Musings on Beds, Sleep and God’s Wakefulness

With each new child, the speed of life seems to pick up a notch. Several weekends ago we moved baby Meg out of our room into the kid’s room. Mentally, the transition made her seem even more grown up.

It was kind of sad. Our baby is less of a “baby” each day! (I wish I could “push pause” indefinitely!)

Rose and Will absolutely love having her in their room though! Last summer when were contemplating whether or not we should stay in our small home another year, one of my main questions was “how are we going to fit another bed into the kid’s room?”

My four-year-old solved the dilemma: Will could move into her bed, and she would sleep on the floor!

Rose anticipated the move for months. Now she happily sleeps on a mattress that slides under her old bed in the morning (or serves as a tent, house or barn.)

Three weeks later, the novelty of getting to sleep on the floor has still not worn off. The other day she told Will in a very grown-up sounding voice, “Someday Will, when you’re big like me, you can sleep on the floor too!”

How can you help loving little ones?

Meg seems to like her new bed too! 

Meg usually sleeps well, but she still occasionally gets up in the night. Now that she’s farther away, her fussing takes a bit longer to rouse me from a deep sleep.

Last night I was up multiple times. The final time, Meg’s fussing mixed into my dream. A few minutes passed and the intensity of fussing gradually increased. Finally, my foggy brain slipped out of dreamland. I walked groggily into the kid’s room to rescue her.

As my mind became more conscious, the sweetness of God’s sleeplessness stood out to me.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep” 

                           Psalm 121:1-4 ESV

Our God never sleeps. We don’t have to wait for grogginess to clear before He can hear our prayers. Our glorious, risen Redeemer is alive and awake.

Linked up at Titus 2sdaysTeach Me Tuesdays Thankful HomemakerEncourage One Another, Raising Mighty ArrowsWomen Living Well Wednesdays 

Making Time to Exercise with Little Ones

I seem to be running exactly one day behind this week. This was supposed to be yesterday’s “healthy living” post. 

Modern conveniences have ushered in an era where sedentary lives are possible for the “common woman”. We no longer have to draw water from a well, grow all our own food, wash and ring our clothes by hand or walk wherever we need to go.

Cars, water faucets, refrigerators and washing machines make our lives easier. Unfortunately, they’ve also made exercise something we have to actively choose instead of just having it be part of life.

And, well, sometimes exercise feels like intentionally inflicting torture on yourself! As an unknown author put it, “Exercise is a dirty word. Every time I hear it, I wash my mouth out with chocolate.”

For years, I’ve chosen chocolate far more often than exercise.

photo credit 

The benefits of exercise have been pounded into us since we were little: Exercise helps prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and other “diseases of affluence.” Exercise increases stamina. Exercise curbs weight gain.

However, when you’re young, feel healthy and don’t have difficulty with weight gain, exercise may not seem worth the trouble. For years I’ve exercised for a day or two and then quit for months.

After numerous failed attempts at exercising regularly, I realized…

  • The benefits must seem worth the effort. I’m not trying to lose weight. There are no immediate outward signs I’m looking for (though being more fit is nice.) However, I feel better, sleep better, and (though every other muscle may be screaming at me) my heart thanks me! I want to be healthy not only today, but also when my grandchildren grow up.
  • I need to plan for the long-term. I have to view exercise as something I plan to do for the rest of my life. Otherwise, sickness or travel breaks my resolve.
  • The time commitment must be reasonable. I have three little children. An hour workout is simply not going to happen. However, they play happily for 30 minutes. Or, we can exercise together.
  • Accountability is important.
  • Keep exercise in perspective. “Bodily training is of some value” but “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8) No amount of exercise will prolong our lives past the day God appointed.

If you have small children, finding time to exercise can be difficult, but it’s certainly possible!

Find a workout routine that fits in your schedule

  • I use Jillian Michael”s “30 Day Shred.” The workouts are intense, but only 25 minutes from start to finish. I can squeeze 25 minutes into my morning! (Like most workout videos, the outfits aren’t modest. I exercise while the children are occupied and not watching the video. Also, she uses a few words I don’t want my kids repeating, so I generally keep the sound very quiet. Once you’ve done a workout 23 times, you really hardly need a DVD.)

