes home from the hospital.

A Personal Reason: We miscarried our first baby at 12 weeks gestation. I held the baby in my hand but could not even know the most basic thing about my child – its gender. As soon as I was 18 weeks in my next pregnancy – I had an ultrasound to find out! Finally I could get to know my child for as long as I had it! I felt that even if I didn’t make it through the pregnancy – he had a name! He was Jedidiah, my little one. Jedidiah, loved of the Lord!

Sales! Today, Lydia bought some of the cutest little boots for their January girl baby. I looked at plenty of cute newborn items today. I didn’t need much, but I did long to get something. In the end, I picked up one semi-gender neutral black zip-up cardigan, turning down a number of cute pieces under $5. This was disappointing, but I didn’t need anything, and I did splurge on a couple of newborn sized girl and boy outfits months and months ago. I can learn contentment here.

Cons:

False Expectations: On reflection, this is the biggest one for me. All of us, whether we plan it or not tend to build dreams on what our children will be. We imagine a daughter who loves to do what we love. Neither of my first two where what we ‘imagined.’ Our son is NOTHING like my husband. He’s the most extraverted and talkative preschooler you’d ever meet. My oldest daughter is my opposite in every way.

My first 2 kids are more amazing then I ever could have dreamed, but I had to overcome the 20 weeks of building plans on who I decided little person inside me was like.

Baby #3 had no expectations laid on her. I didn’t even know her gender. It may have just been maturity as a parent or it may have been less temptation to make her something she wasn’t in my mind, but I’ve found it easier to just enjoy her for her.

Mistakes: Sometimes they do make mistakes. It would be annoying to have a pink room and have a boy come out! It does still happen and happened to a friend of mine. (They laugh about it now and love to tell the story of finding out 3 hours before delivery that their ‘Daniel’ was a girl!)

Those are random thoughts from a pregnant woman who is thinking a lot about the little mover and kicker inside me.

Do you find out the gender? Why or why not?

-Verity

The Many Ways to Declutter

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Some of us our born ‘tossers’ and some of us are not. My son takes after me – whether it’s apples, toys, books, sticks, or kleenexes – more is more to him! I see him either marrying an incredibly organized woman someday or being on a hoarders show.

He’s like this though because he sees so much potential in EVERYTHING. He’s optimistic, imaginative and eager to make the most out of life – with anything and EVERYTHING he can find.

Why get 2 apples when you can get a bucket?

Why take two toys to bed when you can fill your bed to the point of not being able to lay down any more?

I have learned to love this about him. However, I don’t want him to end up struggling through clutter someday so he’s learning decluttering methods (about at the same speed as me sometimes), but I am an enthusiastic teacher!

Decluttering 101 


1. Just Toss
The fact is, this is the easiest. I know it’s not always the best for the environment, but sanity is sanity. If you have space in the garbage can this week, but will have a Goodwill box sitting by your door for a month before you get to the thrift store to donate – just bite your lip and do it!

I used to hate throwing anything away that could be reused, but when it came down to my family’s well being or my donating it rather then tossing it, I began to change my perspective. It’s not right for me to make them walk around my thrift store donations until I can get over there.

Also, if something was a gift, the giver is much less likely to see the item in the garbage can then given away.

Someday, I’ll have everything under control enough that I don’t need to toss as much, but for large purges, just do it. It is also harder to dig something out of the trash then to pull it out of the donation box!

2. Donation

  1. Thrift Stores
  2. Sentimental Items can be given to family members.
  3. Church. My husband brought a lot of his theology, counseling and commentary books to church for our church family to pick through after he finished seminary. Most members had vastly smaller libraries then we did so it was a blessing to them. He also brought his old sound system set that was better then the church system.
  4. Consignment Stores and Websites give you store credit for donated items.

3. Sell
Pick an amount that any item is worth selling for. (My amount is $10.) If it’s not worth $10 on eBay, Amazon Market, or Craigslist, it is not worth posting it, dealing with prospective buyer correspondence, packing it up, sending it, and dealing with seller feedback.

4. Use Up or Give to the Kids to Use Up!
I used to save EVERYTHING that had any sentimental strings at all. I’d save food items until they went bad, body washes until they smelled funny, and stationary products until the kids pulled them out and destroyed them.

I have now realized the joy in just using things up! Not only to I get to use them — but then they are gone to make room for other wonderful things.

-I just used up the beautiful gift store tablet I was rewarded last year for team leading at my husband’s seminary.

-I just threw away the blue koala that I had as a baby because the kids yanked the nose off and lost it…somewhere, but I did have the joy of watching them play with it for 6 months prior.

-Soon I’ll throw away the stuffed duck my mom brought me when I was on bedrest in the hospital that I dressed in my little preemie boys’ onesie and set on my nightstand to remind me of the little baby I hoped would soon wear that onesie. For now though, the kids are playing with it every day.

