Conquering Summer Without Losing Good Habits

conquering_summer.png

School year schedules and routines provide us with great opportunities to create foundational habits in our children. But what happens when summer rolls around? Schedules become much looser, therefore less routine is needed and habits begin to fall by the wayside. How are we supposed to get through the summer without losing everything we have built with our child during the school year? My hope is to help you conquer the summer with some healthy habits and tips we have put into practice.

Creating good habits for summer activities is something we have been trying to fine tune this summer and we have now started to see some success!  Believe it or not my girlies start back school the 24th of July; that’s right my friend, the 24th. Our summer break is almost done! Since we live in Arizona and it’s so HOT here in the summers, a lot of the school districts have year round school. Our summers in AZ are like most midwest winters, you can’t really be outside too long. And everyone says, “but it’s a dry heat!” Let me tell you, 120 degrees regardless of the humidity is no joke, and by July all the pools begin to feel like bath water too. (Don’t feel too badly for us though, when the weather is beautiful we have a two and a half week fall break, almost three week Christmas break and a two and a half week spring break.)

Getting back to summers, just because school is out and there’s not quite as much to do, doesn’t mean good habits should go out the window. So what does it look like to maintain those good habits over the summer months? How much TV do we allow? Does it start first thing in the morning? How many minutes should they read? How much playtime together is expected? Should they review math over the summer? How long should they play outside? (applies only if you don’t live in the desert).

Here are a few guiding principles:

1. Expectations. Setting up expectations for your children is probably the most important thing. My girlies do so much better when they know what to expect. It’s one way for us as parents to help them succeed. First though, you’ll have to establish what priorities and habits you want to lay down for the summer months for your family.

2. Summer Rules. Our summer rules are a combination of things we already had in place and those of others who have gone before us on this journey! They consist of a list of activities that must be done before they get any screen time of any sort. Our girlies didn’t initially love the system we put in place but quickly adapted to our rules. So again, it’s all about expectations. Our rules are as follows and can be done in any order:

  • Read for 30 minutes
  • Play piano for 30 minutes
  • Make your bed and clean up your room
  • Eat breakfast
  • Brush your teeth and get dressed
  • 20 minutes of writing/coloring
  • Make/build something creative
  • Clean up one room
  • Play for 20 minutes with siblings
  • Help someone in the family
conquering_summer-2.png

Remember every family looks differently so adapt to what activities and habits you want to build and instill into your sweet kiddos.

3. Follow through. Don’t lose heart, it might take some time to build those habits but with continued encouragement and dare I say, even a reward system, you can create some great habits. Don’t forget, habits also lend a hand in creating character in our sweet littles so keep pressing on!

4. Grace. As with everything in life, when something is being taught, there needs to be room for growth. And with growth come mistakes. So, give your kiddos some grace as you are establishing the habits you want to cultivate over the summer months. One of our points of grace is that Saturday and Sunday they get a break from summer rules. Now this doesn’t mean they don’t have to do their normal chores such as making bed and cleaning up after themselves, it just means they don’t have to check everything off their list for those days.

Blessings as you continue to grow as a parent and find what works best with your sweet littles in this journey of parenting!

Posted on July 19, 2017 and filed under Building Your Family.

25 Summer Fun Ideas that Cost Under $5

summer_fun_with_kids.png

For homeschooling moms, summer is thrilling because we get to loosen up a bit with our kids. For moms of other school-age children, summer is a great time to build memories with the extra gift of time. Regardless of your situation, I know all of us really want to enjoy this beautiful season!

The “Summer Bucket Lists” floating around are really fun… yet some of the ideas get a little elaborate or pricey for my budget. I want my kids to have a fun summer, but I don’t think we have to go broke to do it. I also don’t want to set the bar so high one season that I can’t live up to it in the subsequent years! My goal is to have intentional time with my kids, and here are some fun ideas we’ve discovered that are all very simple and inexpensive:

  1. Catch fireflies. The most exciting part of this is that you probably have to delay bedtime!
  2. Use your plastic Easter eggs, put glow sticks in them, and have a night egg hunt.
  3. Go to a new park or beach. My boys are in a season in which this easy option is thrilling!  
summer_fun_with_kids-2.png

4.              Make sidewalk chalk pictures. I love the ones that have your child lay down with the image to become part of the scene. (My kids are still getting the hang of this, but it’s still adorable!)

summer_fun_with_kids-3.png
summer_fun_with_kids-4.png

5.              Have a picnic dinner at a new location.

6.              Camp in your backyard.

7.              Family fort sleepover in your living room!

8.              Buy popsicles and let your kids eat them in the bathtub.

9.              Make homemade ice cream, popsicles, or slushies.

summer_fun_with_kids-5.png

10.           Stargaze.

11.           Stay up late for a family movie night and make your own popcorn. Bonus if you can project it on the side of your house!

