Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas

I woke up feeling a little sorry for myself this morning, sorry for my family, too.  It hasn’t been the Christmas season we expected or wanted, and I’m left wondering: how do you give your kids a good Christmas when nothing seems right in your world?

We’ve spent the entire month of December ill now.  Influenza spread slowly from one family member to another.  Several children ended up with sinus and ear infections. My asthmatic lungs were hit hard and our physician threatened me with hospital time.  Thankfully, it was just bronchitis and not pneumonia.

Just bronchitis, ha. 🙂

A pharmacy worth of medicines clutters our kitchen counters still – fever reducers, cough meds, antibiotics – you name it, we probably have it right now. Or at least that’s the way it feels.

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Christmas, Advent, trials, suffering, joy, salvation

Then, this weekend during our church Christmas program practice, our middle boy began complaining of stomach pain. By the time we had removed costumes and were ready to leave, he was on the floor curled up in a ball, crying. It frightened me because he is our tough cookie, the kid who rarely complains of pain.

So, when he started to scream that his stomach hurt, I left immediately for the closest ER!

We spent a day and a half at the hospital under observation, with many people praying – the world over. The surgeon mentioned appendicitis, but his symptoms didn’t fit exactly. Finally, his white blood cell count dropped, his pain subsided and we were able to go home.

We were overjoyed!  He talked about playing with his little brother and sister and how happy he was to come home in time for Christmas.  I grinned in the front seat, glad to have my funny, enthusiastic boy back. We were almost home.

All seemed right in the world again.

And then, suddenly it wasn’t.

Our oldest son woke in the middle of the night with an asthma attack. Then, I got sick and so did he.  On top of that, the only little one who didn’t get an ear infection before complained that his ear hurt.

I’ll admit, friends, my heart travelled straight from rejoicing to complaining because it’s almost Christmas and it just doesn’t seem fair, really.  Our children were back at school for a week, and already ill again!

How can you give your kids a good Christmas when everything goes wrong? How?

 

I know I’m not the only one struggling for joy right now.  In fact, I’m certain that many of you are experiencing trials much deeper and more painful than ours.  If I really knew the depth of them, I’d probably be ashamed of my own complaining.

And maybe you’re a mom like me who doesn’t really mind so much for herself, but for the kids!  Maybe you lie awake at night worrying about life circumstances.  Maybe you’re experiencing the pain of loss or separation from loved ones. Maybe you catch hold of joy for a few moments only to  quickly lose it again.

Whatever your lot might be this Christmas, know this: you can still give your kids a good Christmas.

You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance. You can give your kids a good Christmas in spite of pain, loss, broken relationships, and whatever other trials you might be experiencing.

You can because He came.

Luke 2

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

He came!  Emmanuel, God WITH us – that’s what Christmas is really about. Christ, the Hope of the world, in human flesh, for love of our wandering hearts.

We have to let go of this expectation of holiday perfection and embrace the reality that human life is flawed, messy, painful, even at Christmas. Christ came right into the midst of that mess, born in a stable – there’s nothing clean about that.

You want to give your kids a good Christmas? Let go of the worry.

Embrace Christ.

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Christmas, Advent, Jesus, Hope, Salvation

Show them Hope, Love and Peace.

Teach them of the Savior who willingly left Heaven’s splendor to suffer alongside us here on Earth. That’s a Love like no other, my sisters in Christ. He chose us. He chose pain. He chose death, so that we might experience life in abundance. He did it for you, for me, for them. He did it “for all the people.”

The wonder of Christmas has little to do with presents and food and fun. The wonder of Christmas is the keeping of a thousands-of-years-old promise, hundreds of promises, really.  The wonder of Christmas is Christ.

Romans 8

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves,waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Do you feel it, sisters?  The joy of Christmas is spreading right through us. It cannot be contained. The whole of creation leaps with joy – He is born! Promise fulfilled, salvation at hand, redemption nigh. Hope in human flesh.

How to Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Christmas, Christ, trials, suffering, hope, joy, peace

Here’s how to give your kids a good Christmas: tell them the story of Jesus.

It’s the only thing that truly matters.

Clinging to hope and joy along with you this Christmas season,

Jen 🙂

Also sharing with: Monday Parenting Pin It Party, Mama Moments, Mom’s the Word, Wholehearted Home, Missional Women

Advertisements
2 Comments »

When Gratitude Comes Hard

It’s Five Minute Friday once again, where we gather at Lisa-Jo Baker’s place and free-write for five(ish) minutes on a one word prompt. This week the word is Grateful. Join us if you like!

Grateful, gratitude, hard times, motherhood

Some days the gratefulness comes easy like those lazy days of summer when the sunlight lingers and the breeze flutters warm and balmy. No deadlines looming on the horizon. No crazy schedule. Those are the days when the kids frolic outdoors like all of the Wild Things that they are. We’re happy and healthy and carefree.

On other days, the story isn’t quite so bright.  The winter lingered a little too long and leftover cabin fever rules the day.  Laundry piles up in one messy mountain, and the littlest boy who’s been potty trained for more than a year now, wets himself not once, not twice, but three times in one day for some unknown reason.

