Posts tagged ‘Children’

Venturing Out With Children- A How-To Guide

The first time I left the home, alone, when our third child was born was terrific- because it was horridly awful, and set the bar low for what a good experience would be.

My beautiful mother in law, who had been SO helpful, boarded a jet plane and left me in the city, two hours from our home. Technically, she was with me for the first part of our excursion, so it was really only the return trip that was done independently. Navigate the stroller through the airport, through the parking garage, load ’em up, and drive two hours home. Sounds pretty simple! And it was. The biggest one held on properly to the stroller, which was carrying the two year old and newborn. We got to the car, I buckled them in (and laughed because now they couldn’t move) and started on the drive. I blared their favourite music, we got on the highway, we can DO THIS! Look at me go!

Until one had to go to the bathroom.

In all fairness, he was three and a half. For SURE he had to go the bathroom, his bladder was the size of a grape on the best of days.

We stopped at a Tim Horton’s, and my whole universe fell apart.

I hefted the car seat in one hand, which is always awkward, and encouraged the two boys to hold each other’s hand, and walk with me inside. Well, of course, the two year old saw the donuts and wanted to choose one. He needed to wait, because his brother REALLY had to go to the bathroom. I raised my voice a little too quick- he could hear my desperation- while I’m trying to balance the carseat, diaper bag and my purse (a combined total of 112 pounds) and he broke. Loudly. Started screaming, laying on the floor. I had no way of picking him, so I tried to pull his hand. This is in the middle of the line, people walking around me to get to the counter. The biggest one, trying to push open the bathroom door, starts crying, “I HAVE TO PEE NOW!!!!” I finally manage to pick up the screamer, the baby in her carseat, the diaper bag and my purse, and rush to the bathroom to help the Clever One.

We went to the bathroom, I changed both of the littles’ diapers. Took a breath. Regained my cool (mostly waited for all the customers that witnessed the spectacle to leave.)

Back into the store, I had to nurse the baby- maybe we could all have a snack together. What a treat!

Well, now a tour bus emptied into the store. The line up was pretty long, and I was caught in the middle. I could no longer carry the baby seat, the purse and the diaper bag. My arms were shaking, my back hurt. I had the boys sit at a table seven feet away, and put the car seat on the table so when I looked back I could see our precious little girl, less than two weeks old, embarking on her first all-Canadian visit to Tim’s. I ordered our snacks, thanked the good Lord I didn’t have to wait in line after all these people, and started walking back.

With the wrong donut.

Well, if I thought the display in line was humiliating, this one was enough to switch provinces. He crashed to the dirty floor, bumping the table. The car seat FELL TO THE GROUND. The whole restaurant collectively gasped/screamed/shouted in a foreign language. There was pointing. There were faces. Thankfully, I had buckled her in, so she was unharmed, but of course, the other people didn’t know this. I grabbed the food, grabbed the kids, and with superhuman strength carried/dragged everything to the safety of our car where I fed the baby and cried. Of course, the car was parked facing the restaurant, so I could still see everyone pointing, and they could see my crying.

So.

How do you leave the house with more than one child?

1. Safety first.

Hands must be held in the parking lot, at all times. If they let go- back to the car to try again. If they won’t stay with you in the mall or at the zoo, they must be in a stroller or grocery cart. I never used the harness type things, but I respect the fact that they can be a necessity at times. Do what you have to do, crying or not. Freedom is earned. If one goes to the bathroom, everyone goes to the bathroom. The car gets parked if seatbelts or car seat buckles are undone. Know that everything will take longer- try not to be in a rush. If you can train your kids at a young age to stay with you, you will save time later. Talk in the car about what happens if you get separated.

2. What does the situation call for? What are the children’s capabilities?

Determine how long the event or outing will be. Will it overlap with a scheduled snack time or meal? Is it a quiet ordeal (like a funeral) or will noise be okay? Plan accordingly:

*I do not bring snacks unless it’s a normal snack time. We eat at home- no spills, no I-want-something-different- and honestly, it’s a pain to have to pack around either a bunch of containers, or a bunch of baggies. I have enough getting out the door without having to pack a variety of snacks I think they will like. Sometimes, we’ll have a snack in the car before we leave, or right before we get there. Unless it’s something over two hours, I don’t pack snacks. It’s more of a pain then it’s worth, in my opinion. And candy doesn’t work. Don’t do it. They’ll just want/cry for more.