12.           Sprinkler play date.

13.           Give each child a $1 and see what they can find at a garage sale.

14.           Build bottle rockets with your recycling materials!

15.           Make your own bubble solution and wands. Pipe cleaners work well.

16.           Make shaving cream paint. Do this outside on a really hot day, so afterwards you can hose the kids off.

17.           Pajama ice cream run! Get cheap ice cream cones at the drive-thru.

18.           Bug hunt at a nature preserve or park. The dollar store has great kits with mini nets, containers, and magnifying glasses. (The large butterfly net was leftover from our butterfly hatching experiment.)

summer_fun_with_kids-6.png
summer_fun_with_kids-7.png

19.           Go frog catching. You can buy nets at the dollar store, and use recycled buckets for storage containers.

summer_fun_with_kids-8.png

20.           Cloudwatch on an afternoon that isn’t stifling hot.

21.           Have your kids wash your cars. GIve them a little tip if they do a nice job!

22.           Help garden or pick weeds, and then make dirt cakes.

23.           Perform the Mentos/Diet Coke experiment.

24.           Use baking soda/dish soap/vinegar/food coloring to create a great science experiment. Simply put the baking soda, a little food coloring, and a squirt of dish soap in cups. Place the cups inside of a baking pan, and let your kids pour in vinegar. They will love the reaction!

25.           Wake up early to see the sunrise. Take granola bars with you or have crockpot oatmeal waiting for you when you get home.

Also, see what ideas your kids have! Give them parameters, such as it has to free, and the whole family needs to be able to do it, and see what their create minds imagine!

May you have wonderful times with your little ones this summer!!

summer_fun_with_kids-9.png
Posted on July 12, 2017 and filed under Building Your Family.

Why Did God Place the Tree in the Garden?

why_did_god_place_the_tree_in_the_garden.png

My brother recently started reading Genesis for the first time. Not a believer, he’s curious to know what’s in the Bible. A few chapters in, he started grappling with a question that many of us have also asked ourselves. “If God knew that Adam and Eve were going to eat the fruit, why did He put the tree there in the first place?”

At first glance, it might seem like the ultimate form of entrapment. Perhaps it feels like God decided to play a game of cat and mouse with His new creations for the sake of His own amusement. Or maybe it feels like God was conducting a divine experiment, the outcome of which He did not yet know. Nothing could be further from the truth. God had a perfect plan for the trees.

Yes, trees. There were two special trees in the garden: the “tree of life” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Adam and Eve were only forbidden from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

There was nothing unfair or deceptive in God’s placing the trees in the center of the garden. Nothing that Adam and Eve needed was being withheld from them—at least nothing that would improve their lives. They had all that they could need. There was also nothing in God’s command that was beyond their capacity to keep it.

The garden was the place of perfect fellowship with God—a holy place. At the center were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam was put in charge of the garden but he failed in his duties. He allowed a foul creature to desecrate the holy place and gave dominion of it to Satan by falling for his scheme and eating of the fruit. Sin did not originate with Adam; it originated with Satan. Adam had no predisposition to sin before the fall but He gave into the temptation from Satan (through Eve). It’s interesting how easily we can be made to believe that we “deserve” something we don’t have, and then disobey God to get it, rather than trust Him for what He has provided.

God would actually banish Adam and Eve from the garden for their protection so that they would not eat of the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). It they had eaten of that tree in their sinful state, they would have existed forever as fallen beings without hope.

God reveals His justice in condemning the serpent (Satan and his seed). He also reveals His mercy in dealing with Adam and Eve by providing a Way of salvation for the guilty. The first mention of the gospel in the Bible is in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He (Jesus) will bruise you on the head (destroy evil forever) and you (Satan) shall bruise him on the heel (unsuccessfully attempt to destroy his plan).” The final outcome will be that those who are in Christ will live in a restored Eden (heaven) without the presence of evil.