These are the days when children bicker and whine and complain, and we find ourselves unable to help them because the bickering and whining and complaining is going on in our hearts, too.

But in Lysa Terkeurst’s book, Unglued, I read about turning that attitude into gratitude, and I know it can be done.  Because who wouldn’t feel grateful for a healthy child, or food in the fridge, or soft beds to sleep in?

So even when the gratitude comes hard and we must dig deep to find the good in our day, it still comes. It still comes.

And I’m so grateful.

Grateful for grace and the promise of a God who will never give up on me, never quit working in my life (Phil. 1:6).

Grateful for the blessing of a Mom (and Dad) who love the Lord and taught me the truth of salvation.

Grateful for a house full of rowdy, messy children who simultaneously make my days exhausting and wonderful.

Grateful for 15 years wedded to a man who continues to seek the Lord and love me even when life gets a little crazy.

And for so many other things,

I give thanks.

No more attitude, just gratitude.

Because He is good.

All the time.

Jen 🙂

You may find me sharing at any of these lovely places or here:

Christian Mommy Blogger, Missional Women, My Freshly Brewed Life,

Beauty Through Imperfection, Managing Your Blessings

 

16 Comments »

Bad Guys Are Real

Bad Guys Are Real, sin, grace, eternal life

I love how she chatters when it’s just her and me in the van, her sweet, soft voice breaking through the unusual quiet as we travel. I point out two military jets flying overhead and she asks if they are carrying a lot of people.

“Well, no, these jets are carrying soldiers who work hard to protect us, protect our country,” I explain.

“They protect us? Like from bad guys?  Mommy, are bad guys real?”  Her voice gets quiet.

I want to tell her, “no.” I want to make her feel safe and secure, but the truth is that bad guys are real.  “Yes, they are real, sis. Some people want to hurt others and do bad things.”

From the front seat, I imagine her eyes growing wide with this information. “Because they don’t love God?” She questions, so smart yet so innocent for all of her five years.

daughter, are bad guys real?, good vs. evil, sin, Jesus, grace, eternal life

I want to tell her, “yes.” Yes, bad guys are bad because they don’t know or love God.  They are bad because they hurt others.  They are bad because they have evil inside, and they do unspeakable things.  That would be the quick and easy explanation, right?

But it’s not the whole truth, is it, this idea that some are bad and some are good?  The truth is we all have evil inside.  We’re all bad in a sense; it’s called sin.  So once again I stop myself from making it sound that simple in favor of telling her the truth.

bad guys, none righteous, we all sin

“Well, yes, some bad guys probably don’t know God or love Him.  But really we all have the ability to be bad.  We all have sin inside of us, and we all make wrong choices sometimes.  It’s only because we believe that Jesus paid the punishment for our sins by dying on the cross that we can choose good instead. That’s the only real difference between the bad guys and the good guys – Jesus.  Without Him we would all be bad guys.”

She falls quiet then for a while, and I know she’s thinking about what I said. I hope and I pray that she really gets it.  That there is nothing good in us, nothing deserving, nothing “better than.”  

Because more than anything I want my sweet, dark-haired beauty of a daughter to know that she cannot, she cannot, be good on her own. She needs Jesus. She needs grace.

bad guys, wages of sin, unrighteous, sin leads to death, eternal life is a gift

Even more than that, I want her to realize that we all need it, this grace, this unmerited, unearned, undeserved, unfathomable gift from a Father God who deigned to love us, a bunch of bad guys, enough to sacrifice His one and only Son.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us,

in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Rom. 5:8

Yes, my daughter, bad guys are real.

But praise be to God,

Jesus is real, too.

Jen 🙂

Sharing with: My Freshly Brewed Life, Managing Your Blessings, Mom’s The Word, Wholehearted Home, Messy Marriage,

Jennifer Dukes Lee, Rich Faith Rising

You may find me linking with any of these lovely blogs.

 

 

10 Comments »

9 Ways to Save on Kids’ Clothes: Part 1

Quite a few months ago, I mentioned in 5 Ways to S-t-r-e-t-c-h a Budget that we save a lot of money on clothing for our children, and I promised to share details later on.  Well, I’m finally getting around to it! 🙂

Clothing expenses can easily burden a larger-than-average family, especially a family living on a single income.  In our home, when we have a budget issue, our first method of attack is to pray.  We try to pray for our needs before we even begin to attempt to meet them (of course, we don’t always remember to pray first).  And when we remember, we pray for wisdom to be good stewards of the finances God has blessed us with, as well.

Here are 9 specific ways in which we save money on clothing for our children.
Saving money on kid's clothes, clothing budget, frugal, stewardship, single income family

Clothing for Free!

1. Hand-me-downs

Since we have three boys, this money-saving technique worked very well for us until we had our first girl (aside from our oldest’s tendency to wear holes in the knees of his pants in his elementary years). 🙂  Save the clothing that isn’t stained or sporting holes in a well-labeled, clear plastic tote for the next child.  

Pros: no expense necessary after the initial purchase!

Cons: some items will wear out after several children.

