13 Indicators of Healthy Children

When I first began my parenting journey over seven years ago (I really can’t believe it’s been that long), I remember sitting in a room with a bunch of other new moms and their babies, and wondering if there was a way to judge from looking at their babies, how well they were cared for. I remember briefly considering that if their fingernails were neatly trimmed, perhaps that would be a good indicator that they were well cared for. I dismissed this rather ridiculous thought quickly, but it stuck with me nonetheless. Now having three children, I have to laugh at myself (often) when all of a sudden I will look at one of my child’s hands and realize that it’s been far too long since her fingernails have been trimmed and that she is beginning to grow claws…

I now think that if there were an external indicator of a well cared for child, perhaps it would be completely counter-intuitive. Instead of it being a child with neatly trimmed fingernails, perfect hair, and great clothes that bear designer labels, perhaps instead it’s one of these things:

1. copious amounts of dirt under their fingernails after digging for bugs and playing in the sandbox
2. stacks of books beside their bed
3. insect collections
4. berry stained hands
5. a less than perfect hairdo that they did themselves and are so proud of
6. a terribly clashing outfit that they picked out all by themselves
7. tutus and costumes that are worn all over town
8. a kitchen table that is stained from the creation of all kinds of art projects
9. a fridge that is plastered in art
10. irregular shaped cookies that she made all by herself
11. funny looking robot high tops that were the perfect indoor shoes for grade 1
12. a messy kitchen
13. a living room turned blanket fort

Although we could consider many things indicative of a well cared for, healthy child, I think perhaps it’s simple. So simple that it transcends all nationalities and socioeconomic classes. Look at their eyes. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:22 that “The eye is the lamp of the body”. I have seen children whose eyes are full of sadness, and I have seen children whose eyes are full of joy and sparkle.

silly kids

My prayer this week is that you’ll have a week full of love and fun with your kids, and that they will have happy, sparkly eyes. And don’t worry about trimming their nails, it can wait until after another rousing game of Candyland!

Thanks for reading,

Karen

Show me you ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4 & 5

 

New Beginnings

With another school year beginning tomorrow, I can’t help but feel the anticipation of all that comes with these new beginnings. New family schedule, new shoes, new teachers, new friends… We spent a good part of the day preparing for all of this newness; peach muffins  and gf bread baked for school lunches; shoes, pencil cases & backpacks labelled; first day of school outfits picked out. As a bit of an introvert who likes routine, I tend to feel the same anxiety that I would have when I was a child beginning a new school year. I’m not worried for my kids, I just have a slight bit of anxiety over the unknown – the new family routine that will take a few days to get settled into; waiting to hear from my girls that they have settled into their new routine at school and are feeling content with how it’s going.

I realize that I have spent all of this time preparing the tangible things. The stuff. If I’m honest I admit that I haven’t spent that much time preparing for this new year in prayer. A much more important way to prepare. Just imagine if we prayed for our children’s schools, for their teachers, for their classmates, for their friends, for the kids they ride the bus with, their bus driver, their lunch monitors. When I think about my lack of spiritual preparation for this new school year, I then wonder if I had been earnestly praying for this school year if I would feel this bit of anxiety that is common for me. Perhaps this would be replaced by the anticipation of what God is going to accomplish this year in the life of my girls as they spend many of their days at school.

With this new beginning tomorrow, I commit to prayer. In this, I know the Lord is faithful.

Along with the new beginnings that come with a new school year, I am also really excited for this new beginning as I begin to blog on My Inspired Family!!! As some of you know, I had been blogging a bit from Koala Pouch Baby. For a while I had been feeling like I wanted to take on a new direction with my blogging to incorporate more of my faith journey. It felt incomplete to blog about what was going on around here and to leave that aspect out of things. Because of that, I have spent quite a time preparing for this new journey of blogging and I’m very excited to share with you regularly (at least once per week) about what is going on in our home and in this heart of mine as Christ continues to teach me how to be more like Him. I have written a few new blogs already, and I’ve also transferred some over that had some relevant content. I hope you’ll be challenged and inspired as I write about running this race with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1).

Running the race with perseverance!

Please give me some feedback! And if you’re interested in what I’m writing about, I would love it if you would sign up with your e-mail address to follow my blog.

Thanks for reading,

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25: 4 & 5

Truth and Chalk

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. 

Deuteronomy 6: 4-9

I love these verses. They say so much about how to do life, and especially how to parent. Basically, talk of God’s truth and love should be oozing out of us in all that we do and all that we say. I am doing my best to take the part of writing God’s truths on the doorframes and gates literally, and I’m trying to surround ourselves in scripture as I add it to more and more places throughout our home. This is helping me to keep an eternal perspective, and it’s helping me to memorize more of God’s word.

