Category Archives: Bible lesson

Toddler Routines with Photos

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Depending on our current “phase,” we have certain times of day that somehow make me crazy. Kids are kids, and it’s my own fault, but I let the little frustrations or little moments of resistance eat away at my patience instead of embracing the slow pace and “inconvenience” of motherhood to littles. It’s in those moments that God is trying to teach me and refine me. However, there are also times when we really need to get somewhere at a certain time. In those cases, we were inspired by ideas from Training A Treasure to establish a routine, and to implement that routine, take photos of our kids actually going through each step of the routine to make a chart.

First, I used this strategy for getting out the door. When Pen Elaine was younger and Snuggly Man was a tiny baby, getting out of the house in a reasonable amount of time and without losing my patience was a major challenge. This time of day was apt to chaos and far from peaceful, and the routine really helped cross that hurdle. Over time, the routine changed and the need for a specific routine waned, but at some point, we’ll probably make a new one for a refresher when Snuggly Man needs to have “jobs” for getting out the door.

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By the way, to make my little photo chart, I used my smart phone! I simply took the photos, used picstitch (app) to organize them into a collage/order, then added title and artwork with Overgram (app), and printed them straight to my wireless printer! Good luck!

More recently, we have established a morning routine for after my Honey leaves the house. This had become a time of frustration for getting Pen Elaine to help clean up after breakfast and get ready for the day. I especially wanted to change our morning ritual so that we had moments of connecting in a close, positive way before leaving the house for morning commitments that would start up this fall. I found myself losing patience and getting irritable because Pen Elaine was fighting me on her morning jobs of cleaning under the table and making her bed, but I knew I needed to make time for close connection with her in the midst of getting required chores done. I wanted to start the day well with her and Snuggly Man, with servings of grace, love, and responsibility. So, Pen Elaine and I worked together to decide what our morning routine would include. We made our kitchen cleanup time more fun by putting on music before we started, then we took time to read a book together before starting on our next set of responsibilities: getting dressed and making beds. Finally, we ended our routine with a game of hide-and-seek, one of our favorite activities 🙂 Now, we actually get through our morning chores faster than before and with a LOT less grumbling and arguing. Plus, we feel like a team on a mission together with lots of room for fun and love along the way.

Philippians 2:12-15

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky

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Advent has begun!

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Advent has begun!

I love Advent season! aka, the month of December 🙂

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This year, I have a 3-and-a-half-year-old who makes all the preparations for Christmas even more meaningful and all the preparation even more gratifying than before because she has grown in understanding and in the ability to ANTICIPATE! It is so fun!

Like last year, I planned our daily advent activities ahead of time, as inspired by the amazing Kim, and wrapped a “present” that coordinated with each day. This year, we are also going through a book, The ADVENTure of Christmas: Finding Jesus in Our Holiday Traditions, by Lisa Whelchel, that succinctly explains the origin of some traditions and symbols of Christmas, along with some quick discussion questions and activity ideas. I learned that “advent” means “to come” in reference to Jesus coming down to earth; thus advent is a time to prepare for His coming. I love planning the days ahead of time and wrapping the gifts beforehand because it makes the whole advent time a fun celebration for me, too! There’s no brainstorming, decision-making, or scrambling and throwing stuff together the night before, making for a more peaceful season. I love it! I also mark on my calendar when her last day of various classes occur, to remind me to bring teacher gifts, and I even put making Christmas cookies for teachers, neighbors, etc. on the calendar so I don’t forget. Plus, I like getting some presents wrapped before Thanksgiving anyway (really, I’d love having them all bought and wrapped), so wrapping a bunch of presents right before Thanksgiving really gets me in the holiday, festive, family spirit…and gives me an excuse to start listening to Christmas music!

