Backyard Baseball: No More Ghost Runners (Motherhood Hack)

LauraHealthy Living, Motherhood, Motherhood Hacks, Physical Activity0 Comments

dsc_0842

Recently, the kids and I have been playing baseball after lunch.

There are only two people on each team, unless I’m wearing the baby in the Bjorn and our 2-year old decides to be my running partner. Then it’s 2 vs. 4, but the team of 2 definitely has the advantage over the bobbling team of 4.

Within minutes of “Play ball!” there’s a player on First and a player on Second and no one to bat them home.  In days gone by, we’d send the player on Second back home and create a ghost runner on Second. You, too? But this stinks because then the ghost runner gets all the thrill of rounding the bases and tagging home plate! What’s the fun of that? (Who invented ghost runners, anyway? They are the most confusing things in history. They get all tangled up in themselves and I can never keep them straight.)

SO… I thought of something to hack backyard baseball.

dsc_0843

We put a bat at every base. Then, whoever is “up”, bats from the base he is already on. The pitcher and the outfielder simply rotate and wah-lah, the field rotates, too. The Batter swings, hits, and both players advance to the next base(s).

dsc_0845

Here’s Kai batting from Second. See if you can follow this: if he strikes out here, it counts as an out, but he stays on base. (Lia is waiting on First base and will bat next, hopefully sending Kai to Third… or even Home!) If he begins to run to Third and a Superstar Mother with a baby-in-a-Bjorn happens to tag him out, he’s out as a runner and heads back to Home plate to try again.

(Don’t worry, you’ll totally understand what I mean once you’re out there with the kiddos.)

dsc_0846

We simply alternate between the batters, pitching to them at whichever base they land upon. There are 3 outs and all of the other rules apply.

We think that playing with a bat at every base is just more fun, quicker, less confusing, and provides more opportunities to pitch, bat, and run!

dsc_0847

ANNOUNCER: “AND THERE’S MALACHI STEALING HOME PLATE WHILE THE  PITCHER PREPARES TO PITCH TO SECOND BASE AND THE OUTFIELDER TAKES A PHOTOGRAPH FROM THE PORCH AND SNEAKS INSIDE FOR SOME CHOCOLATE!”

Backyard baseball at its best. 🙂

 

Narration and Watercolors: A Daily Ritual

LauraAll Posts, Homeschooling0 Comments

dsc_0757

One of the things I discovered this summer was the beauty of coupling daily narration with watercolor painting.  It has become one of our favorite times of day.

I typically don’t incorporate painting in our daily routine, but I was greatly inspired by some Waldorf and Charlotte Mason blogs.  (Although… type “Waldorf watercolor painting” into Pinterest and you’ll see our table-scape is much simpler than theirs, and good-grief, some kids out there can paint. But we’re doing our best, and growing each day. I adore the idea of lighting the table with beeswax candles like the Waldorfs, but I cannot imagine adding flames to our elbow-bumping, water-swashling, reaching-across-the-table-to-swirl-a-paintbrush-in-another-person’s-perfect-shade-of-teal experience.)

When the littles are napping, I gather the three older children at the table and read to them: this year, our stack of books contains history, a read-aloud, poetry, and fables.

This is a joy to each of us! I could not foresee what a peaceful pleasure this would be to each one of us.  Our sixth grader is the one who is really loving it: we’re reading aloud from Sonlight Core C, which is geared more toward our third grader, so the added challenge of water-colors appeals to her very much and challenges her to apply the text in a deeper way.

dsc_0758

Here are a couple of tips that have given us a smooth start and (I think) a promising future.

The Key: Make the process as simple and easy as possible.

Organize your supplies: With just a few weeks under our belt, we’ve figured out which supplies we need to store right by the table. We have a cabinet that holds it all: brushes, pencils, and paints sit on top; paper is stacked inside; and plastic placemats are tucked underneath. That way, while I bring the stack of books to the table, one child distributes the placemats, another fills the water bowls, and a third grabs the paints and paintbrushes. Clean-up is just as easy.

