Children, Family, Family Finances

Fun Doesn’t Have To Cost Much!

Kids toys are expensive. And on top of being expensive, my favorite part of kid toys is that the kids usually get bored of them relatively quickly considering the price. So, what you end up having is a bunch of toys the kids ignore until you go through with the donate bag, at which point those toys become a most prized possession.

What I think we sometimes forget is how important the imagination is and I’m guilty as well. There’s so much available and for some reason we’ve put this thing on us to have to entertain our kids every waking moment. Again, guilty. The times I see my kids “miserable” with boredom, my first instinct is to create magic for them. But the times I held strong and said “go figure it out” to my kids when they present me with their boredom? Magic happens.

Case in point: sweet husband had a character building class with younger boys that he taught at our church. One of the group games he had them play was a cup stacking game- which team could create the highest tower of cups without it falling over. So, he bought cups at the dollar store. A ton of cups! And at the end of the program, we were then the proud owners of these cups. We had them in a milk carton box and put them in the kitchen when we returned home from church. No sooner had we put the box down, the kids had grabbed the box and had begun to play with the cups.

They played and played and played. They played the next day. They built forts. They stacked them. They knocked them over. They were in fits of giggles and laughter. They played bowling with the cups.

The only down side was the reluctancy the kids had in cleaning up…that part is a work in progress, I guess. But this generally got me thinking about what makes a great toy for kids.

Empty boxes, paper towel rolls, empty milk containers, plastic (or paper) cups, small wooden blocks, jump ropes, blankets, clothes pins…I know some of these sound like the kitchen trash, but these objects open up so many possibilities to let kids figure out on their own what to do with the objects. What to make from them. How to use them together. Inventing things with them. Designing things with them.

I know this isn’t brand new information and I know it’s not cutting edge advice, but I’ve seen more success in playtime and boredom busters with these type of objects over complicated gadgety toys. Granted the mess is big so be forewarned about that. But I will say I can deal with this kind of mess over lots of little pieces of toy crap laying all over the place.

Give it try if you don’t already…give your kids some generic objects and see what they do with them.

PS…You’ll be a long-time hero if you have a refrigerator box!

Children, Family

Hangman

IMG_4314.JPGI recently played a game of Hangman with four-year-old Baby Girl. Now before you faint from her ability as a four-year-old to not only think of a word, but spell it out mentally and provide the corresponding tick marks where each letter goes please know that this is not how this game works for her.

I love her dearly and think she’s a smart little cookie but she cannot spell. Well, that’s not true…she can spell her family’s names and her own name. Outside of that…don’t bet on it.

So, we played Hangman on the back of a paper kids menu while waiting for our dinner at a restaurant.

I went into this game the way I go into a hearty game of checkers with Baby Girl…there are no rules, but try to keep the game “looking” somewhat like it’s supposed to. She’s good with that. And also, when you play these games with her…really play them. She can spot a phony opponent a mile away.

So here we are…playing Hangman. Her rules are basically this:

She draws the Hangman noose apparatus thing? Then she draws out a bunch of tick marks where the letters go. She’s a fan of big words (read: a lot of tick marks). Sometimes it looks like I’m guessing the letters that make up a sentence. Now we are ready for the game to begin… well, a few snide remarks from Girl and/ or Boy Child about her inability to spell words followed by a quick admonishment from a parent and now we are ready to begin.

Occasionally, I do something outside of the rules and boy, she calls me on it…the little stickler! But, rules are rules so what are ya gonna do?! I say “oops, I forgot!” and we keep moving along.

Her sparkly eyes, her impish smile and her little elbows on the table…one hand holding up her head, the other hand playing impatiently with the crayon she has methodically chosen…

“Pick a letter, Mommy!” she says.

So I do…I pick a letter she loves to write. Lately, it’s the letter ‘R’. And without fail, that was a correct letter. Imagine that!

We go through this process many times and I pick the letters she loves to write…K, X, S, R, L, M (she knows this is Mommy’s favorite letter because, well, “MOMMY! That’s your letter!”)

Every once in a while, for the letters that aren’t in her current favorites list, she’ll say, “nope!” and start to draw the cutest hangman in the hanging thingy. And she’s giddy with delight!

Now for those of you who are sticklers to rules and playing by them, this game will kill you. Literally. Because what you have at the end of this fun game of Hangman is a bunch of letters that don’t spell anything. Although Baby Girl will tell you what it says…something like “Mommy is my best buddy” or “I love to eat yogurt”.

If you ever get the chance to play a game like this with a little one, put your OCD away for a bit and watch the magic unfold! It’s a beautiful thing to watch a little mind work.