Plus, Pen Elaine absolutely LOVES opening a present each morning, and since we’ve already forgotten once to put out the gift the night before, I know that she has reached the age to remember on her own! The night before the first of December, she sweetly requested to “pleeeease tell me what’s in the present?” So far, she has opened our advent calendars (day 1: setup advent calendars), a plastic nativity set and nativity books (day 2: play and talk about nativity story), the three wise men that are part of our other nativity set (plus I threw in some Xmas window decals for Pen Elaine to put where she chose, day 3: talk about wise men’s gifts and Matthew 25:40-go through our toys, books, and clothes to give our own gifts to the less fortunate), and a dress & gloves (that we already owned, day 4: church event for Christmastime)…I scattered some extra Christmas decorations or fun kid-friendly ones along with the advent activity items throughout the presents for added fun factor. For example, my Uncle Christ gave us this set of Disney characters that sing Christmas carols, so on a day when I was just wrapping up a container of salt to make salt dough ornaments, I also wrapped up a caroling Donald duck to make the present more exciting 🙂 Turning decorations and advent calendars into presents to open throughout the month made them much more epic.

This year, she is also opening a door a day in a cardboard advent calendar that I bought after Christmas last year on super sale…which includes chocolate pieces, but the label says that it’s good until March of next year, so far so good!

The one advent calendar that has grown with her since she could walk, is our “love came down” felt pocket calendar, where you simply move a little heart from one pocket to the next. To make it more complicated, last year, I added prophecy verses paired with new testament verses about the different roles and characteristics of Jesus. These are cooler for my Honey and me than Pen Elaine, at this point, but it is neat to see how so many things were prophesied about Jesus’s life so many years before He was born. When our kids get older, talking about these along with the Dead Sea Scrolls will be impactful, I think.IMG_2339.JPG

Mommy & Me class: Pretend Play with Fake Food

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Pretend play is so important for young children – they need time and space to imagine and practice what they are figuring out in “real” life. It is easy to fill up their time with structured activities, commitments, and get caught up with our own schedules so much that we start dragging our kids through each step and “job” of the day. One of my recent resolutions has been to give Pen Elaine some play time (that includes me) before making her complete her morning “jobs” of getting dressed and making her bed, even if I still have a kitchen to clean up or breakfast dishes to put away. This does not and cannot happen every day, but it is at least on my radar and a goal for most days. However, I know making time for children is important since Jesus Christ said that He was not too busy to hold them, touch them, pray over them. Matthew 19:14 says, “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'”

Sometimes a craft project can help lead to more pretend play or more intentional pretend play. Pretend play with food can be a fun time to practice table manners, thinking of other people, using proper utensils, and having mealtime conversations, to get the ball rolling.

I saw these tantalizing play food creations from oneperfectdayblog and really wanted to attempt our own. Ours didn’t turn out looking too much like actual food…although Snugly Man was fooled, as captured in the top photo!

Only supplies needed: sponges from the dollar store, paint & paintbrush, some glue optional

Pen Elaine enjoyed painting and stacking these “slices” of sponges to create a piece of cake and “cookies” (that kinda look like cupcakes…?).

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We also made paper pizzas (to look like one by Looksissquare via Pinterest) – it’s on the bottom in this last pic, we cut out the “dough,” “sauce,” “cheese,” and an assortment of toppings such as peppers, pepperoni, onions, mushrooms, meatballs, etc. These could’ve been made with felt to be more durable for creating many times over.

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Sharing our Joys

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This is Pen Elaine while watching the beginning of “High School Musical” for the very first time. I secretly love those movies and own all three, which is saying something in this day when we don’t own very many movies since they are available to stream so easily. I remember when a friend who started having kids about the same time told me that her cutie pie loved watching the Disney channel movies, and I looked forward to how fun it would be when I got to watch the HSM with my own little one. So, we watched maybe the first 15 minutes together one day for a special lunch picnic treat but have yet to watch the rest. We have been catching up on some classic kid/Disney movies this summer, with the less structured days and the fact that she no longer naps, and I have finally accepted and resigned myself to that fact.