 

dsc_0820

 

dsc_0819

Simplify your system: At first, I turned the children loose on their blank paper while I plowed ahead with the reading. But then I noticed that while I was in the midst of reading Window to the World’s heart-rending description of homeless children, the painters were digging out pencils to write their narration for Red Sails to Capri next to their freshly painted seascape. Instead of learning how they could pray for the millions of children who have no home, they were wondering how to spell “Monsieur Jacques”.

So, we recognized that we need to follow an intentional order of operations:

  1. Listen to the first reading that I’d like you to narrate and paint today. I select the portion that I want the children to narrate and paint, and read that first while they have a little non-messy afternoon snack.
  2. Narrate aloud. (Malachi starts things off since he’s the youngest. We add details as we move up the ranks to the 6th grader.)
  3. Write down the narration or a quotation on watercolor or card-stock paper. (I write Malachi’s for him and help the girls with questions in spelling or syntax. As often as possible, I model searching the text for the answers. For example, when Lia wanted to paint a picture of Monsieur Jacques’ funny daydream about an entire family named “Capri,” we found the passage in the book so she could copy the names precisely.)
  4. Paint! (We’re off! The kids begin painting an illustration to their narration, and I continue reading aloud…)

dsc_0756

At the end of the hour, we lay the day’s paintings on the kitchen counter to dry (it really doesn’t take very long), and we clean up the paints. So far, I’ve been stacking the paintings in my ever-growing “finished assignments” tray. I plan to laminate them back-to-back or stick them in page protectors, then add them to their portfolios.

As with almost anything, I recommend scouting out a “this works for us” system asap. This will increase your pleasure as well as your odds of continuing. Here’s to creating favorite times of day…

 

Kids Laugh A Lot, Too

LauraAll Posts, Healthy Living, Homeschooling, Laugh About, Marriage, Motherhood

YouTube Preview Image

This is part 2 of my previous post; it’s the other side of the childhood coin. Sure kids cry a lot, but they also laugh a lot… and it is wonderful, isn’t it? There’s nothing like a child’s laughter.

I often think…

Our kids laugh a lot.

dsc_0324

Their laughter is glorious, can’t-get-enough-of-it-laughter. Why, just today, the kids were watching Ice Age, giggling uncontrollably at Sid and his antics. I wished I could bottle their contagious, innocent, beautiful laughter and treasure it forever.

At the lunch table today, they were laughing so hard and I had to join in. But, now only a few hours later, I’m wondering, what were we hooting about this time? Shoot. I told myself to savor it, to remember it, but I’ve already forgotten. What was it that inspired the best sound in all the world? Because I find myself in this forgetful predicament too often, I try to jot these things down in a memory book. Then we can look back over it and laugh all over again. As a family, we replay the funny mannerisms, the homemade jokes, and every golden moment of the amazing toddler years when everything a child says is profound and hilarious at the same time. (How do they do that?)

dsc_0638

I write as many of these funny moments down so they become our lore, our tradition, our fabric. Laughter is a healing balm in life, a gift from God that helps us to survive.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine…” Proverbs 17:22

Our family-laughter is important to us and it makes us who we are: not making fun of someone we love, but making fun with them.

Years ago, I heard that laughter bonds people together like nothing else. I believe it! Laughter helps us to put our guards down, to stand shaking-shoulder to shaking-shoulder, to smile unreservedly at one another, and to consider ourselves the best of friends.

When a friend of mine was heading off on her honeymoon, she asked me to pray that she and her groom would laugh a lot together. What a request! And how wise to desire something that would disassemble borders, warm coldness, and join the two-become-one deeply and joyfully.

Would you pray that we laugh a lot together?

dsc_0748

When our home bubbles over with laughter – and I’m glad to say it often does – we are rich and strong together.  The very pillars and foundation of our home are strengthened by our children, who create and share laughter so easily. After all, it’s their mother tongue: they’ve been laughing since before they could speak, or walk, or run.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine…” Proverbs 17:22

As a family, we’ve loved the Kid Snippet videos and have laughed until tears rolled down our cheeks. We’ve loved the classic Smile! Your On Candid Camera videos, like this one. Of course, there are hilarious movies that we’ve enjoyed together like Ice Age, Ice Age 2, and recently Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

This year, I’m building into our family with more laughter.