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Children

The brave little boy

1426746_10202812069690782_1498832012_nThere once was a young boy who tended sheep in the pasture. He loved his sheep but had a thought that maybe he was destined for something great. He couldn’t imagine what that greatness would be since he was small and still young. But that thought grew inside him. He wondered what that greatness would be. It certainly couldn’t be tending silly sheep forever, although the sheep appreciated his protection and care.

Every day he wandered around the pasture field, sat on rocks nearby his grazing sheep, listened to the birds in the trees singing away, he felt the breeze through his hair and he sat. And watched. And waited.

Day after day after day he did this…quietly wondering what else there was in store for him.

One day, the young boy’s father asked him to deliver some food to his brothers in another town and return straight home. Where the brothers were, there was a lot of fighting and the area was quite dangerous, especially for a young boy. The men were all assembled in an army to fight an enemy trying to take over the land.

So the young boy did as he was told. He hid from danger when he could and he sneaked the food to his brothers just like his father had told him. When the young boy met his brothers, he saw something strange and scary.

There was a man…a giant on the hill across the field shouting angrily. When he asked the brothers what was going on, they told him to leave at once. But the boy didn’t leave…he tried to hear what the huge man was yelling.

The young boy looked around him at his brothers’ army and only saw the men cowering in fear. He ran back to his brothers and asked them why no one will fight the giant. The brothers, astounded at the question, only told their young brother to look at the size of the giant.

“No one wants to be killed and that will surely happen if any of us goes to fight him!”

But the boy had a feeling…a thought inside of him. He knew this was the greatness that was bubbling inside of him all this time. He looked around and found five stones and put them in his pocket. The young boy grabbed the slingshot from his back pocket that he used to scare off wolves back in the sheep pasture.

Something came over the young boy. He was filled with confidence and he knew this was the greatness he had wondered about. His brothers saw the young boy get his slingshot ready and they realized what he was going to do. They yelled to him to stop and tried to run after him but they became afraid when they heard the giant and saw him on the hill. They knew they were seeing the last of their young brother.

The young boy walked toward the giant and the giant only began to laugh when he saw the little boy. “This is what you send to fight me?” the giant laughed.

But the young boy wasn’t swayed. “My God will help me kill you!” the young boy shouted, somewhat astounded at his own words, but confident in their truth. “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

He put a stone in the slingshot and slowly began to spin it above his head, never taking his eyes off the giant who was now stomping toward him.

The giant seemed to grow in size as he came closer to the boy and everyone around thought they were about to see the poor boy be killed. With a deep breath and a quiet prayer, the young boy released the first stone and watched it fly toward the giant, who didn’t even seem to notice the rock headed toward him.

The stone was steady on its course and time seemed to slow as the stone flew in the air. The giant suddenly locked eyes on the approaching stone, but it was too late. As the giant began to raise his arm to swat the stone away, it had already reached the giant’s head.

The entire field of armies was silent as they all watched what was taking place between the giant and the small boy. In that silence, you could hear the crack of the stone as it hit the giant’s head. The giant flung his head back in response to the unexpected impact. For what seemed like forever the giant just froze, staring at the young boy.

The young boy locked eyes with the giant and slowly slid his hand into his pocket to grab another stone but then he let go of it. The giant began to fall forward…first his knees crashed to the ground and then his torso struck the grassy field, which altogether made a loud boom. The giant’s head was the last to hit the ground and it bounced as the giant came to rest on the very spot he was yelling from earlier.

Silence flooded the region. What did everyone just see?

This young boy, trusting God and with the confidence of his simple slingshot just slayed a giant…on the first try.

(from 1 Samuel 17)

Children

Where did we go wrong?

Rise and Shine, Beautiful!Today started out like any other day. The alarm spoke, I resisted, it spoke again, and I begrudgingly listened to it.

I stumbled to the bathroom to get my day started and that’s when I called my own parenting into question. How could I have let this happen? How did this just slip by all these years with no guidance from me? I can’t believe I became “that person” and I knew I had messed up my child(ren) forever because of my own carelessness.

You think you have all the time in the world to nail down all the principles and base standards before the world comes along and tries to negate those teachings and infect the kids with alternative beliefs. In reality, time is so very short and I feel like I missed an opportunity I may not ever get back.

My mind began to spin on the damage control I can do…heck I don’t even know at this point who my “problem child” is! All I know is I HAVE to fix this…now!! Some may even say this isn’t a big deal, but it starts with the little things and just snowballs. I have to get my kids back on track before its too late…

So this is my new parenting goal…I have to solidify deep within the bellies of my children, nay, in their DNA.

IMG_4230.JPG

Toilet paper goes on the roll with the paper going OVER the roll, not under it for heaven’s sake. Seriously, I contemplated taking a personal day from work over this. You just can’t be too careful with these things!

 

 

Children, Family

Child-noise

D587DC83-B949-418C-BA27-739E486E4AEFIt happened one day that our first child came into the world. Soon after another child and then a third child. So our hearts were filled with love and our home filled with child-noise…a special noise that is many things all at once. Lovely and irritating. Joyful and frustrating. Amazing and exhausting.

