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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A New Year Idea with your Kids!

There are a few things I love to do this time of year; make goals with my husband, begin a prayer journal, and talk to my children about the upcoming year.

Nestled only blocks away from our home is a wonderful coffee shop. It's the town hang-out and the place the kids ride their bikes for an ice cream cone and where Paul and I read the newspaper and share a fattening cinnamon roll from time to time.

A great place to treat my little ones to some one on one time. I enjoy taking time with each of my kids and buying them a hot cocoa or a decaffeinated mocha and discussing their thoughts for the new year. It's important our children understand that goals and dreams take hard work and lots of planning.

Why not take your toddler, tween or teen out for some time alone with you? Whether you're reading your littlest one a book, or talking to your junior in high schooler about college choices, the new year gives a good excuse for starting off on the right foot - together!

What new year traditions does your family have?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kids & Chores - No Reason to be tired.

Is your house a mess? Would you be mortified if a friend stopped by without calling first? Are your children at an age where they can go to the potty by themselves? Then, there’s no reason your little darlings can’t help you around the house.

Martha Stewart would not be impressed with my shower, nor would she praise me for my windows, but my home is in good enough shape for company. I learned early on that with four children, I had four other helpers to get work done around the house. My children call it slave labor, I call it a benevolent dictatorship.

When friends complain their house is a mess, yet have teenagers at home, I just don’t understand it. When a girlfriend complains about all she has to do, but has capable help at home, I want to scream. Children may not be able to clean a dish like you can, but remember, if they are capable of understanding their Xbox and iPhone, they’re capable of maneuvering a vacuum.

Ok, so this might sting a little bit, but there are a few of you out there who are exhausted. Not only that, you’re tired AND have messy houses. Your kids roll out of bed and make their breakfast, get dressed, and head off to school. When they get home, they do their homework, watch TV, participate in a sport or two, eat dinner, then head to bed and start all over again in the morning.

Meanwhile, you're still tired and your house is still a mess. So, here are a few tips and tools to help you get some of your sanity back and mold your children into responsible, capable, independent adults.

  • Create a chore chart. If you’re the analytical, linear type, this is right up your alley. After twenty years of parenting, I’ve tried the weekly chore list, the monthly chore list etc. We now give a child a responsibility for a year or two. Seriously. I was sick of the fighting and the complaining if one child wasn’t home to do the dishes. So, once Meghan moved out, David had dishes for a few years. When he moved on to mowing the lawn and daily garbage, Grace took over at the sink.

  • Daily Responsibilities. Every morning our kids make their beds, clear out the dishwasher, dump the garbage, put breakfast dishes in the sink. If you’ve never asked your little ones to play a part in this type of housework, you’re in for a challenge. Hold tight and hang on, stand your ground. As they come to understand they are a part of a family, a team, they will learn to accept their new responsibilities.

  • Make it fun. Daily housecleaning doesn’t have to be drudgery. Put on a song and tell the kids they have until it’s over to finish one of their chores. Reward them each week with a trip to dollar scoop night at Baskin Robbins, or Starbucks for a dollar kiddie-cocoa. I found these adorable chore cards over at iMom that you can download and use.

Remember, it’s never too late to start giving your kids chores. You’re not their social director, you’re their mom. As much as I want their childhood to be one fun-filled, joyous memory, I have to remind myself that doing chores and learning to handle responsibilities are some of the sweetest memories I have now as an adult. Who doesn’t love laughing with their adult siblings about housework and who did what?

Don’t steal this badge of honor from your kids. They may cry and complain now, but you’re giving them something to laugh about later.

Train a child up in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 kjv

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Do You Laugh With Your Kids?

Samuel, my ten-year-old, came into the kitchen and held out his hand. "Look mom, I'm double-jointed!" He went on to make motions and wave his fingers around my face in comical ways. 

I tried hard to keep a straight face, while visions of Spock and Captain Kirk danced in my head.

"So, what exactly does that mean, son?"

"It means that no one can ever break my fingers." He said in all seriousness. "Someone would have to smash my hand to really hurt me."

After he left the kitchen, I busted a gut.

Now, there's a difference between laughing at your kids and laughing with them. But, in order to laugh with them you must begin to see the humor in every day moments.

I come from a family of hopeless comedians, and thankfully, I'm married to quite a funny guy as well. Laughter is heard in our home every day. I know it's not very funny to say we're funny...but we're funny.

What about your home? Do you laugh with your children? Do your children hear you laughing with your husband?

Here's a few ways to bring laughter into your home, no matter what your comedic skill.