Here’s how: I’m intentionally bringing it to the dinner table. I have the privilege of enjoying the kids’ shenanigans over lunch, but at dinner time, Daddy’s home and we’re all together. May prayer, food, and laughter bond us together this year, and next year, and the next one after that.

My plan is to pass our family joke book around the table once a week or so. I plan to print out church bulletin bloopers, some elephant jokes – which happen to be my personal favorites – and some classic (and kid-friendly) Jack Handy quotes (also, my cup of tea). We’ll see where this takes us and we will celebrate, welcome, and increase laughter in our home! Cheers!

“A cheerful heart has a continual feast!” Proverbs 15:15

What makes you and your kids laugh? We’d love to know! 🙂

 

“Kids Cry A Lot”: and What the Gospel Has to Do With It.

LauraAll Posts, Motherhood

p1030911

“Our kids cry a lot.”

That’s what came to my mind yesterday, after the third episode of tears in a matter of minutes.

I often tell myself, “I can’t stand all of this crying!”

(It’s true. Life here is not all Playmobil and bell-ringing.)

Kids cry a lot.

Especially the little ones. In fact, the littler a person, the more he or she cries. All of the books say that newborns cry for 3 hours a day. (3 hours a day!) I think the books should mention that this does not suddenly go away when Baby digs into his first birthday cake. Toddlers rival that “3 hour” statistic with vigor! Quite honestly, daily crying doesn’t really stop until… until…

Well, I guess the books should just say, “Children cry a lot.”

They cry when things don’t go their way.

They cry when they are tired, when they are hungry, when they are thirsty.

Children cry when they fall. And they fall a lot.

They cry when they run into things. And they run into things a lot.

They cry when they see a spider, or a mascot, or a stray cat.

They cry when math is difficult, when reading is difficult, when cleaning is difficult.

Children cry when they’ve been wrongly accused and they cry when they’ve been rightly accused.

They cry when they are wet, or cold, or hot.

They cry when someone has hurt them. They cry when they’ve done the hurting.

They cry when they don’t want to leave. They cry when they do want to leave.

They cry when they want mommy and when they don’t want mommy.

They cry when they want to do something “by myself!” and they cry when they need help.

Children cry when they want something that belongs to someone else. They cry when someone else wants something that belongs to them.

They cry when they must wait and they cry when they must come immediately.

Sometimes, it seems as if children cry and cry and cry.

p1030672

I compiled this list when I was laying in bed last night, shedding a few of my own exhausted tears into the pillow.

I reflected on the validity of the experiences that cause children to cry. And I realized this:

Children cry because life is hard.

Life is hard from the very beginning – from the first breath. Life challenges every fiber in us and exposes our every weakness. And because of that, we cry.

Children cry because they are honest: childhood is not all roses. It may be full of beautiful and charming experiences, but it’s also full of many disappointments and tensions.

In childhood, our needs, instincts, and ideals are threatened more fiercely than in any other season of our lives.

Our fears are born with us and they loom before us, at their largest and most powerful when we are at our smallest and weakest.

Too often, our tender skin breaks open. Too often, our tender hearts break open.

I want to change my response to all of the crying.

I want to transform my muttered, “I can’t stand all of this crying,” to a resolved, “I can stand all of this crying with God’s help and for His glory.”

The transformation will happen as I look to the gospel, discovering what God thinks about the crying that punctuates our days.  Gospel treasures will strengthen me to bear up under all of the tears – theirs and my own.

  • Jesus cried perfectly, to redeem our imperfect tears.Jesus always cried for the right reasons: His sorrows were perfectly aligned with God’s heart. This was for our sake: that His righteous tears would be imputed to those who believe in Him. Every time our children cry out of stubbornness, selfishness, or anger, we can thank Jesus for crying perfectly for our sakes.
  • God gave us the ability to cry; He has good purposes for it.

