Children, Family

Little Kid Fight Club

little kid fight clubYou know the first rule about Little Kid Fight Club? You always whine and argue and tattle to anyone who will listen.

Have you ever sat back and watched a verbal smack-down between little kids? I’m not talking about the snarkiness of teenagers, but little kids. Like 5-7 year olds. It’s amazing how savage they can be. And when I say savage, of course I mean petty and minor. But in a little kid’s mind? So savage!

Take, for instance, my kids’ version of a glove smack to the face. Here’s what they do:

A typical argument over something life altering between boy child and girl child, like who gets to use the blue plastic place mat and who is stuck with booger green, ensues. After a bit of whining, yelling and the commencement of tears by boy child, girl child asserts herself by putting a period on the argument and confidently basking in the victory by putting the placement at her spot at the table. 

That’s not the savage part. It’s here…you ready?

Boy child angrily grabs a piece of paper (junk mail will do in a pinch- timing is key, here) and a pencil, gives girl child a cold stare of sheer anger…long enough to get her attention. Once eye-lock is made, boy child then slowly and methodically writes girl child’s initial on the paper. Pauses. Looks at her, draws a circle around the initial slowly and dramatically. And then? Draws a heavy, slow line through the initial.

THROUGH. THE. INITIAL, y’all! What the?! That is stone cold savage. And oh it works!!! Girl child is reduced to a stream of tears, which usually leads to a pity parade with stomping feet to find the closest parent interested enough to put an end to this ghastliness!

Oh the humanity.

OK, so this is all completely humorous to anyone over ten years old. But back off with your judgment because this is Little Kid Fight Club and you best enter at your own risk.

So, how do you diffuse such a runaway freight train of emotions and irrationality without losing your ever-loving mind?! No idea. Well, that’s not true. We muddle through with things like this:

Address the real issue

First we gotta find out what in tarnation caused this mess in the first place. “Oh, it was because you wanted to use the blue place mat and girl child had it first?!” We talk through why she gets to decide what place mat she wants to use and why he doesn’t. You know what we usually say?

She wanted it and said something first. Life’s not fair. Sorry. 

Of course, we do end up with the stupidly arduous task of now having to remember who had the blasted place mat last and who gets it for the next meal. Just because too much unfairness is harsh for a six year-old. 

Address the interaction

In the midst of addressing the real issue, we also take a moment to stop boy child when there’s too much crying while explaining. Firstly, I can’t understand “boogery bubble-ridden whiny speak” so I stop him and ask him to look me in the eyes. I’m usually at their eye level here and man, this part can take a second but it’s important to get the eye contact.

Once I have it, I ask him to fill up his lungs with air and breathe it out. Then I ask him to do it again. And one final time. Oxygen does a great deal for clear thinking. Now I ask boy child to tell me with his words what happened. I ask him to tell me without crying and that I will listen to him. Bless him, he fights back falling apart but he gets his message out. 

Next, we all have a quick discussion on how they talked to each other. (Notice I didn’t issue a ruling yet!) I remind them of the nasty sound of the argument and ask both kids to talk about how they said mean things to each other. Then I ask them why they said them. I prompt them to understand and say that they wanted to hurt the other child’s feelings by being mean. Then we talk about how that’s not a good way to win an argument. Ever. Being mean is just that.

And it doesn’t get rewarded by getting to use the blue place mat. I hold up the savage graffiti and ask if this was nice or mean. Once he says it was mean, I ask him to apologize to girl child. I then ask girl child to apologize to him. 

Then I lower the boom on how we move past this. Girl child gets the placement. We are done with this argument and boy child can have the placemat at the next meal. I tell him that if I hear any whining or any yucky talk from him, that he will not get the placemat at all. For real. 

No wallowing

I need him to learn to pull himself together and move forward. I need all the kids to learn this. This isn’t denying them the right to feel their feelings. This is simply not allowing them to unpack and move in to Sadsville or Angrytown. Just no. There’s a time to allow yourself to be upset and there’s a time to move forward. Not everything will go your way in all situations.

Now, kids aren’t born knowing how to do this so they have to be taught. And it doesn’t come easy. Because their emotions are big…especially for boys. 

Recovery

Girls have lots of layers of feelings but boys have big clouds of singular feelings. Recognizing the difference here is so important because they recover and learn differently. Girls can talk through their feelings better than boys at this age so we find that talking with the girls allows them to work through the stages of anger. With boys, we have seen that diffusing is important before any rationality can happen. Taking the time to diffuse (asking for the deep breaths and eye contact) helps immensely to move into talking and resolving anger. 

No matter how the argument started, how it ended and who walked away the victor, we always try to get the laughter back quickly. The laughter is kind of the packing tape on the box of yuck that we’ve worked through and stuffed into the box. Laughter moves everyone past the anger and into the “next thing”, whatever it is. The cadence of conversation and humor is a little faster-moving to put some space between the rawness of what happened and where we want our kids to be now.

And once the smile creeps onto the face of an upset child, the sparkle returns to his eyes and he’s ready to grab onto funny conversation with no hesitation. Always move forward!

 

Children, Family

Please just poop in the potty

Potty TrainingOur potty training days are over, thankfully, because I was about to lose my ever-loving mind over my last child agreeing to poop in the potty. Notice I didn’t say “finally figuring out” but rather, “agreeing”. Y’all, this child fought us over pooping in the potty for the longest time.

The. Longest. Time.