Apart from a fuller understanding of Adam’s sin and its impact on all humanity, it is not possible to understand how Jesus’ sacrifice restores our fellowship with God. Jesus reverses the curses; He is the One who rescues the guilty, making it possible to “pass from death to life” — eternal life. (John 5:24)

Did God place the trees to trick Adam and Eve? Certainly not! God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. He is perfect in all of His ways. He is love. He has numbered every hair on our heads, and holds every one of our tears in a bottle. He knew us before the foundation of the world, knit us together in our mother’s wombs, and is intimately acquainted with all of our ways. God loved the world so much, that He gave his only Son as the payment for our sin, so that whoever believes in him could have eternal life.

So how can we let this grow our faith? First of all, take comfort that God doesn’t do anything lightly. He does it purposefully. He has our best interests at heart. When hard things happen, when awful tragedies strike, and when life seems its most unfair, God can be trusted. He will be faithful to you. His plans are perfect, and His motivation is that the world would come to see Him as He really is and glorify Him.

Secondly, He will not abandon you. I believe it is good to ask these questions of the Bible. Study reveals time and again the great lengths to which God will go to save and provide for His people. He has promised that He will not forsake you in your time of need. He is the God who saves.

why_did_god_place_the_tree_in_the_garden-2.png

And lastly, He longs to be in a relationship with you. Do not harden your heart. Today can be the day of your salvation. Accept the payment for your sin that Jesus made on the cross, and believe in Him for eternal life.

The tree of life means that God’s intent for humanity was always life and not death. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was there because God is holy and we are to obey him. Those who trust in Jesus Christ by faith will live in the restored Eden and partake of the tree of life.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
” (Revelation 2:7)

 

(This post is co-authored by Betsy Corning and Laura Irion)

Posted on July 8, 2017 and filed under Building Your Faith.

More is caught than taught: what am i really teaching my children?

more_is_caught_than_taught.png

One of the things that has been convicting me on my mama journey is this thought: "More is caught than taught."  

I have known this truth for a long time but was reminded of it recently through my two junior high-aged daughters in a couple of different ways. 
 

Each morning, just like you, I wake up and go about my day. Doing all the things. Momming, cleaning, comforting, disciplining, cooking, driving, exercising, talking on the phone .... all the things we moms do each day, every day, without really thinking about it. Every day kind of looks like the one before and the one after, but then...God has a way of waking us out of our fog and teaching—or reminding us of—a valuable truth.

I was first recently reminded of that saying, "More is caught than taught," one day, when a teenaged girl from the kids' school popped over to have me cut her hair. (My fancy salon setup consists of a chair placed in the middle of the kitchen and a hair cape.) To my surprise both of my girls snuggled up on the kitchen eat-in bench and sat unmoving and fixated on this "big" girl's every move and word. It is the quietest my girls have been in our home in a loooooong while. They both just sat there taking it all in. 

It struck me, and reminded me, how much "littles" look up to "bigs."  It also reminded me that although I am not a cool, cute high school girl, I am still my girls' constant "big."  My little girls look up to me, observe and take in what I do and how I do it all day, every day. 

The second time was a "call out" by my girls. I had just shut the door from chatting with one of our elderly neighbors and turned around to see those two sets of brown eyes staring at me. They giggled a little and said, "Mom, whenever you talk to someone at the door you talk so Southern and sweet. Then you turn back to us and say in a "blah" voice, 'OK kids get back to our chores please.'"

It was true. Here I was slathering mere acquaintances with sweet honey tones from my mouth but not treating my kids to that same sweetness in tone and attitude. And they are the people I love the most! It was a good "call out"... a sobering healthy "call out." 

more_is_caught_than_taught_pull_quote-2.png

You see, they were observing and learning. How am I going to teach them to "speak life to each other, use your kind words first always, be encouraging even if you're joking, look at my eyes when you talk to me, love your brother /sister well..." all the things I say over and over daily to my kids if I, as their mama, am not also holding myself to that same standard?

Now don't hear me saying that this should be an all-the-time-24/7-sweet-talk thing. There is a definite time for a "mommy tone" in our kids' lives, BUT what is my daily interaction with my kids layered with? It made me stop and think, repent and realize, the importance of being intentionally sweet to my kids in action and speech. 

They learn most from how I respond when the Gatorade—with no lid on—gets knocked across the kitchen, and seeps down into the island drawers and floor and is all over me as well.  (Obviously this is a real thing that just happened ... I only had to wash the floor 4 times to get it unsticky. Bless it.)