    God beckons us to Himself through our instinct to cry. He asks for our tears, He welcomes our complaints, and He moves Heaven and earth to bear our sorrows.

    The psalmist wrote what has been true of billions of people throughout history: “This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.” Psalm 34: 6

    Crying is an appetite that God gave us so that we would come near to Him. Nothing on earth satisfies our tears the way God does. Tears are our piece of a puzzle that is completed only by God’s listening ear and comforting presence. When we cry, we reveal that we were made to be comforted, befriended, loved, and helped by someone perfectly merciful and good.

    When we cry, we demonstrate the gospel: things on earth are not alright, but that they will be some day.From my child’s first cry – and all of the crying in between – may I usher her towards her Heavenly Father, who sees and cares for every sorrow. Every day, over and over again, may I see my children’s tears as countless opportunities to point my little ones to Jesus, the One who deliberately assures us that He will personally wipe every tear from our eyes.

  • God entrusts adults with the ability to comfort children for His sake.“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly... “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (excerpts from Romans 12)

Who is “lowlier” than a child? Children rely on adults for every earthly need. They desperately need us to associate with them in the midst of their weakness – because of their weakness. They need us to kneel down, look them in the eyes, and help them. Do they need food? Sleep? Do they need prayer? Do they need us to teach them a virtue like self-control, kindness, or obedience? Do they simply need our affection?

Though they are not our enemies, children are hungry and thirsty. They need us to overcome our own self-preservation and comfort to feed and help them. They are facing evil in themselves and in the world around them – from sickness to jealousy, from hunger to selfishness – with naiveté and tender hearts.

May God give us the grace to resist selfishness, busy-ness, and irritability so that we may see our children’s tears as an opportunity serve Christ by serving His precious children.

  • In order to answer this call to persevere and love my children when they cry, I must plan ahead to be strong, patient, and faithful.

    Jesus not only cried perfectly, but He also comforted cryers perfectly for our sakes and as an example for us. Part of His ministry was handling His own body well: Jesus slept, hiked the mountains, prayed, spent time with friends, and pursued solitude so He could comfort, feed, and heal people – over and over again. Like Jesus, I find that sleep, exercise, friends, solitude, and prayer fuel me for a day of service, too.

    Other God-given gifts strengthen me to face a day of tears as well: things like soothing music, small ice packs at-the-ready in the freezer, bandaids upstairs and downstairs, a consistent and simple schedule, and wholesome food are daily resources. I try to think ahead about the things that tend to weaken our specific children and address those needs before it’s too late. But many times, I am unable to prevent or stop the tears.

    And that is when we turn again, and again, and again to our patient Heavenly Father. And we cry.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (from Revelation 21)

One of our Best Curriculum Investments for Medieval History

LauraAll Posts, Homeschooling, Story of the World

DSC_0790

This is our second time through history. (We follow the four-year Classical education cycle of studying  each Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern, and Modern History for a full year. The plan is to make this cycle 3 times with ever-deepening reading by high school graduation.  We use a combination of Story of the World and Sonlight. We love this history- and literature-rich education.)

This year, we are studying medieval history for the second time. The last time we studied this era, Vivienne was in 2nd grade and Lia was just a little pre-Ker. Now they are in 6th grade and 3rd grade! So, when I pulled out the tupperware bin labeled “Medieval History: SOTW Vol. 2” I felt a bit like the Pevensies when they returned to Narnia in Prince Caspian. There I was in the dusky basement, pulling out plastic swords, dusting off tiny shields, and rediscovering plastic helmets that now fit our daughter who didn’t even exist when I packed them away four years ago.

I set the dress-ups on a bench in the school room to greet the children on First Day of School Morning. They were thrilled with the simple “Medieval Photo Booth” that greeted them. In no time, our home was visited by a knight, a princess, a maiden, and a Joan of Arc.

DSC_0783

The biggest cheers went up when the children discovered that I brought up the Medieval Playmobil Castle. Four years ago, this was by far the best curriculum investment that we made during our medieval studies. We gave it to the girls for Christmas and I was amazed to watch them take everything they were learning during our read-aloud time and “practice” it through playing. With no prompting from me, boys were trained into chivalrous knighthood, kings and queens ruled with discernment, stews were cooked, criminals prosecuted (it’s quite a dungeon…), and arts and crafts were taught amongst the villagers.

