Sharing

Like I think most moms with toddlers, I naturally taught my first, second, and third child to share. You know the situation:
A child you don’t know is playing near your child at the library. They suddenly both want the same toy. You say,
“Be nice honey. You need to share.”

I mean, sharing is caring, right?

A year or so ago I came across an article that suggested sharing is actually not the best thing to teach your kids after all. The idea was that you shouldn’t FORCE your child to share, or expect other kids to share with yours, because when they grow up and get in the real world, adults don’t share with each other – you just have to get your own or deal with disappointment.

I tried that for awhile. I was looking for a new approach to the conflict all us moms have in which Child A is playing with Child B’s toy, and suddenly Child B wants the toy. Well, who has rights to it? Child A, because they picked it up first? Or Child B, because it ‘belongs’ to them? This new “no sharing” approach didn’t really solve my dilemma: There was still a loser.

For awhile I tried a kind of in between where I just did whatever I thought the situation called for, taking into account the temperaments of each child involved.

This has left me feeling like I have no ‘method’ at all, except to be intentional about how I problem solve with them.

But tonight I realized maybe having no ‘method’ isn’t so bad after all, after I witnessed this most beautiful exchange which I hope I never forget (and is mostly the reason why I’m writing about it):

B: Mom, do you want this bite of the cookie with the snowflake sprinkle? It’s the tastiest!
Me: Oh, are you sure bud? That’s the last sprinkle. You can have it if you want.
B: No, I want you to try it. It’s really good.
Me: Okay, thank you! (takes bite)

(I’m not sure exactly how this part started, I must have missed a sentence while I was chewing! haha! But it went something like this…)
B: Aubrey, do you want my other cookie?
A: What, that one from your Christmas party?
B: Yeah!
Me: Brendan that’s so sweet! You don’t mind her having it? It’s your last one.
B: Yeah, I’m sure. (hands the cookie across the table)
A: I can have the whole thing?
B: Yeah!
A: Here, do you want me to split it in half?
B: Oh, yeah!
A: (splits cookie in half and gives some back to him)
Me (amazed, silently in my head): YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m taking a mental picture of this whole conversation because it was just beautiful. There were so many good things in that one exchange: selflessness, love, compromise.

I’ve been seeing that B is such a loving, caring, selfless kid. Quite often he gives up a toy to his little sister when he can see she’s upset and wants to play with it. Or he’ll share his food with one of us.

I have also been trying to offer creative solutions to A when she is in a difficult situation. We tend to see things as black or white, but sometimes there is also red. Or blue. Or any number of other colors/solutions. I was so blown away by her suggestion – that at barely 7 years old, she has learned to:
1. Accept a gift from the giver graciously
2. Intuit what other people may want
3. Offer a compromise which makes all parties happy

I’m pretty sure I only learned how to do this in my recent adult hood. And she’s got it down by age 6.

I’m blessed y’all.

Going back to that article. Is that the kind of adult we wish our kids to be? Is that how we want them to view the world? Full of unsharing, unkind, selfish people? A mass of hardened hearts, unable and unwilling to open their hands and offer what they are holding to our Mighty God who can multiply it?

We cannot lay out one set of rules for our children, and expect as adults they will just do something different. They will do what we teach them, now, because it will become habit for them. What you choose to do and how you choose to act shapes who you are.

This situation at the dinner table foreshadows exactly what I hope for my children as they grow into adulthood: that they are able to discern the feelings of those around them with eyes to see and ears to hear (Matthew 13:16); communicate with others in love, not holding back out of fear (1 John 4:18); that they don’t hold so tight to worldly possessions that the real treasure (people) becomes secondary; and that they open their hands, surrendering all they have, for God to use in His Kingdom.

Train a child up in the way he should go, and when he is old he shall not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

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Discipline with Grace

I came across an article this week that I can’t get off my mind. I have been doing something similar to this for awhile now, but I love her 3 questions and wanted to share them.

Click here to view the post.

Rational -vs- Irrational Fear

The other night I had all the kids tucked into bed and was getting ready for bed myself, trying to make it an early night as I’d had lots of really late ones recently. And then I heard a little voice call, “Mom?”

I went in to the girls’ room, and A said, “Mom, see that pile of clothes over there?” … (points to a few folded items on their built-in dresser shelf that I hadn’t hung up yet) … “It’s scary! It looks like a scary pumpkin face carved out and I don’t like it.”

Now. Here’s the thing: I would categorize myself as a ‘tough love’ kind of mom. I don’t tend to indulge my kids’ rants, fits, or complaints if they are about something petty. Sometimes, especially if it’s a repetitive issue, I would even venture to say I’m dismissive. That doesn’t mean I don’t comfort them when they’re hurt, or get down to their level to help calm them, but I’m sorry, the fact that your show is over and I’m putting on another one is not a valid reason for tears. (You read that right. I’ve had a child cry when it’s over, and then cry when I go to put another one on. Really?? I’m confused. I thought I just solved the problem.)

My point is, I had a choice here. This had come up before – though it had been awhile – so I was really close to just saying, “Aubrey, we’ve talked about this before. You know there’s nothing to be afraid of. Now go to sleep.” (kiss, leave the room)

But for some reason I paused an extra beat and words started tumbling out – not in a rushed way, but in a calm and instructive way. I’m going to try to recreate what I said, because I cannot take credit for it (it was completely the Holy Spirit calling to mind the things I’ve studied in the past according to John 14:26), but I do want to remember it in hopes I can use it again for my other kids. (I’ve inserted the exact bible verses for reference, though I didn’t necessarily quote the location originally. Just so you don’t think I’m some amazing, verse-spouting and remembering person. 🙂 ) I hope this may be of some help to you.

So here we go:

Some fears are rational. Rational means there’s a good reason for it. Like right now, if a burglar came into our house with a gun, that would be a RATIONAL fear. You would be right to be afraid. But irrational fears are ones that you have for no good reason. A pile of clothes cannot hurt you. Right? Even if it looks like a scary Jack-o-Lantern, a Jack-o-Lantern can’t hurt you, right? So that is an IRrational fear. A burglar with a gun COULD hurt you – do you understand how that’s a rational fear?