Exercise together

  • Play games like “Red Light, Green Light” or “Mother May I?” together.
  • Go on a long walk together (pushing a stroller can be exhausting!)
  • “Fly” the kids in the air.
  • Turn on some lively music and dance together.
  • Swim, ride horses or play a sport together.

Make exercise a regular part of your life

  • If you “need to get out of the house” take a walk to the park or explore the woods with your kids.
  • When shopping, don’t spend five minutes trying to find a good parking spot. Just park the car and walk! You can usually find empty spots near a cart holder if it’s not right next to the entrance.
  • Do squats, balance training, or Kegel exercises while cooking or doing laundry.
  • Most homemaking jobs in modern American require little exercise. Choose to do some things the old-fashioned way, whether it’s gardening, hanging out laundry or kneading your own bread.

My goal is to do the workout routine three times a week and exercise with the kids (usually either a long walk together or working in the garden) three days. Though my weeks rarely go entirely according to plan, fitting at least some exercise into my week has made a big difference.

What about you? How do you find time to exercise? (or do you?)

Linked up at Works for MeFrugal Days, Sustainable WaysHealthy 2DayProverbs 31Natural Living Link Up &  Simple Lives

 (Full Disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.)

Mommy Chef: a Balancing Act

The job of a homemaker in the kitchen requires juggling. We must balance the competing claims of health, budget & taste while bouncing a baby or judging sibling rivalry.

The task can be daunting. Few of us have unlimited grocery budgets or endless time to spend in the kitchen.

These are a few ways I seek to provide my family with healthy meals while maintaining my sanity and a strict grocery budget.

Follow me over to Little Natural Cottage to read the rest. 

 

 

Five More Favorite Read-a-Louds

I have been trying to be more intentional about reading daily to the kiddos.

Simply wanting to read isn’t enough though, as Amy pointed out in her excellent ebook Tell Your Time. You have to budget time for it and work it into your daily routine!

Our lunch routine helps ensure we read a chapter or two from our current chapter book (we’re reading Charlotte’s Web at the moment and loving it!)

After baby’s morning nap is storybook time. I shared a few of our favorite picture books  before, but here are five more read-alouds have read over and over and over again (and have’t tired of yet!)

When Jessie Came Across the Sea

When Jessie Came Across the Sea: “Mama, with you read to me?” Rose asked. “I picked your favorite book!” She was referring to this one!

This beautifully illustrated book gives a touching glimpse into the life of a poor, hardworking Jewish immigrant in the late 1800s.

Young, orphaned Jessie (13) is given the chance of a lifetime: to go to America to work with a widowed seamstress. But it means leaving behind her beloved Grandmother.

Enduring love and years of hard work bring the book to a sweet and happy ending. The trials Jesse faces open the door to wonderful conversations about history, immigration, poverty, hard work… and just how blessed we are!

Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons: This book teaches vocabulary through bite-sized cookie examples. For example,

“Pessimistic means: How awful, how absolutely dreadful–I have only have my cookie left.”

“Optimistic means: This is great— I still have half my cookie left.”

Seeing the meaning of words like ‘greedy’ or ‘content’ played out through the beautiful illustrations has solidified the meaning for my children.

The Seven Silly Eaters

The Seven Silly Eaters:

A tale of seven very picky children in hilariously rhyming couplets. Each child in the Peters family has one, and only one, food they will eat. The poor frazzled mother spends her days trying to keep up with their demands.

“Creamy oatmeal, pots of it!
Homemade bread and lots of it!
Peeling apples by the peck,
Mrs. Peters was a wreck.”

A surprising twist solves her dilemma.

Dear friends gave us this book after Meg was born and we’ve read it dozens of times already.  It is one of my children’s absolute favorites. (One caveat though, if you have picky eaters, I wouldn’t recommend the book. It may not help the problem!)

The Bear that Heard Crying

The Bear That Heard Crying:Set in the 1780’s, this book tells the true story of a three-year-old girl who got lost in the woods for four days.

God sent a bear to guard her (and a dream to find her)! The bear found her, watched over her and kept her warm until she was finally rescued.