Now, four years later, I am seeing the same thing: all of the day’s work flows right into the hours (and hours) of play.

The vocabulary and themes that we read and discuss during the history lesson are reviewed, practiced, and experienced through this delightful, creative, and limitless toy.

DSC_0785

DSC_0791

DSC_0788

I don’t require worksheets or tests – or even projects – when I can see and hear that the children are processing, remembering, and internalizing the medieval ages through play.

Besides the books we read, our best curriculum investment has been the Playmobil Medieval Castle, an archer, and a few families. It’s a feast for the Medieval Year!

 

Morning Time

LauraAll Posts, Homeschooling, Morning Time

DSC_0742 (1)

Happy Back-to-School!! Or rather, “Let the games begin”! We’re studying Medieval History this year and are looking forward to a rollicking time.

Our homeschool day begins with Morning Time.

For years, we’ve started each homeschool day by taking time to look at the calendar and observe the day God has given us, to look out the window and notice the weather, to look into Scripture for the day’s wisdom, and to sing a song or two together. I’ve always geared it to the littlest ones and kept it short and sweet.

This summer, I got so recharged and inspired about Morning Time by listening to every single Your Morning Basket podcast. My vision for Morning Time bloomed: now, I see it as a time for us to gather as a family to learn and enjoy the most important things. It’s a time for me to share goodness, truth, and beauty with all of the children together before they each begin working individually.

After listening to so many beautiful interviews about various approaches to Morning Time, I developed a plan that will work well for our family. I’m borrowing Sarah Mackenzie’s idea of “Scripture, Hymn, Memory Work, and one other thing”.

DSC_0744

BREAKFAST AND SCRIPTURE: For a couple of weeks now, we’ve been listening to our Scripture during breakfast. That way, I can eat with the children and we can devote our attention to the reading. This year, we’re listening to the gospels, one chapter a day. After we listen, we each share one thing we learned about Jesus from the passage. I love this ritual and hope to keep it going through the year.

CLEAN UP BREAKFAST TABLE TOGETHER

HYMN: I purchased Hymns of Grace, a recently published hymnal by The Masters Seminary containing all of the classics that we know and love as well as hymns by Townend, Getty, Kauflin, and many other gifted contemporary hymn writers. (It’s awesome.) I chose 5 hymns for each month of the year that I want the children to learn. We’ll cycle through the list several times a month.

MEMORY WORK: We’re starting the year by memorizing “Jabberwocky” and Psalm 91. (They’re actually similar in some ways… and they appeal to a certain 5 year old who loves a sword and shield.)

DSC_0737

And… that sweet “ONE OTHER THING”: We’ll switch this up from day-to-day according to this schedule:

Monday: Art (Chalk pastels, fingerprint characters, etc.)

Tuesday: Nature Study (in sketch book)

Wednesday: “Life Lessons” (I am always brimming with lessons about character; habits; personal information; safety; manners; and care for home, self, others. This provides a deliberate space-and-time for me to share these lessons with my kiddos.)

Thursday: Artist/ Music Study: composers, violin, ballet, baseball (We’ll watch a YouTube clip about someone doing something excellent. These are our children’s particular interests and I want them to see someone performing their craft at “its greatest”.)

Friday: Group Game (Something that gets our brains working, blood pumping, or laughter flowing like Memory, SET, Hide & Seek, etc.)

That’s the plan for Morning Time! It’s a stick-to-your-ribs feast at the top of the morning, fueling us with purpose and inspiration throughout the day.

What does your Morning Time look like??

 

How to Transform Your Child’s Screen-Time into Relationships and Connection

LauraAll Posts, Motherhood

DSC_0362

Usually, I wait until I’ve tried something for a while before I share it with you. But this time, I’m so excited about an idea that I’m going to share it with you before we’ve truly taken it on the road.

I think it’s a good one…

This particular idea was birthed from desperation.