  • Tips:  Do not get rid of clothing (even if your youngest child is a different gender from older siblings) until you are certain you will not be having more children!  Also, buy quality clothing whenever possible (find out how to save on new clothing in part 2 of this post) because the clothes will last longer. Finally, If you have no hand-me-downs to begin with, be willing to accept them from others in your circle – family, church family, friends, neighbors, etc.  I can’t tell you how many times even our neighbors became the answer to prayers for our clothing needs, especially when we found out we were having twins!

2. Swap Clothing

Find a friend or group of friends to swap clothing with.  For several years, I swapped cloths with a friend who had a son older than our youngest boy and a daughter younger than ours.  So, she traded her toddler boy clothes for my toddler girl clothes.  We also received clothes for our daughter from church family; these clothes had been through two other families before ours!  Search for a large, organized clothing swap in your area, or even organize one of your own.

Pros: No extra spending necessary!

Cons: Storage space needed for totes.

Gently Used Clothing

3. Thred-up

Thred-up (www.thredup.com) is an online site for both buying and selling quality, second-hand children’s clothing (and women’s, as well).  Once you sign up for a membership using your e-mail address, you are free to purchase.  If you want to earn store credit by selling items you no longer need, you’ll want to request a bag from them.  Fill the bag up as much as you can, send it in and they will give you a price quote.

Pros: receiving credit for clothing you send in; clothing is well-screened.

Cons: online only store means no trying things on; paying for shipping costs as well.

4. E-bay 

E-bay is another online site for both buying and selling, although it’s not solely for clothing.  Again, you can sell your gently-used items to earn money to buy what your family needs.  Additionally, you might find brand new clothing listed for lower than retail.

Pros: ability to earn by selling.

Cons: clothing isn’t screened; can’t try on clothes; shipping costs.

  • Tips: when buying on e-bay, please be careful to choose a seller with a high feedback rating.  Also, if you need a large amount of clothing, listings for clothing “lots” will give you the best value for your money.

save money on clothes, budget, big family, tight budget, one-income

5. Garage Sales

My favorite way to save money on clothes is to buy them at garage sales.  By far, yard sales average the lowest prices for gently used clothing.  I’m a bargain shopper, so shopping at yard sales is just a lot of fun for me, especially when I find items we really need.  Of course, not all garage sales are equal, so I still watch prices carefully.

Pros: fun to shop; best prices.

Cons: seasonal in our area; quality of clothing varies.

  • Tips: when buying at garage sales, you can buy more than a year ahead if the price is right and if your budget allows. Buying ahead will save you money in the long run.  Be sure to store your items in well-labeled, clear plastic totes or you may forget/overlook some like I did last year!

…………………

Click here for part two of 9 Ways to Save on Kids’ Clothes , including more ways to shop for gently used clothing and how to take advantage of end of season clearance sales to buy brand new clothing at second-hand prices!  Until then remember: when you are offered hand-me-downs or when you find great prices at a garage sale or even the clearance section, think long-term. Don’t accept or buy only what you need for the current season (unless it will break the budget to do otherwise), but plan for a size or two ahead!

Of course, as with anything in life, learning to save money is another one of those work-in-progress areas. The best way to be a good financial steward is to cover all of your budgeting and spending decisions in prayer.  I know I often forget to go to the Lord first even though He promises to provide.  I’m not always the best at trusting in Him to provide, but He is able, sisters!

Jen 🙂

You may find me linking up at any of these wonderful places.

8 Comments »

Counting Bedtime Blessings

Bedtime Blessings, counting blessings, motherhood, love

It’s past midnight now, yet I sit sleepy-eyed in the too quiet house.  Our four children are all tucked safely into bed and my husband snores beside me.  An extra chill hangs in the air as temperatures outdoor have dipped below zero once again.

I should have gone to bed long ago, but the quiet is so peaceful and I’m feeling so thankful.  Not for any one thing in particular, really, but for many small things all at once that pile up to one pretty spectacular life that I just don’t deserve.

And it’s because of Him, our Creator God, that I am gifted with this one life, this one year, this one day never to be repeated again.

So, I’m thankful because in the midst of trial, I’m finally seeing some of the good.  I don’t always see it, don’t always “count it joy,” but today I can see the progress.

Today I realized that this time of trial has greatly strengthened our marriage.  I’m able to  appreciate my husband in ways that I haven’t been able to before.  He’s been my comfort in times of need and my encourager in times of weakness.  We’ve regained that sense of companionship that so easily gets lost in the daily urgency of parenthood and of ministry. I’m counting that a victory!

Even more, after finishing only part of the laundry and part of the coupon clipping, I felt free to stop and just “be” with them, those fabulous  kids who amaze me with their zest for life and their love for others.  And again I’m thankful because I don’t always take the time to stop and read books or play legos or look at drawings or dance. I can’t always resist the desire for domestic perfection, but I’m never sorry when I do.  Another victory I’m claiming!

And I, I walk away the richer for it.  I fall even more in love with these creatures the Lord has entrusted to us.

bedtime blessings, counting blessings, love, family

I notice the way my daughter’s bedtime hugs and kisses always come with compliments like beautifulest or sweetest or nicest or bestest.  And when I pay her a compliment in return, her face fairly glows with joy.  She’s my enthusiastic encourager.

