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How to Introduce Your Child To Jesus (easy steps that a still-learning mommy can do)

One time when I was a middle-school teacher (a pregnant and grumpy one, this particular day), I tallied the number of questions I was asked in a 60-minute period. I wish I could remember how many it was, because I am 90% sure that this was a mere warm-up for the pure inquisition I have been experiencing at the hands of a bright-eyed, way-too-smartt and abundantly curious little boy who lives here.

I am questioned out.

I think I know what the Apostle Peter was talking about when he said we needed to be ready “in season and out of season” and “to have an answer for everyone who asks you…” Pretty sure he was talking to moms of toddlers. (He just didn’t want to come out and say it.)

In the last 48 hours, these are just a mere sampling of the questions I have been asked.

  • How do ears hear, eyes see, and boogers get in our noses?
  • Why do the trees stand up straight and tall?
  • Why do football players line up in a line?
  • How do they make the animal chicken into the food chicken? (That one was tough.)
  • What kind of animal is a Hokie bird? (“I have been instructed to respond, ‘a ferocious, fighting turkey,’ in case anyone else is curious.)
  • How do you keep the car in the lane?
  • What makes it snow?
  • Is there snacks in heaven?
  • Why do boys not wear makeup?
  • Why do men not have big tummies with babies in them?
  • Do scorpions swim in the water?
  • Do germs look like dirt?
  • How is a fire hot?
  • How do they make jelly beans?
  • What happens if girls play football?

And again, this is just a sampling, limited by a mom’s tired memory or failure to find a pencil at the right time.

This is just a beautiful, exhausting age.

I feel like a failure sometimes. I don’t have the right answers. I’m too tired, or too distracted to answer sufficiently. I don’t seize each chance, and once-in-a-childhood moments ripen and rot away.

And it’s fine if I don’t succinctly describe a twelve-man offensive rotation (which, trust me, is probably what’s happening. I’m not even sure that is a thing. Is an offensive rotation a thing? Anyways.) Likewise, it’s not the end of the world if I can’t remember how exactly it snows.

But Jesus, and heaven, and God and all that?

Yikes, I don’t want to be sleeping on the job for those questions.

I’ve thought of a few ways to intentionally teach Sam about Jesus. These are not rocket science, and I’m sure there are a bazillion books that say it better. But here are my thoughts.

  • Pray out loud, regularly. Relax, though. I don’t mean long-winded advanced churchy prayers. I am talking here about verbalizing those quick God-directed thoughts you have anyway. God, please help us find our car keys. God, I’m frustrated – help me to be patient with Ty. God, help us find our car keys. God, please help us not get lost. God, Tommy is sick. Help him feel better. God, please help us find our car keys. (I am pretty sure Sam is going to think “please help us find our car keys” is a verse in the actual Bible. But there is nothing I can do about that right now.)

And a really cool thing has happened since I’ve prayed out loud to find my car keys.

Sam, too, asks God for help.

In the past few days, he’s asked God to help him find his stuffed animals, to help him be a good football player, and to please make it snow (a particular prayer that is echoed by all members of this household). Now, of course prayer isn’t all about making God give you everything you want. But I am thrilled beyond thrilled that he thinks knows God is listening to what he needs.

  • Pray with him. Todd is way better at this than I am, so I am just going to tell you what he does. At night, they say prayers. Todd has Sam repeat after him. It is very basic stuff. “Thank you for Mommy.” Thank you for Mommy. “Help me to have a good attitude.” Help me to have a good attitude. etc. etc.

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Todd is showing Sam that he prays, teaching him how, and making it a positive experience. It is often not long, and that’s okay.

  • Throughout your day, talk about two things:
  1. God made everything.
  2. God loves them.

This is directly copied from my mother, when I watched her teach two-year-olds Sunday school. I love it because it is so do-able. I tried to teach Sam the story of Joseph and the coat today while I was making turkey tettrazini…I’m pretty sure I lost brain cells and mixed up a good portion of the details. But I can usually get “God made everything” right. even on a few hours of sleep.

