What I Learned in January

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

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What We Read This Month:

My Father’s Dragon Trilogy by Ruth Stiles Gannett and Robert Serva

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater and Florence Atwater

Indescribable by Louis Giglio

The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos

What I Read or Listened to This Month:

Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado (I love Max Lucado. This book will not disappoint!)

Your Teenager is Not Crazy by Jeramy Clark (When your almost teen recommends you read a book she heard about, it’s usually a good idea to listen to her!)

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul Tripp (This has quickly became my favorite devotional, ever!)

Launch (a podcast on iTunes about an author going through the steps of writing and publishing a book series)

My Learning This Month:

Bracelets = Time Together

Exactly a year ago, God began working in me to establish one on one time with my girls. I wrote a blog post called, Talk Time. Almost immediately after implementing Talk Time with my girls, I saw benefits: more peace between my children, more peace between me and my kids, more compliance from my kids, a greater knowledge of my kids’ interests, and an overall smoother running home. So why in the world would a mom ever fall away from this wonderful solution? My kids didn’t stop wanting this time with me. We didn’t stop enjoying this time together. We never saw the benefits of this time together diminish. But, one day, our schedule was full…too full, and Talk Time got pushed aside. Then, 2 days passed and still no Talk Time. Then stress and tension began to creep back into our home, and suddenly time together was the last thing anyone of us wanted.

Fast forward a year and we are back to the beginning of January 2018. Much learning and growth has occurred in our family in the last few months with the help of an amazing adoption parent coach. But, my one on one time with the girls was NOT happening regularly. The parent coach shared with me the idea of using bracelets for the girls to exchange for time with me

This is how this works: Each morning, I place three rubber bracelets on the breakfast table at each girls spot, along with their daily vitamins. They place the bracelets on their wrist. When they want time with me, they are to come to me and request time with me and hand me a bracelet. Each bracelet equals 10 minutes of uninterrupted time with me doing something of their choice. They may even choose to use all 3 bracelets at once, equaling 30 minutes of time with me. The key is that it is just me and the child, it’s their choice of activity, and they must request it. So, when we have family game night, they would not need to use their bracelets for that. Also, going over to the park as a family, would not count.

bracelets

So rather than just setting the good intention of having Talk Time, we now have the visual, tangible reminder of the bracelets right on the girls wrists. As well as the plan for them to initiate and take the risk of asking me for time. I do enjoy this time, but I have to admit that when I am about to start the laundry and one child comes to me and says I want to use a bracelet now, I do struggle at times. But, what I have found is that 10, 20, or even 30 minutes of time goes quickly! I am able to pick back up what I was doing, or what I was doing gets pushed aside, while time with my girls does not get pushed aside.

A wise, good friend, has encouraged me several times with the phrase, “You will never regret time with your kids. You will never look back and regret the energy you put into your kids.”

Is sibling rivalry rearing its ugly head in your home? Are you having a hard time remembering the last time you had individual time with your child? Is your schedule so hectic it seems impossible to carve out time with your children? I encourage you to implement the bracelet plan.

Let us remember our children are gifts from the Lord!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

 

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What I Learned in December

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

December pathWrapping up another month and the end of 2017, I am reflective. It’s been a month of celebrating, growing, and rejoicing. 2017 has been a year of challenges, eye-opening revelations, and steps toward growth. To end a year a little softer, a little less tense, a little more aware, and still clinging to the Lord, is just where I want to be. Thank you, Lord!

Our Reading from the Month: 

A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy A beautiful book which kept our attention and stirred great conversation.

A Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling We are using this for narration, reading it slowly, one chapter per day.

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannet We are reading the whole trilogy but have only finished book one so far. We plan to see the play in Bellingham in February.

My Reading this Month:

Cure Your Child with Food by Kelly Dorfman Very interesting book addressing so many common issues: anxiety, constipation, picky eating, ADHD, hyperactivity, poor sleep, stomach aches, etc.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk Insightful book. I am only able to read a little at a time as it’s quite heavy at times. I definitely recommend this book to anyone with past trauma or working with kids who have experienced trauma.