I notice, too, the way our youngest son really hugs me back, both small arms around my neck and a nice squeeze (but not too hard), maybe even a few pats on the back.  He lingers there, not old enough to be embarrassed yet by sitting in Mommy’s lap.   He’s my sweet snuggler.

I can’t leave out our middle son, our macho man, who seems unusually happy and eager to please this evening (bedtime is normally met with his frowns).  In fact, he asks me to stop reading before his bedtime story is finished so that he will have time to pick up his blankets from the floor (shocking!), the leftovers of a massive tent-fort built on this unexpected snow day.  It delighted me because…he’s my energetic entertainer.

The only one left is our oldest son, quick to help, slow to anger.  His shoulders seem to grow broader by the day as his voice deepens.   He’s developing a hunger and thirst for the Lord that thrills this mama’s heart.  He’s my gentle leader of the pack. 🙂

What really struck me this evening, though, was the sense of peace that pervaded the air here.  The transformation that love in action has on our children is profound.  When they know that in this moment right here, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are incredibly loved, that they are valued for who they are, then they blossom right before my eyes.

No tears at bedtime, no scowling, no stalling…

I can see it on their smiling faces, that in just a few lovely hours, they’ve been filled to the brim so much so that it just overflows in return – love and joy and peace.

bedtime blessings, great love, God loves us, children of God

Suddenly, I realize that it’s no different for me.  How much easier it is for me to obey my Heavenly Father when I’ve taken time to revel in His love for me, His perfect, unfailing, unconditional love for me.  Not for everyone else, but for me.

How quick I am to chose right instead of wrong.

How strong I stand in the face of temptation.

How peaceful I feel.

And in me, the joy is unspeakable because it’s true.  My Father God loves me. He’s patient with me.  He comforts me.  He rejoices in me.  He blesses me with an abundance of good things.

And even on the tough days, when I act like an ungrateful child, He waits for me.  And when I sink to the ground in absolute despair, He sits beside me.  And when I’m ready to press on, He helps me stand.

Isn’t it the same for all of us, sisters?  If we could just live every day with this soul-deep thankfulness for who He is and for who we are because of Him, then being the women of faith we should be, the ones we really long to be, wouldn’t be half as hard!

Instead, the work-in-progress would come easy to us.  The victories frequent rather than few and far between.   It would spill right over the edges of our very selves and stream out to everyone around us, this supernatural love.

All of those good things that we cannot manufacture on our own?  They begin with Him, through Him, from Him.

Because He is good and His love endures forever.

We can be confident in that Love, sisters, for it tells us who we are.

It brings us victory!

Jen 🙂

You may find me linking up at any of these places.

12 Comments »

Energy-burning Indoor Fun for Kids

Winter wears long around this time of year for those of us who live in the Midwest.  Usually, our family enjoys the snow because it allows for lots of outdoor fun – sledding, building snow forts and snowmen, snowball fights, and other gross-motor, active fun.  However, with wind-chills well below zero lately, we’ve been cooped up indoors.  You can imagine the ensuing chaos created by four bored children (okay, three, the teen isn’t usually as rowdy as he used to be).  Our middle child in particular, all boy, struggles to release his pent-up energy in a way that does not harm others or damage items in the home.

What do you do when the kids are bursting with energy but can’t go outside? How can you keep them active indoors to keep cabin fever at bay?

We tried every fun, high-energy indoor activity I could remember that worked in years past, but with so many days spent inside, I soon ran out of ideas.  So, I turned to my friends and family on facebook.  They helped me compile a list for future reference and out of sympathy for you all, I decided to share it here. 😉

big list of energetic indoor fun, gross-motor activities for kids, bad weather, can't play outside

Snowball Fight – Yes, you can have a snowball fight indoors and burn a lot of energy doing so!  I learned this game from a birthday party we attended recently.  You will need a stack of white paper (newspaper will suffice if you don’t have white paper).  Crumple the paper into balls – the more you have, the more fun it will be.  Dump the paper snowballs into the middle of an open area and let the kids go wild! It’s even more fun if you create some obstacles to hide behind.

Bounce around – Several years ago when the twins were younger and I frequently babysat children in our home, we invested in a small bouncy house.  It’s been a lifesaver on several occasions when the weather kept us indoors.  Another less expensive option would be a small, indoor trampoline, or even an exercise ball.  If all else fails, you can always resort to letting the kids jump on your bed (I do!). Jumping uses a lot of muscles group, so it  burns off excess energy quicker.

Ball pit – When our youngest son was a baby, he needed some physical therapy.  One of the things his therapist did was to create a small ball-pit using a laundry basket filled with balls.  At first, he hated it, but eventually he grew to love it. Let the kids enjoy active fun by jumping into the pit, swimming in the balls, throwing balls, and so on. Frugal ideas for ball pits: laundry baskets, plastic totes, inflatable kiddie pools, or large cardboard boxes.