*Pack appropriate activities.

Books, dinky cars, Little People (the people and a couple animals), colouring books with special crayons- all of these work well for long things-grads, retreats, ceremonies, etc. Then, give out the activities ONE AT A TIME. Do not give all the books at once. Nor all the toys. Kids are way better occupied when they have one thing to focus on. When they are done, have them pick it up and switch it out- also keeps the mess down.

*Involve them.

Make sure they can see what’s going on. Talk to them about it (or whisper, depending).

*Know your children, and what they can do.

Every child is different. If it’s something short, like a wedding, often they will be okay just watching what’s going on, and toys/books will just be a distraction. If it’s something longer, and past their attention levels, give them the activities. Don’t frustrate them by expecting more than they can do. 

*Take a walk/bathroom break when needed.

Honestly, probably every thirty minutes, depending on the event or the day. Use these times to talk about what’s going on, how much is left.

3. Take care of necessities first.

Always go to the bathroom before ordering or getting in line, or anything that requires you to stay in one place. And you, too! Be comfortable. Make sure diapers are clean. There is nothing worse than ordering your food, sitting down at a table, and then realizing you have to pack everyone up to go to the bathroom. This will still happen despite your best intentions- but it will happen more if you don’t build in these breaks. Make sure everyone has eaten, babies have been fed. This is important. If you try to brush it off, you will pay. Be willing to take a break from the graduation and take everyone to the bathroom.

4. Tell the children exactly what’s expected.

From the time they are born, they can understand SO much. And if they are still super little and don’t understand, this gives you practice on talking to yourself (a needed Mom skill). Tell them, chronologically, what will happen- which stores you are going to, how they must behave, how long you think it will take. How would you feel if you were tossed in a seat, driven somewhere (rear facing, no less!) and then forced to sit quietly for an hour? We call that kidnapping. Tell them what’s going on, who’s getting married, everything you can think of. Things to look for, symbols they may see. Seriously, tell them bananas are on sale- when they see the sign in the store, they will be excited!

5. Encourage! Don’t Bribe. 

Do not point out the negatives. Deal with those things later when you talk about it at home. When you are out, focus on the positive. If they feel like “they can’t get it right,” they will stop trying completely. Don’t bribe. Ever. That’s just manipulation so that you can get what you want. Point out or whisper how proud you are, how thankful you are, how much fun you’re having. Try not to “shhh”, but whisper in their ears and model what’s expected. The only negative things that should be pointed out are safety issues. Make stuff fun! This goes hand in hand with. . . .

6. Never let them see you sweat.

If you are starting to lose your cool, how can you expect your kids to have self control? Try to stay patient, kind and encouraging NO MATTER how they are behaving. You can’t control your kids- you can only control yourself.

7. DO NOT CARE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE SAY/THINK.

Give up. Kids are kids. Adults are adults. Everyone has bad days. It is NOT a reflection on you as a parent. Learn to smile and nod! How else will they learn, but by making mistakes? Always apologize if there’s an issue, but do not take it to heart or take it personally. Kids need to be stretched, they need to learn how to act in everyday situations. They can’t learn it unless they do it. Live life with your children. 

I would love to hear your horror stories of when things went wrong! Tell me in the comments.

A Letter to Myself

When putting away the Christmas clutter decorations, I wrote a letter to pack along with them and open next December. I know it will be new again, and I won’t remember writing it, because I wrote a grocery list last week and I didn’t remember anything on that by the time I get to the store.

Dear Me,

You’re looking well.

It’s all over. Another holiday season, another chapter, another year. Your tree was pretty bad. Seriously. Lights on half the tree is not better than “none of the tree.” It’s not usually a choice like that. I know that lights go on sale for 50% off on Boxing Day, but then you bought two packs of lights. If you would have just bought one box of lights three weeks before, you wouldn’t have as much stuff to put away now, and people wouldn’t look at you all sad when they see your tree.