Like When Jessie Came Across the Sea, this book gives a peak into a bygone era. It also opens up the door for discussions of miracles, God’s goodness, obedience, and life long ago.

Just Me and My Little Brother

Just Me and My Little Brother: Joshua grew up with the Little Critter books and introduced our children to them. I tend to like real life books best of all, but the kiddos love these! The stories are simple and told from the perspective of a little one. This one is about all the things Little Critter and his brother are going to do someday… “but first he needs to learn to walk.”

What are your favorite read-a-louds? 

Linked up at Handful of Heart, Better Mom, Raising Arrows, Motivated Monday & Teach Me Tuesdays

(Full Disclosure: Links to products in this post are my referral links)

Lessons from a Child: Embrace Relationships over Efficiency

The virtue of efficiency often goes unquestioned. Each of us has been given a calling. We are commanded to be diligent.

Sometimes though, efficiency can become too much of an ideal, at least for project-driven people like me.

I want the laundry folded and dinner made as fast as possible. I want to cross one more thing off my to-do list or shave a few minutes from my cleaning schedule.

Grimy Hands

Follow me over to Walking Redeemed to read the rest.

Linked up at Teach Me Tuesdays, Domestically DivineTitus 2sdaysEncourage One AnotherHomemaking LinkupWomen Living Well  & Let’s be Honest

Five Ways to Display Your Child’s Art

Rose all dressed up like a princess, coloring. 

If you have an aspiring artist on your hands, figuring out what to do with all the art is a challenge. Rose spends hours on a daily basis coloring, writing “notes”, painting or “scrapbooking.”

I want to encourage creativity, without completely burying our home in pictures. These are a five ways I display her art while keeping the mess under control. (I would love to hear your ideas!)

Five Ways to Display Your Child’s Art

1. Send pictures

Slip a picture into thank you notes, letter to family or just bringing a picture to her friends. My husband’s wall at work is decorated with some of her finest.

2. Display the newest masterpieces in a “place of honor”

The honor of hanging on the fridge is usually reserved for the latest masterpieces. Once a new drawing needs the spot of honor, the old ones gets put into an art folder…

3. Turn a three-ring binder into an art folder

Rose loves putting her finished pictures into the folder and pulling it out to show grandparents… or anyone who is willing to look!

4. Decorate a portion of their bedroom with artwork.

Rose is allowed to hang a few pictures above her bed. I am a minimalist, but (like Crystal mentioned in her post about shoes) I don’t want to force her into my mold. Once the art area is filled, older pieces go (you guessed it!) into the art folder.

5. Scan the best art into the computer to save forever

Use the artwork for illustrations or add them a photo book.  (For a fun grandparent gift, keep a running log of cute sayings, then make a photo book with pictures and artwork interlaced with sayings. — Thanks Crystal for the idea!)

Throw it away

So, this isn’t a way to publish the art. Much as I love Roses’ artwork and the effort she puts into each piece, not every single creation needs to be kept forever. Once her art folder is jam packed, she goes through and weeds out any artwork that isn’t her favorite to make room for more. I always want to encourage her, but also want her to learn that it’s okay to keep working and only keep the very best.

Displaying your child’s art, without burying your home

If you’ve got a prolific little artist (or two or four!), encouraging creativity without filling every spare inch in pictures can be a challenge. Scan and display the best, send pictures to grandparents, creative an art binder, but don’t be afraid to encourage your child to weed through old artwork and only keep the best.

What are your favorite ways to display your child’s art? (And do you ever toss a piece of art?)

The Fruit of Her Hands: Review & Giveaway

The Fruit of Her Hands is such an encouraging book! Nancy speaks from her heart as an older woman in Christ and encourages women to love and respect their husbands and nurture their home.

 

Nancy begins her excellent book by talking about the proper perspective of a godly woman.

Looking out your front window, what do you see?

Some of us view of a carefully manicured yard, others a dirty parking garage. The physical view has little to do with our perspective though. The woman with the lovely garden can choose to see all the weeds that need to get pulled. The woman looking out on a parking garage can choose to look up at the beautiful sky above.

We must choose to have the right perspective of where God has placed us.

My favorite chapter of the book deals with principles and  methods. Running a household requires making thousands of decisions: What should I feed my family? What kind of diapers should we use?   Are we doing enough outside activities?

