Tag Archives: Life with Littles

There is ALWAYS Enough Time

Good Pic of Kids

I have 4 small children under the age of 5.

But there IS always enough time.

There IS the time necessary to train, love, protect my children and enough time to be a helpmeet to my husband.

I know there is because I know that God would not bless me with more then I can handle, and I know that He commands me to train my children and help my husband.

Therefore, there HAS to be enough time.

On a more experiential note, I’ve seen again and again that there is enough time to fulfill my responsibilities as a trainer, mother, protector, and teacher, and if I make it a priority, there is (usually) enough strength to not fall asleep while my poor husband is talking to me at the end of the day. (Pacing around while we talk or a 5:00 PM coffee may be necessary.)

What there is NOT always enough time for is checking Facebook 27 times to see if people have liked my clever status, following more then a couple worthwhile blogs, staying in touch with more then just a few friends, and keeping up on more then one hobby.

There is NOT even the time to do the outside ministries I’d LOVE to do because right now – I need to remember this is my ministry.

There is NOT enough time to feel sorry for myself because I want more contact with others or more thank yous for my constant efforts to keep the house semi-clean, the kids alive, and food made. (Actually more then wanting thank yous, I’d at least like less complaining…)

It just gets down to realizing what IS important – and what’s not. When I realize what IS important, I realize there IS enough time for it.

-Verity

Toddler Chore Chart

photo 2Several months ago we implemented simple chores into the kids’ morning routine.

The issue I immediately ran into was that toddlers need a way to keep track of what chores to do, but they can’t READ a list.

(And I REALLY don’t like nagging … er …having to be their verbal reminder)

All the charts I found online had the chore list written out and then a picture next to each item, but I decided to simplify the chart down to the bare bones, and this has worked wonderfully.

I also tacked each of the charts on their favorite color of card stock, put the first letter of their names on the top (because they can recognize ‘their’ name letter), and stuck it in protective sleeves.

As soon as we finish breakfast each morning, I put the charts in a central location, and they check their charts.

They usually race each other to finish, and I recently started rewarding the winner of the race with a nickel.

photo 1

On smooth mornings, we are dressed, with a clean house, and ready to start school half an hour after my husband leaves for work. (Not every morning is smooth, but even on rougher mornings the charts help the kids take responsibility, give us a stronger start and take pressure off.) I also made a chart for before supper. (The times I remember to use it, it works great, but we don’t usually get to it before my husband gets home.)

So these are the toddler chore charts that have worked for us. :-)

-Verity

The Dandelion Stage

photo 1

Every stage of life presents different beauties.

 If I could assign each stage it’s own flower to embody that stage’s characteristics and display them brilliantly in colorful rainbows for all to admire, I would give to the teen years, the daisy – full of hope and joy.

To new love and marriage, I’d give the rose – beautiful and timeless.

And to early motherhood, (this stage of which I find myself firmly planted in the middle of) I’d most definitely assign the dandelion.

Like any mom of small children, I’ve found myself the recipient of many, many dandelions this spring. Multiple times a day I hear the back door creak open, thumping little steps, and an excited voice say.

“Mama!! I have MORE flowers for you!”

photo 3

Soon I see a beaming little face and a small hand that’s excitedly waving a yellow bunch carefully picked for me.

I thank my benefactor for being kind and generous and deposit my latest addition with the rest of my loot in a growing number of vases on the kitchen counter. (4 last count).

So, compliments of my children, I’ve been surrounded by these gifts this week, and it’s given me plenty of time to think about the little flower we so often dismiss as a weed.


I’ve even had plenty of time to start relating to it.
 

- Though it may get a bad rep, the dandelion adds color to otherwise bland places – spreading interest and splashes of light in even the darkest of places – in alleys, medians, and gravel pits, it shines it’s cheerful color through. As a mom, I’m learning to bring joy, eternal focus and hope to my children’s days. The days may be filled with flu, tantrums, whining, and selfishness, but by reflecting the light of Christ, the hope of eternity, and the truth of His word, I can bring light to the most sinful of little hearts.

 

photo 4

- The dandelion is hearty enough to endure – through poisoning, being cut down, and much more, it bounces back, stands up straight, and perseveres. I truly doubt there are many occupations on this earth that take as much endurance as motherhood. 