But the cool thing is, even if we have a rational fear, like the burglar, God tells us we still don’t have to be afraid, because He will help us in those situations. He sends His angels that guard us and watch over us and fight for us (Psalm 91:11). Remember 2 Timothy 1:7? God did not give us a spirit of FEAR, but of power, love, and a sound mind. The thing is, sometimes there’s more going on than what you can see. There are lots of reasons why a burglar might be doing what he’s doing. People that do bad or scary things aren’t always bad themselves. Sometimes people didn’t grow up knowing God, and so they don’t know what’s right or wrong. Sometimes people are hurt really badly by people they loved and trusted, and they have lots of anger, hurt, and sadness inside that leads them to make bad choices. Sometimes it’s just that the devil is a really good liar, and he’s good at convincing people they should do bad things. So even when those people are doing things that make you afraid, you can know that Jesus gave us authority over all the power the enemy possesses (Luke 10:19). We can use our Sword of the Spirit which is the Word from Ephesians 6 because our bible verses are our weapons – we pray them, and God’s angels can go to work in the spiritual realm and fight the enemy’s demons for us. That’s why it says the Word is our Sword – our weapon.

So God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of
POWER – over the enemy: the devil and his demons;
LOVE – to love people even when they do hurtful things to us;
and a SOUND MIND – to help us determine whether our fear is rational or irrational, and to discern what might be going on in the spiritual realm so we know what to pray. This also helps us know what to do if we have a rational fear because of a real situation.

Does that help?

Even as an adult, I have irrational fears sometimes. But when I focus on God’s love instead of whatever silly thing is scaring me, I feel so at peace. The devil can’t touch me, because I’m bought and paid for by the blood of Christ.

 

*DISCLAIMER: if it comes as a shock to you, yes, I do mention the devil and his demons to my kids, in whatever way I feel is appropriate for their age, understanding, and maturity level, as I feel led to. He is far more of a real threat to us than any other pretend boogey man, so I use my discretion when mentioning it. But I do want my kids to be aware that there is a force out there that wants them to fail and wants them to make bad choices (1 Peter 5:8). The bible tells us to be vigilant and sober-minded, and I don’t see anything wrong with teaching this from as young an age as they can understand. Because even though we have an enemy, we also have a Savior who has conquered the enemy for us and deprived him of power to harm us (John 16:33). We have an answer to the problem! How can you fight something if you don’t know what you’re fighting against? Even more, how can you know the solution if you don’t know the problem? I want my kids to be equipped to understand the truth and that most times, there is more going on than meets the natural eye. And in case you’re wondering, A (who really is the only one old and mature enough for me to have explained anything to) has never vocalized a fear of the devil, or complained of bad dreams about the devil or his demons. 😉

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Coming Soon: Rational VS Irrational Fear

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You probably can’t read my chicken scratch because I was writing so quickly so I wouldn’t forget anything… but I just had an awesome God moment. In the Bible God tells us to write wisdom (the Word) on our hearts, because then when we need it, it suddenly flows out. I somehow gave a very good (short) little sermon to Aubrey about rational VS irrational fears, and how we don’t even need to be afraid if our fears are rational. I have no explanation as to where this came from except from the Holy Spirit. God is awesome in so many ways. I promise a post soon in greater detail, but right now this momma needs to rest 😉

All you other mommas, if you need encouragement tonight, remember Galatians 6:9: Do not grow weary in well- doing, for in due time you shall reap a harvest if you faint not.
Keep studying the Word! When you need it, the Holy Spirit will call it up for you and you will find yourself giving a little mini-sermon. Then you’ll bless His name for allowing you to be a vessel, and for honoring you with motherhood. ♡

The Crazy Toddler Stage

C is currently 22 months… going on 22 years. She walked at 8 1/2 months, ran at 9, showed interest in the potty at 18 months, and started talking in phrases by the time she was 19 months. Now, she speaks in 4 word phrases. All the time. As a result of this speedy development, she is simply over-confident.

Let me elaborate. She gets herself snacks and water and puts away her dirty dishes. That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it??? But when the over-confidence leads to one of the following situations, it is not so wonderful:
– Climbing on the counter to reach my purse, which had nail polish in it, and painting her own toenails…. as well as the counter, her arms, and her feet.
– Climbing onto the counter and eating the sour cream straight from the container, after she had asked the hubs for food and he said no. (It was after dinner, which she ate well, and it was almost bedtime. She didn’t take no for an answer and he found her eating it with a spoon. I was at work.)
– Climbing on the counter to get Hershey kisses after I said she couldn’t have any more.
(Um…yes. They all involve climbing onto the counter. Where’s the childproof safety for THAT? … Read on.)

This is what she does when she is caught doing something she's not supposed to do. Nice attempt, but Mommy can still see you ;)

This is what she does when she is caught doing something she’s not supposed to do. Nice attempt, kid, but Mommy can still see you 😉

And lately her new favorite thing is putting things in the toaster. Yes, you read that right. She must think it’s a big piggy bank or small garbage or something. Here are things I’ve had to retrieve from the toaster before it explodes:
– Wrappers from the Hershey kisses (yep. The same ones she climbed onto the counter to get. For the record, I thought I had them in a place that was ‘un-gettable’.)
– Coins/change
– Bobby pins

This is what I just fished out of my toaster.

This is what I just fished out of my toaster. My loose change was on the counter because I’m washing my apron for work.

Here’s the thing about this stage of toddler-hood: no one can prepare you for it. And baby proofing? HA! Baby proofing is nothing compared to what you must do when they’re toddlers. And the worst part is, most of the time there are no store-bought products that can prevent this crazy toddler stage from manifesting in its full glory. Like I said: what product can prevent your kids from climbing up the handles of the drawers to access the counter? Also, I’m kind of sort of in the “if they shouldn’t play with it, you should teach them not to play with it instead of just preventing access to that area, because they need to learn.” Except that when you have 3 kids 6 & under, it really is necessary to do SOME baby proofing, or all you will accomplish all day is to prevent them from dying. (Dramatic? Maybe only a little.)