-I let the 2 year old and 3 year old play with old jewelry for several months and finally just threw it away. Yes. A lot of it was sentimental. The Easter necklace I received at 13 – my first ‘grown-up’ necklace that was now missing multiple pearls, the giraffe shaped earrings that I loved at 12 but would never wear as an adult, the Africa-shaped necklace from a friend, a few other hand-made pieces by friends that never matched my style but were too ‘special’ to toss all brought my children HOURS of enjoyment before finally being pitched as they were broken (in ways that only toddlers seem to be able to come up with).

I recognize that ‘getting rid of stuff’ is kind of basic, but the heart behind letting go of stuff is something I’ve been learning in the last few years. It’s not a natural thing for me to hand over a 29 year old blue koala to my little kids, but I’m realizing that the importance of ‘letting go’ of things is bigger then ‘stuff.’

Decluttering has been a spiritual journey for me. Letting go is part of moving forward. It’s an appreciation for the past blessings without being tightfisted over them- so I can open my hands to reach for what God has next.

-Verity

Toddler Activities with Apples: Part 1

When I think of early fall, one of the first things that comes to mind is apples. I have so many fun memories of apple picking as a child and I love the variety of foods you can make with them. This year, I wanted to share the fun of apples with my children, so off I went to Pinterest to see what ideas were out there to use. I’m going to write a series of articles listing some of the ideas we discovered and others we came up with on our own. I hope they are a help to you as you plan fun fall activities for your kids!
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            I have been so intrigued with the concept of an “invitation to play.” It seems to come from the Montessori method of teaching. I love the wide variety you can use and the fact it can be messy or mess free. Most of all, I love that it inspires the child’s imagination and causes them to think independently rather than just trusting what a teacher is going to tell them every step of the way. Maybe it’s because I was homeschooled or maybe it is just my own desire to see my kids excel, but this concept has been a huge blessing to us all the last few weeks.

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Here is an easy invitation to play involving apples.

First, I asked the kids (ages 1-4) where we find apple trees. “Outside!” I asked what color the sky is. “Blue!” Then I gave them each a blue sheet of paper.

Next, I asked what is at the bottom of the tree. “Trunk! Wood!” I asked what color it was. “Brown!” So, I gave them each a couple of sticks. You could also use clothespins, brown paper or felt, cinnamon sticks, etc.

Picture            I asked them what is on a tree and what color it is. “Green leaves!” I gave each child about a dozen 2x2in. squares of green construction paper I had cut previously. We talked about that they were squares and could be used as leaves for their trees.

Next, I asked them what was the best part of an apple tree. “Apples!” was their resounding response. J I gave them each about a dozen small red pom poms. They were a little confused, so I had to explain these were for the apples.

Picture            Then I encouraged them to use their supplies to build apple trees however they would like. They each got busy. Here are few of their results.

            As you can imagine, it didn’t take them too long to finish their projects, so I encouraged them to take everything off and try something else… and something else. They enjoyed seeing what the others were doing and trying to replicate it. The whole thing took about 20 minutes, but it was exciting to see their creative wheels turning as they tried different set ups.

At the end, you can either let them glue their pieces to the paper or just package it all up for another day. Either way, this was great fall invitation to play for toddlers and preschoolers.

–Lydia

How to switch out seasonal clothes FAST! (And de-clutter your kids’ closet.)

This is the time of year where many of us need to dedicate some amount of time (hours or even days!) to switching out our clothes, and the clothes of our family members for the new season. I don’t know about you, but every time I used to do this, I would think there must be an easier way to weed through the clothes my kids have outgrown and to track down those that will soon fit them. There are several different methods, and I’m sure we’ll share other aspects of this in future posts, but for now, I have a simple method I have grown to love and I’m excited to share it with you today! :-)

In the weeks leading up to “the big switch,” my kids often outgrow a significant number of clothes. I also start to buy the clothes for the next season. What do I do with all these clothes?Lyd Clothes Organizing

Ta da! Announcing the “Too Big” and “Too Small” boxes!! This has made our life SO much easier! When I notice something is too small, or no longer works for the season, I simply toss it in the “Too Small” box. Similarly, when I buy something new, I wash it and toss it in the “Too Big” box so it is ready to go when needed.

Thanks to these 2 trusty boxes, I kept my kids closet and dresser de-cluttered all summer and when it came time for “the big switch,” it took me approximately 15 minutes for 2 kids! J When I had time later, I sorted them into their appropriate boxes in the basement.


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          Here’s what I did: My husband and I went to IKEA and found a 3 pack of collapsible boxes that lined up perfectly on the top of my kids’ closet. I used scrapbook paper, a fun scissors, and a hot glue gun to make cute signs for 2 of them. The other box I laid sideways to hold pack n’ play sheets and pads.

That was it! Just a few minutes, and you can have a de-cluttered kids room and an easy switch to seasonal clothes! :-)

- Lydia