My latest project involved a blank wall, an antique wooden picture frame that I found at a market, and some paint. I decided to make a chalkboard that I could use to write messages on, mainly scripture that we can learn. Here’s a picture of the frame when it’s almost done getting the first coat on (I forgot to take a before pic!):

A look at what the original frame looked like

It had a cool gold finish on it which shows through after I finished distressing it. Here is a pic of what the final product looks like. For the center, I purchased a piece of masonite which the nice man at the hardware store cut to size for us. I then primed it, and gave it two coats of black chalkboard paint.

A look at the finished chalkboard.

This chalkboard is right in a crucial hub of our home – it is the first wall that you see when you come down the stairs to the main floor, and it’s the first wall that you see when you enter our home from the outside. A great place to be reminded of truth!

What are some creative ways that you learn scripture?

Thanks for reading,

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4 & 5

A Handmade Gift Exchange

This year we had another handmade gift exchange with my side of the family, and it was AWESOME! It is so cool to see everyone’s creativity flowing, and to see the different talents that everyone has. I will let these images speak for themselves, with just a small sampling of what was exchanged this year between kids and adults.

Handmade Doll Handmade Gift
Vintage look doll.

Handmade Painting Handmade Gift
Butterfly paintings.

Handmade
Spice Mixes and ornament.

Handmade
Slingshot. This gift was fun to make! The post office worker gave us the long elastics, and the shoe repair shop owner gave us the leather for the pouch. My husband made the rest from some pine board that we had in the garage, by whittling it down and sanding it. It was really fun to see how much our nephew loved it – he was shooting felt play food all over the house in the days following!

Handmade Purse Handmade Gift
Crocheted purse.

Handmade
Knitted Legwarmers.

Handmade BBQ Kit Handmade Gift
BBQ Grilling Kit.

Handmade Batman Cape Handmade Gift
Batman Cape and Mask.

We had such a variety of gifts! Others included a custom welded bike rack attachment, a tin of Christmas cookies, hair clips, soaps and lip gloss, an apron, a child’s denim tool belt, and more!

The other thing I love about handmade gifts is that because you’re putting time and love into them, you are more likely to have a thoughtful gift that has so much meaning to the person on the receiving end. We are all just loving our handmade gifts, and I would encourage you to think outside the box and consider doing a handmade gift exchange as well next year!

Creative Parenting

Amid summer days that have had both highs and lows, and parenting moments that have been amazing as well as frustrating and exasperating, I feel like my parenting has had some creative moments that I thought I might share.

Creative Parenting Moment #1

I LOVE fabric, and I love to just look at fabric and imagine what I might create with a piece of cloth that has a beautiful pattern on it. As you can imagine, it doesn’t work very well to have 3 children under the age of 6 running around the fabric store and whining that I am taking too long, all while I try to look at fabric, calculate expenses and envision what I might create. Distracting doesn’t begin to explain it. I have had one particularly terrible experience in the past with the kiddos along that has caused me to normally go to the fabric store alone. This past week I was in the city with the kids along already, and needed to make a stop in order to avoid 2 extra hours of driving.

Just the mention of the fabric store caused whining to ensue (why do kids whine like that????), which almost made me turn around until I had an idea – perhaps even a brilliant idea (can I say that?). We parked in the parking lot and I looked at them with my most excited face and told them that we were going to have a scavenger hunt adventure in the fabric store, to which they were delighted! Inwardly I rejoiced. I found a scrap of paper in the car and immediately began to scribble a long list of things they had to find while we were looking at fabric: “Owls, polka dots, trains, zig zags, hearts, flowers, cars, rainbows…..”.

I was able to get all that I wanted to accomplished, and they walked with me intently looking at fabric and getting excited as they crossed off each item that they found (I was very thankful that my oldest daughter is a good reader and could head this up without my help with the list). We left the fabric store happy. All of us! This was a small miracle.

Creative Parenting Moment #2

The hot toy item this past week has been the basketball. Practicing to dribble the ball has become the pastime of the older two, who are definitely improving their dribbling skills. The other day we were outside and both older girls wanted the ball at the same time… Everyone was getting upset when I had the idea of setting up an activity rotation! We got out the walking blocks and they took turns dribbling and walking on the walking blocks for about half an hour until we were all hot and needed to go in to cool off and get some water. This would be fun to do with a whole bunch of activities, and a bigger group of kids too.