So yes. Supervision becomes more hawk-like when you realize your child has hit this stage. But the problem is, you can’t be everywhere all the time; you can’t make them sit perfectly still while you do normal tasks like clean up the messes they just made, or make them dinner, or wash their dishes, or do their laundry. For example: I was removing the change from the toaster and sweeping the crumbs from the counter, after finally taking a risk and explaining to C why we don’t put things in the toaster. (“The toaster gets really hot, and if we put things in it, they can catch on fire, and we can all get really hurt. We don’t put things in the toaster. Okay?”) I return to the family room, where I was previously, cuddling with B and trying to catch a quick wink, and the first thing I see is C trying to drink the glue that I had just taken away from B before the whole toaster incident, because he refused to use it the right way. (It’s just one of those days.)

When B was this age, the two things I remember most vividly – because they shocked me – were that he would open the oven and use it as a stool to reach the counter, and open the dishwasher for the same purpose. Seriously?! I mean, good job on the problem solving, I’m glad you are determined, but what parent in their right mind could anticipate that being a problem?

It’s this combo of them discovering their limits, pushing them to see if we’ll enforce them, strong determination and a really naive (yet somehow inspiring) belief that they can do whatever they want if they just put their mind to it – which they do.

Now I don’t want to frighten any moms whose kids haven’t reached this stage yet, so let me leave you with some positive advice:
* Expect the unexpected. I know. That doesn’t make sense. Just know that even if you THINK something isn’t possible, they will find a way to make it possible. So listen to that little voice in your head telling you to move that glass of water, secure the garbage, put everything even semi-dangerous up as high as it can go and locked if possible, and know that sometimes things you wouldn’t categorize as dangerous can become dangerous in their hands. So what I’m saying is, go overboard to ensure safety – and don’t feel bad about it.
* Tell them WHY something is wrong/dangerous/not okay. I’ve found repeatedly that if I only tell my kids “no”, they don’t get it. They just keep doing whatever it is they’re not supposed to. But when I explain to them the dangers, they no longer feel like I’m depriving them of fun; they understand those rules are in place because I love them. Use your discretion as to what age to start this… But I guess they’re never really too young. Even if they don’t understand yet, it’s good practice for you, until they DO understand. (Clearly I was reminded of this today since Camille didn’t get the message the past two times she put things in the toaster. Noted.)
* Allow yourself to laugh. If you dwell on your mistakes, and their bad behavior, instead of light-heartedly fixing the problem, you will become so unhappy and discouraged. Don’t beat yourself up. Listen, no mom is perfect. Things are going to happen that will shock and upset you. That’s okay. It does not make you a failure. Make a mental note of it. Fix it as much as you can. Instruct your child why their behavior is not acceptable. Supervise better next time. Then repeat the process. Check out this post and this excerpt for more encouragement in this area.
* Remember these stories. I know when they first happen you might feel angry, shocked, discouraged, etc., but someday when they’re older, you can tell your child, and you’ll all laugh about it. But there’s another reason I want to remember. I kind of envision it going like this someday: B is discouraged because he’s not doing well in fill-in-the-blank activity. I’m sitting with him at bedtime talking over the issue. “Hey B, do you know what? When you were almost two, and you wanted something on the counter, you would open the oven door to use as a stool to reach what you wanted. You were DETERMINED to get what you wanted, and you didn’t stop until you figured out a way to get it. You are a problem-solver. You have determination. You can do this too.” Someday there will be a time when your child needs to be reminded who they are. If you focus on the positive aspects of these crazy toddler incidents, you can use them later, to your child’s benefit.
* Understand you can NOT control your child’s behavior. Our job is to instruct them in the way they should go, and then pray that they will get it. During the in-between times, pay attention. Watch your child, study their habits and tendencies, so you can get to the heart of the issues at hand. Here’s an analogy: You have chronic headaches. Every day you take the maximum allowed pain reliever just to get through your day, instead of going to the doctor to see if there’s something else going on. Fast forward several months, and you finally give in and see a doctor. You find out you have an infection that’s causing the pain. Now, not only do you have an infection that’s been untreated, but you also have an ulcer in your stomach from taking all the pain meds for so long. As parents, we need to treat the actual cause of the behavior, not only the symptoms (behavior). When one of my kids displays repeated bad behavior, I’m beginning to pray that God will reveal the reason to me, so I can treat that instead.

So here’s to more supervision, more peace, and enjoying life in the midst of crazy toddler mishaps!!!

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“Love” Parenting

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This perfectly describes what I was writing about: Parenting from love, not fear.  I have to remind myself of this difference daily!

Disciplining in Love …and not from fear

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Do you know what fear leads to? Anger.

When it comes to discipline, anger is selfish. It comes from embarrassment, impatience, and a desire to correct wrongs that have been done to US. It’s immature. And it’s a thin line: you can spank your child if it’s the expected punishment for bad behavior; but spanking your child because you are caught up in a moment of raging anger is not helpful for anyone. You will feel guilty later, making it difficult for you to be consistent, and your child, instead of learning, is just fearful of you and feeling unloved. When you lash out in anger born of fear, you make it about YOUR behavior; instead of being focused on their behavior and how to correct it, they are experiencing the results of your inability to control your emotions.

Awhile back, I realized I had made most of my discipline decisions out of fear. If I don’t hurry up and pick a discipline method and stay unerringly consistent, I thought, my daughter will be rambunctious, never listen, and grow into a disrespectful and disobedient child/troubled teen/worthless adult. And then, if we were around anyone else, I’d be so aware of their presence and imagine that they were judging every word I said and every move I made while disciplining my child. Let’s be honest: it is exceedingly difficult not to think about other people’s opinions when you’re disciplining in front of them.

I don’t know if it’s a stage of life I’ve grown into, more life experience, or if having 3 kids close together just made me too busy to care, but at some point I stopped worrying. I didn’t have time or energy to be concerned about what other people thought of my ‘parenting style’. I did, however, go through a dark period in which I was very unpleasant to be around – at least to my immediate family anyway. I was angry a lot, and yelled a lot, and didn’t show very much love at all. Thankfully those are the kind of seasons (difficult ones) that we learn the most from, if we’re smart.

