Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One Bad Day

It's 10:21 far later than I am use to staying up to post something.  This day is in need of an end and this may be the most appropriate way to end it, by pepping myself up for tomorrow and putting today to complete rest.  Today was a day filled with emotion, arguing, crying, fussing, yelling, biting and completely unsuccessful toilet training (most of those were not my doings!).  That I put to rest.  The hope I have is in tomorrow and the likelihood that it will not be like today!  So for tonight I will choose to remember that one bad day does not wipe out years of training and success.  I can either look at the soiled undies and only hear the whining voices or I can choose to remember the great devotion time this morning where the little disciples in my care learned about staying attached to the vine and how we need to drink in Jesus all day long.  So now I can breath a sigh of relief that I haven't completely failed, I can rest in peace tonight believing the truth.  What a joy it is to be reminded so gently that it will not be by my power or strength but by the Lords and what I see as failure is often his blessings in disguise. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What to do With a Toddler

A friend asked me about a suggestion for toddler curriculum.  As I looked back on what we did with our first few toddlers I thought it would be beneficial to document it here.  I made many wrong decisions , but I also had a few things that worked well for our family.  I don't think any of these ideas are my own, they are from other mothers who gave me tips and advice.  So here are a few of the things that I learned from others that have gone before me.

A day without structure and toddlers usually always led to trial and failure.  A day filled with a structured outline, but flexibility usually set our family up for more success, contentment and joy.  Here is what an average day looked like when I had little ones and didn't formally school.
   7-8 Wake and get ready for the day. We would work on morning chores (make bed, get dressed, brush teeth and hair, and clean up bedrooms) we did all of these things together until they were old enough to do most of it on their own which for our children was around 3-5 depending on the child and if they had an older sibling to help them
8-9 Eat breakfast and have Bible time.  Bible time has looked different ways through the years.  It has always included a Bible story, prayer, and singing.  We've used a few really good books with our little ones including Leading Little Ones to God by Marian M. Schoolland and Big Truths for Little Kids by Susan Hunt and Richie Hunt.  Mostly, we just read a Bible that is appropriate for the childrens' age.  We have always sang songs together during this time too.  Our focus has been to sing to the Lord and for the children to practice following me lead them (words, actions, manners).  Now that our children are getting a little older they will take turns leading during our song time.
9-10 Was spent on a focused activity.  I had a list of things that we could do.  Puzzles, blocks, games, play-dough, crafts, painting, coloring, learning manipulatives like beads and bobbles, or Tangos. 
10-12 We would usually have a snack.  Then have some less structured time either to run errands, play at the park, go on play-dates etc.
12-1 Was lunch and then a story before nap at 1. 
1-2 Has always been quiet time in our house.  The children when they are too old to sleep may bring some good books to bed and just rest and read.  Now that our oldest is having more school work she usually stays up and does school. 
2-3:30 Was free play time.  I might bring out the doll clothes or dress up.
I usually did blanket time during dinner prep.  I could get dinner done a bit easier and Pete came home to some peace.
Some other things that I am happy I did were:
Creating a time where the children had to sit and listen at our kitchen table and to follow my lead.  This has made every transition into more in depth schooling easier as the children were already use to the routine of just being able to sit and listen.
Training character with purpose.
Not running out to entertain them all the time.  Our children are perfectly content now to be at home and have found ways to entertain themselves.  We do not run to the zoo, museum, fancy park, pool etc.  We may do these things as a treat on occasion but they are not routine by any measure.  I am so happy we have been home bodies learning to be content here and entertain ourselves.  It is a joy to not be nagged to take the children out to be entertained and to have them find things to do on their own.
Watching less television.  Again, our children can entertain themselves and don't require electronic stimulation.  We do watch TV, play the computer and have wii nights,but they are not the norm or majority of our time. 
Asking my husband how he wanted me to spend our time and the activities he wanted us doing.
Consistency.  Our children seem to thrive with order and consistency.  When we would be off schedule and things a little out of order slowly we all became out of order too.

