Singing Your Child to Sleep: A Sweet Motherhood Opportunity

LauraMotherhood

Last year, I re-evaluated everything about motherhood based on a lip-sync performance of this song: “Stressed Out” by twenty one pilots. Our friends performed it at a talent show. It was funny. It was cute. And it rocked my world.

“Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out
Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.” 

My kids watched the performance with me and they picked up on the chorus right away. It broke my heart to hear them sing, “when our momma sang us to sleep…” knowing that I rarely sing them to sleep… After all, it’s the end of the day and – good grief – I love efficiency and “into bed with you!”I know, I know, it’s just a silly little song about Blurryface and a funky handshake, but it was the catalyst of a refreshing transformation in my motherhood.

It helped me to see my children as children.

It gave me permission to dive full-steam into the pleasures of motherhood. Until now, there had been something I was missing… something I was holding back.

Stress steals the joy of motherhood. Too often, I hand over the immeasurable pleasures of motherhood for a dose of efficiency, productivity, or retreat. I’m so thankful that God used this silly song to remove the veil from my eyes, causing me to see that all of the distractions are not worth it.

Maybe I’m not alone? In our modern world, we mommas are busy. We are creating, writing, organizing, administrating, selling, buying, planning… and we don’t often savor the pleasures of motherhood and childhood. I’m being sentimental, but I think that before we had so much productivity potential, mommas enjoyed sweet little things like singing to their children at bedtime. Well, I want it back.

If God has given me a voice, let me sing. Let my children know my voice well. Let them remember me accounting God’s faithfulness and grace in the evening before they fall asleep.

So, I started singing to my children at bedtime. (As it turns out, it doesn’t take much time. It just takes a warm heart.) I sing hymns, show tunes, or made-up songs. I try to end with a song about Jesus so His name is echoing through their thoughts as they drift off to sleep.

This month, I want to learn “A Mother’s Prayer” by Keith and Kristyn Getty. I printed out the lyrics to ticky-tack to the wall by our 3-year old’s bed until I have it memorized. (Of course, she is known to remove and shred things like this during nap time, but I’ll have a heart-to-heart with her and see what I can do.)

I’ll sing it to her as I tuck her in at night. It’s so lovely and true.

Do you sing your child to sleep? What do you sing?

3 Simple Ways to Connect with Your Child This Week

LauraMotherhood

This week, enjoy these 3 simple ways to connect with your child:

  1. Say his name.  Say her name.

I’m surprised how often I replace my child’s name with a term of endearment: Sweetie, Honey, Bud, Batman… While these are sweet, I find that speaking my child’s real name kindly – when everything is going well and they are not in trouble – is even sweeter.

When we speak a child’s name aloud, we honor their unique personhood. They know this instinctually and they feel special.

Your child will love to hear his/ her name spoken by you! It will connect you in a surprising way.

(BTW: While you’re at it, try calling your spouse by his own name, too. It’s a beautiful, personal, simple way of connecting with that Sweetheart, Honey, Babe, Warrior Man of yours.)

2. Pray together.

Does anything connect two people together better than prayer? No matter how young your child is, take time to pray together today. Look for an opportunity beyond meal time to pray about something that matters to your child. A fear? An injury? A blessing? A desire? Come alongside your child, show that you care about her burdens, and talk to your Heavenly Father together.

3. Sing!

When I sing, my kids know that everything is okay. I try to remember to sing when I’m doing the dishes, changing the baby’s diaper, or bipping around the house.

I don’t have to be singing with my children to help them feel secure and connected to me. I just have to be singing!

There’s just something about it – maybe the fact that I’m letting my guard down – that seems to invite them into my heart and thoughts.

Try it! The next time your kids are nearby, sing! Do you notice that they seem to feel peaceful and at home?

A Treasure for Every Adopted Child… and the Mommy.

LauraAll Posts

Have you adopted a child who wonders why you chose them?

Have you been praying about adopting a child and looking for resources to prepare your heart and home?

Do you know someone who is pursuing adoption?

My cousin Katie has written and published a beautiful picture book to cheer you on and help you to communicate love for your adopted child. You can sit next to your dear child or pull them onto your lap and read this genuine answer to every child’s question: Why did you choose me?

The simple, musical text and the fun illustrations will help you – child and mommy – to relate to one another and to receive God’s unconditional love. After all, His love is the standard and lifeblood of adoption.