Indoor Skating – I’ve found two different ways to create indoor skates.  One is to tie wax paper around the bottom of your children’s feet and let them skate away.  The other is to use kleenex boxes (or other cartons) as skates – just insert feet into the opening. We only had one usable kleenex box, so I improvised with a juice pouch box. 😉

indoor skating, energetic indoor fun, gross-motor activities for kids, active fun for snowy days or rainy days

Climb, climb, climb – Recently I was reminded that kids of all ages love to climb.  My husband brought a step-ladder indoors to do some repairs.  When he finished, our four-year-olds spent a good thirty minutes climbing up and down, up and down (with supervision, of course).  Other options – smaller kitchen step-stools,or a stool your kids might use in the bathroom, stairways, boxes, etc. What an easy, indoor energy-burning activity that uses items you most likely already have at home!

Activity Dice –  Create a large dice from cardboard or cardstock (the bigger the better in the eyes of children).  On each side of the dice, list a different activity to be performed.  Examples: do ten jumping jacks, flap your arms like a bird, twirl in circles until you’re dizzy, hop up and down, jump like a frog, crab-walk, do a somersault, etc.  If your child is old enough to find this activity boring, try making it into a competition – it’s a game changer.

Dance the wiggles away – We have Just Dance Kids’ version for the Wii that our younger children really love.  However, we also frequently dance to music on the radio or our oldest son’s ipod. 🙂  One of my friends suggested playing “freeze” by pausing the music and having everyone freeze in place. Another “freezing alternative is to turn the lights off and when they come back on, everyone has to freeze in place (while music continues to play, of course).

This song is perfect for freezing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7JoCCR4OsM

Or try this active song that was an immediate hit with our younger two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dXoiCMyyu4

Geronimo! – We love this classic.  Create a huge pile of pillows, blankets, beanbags, stuffed animals, etc., near a couch or the bottom of your stairway.  Jump away!  Our children have spent endless hours getting out extra energy this way when we’re stuck indoors.

Pillow Fight – Caution: if you have a child who tends to get aggressive, prepare for possible injuries.  It’s a good time to work on self-control. 🙂  Even our teen boy likes to pillow fight when the whole family is involved.  What better use of family time than to burn off some stored up energy?

Family wrestling – Nothing is more tempting to children than when Mom or Dad lay on the floor.  For some reason, our four kiddos love to sit on us, climb on us, bounce on us, and so forth. Family wrestling is also a good opportunity for Mom to sneak attack Dad’s feet (he can’t get away with four kids piled on top-ha!).  As with all active fun, it usually ends when someone cries. 😉

Spikeball – We created this game using punch-balloons leftover from a birthday party.  To begin, we spread out in the largest room in our home.  Then we “spike” the punch-balloons across the room at another person.  Each player receives points for hitting another player as long as it is not a face-shot (we had to ban those during a particularly crazy game).  It’s a mad frenzy trying to snatch up the punch-balloons and spike them at others while also trying not to get hit yourself.  You could also use a regular balloon, but punch-balloons are just a little heavier, bigger and bouncier, so they can travel farther.  Tip: it’s more fun and crazy if you have more than one balloon. Second tip: if you have a wide age range like we do, be sure the littles get their fair share of turns or you’ll endure much pouting.

Other balloon fun – Balloons are great for quick and easy active fun because you can play so many different games with them.  Play don’t let the balloon touch the ground, or blow the balloon across the floor.  You can even play an indoor version of hockey with a balloon and pool noodles (cut them in half for smaller players).  Play volleyball by hanging a string or a blanket between two chairs for a net.  Hang balloons from the ceiling or a doorway just out of reach and ask children to jump up and touch them. Put a balloon between the knees and race from one end of the room to the other without dropping the balloon. Tie a balloon to their feet and try to step on each other’s balloons. The options are endless!

Indoor Obstacle Course – This is an often-requested favorite at our house and with our children’s ministry at church, also.  First the kids help to create the obstacles using chairs, card tables, tunnels from a Playhut set, brooms for hurdles or limbo sticks, hula hoops to hop through, inflatable swimming rings in place of tires for an agility hop, etc.  Once everything is set up, they race through it over and over again! I can’t wait to try this winter-themed course that involves climbing a “snow mountain”: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/59532026298294418/

Sliding – If you have a slide you can bring indoors, you can entertain toddlers and preschoolers for quite some time. Since our kiddos have outgrown our slide, we turned our stairway into a giant slide (something I pinned a long time ago on pinterest).  The only thing you need is a few large, wide sections of strong cardboard.  If you use an appliance box, be on the lookout for staples that will need to be removed first!

Energy-burning Indoor Fun for Kids, turn stairway into slide, energetic indoor fun, energy-burning activities for rainy days, winter indoor activities

Nerf/Koosh Gun War – Two of our boys received Koosh ball guns for Christmas, and not long after I happened to find refill packs of balls on clearance at Walmart – score! 🙂  We also have a couple of Nerf dart guns and a disc shooter from years past.  Sometimes we sneak attack our oldest son or Dad, but usually we play all together.  Gather up the ammo and have fun chasing each other all over the house.  Note: it’s important to establish some ground rules first, such as do not shoot at the face and do not shoot at windows, etc.

