27 December 2015

Dear Star Girl

Sweet Girl of Mine

First of all I wouldn't have survived these past few years without you my sweet.  You have helped me change diapers, make breakfast, clean rooms, entertain little ones, and you have done it well.

You have a natural way with children and we are sincerely blessed to have had you first.  You take care not only of your siblings but any small one you are around.

Let's talk about how awesome you are in school.  Julia you are one of the brightest most inquisitive child I know.  As a classroom teacher I have been around many, many children your age, and if you were in my class you probably would have had a word limit because you ask SO many questions!! But darling, that's so good.  You want to learn.  Even if it drives me absolutely bonkers most times your questions are truly good questions.  I especially adore your questions about the trinity and Jesus.  There is so much you want to figure out.  You remind me of your dad in that way.  You have that tender faith of a child and yet that curious, inquisitive mind of a true apologetic.  Let's just say, Daddy will have to continue to answer some of those deep spiritual questions you have!

I have loved homeschooling you these past 8 years (for the most part, we won't talk about Math time, lol).  My favorite parts consist of all the cool places we have visited, the aquariums, the science centers, the farms, the museums.  You are amazing to bring anyplace because you have fun anywhere.  You can bring light to any dark room.  I love the way your imagination works.  I love watching you skip into a new building ready to discover all of the adventures and knowledge the place will bring.  You are one of the most positive people I know.  Your joy brings us joy.  And you are always thankful on the car ride home.  I appreciate how you tell us your favorite part of the day and what you enjoyed best.

Well, Jules, this week is here!  This time it is all about you! (you know how mommy always says, the world doesn't revolve around you and to put others first) Well, this week we get to spoil you, and bless you, and remind you how wonderful you are and how blessed we are that God put you in our family.  There are so many great ways you have put a smile to all of our faces.  Now, mommy does NOT have favorites, but, like I have been telling you when you ask, I don't love you anymore than the other kids, but I have loved you the longest.  You are my firstborn, my sweet girl, my blessing, and I am so happy I am your Mom!

Happy Birthday, my sweet! I am so glad you were born.



10 December 2015

Three Thoughtful Gifts (Please Don't Think I'm a Bad Mom)

We LOVE Christmas BUT....

To all of you awesome parents out there...hear me out.  Please read my whole post before you think I am a bad mom or John is a bad dad.  We live in America.  We both work very, very hard.  And we have FOUR kids.  Our extended family is HUGE, we celebrate Christmas three times on Christmas day, once in the morning as a family of 6, next at brunch with my side of the family and in the afternoon and evening with John's side of the family.  Needless to say, our kids are completely spoiled and have tons of toys.  I mean tons.  It's getting to the point where we have to do trips to Goodwill before Christmas and after Christmas!  We have even told the wonderful grandparents, and aunts and uncles that each kid is only allowed to get one gift each because they were getting too much stuff.

So, John and I sat down a few months ago and we decided this is the year to pare down.  The big kids are almost 8 and 6 years old and their toys are getting more and more expensive (American Girl Dolls are $120 and big Lego sets are around $70) and forget electronics.  Everything is costly and we have to spread the love around times 4!  So we said to ourselves Jesus got 3 gifts when He was born and He was God!  Now, our kids will not be getting Gold, Frankincense, or Myrrh, but we will try to get them 3 gifts that are each unique and practical and fun!  Three sounded like a really, really good number to us.  So we told the big kids this year they are only getting 3 gifts each (and of course stocking stuffers don't count).

The whole point of celebrating Christmas is marveling at the birth of Christ and how He would come to earth in such a lowly way to bring us the sweetest gift of all...the gift of Himself and such a costly gift for not only did he come to be born but he came to die for our sins.  There is so much to teach the kids during this time of the year and it's getting harder and harder with all of the STUFF they get.  Many times I feel like they don't even play with half of the things we get them.  They like it for a minute and then they are asking for more, and saying what else did you buy me?