My favorite part about Why Did You Choose Me? is that it isn’t sugar-coated. It’s not draped in a fairy tale or full of empty promises. It’s real. Very real. It wraps its arms around kiddos who pick their noses and break things, who aren’t the best at sports, who don’t ace every test. It resounds with love for the regular child.


Katie Cruice Smith
and her husband have adopted three children. This book began when Katie had to write a grant essay answering, “If your child came to you one day and asked why you chose them, what would you say?” She realized that “no matter how loving and secure their home may be, many adopted children
often question their identity within their family. This book is a way to lovingly and gently

answer those questions by showing them that there is no doubt that they were meant to be a part of your family.”

You can pre-order Why Did You Choose Me? on Amazon and be amongst the first to enjoy it! It will be released in November for National Adoption Month.

I can’t wait to read this to our own children. I want them to grasp the same message: that I love them regardless of their performance, personality, or achievement.

I also want to prepare their hearts in case God would call them to adopt a child in the future.

And especially, I can’t wait to give it to our dear friends who are currently in the process of adopting internationally!

(Katie, remember when we slept over at Grandmom’s house and ate Lucky Charms? We carved whales out of bars of soap, drove in her car to the grocery store, and snuggled up in the guest bed. We never could have grasped the wonderful work that God had planned for you in future! I’m so proud of you. Your tireless compassionate work will help to build homes all over the world. You’ve given words and images to help children – and their parents – receive God’s unconditional love. Love, Me.)

Let’s Get This Straight: 2 Thoughts About Homeschoolers vs. Public Schoolers

LauraAll Posts, Homeschooling, Motherhood

I think there’s a tension between homeschoolers vs. public/ private schoolers. (I dunno… I could be wrong… but I think it’s there.)

We’re each doing our very best, yet we’re afraid that maybe our children are missing out.

We wonder if other women are judging us.

We stumble over our words when we talk with one another because we’re not sure if we’ll offend, mortify, disappoint, overwhelm, or hurt someone’s feelings.

The best case scenario is an unspoken “agree to disagree” stance in which we just don’t talk about school.

It’s kind of a mess.

Jesus wants something better for His daughters, for His Church. He wants us to love one another and cheer one another on.

He wants us to believe that He has different gifts, callings, circumstances, and good works for each one of us to do.

He wants us to be content with the work He establishes for us and to be all about loving Him and making disciples.

But, how do we do that?

I think it begins with a few changes in our mindset.

Here are 2 things that help me to believe the best about you believing the best about me:

  1. One woman’s lifestyle doesn’t mean she’s right and you’re wrong. And it doesn’t mean she’s judging you. 

Too often, we look at another woman’s decisions and assume that she thinks she’s right. It follows that if she thinks she’s right, she must think I’m wrong. Therefore, she must be judging me.

But is she?

Does she really think she’s right and I’m wrong?

Our lifestyle choices are rarely that black-and-white. We need to remember that other women make decisions the same way we do: in a complicated, circumstantial, pros-and-cons, pray, pray, pray way.

Sometimes, we do something because God is calling and equipping us to do that good work.

Sometimes, our circumstances determine our situation.

Sometimes, we’d love to make another choice, but we cannot for one reason or another.

Sometimes we have misgivings about what we are doing and are praying for the grace to change.

When it comes down to it, many of our lifestyle choices aren’t a matter of “right” and “wrong”: they are a matter of preference, values, calling, diversity, opportunity, circumstances, and season.

What would happen if we gave each other the benefit of the doubt?

What would happen if we didn’t assume someone was judging us just because she has chosen a particular way of educating her children?

2. We need God’s divine help to dispel misunderstandings and pursue unity.

The best way to address misunderstandings is through relationships, right? Regular, open communication helps us to see beyond our assumptions and to understand the woman who is making different choices.

But let’s be honest: for busy moms, this is impractical, difficult, and time-consuming.

Working moms are working, and not available for play dates when stay-at-home-moms do most of their connecting. Homeschooling moms are home, educating their children, and are not available to meet for coffee when working moms are more likely to get together. In the evening when women without children are available, moms are at home tucking little ones into bed.

(When women do have a few golden moments to socialize, it makes sense that the women who are available match lifestyle choices. We can relate to one another and offer encouragement and strength.)