They learn when they are telling me something and I'm nodding and texting on my phone at the same time, no eye contact involved. They learn when I choose social media over a game, reading, or playing outside with them.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans. Proverbs 16:3

All of this is to say: Stop this week and do a quick "call out" on yourself. See what needs to be weeded from your life in this mom season. Intentionally determine what convictions you want your kiddos to be picking up, because how we live as mamas on an everyday basis is what they really see and learn from. 

Now the beauty of this all, is that it has been a sweet reminder of my intense, daily need for Jesus. I am a sinner that messes up, and my kids (who are also sinners) see that too. That's not a bad thing! But, they also get to see a God who lavishes me, and them, with his love and grace every time we do mess up. They get to see a mama who has to stop and apologize to them for being grumpy or angry and we remember together that Jesus paid it all and gives us a clean slate every time. Thank you Lord!  

Unless the Lord build the house they labor in vain who build it;
unless the Lord guards the city the watchmen labor in vain.
 Psalm 127:1

more_is_caught_than_taught_pull_quote.png

 So the good news in all this is that just because more is being caught then taught doesn't mean we have to walk a perfect tightrope of right choices. It means, our responses in those mess ups and in our daily small choices, is what our kids get to "catch on" to; that a life filled with a relationship with Jesus brings joy, hope, peace and trust in the only Someone who never messes up. It's us being prayerfully dependent upon God and not our own self sufficiency and learning to  "pray without ceasing" I Thessalonians 4:17.

So why not take a moment this week to intentionally think through, What is being caught by my kids in my life that might need tweaking? Take some minutes to be before the Lord and ask for his help to change and grow in those areas. Over time, He will patiently and lovingly change you from the inside out, just as He promised. 

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ Philippians 1:6.

What a beautiful promise for mamas (and their children) who daily need this hope. 

Posted on June 28, 2017 and filed under Building Your Family.

Entrusted Recipes: Key Lime Pie Cookies

key_lime_pie_cookies.png

Every so often I get a hankering for sugar cookies. Not the ones that are a bit crispy around the edges but the ones that have more butter than sugar and well...just plain melt in your mouth.
I grew up with this yummy kind of sugar cookies my entire life. Every Christmas we would make cutouts with them and decorate with gobs of frosting, and every Valentine’s Day my mom would make giant heart cookies with frosting for each family member with our name on it.

Needless to say, the cookies went very quickly and unfortunately we only got them twice a year.

Last summer as I was craving a sugar cookie (it had been 6 months without a bite!), I decided it might be fun to create a variation so I would have an excuse to make them in the summer months; thus the Key Lime Pie Cookie was born.

They are super easy to make…

key_lime_pie_cookies-2.png
key_lime_pie_cookies-3.png

Place butter and sugar in your mixer and beat until creamy. Add in the key lime zest and mix to allow the flavor to incorporate throughout. You can use either a lime or a key lime. (I have found it is easier to juice and zest a lime rather than a small key lime.)  

key_lime_pie_cookies-4.png

Add in your egg and beat until creamy again and then add vanilla and lime juice and mix.

I have been using pure Mexican vanilla for about 7 years now in my baking and let me just say, it makes all the difference in the world.

key_lime_pie_cookies-5.png

Mix your flour and baking powder together and slowly add to the mixer. The dough will eventually form into a ball and will not be sticky.

key_lime_pie_cookies-6.png
key_lime_pie_cookies-7.png

Transfer the dough and roll it out to about a half an inch. Pick any shaped cookie cutter (even the top of a round drinking glass will work) and cut them out. I chose a star because I realized I had only Christmas cookie cutout shapes and that wasn’t going to work in summertime. Since the Fourth Of July is coming up, I thought the star would be very patriotic!

Place in the oven and make sure to not overbake. Pull them out before they get any color.

key_lime_pie_cookies-8.png

Let them cool and in the meantime it’s time for the homemade frosting! You will never want to use another can after you taste this! So easy too!

key_lime_pie_cookies-9.png

Beat the butter and key lime zest together in the mixer. After it becomes a little fluffy, add in powdered sugar and key lime juice, alternating until you get the taste and consistency you desire. Now, I like my frosting to be a bit more tart than sweet, so I discovered that adding a bit of fresh-squeezed lemon juice as well, gave it the tart I craved.

Frost those cookies and voila, you have a key lime pie cookie! Hope you enjoy!