  • This next one also helps when you’re tired and brain-fogged. Get a good children’s Bible and good children’s devotional. Reading a story at night as part of a routine is an easy way to teach, without exerting energy that you do not have, or explaining topics that you do not fully understand. See the links above for my two favorite choices.

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  • Music. Why re-invent the wheel, ya know? Jesus Loves Me was already written! Play it! This CD (Cedarmont Kids Bible Songs) is worth it’s weight in gold. I know there are other terrific kids CDs…any favorites you have? We listen to the Pandora station “Jesus Loves Me” radio, also. Added plus of this is that it teaches you verses to all those songs you kind of know and kind of forget.
  • Ask God to help me teach my kids about Him. I hesitate to even say this, because it is so obvious. But if I need help, I should ask for it. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. {James 1:5}

What helps your kids learn about Jesus? Does your family have favorite books or music?

 

 

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One more plug for planning day (and how I spent mine)

image by Lotus Head

Recently I talked about how wonderful, amazing, and productive it is to get out of the house and have a planning day.

The Lord bless him, my wonderful husband, for two years in a row, has all but ushered me out of the door, practically ordering me to Panera to go do my planning. This year we were all sick with all colds, so I got a later start than normal. But it was still wonderful.

Here’s what I did:

  • Try not to do a weird, giddy laughing thing in my car as I’m driving out of the neighborhood, alone, to Panera. Cause that would be weird, giggling alone in the car.
  • Pull into Panera at 10:45 and use most of my willpower to not immediately order two full sandwiches, a croissant, and a bread bowl of soup for lunch.
  • Find a table. This is quite a process. I end up looking like a dog turning around in circles trying to decide where to sit down: Set stuff down on table. Deem it too dirty and move to the next. Nope, too far from the fireplace. Let’s try this one. Move again when I realize I’m hearing a nearby couple talking about her mastectomy. This table teeters. That one doesn’t have a comfy chair…Ahh! Finally! The perfect seat.
  • At this point I did feel like I had done enough to deserve a lunch break. I ordered the same thing I order every time, the Frontega Chicken Sandwich with Creamy Tomato soup and an apple. And a water, with a LARGE CUP, please. What’s up with the communion-sized water cups? Just because I like water doesn’t mean I have 1/6 of the thirst level.
  • Anyways. Once I finally got down to business, I began by praying, as I mentioned in the earlier post, that God would direct this time. Because I kind of felt like you do at the start of summer vacation… You have all these goals and are just sure at the end you’ll have revolutionized your life. (No pressure, or anything.)
  • The first thing that came to mind was that I need to pray daily for a few things. My kids’ salvation, whether or not we should have another child, and, that God would give me the strength to homeschool my boys, because I’d love to and the only way I can is if the Lord provides the way.
  • Then, I started making my  “roles and goals” list. I mention that in my prior post, as well…You list all of your roles, and narrow down goals for each category. The roles I considered were: spiritual, preschool teacher, homeschool planning, wife, mom, homemaker, sister/sister-in-law, friend, health, and blogger.
  • Here are a few things I realized:
  1. I must think I’m a really good wife already, because somehow that category ended up blank. Sorry, Todd.
  2. I want to find some good homeschool mamas to talk to. Suggestions, anyone? 🙂
  3. I really would like to eliminate my attachment to the internet and computer. Or stop using it at the wrong times and for the wrong reasons.
  4. If I want to have another kid, I want to be prepared. You know, meals in the freezer, exercising throughout the pregnancy, letter to myself not to flip out when I’m shushing a newborn 22 hours a day, ipod playlist of songs to help me do natural labor (that’s all it takes, right? A good playlist?)  See, if I plan enough, everything will be perfect. That is my mantra. Please don’t disagree with my mantra.
  • Well, frankly, after making all these ambitious plans, I was tired. I think the Chicken Frontega was sitting gloppily in my stomach, and I found myself feeling a little sleepy. Checking my email mindlessly a couple times in a row for no good reason, that kind of thing. I fought it for a while, and then I thought, you know, this is my planning day. I can do what I want.

And what I wanted was to take a nap. So I packed up, went to my car, and took a 20-minute power nap. I woke up really rejuvenated, and also a little embarrassed when I made eye contact with the guy in the car next to me. I pretended I was finishing up a conversation on the phone and went back in.