I remember telling other parents who were potty training (keep in mind that this was before our last child’s potty training phase), “Oh don’t worry! It’ll happen and I guarantee your child will not go to Kindergarten not knowing how to go in the toilet.”

And then…baby girl happened. This little one was born two whole months early. She was a little firecracker in the NICU, causing all kinds of ruckus because she wouldn’t progress like the doctors wanted and then, like a light switch got turned on, she just did the thing everyone was waiting on her to do. Whether it was maintain body heat, not lose weight, suck/ swallow…she struggled and struggled and then like a snap, she got it. All of it. 

One NICU nurse told us, “Honey child, watch out for this little one. She may be little, but she sure is fierce!”

And oh is she fierce! Every milestone she’s reached, she does on her own time. Some kids are just like that, I guess. Our first two were like clockwork on milestones. Baby girl works on her own schedule. 

Fast-forward to potty training. And I know all the experts say “she’ll do it when she’s ready” or “don’t push her, you’ll only frustrate yourself and her” blah, blah, blah. But tell all that to the preschool who is telling you that in order for your child to be in the three year old class, she has to be potty trained. 

So, for all you parents who find yourself in this similar situation, here’s our story. I ain’t gonna lie, it wasn’t pretty, I did pull my hair out, there were tears, accidents and perhaps a child running around the house without her pants on but we did it and here’s how. 

Pick Out Your Special Underwear!

First we did the “Pick out your special underwear!” in hopes that she would respect her britches and not soil them. We also bought 5 pairs of the basic Walmart cotton pants in a variety of colors because we were going to go cold-turkey.

And we did.

And it went as expected. Soggy and drippy. But we continued. We changed pants, washed pants, made very frequent trips to the potty. 

Stickers!

So we added a sticker chart. With her favorite character. We went to the store and she took forever deciding what stickers she wanted to have on her chart. We figured her investing her time in picking out the stickers would help keep her motivated to actually get to use the stickers! 

And it went as expected. The chart hung on the wall…naked. Waiting for stickers. 

Nudie time!

Soon it was Christmas time and I had some time off work and I decided this girl is gonna learn how to at least tinkle in the potty before I go back to work. We discovered that she absolutely didn’t like the feel of tinkles dripping down her leg so off the pants came. She was not happy with this, but it worked quickly because soon enough she was “holding it” and “making it” to the potty. She even got to where she took herself. 

One of the things we said was “Listen! I hear your pee pees coming! Here they come!” and for whatever reason, that proclamation got her so excited that sure enough…her pee pees did come! She was so proud and we all made a big deal out of any success she had. 

Soon enough the sticker chart was filling up. And soon enough she was taking herself to the bathroom and was announcing an invitation to all within the sound of her voice to join her as we all gaze into the toilet to behold her success. She also made sure someone was on the task of sticker presentation. 

And now for the second part of the show…

And so it was, she became potty trained for tinkles.

Now…the hard part. The poop. She DID NOT LIKE the idea of pooping in the potty. And we found ourselves in the same situation. Her outright refusal, our failed attempts, lots of soiled clothes and a ton of frustration. She did the same thing when getting ready to poop so we tried our very best to catch her just before and run her to the potty. No luck. She even had a pretty reliable schedule but somehow we would either just miss it or she would hold it and go when we weren’t looking, which was pretty awesome because we watched her like a hawk!

Bribery

 potty training sticker chartTime to bring out the big guns. She is motivated by a reward so we made it a big one. We let her pick out a big toy she really wanted.We made a “three poops” chart and had big, awesome stickers she could place over each number upon success. Guess what we did next? We put the big toy on top of the refrigerator where she could see it and we told her she had to do three poops in the potty to get the toy. Do you know I had to dust that thing, it sat up there so long? She wanted that toy but she refused to go in the potty. 

But we held firm and the “three poops” chart sat empty.

potty training briberyUntil one day…I was at work and I got a text message from my husband. 

“She just took herself to the bathroom and pooped in the potty”

Oh my heavens, I have never been so happy. And not an hour later, I got another text “She just did it again…all on her own”. 30 minutes after that one, I got this text: “She peed twice in the potty and she’s sitting on the potty now saying she pooped.”

In one day, this child had completed her chart for getting the toy she had picked out and from that day forward, she was potty trained completely. Just like a light switch. Just like every other milestone she hits. Some kids are just like that. No matter how much you push, it really does depend on when they are ready to do it. 

Some kids potty train quickly. Some take forever. Sone get scared of the potty and some just prefer to go in their pants. Patience is key. Consistency is key. Laundry packs, hot water and lots of changes of clothes are key. 

Your child will become potty trained. If I can offer a piece of advice, it’s this:

Do not compare your kid to someone else’s kid. Your kid is your kid; not someone else’s kid. She will get it, I promise. It’ll be gross until then, sorry. But soon enough it’ll all be in the rear-view mirror (get it…rear view? haha!). 

Good luck!

Children, Family, Uncategorized

She Takes Her Job Very Seriously

takes her job seriouslyRecently, girl child got to be a flower girl in a family wedding. Not only would she be a flower girl, but this would be her first ever wedding! She was asked about six months ago by the bride and it’s been a frequent topic of conversation in our household ever since! This is a very important job and she has had every intention of taking her job very seriously. 