So now, when a situation represents itself (and when I can keep my head clear enough), I examine my motives: Am I reacting out of fear of something? Or am I acting to teach my children desirable behaviors and attitudes? If it’s the latter, I am in the guilt-free clear zone. But if it’s the former, I do my best to correct my response, and even apologize if my behavior was really bad. (Side note: Yes, I apologize to my kids if/when I’m wrong. Our kids need to know that we aren’t perfect. Otherwise, they will not only be jaded about us, but also feel the need to live up to that same perfection.)

So what changed? Here are a few specific things that have helped me:
1. Stop fearing what other people will think of your parenting based on your child(ren)’s behavior. Children are unpredictable in a lot of ways. They act differently at home than they do away from home. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s bad. But one episode does not define your child, so stop acting like it does. “They’re embarrassing me” is not a good reason to lash out in anger born of fear.
2. Stop fearing they’ll never ‘get it‘. I’ve noticed that I don’t have to be violently angry or even super strict for them to understand a concept. I come down to their level, speak in a clear calm voice, and explain why their behavior was wrong. If possible I quote scripture. They apologize and make amends where necessary. And you know what? They get it. But if you’re afraid they’ll never get it, you’ll react out of hopelessness, despair, frustration. Why keep trying if you doubt they’ll get it? Like anything, it sometimes takes several corrections, but they DO get it. Even if I’m not spanking or giving time outs. Which leads me to…
3. Stop fearing if you don’t discipline a certain way (consistent, firm hand, time outs, spankings, etc) it won’t work. Because you know what? Our God is about grace. He knows we are not perfect, and that’s why He sent His only Son to redeem us. That is how we can be in relationship with Him in the first place. So wherever we are imperfect, He fills in the gaps through the power of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor 12:9 – “My power is made perfect in weakness.”) Tell me that’s not comforting and freeing!!! (Even if you do, I won’t believe you; my mind’s made up.) So stop fearing that you’re doing it wrong, or your lack of consistency will breed a wild child. Give yourself room to mess up. If you are consistent MOST of the time, and parent out of love, God will do the rest. Remember too that each situation is different. Take the time to know your children individually. Sometimes a spanking might be the best way to teach. Sometimes taking a beloved toy or lovey gets the point across better. You don’t necessarily have to be consistent with your METHOD – just with your love and correction. God is not a God of rules… He’s a God of Grace.
4. Stop fearing what kind of kids they’ll be when they grow up if you don’t ‘succeed’. Hand them over to God. They are not yours anyway. We have merely been given the privilege of raising them to adults. They never really belong to us. Our job is to “train them in the way they should go” (Prov 22:6), pray unceasingly for their hearts to know Jesus, pray for their future, and TRUST OUR GOD that He loves them more than we do. Isn’t that reassuring, refreshing, and… easier? 
When you trust God to reinforce what you are doing your best to teach, you will be SO much less stressed… and happier. Therefore your children will be happier… and more obedient too.

Also remember these two points:
1. Imperfect is normal.
2. Our kids learn right and wrong from us. They really have no idea what is okay or not until we teach them. Instead of being frustrated they don’t already KNOW, calm down and realize it is your job to TEACH them.

Ever heard that phrase People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care?

Parenting out of love is kind of like WWJD – more like What DID Jesus do? How has he loved you in the past? How has he loved you into desiring to change? Sometimes, for me, it’s been when I’m in the midst of loud, chaotic, raging messes and coming to Him completely honest and ugly. And imperfect.
IMPERFECT, that’s the key. When we stop being so afraid of messing up, God is able to teach us the next step. When we admit we’re wrong or angry or ignorant, He gently and lovingly whispers what to do next. He’ll point out a flaw. Or illuminate a wrong attitude. He’ll show you exactly what thoughts need to be changed and how to adjust them. Scripture says if we “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God” He will “heal our land”. He will fix what’s broken. Which is the whole point, because when our kids mess up, they’re being imperfect too. If God can meet us in our imperfections, we should be able to meet our kids in theirs. That’s what love is about – not being afraid of facing the ugly, scary, unknown, uncertain, imperfect, messy stuff. When they are in their raging messes, and we meet them there, they are loved into learning how better to love. Teach them love through your actions, and they will copy your actions and love better too. That’s why your method doesn’t have to be consistent; we’re teaching them to love, and love always wins.

I want to parent like God parents me:
– with a quiet voice

– never in a place of fear
– always with their best interests at heart – based on what you know is right for them. God knows what’s in our future. Even though we don’t know what’s in our kids’ future, we can pull from past experiences and trust God with the rest.
– with love casting out their fear and mine, inviting them to a place where they can come higher and choose God’s love over any fear.

In this video on parenting, Mark Hall puts it perfectly: “Love earns the right to speak truth… That’s how Jesus could say hard core stuff to you and you’d sit there and listen to it – because you knew He loved you.”
2 Tim 1 7

Click here for another message by Executive Pastor Steve Carter detailing how we act from love or fear.

Honest Mom Series – Feature #4, Kristina

Welcome to the fourth feature in the Honest Mom series! Click here to read the previous interview.

Our next mom is 31 year old Kristina, wife to Bruce and mom to 3: Big Brother, T (6), Little Sis, A (almost 3), and Baby Brother Z (1). I’ve always respected that Bruce & Kristina have such confidence in the decisions they make, doing whatever is best for their family. Kristina is a very sweet friend, super creative lady, and a homeschooling SAHM.

A little about her:
Kristina is very enthusiastic about peanut butter – and ice cream. Even better? Peanut butter IN ice cream! She’s always had the travel bug, studying abroad in England and Scotland, where she’d love to return for its beauty. She would also love to go to Greece, where her grandparents are from.

When asked about her parenting style, she says she keeps these words in mind: “Love, nurture, and enjoy.” She depends on God and her own experiences, trying her best by relying on convictions from the Holy Spirit to continue or change her ways. She admits that doesn’t always happen: “A lot of times my parenting style and choices are a reflection of how I was brought up – which are sometimes good, and other times bad. I have read a few parenting books, most of which are about “Hot Topics” that have either convicted me to change my thoughts on a subject or confirm that what I am choosing for my family is right.”