Creative Parenting Moment #3

We went into the kitchen to make some popcorn for a snack in the afternoon, and I had some very eager helpers. So eager that one little helper opened the bag of popcorn kernels and then proceeded to bend down to get the popcorn popper out of the lower cupboard with the open bag in hand. Well, I’m sure you can guess that this ended in half of the bag of kernels spilling all over the floor as well as inside the cupboard. I took a deep breath, thought about how unclean my kitchen floor was at the moment, and then had the idea that we could collect the kernels and make some beanbags out of them (I love it when I can get rid of some scraps of material!). So our next project is to pick out the material and sew them up. I also thought that it would be cool to make home made shakers with different things inside each for our impromptu musical singalongs – rice in one, corn in one, dried beans in one. The kids would love it and I’m sure would love the different sounds that they each would make.

I hope that these ideas have given you a bit of inspiration for creative solutions to parenting dilemmas. I know that I am going to try and think outside the box more when faced with everyday challenges. Creative parenting seems to make life go a little smoother, and that is something that I can appreciate!

 

The little things…

I was amazed this week at the impact of a seemingly “little thing”. Partway through the week I took my 4 1/2 year old daughter on a date. This was a very simple date, but it was special since she got to look forward to it all week, and then she had some uninterrupted time with just her and me with no distractions. What did we do? We went to the grocery store and picked up some “pop” that was really only carbonated juice in a cool can, some gluten free granola bars, and some hummus and chips. We then sat in the parking lot in the front seats of the van side by side and had a “picnic in the car”. We munched and we talked. Sophia repeatedly said “this is so great”, and a couple of times even said that it was the best day in her whole life! Wow. I was amazed at how being intentional in doing such a little thing, can speak volumes to my girl of my love for her. I had fun, and I realize now that I need to take my girls on dates more often.

Some of the other “little things” that make our days special… cuddling together and reading a story . baking together . gardening together . playing tag . chasing and tickling . praying together . having a singalong . pretending . talking in funny voices . saying “I love you”.

I would love to hear about the special little things that you do with your children (or that your parents did with you) to show your love to them!

Everyday Life with Kids

Lately I’ve been feeling so blessed. I love being a wife and a mom to three beautiful girls! As I go through everyday life with three girls 5 and under, I am savoring this time. I am able to be home with them and spend this time with them when they are so young, so impressionable, so loveable and let’s be honest here – so exasperating!

What do I love about everyday life? I love the singing and dancing, I love the baking, watching the baking, tasting the baking, I love the giggling and tickling, I love the hide and seek, I love the snuggling and reading, I love having helpers that make each job much longer but so worth it. I love seeing my kids grow up into confident little ladies, I love seeing them smile. Their smiles and bright personalities make all the work and energy that we pour into them SO worth it.

Z's smileS's smileK's smile

When I look into these faces, I am just so thankful that God has given me these precious little ones to look after.

Loving my everyday life with kids.

 

A Handmade Christmas

My family is quite crafty, and as it happened my siblings and I who are married happened to marry spouses who are quite crafty in one way or another as well. Last Christmas we were taking stock of all of the skills that we possess as a family: woodworking, welding, sewing, knitting, crocheting, graphic design, writing music, painting, stained glass making and more! So we decided that this year we would put those skills to work to make fun, meaningful handmade gifts for Christmas and boy was it a success!!!! Some of those gifts included a custom made bike rack, a wooden rocking horse, hand painted mugs, a sock monkey and a sock lamb, reusable produce bags, leather moccasins, Koala Pouch hats and balls, a super hero costume, felt food, some vintage purses, a custom designed poster and some beautiful Christmas tree ornaments. Cool right? Here are a some pictures showing just a few of the gifts that were exchanged.

Handmade Christmas balls

Our newest niece Taliah with her toy balls

Handmade Christmas Children's food

Just look at this amazing felt food – my favorite are the eggs in the carton!

Handmade Christmas hat1

Meghan looking lovely in her new hat

Handmade Christmas hat2

Susie looking stylish in her new hat

Handmade Christmas moccasins

The fantastic leather moccasins that I received!

Handmade Christmas ornaments

A small sampling of the super cute ornaments presented

Handmade Christmas purse

Sophia loving her new strawberry purse

Our Christmas was such a success that we are planning on doing it again next year!

If you have done a handmade gift exchange I would love to hear about it – please include descriptions of gifts given and even pictures. Or if you have had a Handmade Christmas let me know how it turned out for you.

An Interesting Challenge

Many parents struggle with limiting the amount of time their kids play video games. At our house, we have the opposite problem. Our daughter Sophia was diagnosed with refractive amblyopia when she was 2 1/2 years old. This is a type of lazy eye that is caused because she has one very nearsighted eye. Because the brain has a fuzzy image in one eye and a clear one in the other eye, it stops reading the image from the weaker eye which causes it to become even weaker. We were completely unaware that she had this problem when we took her in for her first eye exam, and were quite surprised to get this diagnosis. Her eye had not yet begun to turn in, and she could see fine (since her brain was only reading the clear image from the strong eye). We were sent for a second opinion, and once confirmed the first step for us was to get some glasses that she would wear, that would help the weak eye to see a clearer image.