As the big day grew closer and closer, our conversations became more frequent and detailed. We talked about what her dress would look like, how she would gently toss flower petals as she walked down the aisle before the bride. How she would stand at the front with the best view in the house. We talked about how the bride would kiss the groom at the end and we giggled with glee at the thought of it! 

takes her job seriouslyCountless drawings appeared all over the house of child-drawn brides and grooms, brides kissing grooms, flower girls, bouquets, wedding cakes, etc. The big day even made it onto a hand-made calendar hung on the refrigerator door so that no one would forget!

And when girl child’s flower girl dress arrived, she could hardly contain her excitement. Being a flower girl suddenly became real! It wasn’t just something people said. She was actually going to BE a flower girl. My stars!!

Finally, oh finally the big day arrived. And suddenly…it hit her. 

As we were curling girl child’s hair into little ringlets, she began to breathe heavily and start to cry and complain of a stomach ache. I feared she was sick and wondered how I would nurse her back to health enough to make it down the aisle when she tearfully said, “I’m not nervous!” And this told me she was very nervous, which is unusual for her.

So we stopped everything. 

I sat her down on the toilet (seat cover) and told her to breathe like me…slowly in….slowly out. Slowly in…slowly out. I wiped her little tears and we talked quietly about how wonderful today is. And how good a job girl child did in rehearsal the evening before. We talked about the people who would be watching and how those same people saw her yesterday.  Then we talked about how it’s the bride who should be really nervous…and that girl child is leading the way for the bride to walk down the isle to marry her love. 

Then we remembered how they would kiss at the end! And how giggly that would make us (her)! It was after this little conversation that girl child whispered, “You know, Momma, I really did feel nervous and scared but I feel good now.”

takes her job seriouslyWe clamored into the car and drove to the wedding venue at which point I told girl child that her job for today had begun. She was to be helpful in all things where she could and then she would be the best flower girl in the whole world! Girl child did her job well. She was a helper. And she was friendly to all. She introduced herself to any guest she didn’t recognize and also talking with those she did know. 

She mingled, she helped, she delivered messages between the bride and groom. Whatever was asked of her, she happily obliged, bless her. This responsibility was so important to her and my buttons were bursting as I watched her be the flower girl as best as she could. 

When the time came, she got into line and waited until it was her turn to walk down the aisle. She made sure her little basket was ready. Her bouquet tucked into the side of the wicker of her basket and all her little loose flower petals ready to mark the path for the bride.

One deep breath and away she went…delicately walking, lightly dropping flower petals. Smiling. Thinking. Stepping. Dropping petals. That’s a lot to remember all at once. But it kept that fast-thinking brain occupied enough that it kept the worrying at bay. She did it. And she did her job well. 

At the end, I asked her what she thought of the day. She said, “Momma, I’m tired…but it sure was beautiful!”

It surely was!

takes her job seriously

Children, Family

Toothless is My Name

toothlessShow of hands of everyone who loves the tooth-pulling stage of childhood. No one? Yeah, me either. I’m a giant weenie about wiggly teeth. I want no part of the dangling, wiggly, baby tooth holding on for dear life. Yet somehow, I managed to have children who love loose teeth! Of our three kids, two are in the “tooth falling out” stage and those suckers fell out like popcorn! I had kids walking around essentially toothless! [Note: this post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to buy a product using the link, the cost to you doesn’t increase but your purchase helps us fund this blog so we thank you!]

So recently we found ourselves once again with a freshly lost tooth. Boy child has just pulled out his last (for awhile) baby tooth. Tooth-pulling in our family is a big event. There is not the slightest bit of apprehension…only growing excitement as the tooth becomes more and more loose. Because that means a visit from the Tooth Fairy!!

Upon losing his tooth, boy child put it in the special cup and put the cup at his spot at the kitchen table (our designated landing strip for the Tooth Fairy). Now, let me say that when the kids first started losing teeth, I went all out. Matching envelope and personalized note card from a uniquely named Tooth Fairy…what in tarnation was I thinking?? Yes, let’s add work to a task I’m half likely to forget to accomplish as it is. So…over time, the Tooth Fairy has become less personal but at least she pays out consistently. The kids don’t seem to mind.

Except with boy child, we keep forgetting to make sure the Tooth Fairy visits! I don’t know what the mental block is…we set a reminder on our phones to remember to exchange the tooth for money but dang it if we don’t forget and that poor boy comes downstairs to find his tooth right where he left it. 

Crap.

toothlessOf course, we immediately spot the “problem” with the Tooth Fairy. “Buddy, you didn’t put the cup at the table!” or as with the most recent excuse for being horrible parents, “you forgot to write the Tooth Fairy a letter!” I know, we are horrible for putting our failure on his lack of being able to follow very explicit and apparently unbendable rules of how to submit a tooth to the Tooth Fairy. 

But he doesn’t seem upset by his blunders and willingly accepts that his mistake caused her delay. I think girl child is on to us but she doesn’t say anything. She’s not dumb…she knows being quiet keeps the money coming.

So last night, boy child wrote out his letter. He drew a special dragon (pretty good, if you ask me!), drew a “picher” of himself and drew a box for his Tooth Fairy to put his/ her name. He placed his tooth properly on top of the letter and set it at his place at the table in just the right spot. Everything looked perfect. There’s no way she won’t leave him money now! So off to bed he goes. 