Can you describe a typical day at your house? My oldest son is the early bird and typically wakes up between 6-7 A.M. and will play in his room until someone else is up. If his little sis wakes up next, he typically will play with her and/or his baby brother. I am so NOT a morning person… so it takes me a while to want to get out of bed! Once I do, we head downstairs and I make breakfast and the kiddos watch some T.V.—usually Curious George and Cat in the Hat. Afterwards, we will either do downstairs to do some school stuff, play, or head up-stairs to get ready for the day. Lunch is anywhere between 12-1 P.M, depending on what we are doing that morning. After lunch, Little Sis takes a nap and/or has quiet time for a minimum of an hour. Big Brother and I will then do some more school stuff. Afterwards, he has some play time and I get on the computer to blog, check email, etc. Around 4:30ish, I’ll start figuring out what is for dinner. After dinner, we play some more, watch some t.v. and kiddos get to bed around 9. The bedtime routine is more go-with-the-flow, because I’m still nursing our little one. Typically I read a couple of books to Big Brother, lay with him for 10 minutes, then go to Little sis’ room and read a couple to her. More often than not, I lay with her until she falls asleep. However, if I’m busy with Baby Brother, Daddy takes over reading duties! Every day is a little different, but we pretty much stick to that schedule, adjusting for everyone’s moods, weather, or special plans.

You’re a Homeschooling mama! What would you like to say to other homeschooling moms? Oh wow, this is kind of a loaded question! We’ve been homeschooling from the get go, meaning that when Big Brother was around 3ish, I started to involve more learning activities in our day. We then continued on using a literature-based curriculum for his 4K and 5K year.  And now here we are in his 1st Grade year! I still feel like such a “newbie,” however I would encourage a homeschooling mom by telling her to remember it is a journey.  Do not focus on what others are doing and/or learning—You know your children best and know their needs and what works best.  It is so easy to think of all they eventually need to know, but take it day by day.  I would encourage her that yes, the days may seem long, it may feel like your child will never learn his/her math facts, remember simple spelling rules, how to form his/her letters, etc… but when frustration strikes, step back and know they WILL learn it eventually.  And it truly is a beautiful thing to get to experience that with your child.  With Big Brother, I really feel like I made many mistakes pushing him and being hard on him by expecting too much; I suppose it happens with the first.  In this journey, I just would want them to know that YOU are indeed capable and able to teach your child what he/she needs and wants to know.  There are so many great resources out there to help you along the way—you are not alone.
Oh, and give your kiddos and you plenty of GRACE!  It isn’t always easy (isn’t that parenthood in general?!), but remember tomorrow is another day.

What is the best part about homeschooling? There are so many great things about homeschooling: being able to spend time together is huge; these moments go by so fast and I love that we are together everyday, learning and playing side by side.  I believe that homeschooling is a lifestyle and it allows us to follow the lead of my children by getting to learn what they are most interested in at the moment.  Another one is getting to experience new things together!  When learning about “amorphous solids” (aka Oobleck), Little Sis and Little Brother were able to have some messy fun, too!  It is a family affair. : )

What is your least favorite part about homeschooling? Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all sunshine and roses.  Many days I am just flat out exhausted by mid-morning! 😉 There have been many times that my son and I have butt heads and we’ve been “in the trenches” trying to get things done.  However, I think most of that stems from my unrealistic expectations. Bad attitudes and resistance to doing anything school related come and go, but that is when it is time to step back and evaluate what you are doing and why. Also, when starting your homeschooling journey, I believe there is a great deal of pressure to make sure your child is learning like his/her peers and homeschooling starts looking like “school at home.”  Playing the comparison game is a sure-fire way to kill your child’s curiosity and love of learning.  It makes homeschooling a “chore” and school time is thus fun for no one.
But then this circles back to one of the great things about homeschooling: you are on your own child’s learning schedule; homeschooling allows you the freedom to go at the pace set by your child.

I love that you turned that back into a positive! What are your suggestions to get started homeschooling? First I’d like to encourage you that if you have any sort of inkling that this is something that would suit your family, I say pray and “Just Do It.”  Some people have no desire to homeschool, but some do and it honestly saddens me when they talk themselves out of it by saying, “ I just can’t teach my child….  Or I could never do it.”  Mama- you ARE fully capable of teaching and leading your child!!
So once the decision has been made, I would check out what your State Requirements are—each State is different; some are very lax and some are very rigid, so it is very important to know.  You can check out https://www.hslda.org/laws/.
There are many ways to homeschool; another idea is to figure out your child’s learning style and YOURS!  There are many schools of thought on how to homeschool your child—Unschooling, Classical, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Eclectic, etc.  Check your local library for books and it’ll explain the different philosophies in greater detail or search the web.  You will truly be amazed at how many resources are out there to help you!
Once you have an idea, next you’ll need to find a curriculum.  They can be boxed- meaning every subject is lined out and provided for you or you may choose to pick and choose products from different companies.  Just remember to find what works for YOUR family. Research if there is a curriculum fair in your state and if so, attend one.
If possible, find other homeschooling mamas that have been there & done that—whether that is through a local Co-op, homeschooling group, homeschooling bloggers, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  We are all on this journey together!

What do you think is the biggest challenge involved with homeschooling? I think the biggest challenge in general, in ALL areas of motherhood, seems to be this ‘you vs. us’ mentality; it’s sometimes referred to as the “Mommy Wars.”  It just seems like there is always something or someone telling us we are doing it wrong: that we should be homeschooling or not, breastfeeding or not, vaccinating/not-vaccinating, eating this and not that. I think we all should just agree to disagree instead of mocking each other’s choices and telling them they are wrong. In the end we should be doing what is best for our children – and what is best for mine may not be the best for yours. Our children, our experiences, strengths and weaknesses are all different, so who am I to judge your choices?

Well said. That is part of the reason I chose to do this series in the first place!

Other than mother and teacher, are you also homemaker? Are you responsible for the housework as well? Yes, I guess. I do the cooking, cleaning, etc. Hubby deals with making the money and with the stuff outside and whatever maintenance inside. However, he is great at helping out if I need it!