Here’s the scenario: A child asks a great question like, “How do submarines get into the water in the first place?” or “Where do sloths live?” or “How did the Russians survive their economic crisis?”

Until recently, I’d say, “I don’t know. Let’s look it up!”

We’d gather around my phone or computer as I type in “How do submarines get into the water”…

Then – defying all filters – strange graphic medical imagery, violent movie ads, and mostly-naked people show up in ads, video options, and images.  As soon as these images appear on the screen, I try to shield the screen, move away from the kids, or close the laptop and say, “Well, I’ll just have to look this up later.”

The worst part is that although I feel irritated by the technology, I tend to take my irritation out on the children. And all they did was ask a good question.

The stress and disappointment of exposing my children to junk over and over again (precisely when they are thinking and wondering), is too much for me.

DSC_0315

So, here’s my newly minted idea:

When my kids ask a question, I thumb through my mental Rolodex of Friends-and-Relations and look for someone we know who may know the answer.

Then, we call them on the phone or ask them in person. 

I love this idea because it connects us into our natural community, builds relationships, develops communication skills, and causes us to respect the knowledge and expertise of our friends.

I love it because it honors the child’s wonder, exchanging human thought for human thought without visual pollution. (Or the stress of having to “Look away, sweetie.” “Try to forget that scary image.” “Well, maybe we just have to get used to seeing lots of cellulite.”)

It’s simple. It’s classic. I think it’s gonna work.

And…we’re off to a great start! In fact, just today we received a call from a friend answering our question about submarines. The conversation at the lunch table was, “I had no idea that Mr. Mark is a submarine expert! He’s actually been on a submarine?!”

 

“How To Survive the Day with Littles”, OR “How Having 3 Kids Is Harder Than 5”

LauraAll Posts, Motherhood


DSC_0210

While our older two daughters have been at a daily art camp for two weeks, I’ve been home with our three youngest children ages 5, 2, and newborn. I love our younger children dearly and am grateful that our family continues to enjoy the little years. In fact, I have a blog post coming about how I am filled-to-the-brim with joy just to keep the nursery rhymes fresh, the Bible stories simple, and the playtimes sweet… for a little while longer.

But this particular post is about how being home with three little children is tough.

Without my two helpful and creative older daughters at home, I’m remembering the weight of “the early years”.

Suddenly, I’ve had to take care of every request for help and come up with every fun idea. (Our just-turned-5-year old does help with all of his might, but… he’s 5 and just starting to make his way in the world.) By now, our older daughters help out in every way. It has been years since most of the household tasks were on my plate. So when the girls aren’t home, I feel like I’m walking around in circles with my arms full of babies and my mind full of limitless tasks to accomplish.

The hardest part about our older daughters’ absence has been missing their fun! The girls are so vibrant: full of ideas, initiative, creativity, laughter, insights, and care for each person in our family. Over the years, they have grown into pillars of our home. We depend on them in countless ways. And we miss them.

These two weeks have reminded me that having several little ones at home – without older children – is an all-consuming calling. In order to thrive this week (well, often just survive), I’ve dusted off 3 old habits from my early motherhood years. I thought I’d share them with you today:

3 Helpful Tips to Survive the Day: For Mothers of Littles

  1. Keep simple expectations. Each day, I jot down one or two fun things I could do with my children and one or two chores that I want to accomplish. Some days, we complete each thing; some days we don’t. But keeping my “To Do” list short-and-sweet increases my odds of redeeming the time and making the most of our days together.
  2. Choose a theme for the week to inspire fun ideas.
    DSC_0219
    I haven’t planned a “theme week” in a loooong time, but when I’m home with several young children, a theme tends to invigorate my imagination and engage the children.The first week was “Beach Week” and we did one simple thing each day that had something to do with the beach: we read a beach book, looked at sea shells, played with water, and played with sand.  On Friday, we had our “Beach Party” even though it was raining.

    (‘Lest you think it was fancy, I’ve decided to share some photos from our half-hour imaginative get-away. This Beach Party was super-simple, but they loved it. In fact, they truly thought they were at the beach. I’m not kidding. I think it was the Beach Boys Pandora station that sealed the deal and transported them to Avalon. It turned out to be a refreshing get-away for me, too; I had a hoot taking photos and enjoying a fruit smoothie of my own.)