-The hearty little flower is useful. I recently learned that you can make dandelion tea, stew, and even wine. In the ‘mom’ position I not only have daily effect on my family members but also profound eternal effects. Though the pervasive temptation in a career-driven and consumer-driven society is to feel less then useful because our effects are not well-known, applauded or flashy, our use is of utmost importance. We are building the values of the next generation. 

- Then of course there is the fact that it multiplies like a weed. I can kind of relate to that too…

From almost the first week of my ‘dandelion stage’ I was blessed with a vivid picture of how precious and short lived the ‘dandelion stage’ (the toddler stage) is. My first born child only 18 months, and enjoying his first real Spring, when he proudly presented three dandelion stalks to a 92 year old friend at church. She breathed a joyful sigh and took the bouquet as if it were a very valuable and precious offering.

Then she turned to me and said with sparkling and sincere eyes. “These are the things in life that matter.”

photo 2

She reverently placed the 3 flowers in her Bible.

I’ve thought of it in the dandelion moments at 3:00 AM when the baby finally starts to quiet, and I let myself wait a couple more minutes to just sit and meditate on the perfect little face.

I’ve thought on that moment many times.

I’ve recalled it when my children come for bandaids, for kisses, for their bonks and for diapers.

But of course I especially remember it every time I hear the little voice at the back door and hear the thumping feet – bringing me another gift of sincere child-like love.

Our Toy Decluttering System

Pretty much all moms get frustrated with toy clutter.

I thought a group toy box under their bed and some additional personal toys kept in their own personal spaces would be okay, but we ran into a couple big problems.

(1) No one took responsibility for the clean up of the ‘group’ toys and (2) each hoarded so much in their personal space, they couldn’t fit it all in!

I’ve downsized enough that I did not want to get rid of more of their toys at this time. (Though maybe in a couple months…) However, I did need to remove them from the stress of every day!

A friend said she had taken away all but a few of her kids’ toys until they learned to be responsible enough to clean them up.

This seemed like a great idea. Here’s how it worked for us.

I taped numbered cards on the floor and let each child pick out his or her favorite 10 toys.

Here are pictures of the toys that they picked. photo 1

The top picture is of my 4 year old son’s toys.

photo 2Then my 3 year old daughter’s toys. Yes. She loves dolls.

photo 3Finally the 18 month old’s.

The rest went into a big box which I hid away in the basement.

photo 4

 

If the child wants a toy from the box, he or she has to trade one of his or her ‘special ten.’ The only one who has done this has been my oldest. The girls don’t seem to remember the other toys even exist.


I also took the opportunity to pick out a few car toys that stay in the car. This was a brilliant move! 

photo 5

In the last 2 months, my son has ended up with more like 20 toys. He’s proven himself responsible and always cleans them up. Since he wants to keep his 20 toys. the system has motivated him to be more responsible! My 3 year old still has about 10 which fit easily in her personal basket, and my 18 month old has about 7. Toy clutter has become almost nonexistent.

 

Beyond this I keep toy sets locked in two cabinets, but I’m the only one with access to them.

There you have it! This is the system that has worked for us!

-Verity

Enjoying the Day to Day

 

photo-15

Tucked in the middle of Leo Barbatau’s wonderful list “72 Ways to Simplify Your Life,” is the wise suggestion to sprinkle your day with things you love.

I think there are two types of pleasures that can dot our day – the ones we can do and the ones we can notice.

Pleasures we can do.

  • A friend lights a candle every day when she finishes cleaning her house
  • I enjoy a morning coffee (complete with real chocolate melted in!)
  • A chapter of a novel at lunch to escape the monotony of a workday.
  • A short nightly date with your loved one – even just to touch base – even for just a few minutes – to sit down and enjoy each other’s company
  • A brisk walk around the block
  • A fruity protein shake to break up a long afternoon
  • A set time to take10 minutes and check your favorite blog

But I think there are also pleasures each day that we need to notice.

We have so many moments in our day that we could enjoy that we miss because rather then live in the pleasure of the moment, we are thinking of the responsibility of the future.

Basically, stop to smell the roses!