I had a nice cup of coffee and spent the rest of the time working on our yearly budget, and letting my mind wander a bit. I don’t do that much, but it was nice and I learned a lot.

I came home so, so happy to see my kids. It felt like I had been gone for three weeks. The house also looked like I had been gone for three weeks. But I kind of missed it. Okay, I just said that because it sounded good. I did not miss cleaning the house.

But really, I loved my planning day. It made me think I should take one a few times a year to regroup!

How about you? Have you taken your day? What did you learn?

Group Preschool Activities: Things To Do In a Room Full of Little Kids (Besides Leave)

You may not think you need this post, but you do. We all do. Because one day, it’s going to happen. You’ll be watching your kids, and your neighbor will run to the grocery store, and your other neighbor will have a gallbladder attack, and, BOOM.

Before you know it, there are seventeen (or maybe five, but it feels like seventeen) rambunctious, bored, destructive four-year-olds playing hopscotch with your Tupperware.

And no one’s mom is coming for a looooong time.

What do you do?

Here are a few ideas to tuck away in your mental repertoire and pull out in an emergency situation. Like how you’d use a steel flashlight to break a car window when you fell in a pond.

Kind of like that.

Less dramatically, you could also incorporate these into a Sunday school routine, or a group preschool. But I like to make it sound more emergency than that. Cause that’s what I do. Without further ado:

  1. Draw a story. Find a good, short book. Read it, with animation. Then give each child a fresh piece of paper and some art medium. Ask them which part of the story they’re going to draw. Be sure to praise them relentlessly.
  2. Tea time. The key here is the build up, because it’s actually lame (I know…shocking, with such an exciting name.) Get small cups (non-sippy). Fill them with a little water and call everyone to the table. Inform them that you are having grown-up tea time. Have them sit up straight, call everyone “Mr. So-and-so,” and take turns asking each other questions. Give them the questions. Make them go around asking one another what they eat for breakfast, what show do they like to watch, what gift would they give their dad, etc. They think it’s a hoot. Also, you probably will, too. Most recently, one of my students told us her favorite animal was a hot dog.
  3. Tell a story. Everyone wants to say, “Oh, I’m horrible at telling stories. I have no imagination.” Well, you’re in luck. It requires absolutely no talent to tell a story to a preschooler. You could literally use the least interesting thing that happened to you yesterday. Let’s say you saw someone spill their water on the floor. Or that a dog barked at you on a walk. Or you heard a loud airplane. Anything is entertaining, if you ask, “And then do you know what happened?” after every. single. detail. And if you act as thrilled as if you are telling your engagement story.
  4. Make dough. Give everyone a bowl and a spoon. Give each some flour, then some water. Let them “cook.” Now, look. I would put this in the category of “last resort.” Will it be a terrible mess? Yes. Will everyone’s mother be slightly to very annoyed? Yes. But will all children remain safe and engaged for at least 20 minutes. Definitely.
  5. Make soup. Related, but slightly cleaner. Get out a pot and large spoon for everyone. Begin to go through the house for “ingredients.” Sometimes you can get away with just a few, if they’re good. Actual real carrots and whole onions fit this category. And it doesn’t have to be real food. We’ve made golf ball and matchbox car soup for hours on end. Okay, it was probably 13 minutes. But in kid time, that’s significant.
  6. Science Experiment. This is just a home run. They will literally think you are a genius. Which you are, if you can entertain, and inform, a herd of preschoolers for over fifteen minutes. And, the good news is that almost ANYTHING counts as a “science experiment.” Here are a few things that have counted as experiments, and elicited a roomful of amazed squeals and giggles: raisins floating in a glass of soda, a fan moving different objects, how many beans float a boat, baking soda and vinegar making bubbles. Easy, cheesy. Home run.
  7. Stations. This is the most amazing one! It requires a little bit of prep work, but it pays dividends because it will occupy, and teach, a group of kids for a long time. What you need to do is scour your home for individual activities, the ones that you’ve probably been meaning to do with your child but haven’t in a while. Here are some examples:
  • block puzzles
  • alphabet matching game
  • beads on a necklace
  • stacking games
  • block-type activities
  • animal matching games
  • any other game or activity suited for your child’s age

Give each child a project, and then have them switch after a few minutes. Two things are important. One, build it up. The first time we did this, I told the kids a story about a carnival, and how you take turns doing all the different activities. I said we were going to have our little carnival. Be sure you explain all the games before they start. Two, if the stations have lots of pieces, move the kids each time and not the stations. My mother-in-law, who is a former kindergarten teacher, suggested the “stations” routine, and I was just shocked at how well it worked!