    Complementary background music so you can get the full experience: YouTube Preview ImageDSC_0199
    DSC_0201
    DSC_0208
    DSC_0206

  3. Pace the day in small chunks of time.
    Because I have a newborn who is on a 3-hour schedule, I see our day in 3-hour chunks. Each day, I try to focus on what we’re going to do during the baby’s next nap cycle so I don’t get intimidated by the whole day looming before me.This morning, while the baby was sleeping, we played a little baseball outside. Now, we’re inside and the children are playing with play-doh and listening to the Kids’ Praise “Play Ball!” album while I write this post.After the next nap cycle, we’ll pile into the car to drop off our recycling and buy eggs from our Amish neighbors ($1.50 for a dozen fresh eggs!).

    After that… well, I’ll think about that later! The point is, with 3 little ones and many, many needs, I do better when I focus on getting through a few hours at a time, intentionally filling that time with something specific to accomplish or enjoy.

    I hope these simple tips are helpful to another mother-of-littles out there who needs to know she’s not alone. 🙂

BTW: To the mother of young children who looks at bigger families and thinks, “I could NEVER do that!”, take heart.

You could!

To tell you the truth, I think that raising 3 little ones at home is harder than raising 5 multi-aged children.

Really! It’s harder.

So, feel like the rock-star you are.

And remember that those little children who need so much from you today will grow in maturity and ability. You’re love and attention during these early years will be a big part of that! May your children grow to love helping the family. May you sign them up for art camp and suddenly realize that they’ve become pillars of your home who love and care for you and your family.

 

Motivate Your Kids Without Bribery, Candy, or Charts

LauraMotherhood, Motherhood Hacks

DSC_0255

Back in the day when I only had one child, I motivated her by making colorful charts for the refrigerator and cheering her on while she worked on “going potty” or “saying please” or pronouncing “sh” correctly. I could affirm her and help her to reach each every great aspiration. I took photos and rewarded her with a little treat after a few weeks-worth of hard work.

These days, with five kiddos to keep track of, there are no more charts.

I’ve tried to use motivational charts – oh, I’ve tried –  but I’ve concluded that it must be humanly impossible to parent 5 children and consistently track and reward incremental growth in even one of those kiddos. I am just waaaaay too distracted.

So I moved on to candy: quick, easy, instantly-satisfying candy. This I could do with 20 kids.

“Mommy, I went potty!”

“Oh, good! Here’s an M&M.”

Easy-peasy. But then everyone had to start writing books and blog posts about how sugar is poison… how it’s more addictive than cocaine…. how being hooked on sugar is like living in a blur, but living without sugar is truly bright and vibrant living… how giving candy to children is the worst possible thing parents could do.

Erg.

What to do now?

Recently, I had to come up with something brilliant to motivate one of our children to finally get the whole bathroom routine…

Our well-rehearsed script just had to go. You may know it well:

Q: “Did you put the seat down?”

A: “Ooops…” (runs back to bathroom; loud crashing sound)

Q: “Did you flush?”

A: “Ooops…” (runs back to bathroom; flushing sounds)

Q: “Did you wash your hands?”

A: “Ooops…” (runs back to bathroom; hand-washing sounds)

Yes, it was time to move on. But I needed a new source of motivation because charts, candy, and bribery were out of the question.

That’s when I came up with the most simple solution in the world when I just happened to think “…kids love to ring bells…” (In fact, everyone loves to ring bells. Just think about the little bell-ringing system at Trader Joe’s. It gets everyone so excited to “Help!” “Dance!” “Wear a Hawaiian Shirt!”)

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce our successful chart-free, candy-free, bribery-free solution…

DSC_0253

This little sign and this little bell have changed everything about “going potty” in our house.

It totally works!