We have very few opportunities, practically speaking, to get together with women from other walks of life to help us get over our misconceptions and our fear of being judged.

Even if we try to take steps toward unity and understanding, it’s hard and impractical.

We need to acknowledge this difficulty and extend grace to one another.

We need God to make the most of our peace-making efforts and relationships. He alone can level rocky ground and straighten crooked paths amongst women.

Let’s ask Him to help us to connect with other women, to always believe the best, and to go first.

I’ll go first! 🙂

Why I homeschool our children:

If it helps you to understand me a bit better: while I was happily attending a private Christian elementary school, God called me to homeschool my children some day. That’s a true story. Just as He calls someone to be a missionary to China, He called me to homeschool my children. He equipped me through my excellent public high school education, liberal arts college education, and state school graduate education.

I don’t homeschool because I had a bad experience in school.

I don’t homeschool because we want to shelter our children.

I don’t homeschool because I don’t like the school system or our school district.

I homeschool because God is calling me to do it and, frankly, I want to embrace it.  As it turns out, it’s a glorious calling: I love the blessings of home schooling – the conversations, books-read, personalized education, outdoors, friendships, service, and discipleship opportunities.

I can rattle off a list of ways that God has opened doors and provided for me to walk in this often-difficult, often-lonely calling. On the bad days when I want to quit, I review the ways He has called and equipped me and I choose to keep going until He leads me in a different direction. On the good days, I’m all-in: the children and I read together, laugh together, and thoroughly enjoy a hands-on hearts-in education.

I love to share the wealth that comes from homeschooling. The homeschool world is full of incredible books, resources, and opportunities that would benefit any mother, regardless of her educational choices. 

I also love to hear about other school environments. I don’t want to “just tolerate” educational differences – I want to hear all about them. I want my sisters and friends to know that I’m completely supportive of the educational choices they are making and that I’m interested in that aspect of their lives. When my sister tells me about the wonderful traditions in her children’s sweet elementary school, I celebrate the goodness in that school and daydream about how I can apply the same virtue in our homeschool. I take note of the amazing ways teachers make learning fun, the math games they play, the reading centers they build, and the field trips they take. 

Of course, I struggle with jealousy when I hear about a school child’s amazing teacher – I wish my kids had her, too.

I struggle with feelings of inadequacy when I hear about a public school kid’s field trips, free music lessons, assembly programs, classroom decorations, and computer classes.

Every year, I mourn the fact that my kids don’t have that butterflies-in-the-stomach “first day of school” or the bus ride or the daily connection with many teachers and friends.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear all about it from you. That doesn’t mean I think you’re judging me when you tell me all about it.

I’d so much rather hear about your child’s life than to coddle my own feelings.

I’d so much rather learn from the wealth of your educational choices than avoid a few FOMO’s.

There are gains and losses to every earthly endeavor. Instead of being afraid of one another, instead of avoiding topics that are near and dear to our hearts, let’s see the life-giving potential of sharing our lives.

Let’s keep walking forward with God.

Let’s cheer one another on, offering the wealth of our calling, choices, and experiences.

 

True Confessions: We are not following that schedule I posted a few weeks ago!

LauraAll Posts

Dear reader,

I’ve been meaning to write this post for days now just to let you know that we aren’t following that tidy summer schedule that I posted a few weeks ago. As soon as I realized that our summer was shaping up differently, I removed the post so I wouldn’t mislead anyone, but I haven’t had time to acknowledge it formally. I’ve been waiting for a magical explanation to come to me – I wanted to write a Pinterest-worthy post about flexibility and willingness to change – but it’s not happening. So, here is a very unfancy FYI to let you know that our summer has turned out much more relaxed and unstructured than I intended.

As it turns out, we ended up getting a pool membership this year and signing a few of our kiddos up for swimming lessons. We’ve been trying to go to the pool as often as possible and the kids are loving it. They are much more comfortable in the water this year and that thrills me. We’ve spent afternoons and evenings there with our little cooler and a pile of towels.  We also discovered that the YMCA is providing free lunches for kids all summer. They send the lunch to a church that is 3 miles away and volunteers serve us lunch every day. (I know, AMAZING.) We bip over there several times a week and thank God for such a blessing! Add to that birthdays, beaches, and camps… and there’s just no room for a tidy little schedule of any sort.