Click here for a printable recipe card.

key_lime_pie_cookies-10.png
Posted on June 21, 2017 and filed under Building Your Home.

A Strong Helper: Supporting your husband when you have little ones

strong_helper.png

I have a love-hate relationship with personality tests. I find them thoroughly fascinating, and yet, I sometimes “break” the test. I often end up with results that have me evenly split between two opposite categories! Regardless, I enjoy the process of learning how I can grow. Augustine said “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself, that I may know Thee.”

I find this true to a certain extent. We should not view God through who we are, but through the truth of his Word. However, knowing our own strengths and weaknesses can make us aware of how we might err in relating to an all-perfect Heavenly Father.

So this week, I was sitting across the table from two of my best friends, trying to maintain a train of conversation while 11 children ran around us. One of my friends had just read a personality book that received the highest recommendations from her small group leaders. They claim it has transformed the way they communicate in their marriages. We were all curious. My friends had already taken the online assessments, as well as their husbands, and were urging me to partake. After insisting I couldn’t because I need to think too much to do it in front of people (and explaining that I break these tests), they both decided to take it for me. I was intrigued how they would end up pegging me after 14 pages of quizzing. While they answered the questions, I looked at the descriptions of the 9 personalities and surmised I was one of 6 options, but certainly not 3. To my shock, both friends finished the test and received the same results. They wanted me to take it to confirm, and lo and behold… my results corroborated with theirs. I didn’t know if I felt it completely “fit”, but I had to admit that there was some conclusive evidence here.

That night I was explaining to my husband that I was a “Helper” according to the test.
“Really….” was his slightly skeptical reply. I don’t think I was supposed to notice his tone, but I did.

Ouch. My best friends thought it fit, but my husband didn’t see it. The man I am biblically-commanded to help as my life’s work thought the test had pegged me incorrectly. The old Stephanie would have cried at how much she was “failing” at a job she wanted so desperately to do well. My more mature self has learned to reflect and repent.

Why did it hurt? Because I knew exactly why he was skeptical. In these chaotic years of raising toddlers, I have found it challenging to put my husband first. What does it even look like when your babies’ needs are so pressing? When we are up turning food into humans during pregnancy, up all night with newborns, and caring for toddlers all day, it can be hard not to expect our husbands to pitch in right when they walk in the door. The other reality in our case is that I often don’t communicate to him how I try to help him. I shoulder responsibilities that I think he doesn’t want to do. Often I am right, but sometimes I am just wasting my energy. Also, I am very passionate about providing our kids with great experiences, and sometimes I drag Travis along for that vision when he just wants a nap!

strong_helper-2.png

What may be even worse than neglecting my husband’s needs—and I recognize my arrogance here—I know at times I have believed my job is more important and more holy than what he does all day. Yes, we need him and the fruit of his labor, but I am spending my entire day with the purpose of directing souls toward eternity with their Maker. He is very talented and does things that make my brain hurt just hearing about them, but does it really have an eternal purpose? These are the subconscious sinful ponderings that have passed through my mind at times. Am I alone? Do any of you young mothers struggle with this?

When Travis is done with work, you bet I want him to join me in the task of raising our boys. I’m not wrong in wanting his partnership. Truly God wants us to be a team. Malachi 2:14-15 says, “Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.”

What is wrong with my attitude is the prideful way I have sometimes believed God has called me to spend my day in a more important manner than the way God has called him to spend his hours. If Travis wasn’t working so hard, our kids would be in daycare, learning lessons from someone else, and I would be working full-time too. His work provides for my work. In addition, he is building relationships with non-Christians at his workplace that may change someone’s eternity—just as I am striving to do all day long. When he uses his gift of evangelism to witness to a stranger on an airplane, he is planting seeds. I should be his biggest cheerleader in this!