Play Basketball – We also have been gifted a Little Tikes basketball hoop, as well as a classic Nerf hoop that hangs over the door.  One way to burn lots of energy is to play basketball free-for all.  Much like spikeball, there are few rules to this game other than to get a hold of a ball whenever you can and put it through the hoop.  If you like a more organized game, you can take turns shooting or see who can make a shot from the longest distance, etc.  No hoops in the house?  Improvise with a trash can or bucket and a small ball or even wadded up piece of paper.

Scary Hide-n-go-seek – A variation on the traditional game, this version is played in the dark, indoors and is another one of our most-requested indoor games.  We turn off all of the lights except one or two dim ones (for safety).  Something about hiding in the dark with the chance of being spooked really gets the adrenaline pumping.  Of course, if you have little ones who are scared of the dark, you’ll probably have to hide with them. And if you have a dog, chances are he or she might give away your hiding spot by sitting and staring near you.

Wii activity – In addition to our Just Dance Kids game, we also have Wii sports and a few other games that require activity.  You can often find gently used games at a greatly reduced price at places like Game Stop or on E-bay or Amazon.

Sword-fight – Our boys love to sword-fight with their light-sabers, but inevitably someone gets hurt and we have to quit.  So, I really, really love this pinterest idea for creating light-sabers from pool noodles cut in half.  Sometimes we make it a whole family activity and even the teen joins in with us! What a fun way to be active indoors!

Kid-Olympics or Ironkid Challenge – We did this once for our AWANA kids at church during the last Summer Olympics.  We used frisbees for a discus throw, pool noodles for a javelin, relay races, etc.  We even ordered plastic medals online, but you could easily create your own indoor version.  Why not have an awards ceremony, too?

Wipeout – I love this idea for energy-burning fun that came from a friend of mine.  Use couch cushions, etc. to create a course inspired by the tv show Wipeout!

Giant tent fort – While this activity doesn’t burn quite as much energy as some of the others, it still burns some and it takes a good amount of time to do.  Our kiddos recently spent the better part of a day creating this giant fort using a card table, a piano bench, kitchen chairs, plastic totes, a step-stool, and anything else they could find.  We left it up for days until they got tired of it.  Any activity that holds interest beyond a day is a winner in my opinion! 🙂

Energy-burning Indoor Fun for Kids, giant tent fort, energetic indoor fun, winter fun indoors, rainy day activity, gross-motor skills, energy-burning indoor activities

Energy-burning Indoor Fun for Kids, giant tent fort, energy-burning indoor fun, active winter fun, gross-motor play

Treasure Hunt – This was another friend’s high-energy suggestion.  Create a treasure hunt where the clues involve some sort of physical activity such as jumping jacks, push-ups, and so forth.  Of course, you need a fun treasure, such as a special snack or maybe new coloring books.

Convert the garage -If you have a garage, consider moving your vehicles and opening up space for indoor bike-riding, roller-skating, skate-boarding, scootering, or even an old-fashioned game of foursquare (use chalk to draw the lines). I’ve also seen hanging ladders, ropes, and sets of rings available for purchse to hang from the ceiling (guess what’s on my wish list?!). If your children are very young or you have the inside space, you might consider bringing a tricycle or scooter indoors even.

Put on a Show – Our children, like most, enjoy performing for any willing audience.  Our shows usually consist of lots of break-dancing, twirling, and kung-fu-type stunts.  Set up a stage area and a seating area and settle in for lots of laughs. (Thanks to another one of my friends for reminding me of this!) While you laugh, they’ll be expending lots of extra energy.

Work the Maze – Create a laser-beam maze in a hallway or other narrow space using yarn or even crepe paper.  See who can get through without touching or breaking any of the lines. Instant indoor energy-burning fun that takes only minutes to create.

Armed with this list, I now feel prepared for the pending snowstorm heading our way (and any rainy days that might come our way this summer).

 Once you’ve drained off the extra energy, your children might settle down enough to attempt some of these fun indoor activities from Coffee Cups and Crayons.

Do you have more ideas for energetic, gross-motor indoor fun?  We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Jen 🙂

Related articles:

Our Big List of Favorite Games  (categorized by age)

Top Free Resources for Pre-K

Sharing with: The Mommy Club, Weekly Kids Co-op,Family Fun Friday,

* You may also find me at any of these lovely places.

 

14 Comments »

More Than a Visit

It’s Five Minute Friday, and the word for this week is “visit.”

Visit.

He came into the world squalling, screeching more like it – his cry so sharp and loud that it was unmistakable, our long-awaited, second-born boy.  When we brought him home, we quickly learned he would be nothing like his even-tempered older brother.  This one, this tiny red-faced infant, would make his demands known.  He would be a challenge to our previous parenting prowess.

Visit, New Baby, Motherhood, baby won't sleep

Sleepless nights turned into weeks, and eventually months, the worn carpet in the hallway testifying to the demands of our newest family member.  We loved him dearly, but sometimes we just wished for peace and quiet or that he would nap longer than thirty minutes.  He never slept “like a newborn” and even today, no matter how late he stays up, he wakes at the crack of dawn.  His Grandad affectionately nick-named him “The Raptor.”

At that time, Daddy had a second-shift job and little time off. He worked hard and long.  And we did, too, trying to just survive that long and lonely winter.