I kid you not, we nearly forgot to exchange that stinkin’ tooth!! But, thankfully, we remembered at the last minute. I feel like we’ve created a non-personal Tooth Fairy experience for boy child after we went through so much with girl child’s Tooth Fairy. We had even given her a special fairy name, beautiful stationary and subsequent visit glitter to mark where she had trod during the night. So, since this was boy child’s last tooth for a while and he has developed a recent love for all things dragon (from the movie, How to Train Your Dragon…awesome movie, by the way!), I made a special note from his viking Tooth fairy- Bicuspid the Great (since he asked for his Tooth Fairy’s name). And not just any letter…one that was uniquely special since boy child appreciates these kind of surprises:

toothless

For those who do not read backwards (a truly unique skill I am fluent in from a very young age!), it says, “I have the proof that you lost a tooth! Brush everyday and you’ll be on your way. To no longer be TOOTHLESS!” 

He loved it! 

 

Children, Family, parenting, Uncategorized

Don’t Cross The Line

Cross the lineEach child is uniquely different, with different personalities and different triggers to action. So what happens when your child is willfully disobedient or unruly? When they knowingly cross the line?

You’ll Break Your Tailbone!

helicopter parentRecently my little kids got roller skates! I discovered three pairs of skates at a thrift store that perfectly fit each kid. And they were the grow-with-me skates. All for the price of $9!! So I put the skates on the kids…8, 7 and 4 years old. I also made them wear their bike helmets. I never wore mine when skating, but I think the Earth’s gravitational pull is stronger now so the odds of the kids falling and busting their heads is significantly greater than when I was a kid.

Anyway…it became obvious really quickly that these kids were not good at skating. If you ever were unsure if you were a helicopter parent, put skates on your kids. You’ll find out where you stand really quickly! So, I established boundaries for skating. The kids couldn’t pass the first line in the driveway until they had become a little more proficient in not falling all over the place. Our driveway slopes upward so I was not about to let them up that hill until they showed me some skill.

Of course soon enough, girl child was a skating “pro” (not really…but she’s waaay better than she was) and boy child was completely out of control but for some reason never fell. Like ever. I’m not sure what was happening but it was almost like he couldn’t fall if he wanted to. He was a straight up mess of flailing arms and wildly kicking, rolling feet but his grin was huge and he always made it to his intended destination (the other side of the driveway into the grass). So I relaxed the rule a bit for them.

Baby girl? That was another story. She is not good at all with skating. Partly because she’s four and how good can you actually be at that age? Partly because she kept sitting down, goofing off, taking one skate off and just not getting any real practice time in. But as soon as she saw girl child and boy child crossing “the line” she wanted to cross the line as well.

Oh heck no, darling. No way in all of heck am I going to let you past that line. Are you kidding me? Have you seen yourself skate? She was not pleased that she couldn’t cross the line. So do you know what she spent the rest of skate time doing? Getting herself right up to the line and looking back at me with a sparkly eye while saying, “I’m gonna cwoss da line, Momma!”

Why would she do this? Why would she knowingly disobey me and why is she wanting to cross the line? Well, if you’ve met baby girl, you’ll know the force is strong in that one. She’s got a strong will that makes me wonder what we are going to do with her because all of our tried and true manipulation tactics do not work on this child.

So here’s the thing..and believe me when I say I’ve failed at this. Miserably. Yelling at a child like this will not make her want to change whatever she’s doing and do what it is that you want her to do. In fact, it thus becomes her mission to never do that thing you want her to do. Or conversely, she will try come hell or high water to do the thing you’ve yelled at her not to do. And this may or may not include skating past the line.

Manipulation- The Puppeetering of Childhood

We may have stumbled upon some things that work pretty good for this kind of child. I don’t claim to guarantee these will always work and maybe these are unique to baby girl. But here’s some things that we found to be effective:

  1. A distinct choice Not a crappy choice…she smells a bad deal a mile away. A good choice. Baby girl falls apart if she doesn’t get to sit next to Momma at a restaurant. Like big, loud, long-lasting fall apart. So…a trip to the bathroom to discuss options is in order. I squat down to her eye level and I ask her to quiet her cry. Then I ask her to take a breath…fill her lungs (she obliges). I tell her “here are your two options:” and I make sure to put up two fingers so she “sees” her options. “#1, you sit across from Momma now and it’ll be your turn to sit by me the next restaurant we go to. I’ll write it down. #2, we go home right now and you spend the rest of the afternoon in your room while girl child and boy child skate.” She gets to choose her fate. Now she’ll try to negotiate and I again list her two options. She’ll try to wind up her fit and I tell her the choices are gone, it’s time to go home. At this point in her young life, she can’t call my bluff so she starts yelling “No, Momma!” and I start the process over again. I give her the two choices. Once she resigns herself to choosing option 1, I tell her how proud I am of her and I ask her for a hug, which she really wants. While I hug her I tell her I’m so happy she will be across from me because I can look at her beautiful eyes when we talk. She suddenly likes this idea.
  2. “I need you to…OK?” I used to think asking a child “OK?” after I gave an instruction was a sign of weakness. But now I see it, at least for baby girl, as a way to empower her to be a part of what she’s about to do. Obviously I still manipulate the situation to produce the desired result, but she gets to actually agree “all by herself”. “Baby girl, I need you to help me set the table, ok?” or “Baby girl, I need you to pick up your books, ok?”. She usually responds favorably to this kind of request. But in the instances where she may balk, I sprinkle the request with a compliment: “Baby girl, You are always so good at helping out, I need you to help me set the table, ok?” Compliments go far with her…really far. She wants to do good. She wants to be noticed for doing what she is supposed to do. If she’s doing something she knows is good and we are a little slow to notice her, she’ll say, “Momma aren’t you so very pwoud of me?” This is the part that impresses me. She really does want to do the right thing. We’ve just got to convince her of what it is sometimes.
  3. Logic At least with Baby girl, she gets logic. She really understands it. The key is to keep it simple and attainable. So don’t threaten her with tossing all her clothes in the trash if she doesn’t put them away. That’s obviously not going to happen and it’ll reduce the credibility of your future logic arguments. Logic to baby girl looks like this: “Baby girl, I need you to put all of your markers away because I’m worried that puppy dog will get a hold of them and start chewing on them. I don’t want a marker to get stuck in her belly because she will get very sick!” Baby girl is loyal to her dog. That dog isn’t going down on her watch, no sir. That appeal to logic (or really emotion) sets baby girl in motion quickly.