Some things I would have done more of:
Play with them.  I often found I was making myself busy with my own agenda.  I think I should have slowed down a little bit more and just enjoyed my little ones.
Patiently allow them to help me with more.  I do not have much patience.  I think I should have tried harder to be gentle and less rushed and let them help me with whatever I was working on.
Less Legalistic, more gracious.  It has always seemed easier to just make and enforce rules than to gently deal with the heart of issues.

I still have one toddler in the house and she is just a joy but also the biggest trial in our days sometimes!  These years are so precious.  As I am growing little by little as a mother and disciple it is becoming clearer just how important it is and beneficial to slow down and be calm.  Rushing away the day and griping in anger and frustration has never helped my toddlers to do any better.  That is my first natural response.  Now after having 4 toddlers on the 5th I finally feel like I am getting a glimpse of how sweet this time is and fleeting.  My responses are more gracious, but I still need work.  With some order and structure I have found the toddler and I both do better!

Raising up toddlers is a lot of work.  But, with a good attitude and some planning it can be a joy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


It is with hesitation I write this post.  I have purposefully not written for a while.  It seemed prudent for me to be silent.  In that silence the realization of just how weak and flawed I am came.  It was good.  It is still painful.  In silence I have asked this question, is it ever wrong to remain in silence?  On the surface there is a simple answer for this as I tend to see things a bit black and white, yes, if God is asking you to speak or go you need to obey.  As I ponder this question further there is more that lies in the gray area. 
 It seems most inconvenient and providential that I am reading the book 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  The possibility that I would have taken the thought about silence any further without the provocation of this book is slim.  Since reading the first few chapters of this book I cannot quiet my thoughts in regards to emotional silence.  Ann has the courage to name emotions as they are and allow for them to be present and full of just what they are years and years after their birth, no matter of how painful.  I was not prepared for this.  In the painful moments of life I have almost always to chosen to keep silent.  Now I wonder what if I was to break that silence?
After all these years is it weak and pointless to grieve for a shattered family, a lonely little girl, a slew of reckless sins?  What about grieving still for those who I still love and miss so very much?  Would it be too painful to spell out in words the cries I've moaned to God so many times?  Cries to see my sister again in  a dream, Lord I miss her face, her words, her laugh.  Cries to ask God to give me memories not of a horrific suffering by a child destined to die so young, but of a child healthy and funny and strong.  Will I fall into an emotional heap and get lost in the pain of bringing these things from heart to present?
I've been challenged to think that just maybe healing and renewed joy will come if I open myself up.  I am not sure I realized that there was still healing to be done.  Although, I don't think that you ever heal from the loss of those you love so very much.  Longing to see them in heaven is much more appealing then stuffing the feelings down deep where they are not to be dealt with.  Can I move onto longing for them if I can move beyond the desire to not deal with the pain? 
The future of this revelation is very unclear.  The reality of my history is that fear of selfishness gets caught up in my silence too.  It has seemed so very inefficient to grieve and share grief.  But, I see that there is a place for grief to help others.  When Olivia was so sick the one thing that gave me hope was that God would use this trial for His glory and His good.  Perhaps part of that will not be me running a race to raise money for cancer research, it may be that I offer a human perspective to someone else.
The funny thing about keeping silent is that I haven't done a marathon to raise money,or talked about my experience or shared deeply with someone who needs to hear they're not alone.  Silence has been an enemy to my healing and prevented me from living fully in this world, with a heart for the next.  Were it not for Ann Voskamp's example of sharing grief, perhaps I would have remained in silence.
It is only a flawed human like me that would think that 19 years have passed since the divorce of my parents, it's too late to grieve now.  It's been 9 years since my sister and Olivia died, it's too late to confess the pain and heart-ache and horror that those losses brought and continue to bring.  Grief, loss and pain know no season, no dating system or expiration date.  I am just understanding enough to know that they are a part of who I will always be.  The bonds of self-preservation have been broken.  The road to healing and honesty and I pray greater use for the Lord have begun.  So in goes one breath and out another.  One foot in front of the next.  The wall has had a brick plucked off.  There is a moment of peace that has followed.  For this I am blessed and thankful.