  • Watch a movie together. Our family loves to rent a DVD and laugh out loud. Some of our favorites? Finding Nemo. Summer Rental. Scrooged. Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Princess Bride.
  • Watch home videos. At least once a year I'll bring out some home movies. The kids think it's hysterical watching each other when they were small.
  • Get a joke book. The library is full of funny books and joke books for any age. Some of the funniest are the ones written for children. When Samuel brought home 101 Jokes and shared a few with us. The punch lines were so pathetically bad we couldn't help but crack up.
  • It's okay to look silly every once in awhile. Make faces, dance around the kitchen, talk in a funny voice when you read a bedtime story to your little ones.
Children bring incredible joy into our lives. It's a fair trade off when we can bring a little laughter into theirs.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them." Psalm 126:2 esv   

Thursday, June 30, 2011

5- Fifteen Minute Summer Sabbaticals...with your kids!

"I'm bored!" Two words that can cause the most even-tempered parent to lose their cool.

My husband usually responds this way, "You're bored because you're boring!"

He's such a cool drink on a hot summer's day. The truth is, with children being plugged in, turned on and tuned out, coming up with things to do that strike their fancy can often times be a struggle.

Here are five-fifteen minute sabbaticals you can take with your kids this summer.

  • Have a picnic lunch in the backyard. Slow-paced summer days don't have to be boring. Slap together a PB&J and throw out a blanket and whalla! Lay out on the grass and practice a few minutes of cloud gazing together.
  • Read a book. Turn off the TV. Put down the iPod. Back away from the XBOX. Slip a hardbound book in your child's hands and encourage them to read a chapter aloud to YOU.
  • Take a walk. We live in a neighborhood filled with children, yet, if you were to walk around our block you'd never know it. Kids are inside being entertained by electronic devices all day long. Get some Vitamin D and bring your children out into the light for a fifteen minute stroll.
  • Write a letter to an elderly relative. Letter-writing is a lost art. Email has become the bully on the block, but nothing will bring more joy to your grandma, great-aunt Melba, or cousin Jimmy, than a handwritten letter from your child.
  • Hand your child a broom. Nothing cures the summer blues faster than chores around the house. I am always amazed at how fast their creative juices begin to flow when we give them something to do that includes PineSol, Windex, and some good ol' elbow grease!

Five-Fifteen Minute Summer Sabbaticals...with your kids!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Are You A Runner

Are you a runner? I sure am. No, I'm not talking about the type of runner who throws her legs over the side of the bed every morning, laces up her running shoes to dance awhile on a concrete stage. I'm talking about the runners who flee when anything tough comes their way. Escapees from their prison of pain.

The earliest memories of running bring me back to my childhood when my little brother accidentally stepped on my toe. That was all it took. I bolted out of our house, slamming our white aluminum screen door behind me as I ran down the street. I couldn't bear to have my family watch me cry from the pain.
When I was enormously pregnant with my second child, I recall having an argument with my husband. In minutes, I found myself in the middle of a movie theater line with tears softly plopping into my bucket of buttered popcorn.

Over the years, I've learned to curb my running habit. No longer do I run out the front door. But, I have been known to walk to the other side of the house, or scoot to the far side of the bed when I'm hurt. It's easy to let a five-minute argument blossom into a weekend event, isn't it? Leaving the scene of the crime has never been helpful. It has only prolonged the reconciliation process.

When we became Christians, my husband Paul and I began attending marriage conferences. We used to believe only marriages in trouble should attend these. Boy were we wrong. The most beneficial conferences we've attended were when things were great between us. When we were relaxed and spending time with one another we could talk about the tender topics we avoided at home. Marriage conferences became an annual ritual for us. Whether we felt we needed to or not, each year, we packed our bags and went. We were amazed at the applicable wisdom we learned every year. We discovered there were healthy ways to fight. Or as my attorney-husband likes to call them “debate”. (Yes, I have an attorney for a husband. Can you imagine the verbal judo we've played?)

Every year, as we drove away from our marriage retreat, we spent time going down our report card. Sharing with one another what we thought we were doing well and sharing those things we needed to work on. We took or marriage temperature, which became our annual marriage-check-up.

Over the years, I learned God's word is the blueprint for a healthy and happy marriage. Marriage was God's plan. He created it. So, who better to fix it when it's broken? I wouldn't take my car problems to my hairstylist, or my computer problems to my dentist. So, why was I taking my marriage problems to my single-girlfriend, my unhappily married coworker...or Oprah? Who's never been married, by the way.

I thought I'd share with you some quick fixes for a happy marriage from the One who designed it.