I’m glad you took the whole month off school. It was busy enough! I’m glad you took them to do a few service projects, so that they can be a light to others (not 50% of a light, like your tree) and to teach them the world is much bigger than they are. Metaphorically and literally. They won’t forget that. Now try to be as courageous as your kids- people might not call you “so adorable!” but they may listen and you can be a light too. (Again, a WHOLE light. Not half.) It’s easy to hide behind their cuteness, but make sure you model evangelism and a “fear not” attitude. They will catch on one day, when you are always in the background. They will follow.

The gifts went well. Three each is enough. Every year you get all worried that it’s not enough, that other kids get more, blah, blah, blah. THEY LOVED IT. The gifts were thoughtful, in budget and you didn’t hurt yourself on the sewing machine. Well done.

The Christmas books, movies and activities were fun. You didn’t do all of Truth in the Tinsel, but your kids do not all like crafts, and don’t like them every day. It’s a beautiful thought to make a Christmas ornament each DAY of Advent, with part of the story to go along with it, but you have four kids. Four children X 24 Days= 96 ornaments in total. Are you really just trying to make up for the lack of lights? Either way, they had fun with what we did. Maybe next year you’ll do a couple more. Who cares? Not them.

The family Advent went WAY better than you thought. Special Sunday dinners, reading a litany and lighting candles in your wreath was something all the kids looked forward to. But the way you introduced it to your handsome hubby (Remember? “Hey! We’re going to do this.”) left a lot to be desired. If you have something you want to do as a family, present your ideas thoroughly and don’t get absolutely furious if he doesn’t love them as much as you in the first ten seconds. Good grief. Give the guy a break. Your homemade wreath was fun to make, even if it doesn’t look as nice as you wanted. I’m just proud you didn’t spend any money, and used stuff from around the house. Maybe next year you can find a special one to keep from year to year (and remember, November 30 is NOT the day to start looking!)

The baking. There’s something special about filling the house with yummy smells, and mixing cookie batter with the kids. Flour on their noses, accidentally spilling the chocolate chips in the bowl. Christmas music in the background; making up beautiful platters to bring to all your parties. What are you even talking about?! That didn’t happen. You used a hand mixer once, but other than that, there was not a square/cookie/snickerdoodle/chocolate yum yum to be found in your house. Who cares? Use the excuse that you’re trying to eat healthy or something. No one cares. The kids didn’t, and you were actually a little more peaceful than last year.

The decorating (other than your tree) was fine. Definitely mediocre at best, but you don’t care about that anyways, so why pretend like you do? It took way less time to put it all away in the end.

The date night with HH for dinner and the last bit of gifts was awesome. Do that again. Don’t forget to make his Christmas fun and special too (even if he doesn’t jump up and down like the kids do.)

All in all, I think this year went well. You took time to prepare Him room- in your heart and in your home. The little things either happened, or they didn’t, but they were little anyways. You bulldozed your way through a few things it would have been better to ponder in your heart, but that’s what it’s all about. He came for you just as much as He came for your babies. Accept His grace, His mercy and start fresh again. Marvel over the fact that a baby has saved you.

If I can give you any advice next season, while I am still fresh from this one:

  1. *If something is pushing you or pulling you along, and it’s not Jesus, cut it out.
  2. *If you are staying up late to make something magical the next day, you will just ruin it with your fatigue and lack of energy. Don’t do it.
  3. *Pick a couple things and do them well, and with love. It’s better than a lot of things rushed through and done with impatience.
  4. *Smile more.
  5. *Don’t be embarrassed when you cry through the Christmas songs. Your soul has felt it’s worth!

Love always, your biggest enemy your friend,

Me.

P.S. Buying all your gifts online so that you only went out once- DO THAT AGAIN.

Sandra

How about you? What did you learn (maybe the hard way) this year? What saved you time or heartache? What is the most important thing to remember about Christmas with little kids? I’d love to hear from you!

You Don’t Have to be Thankful

*Disclaimer: If you are high on life and thankful for everything from the newspaper boy to the cutlery in your kitchen, then this post isn’t for you.*

I’ll never forget my first thanksgiving as a newly married wife. We had just moved to the Far North (make fun if you want, but it is nearly ten hours more north than I was before) I had just started a job that I hated, we just started a new church, I had no friends, and just failed at quitting smoking, AGAIN. Not to mention that it was my first holiday away from our family. I was absolutely heart broken. There was snow on the ground, it was cold, we lived way out in the country, and went from having numerous dinners (usually five for each holiday) to one. Yes, I was thankful to be with my handsome hubby after months apart; yes, I was thankful to have our own little home to fuss over; yes, I was thankful I had a job. But mostly? I felt completely alone. I put on my most THANKFUL face, put my hands in the air during worship at church, and felt like I was lying to everyone. Not that anyone was around.