Obviously, there’s much to consider with a determined child…this is just a sampling of what works for ours. We often think of how much of a challenge baby girl is, where it comes from, and how to dismantle it without breaking her spirit. There’s no one way to tackle this and it’s a moving target. The key is to adapt and adjust. I’ll reiterate what I said earlier…I have failed at all of this. But I’ve also had success. And it’s those successes that you build on.

Children, Family, Holidays, Uncategorized

Top Ten Fall Activities for Families with Young Children

Fall is in the air! And you know what that means, right? It’s time to spend time together as a family. Making memories. Enjoying each other’s company…as a family. Together. All together. So, without further ado, here are our Top Ten Fall Activities for Families with Young Children!!

1. Go Apple-Picking

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young childrenThis is such a fun activity, especially if you have children in the 3-5 year old bracket. Because you know apple trees are taller than your kids at this age. And you also know that they must do everything (EVERYTHING) themselves, right? So, be prepared to bust your back lifting your little kid into the air to get an apple from the tree. And also know they are not strong enough to pull the apple off themselves. So be prepared to then hold the child up in the air with one hand while being sneaky enough to pull the apple into the child’s hand without them knowing you actually picked the apple. Bonus points for getting mud or questionable poop-like material smeared on your shirt and pants from your kid’s shoes.

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young children2. Play in a Pile of Leaves

Yes! A chore someone actually managed to turn into a “makin’ memories” thing. I think dads like this one the best. Because now dads have to get the rake out and start working up a sweat to bring enough leaves into a pile worthy of his kids jumping into it and literally undoing everything he’s just done. What’s even more special is when that awesome 3-5 year old age bracket wants in on the action and says, let’s all say it together, “I wanna do it myself!”. Hand over the oversized raked to the child and just pray you aren’t close enough to the window for the butt end of it to smash through as the child halfway maintains control while flinging the rake around and “raking leaves”. Bonus points for those of you who have two kids who want to do it themselves and only one rake.

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young children3. Go to a Pumpkin Patch

These pumpkin patches are popping up everywhere these days. So to get this straight, I have to pay to walk around your garden to pick out my own pumpkin. Then I have to cut it from the vine and lug it all the way back to the “pumpkin hut” to pay top dollar for said pumpkin. (I know you’re over-charging me and I know it’s all part of the experience). Please know that kids only have to go to the bathroom after you are carrying a pumpkin under each arm. Bonus points for any bee stings that may occur in this activity (parents included) because bees just don’t care about your fall memories.

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young children4. Pick out Halloween Costumes

Never mind the thousands of conversations with your kids that starts out with them saying, “You know what I’m gonna be for Halloween?”. And never mind that you must retain all the answers over the course of the prior six months when these conversations started. At last we are close enough to Halloween that you can reasonably assume that the costume your child wants now is the one he will want come October 31st. When you realize at the store that there are no more of his desired costumes, you must make a decision. Tell him and risk a meltdown or trek across town to another store and pray that the costume is there! Bonus points for the parent who buys the costume and whose child still manages to meltdown before exiting the store.

5. Visit a Fall Festival

Ah fall festivals…the crisp air, the jaunt into the country, the smell of cinnamon and pumpkin. The miles of traffic from similar-minded parents looking to etch memories into their kids’ heads if it kills them in the process. There’s nothing quite like underestimating the ability of your umbrella stroller on a gravel road that leads to a rocky path not built for strollers. Unless you’re trying to also hang an over-packed diaper bag from the handles completely not designed to hold a diaper bag. Bonus points for kids who have to go potty real bad but refuse to use a porta-potty.

6. Take a Walk on a Nature Trail

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young childrenWhat a lovely way to take in autumn in all it’s splendor. Who are we kidding? Take a walk anywhere with little kids and it will result in a pile of “found things” that better all be present during inventory counting at the car. So the idea is to enjoy the nature walk…maybe see a deer or pretty birds? No, you’re going to carry one of your kids back to the car because she skinned her knee and it’s bleeding down her leg and onto your fall-inspired flannel shirt. Bonus points for the parent who has to retrace steps because somewhere along the way your child’s shoe fell off.

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young children7. Make a Pie

Oh good grief…this is a mess. A hot mess. And someone will most likely get burned. Between “Let me do it!” and cracking an egg, be surprised if you end up with a pie at all. Little kid pies are like mystery prizes. There will be egg shells and a piece of sand or two, maybe some lint. Who knows. Upside is that the house will smell good because spices know their job and they always perform well. Bonus point to the parents who eat the pie.