It’s a shiny reminder to follow each step. It’s a satisfying reward that the individual gets for him- or herself. It’s not poisonous! Not addictive! AND, I can hear it from across the house and know that all-is-well concerning toilet seats, toilet bowls, and clean hands. Even if I’m doing five other things, I can echo the little bell and say, “Hey, I heard that bell! Good job!”

(Do you want to know the best thing about it? Everyone uses it.

Including guests.

They excuse themselves for a moment and then we hear that endearing little, “Ding!”)

Who could resist?

 

Thoughts on Our Times: Is Evil Spiraling Out of Control?

LauraAll Posts

DSC_0372

(The best of times: a grandfather holding his newborn grandson.)

The other night, I lay my head on the pillow, my mind weary from processing so many tragic headlines, day after day. The shootings, the violence, and the hatred seem to be spiraling out of control, don’t you think?

Earlier in the day, I tuned into CNN. A spokesperson against terrorism was asked, “What should we do about all this terrorism?”

The spokesperson said, “It does seem to be escalating, doesn’t it? I think we just have to try harder.”

Try harder?

To do what??

Human evil is unpredictable, hidden, and determined. Our proactive efforts may snuff out some evil plans, but we cannot anticipate every hateful and violent impulse worldwide.

“Trying harder” to eliminate terrorism feels like hiking Mount Everest. As an ant. Backwards. Blindfolded. Under a magnifying glass. In the sun.

Needless to say, it was a very depressing interview.

But what else could the spokesperson say, really?

That interview made one thing abundantly clear (if it wasn’t already): humanity will not solve the problem of hatred, violence, or terror.

Every day, current events evermore emphasize our human limitations and our desperation for God.

The real answer to CNN’s question, “What should we do about all this terrorism?”is “Petition God.”

Prayer is our thing to do.

God will respond to the sound of our voices and He always does what is good and loving. He is never surprised and He never loses.

(You’ve gotta check out this post by my friend, Sarah Mae, in which she ushers us toward praying for our enemies. It is exactly what I need to read these days.)

That particular night, when my mind was weary from the world’s groaning, I mostly prayed for myself.

Our times seem so bad, so extraordinarily bad.

I needed hope.

I felt afraid and helpless. I wondered, would evil continue to escalate? Would we all lose our bearings? Would everything fall apart?

In that moment of prayer, I remembered Charles Dicken’s famous introduction to The Tale of Two Cities… 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

I found comfort in the fact that 200 years ago, a man named Charles Dickens saw abounding evil in the headlines of his newspapers. He could write about “the worst of times” because they existed in the 1800’s. Evil seemed to be spiraling out of control in the 1800’s. His classic novel explores how evil seemed to be escalating in the 1700’s. And today, we can cut-and-paste his words into the year 2016.

Our current situation isn’t unique: “the worst of times” is timeless and universal.

But let’s not forget that “the best of times” is also timeless and universal.

The two occur at the very same moment. They always have. One glance in a history book or one scroll through Facebook shows this: birthdays mixed with obituaries, anger mixed with compassion, joy mixed with sorrow.

While we process the force and magnitude of  evil – “the worst of times” – let us not forget that goodness – “the best of times” – has a force and magnitude of its own.

A force that will not be overcome.

Goodness is a continual, escalating, abounding gift from God.

It spirals out of our control.

It surprises us at every turn.

It’s the red poppies blooming in the WWI battlefields.

It’s the sun rising after a night of violence in Philadelphia.

It’s the baby who is born a few days after a close relative dies.

Life swallowing death.

What would we do without “the best of times” to get us through? They are God’s grace lavished on us as we pilgrim through a sin-weary world.

They are God’s reminder – those daily beauties that help us bear up under July’s headlines – pointing us to the Cross of Christ that bears us up over death and sin.

And so, we keep celebrating birthdays, appreciating one another, and pursuing goodness. We keep living and loving because God graces our dark world with abundant compassion. God Himself will always be the “best of times” – the wisdom, the belief, the Light, and the hope – that sustains us through every day of history’s “worst of times”.

Count on this: if evil is spiraling out of control and escalating in intensity, surely God’s goodness is spiraling and escalating at an ever-more-astonishing rate.

Look for it.

Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”