Is that the goal? Is that what God wanted? Was I being “Christian?”

Good grief. Why did Jesus even come?

He came to abolish the sacrifices people used to have to make to absolve their sins. To make a personal relationship with us. To tear down the veil. To become one with us. And here, on a holiday the Church has adopted as it’s own, I lied to Him. I distanced myself from Him, because I wasn’t feeling how I thought I was supposed to.

Forcing our feelings, or convincing ourselves that other people have it worse than us, does not change how we feel. Looking at the bright side, trying to see the good in the bad, all of these are beautiful, good things. But they don’t necessarily heal depression, or help someone going through a loss. I think of one of my best friends, who lost her dad on last year’s Thanksgiving holiday. Of my brother and sister in law, who lost their baby last week. Are they thankful today? Does God not understand that?

What does the Bible say?

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

We are not tied to one day of thankfulness, it must permeate our every hour. However, nothing spoken in the Bible was meant for us to do in our own strength. He came for US. He mourns with us, He celebrates with us, He makes all things new.

Today is the same as every day. If you are hurting and broken, remember why He came in the first place- to comfort those who mourn, to save us, to overcome the world. And by all means, be thankful for that!

But if today, you are hurting and you are sad, and the “bright sides” and the thinking of “those who have it worse” aren’t changing your heart, don’t pretend. He doesn’t want phoniness, he wants US. He wants to bear our burdens, to heal our sorrows. Don’t make light of what He came to save. He would rather have our real cries, our real pain, our ugly brokenness, than our fake happy faces.

Jesus came to take away our “have to’s”. He is only interested in our “want to’s.”

So today, I am so thankful for our marriage, our children, our country, our faith, our grace. I’m thankful for our days at home. But today, Jesus, I’m not going to thank you that my family is in pain, and for losing another little niece or nephew. I’m not going to thank you that my brothers and sister in law are moving away. And Lord? While we’re on the subject, I’m not ready to thank you for the baby we didn’t get to see, either. I’m not there yet, Lord! But I trust you to comfort me. I trust you, and I bless your Holy name. And I pray that you make me thankful, because I just can’t do it without you. Above all the stuff, all the troubles and all the joy, I am so thankful that You know me, and You still love me. I am thankful that you want my real-ness over my phoniness every day. 

thanks1

Am I wrong? Right? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

STEP RIGHT UP! It’s time for the circus!

Last year, on our first day of home educating, in first grade, our first child, it was HORRIBLE. It did not go well. I don’t remember exactly why, but I remember thinking, they are going to hate school, learning, and it will all be my fault!

Cue the circus. After our work was done, I found the box I had just purchased off a buy/sell site on Facebook. It had a circus game, table cloths, animal headbands, and special bags for popcorn (that was really cool for us. Low standards.)

circus

We had a great night. They won a DVD that I already had (What’s in the Bible? had a special promo through a buyer’s club. I got the whole series, but they don’t know that yet. We give them one for special occasions.) We played the game a few times, made popcorn, ate it out of special bags, and watched the movie together. The day ended well.

We kinda do all-year round school. We started grade 2 in May, but have taken off the last five or so weeks. I like the flexibility of taking time off when we need to, and taking the whole month of December off. We are really always “schooling,” it just becomes who you are. But now we’re ready to get back in the swing of structured things, and we have some new friends that are here during the day while their mom works. This made for a way better circus!

Sandra 1898 Sandra 1901

This year, I put more thought into the games:

Knock the Balls Down with a Ball

Sandra 1913

Shoot the Cans with a Water Gun (which turned out to be too hard for the littles- they used a hose)

Sandra 1921

Throw the Water Balloon in the Basket (obviously the other kids had to stand behind the basket as a wall. It was smokin’ hot, so they loved this part!

Sandra 1939

 

For our morning snack, we popped popcorn in the air popper and put it in those same special bags.