The lists runs on and on.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. But we need to distinguish between the principles that God lays out in His word (like honor your husband or love your kiddos) and the millions of methods of following them. We should all strive to obey God’s principles, but how they are practically played out in each home will vary widely!

The truths aren’t earth-shattering, but ones that I need to be reminded of again and again. Every page of The Fruit of Her Hands encouraged me to grow in my relationship with God as I build my home.

Canon Press sells both a paperback and audio version of The Fruit of Her Hands. Nancy also made a full preview of The Fruit of Her Hands available on Google Books!

Would you like to win a copy? Canon Press graciously sponsored a giveaway. Just enter the form below for your chance to win. 

Giveaway closes at midnight EST on Monday. Winners will be announced Tuesday morning.

Don’t forget to join the rest of the No More Student Loan Giveaways!

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Loving the Little Years: Book Review & Giveaway

Shortly after our third child was born, a dear older mother from church gave me a copy of Loving the Little Years. It quickly became my favorite book on motherhood.

Loving the Little Years is not a how-to guide for a perfectly run home or well-mannered children. Instead, it’s a refreshing look at the heart of motherhood, from the trenches.

The author, Rachel Jankovic, is a mother of five young children. She writes candidly about the sticky hands, laughing eyes, sleepless nights and busy days that make up the little years.

A few favorite nuggets

  • A well-ordered, organized home is a mom’s dream. While organization is good, there’s only one area of your life that really must be organized: your attitude.
  • Mothering little ones is a demanding job. It’s easy to become overwhelmed. If we were to rate over-whelmedness on a scale from 1 to 10 (like they use for pain in the hospitals) somedays we may want to scream “13!” But this is where God has us at the moment. We must reprogram our meter to 1. Crunchy floors and sleepless nights are part of our new normal.
  • Teaching a child is a lot like teaching math. As soon as your child masters the basic addition of saying “please” and not coloring on the walls, subtraction gets thrown into the mix. It can feel like they’re never getting it. There’s always a new attitude to adjust or new concept to conquer. But really our children are passing milestones all the time. Little milestones. We just often fail to notice them.

Loving the Little Years is short, but each of the twenty chapters is packed with encouragement for moms of little ones.

Canon Press sells both a paperback and audio version and graciously agreed to sponsor a giveaway. Just enter the form below for your chance to win a copy!

(Check out the rest of the “No More Student Loans” giveaways (there are over a dozen!)… and make sure to come back tomorrow for another giveaway from Canon Press: The Fruit of Her Hands.)

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How to Maintain [Some] Order in a Shared Kids’ Room

Like many of you, my children share a room. Sharing a room teaches valuable lessons about simplicity, getting along and life. However, trying to fit all the toys and clothes for multiple children in a small room and leave room for playing is a challenge.

Rearranging the furniture for optimal floor space helps, but pursuing simplicity in the toy and clothes collection is essential.

Ten ways to simplify the toys:

Christmas & birthdays. Thrift store finds. Generous friends.

Before you know it, your child’s room can be overflowing with toys. Toys are meant to be played with. To loosely paraphrase Solomon, “where no children are, the toys are picked up, but happily playing children are a great blessing.” (Prov. 14:4)

Boy building blocks

 photo credit

However, more toys do not necessarily equal more happiness. A few sticks and pebbles are all some children in the world have. I’m not sure American kids are any happier with their buckets and buckets of toys.

Here are a ten ways that I try to balance fun and simplicity.  (You can see pictures of my children’s room here, though I’ve rearranged it since then.)