Enough of my incorrect attitudes. Let’s get to the solution! How do we put our husbands “first” in this season? Well, I don’t think it is making him a literal “first.” (For example, If your child has potty needs and your husband wants to tell you a joke about his day, there is a clear priority. Your husband can be patient and wait, or follow you to the restroom to tell you the story.) As I pray about how it should look, i can picture Jesus in Matthew 14, right after he found out John the Baptist was beheaded, and he was tracked down and ended up feeding the 5,000. He was completely spent in his flesh, but he had compassion on the crowds and served them with everything he had to give. God wants to provide us with the capacity to love our husbands well. Here are some tips on what I think it can look like in this season:

Stong_Helper-4.png
  1. Our attitude is the first thing to get in order.  Do you pridefully believe that your work is more important than your husband’s? Ask God to change your heart so that you value what your husband does each day. Maybe he gets to sit at a desk and have adult conversations. Maybe he also has a stressful boss breathing down his neck! There are challenges he deals with that he may not even be sharing with you. Make sure you are grateful for his sacrifice. Maybe you don’t believe that particular lie, but perhaps you think you shouldn’t have to serve him because of all you do each day. Realize that pouring into your marriage will grow and bless it, and often make your husband want to serve you too!
  2. When he comes home, let him talk about his day too. Don’t bombard him every day with stories about the kids. Take turns hearing from him. If he is on a business trip, when he calls home, don’t spend the whole call talking about the struggles of your day. He may have things to share too. I have a friend that tends to space out when her husband is talking to her. Long days with the kiddos wear her out, and she has little left when they are all in bed. Perhaps they need to have some time in the morning to go over the previous day, or maybe she can give him five fully-focused minutes before she goes to bed or works on anything else. It doesn’t need to be an hour to show him that you care. Just make him a priority.
  3. Make sure his intimacy needs are met… especially before he goes away on a business trip. Occasionally there will be a time, such as after the birth of a baby, or another medical reason and your husband will need to be patient. In these times, tell him how thankful you are for his patience…. And try to be creative with how you might help him. Okay, I’m moving on now before I start blushing. :)
  4. When the kids are in bed, try to do something simple to let him know you want to serve him too. Travis loves it when I bring him a snack before we start watching a show together. It really doesn’t take a lot of effort on my part, but I am letting him know I feel he is worthy of being served. Your husband might not care about acts of service. Perhaps, he just wants you to cuddle him a little. I know there are days when little ones have hung on you and touching is the last thing you want from your man… pray for God to give you the capacity. Once in awhile I think it’s okay to ask for some space; just reassure your husband that you love him and it doesn’t reflect your feelings for him. The basic point: Serve him how it counts most for him.
strong_helper-5.png

5. As I shared in a previous post, I have often served Travis in ways that cost me a lot of energy, but don’t matter as much to him. Save yourself some energy and ask what he values the most. Pray for the energy to do just that one thing each day. As your kids grow and you have more energy, add more acts of service. Until then get the most bang for your buck!

6. Make choices that reflect his preferences for the family. Does he hate going to the zoo? Go without him. Would seeing a movie with the kids really excite him? Schedule that around him. What are his favorite dinners? Make those even if they aren’t favorites for your kids. That is a minor example. Here is a bigger one: My husband really values peace and relaxing, so I try to make sure we don’t “go-go-go” too much in one weekend. I want him to have down time to relax, and not feel like his weekends were taken over by my agenda for our family. In the long-term, his desire for peace will be reflected in how we have bonded as a family. Also, when he does something fun with the kids that he may not always have the energy for, be thankful!

7. Teach your children to serve their father. (For more on this click here.) I recently had my oldest ask if he could wash his daddy’s feet. He initiated it, so I can’t take credit, but it was one of my proudest moments as his mama. His dad loved it! For younger ones, it might be as simple as getting a napkin for their dad at dinner. As soon as they are able, include them in the process! Teach them that Daddy has a place of honor in the family. Also, back him up in front of your children. You are a united front. Stand by him, and support him. (If you have any disagreements, speak to him privately.)

8. Put him first with regard to how you spend money. Do you want your kids in every activity, yet have a hard time saving money for date nights? Do you go over the top for your kids for Christmas and birthdays, but give your husband very little? This may be communicating a message to him that you don't mean to convey.

A couple nights ago we were on a family walk, and our children were running ahead of us. They are really growing up now! Travis reached over and held my hand. I have to admit it was a weird feeling at first. Usually my hands are needed by little ones, pushing a stroller, or they are patting the baby I am holding in the baby carrier. As much as I want to savor these days with my young children, I am looking forward to having more time and energy to focus on my marriage. I know that I can’t just put Travis on the back burner until then; I need a greater capacity to love now. Praise God that He always answers that prayer!

Posted on June 14, 2017 and filed under Building Your Family.