  • Be devoted and give preference to one another. (Romans 12:10)
  • Accept one another. (Romans 15:7)
  • Care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:25)
  • Carry each other’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
  • Forgive one another. (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Encourage, build up one another. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Spur one another on to love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
  • Confess your sins to one another. (James 5:16)
  • Pray for one another. (James 5:16)

I learned early on that running is unhealthy for a marriage. Pain is inevitable. Fleeing from it isn't always the best answer. Meeting it head-on is difficult, but so worth it. It's been a very long time since I've ran. My running shoes are packed up and put away. I'm not sure I could find them if I tried. For now, I know the One who can make my marriage healthy and strong. And, until He calls me home, the only place I plan on running is into the open arms of my husband.

Joanne Kraft, Just Too Busy, author Joanne Kraft, http://Joanne Kraft.com, Grace & Truth Living, Just Too Busy-Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical

Friday, April 22, 2011

Is the Easter Bunny a Guest in Your Home?

Every Halloween, Christians share their opinions about whether or not it's okay for our kids to dress up like Frankenstein and Dracula and partake in this American tradition.

As a follower of Christ, I've also heard debates for and against Santa Claus, but when I stop and think about it, I recall very few making a case against the Easter bunny.

The holiest of holy days for Christians would have to be Easter. Celebrating the very reason we have hope, faith, and a passionate love for our savior, this weekend we will remember and reflect on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I'm curious. Is the Easter bunny a welcomed guest in your home?

It's true. An adorable pink-nosed cotton-tail who promises jelly beans and chocolate marshmallow eggs can easily bully its way into your family Easter celebration.

When the Easter bunny shows up at our house we let him in. Since Paul and I were not Christians when our children were very small, it was a tradition we continued when we were saved.

But, how do we make it more God-honoring? We wondered.

  • Change the Focus. We learned to tweak the baskets and change the focus. Though we still include chocolate and jelly beans in our chidlren's baskets, we make sure to have an Easter DVD like Veggie Tales, or a Christian book ucked away under synthetic grass.

  • Faith-Filled Baskets. This year our son David will be receiving Francine Rivers book, Sons of Encouragement. A compilation of great biblical men Jonothan, Silas, Amos, Aaron, and Caleb. Where the Bible is silent, Rivers adds her fictional insight. I think he'll like it.

What family traditions do you have in your home to put the focus on Jesus?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Teaching Your Kids to Tithe

“Mom, is there any way I can NOT pay this much taxes? It sure takes a big chunk out of my weekly earnings.” I found it humorous that my teenage son was beginning to feel his first pinch from taxes. My baby was definitely growing up.

A dear friend commented, “Wait till he realizes what tithing is.”

Actually, our son already knows.

We began teaching our children about tithing as soon as they began earning money. For our family, this usually begins around 5th or 6th grade, when babysitting jobs start rolling in. Tithing is now such common practice in our home that the kids come to their father to break a $20 quite often on Sunday mornings.

I need to brag here a bit - my kids attitudes are better about tithing than quite a few adults I know. Isn't it amazing how we will cringe when the offering plate makes its way around the church? I admit it, there have been times I have clenched my check with white knuckles.

Temporary amnesia sets in and I convenientely forget I would have nothing if it weren't for God. Every red cent is a gift from Him. I've been asked to be a steward of that money, and if I have trouble tithing unto the Lord, then my children will too.

Paul likes to tell our children, “If you aren’t able to tithe on $10.00 earned, how will you ever be able to tithe on $100,000.00?”

Out of our four children, three have been joyful givers. Why aren’t they upset about giving away some of their hard-earned dollars? I don’t know the scientific reasons, but I do believe the earlier you teach a child, the easier it will be.

Children are the most giving people on the planet. As soon as they begin earning an allowance, teach them how God loves a cheerful giver.

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

Share with your older children God’s promises. Remind them of the ways He has provided for your family in abundance. It is the only portion of the Bible where God asks us to test Him.

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. Malachi 3:8-10

And, of course, the best way for a child to get into the blessed habit of tithing is by watching his mom and dad. Leading by example is always the greatest and most lasting lesson of all.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Slaying Your Media-Dragons

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently came out with this study; Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds. The Results were staggering.
  • Kids spend more than 7.5 hours with media—TV, iPods, and the Web, plus another two hours on their cell phones, per day.
  • Families communicate an average of 40 percent less when the television is on.
  • Heavy media users reported lower grades and happiness levels.
Slaying the media-dragons in our home is an ongoing battle. As the children have gotten older, we've gone from battling the TV to warring against cell phones, Facebook, and video games. (Not in that order!)
As the matriarch of our home it wasn’t long before I realized I was plugged in a lot, and when I looked around, it was clear we were battling a fire-spitting media-dragon—our television.