Small children are amazing at this. My children delight in the simplest things. From waving goodbye to my husband when he leaves for work to going to Walmart to eating lunch. Everything is a pleasure. (well – unless they don’t like lunch…)

I think we as adults miss all the wonder that is around us.

  •  The serene silence on the way to work or the store
  • The crisp beauty of a winter afternoon.
  • The joy in our children’s faces as they chatter about their toys
  • The refreshing torrent of a hot shower
  • The combination of flavors in even a simple sandwich

I used to dread end of nap time each day. It was like in the space of 20 seconds the house could go from productive and brimming with potential to filled with 2 or 3 groggy and demanding little people – with eyes barely open yet already asking for things.

But I’ve finally started to notice a ripe moment to enjoy a pleasure when they wake.

It’s a great opportunity to get a free hug and enjoy one of my kids. Several months ago I started to say something  like “Hello! You are up! I’m happy to see you! Mama loves you!”

photo-16

And while the mute hum of productivity may cease abruptly with the thump, thump, thumpity, thump of little feet, I am genuinely happy to see them. Just saying it, just pausing an extra moment to get a hug, (or even grabbing a 3 minute cuddle time!) has helped me recognize it.

The fact is we are blessed. God in His mercy has made the beautiful sun to shine on each of us. Sometimes we need to stop being so utilitarian and task-oriented that we can enjoy it.

-Verity

Shopping with Toddlers!

Shopping with small children seems to get a range of reactions when I talk to other moms. Some hate it. Some love it. Some do it multiple times a week. Some have a single shopping day.

photo-11

I used to dread shopping with my kids – especially when my most challenging child was in the terrible twos. (And legitimately some kids are simply hard!!)

However, now it’s become A LOT easier to shop with my kids. Here are some tips that have helped.

 

 

  1. Make a list according to the lay-out in your grocery store.

Example:

Fruit

Cilantro

Tomatoes

Onions

Green Pepper

Lime

Frozen Juice

Frozen Vegetables

Chocolate Chips

Milk

Butter

2. Shop at their happiest time

My kids are morning people. Melt-downs are diminished by 95% if we can get to the store by 9:30 AM and home by 12:00 PM.

I feel really bad for moms who have no choice but to take their kids after work when everyone is tired and grouchy. If I lived closer, I’d completely watch your kids for you!

3. Avoid tough places (ie: toy aisle)

We do go to the toy aisle if we need to get a present for someone. We did today actually), but if we don’t have to, I push the cart by there fast – wouldn’t you if you had a cart full of toddlers??

4. Have a plan in place for if they want a toy.

That said: here is how we deal with toy-wantiness.

A. I tell them to put it back with its friends, and they are required to obey.

Most of the time, it is a non-issue. However, if there is a melt-down, I’ve come to realize that we all have had those moments.

No one should be judging me because everyone has either had kids or is clueless about the reality of what kids are like.

Therefore this meltdown is NOT about our audience. It is about my child.

Therefore it is:

- an opportunity to help my child work through a character issue by kneeling down at his or her level and talking it through with them until they can gain victory over their covetetousness.

OR

-A time to push the cart away fast, get over my embarrassment and deal with the child later – once they’ve cooled down and the temptation is not right in front of their face.

B. If it is an item that I’m okay with them getting, I will give them an option to buy it themselves.

  1. They have to come back with their own money. (Which they earn doing jobs for me). This often means they need to save too. Since most toys cost $8-15, this means it will take a couple months to earn that much. Two times now, my four year old son has put in the work to earn some special toys, the rest of the time, he forgets about it.
  2. They have to remind me later. (and 95% of the time they forget.)
  3. They have to get rid of a SPECIAL toy at home. My kids are down to just 10 toys each besides stored play sets. They carefully selected these out of the mass of toys to keep while the others were toted away. When it comes to some enamoring object in the store or one of their beloved favorites, they rarely abandon their favorites.

 

 

5. Punishments in Public

Shopping with me is a privilege and with every shopping trip comes privileges that can be lost.

1. Buckled: If they are in the auto cart, I let the older two stay unbuckled so they can jump down and grab items for me, but if they are not listening, they lose the privilege.

2. Auto-cart: They LOVE the carts with the cool seats! However, we only use them two thirds of the time. If they don’t obey well, the next week, I get two carts and push one and drag one.