I told a few moms that I was doing this this year and I got mixed reviews.  Some moms were like do it, great, totally understand, and others were like, yea, good luck with that!  But the thing is, when we told Julia and Mark about our 3 gift rule they were totally fine.  They didn't complain, they didn't whine, they just said, ok!  

We will see how this year goes.  I guess it is easy for them to say ok since we didn't have Christmas yet, but I'm really hoping it's just a non-issue.  Let's be honest...do your kids really need anything?  Besides, new pajamas, socks and a new toothbrush every 3 months, most of our kids have so much already.  We live in such a saturated culture.  I'm just to the point where less is more and I want to teach my kids (however hard it may be) that is truly is better to give than to receive.

So, three gifts each it is!  I got the girls their gifts and John is in charge of buying the boys their gifts. Christmas shopping this year was so much easier and all of the gifts are wrapped and ready to go.

Now....I am still working on John's gifts. Hmmmmmm


07 December 2015

Cookie Cutter Kids

Cookie Cutter: marked by lack of originality or distinction, very similar to other things of the same kind : not original or different

After bringing home 4 different babies in the past 8 years I have learned one thing for certain not one of my kids is perfect and each of them is completely different from the other.  Each one has a very unique personality from day one.  They also come with strengths and weaknesses.  One of the hardest parts of our parenting job is helping to mold them and shape them into the people that God wants them to be.  For me, this has been my greatest challenge.

I grew up fearing authority, knew when to keep my mouth closed, and really sought to make my parents proud of me in school and in my extracurricular activities.  I was told that talking back was disrespectful.  I was taught to sit still and be quiet in church.  I can still remember the glares I got from my Dad as my feet swung back and forth in the church chairs.  We were never allowed to wear make up, nail polish, or chew gum.  And although my parents had three daughters none of us were allowed to pierce our ears until we were in high school.  When we went to school or church we were supposed to look and act a certain way.  Most of the time I felt like how I behaved on the outside was the most important.  Even if my thoughts and heart were far from what was good or right.

Very often I want my kids to just be quiet, follow all the rules I make up, and sit still, and sometimes I see their quirky personality traits as annoying instead of wonderful.  I know that this is wrong and unrealistic.  I know that kids need to talk, need to question, need to run, and I also know that I should be celebrating how unique they are.  But many times it is easier when they just conform to what I want, rather than what is best.  And many times I am so overwhelmed with 4 kids that even the talking and questions alone are enough to set me over the edge.

On a daily basis I have to remind myself that my job as a parent is to do what Proverbs 22: 6 says:

"Train up a child in the way he should go,And when he is old he will not depart from it."
My job is also to celebrate their personalities and differences!  Of course we need to reel them in when they are doing wrong things.  But being wild, or loud, or asking questions is not bad, the way I used to think it was or the way I grew up thinking.  I shouldn't expect my one son to act just like my other son.  I shouldn't expect my 7 year old daughter to act like a self controlled adult.

Many times I expect my kids to behave like adults and I get so frustrated when they don't.  It's comical almost.  They are kids.  They are learning.  And most times I just want control.  Let's face it...life with kids is all about being flexible, and realizing that sometimes life is just chaotic, loud, and slightly crazy.

The only reason why I am able to do half of the things I do is because I have an awesome husband who supports me and a gracious God who forgives me.  Did you ever in a million years realize that motherhood would be this hard?  Ah, but it is.  None of us has it easier than the next.  None of us has perfect cookie cutter kids.  All of us have our ups and downs, good days and bad days.

A friend reminded me awhile ago that when I start to feel hopeless or get down on myself start to think of all the ways that God has blessed me and think about the many good things He has done and will continue to do.  Stop focusing just on the bad stuff and start being reminded of all the good that is around you and in store for you.  It really does change your perspective.

And realize that some days it really is okay to just cry!