8. Go for a Drive to See the Changing Leaves

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young childrenNow this is a great excursion. The kids are contained and you can put some relaxing music on and just enjoy the scenery. Don’t worry, once you’re out on the windy roads and far away from civilization. It’ll hit you. The beauty of the changing leaves will overwhelm you. If not, the smell of the diaper from the back seat will do it. There’s nothing like the feeling of hopelessness when you realize the poop has leaked onto the carseat itself so that smell? It ain’t going anywhere any time soon. Bonus points to the kid who arrives back in town wearing a diaper and nothing else because Mom and Dad forgot to put new “emergency clothes” in the diaper bag after the last explosion.

Top Ten Fall Activities for families with young children9. Visit a Petting Zoo

A lot of petting zoos have fall activities that are perfect for little kids. Things like coloring contests, face painting and cotton candy. Plus all the adorable, fluffy animals that your kid is deathly afraid of and wants nothing to do with. I smell a photo-op!! One day we’ll all look back and laugh at the picture of junior sitting on dad’s lap literally scared to death at the helpless rabbit sitting on junior’s lap. Bonus point for dad laughing his tail off instead of consoling junior. Because that’s also in the picture!

10. Take the Kids to Grandma’s House and then Go To A Movie

Now here’s a fall activity I can really get my arms around. Parents, this is realistic. This is the activity that’s going to make everyone happy. Grandma can do a fall craft with the kids and they can make those memories while Mom and Dad go relax in the cool, dark movie theatre. Go ahead and get that large popcorn and enjoy yourself. When the kids are a little older and more self sufficient, you can make those memories with them. For now, build up your energy. Because you’re gonna need it when you get the kids from Grandma’s house. You know she’s going to stuff them with “yummy sweet fall treats”, right?

 

Children, Family, Homeschool

Totality…almost.

Totality almost baby girlLast week was the week of the total eclipse across the entire continental United States. And we were in the path of totality…almost. We were in the path of 97% totality. What’s a measly 3%, anyway?! Well…when you’re dealing with the sun, apparently 3% of the sun is still super bright. More on that later.

So…the day of the eclipse arrived and the kids were super excited. This was a homeschool day focused completely on what happens with an eclipse, how the moon covers the sun, how the shadow screams across the ground lightning fast although it seems to us on the ground like it’s taking forever!! We had bought our glasses awhile back (shout out to dear husband for thinking of buying them back before the price jacked up with supply and demand!) and those glasses came with an eclipse book. So we poured over the book while we waited our turn for the big show. On the east coast, that was about 2:30pm so we had time to watch the eclipse on TV as it made its way across the country.

Pinhole Eclipse ViewerI had found cute pinhole eclipse viewers you can make out of cereal boxes so we spent some time making those as well. As much as my OCD self wanted to take command of this project, I made myself stand back and let the kids cut out the holes, tape the tin foil and…poke the hole in the foil! I need a minute for this one because every fiber of my being wanted to manage the ‘poke the hole’ step!!

But, I let them do the whole project and the kids ran outside to look in their viewers. They were not pleased. I’m not sure what they thought they were going to see, but a little bright circle at the bottom of a box of Special K was not it! So, the boxes were kind of flung to the side. But at least it was time spent having fun making a craft. Memories, right? 🙂

I had put on my viewing glasses just to see what the sun looks like through them and low and behold, the moon was already kissing the edge of the sun!! “The moon!!!”, I screamed like a little kid,  “I can see the moon!! It’s starting!!”. And my own little ones came scampering outside with their glasses loosely attached to their heads. It was in this moment that I realized that baby girl’s glasses would never stay on her face. So, the resourceful side of me poked holes in the back edge of the glasses and I tied twine pieces to the holes.

Then I tied the glasses to baby girl’s face. Yep…tied them to her face. Worked perfectly!

So…in all of this excitement we had told our dear children, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We can’t make it happen again so don’t miss it! We aren’t going to stop looking at the eclipse because you are having a fit. You are on your own until after the totality.” Because, for real…this IS a big deal!!

So, we had thought the wildcard would be baby girl. She’s got a knack for pitching a fit at the worst times. But she did great! No… the dark horse of the day was boy child and I’m debating to tell you why he was pouting right at the moment of maximum coverage of the moon…

He wanted to eat hummus. Right then. At that moment. Yeah. you read that right. He wanted to eat hummus. It was all we could do to get those glasses on his head and make him look at the sun!

“Look at the sun right now, son!!” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that…

The moment was upon us. All the kids were quietly watching. We took off our glasses to look at the darkness around us that wasn’t there…begin commentary now:

Totality almost eclipse maximumHey, it isn’t dark!..Hey, the moon isn’t completely covering the sun..I thought the street lights would come on!..It isn’t even cold!…Where’s the stars??

This picture is the moment of maximum moon cover. This is 97% totality:

So, feeling a bit disappointed ourselves, we start talking about how bright the sun is. How when only 3% of the sun is showing, it’s still bright enough to cast shadows, still bright enough that we can see to read, still bright enough to feel hot outside, still bright enough to burn your eyes …It’s bright!! Although for a few minutes, we were able to see a single planet in the sky.

So, it was totality…almost. But for us, it was an entire day of lifetime memory making. And though I didn’t see the Bailey’s beads, the wispy corona or the diamond ring effect I had an entire day of time with the kids that we will undoubtedly be talking and laughing about years in the future around our Thanksgiving table…

“Remember that summer where we had a total (almost) eclipse?! Who was complaining about the hummus??