My Learning this Month:

More structure/routine equals less decision making and less stress.

In the last several months, we have adopted more structure and routine into our daily lives. I have always considered myself a structured person, but often that structure was in my own mind. I followed the structure, but I didn’t clearly communicate it to my children. I am the type of person that can become quickly overwhelmed by rapid fire questions and demands being made at me. Creating more clearly communicated structure and routine in our day-to-day to life has drastically cut down on the amount of on the spot decisions and questions I need to field. Whew! What an unexpected blessing this has been!

Example: dinner menu hung on the kitchen cabinet. Each weekend, I sit down and create a very basic dinner menu plan for the week. Result: kids have more time to process and deal with dinners coming up in the week that are not their favorite, I refer them to the menu each time they ask, “what’s for dinner?”, I am aware of what ingredients I will need for the week, and there is one less day-to-day decision I have to make. This has been a win/win for all of us.

dinner menu

Helping My Kids Respect Time/”Owed Time”

“Kids can’t regulate on their own so the parent has to be the regulator,” therapist and adoptive dad, Lynn Owens.

The above quote helped to motivate me to become more structured and diligent about helping my kids move toward greater self-control, including time management.

In practical terms this looks like stating a specific time they will be required to be at the table in the morning to begin school, or in the car to leave, or at the table for a meal, and then keeping track of each minute they are late. Each minute they are late gets doubled and becomes their “owed time”. Owed time equals time spent sitting at the table in the kitchen doing absolutely nothing for the entire time they owe. The first time one precious daughter of mine earned 6 minutes of “owed time” for being 3 minutes late for school, she panicked. She quickly began bargaining. “Mom, I will do 6 extra chores for those 6 minutes! I will make dinner tonight! Just don’t make me do nothing!” I realized we were really on to something. My kids need to practice being quiet. They need time to just be still. They need to begin to see that it is actually possible for them to do nothing at all without dying.

My husband commented that he has never seen one particular daughter act motivated to be on time until we implemented this strategy.

Most days they are on time now. If they owe time, it’s typically 2-6 minutes. Their future spouses, friends, and employers will be thanking us someday for putting up with the current drama when we inform them of their “owed time”!

Let us begin this new month, this new year, remembering our newness in Christ. Our rebirth. Renewal. Rejoicing in Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

What I Learned in November

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

outreach path

What We Are Reading in Our Homeschool:

The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos
The Story of the World Volume 1
The Aesop for Children by Milo Winter
Indescribable: 100 Devotions abut God and Science by Louie Giglio
A Tree For Peter by Kate Seredy
Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling
What I Am Reading or Listening To:
20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge
Joni by Joni Erickson Tada
The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller
Sacred Parenting by Gary L. Thomas
The Honestly Adoption Podcast
Learning in November:
  • Eye Contact
Just simply looking my children in the eye and requiring them to look me in the eye when we are having a conversation is bringing about healing and connection. This past month, my husband and I learned that some of the struggles we are facing as a family are due to a need to improve attachment for our children. A parent coach we are working with explained how eye contact conveys and builds trust. Our goal is to not talk to our children unless we are looking them in the eye. The other half of that, is requiring them to also look us in the eye when they speak to us. This requirement initially brought about frustration for our kids at times when we told them, “I am sorry, I cannot hear you,” whenever they forgot to look us in the eye. But, as time has gone on, the frustration is gone and we are each reminding each other of our goal to connect through eye contact.
The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. Matthew 6:22
  • Jumping on the Trampoline

Another piece of learning the parent coach is helping us to understand has to do with our children’s brains. Due to our children’s unique beginning in this world, their amygdala is quite sensitive. We are learning it’s like an overly sensitive smoke alarm, constantly being on alert. The amygdala is responsible for the perception of emotions. One way to help activate the front portion of the brain and build on logic and problem solving is simply jumping on a trampoline. This brain learning is so exciting and it’s really another chance to be amazed and in awe of our Creator. He truly is a master creator, full of creativity, wisdom, and love.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

 

