“I Love You More Than All My Toys”

“I love you more than aaaaaalllllll my toys,” Will said as he wrapped his arms around me and planted a good-night kiss on my cheek.

He tells Joshua and me this regularly as we tuck him into bed. I don’t place quite as much value on his trucks and stuffed animals as he does, but his words warm my heart each time.

God loves to shower His people with good gifts. But sometimes while enjoying the gifts, we lose sight of the giver. God wants us to love HIM more than all His gifts.

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His words took on new significance earlier as I snuggled with Edmund and thought about God’s gifts to me, which have been so evident this past week.

I’ve seen His goodness in so many ways:

  • I see it as my children run laughing down the sidewalk, with the wind and the sun working together to make their hair ripple like gold.
  • I see it in the beautiful sandals I found at a garage sale to replace my much-loved (but falling-apart) ones.
  • I see it in Joshua finding the absolutely perfect picture for our living room (on it’s way from London at the moment!)
  • I feel it when Joshua steps up behind me and wraps his arms around my post baby waist and tells me he loves me.
  • I see it in the generosity of family and friends who have showered us with meals and love these past weeks. 

Happiness and gratitude filled me as I thought on these and many other blessings. But as I rejoiced in God’s gifts, Will’s words came to mind: “I love you more than all my toys.” 

God loves to bless His children with good things. But sometimes His gifts give us such happiness that we forget the Giver and start focusing on all our shiny “toys”.

Will’s words pointed me back to the Giver of all my good gifts. Though we certainly should rejoice in His goodness, God wants us to love Him more than all His gifts.

What We Do for Chores

“Mama yook! My did it!” Meg clapped her hands and pointed with glee to the wash cloth she just folded. 

Birthday season just came to an end at our house and with it the passing of the “birthday chore batons.”

Don’t worry, I don’t assign new chores as we dish up the birthday cake. But around each birthday the kids graduate from some of their old chores and get to learn new ones. Not only do they (for the most part) enjoy the change, it helps keep me accountable to train Will and Meg and not just have Rose keep doing the same chore year after year.

My little helpers doing laundry together

As I vented said last week, running the home is my responsibility, but I desire to teach the children to be cheerful and diligent helpers now and responsible adults some day. Plus, it’s just so fun having all the kiddos around me as I clean up the kitchen or fold laundry, each doing their own little part to make the household run smoother.

Last week I shared my goals for chores. Now here’s a peek at our chore “system”. It’s very informal (there’s not single chore chart in the house) but works for us right now. 

Rose’s daily chores (just turned 6):

  • Make bed and get dressed
  • Open the living room curtains
  • Wash off the table after each meal
  • Vacuum the living room or sweep the entry way (alternates)
  • Fold and put away her and Meg’s laundry
  • Tidy up after herself

Will’s daily chores (just turned 4):

  • Get dressed and make bed (still needs some help)
  • Gather the dirty laundry
  • Sort and put away the silverware
  • Empty the compost
  • Fold and put away his laundry
  • Tidy up after himself

Meg’s daily chores (just turned 2):

  • Get dressed (with help)
  • Clear the table after each meal (she hands the dishes to me while I load the dishwasher)
  • Fold the washcloths
  • Run “errands” for me
  • Tidy up after herself

Other things they help me with that aren’t assigned (and they usually really, really want to do):

  • Play with baby Edmund
  • Bring groceries in from the van
  • Help bake or cook
  • Water the garden
  • Random deep cleaning
What do you do for chores at your house? It’s so fun to get a peek into other’s homes. 🙂 

 Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Proverbs 31 

Of Children and Chores

“What do you do for chores?” I’ve had several people ask recently. My oldest is only six, so I don’t have decades of great experience to speak from, but thought I’d share my goals for my children.

When it comes to children and chores, there are two extremes that I hope to avoid.

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The first extreme, unfortunately not unheard of in homeschool circles, views children (daughters especially) as a sort of mom replacement. “Won’t it be nice when your daughters are grown?” an acquaintance with this mindset asked, “You’ll never have to cook or clean again!” 

This mentality is just plain wrong. There’s a clear line between raising our children to be responsible men and women (and cheerful contributors to the family good) and relinquishing our calling of manager of the home to them. It is my responsibility to manage my home. It is not and never will be my daughters’ responsibility to manage my home for me.

The other extreme seems much more common in modern America. It sees giving kids any real responsibility as robbing them of the innocence and joy of childhood. Cleaning up after themselves is more than you can expect and you ought to pay them if they make their own bed.

Besides leaving an overwhelming amount of work for us moms to do, this mentality really robs children of the chance to work alongside us. It encourages dependence and entitlement instead of preparing children to be useful and cheerful adults.

Like me, I’m sure you are aiming for a middle ground.