Aside from prayer, it was Grandma’s visits that got us through.  She’d often call at the end of her workday just to check in because she had a squalling, colicky baby once, too – me.  I was known as the baby who cried. all. the. time.  According to my aunt, she once came to visit us only to find my mother sitting on the front stoop crying while I lay peacefully in her arms, worn out by hours of fussing. My mother knew the frustration of the long nights and even longer days of mothering a cranky baby.

“How’s it going today, Jen?”

On the good days I answered, “Fine.” And then I told a story of something new one of the boys learned or something funny the oldest said that day.

On the bad days my silence betrayed me, a silence born of threatening tears.

Knowingly, she asked, “Want me to bring McDonald’s for supper?”

Gratefully I gulped out, “Yeah, that would be good.”

fussy baby, motherhood, colic

And so we waited, the five-year-old boy, and the fussy baby, and me.  We waited for the visit, for the promise of another set of hands and the comfort food they brought.  Her presence itself calmed me as the fear that so often comes with loneliness slowly ebbed away.  When it was time for her to leave, we wore smiles once again, determined to face the challenges of the evening with faith and hope for better days ahead.

brothers, cranky infant, baby

it gets better, new mommy, tired mommy, fussy baby

She always called when I needed it most, it seemed.  She often still does today.  I have no way to explain her uncanny awareness except to say that she’s close with the Lord, and I guess He must let her know when we’re in need. 🙂

I’ll never forget those supper visits, nor the time she gave willingly to be the hands and feet of Jesus to my weary-mama soul.

It was just a visit,

but to me it meant the world.

Matthew 25

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me;I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

John 13

34 Anew commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jen 🙂

It’s Five Minute Friday, so I’m linking up with the brave and creative crew over at Lisa Jo Baker’s place.  She gives us a one-word prompt and we freewrite for five minutes (-ish). 🙂   No planning, no editing, no stressing.  Come on over and join us if you like!

You may also find me at any of these lovely places.

8 Comments »

Work-in-Progress Parenting: Emotional Children

Last night, our second-born, strong-willed, ball-of-energy-and-strength-and-passion son was showing me a few of his latest “tricks.” I watched somewhat half-heartedly and made the typical distracted mom comments such as “Wow!” or “That’s crazy!” or “How do you DO that?” until he made this horrible grimace. He effectively described it as “putting pressure” on his face. I happened to notice that it looked a lot like his typical angry face. 🙂

Curious, I asked him why he would do that – put pressure on his face. He matter-of-factly explained that it helps him get his anger out when he’s frustrated or feeling angry. Then he showed me another of his typical angry poses (fisted hands clenched tightly at his sides) and told me that putting pressure on his body helps him get anger out, too. Once he was done with the demonstration, he sauntered away, like it was no big deal for a seven-year-old to have such knowledge of his own emotions and body.
parenting emotional children, boy mom, angry child, intense child, strong-willed child, work-in-progress child, children are uniquely created, work-in-progress parenting

 

I sat there stunned.  Not because our son is so intelligent, although he truly is, but because a posture that I tend to “read” as angry disrespect  or rebellion was, in fact, the complete opposite of what I had assumed.  His tense posture was actually an attempt at self-control!  And here I had been scolding him to “have a better attitude” whenever the “pressure” face and those “pressure” hands appeared.

He understood his own emotions (and boy, does he have b-i-g ones) better than I sometimes understand my own.  He was learning self-control methods that work for him, without any help from me.

The conversation reminded me that even though I have now logged over thirteen years of parenting experience, I don’t know it all.  In fact, I never will! Each child is created uniquely and requires unique parenting, a truth I tend to forget.

What I perceived as defiance or disrespect was the most self-controlled, respectful thing my son was capable of in his angry moments.

parenting emotional children

I hope I never again tell him to change his attitude when I see the “pressure face.”  I hope I remember that he’s making a greater effort than I ever realized and applaud him for maintaining self-control in the face of anger.  He has come so far in the area of emotions and self-control in the last few years, and I’m so quick to forget that in a heated moment! I’m so quick to forget that he, too, is a work-in-progress, just like his siblings, just like his parents, just like every other human on the face of the earth.

It wasn’t a proud moment for me, rather it was a thank-you-Lord moment.  I couldn’t take credit for his heart changes; in fact, I was unintentionally discouraging some of the progress he was making.  But God can take credit.  Because our little boy who is so quickly growing into a young man accepted the free gift of salvation a year or so ago.  And in a week, he’ll publicly proclaim his son-ship in Christ before family and friends as he wades into the baptismal waters.

I see the work the Lord is doing in his young heart and mind already.  Even though our son’s passion and energy often cause trouble for him, I have faith that someday he will use those gifts to be a great leader and a bold truth-teller.

What faithfulness on the Lord’s behalf!

My sisters in Christ, when you find yourself in the midst of a season of seeming lack of progress, take heart.  Continue to follow the Lord in your parenting, and wait to see what happens. Pray for their little hearts and minds to open to the Father’s touch.

Look for progress in the little things, the still, small moments.  Remember who your child has been created to be.  He’s created to be different than your other children and different even than you.