The next step was to begin patching the strong eye, in order to force her brain to begin reading the image from the weak eye once again. Included in the prescribed two hours of patching a day, was the prescription for Sophia to play a handheld video game for the longest amount of time possible in these two hours to force that eye to focus on small objects.
Up to two hours of video games???? This really goes against the grain for me. I like to encourage outdoor play, creative play, reading… but now I have to encourage video games? This took some getting used to, and it sounds funny when I hear the words come out of my mouth “Sophia, it’s time to do your patching. Do you want to play the DS or the iphone?”. At this point, she is wonderful about putting her patch on, but not so wonderful about the video games. She doesn’t like to play video games, so this is a real challenge for us. I have found myself begging at times “Please Sophia, just play for 15 minutes!”, and trying to make it appealing for her by making a dark fort for her to lay in, or by regularly adding new kids games to the iphone so she stays interested. After a few weeks of doing the patching I remember thinking to myself for a while that surely it can’t make that much of a difference if she plays video games or not, and I began to just let her play when she was patching. Well I found out at our biweekly check up that sure enough, her eye hadn’t improved as much in that two week time period as the times before when she had played much more regularly. In fact, our optometrist looked right at me and said “She hasn’t been playing her video games, has she?”. Okay, I thought, she really does need the video games!
Some other challenges are the constant adjustments that have to be made to her bent out of shape glasses, as well as the regularly broken nose pads that have to be replaced. We are very regular customers at The Eyeglass Shoppe – thank goodness for the warranty on her glasses that covers all of this. It even covers scratched lenses, which we have had to replace. And the patch itself posed a bit of a challenge for a while. We were introduced to the type of patch that you tape on around the eye, and this just wasn’t ideal in my mind. It was a pain to use this, it was a little irritating for Sophia, and left a sticky residue around her eye that was difficult to remove from that sensitive area. I started to look online and found that may people use reusable cloth patches, so I got right to work and made a couple of these which work wonderfully.

The great news is that with her cute glasses combined with the patching, her weak eye is improving very significantly. She now only has to go get her eyes checked every 3 months, and each time we have seen an improvement in her vision. We are very thankful that OHIP pays for all of these eye exams! Another great program that we have just recently benefitted from is the eye see eye learn program that has given us Sophia’s second pair of glasses for free!!! This is a new program that just started last year that allows all JK students who receive an eye exam and need glasses, to receive a free pair – cool right?

The choice to stay home

The choice for me to stay home with the kids for us was a no brainer. Being home with our kids is a priority for us – we want to be the primary influence in our kids lives, we want to pour our love into them, and we want to enjoy them. They are growing up SO fast!!! Next month, our two older daughters will both be in school every other day, and I’ll have some special time with our youngest a couple of days a week. I really can’t believe where time has gone….

Right now my business is quite small, and I only work a few hours a week to fill orders and keep my stock up, and I am able to contribute a small amount each month towards our family’s income. I know that once all of the kids are in school that I’ll have more time to expand and increase sales and this is exciting, but I also love this time with the kids while they are small.

This choice isn’t always easy though, and the financial strain is one of the things that can be a challenge. Living primarily on one income means living on a very tight budget. This means telling people that we can’t do certain things like eating out (which is a luxury for us), going on expensive vacations (camping is our style anyway), or other activities that just aren’t in the budget. We very often tell the kids when we’re shopping and they ask for things that “it’s too much money”, or “it’s not on the list”. I have learned to clip coupons, read the flyers and price match, make my own soup broth and do all of my own gluten free baking from scratch. We eat only a small amount of meat, along with a healthy amount of legumes and whole grains, and we eat well.

Living on a budget can be challenging, but we’re used to it. We’re actually thankful for this challenge – it makes us appreciate the small things. When one of the girls needs a new pair of shoes and someone gives us a pair, we are thankful. When all of the clothes (and more) that we need for the kids are given to us by other families with older girls we are thankful. We are able to realize and see the way that God provides for all of our needs time and time again, and for this we are so thankful.

Living on a budget also helps us to figure out all of the fun free things to do in our community. There are lots of things to do with the kids that don’t cost a thing – storytime at the library, playing at the park and the splashpad, going to the early years centre, bikerides and walks. For us bigger people it isn’t quite so easy, but it makes us think outside of the box when we’re thinking up things to do. Ultimate frisbee, biking, running, going for walks – these are free things that we do on a regular basis and enjoy. We definitely enjoy a good board game with friends, and we both love to read and enjoy some tea in the evening.

In the end, it feels good to live simply, to know that we have all that we need and more, and most importantly to be there for our kids.