I want to prepare my children to be responsible adults, not by relinquishing my responsibility to them, but by modeling responsibility for them. I want them to work cheerfully and diligently with me for the good of the whole family. I want to be faithful to train the younger children even when it’s easier to do it myself or have a big sibling do it.

Most of all, I want them to view work as a good thing given to us by a good God.

Next week, I’ll actually answer the question and give you a peek into what my kiddos do for chores.

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Proverbs 31 

Help Big Siblings View Baby as a Blessing

When I was expecting Meg, a wise mother of ten shared a piece of advice with me that has come to mind so many times the past few weeks, “Make sure your older children view the baby a blessing, not the source of all their miseries.” 

When we first welcome home a new little bundle, it’s hard to imagine the love and excitement wearing away for big siblings. But as the days pass by and sleepless night follows sleepless night, it’s easy to let big brother and sister feel the brunt of Mama’s exhaustion.

  • “Stop talking so loud! You might wake up the baby.”
  • “Don’t be so rough, you might hurt the baby.”
  • “I can’t hold you right now. Don’t you hear the baby crying?”

Be careful! We all want our children to view the new baby as a blessing from God. We want them to embrace a worldview that values the gift of children. But when Baby becomes the inadvertent cause of all of a big sibling’s trouble, it’s easy to see how anger or jealousy could creep in. 

Instead, this wise mother encouraged, involve big brother and sister.

  • When Baby really needs to be held and the toddler really needs attention, let the toddler hold the baby and talk about how grateful you are that God gave you these little blessings.
  • When older siblings are whooping and hollering during Baby’s nap time, pile them onto the couch with you and quietly tell stories about when they were babies. (Anyone else’s kiddos love hearing about when they were babies?)
  • If an older sibling is being too rough, of course you need to rescue the baby. But two-year-old-brothers probably aren’t trying to suffocate Baby, they just need loving training (and lots of encouragement) on the right way to love on Baby. Show them how to be gentle and praise them when they are. 

Create a home where Baby is a blessing, not a cause of constant constraint for big siblings.

Multiple times over the last few weeks I’ve been reminded of her words. I’d be lying if I said the transition from three to four has been a piece of cake. Or if I said that Meg hasn’t struggled at all the last few weeks and needed lots of extra hugs and cuddle time as she’s transitioned to being a big sister (cutting molars and catching a cold didn’t help!) But I’m so grateful that she, and the others, wake up wanting to hold and love on baby Edmund.

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking Redeemed, Our Simple Country Life, & Proverbs 31

Today I Was Going to Make My Bed

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This morning I was going to make my bed. Not the most ambitious of goals, but since Edmund was born, I (the girl who couldn’t stand to leave her bed unmade) had made it a grand total of twice.

So today I was going to make the bed.

But by the time I woke up and fed baby Edmund, it was already past breakfast time for the rest of us.

After we had eaten and read a Bible story together, I was going to make my bed. But Will needed help getting his clothes on the right way and I had to oversee morning chores.

Soon chores were done and everyone (except me) was dressed and with their bed made.

I was going to make my bed then, but Edmund made it quite clear he might starve if I didn’t feed him immediately.

While I fed him, I read a couple books aloud to the kids. Then, before the kiddos got absorbed in another adventure (and mess), we needed to start school.

So Rosalind recited poetry to me while I swept the floor and switched laundry. Then we worked on Bible memory and Latin practice together.

While the kids took a little break and Edmund lay down for his morning nap, I went upstairs to make my bed… but somebody had an accident. So I went back downstairs and cleaned that sweet somebody up instead.

Now that I was back downstairs, the stack of papers on the counter reminded me of a couple bills I needed to pay. In the process of getting down the envelopes, I had an idea for reorganizing the kitchen cupboard to make it much more efficient (something I’d been wanting to do for weeks). Quickly I paid the bills and reorganized the cupboard.

Then it was time for more school. When we finished it was nearly lunch time. Edmund was napping, so I hurried to get lunch ready before he woke up.

After we’d eaten, cleaned up, and I’d tucked the little ones into bed for a nap, I finally had time to make the bed… only I was so tired after being up in the night, that I took a nap instead.

Finally, a bit after four p.m., I made my bed.

It took all of sixty seconds.

Anyone else have days like mine? 

 Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Proverbs 31 

Of Babies, Books, and Habits

The days already seemed to hurry past with incredible speed before Edmund was born. With another child to love and care for, time seems to pass even more quickly. (I can only imagine what the passage of time feels like for moms with really big families!)

Sound asleep swaddled in one of these amazing blankets and enjoying the cute bouncy seat his cousin loaned him. 