When I stopped to think about it, there were days I gave more of my undivided attention to it than any of my four children combined. It was my daily drug of choice, taking me to far-away places, allowing me to peek inside homes I prayed were more dysfunctional than ours, and taught me more about great white sharks than I cared to admit. Yes, I loved my TV. I couldn’t imagine living without it.

Unfortunately, what was originally created to add a small slice of entertainment, fast became the media bully on the block. With my full consent, I allowed it to take center stage and become the biggest time-stealer in our home.

We unplugged our television two-and-a-half years ago. It's been the best decision we've ever made. Sure, we still watch a family DVD together with a big bowl of popcorn, but the constant white noise is no longer distracting me from what's really important, my family.

Electronics were created to make life easier. Instead, they've become time-consuming beasts gobbling up any extra moment in our day. Since unplugging the kids are doing even better in school. Books are seen in the hands of my kids now, and their test scores are soaring. Have I mentioned the greatest advantage? Our home is once again a sanctuary from the storms of the world. Peace reigns once again.

How about you? What fire spitting media-dragon are you battling?

Unplug and kill it today.

Read Wall Street Journal article "Your BlackBerry or Your Wife?" and Yahoo News article "Unplugged Teens Find There is Life After Electronics" for more interesting stories about family's like yours who've unplugged.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Change of Plans - Movie Night This Saturday on Fox!

What are you doing this Saturday night? Any chance you have a little time to watch a family movie together?

Change of Plans is a pro-family, pro-adoption movie on Fox this Saturday night.

Check out the trailer here: Change of Plans 

Change of Plans tells the story of a young couple, Sally and Jason, whose lives are turned upside down when Sally's best friend from college is killed in a tragic accident. Sally and Jason are forced to make some life-altering decisions when they discover that she has been named legal guardian to her friend's four children, three of whom were adopted from third world countries. Change of Plans stars Brooke White (American Idol) and Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show) and according to the official website, portrays how "fulfilling life can be when you look beyond your own plans and invest in the lives of others." What a great discussion starter for you to engage your kids around issues that are truly important. - Dennis Rainey, Family Life

After the movie is over, take a moment and talk with your children about the story line and what it means to invest in the lives of others.

Don't forget, this Saturday night, gather the whole family together, pop some popcorn and spend a night at the movies - in your family room!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Whose team are you on in 2011?

Do you have a favorite sports team? What candidate did you support for president in 2008? Each one of us has an answer for that question. We may not always like everything about our sports team or our candidate, but we call ourselves fans or supporters anyway.

But, what if our words don't match our actions?

What would people say if you claimed you supported John McCain, went to all his rallies, put his signs in your front yard, but then voted for Barak Obama?

If you were truly for McCain, your actions would show that.

The point of this article is not to discuss politics, but to point out the problem with claiming to be part of a group and then doing things that are contrary to that group’s beliefs. Specifically, I’m speaking of Christianity.

When you become a Christian or if you call yourself a believer in Christ, once that choice is made, it requires a certain response.

If you claimed the New York Yankees were your favorite team - you'd  root for them and against the Boston Red Sox (or vice versa if you are reading this from Beantown).

When you're in a group or on a team, you receive a membership handbook that outlines what you have to do to belong and what is expected of its members. God has given us a handbook called the Bible. 

So, do you claim to be on God's team? Would people be surprised to find that out?

James 3:8-10 says: “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

Do we tame our tongue? Are we worshipping God on Sundays and cursing man Monday through Saturday? Clearly, God’s word counsels us not to curse our fellow man. If we are gossiping or backbiting our family members or co-workers, we are not exhibiting the traits of a member of Christianity.

Second Timothy tells us: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

As members of God’s team, we need to be in the Bible (our spiritual handbook) every day. We should not know more about our favorite sports teams or celebrities then we do about God.

It has never been easier to do a daily devotional. You can have them emailed to you or even sent to your cell phone. But, beware of letting these Twinkies provide you spiritual nutrition. As believers, we need to take time out for a Biblical feast, not only on Sundays.

Colossians 4:5 reminds believers to “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.”

Our conduct should lead others to Christ and should clearly indicate our membership in His group. This is our opportunity to show non-believers a different way to live in our fallen world.

And, when we say we are rooting for God and are on His team, they won’t be surprised to find that out.