I just wanted you to know. Now you can stop imagining me over here having some amazingly productive summer. 🙂 It’s been a good summer – great at times – but with far less handwriting, that’s for sure.

Love,

Me.

 

Connect with your child: Ask for an opinion

LauraAll Posts, Motherhood

Don’t you love to be consulted? Don’t you love when someone asks you what you think? It pulls you into that person’s world and makes you feel honored, respected, and valued. Your child will feel the same way when you ask for their opinion about something that really matters.

Is there a decision you have to make that you could share with your child? Is there something you’re thinking about or a problem you have to solve that could use your child’s perspective? Look for an opportunity to sincerely ask your child, “What do you think?” or “What would you do?”

Demonstrating that you value your child’s thoughts will strengthen your relationship and let them see that the two of you are connected in an important way.

Connect with your child: Smile.

LauraMotherhood

Today’s challenge is as simple as it gets. Today, you and I are going to intentionally smile at our child throughout the day. Smile when she wakes up. Smile when he walks into the room. Smile when you look at her across the table, when you glance at him in the rear-view mirror, and when you say good-night.

Your smile does three important things. It…

  1. Communicates your acceptance, trust, and approval.
  2. Demonstrates that despite all of the stress, obligations, and responsibilities in your life, you are trusting God to carry the weight of the world for you.
  3. Makes you more beautiful. (True story! When you smile, you are your most beautiful you. Ask anyone.)

When we smile at our child, we extend an offer of connection they can rarely and barely resist. It’s like a life preserver tossed to an exhausted swimmer, a free t-shirt launched to an excited baseball fan, and a handful of candy tossed from a Parade float to the kid with an open bag, just waiting for something sweet.

(Have you had an opportunity to ask your child what makes him or her feel loved? What’d you learn? Make sure you use that information! Snuggle, pray, play, sit by, or hike with your kiddo to say, “I love you”. )

Connect with your child: Just ask.

LauraMotherhood

Do you ever feel like you get to the end of the day and wonder if you connected with your child?

I find myself wondering, Did I even look at her all day? Did I touch him? Did I smile at her?  These questions catch me off guard more often than I’d like and remind me to be intentional about connecting with my kids.

Sometimes I notice that I’m wrapped up in my own little world and I need to “up the connecting ante” across the board. Other times I notice that one particular child seems to be lonely and sitting on the sidelines of life; she needs me to intentionally pursue her and remind her that there’s a place for her here.

Now that we’re enjoying the sweetness of summer, let’s think of July as the month we’re going to intentionally connect with a sweet kiddo in our lives.  As often as I can, I’ll share a post-it note’s worth of encouragement that’ll help you build your relationship with your child.

So, here’s what we’re going to do today:

Ask, “When do you feel most loved by me?”

I feel loved – and naturally give love – by words of affirmation and engaging conversation. That means my kids get lots of affirmation, lots of listening ears, and lots of conversation, but this doesn’t mean they really feel loved by it 

When I asked my kids, “When do you feel most loved by me?” I was surprised by their answers. 

My 4 year old son replied, “I feel special when you pray for me.” I loved his answer because he unintentionally told me two things about himself: first, that “love” to him meant “feeling special” and secondly, that he really was savoring those moments at the breakfast table or at bedtime when I’d pray for him. Who knew?

My 7 year old daughter said, “I feel close to you when you cuddle with me.” Her answer helped me to see that “love” to her meant “feeling close” and that any time I could wrap my arm around her or sit by her side, she was feeling the love.

That was a few years ago, so I wonder if their answers have changed? It’s about time I checked back in. I’m going to jot this down on a post-it note and make sure I ask them today. You, too? Your child’s answer will flavor the rest of the ways you pursue them this month.

(If your child is stumped by your question, try this free and easy “5 Love Languages Profile for Children”. A few simple “either/ or” choices will help you to see what “love” means to your kiddo.)

Let us know what you discover!

 

The Big Family Book Party: June 2017

LauraAll Posts, Books

June has been a fun month full of birthday parties, picnics, swimming lessons, afternoons at the pool, women’s ministry planning, homeschool planning, and project-tackling. That means that I *almost* forgot to do a Big Family Book Party for June! My daughter reminded me about it and I am determined to “publish”this post before the month turns into July. The kids all rallied around me for the photo shoot.

This month, we are recommending our favorite activity-themed books.