  1. Distinguish between durable and disposable toys. Some of my children’s toys I hope my grandchildren will play with, like Duplos. Some toys however (say the Easter eggs from the neighbor) I consider disposable and only keep for a few weeks. After the fun has worn off they are donated or tossed.
  2. Choose neutral toys, when possible. Dolls and trucks are practically indispensable parts of a toy collection, but you don’t need a pink and blue version of everything!
  3. Say “No!” Just because you’re offered free hand-me-downs or find a toy for a quarter at a yard sale, doesn’t mean your child needs it. Sometimes, you just need to say “no!” (Or let your children play with them for a few weeks and then pass them on.)
  4. Rotate the toys so that there are less toys out and they get “new” toys regularly.
  5. Set mess perimeters. I mentioned this in my post on clutter, but having a few guidelines for where and when toys can be played with makes such a difference! We have set clean-up times several times daily as well as a “no toys in the living room after dinner” rule. Play with one toy “set” at a time, then put it away (we’re working on this one!)
  6. Keep birthdays & Christmas gifts simple: Laura Ingalls was happy with a tin cup and a penny. You can show your love without going overboard. Choose quality over quantity.
  7. Gifts are a way many grandparents, other family members or friends show their love. However, sometimes the influx of gifts can get overwhelming, especially if you’re dealing with multiple children in a small room. This is a sensitive issue and may not be wise or kind in all situations, but  if possible, respectfully address overly generous gift-givers. My children have been blessed with grandparents that are so thoughtful of my children and me with their gifts. But, if you are getting overwhelmed by gifts, try to find a kind way to encourage gifts that will bless your child and you. A frazzled mom is not a good gift! A few possible ideas: offer hints for toys your child would treasure, let them know that what your child has plenty of toys and would most like would be to spend time with them (a trip to the zoo, museum, etc.) or set up an Amazon wish list for your child. (Remember though, never wound someone who loves your child over gifts!)
  8. Embrace the simple things. Boxes for boats, blankets for forts, chairs for houses. Children are so creative and content! Often, it’s the parent not the child who thinks they need more.
  9. Donate, sell or toss unused toys. Clearing out the toys that aren’t loved makes room to really enjoy the treasured toys. If you find toys consistently taken out and forsaken (for you to step on ;)) it’s time for them to go!
  10. Get outside. Let them play with the sticks and pebbles… and maybe even take a dip in the mud.

This post is getting dreadfully long. We’ll have to tackle the kids’ clothes Wednesday…

(Thank you Jenn, from the lovely blog The Purposeful Mom for inspiring this post with your comment! )

What about you? How do you handle all the toys? I would *love* your ideas (especially since we plan to add little Meg to the kids’ room soon)! 

Linking up at Handful of Heart and Better Mom Monday 

Principles and Methods of Parenting

Before having children, I had a very clear idea of how I wanted to raise my children. The problem is, the methods seem much less clear cut now that I’m dealing with my own little ones. Sometimes what I thought would work so perfectly, simply doesn’t work for me.

In her excellent book, The Fruit of Her Hands, Nancy Wilson gives a wonderful encouragement to all mothers: distinguish between principle and methods.

Principles are are standards that God has laid down in His Word that we must follow. 

Methods are ways of carrying out those principles. 

God has given us principles like “love your children” and “raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” How we carry out those principles varies. Widely.

That is part of the glory of motherhood. Each Christian mother reflects the principles slightly differently. This is also part of the challenge of motherhood.

Little Boy Playing

photo credit

When a method isn’t working:

Do you ever feel like all of a sudden, a method that seemed so sound simply stops working for your child?

Recently, my two-year-old son developed terrible panic when laid down. The moment I put him in his bed, he screamed and grew irrational and climbed out of his bed. He did this over and over. Every day.

I was exhausted and bewildered. I tried pretty much everything to get him to calmly lay down. Nothing worked. What was I doing wrong?

At Christmas I mentioned the problem to my mother-in-law. She has eleven children and after thinking about it for a while, offered advice.

Stop giving him naps. Let him play so hard during the day that he’s exhausted at night and actually wants to go to bed. Make bed a place he wants to go.

Stop giving him naps?! That was not what I wanted to hear. I know some kids who nap ’til they’re five and that’s what I wanted. But nowhere in Scripture does it say that children need to nap. “Take a nap” is not a principle of parenting. “Love your children” is.

So far, this method is working. He has a quiet time not in his bed and at night is so tired he usually doesn’t fuss at all.

Maybe your kids take wonderful naps (I hope for your sake they do!) Maybe it’s another area where the tried-and-true methods are not working.

Distinguish between principles and methods. Follow God’s principles, but just because a method works for one mom (or even most moms), doesn’t mean it will for you. It’s okay.

Part of A Handful of Heart, Better Mom Monday and Teach Me Tuesday