We’ve been enjoying an early school break (Rose’s school started very early so we wouldn’t fall behind after Edmund was born) and the lull in our normal routine. But even so, 8:00 p.m. arrives all too quickly and I’ve realized afresh that if I want to make time for the things that are important to me, I have to be purposeful about it.

I have to make time toread stories to the children and memorize together. To read good books and answer a dear friend’s letter. To make memories as a family and “play” in the garden. To spend time in the Word, to blog, and to prepare school lessons.

To make time for these important things, I need to redeem the minutes instead of frittering them away. I need to prioritize the simple things, like reading picture books to Meg. And I need to purposefully set goals that reflect what really matters.

Over the course of this past year, I let many of the habits I worked on last year slide and bad habits develop in their place. I’d love to blame it all on morning sickness, insomnia, and general pregnancy exhaustion, but a good bit of it was just lack of discipline.

Our sweet little Edmund is here now, and with one more little life in my care, the importance of good habits is even more evident.

Now that Rose is reading and enjoys longer stories, I’ve neglected reading to the other kiddos. I know reading to children is so important to their development (and so fun) but I keep letting it fall through the cracks. So this month, I’m working on an important habit: read at least two picture books to Meg and Will each day.

Thankfully, Meg is obsessed with books right now and asks for more stories regularly.

What about you? Do you have any habits that you ought to develop but just haven’t? Care to join me? 

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Introducing: Homeschooling Day by Day

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Rose started first grade this week. Two days each week she’ll be attending a Classical Christian school affiliated with our church (where I get to help teach) and the other three days I’ll be homeschooling her and William.

The week has been a busy, stretching one. As I sat down with my sneak-peak copy of Homeschooling Day by Day, the question “Do I really have time to read this right now?” nagged at the back of my mind. 

But as I scrolled through the pages, my head kept bopping up and down. Kristy‘s candid honesty and humble encouragement was just what I needed to begin the year refreshed in spirit and with my heart focused.

Throughout the pages of Homeschooling Day by Day, Kristy (and a band of contributing homeschool mothers) offer inspiration for managing homeschooling and babies, homeschooling children with special needs, choosing the learning style that best suits your family’s needs, homeschooling teenagers, and a host of other important practical considerations.

The book is far more than just a practical field guide though. It seeks to capture the heart of our calling as homeschool mothers and provides big picture encouragement as we plod through the trenches of daily life.

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Kristy Smith envisioned and masterminded the ebook, with contributions from ten other homeschool moms who are at various stages of this exciting and sometimes daunting journey: Bambi MooreJacinda VandenburgKasey NortonAmy MazeJill YorkSara Elizabeth DunnRichele McfarlinStephanie EidsonHeather Bowen & myself. (I’m honored and humbled to be part of a project with some of my very favorite bloggers!)

The goal is to share fresh vision for what homeschooling can be, not just in the glamorous “bigger picture”,  but in the nitty gritty details of everyday life.

 

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 Available August 12th here and on Amazon

Throughout the forty chapters of this ebook, we’ll tackle the topics of

  • homeschooling methods
  • when you’re facing burnout
  • learning styles
  • the most important “R”
  • homeschooling kids with learning disabilities
  • homeschooling teenagers, preschoolers, and how to juggle multiple ages
  • dealing with insecurity and criticism as a homeschool mom
  • how to handle bad attitudes
  • expectations
  • hands on help for lesson planning, keeping up with housework, meals, and so much more!

If you’re a homeschool mom in need of a little inspiration, or if you’ve ever considered homeschooling but aren’t quite sure you can do it, Homeschooling Day by Day seeks to encourage and empower you!  

 Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Proverbs 31

Child Training: “Just Do It.”

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When you hear the mantra “Just do it!” parenting doesn’t usually come to mind—at least to me. But lately I’ve been convicted of how many areas of training boil down to a simple matter of obedience to God’s Word on my part.

God said “train up your child in the way he should go.” All my wiggling and excuse-making for not doing so is sin.

“I’m too busy.”

“I’m too tired.”

“This can wait till tomorrow.”

The list of excuses is endless.

Of course, raising godly children is absolutely impossible without Divine grace and mercy, but that is still no excuse to disregard the command to nurture and train and love our children right now.

Walking into the grocery store, you often see parents who seem genuinely and thoroughly disgusted with their own children. They have a good reason. Their child is being a brat.

“If you don’t like your kids, do something about it,” the Pearls wrote in their book “To Train up a Child.”***

I love my children and I like them. There are times though that whining, defiance, and the host of other fleshly manifestations that we “don’t like” to see in our children crop up.

If my 3-year-old is whining it’s much easier just to hand him what he wants than take time to explain that you only get things if you ask nicely. Giving in to whining might make the whining stop right now, but it does nothing to shape his character.

Thankfully, I’m at the easy (though sometimes sleep-deprived) early stage of motherhood where the solution is often as simple as not giving in to whining. But it still boils down to a simple “lovingly do something about it.”