How about the kids – do they do chores? Yes, but not consistently. The kiddos are very helpful- most of the time, and will help if I ask them. Big Brother is much more inclined to help if there is a reward or it is made into a game. Little Sis is a typical toddler—may help, may not help… you just never know! 

How do you discipline them? First they are given a warning. If they repeat the behavior they get time out or something taken away. Sometimes it works. Big brother can get quite sassy sometimes, so daddy usually has to have “a talk” with him. Sometimes they are effective. Sometimes, no. We just have to make sure they know that kind of behavior is NOT acceptable.

What are your nutritional guidelines? The kiddos LOVE fruits, so we’ve got that covered. Big Brother eats most veggies—it wasn’t always like that though! Little Sis is adventurous and will try new things more than the boys, but her tastes change daily! Little Brother still nurses several times a day, so I know he’s eating well. Otherwise, I try and make three meals a day from scratch. I try to stay away from boxed foods- but it doesn’t always happen, and I refuse to beat myself up over that. We don’t buy many snack type foods as they never last more than a few days and well, they just aren’t good for you anyway! I’ve taken to the phrase, “everything in moderation.”  

What about you? Do you ever get time to yourself with all you’re doing? I’m definitely an introvert and NEED time to myself! Although with a house full it doesn’t happen much. Yeah, a bathroom break involves one or more of the kiddos opening and closing the bathroom door and/or getting into the cupboards, toilet paper, or something they are NOT supposed to. This is also the time when everything -i.e. good behavior- seems to unravel and chaos breaks loose. Thus, I probably end up spending too much time in the bathroom! Ha! I will also venture to the store childless or with one… so much different and EASIER with one. Geesh! That’s always a good time!

Do you have hobbies to help you focus your energy? In the summertime, I work in the garden. I like to craft for myself and with the kiddos. I browse Pinterest a lot. And I blog, which started out more of a family blog detailing our homeschooling activities with my oldest, but it has grown into crafts and other learning activities too. I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book, and while that still has yet to pass, I enjoy blogging for now. I just shared my 300th blog post not too long ago! It’s so crazy to think I’ve had 300 things to share!

I’ve seen your blog. There’s a lot of content and it looks so professional! How do you find the time to do it, what with everything else you do? I probably get a bit obsessed (okay, it’s not probably– I do. ha!) and stay on the computer a bit too long during the day. Sometimes I do it in the mornings while the kiddos play after breakfast.  Sometimes it is after Big Brother and I finish school work and he plays while Little Sis is still napping and/or having quiet time.  Sometimes it is after dinner when we are all just hanging out.  Sometimes it is when the kiddos go to bed and I stay up a little too late.  Most days it is a mix of all of those. And of course it’s always right when I’m about finished that the kiddos have gone wild! But it’s something I enjoy and is “my time” and a way for me to beat cabin fever!  As for the kiddos beating cabin fever we try to take advantage of our Rec Center activities, do field trips, or crafts.  And sometimes it means putting on a show and/or movie!

Tell us about your struggles and challenges as a mom. Time management is my biggest struggle, mostly due to our go-with-the flow, loose daily schedule. Seems like there is so much to do, that I want to do, need to do, that just doesn’t happen. Patience is another one… yep, it wears thin some days! And some days I didn’t get the memo that I need a lot of it! I need to improve at being quick to LISTEN; it’s real easy for me to see or hear something I do not like and put an end to it without getting the full story.

What is your greatest fear as a mom? That I am doing it all wrong!

What are some of your proudest moments? As I sit thinking about it, so many things make me happy and proud. That my children are happy and healthy; that they are great friends and loving playing together… to my son’s 1st goal in soccer or when Little Sis loves on her baby brother.

What is your greatest hope for your kids?  I hope for success in all areas of their life; that wherever they go and whatever they do they know God loves them and wants them to be happy and prosperous. To know they can dream big and to pursue those dreams. To know they are loved and special.

You can read more about Kristina, get ideas for kid-friendly educational crafts, and their adventures in Homeschooling at School Time Snippets.

Honest Mom Series – Feature #3, Kelly

Welcome to the 3rd feature in the Honest Mom series! Click here to read the previous installment.

View More: http://studiopopinc.pass.us/kelly-and-dave-1

Meet 33 year old Kelly, wife to Dave and mom to 2 adorable boys: smart, particular Rory (4 1/2) and easy going, charming Ian (2 1/2). Dave and Kelly are very entrepreneurial-minded. They’re great at DIY projects – in the traditional sense, around the home, but also on yourself – fitness, health, and bettering yourself are all areas they seem to incorporate in their every day life. Kelly is a SAHM, but always involved in projects – real estate, for example, and her new online fitness/health business.

A little about her: Dave and Kelly met in LaCrosse, Wisconsin at college. She has a degree in marketing while Dave has his in Exercise Sport Science with a minor in business. They’ve been married 8 years. Kelly’s been home with her boys for 5 years while staying active with various interests. Dave owns a sports training center and she’s getting her online fitness program off the ground. She loves steak and sushi, and calls herself crazy for liking activities like skydiving, hang gliding, bungee jumping, and rock climbing. She would love to go back to Mexico where she and Dave were married, and some day take her boys to visit all the castles in Ireland. (Dave and Kelly have a thing with castles!)

When asked about her parenting style, Kelly says they do whatever feels right for their family. She likes to take in all the advice from others and choose what works for them – this includes discipline, food choices, sleep ‘training’, etc. When asked about their parenting philosophy, she says, “We just want to have fun and see everyone laugh every day.”

Can you describe a typical day at your house, including bedtime routine? The boys wake up around 7:30 and we leave a banana or orange out for them. They turn on cartoons until one of us gets up. Dave and I alternate mornings. It’s pretty great! We have a real breakfast together around 9 (unless it’s a preschool day). Lunch is around noon, snack around 3 and dinner around 6 (but we are VERY flexible). Bed between 7:30-8pm in their shared room. Bedtime routine includes baths every other night, brushing teeth, reading books, and singing a few songs of their choice. They have been going right to sleep. I can’t believe I can finally say that after many struggles! Rory didn’t sleep through the night until 13 months old, but Ian has slept through the night perfectly since about 8 weeks old. They are SO different. My favorite part of our schedule is 8-10:30pm. Dave and I almost always spend it together: talking, watching whatever series we have on our DVR, and we sometimes (well, pretty often) have a glass of wine and cheese & crackers. Then we get ready to start over.