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No longer having nap time means no longer having time to myself during the day, and that has been a big adjustment for me. It may have been a difficult transition for me because it happened simultaneously with the adjustment from 1 to 2 kids or maybe because it happened simultaneously with my postpartum hormones still getting themselves in order, but ultimately, I think it required a “transition” for my heart. Nap time had become “me time” that I felt entitled to having for myself. When kids are little or preverbal or have one or two nap times, it makes sense to separate kid time and adult time, and when I wanted to complete tasks or projects, I entertained my little one in one way while I “entertained” myself in a separate way. Here’s my #TBT photo of Pen Elaine hanging out in the exersaucer while I was working on some sort of craft project. She was having beneficial, independent play time while I was having beneficial, independent craft time. Nap time was also an opportunity for mutually beneficial time of separate activities that brought us each joy in our own ways. So, the end of nap time marked a rite of passage for both of us, mother and daughter, because it marked the end of having so much time for separate interests and marked the beginning of my daughter blossoming into a tiny person who could share in my joys instead of simply being entertained by something else while I completed them.

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Now, I am learning to not simply see giving up nap time as giving up “me” time but now it’s an opportunity for “us” time, just my daughter and me. We get to share our joys, and I get to cultivate a little person to appreciate some of the beauty in life that I appreciate. Sometimes, that means completing an exercise tape together. If there’s a craft project that I’ve been wanting to work on, then we figure out a way to work on it together…or at least have two versions of the same basic activity.

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My Honey has been embracing this rite of passage in our daughter in his own way. Pen Elaine went through a phase of waking up extra early, so we tried using a toddler clock that lit up an “awake” bunny picture when it was “morning time” and appropriate for getting up, trying to enforce a minimum wake-up time. This worked for a while, but then she started waking up early again and wanting to come see what Daddy was up to in the morning. My Honey would be up getting his coffee going and preparing for some personal Bible reading and devotional. Instead of continuing to enforce and try to “train” Pen Elaine to stay in her room, during the time when he typically has some quiet time reading the Bible on his own (while letting me have some quiet space for my own meditation on Scripture in the morning…unless I was up with Snuggly Man too much in the night and fell back asleep…), he started having “quiet time” WITH Pen Elaine. He embraced this fleeting phase and included her in his joy of spending early morning time with the Lord, making it a teachable moment. She gets some dry cereal while he drinks some coffee, and they read out of the Jesus Storybook Bible together. Jesus said, “but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14 ESV), so reading a kids’ version of God’s Word seems appropriate, and my Honey found plenty of truth to stir personal reflection and prayer.

 

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Including Pen Elaine in some gardening endeavors sometimes translates into rose petals being pulled off the plant and scattered around and in the bird bath, but she was sure the birds would enjoy the beauty of the scene while bathing in or drinking the water.

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I am one of those people who always has 20 projects in the back of my mind that I plan to complete, plus 20 more sewing projects that I would love to start or finish. Giving up naptimes felt like giving up all my sewing projects, but after reading Desperate, I realized that it was important to continue in life-giving activities, which for me, includes creating things, so I decided Pen Elaine and I must sew together! So, my first project was a “Frozen princess” tutu/dress for Pen Elaine, which she helped with a bit and then I started her on her own project while I finished some of the machine sewing without her “help.”

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Most recently, I realized I had given up any time of playing the old piano that takes up valuable space in our house. Instead of only playing the assortment of kid instruments we have in a music basket (that inspires Pen Elaine to form a band), sharing the joy I find in playing the piano led to an interpretative dance performance by Pen Elaine, for which she found an enthusiastically appreciative audience in Snuggly Man.

I think one of the underlying issues is that I’m learning to share my whole life with my kids, not just the areas that I choose to let them see. The truth is, they see the effects of whatever I hide from them, like using my free time to watch tv instead of using it for true refreshment from Scripture or prayer or personal reflection or making creative plans. Instead of being under the illusion of holding my cards close to my chest, God is using this transition to air out parts of me that had grown lazy or selfish or shallow and show me the path to freedom in total surrender to His plan for my life and my family. Now, Pen Elaine and I have this fleeting season of finding afternoon refreshment together, which looks different on different days, but it’s always the most fun when we are sharing our joys.