So there are a few group activities we’ve been enjoying!

Giveaway Winner!

I’m excited to announce the winner of the ebook Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas…Kathy from Kangaroo Mama! Congratulations! I’ll be emailing you with your code to enter at checkout!

I have been devouring my copy of Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas. This is an extremely helpful, well-written little book. It is just jam-packed with tips, websites, recipes, crafts, gift ideas, etc. etc.  For the next three days it is on sale for $.99 at Amazon! I’m quite sure you would make that back with the money-saving tips that Crystal provides. Click here to purchase!

Thanks for all the cookie suggestions! I was surprised how many I hadn’t even heard of! Stay tuned here for next week’s Wednesday giveaway!

5 Worthwhile Purchases for a Homeschool Preschool

I’ve had a lot on my mind recently…Small scale, I’ve been scrutinizing our household finances and savings and budgets and, whew, there’s a lot to think about there. And then of course our election, and wondering what things will be like in this America for my boys when they’re older.

These things just make me more focused on my job to raise up my boys, because it’s my job, and because it matters!

A month ago I published some simple tips for beginning an at-home preschool. Listen to how lucky I am. My wonderful mother-in-law decided this year to retire from twenty-some years of teaching kindergarten. I am blessed to have this shelf of hand-me-downs:

Take a good look at that organization. Remember that if you come to visit.

{ps, if you live near me, please come visit and go shopping in my library! I love to share.}

If you don’t have the luxury of having a retired kindergarten teacher for a mother-in-law who brings backs and buckets of trinkets and toys every time she comes, well, what is worth the money? Here’s the things I would definitely recommend:

1. “counters” and containers – I have about 100 little plastic bears of varying colors and sizes. It is this exact set, I think! You can use these for so many purposes in the preschool years. Even my youngest, who is 19 months, enjoys picking up and dumping them. Later of course, you can count, sort, order in sizes, add, subtract, place them in individual cups, line them up in a row, etc. etc. Here is a great resource for other ideas with counters.

 

2. plastic numbers and letters. I have a full set of numbers and letters uppercase and lower. Right now, for our 3-year-old preschool, we are just using uppercase. This is an invaluable tool. You could use magnets, even blocks with letters on them instead. I introduce a letter a week or so and then review the old.

3. The basics: easy-to-use scissors, glue stick and liquid, markers, a thick beginner pencil, crayons, and a pencil box. Especially if you have a younger child, keeping a few like-new items in a pencil box and away from little hands is a good idea. Finally, an absolute “must” is a reliable printer with lots of ink and paper on hand. There are so many worksheets available. I link to some good ones here, and I just saw a great resource for many others.

4. A book on science experiments. The Everything Kids’ Science Experiment Book looks like a great one, although it’s not the one I own. My mother-in-law also shared how much her kids loved their “experiments,” even if they were very simple. The little ones in my preschool just LOVE it! We do one once a week. I’m amazed how much I learn doing a simple little thing and trying to explain it. But then again, I’m completely inept at science.

5. exercise cards! Motor development is important too! My kids love cards like this – they see the picture and must do the action. And it’s a great activity when they’re just fried!

Moms of little ones (past or current!) – any other ideas of toys or tools kids love?

How To Get Your Kids To Eat (Almost) Anything

I have to start with this story. One time my Grammy served my mom and her siblings cow tongue for dinner. I don’t think that story needs any more elaboration. The end.

So I make no promises for cow tongue dinners. For other foods, here are some tips.