So many things all balled up into the experience of having little ones and if you blink you could miss it.

Of course that’s what everyone tells you and of course you think you heed the warning but I have been almost scared to find that it’s actually true. Where did all the time go?

A few weeks ago we were begging for a night without a crying baby.

Last week we watched our little one take her first steps.

Three days ago, he begged us for his paci because we were weaning him off. “I na ma paci!!! I na ma PAAAACCCCIIIII!!!”

Just yesterday, she stopped needing pull-ups.

Now our kids are still on the young side but they are growing fast and furious and I’m starting to be concerned at how unprepared I am for them to grow all the way up.

Sometimes I look at girl child and think that in the same amount of time that’s already passed, she will be driving a car. She won’t need her friend Teddy anymore.

I look at boy child and think that someday, even though he’s not interested at all right now, there’s a girl who’s going to be more important to him than his Momma.

With Baby girl, I think, “You’re already so strong and determined. Am I ready for the firecracker you are going to be in your teen years?”

It didn’t occur to me that the babies we wanted so desperately and finally received would eventually grow up and start their own lives and now that I see them starting to grow more independent, it’s hit me that there’s an end to our little family under our roof.

They’re gonna stop wanting to snuggle up. These babies are learning how to leave me and I guess that’s part of the joy of parenting…teaching your children how to get along without you.

Yeah I’m not prepared for that at all.

Children, Family

Meet Arby’s

IMG_1154This is Arby’s.

Arby’s is a little white-tail fawn. Adopted by boy child during a family trip to the mountains, this little deer is one of many special little friends in boy child’s crew.

So, the name? Three guesses.

It’s funny how boy child finds names for his little critters. And he’s not one to flip flop on the name, with it changing each time you ask what the name is. He names his friend and that’s it’s name, end of story.

So, among others, he has Mavis the turtle, Frankie Jr., the little whale shark (not to be confused with Frank, the big whale shark), Pleasant the pheasant, Beluga (the beluga), Hootie the barn owl, Snakie…the snake. Ok, I know some of these names aren’t all that creative. But by golly, you better not call them by another name.

And then there’s Arby’s.

Arby’s…not Arby. Arby’s…like the restaurant.

Because that’s where we ate right after “adopting” the little deer. And it was good. Boy child remembers this meal because he got to have a warm salty caramel chocolate cookie as a special treat since we were on vacation. He also remembers the restaurant and every time we head back to the mountains, he is forever connected to Arby’s- the deer and the eatery! So he has all the components to remind him of this happy memory he will never forget.

Regardless of what friend boy child has chosen to bring with him on any given travel in the car whether near or far, what tickles him and the girls is that every once in a while one of his little friends gets to drive the car!!!

It takes a bit of serendipity…dropping the animal in Daddy’s seat of the car, Daddy being in a playful mood, whether the animal wants to drive, whether we are running late, traffic in general, and if everyone is paying attention to the driver when it happens.

Imagine the sight of Arby’s plowing down the highway without a care in the world and feeling the wind in his fur. And the kids are in heaven with giggles and laughter!

What do your kids name their stuffed animals?

 

Children, Family

Yeah, that’s a chicken on my head!

img_7226Are you able to laugh at yourself?

Or are you one of those people who gets really uncomfortable and then angry or embarrassed when something happens that causes other people to laugh at you?

I’m not talking about bullying or taunting at your expense, I’m talking about when you do or say something you have no one to blame but yourself.

Like if you accidentally pass gas while someone is praying…I don’t care how old you are, that is funny and I’m not going to able to keep from giggling.

I’ll tell you one thing we are trying so hard to instill in our children is their ability to laugh at themselves.

Their favorite joke to tell each other as young children is: “(Insert name here)! You belong in a tree because you’re a nut!” (compliments of Family Guy- which they absolutely DO NOT watch) They go bonkers with laughter when they say that to each other. And it’s always well placed because whoever is being accused of being a nut is, in fact, being a nut at that moment!

Not only does laughing at ourselves reduce the amount of bickering and arguing sessions that we have to settle, but it also gives the kids reminders that life is fun, sometimes funny things happen, no one’s perfect, don’t take everything so seriously, see the humor in things, laughing at each other isn’t the same as making fun of someone, don’t sweat the little things…the list goes on and on.

Humor is so necessary because this world is really stinky these days! It needs more laughter- it sure does a body good.

As a kid, I struggled to laugh at myself. I was always embarrassed and that really sucked. I feel like I missed out on some fun because I was so busy being irritated or embarrassed at any attention thrown my direction.

