Pulling them in close

Well hello. I’m coming to you on a lovely afternoon while the kids are playing outside and the babies are napping. Should I be putting away clean dishes in the dishwasher? Possibly. But here this post is in my head and I don’t want it to float away.

I read an about page that made me think this week. She described her writing as for her kids to be able to “read her” when they are older. I think this is a wonderful way to think about blogging. So for them, for you, and even for me a few weeks down the road – here it is.

It seems that we have a cycle of having at least one child who is struggling at all times. Our kids are all still small – so we’re talking disobedience, disrespect, constantly being too wound up, unkindness to siblings. Certainly all our kids – being sinners – will fail in all of these areas every week. But there’s usually one whose transgressions are a little farther past the line. = ) And, in the course of a few months, each one will have their turn being “the one.” It just seems to happen.

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About three kids ago, it ocurred to me that “the one” of the hour seemed to be the first one up in the day. Great. You see them come through the door and brace yourself, imagining the struggles that the day will hold.

By His grace, the Lord helped me to think a little differently. Why not use those few minutes to invest a little love and direction. Instead of sighing or sending them back to their room, greet them warmly and stop to snuggle them in your lap for a few minutes. Sometimes I’ll sing them a song, or read them a verse, or say a short – but desperately needed for both of us – prayer. Mostly I just tell them I love them and encourage them to obey Daddy and Mommy and be kind to their sisters that day.

I can’t say that it makes the difficulties go away completely, but it does help my mindset and a lot of times theirs as well.

Very often in the afternoons little ones who are past napping get rather cranky and naughty. I’ve found it’s much better to pull them close than to continue trying to occupy them with toys or siblings.

“Do you want to hang out with me for awhile?”

The answer is usually yes. Sometimes we’ll read a book quickly to snuggle, but then they just sort of follow me around while I do dishes, laundry or dinner preparation.

Of course, it might look totally different in another house or situation, I know that. The main thought is that if a particular child is posing more problems than normal, seek ways to pull them close to you for affection and attention. Involve them in your everyday tasks in a way that is just for the purpose of being together. Or, forego the dishes and laundry and play their favorite game or something.

It’s so helpful in the midst of stressful, merry-go-round discipline situations to also have sweet moments sprinkled in.

Don’t forget to hug them extra tight before bed. ; )

Every moment counts.

Thoughts for when you’re late to church on Sunday morning

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I trust that at some point in my life being late to church on Sunday morning will be a thing of the past.

But with multiple small children and a husband who usually has responsibilities at church before the girls even get up, being late on a Sunday morning is a semi-regular part of my life. I will say for those who may be brand new mommies and are about to be completely discouraged, I have a way better chance of being on time now with four small kids and another on the way than I did when there was just one or two. Life really does get easier.

Because being late is now semi-regular instead of constant, I’ve started to see how much being late can influence your mindset going into corporate worship.

(This is not about how to NOT be late, it is about how I try to think WHEN I am late.)

For those who follow Christ, Sunday corporate worship is essential. It’s something we look forward to all week long. On a completely temporal level for moms with little kiddos, it can be a chance to drop them off in the nursery or Sunday school and fix your mind on eternal truths while briefly leaving behind the immediacy of diapers, feedings, discipline and endless questions.

Bottom line, we have every reason to want to be on time or even early for church.

But… sometimes we wake up late. Sometimes we’re completely unprepared from Saturday night. Sometimes a toddler chooses an inopportune time to decide he doesn’t like eggs. Sometimes fixing four heads of hair takes longer than you planned on. Sometimes you have to take a different route because of a bike race. It seems like every force in the universe is plotting to thwart your plans to be on time.

It happens.

#1 – Being late happens.

The most discouraging mornings for me are the ones where I had everything completely prepared, where I got up ridiculously early, where nothing catastrophic happened… and still I was late. How many times I have complained in my mind, What’s the point of trying so hard if I’m still going to be late?

No, you’re not a failure. No, it will not be this way forever no matter what. No, it was not a waste to try hard. Easy to write on a Monday night, but very hard to tell yourself on a Sunday morning.

Which brings me to the next thought.