 

 

 

Children, Family, Uncategorized

Spiritual Conversation Prompts with Your Kids

Heaven's GatesIt’s an interesting thing to have a conversation with kids about spirituality. Sometimes we put our over-thinking onto our kids when they don’t have that issue. Younger kids take things at face value. They aren’t puzzled by unexplainable things to the extent that older kids and grown ups are. I have conversations with my kids as they show interest in a topic and only take it as far as their curiosity does. That is, give them information until they are satisfied and then leave the topic until another questions arises. So, I’ve put together some of our spiritual conversation prompts that really get the kids’ thinking juices bubbling:

1. What do you think Heaven looks like?

This is a great conversation and we’ve had many creative ideas of what Heaven looks like. I usually pause to allow my kids to envision the best, prettiest, most perfect place they can imagine. We talk about how there’s no tears in Heaven, how it’ll always be happy and beautiful. That we’ll see God and that we’ll get to talk to Jesus. The possibilities are endless. Outside of keeping the ideas aligned with perfection, I just let them imagine and describe what they imagine. I can’t say for sure if they’re right or wrong and I tell them I don’t know. And that’s OK to not know. The kids don’t seem to mind at all.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:2.

2. How are God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit Three and also One?

This is such an interesting question as an adult, let alone as a child. All through this conversation with the kids, at the end of the day, we don’t know for absolutely sure how this is possible. What I like to put out there for the kids to think about is that somethings of God are so outside of our ability to think through. And that’s ok. We’ll find out for sure when we get to Heaven. In the meantime, how I explain the trinity to my young kids is that the three operate as one- God. God the Father…always been, always is and always will be. God the Son- Jesus, who died for us and is our defender. He’s our filter. God looks at us through Jesus. And God the Holy Spirit- the Holy Spirit is the “mover”. He’s the action of God. So- distinctly three and yet one. And it’s ok if you can’t get your mind around it.

Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 1 Corinthians 8:6

3. How does God hear all of our prayers?

This is a good question that really causes us to realize how powerful God really is. When you start to dissect the impossibility of it (in the realm of humans), that’s when the awe sets in. God never sleeps, He hears every prayer. How is this possible?! How many people are there on Earth? And how many prayers are being prayed at any given time? The Bible tells us that God hears every prayer:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers of the people offered in this place. (II Chronicles 7:14-15)

Hearing a prayer is not the same as answering a prayer. And sometimes the answer is not the one that we want.  Now, this is a good segue into the next question.

4. Why does God sometimes not answer our prayer the way we want?

This is kind of tough question and it’s a great opportunity to teach the kids that God is not a genie waiting to grant them their every wish. God won’t give you a million dollars because you ask for it. The Bible says “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.- James 4:3”.

So the motive to just have money is the wrong motive. Asking God to help you find resources to further His Kingdom would be a more appropriate prayer. And even then, the answer God gives is one that is perfect in His plan, though it might not be the answer we want or expect. And that’s OK!!

5. Why do bad things happen to good people?

This question is a really difficult one and it’s one that grown-ups have trouble understanding. When I talk to my kids about this, I want them to understand that God isn’t behind the bad things happening to good people, Satan is. We live in a fractured creation (I love this description!) and because of the sin of the world, perfection isn’t here. Thinking of how big God is and how small we actually are, I remind my children that in the end God wins. God wins! Time in God’s realm is so much bigger than our time here on Earth. A day to Him is a thousand years to us. So, His plan isn’t finished yet. The bad things that happen aren’t the end. God’s plan isn’t finished yet. Until the day that God rights things, we have to live with sin and choose every single day to look toward God and to choose Him! His plan for us is secure far beyond the things of Earth.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

6. How did God make everything in six days?

Easy!! He’s God! This is a fun topic that doesn’t require too much technicality because kids’ imaginations allow them to see the “impossibility” as almost magical. And that’s ok. God made man out of the dust of the Earth. So he can literally do anything. And yes, in six days. Six mornings and six evenings. As we talk about the fantastical aspects of this, we move easily into how detailed God was in every single thing he created. How each thing is necessary to the other thing. Everything on Earth is connected and God created it that way.

You alone are the LORD You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You.- Nehemiah 9:6

7. What will it look like when Jesus comes back?

Sometimes I’ll ask my kids this question when we see a remarkably beautiful sunset. You know what I’m talking about. The sunset with the humongous fluffy white clouds and the sun majestically outlining the clouds with fiery yellow. Sun rays beaming across the sky. This must be what it’ll look like when Jesus comes back! It’s a good starter for talking about what the kids imagine Jesus return will look like. And it usually leads to other conversation about how no one knows when he’ll return, about how we should always be ready for Him, and about how beautiful he will look when he comes to get us. My kids always think of this return as joyous and exciting. It’ll be unmistakable…it’ll be loud and everyone will see it!

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him. Revelation 1:7

8. How come I can’t hear God?

God wants us to get to know Him and we can do that through the Bible. His spoken word is in the Bible and though we can’t hear Him audibly right now, we can hear Him through His word. The scripture- parables, instructions, lessons and testimonies- all have the voice of God. We can “hear” God, but we have to listen differently than with our ears. As we study God’s Word, we will get to know Him. Keep studying and keep learning.