03 December 2015

Making Time For Reading: Guest Writer Kaitlin Krull

Making Time for Reading: How to Set up a Reading Routine with your Kids

At some point on the journey of parenthood, most of us will understand the struggle of getting children excited about reading. Turning something that can seem like a chore into a fun experience requires repetition and ingenuity. Help your kids have a positive association with reading by setting up a regular reading routine (and an awesome reading space). Here are some simple ideas from Modernize to get started. 

Start a routine
The best way to get your kids excited about regular reading is to do it yourself. While pretty much all parents know that it’s unrealistic to squeeze in some light reading on a daily basis, try to make it your personal practice to read a little almost every day. Newspapers, magazines, and young adult fiction count just as much as the classics, so don’t shy away from your guilty pleasures (unless it’s Cosmo, in which case maybe save that for after bedtime). 

Schedule a flexible reading time for kids of all ages, even babies and preschoolers. Children thrive on routine, so the more you encourage them to get reading, the more they will want to oblige. Sitting down with them for five or ten minutes at a time during the day is an excellent way to kickstart their reading routine. 

After you’ve set up your regular reading routine, make sure to keep it predictable. If you have a reading session just after lunch, try to stick to it as much as possible. The best way to stay regular is to have a designated spot for reading. Choose a quiet corner of the playroom or your kids’ bedroom and get to work decorating. 

Style your reading space

One of the most satisfying parts of reading is settling into a cozy place that can help you relax while you read. Once you’ve chosen your kids’ reading spot, it’s time to make it as comfortable as possible. 

If your reading corner is on the floor, consider laying out a high pile rug or soft faux sheepskin throw to make it extra soft and comfy. Add lots of big cushions, a blanket or two, and your kids’ favorite stuffed animals for group reading sessions. If you want to push the boat out, a canvas tent and twinkly fairy lights make for a magical reading experience and can later double up as a great den.

Keep books on or low to the ground for easy access, either in low bookshelves or wicker baskets. Most importantly, try to keep the area tidy. No one wants to spend time in a cluttered, messy space (apart from kids, but that’s beside the point) so encourage your little ones to put books away before choosing new ones.

Encourage independence
After you’ve set up your kids’ new reading corner, make sure they know how to use it themselves. While reading with your children is fantastic and definitely encouraged, it’s just as important to teach them how to access their reading materials independently. Accessible book storage is an excellent first step, so make sure everything is well within reach and there are no trip or fall hazards in the area. 

At reading time, encourage your kids to make their own book selections. As much as you may hate reading The Cat in the Hat for the hundredth time, there is something to be said for repetition. Perhaps your children are particularly interested in rhyming words or enjoy the singsong rhythm of the book. Whatever the reason, try to suspend your own personal agendas and go with the flow. 

Remember to continue to model your own reading routine alongside that of your kids. The more you read, the better chance your children will have of achieving regular independent reading time. 

Article by Kaitlin Krull


02 December 2015

One out of Four Kids...

There's Always One...

John and I have a running joke that one out of four kids will...fill in the blank and we've seen it.  But our middle son Micah has beat all the odds...he just does not follow in any of his older siblings footsteps...at all.

One out of four kids will pick their nose.

One out of four kids will not sleep through the night for a very long long long time.

One out of four kids will not potty train at 2 years old like they are supposed to, because they just aren't ready yet.

One out of four kids will only eat fruit, carbs and veggies when they are in the mood...meat is out of the question.  We celebrated when he finally ate a fish stick last month.

One out of four kids will not take a nap in their crib or their bed during nap time.  They will pass out in the car or fall asleep on the couch, or better yet in your arms.

One out of four kids will repeat exactly what he hears mommy say to the big kids sometimes, "Shut Your Mouth!"  (oh help)

One out of four kids will play outside in the back yard for hours with no coat on and be bare footed and be completely happy.

One out of four kids will drop their food on the floor and pick it up and EAT it!  

One out of four kids will drop food on the floor on purpose and lick the floor to eat it.  (do you see what I mean?)

One out of four kids will most likely be your biggest challenge, and yet be your sweetest treasure.  I promise.

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