Can you tell us in more detail about your bedtime struggles? Rory has never liked to sleep. We tried EVERYTHING with him. After 12 months of getting up every night we finally let him cry after I stopped nursing (at 13 months old) and it took 33 minutes before he passed out the first night, 23 the second night, 5 the third night and he’s been sleeping ever since. I know that’s controversial but it worked for us and I have no regrets.

What kind of activities do you do with the boys? We try to do fun games and projects at home. We also take the kids out to lunch weekly and they usually want to go to Chick-fil-a to play at their play area or the TreeHouse in Lake Zurich. In the summer we walk to the beach and park everyday.

How do you split up the housework? Dave takes out the garbage, makes some of the meals and does a lot of the grocery shopping. I (try my best) to keep the house/toys/dishes/laundry under control.

What are the boys responsible for? They have clean-up time for toys at night, and Rory has to dress himself.

How do you discipline them? We mostly follow “1-2-3 Magic” and give timeouts or alone time to cool off. I’ll just say that having little kids is not easy. I had no idea how frustrating they can be. We don’t really have house rules – we are pretty easy-going. Except – no yelling in the house has been the biggest one lately.

Do you have meals or nutritional guidelines? Yep, we eat mostly real, unprocessed food at home so that we never feel guilty about birthday cake, special treats etc. Breakfast is usually eggs & bacon or a green smoothie, they would eat PB&Js for lunch everyday if I let them, sometimes I make homemade chicken nuggets or deli meat rollups. Dinner is usually meat and a couple veggies. We usually skip the breads/pastas but we don’t obsess over our diets or rule out any particular food.

Tell me more about the method you use to teach your boys nutrition. I am really against feeding kids junk. Special treats and parties are great but they really need to be eating unprocessed foods most of the time. We teach Green light, yellow light, red light foods (foods that are always, sometimes, rarely ever okay to eat). They also love to learn what different food does for you: build muscles, make you taller, give you energy, etc. We consider a mostly unprocessed food diet to be non-negotiable in our home. It’s a priority for me to help our kids learn healthy habits right now that they will take with them through life. Plus, they don’t get sick as often and less doctor visits saves money too 🙂

 What do you say to parents who are afraid feeding their kids almost all unprocessed food is outside of their budget? There are definitely ways to keep costs down and still eat healthy.
1)Growing your own vegetables in the summer (the kids love this)
2)Shopping at farmers markets for fresh produce.
3)Stock up on frozen veggies and even buy fresh berries in bulk and freeze them.
4)Start reading labels and choose better alternatives to what you are already buying.
I recently found a spaghetti sauce on the shelves right next to the one I used to buy (for the same price) and it was SO much better. It had all ingredients that I would use if I were making my own sauce and had no added preservatives, sugar, food dyes, or words I couldn’t pronounce. WooHoo!
These are my 6 Simple steps to start label reading:
http://www.fitfamilylifestyle.com/#!Food-Label-Reading-for-Beginners-6-Simple-Tips/cwmm/FF27B29D-BEB2-4780-A7AF-475A31F9CDEC

Focusing on you… Do you get time to yourself? When and how? I’ve been taking time to myself to simply workout (at home) and shower…sometimes that seems like a luxury. Dave and I also build art and tables and have an Etsy Shop called BuiltConcrete.

When do you find time for that – do you involve the boys in the building? We are blessed with a lot of time. Dave works for 3-5 hours each afternoon so we have most mornings together. One of us plays with the kids while the other works on whatever project we have going on. Teamwork! They go to preschool 3 mornings/week too. Sometimes the kids help out if we are working on something that they can do like gluing blocks on a board to make an art piece. 

What do you consider to be your greatest strength? Love. I’m pretty good at making up art projects, dancing, and tickling bellies too.

What do you struggle with most in daily life? The fighting. The boys are 2 years apart and fight all the time. When I hear myself yelling I usually stop and try to figure out what other ways we can solve whatever problem is going on without involving my emotions.  I’m also realizing that I used to judge parents for so many things that I now find myself doing. We always said “our kids won’t do that!” It’s pretty funny. I feel bad that I had those thoughts about other parents before I had my own kids. 

Ian crying because I gave him the wrong sippy cup.

Ian crying because I gave him the wrong sippy cup.

Rory crying

Rory crying because he didn’t want to leave yet

What do you think is the biggest challenge for moms in this generation? It feels like there is a lot of pressure to do everything and do it perfectly. Keep kids happy/entertained/educated, keep house clean, meals prepared, workout and even do something professionally and/or have hobbies. I realize that I can’t do it all. So usually the house is a mess and the kids are playing on their iPads or watching TV at some point since it’s winter. But we are all happy!

What’s a lesson you’ve learned the hard way from parenting? Try not to judge difficult children (and their parents!). Rory has been a handful since birth and I really think parents that have all calm or even children with regular temperaments will still judge and never quite understand. Like I talked about, naps and bedtime used to be a huge struggle, and Rory was the type that had NO flexibility with naps. We could not stay at a friend’s house and nap later or skip naps. For a year of my life I drove around to get him to take naps – but I actually started to enjoy it. I would make a hot drink and grab a book or magazine (since he would fall asleep then I could park someplace).  Now Ian is the opposite – he has been VERY flexible so it’s interesting having both sides.

What is your greatest hope for your boys? That they will grow up to be great friends and be happy and successful.

View More: http://studiopopinc.pass.us/kelly-and-dave-1

You can check out Kelly’s new fitness site (specially tailored for busy moms!) complete with free 14-day workout program, 20-minute at home workouts, meal ideas, and encouraging Facebook group here: www.FitFamilyLifestyle.com .

Honest Mom Series – Feature #2, Heather

Welcome to the second feature in the Honest Mom series! Click here to view the first and here to read the third.