Take every opportunity to rejoice over the slightest step forward.

Because God knows what He’s doing.  He created these children, these gifts, purposefully.

Only He can see where that purpose might lead them.

Jen 🙂

As usual, you might find me linking with any of these lovely blogs.

13 Comments »

True Stories from a Busy Mama

This Five Minute Friday’s challenge word from Lisa-Jo Baker is True.  She’s asking women all over the globe to share their true stories – the good, the bad, and the ugly. 🙂

true stories

Sometimes I fail as a Mom; it’s true.  Like yesterday when I forgot to put in a load of laundry that happened to contain the soccer jersey my teenage son needed for his game last night.  Let’s just say it didn’t smell the best. 🙂

I felt so bad for him and so frustrated with myself for forgetting!

And then there are the times when I forget to sign my seven-year-old’s assignment book every night.  Or the times when field trip money is due.  How about the times when someone asks you to do something simple, and you agree, only to forget over and over again?!

The truth is that as a mama of four, my mind is occupied by so many different thoughts, needs, and schedules at one time that some things are bound to slip through the cracks.  It frustrates me because I used to be a very dependable person….before kids. 🙂

But then I remember something my aunt said on facebook a while back.  She told another relative dealing with mom-guilt that she was mothering well.  Why?  Because this mom teaches her children about the saving grace of Jesus.

And the truth is, that’s enough, isn’t it?!  If shoes go untied and beds go unmade and laundry goes unwashed or unfolded, but we remember to tell our children about Jesus, then we have done the most important thing of all!

Sharing truth, the most important truth in the universe, is the best way to be a “good” mom.

So, if like me you experience an epic fail in your motherhood this week, remember what’s true.

Superwoman is just a myth.

You teach your children about Jesus.

And that’s enough.

Jen 🙂

You may also find me linking-up with these lovely blogs.

15 Comments »

Hands-on Color Activities

mama mondays2

As promised in last week’s Mama Mondays post on Pre-K resources for homeschooling, I have some color learning activities to share with you today. 🙂  I did not spend a penny on creating these activities and probably only spent an hour or two of my time.  Unfortunately, the laminating machine and I did not get along at first, so it took a little longer.  If you do not have access to a laminating machine (I used our church’s), check with a local church or library.  And learn from my mistakes – practice on some scrap paper first.  Also, you might consider using clear contact paper as an alternative.

Here are the color learning activities we made this week:

Color Go-Fish

On pinterest, I saw an idea for cutting activities using paint chips from the store, similar to this color matching activity. So, the next time my husband went to the hardware store, I asked him to pick some up. Instead of the variegated kind, he brought home solid colors, but he did remember to get several of each.  Since they weren’t the kind I wanted for cutting practice, I decided to make a Color Go-fish game out of them.  The samples themselves were pretty flimsy, so we glued them onto card-stock.  If you don’t have card-stock on hand, try using index cards.  The twins were happy to practice using their glue-sticks, and I was glad for an adhesive that dries quickly. If you don’t plan to laminate them, I would use a better adhesive, though.

paint chips for Go-Fish color edition

I was already planning on doing some laminating, so I decided to laminate them as well.  Now they’re practically indestructible, which is good for our son. 🙂  Our daughter picked up on this color learning game rather quickly, but our son is still learning the rules and the right questions to ask.  They both really enjoyed it, though, and have asked to play again since the first time we played.  Color Go-Fish is a really fun, hands-on way to learn colors, and we’ll probably use it for shapes, numbers, and letters as soon as I can make up more cards.

Color/Shape Hop

Our son lacks interest for much table work, so I’ve been searching for some more active ways to practice shapes and colors.  One neat idea I found on pinterest  was to use masking tape to make shapes on the floor.  However, since I want to work on colors, as well, I decided to cut out large shapes from colored card-stock and laminate them.   Then, we put them out on the floor and say, “Hop on red!”  or if  you want to include the shape as well, you could say, “Hop on the red heart!”  Since we have two preschoolers, I’ll probably give each child his or her own turn so that they don’t fight over the shapes.  Once we practice colors, then we use the same activity to practice shapes.

Color Sorting Mats

My husband picked up enough paint chips that I had extras once I made the Color Go-Fish game.  I decided to laminate the extra set and use them for color sorting.  At the moment, all we had to sort were some colored pom-poms and some beads, so I had our second-grader use one of my scrap-booking paper punches to punch out stars from the leftover shape paper scraps.  He had a lot of fun using the punch and now I have stars for our preschoolers to color sort, as well!

Color Go-Fish

I also plan to use our Hi-Ho Cherry-O game for some color sorting.  Our twins love to play with the game pieces, so I figure it’s the perfect opportunity for some hands-on learning.  We’ll probably practice counting while we’re at it, too. 🙂

For more ideas on Color learning activities:

http://www.childcareland.com/teach10.html

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/59532026297549568/

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/59532026297549599/

Last week we focused on the color green, and this week we plan to focus on the color blue.  For our daughter, who already understands color, I’ll do more patterning activities to give her more of a challenge.

That’s all for this week!

Jen 🙂

You may find me linking up at any of these lovely blogs.

11 Comments »