More than Presents Under the Tree

gifts under the tree

Three years ago in December, I wrote a blog entitled Avoiding the Plague of Materialism. You can read it here. This year as it gets closer to Christmas I am still aware of many of the same things, and am trying to pass on to my children the importance and blessing of giving to others, instead of focusing on all that they are going to receive. We really don’t want our children to see the celebration of the birth of Jesus as little more than presents under the tree. It is SO much more than this, but the commercialization of Christmas makes it tricky for this I want attitude to stay away from our homes doesn’t it? It means that we have to be so intentional as we live out our lives as Christ followers.

This year we have had the opportunity to purchase gifts for children overseas and for children in our community, and because of this we are thankful that we have been able to show our kids ways in which we can look to meet the needs of others, instead of focusing on ourselves and our wants. As they grow older, we will continue to watch for age appropriate ways to serve as a family that will broaden the awareness that our girls have of the needs around them – not only physical needs, but also spiritual needs.

My hope is that this year as our girls open up their simple gifts which we thoughtfully picked out for them, that they will be thankful. That each year as they mature, that they will grow in awareness and understanding of the responsibility as one of the wealthiest nations in the world, to care for our neighbours in the third world. That they will be aware of how many opportunities they are given in this country, and that they will not take their life for granted. That they will have an eternal perspective on life as they live out Christ’s command to care for the orphans and the widows.

May we teach our children with wisdom and joy this Christmas season.

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

 

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

 

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.

 

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?

Fun things that we do.

I have got some wildly creative kids. They make us laugh all of the time with their excitement and crazy ideas. One of the things that I love the most is when we sing together. I don’t just mean have a little sing a long with the guitar and other rhythm instruments (we do this too and we do enjoy it). I’m talking about our life as opera singers! We regularly have entire hour long chunks of time where we communicate entirely in song – this is some serious fun!!! My husband works from home so he is witness to this craziness and I think that most of the time he thoroughly enjoys it (the rest of the time he probably wishes that he has a nice quiet office to go to… I better add here that he does not participate in these singing fiascos).

Another thing that we love to do is to bake and cook together. Every time that I start something in the kitchen the girls pull up their little chairs on either side of me, and if we’re baking we all put our aprons on so that we can get a little dirty as we create masterpieces in the kitchen. There are times when I just want to be alone with my thoughts and my ingredients in my kitchen, but I wouldn’t trade the time we have together mixing, tasting, smelling, and laughing together for anything.

Reading is one of our favorite things to do. Each week we head to the library for storytime with a huge stack of books that we have read, and we leave with an equally huge pile. Storybooks are the favorite for my girls – they love to imagine and to read all about different adventures. Its fun listening to them when they come up with their own stories as they incorporate different plots and ideas that we have read together into their own tales.

Doing crafts is right up there on the top of the list of favorite things to do for my kids. It doesn’t really matter what it is… it could involve tape, scissors, glue, paper, yarn, pom poms, feathers, or paint. They will make a big mess, and they will have a ton of fun. I must admit that huge messes totally stress me out! A couple of times a week I have to let this go so that my girls can create some really cool art projects. Afterwards I can clean up the kids, clean up the area around them and take a deep breath. The smiles on their faces always let me know that it was worth it.

What’s the craziest or most fun thing that you do with your kids??? I’d love to hear about it! Hopefully some new ideas will inspire myself and others.

Avoiding the Plague of Materialism

As Christmas gets closer I can’t help but think about how to pass on to my children the things that my husband and I value. This includes valuing people over stuff, and not getting caught up in materialism.  How are we trying to avoid this?

Each year for Christmas we try to keep our focus on Jesus, and on others. We keep our gifts very simple, and try to give our kids homemade items – this year they are getting a puppet theatre. My husband is building the frame, and I will be sewing the curtains. I am excited for all of the puppet shows that will be happening in our home very shortly! I’m also making each of them a quilt for their beds – last year our oldest daughter got a bird quilt and this year our next daughter will be getting a flower quilt.

They also don’t watch any television with commercials at home (and a very limited amount of tv at all), and we don’t often go shopping which keeps them from seeing all of the different toys out there that they don’t yet have (we always find that when we leave a mall we always want things that we didn’t even think about before going).

We also talk a fair bit about how fortunate we are to have our basic needs met (like having a home to live in and food to eat), and about how many other people do not have these things. We talk about the responsibility we have of sharing what we have with others.

Even so I fear that with all of our efforts, just by raising them in North America with our culture’s affluence and abundance of “stuff”, they will become like the majority of people in our country (myself included) and think more about themselves and our too-busy lives than about others in need.  Lately I have been trying to make a conscious effort to put no worth in material things, and to focus on people and on loving them both directly and indirectly with all of my day to day choices, thoughts and deeds.

For those of you who share these values of living simply, caring for the poor and those in need, and of avoiding the plague of materialism – what are things that you do to pass these values on to your children?

Thanks for reading,

Karen

Diaper Free Baby????

I was at my midwife’s office for a prenatal visit a few months ago perusing her library, when a book on the shelf caught my attention. It was entitled “The Diaper Free Baby”. Well, I guess I am attracted to things that go against the norm and my interest was immediately piqued. I think that I may have been especially interested since my 3 year old daughter has been wearing underwear for over a year, and is “mostly” toilet trained, but still has an accident almost daily.

My husband saw the book on the kitchen counter later that afternoon and immediately sought me out with a look of concern on his face, and I gently reassured him that I was only curious and not to worry about it. Well, that evening I began to read this book and was almost immediately intrigued and excited to at least give this a try!  Apparently, over 50% of the world (mostly undeveloped regions) uses this technique with success. Well, I thought that if they can do it, I can do it!

To give a bit of information about all of this, this technique is called elimination communication (EC), and is based on the premise that just as we learn to read baby’s cues when they are hungry or tired, they also give cues for when they need to eliminate. When they give their cue or it is a time of day that they will almost always need to pee, you hold them over a bowl (or a toilet, or a small potty) and give them a cue that sounds similar to a peeing sound, and they go! Quite quickly they begin to associate the cueing sound with going to the bathroom, and they will begin to hold their pee and poop until they hear it.

Fast track a few months. Our third daughter Karis was 2 ½ months old and I finally got up the nerve to try this. I got out the bowl that I had chosen for this purpose, held her over it and made the sound and….. she went!!!!! (Now keep in mind that I had been making this sound every time I had seen her pee during a diaper change since she was born so she had already begun the association.) Well I was ecstatic!!! My husband was outside doing yard work and right away I opened up the window and announced to him that Karis just peed in the bowl, to which he gave me a look that meant he didn’t quite believe me. My excitement continued as she peed in the container many times that day.

Now Karis is 5 months old and we use less than half the amount of cloth diapers that we would normally use in a day and I have gone from washing them every other day, to every four days. How awesome is that?!!!! And, she does 90-95% of her pooping in the potty which means very little mess, AND no exploding poops.

So here’s the info if you are interested in checking it out: “The Diaper Free Baby” by Christine Gross-Loh. www.thediaperfreebaby.com

Thanks for reading!

Karen