For the ballerina…

Viv spends hours with this beautiful book. Ballet Spectacular: a young ballet lover’s guide and an insight into a magical world features rich photos, history, and information about the Royal Ballet. Viv has learned about the history of ballet, creating a ballet, life in a ballet company, ballet school, and famous ballets. It’s a visual delight with plenty of interesting information.  

For the baby…

Josiah loves a lift-the-flap book. Where is Baby’s Bellybutton by Karen Katz is a current go-to.

For the big girl…

Audrey recommends this adorable quiet book, My Big Day. Brush your teeth, get dressed, put some socks in a washing machine, tie your shoes, take the dog for a walk… learn fine-motor skills with some simple everyday activities. This book is beautifully made and very sturdy.

For the LEGO lover…

We scored the LEGO Star Wars Visual Dictionary at our local used book sale (minifigure included!) and Malachi has studied it from cover-to-cover. Because it would never keep my own attention, I almost overlooked it, but my boy loves it. He couldn’t wait to tell you about it. If he studies his Bible, history, and science lessons like he has studied this book, he’ll do well in life.

For the chess novice…

My kids used The Kids’ Book of Chess to teach themselves how to play. The book explains the game in the context of a story with characters, motives, strategy, and everything. Easy as that. Lia spent hours setting up the board to replicate the examples in the book and playing against herself. Then, they all got in on the fun and had a tournament of sorts.

For women…

As for me? Well, I’ve had my nose in a stack of Women’s Ministry books because we are working on that in our church. I highly recommend Women’s Ministry in the Local Church by Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt. It gets right to the heart of why women’s ministry is important and what it should be all about. I was borrowing a copy from a friend but was secretly happy when our daughter spilled water on it. This forced me to buy a new copy for my friend and feel free to underline all of the important passages in my own copy. 🙂

For men…

Although Ryan hasn’t had his nose in a book lately, he has been listening to Freakonomics (a “podacst that explores the hidden side of everything”) episodes during his commute. He comes home with the most interesting tidbits about carseats, stock markets, and lawn care.

Enjoy other book recommendations…

The Big Family Book Party: May, 2017

The Big Family Book Party: April, 2017

The Big Family Book Party: March, 2017

Get Your Child to Play More Games, Solve More Puzzles, and Exercise Creativity

LauraFamily Fun, Homeschooling, Motherhood

Don’t you just love when your child is totally absorbed in creating, puzzling, or playing? I do!

We have a closet full of incredible games and toys – solitaire marbles, colored blocks, a Buddha board, dominoes, chess – but with a baby crawling around, I haven’t known what to do with all of those tiny pieces and fragile items.

So, I shut them all up in a closet.

All of our beautiful games and learning toys were just sitting in a closet. Ignored. Sad. Lonely.

Last year, I was brainstorming a way to engage my older children in some of the hidden gems in our closet and I love what we discovered. I’ve just gotta tell you all about it.

This strategy rocks. It’s super-simple. Totally do-able. And has engaged my kiddos in hours of creative play. And the really nice thing is that the games no longer feel so dejected.

I call it… The One Thing on A High Table.

Yep, that’s right. Every few weeks, I place a different thing on the high black table that stands right in the middle of our everyday living.

None of the babies can reach the small pieces and the older children (and adults and all of our visitors) are immediately drawn into the fun. If it’s a game, they may play it the traditional way, but I’ve found that by leaving it out for two weeks or so, each child tinkers around with the pieces, creating designs, new games, slow-motion videos… I’m always amazed by what I discover at the high table.

The possibilities are endless…

Chess

Marble Solitaire

Colorful blocks

Dominoes

The Super Sorting Pie

Jenga

Shut the Box

Quirkle

Blokus  

Even a basket of buttons or big, smooth stones beckons to a child, “Come and create a while.

The rules are simple: it all stays on the table.

The magic wand is in your hand. Here’s the key to keeping the fun alive: switch out the game before your child is tired of it and don’t ask for input. Just “let the new thing appear”. As they walk by the table, they’ll glimpse something new and interesting out of the corner of their eye, it will call their name, and they’ll be pulled into the wonder.

The bonus: Our table happens to be right inside our front door. It’s a great location. When guests arrive, they jump right in, painting on the Buddha board, or trying their hand at Shut the Box. If you have the space for something like this, try it out! It’s yard sale season, keep your eye open for a high table of your own. 🙂