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son . . . Hebrews 1:1-2

Children, Family, Uncategorized

8 prayers I pray for my children

8 prayers I pray for my childrenSo often I find myself wondering what kind of world we are leaving our children. It is in these moments that I find myself silently praying for my kids and most often it’s one of these 8 prayers I pray for my children. Mind you, these prayers aren’t lofty nor are they spoken aloud. These are the silent, constant prayers that mothers find themselves praying.

Whether it’s in specific thought, or during those times when sleep evades us…when tragedy strikes another family and we are counting our blessings while grieving with them. A mother’s prayer is constant. It’s a bath of protection and blessing and desires and hopes and faith…a jumbled mess we hand over to the Father. These are 8 prayers I pray for my children.

I pray for my children’s safety

Our world is so dangerous. Some may say it’s always been dangerous, but I see it creeping precariously close to the safety of the home. People are becoming more evil in how they would harm children or how they would harm random people, no matter the age. I pray for my children’s safety. I pray for God to protect them with warrior angels. Warriors. To fight the evil that exists around us at all times. So I pray for my children’s safety. As Girl Child has prayed for, “the strongest bubble that no one can break through!”.

I pray for my children to stay close to each other

This one sits in the back of my mind and I pray on it when it bubbles to the front. I pray my children remain close friends. Hopefully we will be around for a long time but when we are gone, my children will have each other. And I pray that they rely on each other and confide in each other. I pray that they look out for each other and keep up with each other. They can still irritate the mess out of each other because that is sibling right, but at the end of the day I pray that they always love each other. It’s simple but it’s important.

I pray for my children’s future spouses

Yep. And I know many other parents who do the same thing. I pray for my son’s wife and my daughters’ husbands. And I pray for their safety and I pray for God to guard their hearts and minds. That they are immersed in God’s Holy Word and I pray for their health. I pray that God helps them to make good decisions along the way as they are growing. It’s all important…from childhood to adulthood and these future spouses need to be bathed in prayer just as much as my own children are.

I pray for my children’s hearts

I pray that the seeds we plant in their hearts about their Heavenly Father are deep-rooted, healthy and strong. That they will judge everything they encounter with the knowledge they gain each day from studying the Bible and that the world is no match for God’s promises. I pray that they have joy in their hearts that cannot be taken away.

I pray for my children’s sweet dreams

Sweet dreams. Sleep is the place for rest and recuperation from a busy day. I pray for sweet dreams for my children so that their sleep is truly restful. So that their bodies can rejuvenate and be ready for the next day of learning and excitement. Sweet dreams ensure peace whereas nightmares causes anxiousness. So I pray they are able to rest and that their imaginations will deliver wonderful stories to them throughout the night.

I pray for what my children will become when they are grown

I can only imagine now what each child will become or where their interests will take them. So I pray for what they will become because all of that starts now while they are young. What they’re exposed to, what captures their interest, what comes naturally to them…it starts now. I pray that they find something they are truly good at and something that grabs their interest. And I pray they love what they become.

I pray for my children’s happiness

Happiness is a luxury and I pray my children have an abundance of happiness in their young lives. I pray they see the happiness in their world. That they see the joy in the little things all around them. I pray that their happiness is infectious and that they share it with as many people as possible. And I pray that their happiness only grows and that they enjoy being happy.

I pray for my children’s childhood

Their childhood is so very important. So many children no longer get to have a real childhood because they are forced to grow up so quickly. Perhaps it is how fast our world is with technology. I pray my children are able to hold fast to their childhood and that they enjoy their time for as long as possible. I also pray that we are able to protect their childhood and we are able to shield them from whatever seeks to steal our children’s childhood away from them.

So I pray for them all the time. Sometimes with words, sometimes my prayer is simply the thoughts in my mind and on my heart. But I pray for my children. Every day.

Children

Just like that she was 8

And then she was 8I remember the day she was born like it was yesterday. She was a complete miracle. And just like that she was 8. People say “blink and you’ll miss it” and you never really understand how true that is until it happens.

We had struggled with infertility for over ten years before we were blessed with the birth of girl child. And do you know, after all that struggle we almost lost her. Actually “they” almost lost me, too. I had a placenta abruption before the emergency C-section that the doctor ordered because something didn’t look right to him. Little did he know I was hemorrhaging internally and Girl Child lost her supply of oxygen as a result of the abruption. We were both very bad off when she was born.

Fortunately, a flood of specialists swarmed the surgical suite, much to my husband’s concern and yet relief that so many came to help our baby. And thank God for my doctor and his skill in repairing me as well. Girl Child rebounded quickly and was whisked off to the NICU for a brief observation while I was sent to ICU to monitor my need for a transfusion since I had lost so much blood.

Once we finally met, I looked down at this warm, wiggly little being and tried to imagine what she would look like as a young girl.

And then she was eightAnd just like that she was 8.

Where did the time go? I remember being there for all of it. And it takes forever to get through a week, but here we are…8 years later.

She’s defining who she is to herself, who she is to her friends, who she is to her parents and who she is to her Lord and Savior. And as much as I want to just continue to keep her in the contained box of childhood, I know I have to open the lid and let her climb out to see what else the world has for her.

So we talk. And I let her do. By herself. Then I show her. I reenforce what she already knows.

When she finds them, I fill in the gaps. I ask and then I listen. I redirect and then I back up a step.

Back up a step…this is the hardest thing. But if she’s got wings to fly, I have to get out of the way so she can start using them.