#2 – Every truth that you’re going to church to celebrate and rehearse is changed NOT AT ALL by the fact that you’re late.

Just recently I’ve learned to think about this as I get the girls ready and drive to church on a morning where I know we’ll be late. The glory of Christ’s work on the cross, the grace of God in forgiving and adopting His enemies, the comfort of the Spirit teaching us every day, the hope of an eternity with Jesus as King of Kings – all of these are steadfast truths that will never change. To imagine that somehow my little being-late escapade has any impact in eternal matters is laughable. I have to make a concentrated effort to think on things that are true and good.

To beat myself up over such a thing is really just an odd symptom of self-centeredness. Believe me, on many occasions through the singing or teaching at church, the Holy Spirit has gently shown me where I was wrong, or careless, or uninterested, which caused the circumstances around being late. But I have to let Him do that. Punishing myself over being late just clouds my mind from the One who can truly search my heart. And sometimes honestly, God just gives you a peace that it was just the way it was that day and it’s okay. See #1. = )

#3 – Being late is not an excuse to sin against your children.

To ask my three-year-old who is accustomed to thirty minutes for breakfast to hurry and eat in seven is just not wise. Ashamedly, I have been through so many Sunday morning breakfast’s where I have constantly been saying, “Girls, be quiet. We have to eat. Stop talking, we have to eat. Eat faster. We only have two minutes left!” (to finish three-quarters of a plate) Not going to happen.

Lately, the Lord has been teaching me to truly own when something is my fault and not to place the blame or the burden of hurrying in this case on my girls. I need to give them plenty of time to eat. Either that or have a really good back-up eat-in-the-car plan. (which usually doesn’t work anyway) Complete aside: Did you know my kids won’t even Pop-Tarts fast on a Sunday morning? Oh, the strategies I have tried to save time. Seriously! They didn’t even eat the Pop-Tarts. Like I’m giving you sugar you’re normally not allowed to have, but nope.

But I digress. When one of them comes to me crying and stomping because she can’t get her arm through her sleeve (and is not really even trying because of a bad attitude) I still have to respond with kindness and wisdom. Patience doesn’t get temporarily marked off the list from 7-10 on Sunday morning.

One of the biggest reasons I want to have everything ready for Sunday morning is so my girls can remember it as a time of joy, of looking forward to going to church together. I don’t want it to be a time of snapping and nagging, of empty stomachs and rumpled clothes all in the name of keeping up appearances for this weekly event.

When the mornings come where I know we’ll be late, I have to choose to still be like Christ. To still let the gospel adorn my speech and actions inside this house where only the little people see. I hope that His kindness and love is what they will remember.

#4 – Understand that others probably understand.

I have a particular problem with my pride where being late is concerned. I’m a pastor’s wife and I should be able to get there on time, right? I love to be early. I want to see people and talk to them and not have to slip in like a loser five minutes after everything has started. I don’t want people to think that I don’t care. But when I apologize all over myself or refuse to be consoled by people who assure me it was like that for them at this time of life, I’m really just revealing how concerned with my image I am.

Life will move on. Another chance to be on time will come in just seven more days. More than likely I’m a harder judge of myself than those around me. Get over it and keep going.

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One of the biggest benefits of controlling your mind when you’re tempted to bottom out because of being late is that it helps you to enter into the worship service sooner. This is what I mean: when I (89% of the time) am so upset over being late, I have to spend a lot of the Sunday school or worship hour getting over the usual mental clutter that comes with being late. Which means I am completely deaf to the truths being sung or taught. I’m oblivious to the help and comfort that is right around me. However, when I set my mind to rejoice anyways, or maybe to be late rather than getting upset at my kids… I can sit down in the service and begin soaking it in immediately.

This in the long run is much more beneficial than being punctual but frazzled or grumpy.

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Now, if you think I’m trying to just make excuses for being late, I’m not. There are so many reasons to be early, and I promise I try every single week to be early. In fact, it was one of my New Year’s Goals and there’s actually been a lot of improvement. Yay!