3. No reward

I do almost always get them a food item as a reward for being good. Bribery? Kind of. But I think if a small child is good for a tempting shopping trip, they deserve some tangible form of positive feedback.

Usually this is a $1 cheeseburger or a fun (EASY) lunch item so they are fed and ready for a nap when we get home.

If they misbehave – no reward.

4. Discipline at home

Sometimes (like hopping out of the cart and jumping around in the paper towel rolls or racing away while Mama yells to come back or a tantrum from an older child),  there is some form of punishment at home – after I’ve cooled off and where we can deal with the issue face to face.

6. Bring a snack for the check-out

Check-out is when everyone is most grouchy and where the rotten stores have put toys and candy right at kid-level.

If there is one place to have a snack – this is it!

6. Have any coupons ready ahead of time!

If I have an infant, they are usually DONE and ready to eat about check-out so it’s either balance baby and rip out coupons or have them pre-ripped.

That’s it! I can’t say our shopping time is painless, but at least I don’t dread it!

I hope these tips help!

-Verity

 

Mom’s Musings: The Opportunity of Christmas

This time of year abounds with opportunities to teach our children about Jesus—the real

reason for the season.

As I have a nearly 2 year old and a 3 year old this year, I have been amazedat how everything can tie back to WHY Jesus was born as a baby those many years ago.

Picture

My children are particularly excited as we are expecting a baby in a few weeks, so they are probably overly fascinated with babies right now, but it has caused them to be very interested. Books we read, songs we sing, games we play, crafts we do, conversations we have, activities we participate in, events we attend… all of these things are opportunities to point our children toward Christ. I am learning to take advantage of each moment with them this month and to use the “why” questions and the quiet observations to teach them and to tie truths together.

Before Verity and I were married, we worked for a ministry where we directed Vacation Bible Schools in small churches who otherwise would not have been able to host one. We did this for over 6 years each week of every summer. You can imagine who many VBSs we did! One thing I truly loved about a VBS format was how all morning of each day was centered around 1 main theme. Everything tied back to that theme: the lesson, the decorations, the puppet skit, the songs, the craft, the games, and so on. By the end of the morning, do you think those kids knew what the theme was? Of course they did! By the end of the week they had 5 solid Biblical truths/themes to walk away with–even if they learned nothing else, those themes, could not be avoided. I once read that it takes 18 times before a person learns something. Not to mention the concept that we learn:

·         10% of what we read

·         20% of what we hear

·         30% of what we see

·         50% of what we see and hear

·         70% of what we discuss

·         80% of what we experience

·         95% of what we teach others

If you take the time to teach your kids the truths of Christmas throughout this month, they will not miss them. At this time of year, I love how I can read a Christmas book to my children in the morning, discuss our advent calendar Names of God at lunch, do a Christmas craft in the afternoon, and sing a Christmas song before bed and it all has the same message. This doesn’t even take into account the Christmas events at church, activities that just seem to pop up everywhere, decorations around the house, and regular conversations. As moms, we have been given an amazing opportunity to teach our children about God, about Jesus, and ultimately, about what Jesus did for us on the cross and the personal choice we each have to accept Him or reject Him. At Christmas time, these truths are pretty much handing themselves to us to “feed” to our children on a silver platter. My question to you is this: Are you taking full advantage? Next Christmas is a long ways away. What will transpire over the course of this year? How much older and more distracted will your children be? Use each moment, of each day, to lovingly stop and teach your children the important truths of Christmas. This is a unique time where they will learn those truths like no other time during the year.

-Lydia

Picture

I realize the fall season is nearly behind us, but I just HAVE to share this fun and easy idea. This would be so great to have your kids work on while you prepare for the Thanksgiving dinner.

All you do is draw a basic tree trunk on paper.

 

Apply tape to look like branches. I used masking tape folded in half, but you could use anything—2 sided Scotch tape might be fun.

Picture

Give the kids things to stick on the branches. I used small red pom poms for apples (which my kids chose not to use) and some foam leaves I bought at Dollar Tree. You could also use scraps of paper, tissue paper, or foam, real leaves, etc. Anything that could go on a tree!
Then just walk away and let them have fun! :-)

-Lydia

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.
Picture


            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?!


Picture

            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.