Overcoming Preschool Shyness

overcomoing_preschool_shyness.png

Both of my boys will talk to anyone who will listen. (Sometimes they even digress into a long-winded monologue we affectionately call “taking a hostage.”) They’ve never struggled with shyness a day in their lives. But my daughter, my sweet middle child, was ultra quiet and shy as a preschooler. To her, I could relate.

I spent my entire childhood painfully engulfed in shyness that lasted even into my high school years.(Finally a job in retail that forced me to talk to customers pushed me past it, but it’s still something I can struggle with to this day!)

overcomoing_preschool_shyness-2.png

Because I had a lot of empathy for my daughter, I was able to be more intentional in helping her manage her shyness, while at the same time loving her for who she is. Over the years, I’ve watched her blossom. She will probably never be the loud one in a crowd, but she’s developed a graceful confidence that I truly admire. She has been able to adapt to new situations and forge meaningful relationships with girls her age. I thought I’d share our journey and some of the things we did to help her get to this point, but of course I can’t take all (or even most...or even half!) of the credit. As with all things regarding our children, the battle and the victory is the Lord’s.

1. Be her support system

Kids who have a supportive adult at home are already at an advantage in the battle they’re facing. The fact that you’ve read this far means you are caring and concerned, and they are blessed to have you! Every hug of reassurance you give and word of encouragement you whisper is going to pay dividends down the road. Keep them coming! Be a safe place for them to be who they are, and to share their feelings. That safe harbor will be an important place for them to retreat to when they fail or succeed in this process.

2. Role Play

This was a critical key toward overcoming shyness with my preschooler. She and I would role play upcoming situations the night before to help her get practice talking to new people, introducing herself, asking a new student to play, etc.

It was eye-opening for her when I reversed the roles and played the “shy” part. First, I would have her approach me and say, “Hi, I’m Jane. Do you want to play?” And then I would look down and away without responding. She could see herself and her natural inclination in my behavior, but she could also see how that response could be received as hurtful. We would talk about how it felt to talk to someone who wouldn’t talk back. I explained that if she’s shy, she might accidentally hurt someone’s feelings. Then we would try again. She would say, “Hi, I’m Jane. Do you want to play?” And I would say, “Yes! What do you want to play?” She could immediately see which response would lead to fun and friendship. After that, we would reverse roles. She practiced being herself and responding positively while I pretended to be new friends who approached her.

Even to this day, as an 8-year-old, role playing comes in handy. The other day, I asked if she wanted to go in and pay for our Friday night pizza. She wanted to, but she was nervous. So we acted it out, just like we used to in preschool. I pretended to be the cashier while she practiced ordering and paying. When we drove up to the take-out place, she had some confidence to go along with her nerves. She successfully bought a pizza on her own and couldn’t be more proud when she walked out the door!

3. Make a video

This is just an extra little trick to go along with role playing. Sometimes it’s easier to see yourself and your behavior when you’re watching instead of practicing. So, we would film our little interactions on my iPhone every once in awhile and watch them. You could also easily act out scenarios with dolls or toys, and make your own mini movie.

4. Bribe!

Bribe is probably the wrong word. Really, it’s a reward, and I am not above this as a mom. Within reason, I think it’s a perfectly acceptable practice. After all, your boss rewarded you with money to show up to work today. In the real world, you get paid for hard work, and for a preschooler, sucking it up and talking to new people or taking on new experiences is really hard work. Looking forward to the promise of a new toy or an ice cream afterwards can help them visualize success and persevere in a situation.

5. Encourage them — they can do this!

Shyness is a choice, and so is being strong. In a loving way, we can affirm to our children that no one else gets to choose their attitudes. That is theirs alone to control. At the end of the day, we can’t force them to be brave. All we can do is patiently encourage, support them, and praise them when they have success. Remind your kids that they are strong and they can do this. Your words have a ton of power.

overcomoing_preschool_shyness-3.png

6. Pray

The buck really stops here. It’s the most important thing you can do with and for your children. Before leaving for school, or before bed the night before, my daughter and I prayed together. There is so much peace for a child who knows that the weight of the world is not on their own shoulders. Yes, they are prepared. They have practiced. They are supported by their family. But when their parents can’t walk through the door with them, God can and He will. Pray his promises back to him—promises like Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” You can even insert your child’s name in the verses as you show them these truths in the Bible. This is a wonderful opportunity to teach them that He will be their strength and their shield and defender, a lesson that will give them confidence now, and for the rest of their lives.

Posted on June 7, 2017 and filed under Building Your Family.