I could write an equally long post about what I do to try to be early; things that have worked and have not worked -like the Pop-Tarts. But one, there’s already posts out there like that, and two, I think it’s important to think through how we respond even when things don’t go according to our desires or plans.

This may seem like a tiny topic, but I have found it to have a huge impact on my Sunday’s, my family, and my week.

Thanks for reading my thoughts; I’d love to hear yours!

 

 

The Idealistic Homeschooler

Idealistic homeschooling... for two weeks
Idealistic homeschooling…. for two weeks

I have a dream. It goes something like this:

I wake up early; have some quiet time to myself; exercise; and get completely ready. At this point (hopefully @7:30) I go in and wake up my children. Did I say their clothes were already out and waiting for them? They wake up, get dressed, make their beds, and come to me so I can fix their hair. We eat breakfast and clean it up. School commences at promptly anytime earlier than what it has been. Oh wait, I’m being idealisitc; school starts at 8:45. When school is done, we make sure everything is tidy from that and then go outside to exercise and play for an hour.

In case you don’t know this about me, what I just described is nothing like how our weekdays go.

But I have this idea.

Starting Monday, we have officially two full weeks of school until Christmas break. What if I just try to live my “ideal” for two weeks? Only two weeks! Can it really be that hard? And if it is…can’t I stick it out for just two weeks?

Now, in my defense, the last three weeks have been crazy and unusual. There is no way that we could have or should have tried or expected something like this to happen due to all that was happening.

Why do I even want to try this?

I know that change is better done gradually; I know have to be realistic about my life expectations with four little kids; I know the whole thing could be a colossal failure on day 2.

But it just occurred to me that I have this two-week window coming off of a very relaxing holiday break; and it might be a fun time to try.

I’m hoping for a couple of things:

1. To realize that some ideals are maybe more livable than we think if we just give it a chance. Sometimes it’s too easy to just trudge along and never actually try for anything better.

2. To get over my fear of waking my children up earlier, thinking that they won’t get enough sleep.

3. To force myself to get up earlier for the purpose of prayer and exercise, and to therefore go to bed earlier. (because if this girl doesn’t get enough sleep, she’s not gettin’ up; AND, we’ve been starting to do a lot better at this already!)

4. To bring some more structure to our homeschool routine.

5. To make more time for extra homeschool things with Hope and other activities/learning times for the little girls.

What do you think?

I just spent almost two hours cleaning up our homeschool space, organizing, and in general trying to prepare the house for a fresh start tomorrow.

And the whole point of hitting “publish” now is to make it a point of no return.

Don’t expect updates; hopefully, I’ll be in bed.

Completely unrelated: we got our Christmas tree tonight!!!!! Mmmmm…. the smell of Christmas tree could inspire me to do just about anything.

****A slight, but important amendment! I will post about how it’s going, but just on the facebook page to be faster. If you haven’t liked the facebook page, do it here so you can keep up!

31 days of training my kids: No elephants on the stairs

Don't try to figure out what this picture has to do with elephants because the answer is nothing at all. I just love it.
Don’t try to figure out what this picture has to do with elephants because the answer is nothing at all. I just love it.

We live in a second story apartment surrounded closely by seven other families.

In the last year we have moved from safely maneuvering four kids up and down the stairs to teaching them how to consider others in how they go up and down the stairs.

After several attempts to explain consideration, stepping lightly, being quiet… an idea dawned:

No elephants on the stairs!

And they got it!

Of course, they took it to the next level, “Be like cats and cheetah’s!” Cheetah’s is because sometimes it takes forever. But I try to downplay the cheetah thing as safety is still the number one concern with them being little and everything.

Have you ever thought of a ridiculous line that helped your kids finally get what you had been working on for months?

Why this… as the end to 31 days of training my kids?

Because in my mind, it boils down to creativity and consistency. Neither of which are possible without our Faithful Creator. I get the blame for all the mistakes and He gets the glory for all the victories.

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I have to be honest, I have enjoyed this series/challenge; but I’m also very glad it’s done.

I have learned a lot. 

Hopefully, I’ll post about that some time in the future.

In the meantime, you have thirty-nine minutes left to enter the giveaway… and the competition is heating up. = )

Thank you so much to all who have read and encouraged. I’m so thankful for you!