Sandra 1889

 

For lunch, we had homemade pizza (that we had made a few weeks before and froze) and a dance party. The prizes from the circus included a cd from our church’s VBS, and it provided a great soundtrack. In the afternoon, we made caramel apples. I’ve never done it before, and would suggest making the caramel while kids are otherwise occupied. It took a few minutes of stirring, and they were reeaaaallllyyy excited. I used this recipe, but I did it in half and used honey instead of corn syrup. It was so ridiculous good. Even thinking of it now, oh man. There is nothing like homemade caramel.

Sandra 1962Sandra 1958

So that was our “first” day of grade two for our eldest, and kindergarten for our second. Next year I would like to involve face paints and a photo booth. I looked up whether you can use acrylic paints as face paints, and I found mixed results. I don’t mind using my kids as guinea pigs, but having other kids over makes me be a little more cautious. So, next year.

What do you do to celebrate the first day, whether you do it at home, or in school?

Soaring Up the Stairs

Drip, drip., drip.

You know how annoying water dripping from a faucet is? I feel like that is my life right now. I am so blessed. I am married to an incredibly good-looking man who treats me so good. I have four healthy, beautiful children. I am a part of a church family that loves me no matter how much I mess up. I live in a home that is big enough for our needs, the cupboards are full, two vehicles are working. I have a few close friends whom I trust. What more could I ask for?

But I am getting so TIRED. The counters are always cluttered, no matter how many times I clean them off. The hampers are always full, even though I do laundry every day. There are always innocent-looking toys shaped like jagged glass on the floor. I will clean them up, but new ones fall from the ceiling before I finish. I spend days cleaning up. What is the point? It’s just going to get messy again.

After numerous meltdowns and crying on my Handsome Hubby’s shoulder, I realized I needed a break. But I don’t have anywhere to go, and where is he going to take all the kids for the few hours I need? I left the whole thing with him, and he came up with a God-inspired solution: I would stay home from church, and he would take the kids with him. Absolutely beautiful. Let me tell you, those kids were ready a little early this morning. I was on a mission.

I started scrapbooking our homeschool year, and got a few pictures cut out before our beautiful New One had a diaper malfunction on me. So I changed her, and started again. Well, now she needed to burp and go down for a nap. When it was all said and done, I think the 2 glorious hours I looked forward to evaporated into a broken up 30 minutes of frenzied cutting and pasting, until I ran out of photo tape. Fun, fun, fun!

The page I ended with turned out to be Valentine’s Day. We had a great day: fractions and math while making pancakes, hand/eye skills with cutting out hearts, creative writing while describing the things we love about each other. We also read 1 Corinthians 13 together, so I wrote that out on the page. Even if you are not an avid Bible reader, I know you’ve heard “Love is patient, love is kind. . . ” While reading, I put my name in the place of “love.” See, I have heard that this is a good idea to determine if you are living the way the God wants, seeing as how HE IS the God, and the Maker, of love. You know, 

I am patient, I am kind. I do not envy, I do not boast. I am not proud. I do not dishonour others, I am not self-seeking, I am not easily angered, I keep no record of wrongs. . .

PERFECT! I feel so much better now! Ugh. I suck, I suck. Lord, what is the POINT?

I always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere.

It is so easy to say those words. Hope. Persevere. What do they actually mean?

Hope: to desire with expectation of obtainment

Persevere: To persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

The clean counters won’t remain. My house will not stay clean. I may not get the daily requirements of fruits and vegetables into these little mouths. The children will not always act and live the way that we are training them to. It is very easy to say that there is no point.

But I will have faith in this: God made me. Jesus loves me. The Holy Spirit is in me. 

I will have hope in this:  God has a plan for my life. He has a plan for the lives of our children. I may not know what the “point” is, and I may never know. I still don’t know how to fold all the towels exactly the same, or why it bothers me so much in the first place. But I believe that I am where I’m meant to be.

And I will love these children. I will love my husband. I will love my home. Even when I am so annoyed, impatient, tired.

Faith, Hope and Love will remain, even after this crazy month is over, after my bad attitudes fizzle, even after the kids grow up, even after I die. 

“Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:28-31

Oh, Lord, help me to soar, even when I’m too annoyed to walk up the stairs AGAIN.Image,