I’ve thought about this for a long time, but I’ve hesitated to go public for two reasons:

  • As soon as I do, Sam and Ty will throw a revolution and refuse everything that is not a Trader Joe’s snickerdoodle
  • My kids are undoubtedly anomalies, as they are genetically predisposed to LOVE food. We come from a long line of eaters around here. (And boy am I thankful of that, because with Sam’s allergies, he can’t afford to eat fewer foods!)

However, all kids revolt at one point or another, and all kids do this on the night when:

a)      you actually worked hard on dinner

b)      you just noticed they were looking a little scrawny, and

c)      you recently read in Parenting Magazine how essential green vegetables are in preventing cancer

And it is at this precise moment, you set down the bowl (and you know the look from a mile away) that Precious Pumpkin decides that, NO.

I. Do. Not. Want. That.

So what do you do?

Before I submit my tips of the trade, I want to offer a few general principles, which come from my mother. They have guided me through many a bleak and miserable dinner.

  • If you make eating a battle, you will never win. You can’t force them to eat.
  • You make the plate; they decide what to eat. But if they’re hungry later, too bad. They will just have to make up for it at breakfast.

I admit I was terrified the day I put these in action. Sam was about two, and had suddenly begun refusing dinner.

What if he doesn’t get one bite to eat? What if he wakes up every two hours in hunger? What if he dwindles away to nothing? And so on.

In my case, it only took about twelve hours, and the pickiness disappeared. (It will reappear periodically of course, but he’s a good eater.) For my sister (and an extremely stubborn son), it was less than a week. So I guess the bottom line is, they have to know that you’re not going to lose your temper about it, but that this is dinner, period.

That said, let’s say you’ve made something you want them to eat. Say, chicken tortilla soup with beans and peppers and onions. Here’s what I do to make it more appetizing:

1)     Watch the temperature. My kids get immediately annoyed by something that’s too hot. I take theirs out 10 minutes ahead to cool down.

2)      Add something with crunch. Ritz crackers, tortilla chips, club crackers, toast with butter diced in pieces, flour tortillas in pieces – basically something they’ll like the taste of.

3)      Add something creamy. Easy cheesy if you’re not allergic to milk…sour cream, cheese, cream cheese, half-n-half. With Sam’s dairy allergy, I’ll add coconut milk, olive oil, or a dairy-free cream cheese.

4)      Be cheerful. {Nerd Alert} Sometimes I’ll tell Sam one fun fact with every bite he takes. For example, every time he takes a bite, something we could do at Disneyland. Or something that firemen do. Or whatever. Often we’ll talk something fun coming up. Try to distract him from the yuckiness with my pleasant company!

5)      Keep reminding them of their dessert when they finish. Not in a naggy way. Sometimes I’ll do reverse psychology, and say, “Now, Ty, you can’t have all the cookies. Remember, Sam gets to have some when he finishes dinner.” I don’t think that’s reverse psychology actually. Passive aggressive? Hmmm. You get the point. Even if it’s two cookies, or some yogurt, there should be a little treat for finishing something not-so-yummy.

6)      If worst comes to worst, do the bite-for-bite. Today, for example, this evening Sam didn’t want his butternut squash pasta. So he ate one bite of that, and got one bite of apple pie. And so on.

7)     Finally, if you’re having troubles in the eating department, eliminate all snacks, juice, and milk between meals. This can work wonders. Now, I understand it’s hard to break someone of the habit from wanting calories when they’re cranky, bored, and used to having it. Believe me, I know, all too well. But just try it for three days.

But whatever you d0, don’t bother trying the following. They are in every parenting magazine ever, but they sure don’t work around here.

  • “Let them help with dinner, and they’ll want to eat it more.” What?? Sorry, but my kids are not that naive.
  • “Make it look like a fun shape, and they’ll want to eat it.” Um, no, not working here. If it looks like a car, they’ll drive it. A ball, they’ll throw it, A cute animal, they will make it roar, etc. etc.
  • Add food coloring. Please, please promise me you won’t do this. Unless you are making playdough, or icing for a birthday cake, please hold off on these yucky dyes and colorings! They are so bad for you. Plus, blue mashed potatoes? That’s just gross.