 

*** I liked much of what the Pearls have to say, though I disagree with them on many points. As with all books, you’ve got to read it in light of Scriptures and use wisdom when applying suggestions. 

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking Redeemed, Our Simple Country Life, & Proverbs 31

Creating a Worldview Through Forgotten Moments

My brother was playing with my children when he paused and turned to me. “Isn’t it weird to think,” he said, “that I’ve spent all this time playing with them and they won’t remember it? Yet this is helping mold their lives!”

It really is amazing.

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The experiences, rhythms, words, and atmosphere that surround infants and small children play a foundational role in later development.

Habits are formed. Conclusions about the world are unconsciously drawn. A worldview is created.

Yet most of these moments of laughter and tears will be forgotten.

The other night, Rose rolled out of her bed and woke up with night terrors. I tucked her back in bed and stroked her arm. She finally went back to sleep and I headed to bed and was soon fast asleep myself. She woke up with night terrors again. Josh tried to quiet her down so I could sleep, but she was inconsolable. Finally, he got her up and they had a midnight snack together: burnt toast (the more burnt the better, for my little gal) with butter and honey. She calmed down and went back to bed. [We later learned night terrors are often caused by a calcium deficiency.]

Morning came and she couldn’t remember a thing. She didn’t remember I’d put her back in bed or that she’d had a midnight snack with Joshua.

Chances are, your children will not remember anything that you’ve done today. They’ll forget the stories you read together this morning. They’ll forget playing outside this afternoon. They’ll forget the many hours spent teaching them to shape bread or dry dishes.

How many memories do you have of your childhood? I have about a dozen distinct images of my very early childhood.

That’s all.

Out of all the countless hours my parents spent with me my first few years, a few dozen memories?

But the years sacrificially poured into raising and nurturing those little ones aren’t in vain!

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Infants won’t remember the hours spent just holding them and gazing into their eyes. Toddlers won’t remember the many times you get up with them in the night. They will remember being loved.

They are learning about their world. Learning about faith and trust and patience and love and how to control their anger. Learning about God.

We have been given a great and glorious task: creating a worldview that reflects God’s truth. 

It’s daunting. We will fail miserably. We can’t succeed in the end without God’s help. But with His grace we are called to create a world for our child. A world shaped by forgotten moments.

Originally published December 2011 

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking RedeemedGrace Simplicity, & Proverbs 31

The Worst Thing That Could Happen

Deciding to paint your kiddos’ small bedroom with three little helpers hovering around you may not be the most brilliant of ideas.

But, I had to do something to keep my mind off of the fact that Joshua was out of town. Painting seemed like the perfect thing. (Plus, it was at the top of my “nesting” list.) My wonderful mom and sisters came over and helped paint our bedroom and after they left I started the kids’ room.

“Helping” is SO much fun! 

Rose and Will begged to be able to “help” so I told them once I’d finished edging, they could have a turn rolling. After waiting eagerly for me to finish, they squeezed past the beds and dresser we’d crammed into the middle of the room, with Meg toddling in right behind them.

Will took a turn rolling on paint, and while I turned my back for a few moments, he refilled the roller all by himself. Paint oozed from the wall and, of course, Meg managed to get her fingers painted. I handed the roller to Rose and ran Meg to the bathroom sink.

I was in the middle of hurriedly washing turquoise paint off her fingers when I heard a plaintive call for help.

Immediately, worst case scenarios flooded my mind.

Paint running down the dresser and into all their clothes? Ruined carpet? A paint-covered child?

But the next instant another thought came to me. What really is the worst thing that could happen? 

The worst thing that could happen would be me losing my tempter.

Rose’s “oh no!” face. [The sky blue in the background was one of many failed tries to get the color right.]

Sure, any of those paint scenarios would be a mini-catastrophe in my eyes, but God cares a whole lot more about my attitude than whether the paint job is perfect or my six-year-old spilled paint on the floor. My heart is even more important to Him than whether I chose the right shade of turquoise (a matter of such importance that it required four trips to Lowe’s.)

The last couple weeks have been trying. Joshua’s been working really long hours, had a horrible root canal, and then had to leave town for a week. I’ve been dealing with way more emotional meltdowns than normal and by 7:00 p.m. (when we were in the midst of painting) my patience was about as thin as parchment paper.

Thankfully, the paint catastrophe amounted to little more than a bit of paint dripped on the plastic drop cloth. The reminder was such a good one though.

So often (especially at the end of a busy day) I fail to look at life from an eternal perspective and sin in anger over things that seem terrible in the moment, but in the grand scheme of things aren’t that big a deal at all. 

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking RedeemedGrace Simplicity, & Proverbs 31