Kalis family sit

Our next mom is 30 year old Heather, wife to Joe and mom to adorable Emery, 8 mos. Joe & Heather have always been a hardworking, go-getter couple who like to have fun. She loves her mom’s ‘good good chicken’  (She explains, “She had a recipe that we called the good chicken, and then she started making one we liked even better!“), and can’t live without chicken eggrolls. She would like to go back to Australia since her dad was born there, and she has family there, and also travel Europe. The most spontaneous thing she’s ever done is go white-water rafting when they were supposed to be driving home from West Virginia. Heather is a SAHM, but does some work from home.

A little about her: She and Joe both grew up in the Chicago area, but didn’t cross paths until college at Illinois State University in 2003.  They both have bachelor’s degrees: his is in business and hers in Elementary Education.  They had an on and off relationship until they joined Amway in 2005, had a common goal, and found their faith in God.  They’ve been married since June of 2007. Joe is a manager at an internet feedback company, and Heather is a SAHM, after 6 years of nannying.

When asked about her parenting style, Heather explains that as a Christian she’d like to say God is her compass, but that’s not always the case, and that she’s trying to figure it out as she goes. She explains, “Unfortunately I’m not sure.  I ask other moms their thoughts and just try and do what I think is best for her. I definitely pray about big decisions and for strength in certain situations, but probably not as much as I should!” Right now her philosophy is keeping Emery safe, fed, and well rested.

If you had to choose a mission statement for you as a mom, what would it be? To raise my children to love God, respect others, and know that they are loved no matter what they do.

Can you describe a typical day at your house, including bedtime routine? A typical day starts between 7-8am when I hear Emery chattering on the monitor.  I look at the video monitor and see she’s standing up, waiting for me.  We head downstairs for a diaper change, let the dog out, nurse, bottle, feed the dog, pump, then eat breakfast.  By the time all that gets done around 9:30, we play in the basement for an hour or less until it’s time to nurse/bottle and go down for a nap.  I have gotten into the habit of laying in the bed with Emery next to me.  It’s nice because sometimes I read, sometimes I go online, or sometimes I sleep.  I should probably just put her in her crib, but sometimes she wakes up early, crawls over to me and falls asleep on my chest for a little while longer.  She usually naps from 11-12:30 or so.  We get up, nurse/bottle, pump, mom eats lunch, and then it’s play time again.  Around 4 we nurse/bottle feed, and then it’s nap time.  She tries to fight this one even though she’s clearly tired, rubbing her eyes, and crying.  Sometimes I have to rock or nurse her to sleep.  She wakes up around 5:30…nurse/bottle feed, pump, play with daddy.  By 8:30 she’s ready for bed.  So she gets a bath, jammies, bottle, some yogurt, read a book, nurse, and then she is in her crib by 9 or 9:30…then I pump and go to bed. I try to be go with the flow. Obviously if someone is over or we go to someone’s house, she sleeps in the car and then everything gets thrown off…I’ve learned not to stress about it because she still sleeps through the night and it all works out.

What kind of activities do you do with Emery? When the weather was nicer, we would go to story time at the library a few times per week.  With the snow/cold, and sickness going around, we have stayed home.  We still try to meet up with a friend once a week for a playdate, but so many people have been sick, that hasn’t happened lately!  I’m looking forward to going to the park, playing house, and doing art with her when she gets a little older.

Emery2

Do you discipline Emery? I have flicked her on the hand if she gets too grabby and pulling hair…not sure it’s working but I haven’t been consistent.  Other than that, there isn’t much discipline needed…yet. We don’t have house rules yet, other than: 1. Keep the baby alive!

A different kind of discipline, housework: are you fully responsible for those duties? I am extremely blessed to not only have my awesome husband, but my mom lives with us!  She makes dinner every night…bless her heart!  I usually do the dishes.  She does the laundry…I put it away.  Joe is awesome, but doesn’t do the daily chores.  He’s more of the moneymaker/project doer.

What are your nutritional guidelines? Right now we are mostly still breastmilk and formula, but when I do give her solids I try to give her a variety of foods…not too much fruit, things with good fats, etc.  I’m sure as she eats more, I’ll be even more conscious of putting good things in her.  I definitely am more conscious of what she eats than what I eat.

What about time to yourself? I think it’s very important but haven’t figured out how to get this time or what to do with it!

Tell us about your struggles and challenges as a mom. We haven’t had much struggle happen, since she is so young. A turning point for me is when I realized that in every situation, I can only do my best and that is good enough.  Things are not going to be perfect and that’s ok. Having time to myself is my biggest daily struggle…and when I do have a few minutes of time to myself, figuring out what to do with it!  I’m so used to not having any time, that I just busy myself with games on my phone, doing dishes, showering or cleaning up.  It’s like I forgot what other things there are to do, like reading or working out. My biggest worry is making the wrong choices on food, health, play, etc. I realize that I make every decision for her and I just hope that I’m doing the right thing. There are so many different opinions on what is right so no matter what you choose, there are people who say you’re wrong.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for moms in this generation? I think the biggest challenge is knowing who to listen to.  There are so many “experts” with conflicting advice.  We have access to too much information and it’s overwhelming and confusing!  To deal with it, I try to gather opinions from other moms who have been there, done that.  From there, I decide which advice would best fit our situation and family. I think there is also pressure to have “perfect kids”.  You go to the store and your kid is most likely going to act up.  You have so many people judging you on your poor parenting because you “can’t control your kid”.  I think people who either don’t have kids or haven’t been around them in a long time forget that no matter how well you discipline your kids, they are going to act out and sometimes there isn’t much you can do about it.  I haven’t really had to deal with this as a mother, but definitely had times with the girls I nannied for that I had to deal with this.

What are some of your proudest moments? I am always really proud when Emery learns to do something new like crawling, standing, and waving. It’s cool how things happen so quickly and the smallest new thing that they do seems so amazing.

What is your greatest hope for Emery? I just hope and pray that they grow up knowing that they are loved.  I want them to be healthy physically, spiritually, and emotionally…knowing they can do anything they put their mind to!

Emery1

You can read a little more about Heather on her occasionally updated blog: www.heatherkalis.com.