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Angry Little People

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Being a mom has changed my life, obviously, but some of the new experiences catch me by complete surprise. I am surprised that I can get angry at a 2-year-old…and that my 2-year-old would choose to be mean to other little kids. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised…

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The other day, we had a play date at a fast food playground with an old friend of mine, a mom of a little boy about the same age as Pen Elaine. Well, Pen Elaine is very outgoing and typically is not shy about playing on a public playground, but my friend’s little boy is a bit more hesitant and careful at first. They had been nice to each other, but the little boy was shy about climbing on the playground very much. As he is slowly going over to climb up the jungle gym, Pen Elaine decides to loudly inform this little boy that he can’t go down the slide…to which he turns around, crying, back to his mom. You can imagine that I was just a bit mortified. Here I was, thinking what a good job I’m doing raising my little girl to be kind to others, providing her with a 2-parent home and making my full-time job to raise and train her, and she excludes this little boy from the playground in a mean way…a shy little boy who had finally warmed up to play. In the meantime, I put her in time out, make her apologize and offer assistance, talk to her about how that would make her feel, etc., but I’m not sure if I’m getting through or not. Since, not too long after that, the little boy has started playing again, when out of the blue, Pen Elaine pushes him down, as she passes him on her way down the jungle gym steps and he’s on his way up. My child had yelled and pushed in a matter of like 20 minutes…so much for thinking I had anything special to offer as a parent. All of a sudden, it looked as if my sweet friend had an angel for a child, and I was raising a bully! Of course, my friend was completely gracious and understanding, and we agreed that Pen Elaine was tired, etc., which I’m sure was true, but I wondered what I was doing wrong.

I so easily fall into the guilt trap of feeling responsible for every one of my child’s choices. I feel the guilt for my child’s bad behaviors, while the weight of my own failings is heavy enough without taking on someone else’s actions. Clearly, every time I’ve gotten caught up in the moment of my kid acting out and acted crazy myself or responded with words too harsh or too loud, every time my heart was in the wrong state of mind, must be what Pen Elaine is picking up and emulating, instead of seeing Christ in me and emulating all that is good and perfect…

Then, God broke through my fog and reminded me that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23. We are all born broken and sinful, with no way to save ourselves from the messes that we create.

Matthew 11:25-30:

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.g 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I am a self-analyzer, always trying to figure myself out, and so I am wondering what this looks like – this influence of the Spirit on our sinful natures versus the influence of my example in my child’s life. You see, I’m trying to figure out how my imperfect example of Christ’s love, my sweet moments and my frenzied moments, pair up with my little human’s bent toward selfishness and impatience, and I leave out God in the equation. I get so accustomed to controlling how my kids and I spend every moment of the day, that I fall under the illusion that I am in control of my little one’s life and her choices and her behavior. I have to be in prayer to remember that God is the only One who can touch her heart and her soul, and I am just a vessel or tool for His work. I get the privilege of being used where He is already moving, and I have to trust His hand in presenting her the perfect example and unfailing love in her life. When I’m living in God’s will, by His Spirit, I can display the fruit of the Spirit to her (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…), but when I’m making my own bad choices, I have to seek forgiveness and redemption and trust that God is greater than all my failed moments or missed opportunities.

Pen Elaine is in her phase of high emotions and low control. Something as seemingly trivial as wanting a certain type of fruit snacks (“gummies”) can start her down an emotional whirlwind to frantic kicking, crying, screaming, tantrum. Once she gets worked up, the hormones washing around her brain leave her powerless to pull herself out of her physiological state…without help. I was once helpless in sin, too, until God pulled me out through the power of the gospel. I became a believer in Jesus Christ at a young age, which means I don’t have too many memories of life before having the Holy Spirit to help me. However, seeing my sweet little girl have moments of desperation about fruit snacks reminds me how we all begin –  very lost and very in need of help. Even though she has her share of making bad choices, she wants to do good, she wants to be a helper, she wants to be nice to her friends, but she falls short.

I don’t have to be entangled in anger anymore, I can pray and rely on God to free me from sinning in anger. Sometimes (as in all the time), I simply need to hand over my cares and fears and moments of frustration or confusion and entrust them to God’s care and provision. He can calm my spirit and show me the way to life, beauty, and peace. Between sleepless nights, surging hormones, and two little ones with emotional roller coasters during the day, I have to be spending some of my “free” time reading God’s Word and in constant prayer to choose to live by the Spirit instead of my own humanity on a daily, moment by moment basis.  One day, I pray my little girl will also choose to believe in Jesus Christ and the saving power of His blood, so that the Holy Spirit will dwell in her heart, and she will be free to live out her calling to a full life.