Once dear husband taught me how to really laugh at myself, I saw how liberating it really is. It’s diffusing. It’s fun. It makes awesome memories and great stories. I hope one day when the kids are grown and we are all sitting around the table, they remember some great stories and we all reminisce about how much we all enjoyed those times.

Children, Family

This is gonna be awesome!

35e3ad13-fc53-4b67-9bf0-688f5e047981-jpgSo baby girl is in that phase where she’s really into imaginary play. On any given day, we’ll catch her in the middle of a well-thought out plot of a class picnic where one of the friends is new and another somehow gets injured and then all the other friends console the injured friend while baby girl performs surgery.

And she talks and talks and talks all through this imaginary play.

Recently, she was assembling her class into order for a story that she was going to read them (she cannot read…this is irrelevant). Bless them, girl child and boy child even accommodate her imagination by “dropping off” their own animals for school. They even go through a good-bye sequence to preserve the authenticity of baby girl’s school.

Once all animals are in their seats and in order, she begins handing out things? I really don’t know what the purpose is or what those objects are in her world. Maybe it’s a snack, maybe it’s a pair of scissors. Again, not relevant.

So as she delves into her story, which she tells with surprising accuracy, the opportunity to be a fly on the wall presents itself and when that happens we try to take advantage because it’s only a matter of time before she says something either adorable or hysterical.

On this particular occasion, as she was passing out the things to her class, she was mentioning reminders like being quiet because the story was going to start and staying in the line. And then, we distinctly heard her whisper to herself:

“Oh, this is going to be awesome!”

And I’m pretty sure it was awesome. At least all the animals in her class thought so!

Children, Family, Issues!

Snuggle up, please!

img_2393-jpgSometimes my kids get on my last nerve. And I hate that because of how much time I actually don’t spend with them. Like really with them.

Sure, we spend time together while I bark out orders:

“Get in the car…we are so LATE!!”
“Who made this mess? Girl child, I swear if I see this stuff on the floor one more time, I’m throwing it in the trash can!” (relax, it never goes in the trash can)
“Boy child, why is your X-wing fighter tied to the hallway light??”
“Baby girl, where are your shoes??”
“Sit down…do you have ants in your pants?!”
“Eat it!!”

You get the idea here. This is not spending time together. This is managing livestock basically. And I mean livestock in the best way possible. My little lambs.

Now for the excuse-making section of the post:

I am so busy. I have a ton of crap to do and I have a ton of things expected of me. I’m tired. I’m stressed out. I have everyone pecking at me like buzzards do with a not-quite-dead unfortunate squirrel in the road. I feel like I look like that squirrel sometimes.

*sigh*

In ten years, none of those excuses matters. And what sucks about that is the fact that despite knowing that none of it matters, all of that crap gets in line ahead of the only things that should really matter. The only things that should be at the front of my “now serving” line. My family.

So, the day I for some reason had an afternoon to nap (no idea how that happened)…it took about five minutes before two of my little ones realized where I was (in my bed), to climb in as delicately as elephants, rearrange the blankets, push and pull on pillows, fix their stuffed animals and want to snuggle with Momma while she napped.

I almost got angry. Almost. And then, I was happy. Because there’s only a little more time where they’ll want to do this on their own. Where they’ll want to be in my company.

I’m glad they climbed in.

How do you keep your priorities in check? Let me know in the comments!

 

Children, Family

Stop picking your nose!

Boogies.pngI can’t tell you how many times I’ve said this phrase! Any of you reading this who have children have probably said this phrase about as often as I have. It’s amazing how often I have to say this and I get that all kids do it, that all kids think it’s funny and that all kids at some point will subsequently eat said boogies.

Any of this sound familiar??

  • Go put your jammies on…stop picking your nose!
  • Look both ways before crossing the street…stop picking your nose!
  • Let’s head into church, we’re late…stop picking your nose!
  • Go sit down, it’s time for dinner…stop picking your nose!
  • Put your shoes on…stop picking your nose!
  • Hang up your wet bath towel…stop picking your nose!
  • Time to make your bed…stop picking your nose!
  • Hey, look at this cool butterfly…stop picking your nose!
  • Brush your teeth…stop picking your nose!
  • Help me pick up sticks in the yard before Daddy mows the grass…stop picking your nose!
  • Take this bag inside for me?…stop picking your nose!
  • Go say goodbye to Grandma before she leaves…stop picking your nose!

Now I know some of my kids, if not all, will at some point be mortified at the thought of nose picking in public and will equally be upset at the contents of this post. But it’s no secret that ALL KIDS PICK THEIR NOSE!

It’s just funny to me how much of my day is spent saying these magical words: “stop picking your nose!”

Boy child even corrects me when I say it by telling me he’s not “picking his nose”, he’s cleaning it out.

In all fairness, he is our most finicky and particular about his hygiene and methods of cleanliness. It’s only fitting that the cleanliness includes his nasal passages, I guess.