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Don’t forget my sister and I did this together! I have completely loved her series! Thanks so much, Laurie, for going through this craziness with me. You’re the best!

31 days of training my kids: two things I’m lenient about

In the interest of mixing it up here at the end, I thought I would talk about two specific things where I really take my hands off.

They’re completely unrelated.

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I know this picture is fuzzy, but I love it.

The first is how very young children treat a new baby. My girls were all very young when the sibling after them was born. Really, they were young enough to not even have jealousy or other what-happened-to-my-mommy issues. That being said, I realize that what I’m about to say will not apply to everybody.

I tried very hard to not be overly careful or stressed about how the toddler treated the new baby. Rough hugs, kisses, squeezes… even the occasional toy being tossed at them enthusiastically were all okay. For some reason, I didn’t want there to be an immediate connection in their mind between “new baby” and “No.”

We said “Shhhh…baby’s sleeping,” “Be gentle,” and yes, “No,” when Hope was pulling two fistful’s of Sophia’s newborn hair.

But for the most part, it was “Hey look, this is your future best friend!”

Next is slightly more serious in my mind and also perhaps a little more unconventional.

There’s no cool way to say it, so I’ll just blurt it out: I let my kids play with my Bible. Even when they’re young and prone to wrinkle, fold, or even tear it, if they want to sit on the floor and page through it, I’m okay with that. Don’t get me wrong, intentional disrespect and dismemberment is duly treated.

But here’s my thought: I don’t want (again) their first connection between them and the Bible to be “No.” I want my kids to love the Bible. I want them to read it for curiosity, for fun, and eventually for nourishment.

So if they pull it off of the shelf or the desk and start to flip through it, I’m not going to take it away.

Are there some Bibles in our house that have paid the price? Absolutely. Two of my Bibles currently have a few pages stuck in the back after having been torn out. But in my mind, it’s a small price to pay to nurture a love for reading God’s Word even at the earliest years.

We talk about how special the Bible is, how wonderful it is to read it, how God has been so kind to reveal Himself to us through it, and how to treat it carefully. But let’s face it, a two-year-old is probably more likely to catch on to “Hey sweetie, I’m so happy you’re reading the Bible,” than “I’m going to take this now and you can have it again when you can turn those flimsy pages perfectly.”

Does it work? Only time will tell; but this is something I’m willing to take a chance on.

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Do you have areas of purposeful lenience in your parenting?

(and hopefully this won’t be the last post in the series even though I didn’t finish it before midnight; one more and then we’ll be done!) = )

31 days of training my kids: always a tradeoff

Which one is the culprit?
Which one is the culprit?

I walked down the hallway after the many-eth time of putting a little girl back in bed. I saw things that needed to be put away, jobs I thought surely would have been done by now.

Why haven’t I gotten to that… I began to think; and then I realized… this is what I’ve been doing!

All week.

And suddenly, I didn’t seem to mind the mess as much.

One of my little sweeties has just given me a run for my money this week. The piles and laundry and cluttered counters that I meant to take care of mean that I actually concentrated on a bigger problem that was happening.

Thankfully, I can also remember when this happened with another one of our little darlings, and guess what? We got through it! The house even returned to normal. How comforting!

There’s always a tradeoff when something like this comes up.  I’m choosing to believe that something more permanent than the status of my house is being accomplished.

(and if nothing else, someone is now sweetly sleeping) = )

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I’m giving away Fit to Burst, by Rachel Jankovic. Check it out here!

31 days of training my kids: laughter

for the families 013My husband is a master at making our girls laugh! I love watching them together.

Something that happened on our trip last week reminded of how important it is for laughter to be part of the training/disciplining/parenting equation.

The girls were really good; but Mckayla went through a few times where she was rather indignant and whiny about what she wanted. At one point, Paul turned around to sternly correct her. She got the picture and everything settled down. A few seconds later, I heard her giggle. I looked at Paul and realized that he was making silly faces at her. She laughed and he laughed and after a couple minutes it was done.

But it stuck in my mind. I have to remember to do that more.