Ephesians 2:8-10,

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

A good friend recently reminded me of this promise, 2 Peter 1:3,

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

 

I am learning so much on this adventure of mothering, and I love my front row seat to Pen Elaine and her humanity and her beauty in how she was created in God’s image, with a thoughtful, passionate, tenacious, helpful soul that has only just begun to blossom.

 

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Easter Week Countdown: Waiting

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Palm Sunday

Monday: Jesus cleans out the temple

Tuesday: Jesus anointed with expensive oil/perfume

Wednesday: Jesus teaching people

Thursday: Passover (the Last Supper) Maundy Thursday

Good Friday: the cross

Saturday: Waiting

In the time of Christ, I imagine Saturday as being a day of waiting and grieving the death of a dream, if Jesus Christ’s followers were still hoping for Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom and overthrow the Romans. They didn’t know that something much better was to occur on Easter Sunday, despite the fact that Jesus had foretold His resurrection and the timeline for it…they still seem surprised when He conquers the grave and returns to life. In my life, I can relate to waiting on the Lord in times of uncertainty and thinking my own plans and ideas for my life have not come to pass. I’ve had times, for myself or loved ones, when I questioned His goodness even though He has promised to never leave or forsake me. Just as the disciples saw His power in His miracles of healing, provision, raising Lazarus from the dead, they still questioned His Lordship, just as I sometimes choose not to believe in who He has proven Himself to be in how the Lord has taken care of me time and again.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28

 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”Hebrews 13:5 (Deut 31:6)

So, one lesson in the waiting is to trust in the Lord and rest in His care and power and authority. He is sovereign.

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:4-8

For our celebration of “waiting,” we dye eggs! I’m sure there will be some hunting, as well. Besides symbolizing new life, Easter Eggs have been long standing tradition because people refrained from eggs during the season of Lent. Since the chickens kept on laying them, there was an abundance to eat on Easter Sunday and hard-boiling them helped them keep from going bad!

Also, below is the steps in our Easter tree – Pen Elaine and I collected sticks from the yard, taped them in a bundle, then stuck them into an empty mason jar that had a doily already modge-podged to the outside. We hung some old, beaded Easter eggs for decoration.

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Mommy & Me class: Easter Week

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This week, Brenda gave us an adorable idea for an Easter week lunch for kids!

Fill plastic eggs with bite-sized foods…some ideas:

carrot sticks, sesame sticks, pretzels, cherry tomatoes, cheese cubes, turkey cubes, blueberries, blackberries, m&m’s, cut up cucumber, marshmallows, peanuts…

(For lunch box size, cut carton in half or buy a six-pack of eggs carton)

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For an easy telling of the story of Easter with plenty of hands-on fun for young kids, we made a 6-egg version of Resurrection eggs:

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Egg #1: (some coins) Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles, went to the chief priests, and asked, “How much will you pay me to get Jesus into your hands?” And they gave him thirty silver coins. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray Him [to hand Jesus over to His enemies]. Matthew 26:14-16

 

Egg #2: (white cloth to symbolize His innocence) The chief priests and, in fact, the entire Jewish Supreme Court assembled there and looked for witnesses who would lie about Jesus, in order to build a case against him that would result in a death sentence. But even though they found many who agreed to be false witnesses, these always contradicted each other. Matthew 26:59-60

Egg #3: (piece of rope/twine) Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged [whipped] Him. John 19:1

Egg #4: (cross cut out of sandpaper) So they took Jesus, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. John 19:16b-18

 

Egg #5: (stone/rock) The next day – at the close of the first day of the Passover ceremonies – the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate, and told him, “Sir, that liar once said, ‘After three days I will come back to life again. So we request an order from you sealing the tomb until the third day, to prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he came back to life! If that happens we’ll be worse off than we were at first.” “Use your own Temple police,” Pilate told them. “They can guard it safely enough.” So they sealed the stone and posted guards to protect it from intrusion. Matthew 27:62-66

Egg #6: (empty) Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, because an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and rolled aside the stone and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come; see where His body was lying. Matthew 28:1-6

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