  • Sharing in Grief Brings Healing

About a year ago, our oldest daughter came to me and asked, “Mom, aren’t you sad sometimes that you never got to be pregnant and have a baby?” I thought for a minute and my mind immediately went to the idea of not having my children as my children. I looked her in the eye and replied, “No, I am so thankful for the children I have. If it happened any other way, I would not have you two!” But recently I began thinking about her question once more. I started to see it as an invitation from my daughter to share in her grief. Of course, in an ideal world, she could have stayed with her biological parents. They would have been healthy enough to care for her and she never would have had to suffer separation from them. But, that is not what happened. So, she has grief. My new response to her question is now, “Yes, I am sad I didn’t get to be pregnant with you. I am sad I didn’t get to know you in my own womb. I am sad I didn’t get to feed you healthy foods. I am sad I didn’t get to protect you from stress and other toxins you had to face in the womb. Yes, I am sad.” We cry and hug and then our bond is more pure, closer, filled with more trust. Thank you, God!

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4. 

 

What have you been learning this month? What is the Lord doing in your life?

 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

 

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What I Learned in October

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.October path
What We Are Reading:
The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos
The Story of the World Volume 1
The Aesop for Children by Milo Winter
The Pond People by Clara Dillingham Pierson
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb and Mary Lamb
Indescribable: 100 Devotions abut God and Science by Louie Giglio
Squanto Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla
Don’t let this list intimidate. We usually just read one chapter a day. Slowly reading the books, narrating back the reading for the day, and short discussions, have richly enhanced our learning.
Living Education
Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
I am new to Charlotte Mason. Well, this is not entirely true. The first friend to take the time to sit me down and explain how she homeschooled her children explained Charlotte Mason and her methods to me. But, I am new to understanding and taking hold of the philosophy of Charlotte Mason.
Upon hearing about Charlotte Mason, I was immediately drawn to the idea. Being a lover of the written word and high quality literature, I was hooked.
But, just as the seed in Mark 4 became choked out by thorns, my instant draw to the lovely way to educate according to Charlotte Mason became choked out by the idea that I needed to do more. Longer lessons. Complete more. Produce, produce, produce.
Charlotte Mason was a 19th century educator who believed in using Living Books (books said to be inspired by the Holy Spirit) in order to educate the whole child. There is much more to learn about Charlotte Mason and you could begin here: Simply Charlotte Mason if you would like to learn more.
This Charlotte Mason philosophy brings me a sense of freedom and peace in educating my girls.
Rather than working against the natural way in which my children and I were created, we are now working our way back to the way in which we were designed to learn and live.
We are reading and learning from Living Books. We are spending regular time observing and learning in nature. We are learning and practicing the skill of narration: retelling stories or portions of literature from memory.  We are looking at art and reading poetry.
I am lessening my words with each passing day and allowing my children to process, think, create images, connect ideas and be led by the Spirit.
We are filling our minds with the lovely. We are dwelling on beautiful ideas. We are keeping our lessons short and we are wanting more. We are being led by the Spirit and our homeschool is alive again.
Nature Study
Nature study is one of my most favorite parts of the week. We get outside. We use all of our senses. We observe. We learn. We laugh. We get excited about the beauty of the Lord all around us.
We are using the book, Exploring Nature with Children to help focus our learning. This book has a weekly nature walk activity, a nature journal activity, a poem, and a piece of artwork to study.
Enjoy our photos of our nature study.
What did you learn this month? What books are you reading? Please share your learning in the comments! I’d love to read it!

Feeling Forgotten

As a mom, wife, woman, do you ever feel forgotten? Like everyone else is out doing the important work and you are just left blending in with the pile of laundry on the couch and the stack of dishes on the counter?  Ever have a day of just wanting to escape that blending in? Just wanting to be noticed for something other than meeting a need?

Those days usually hit me out of nowhere. They usually follow a day filled with highs. Then out of nowhere, I am found focusing on myself and my need to be noticed.

Picking up my pen today, I begin to write words of truth.

You see my pain. You see my loneliness. You see my frustration. You see my broken heart. You see my hurt feelings. You see my longing for more in this life. You see my need for rest. You see my need for contentedness. 

You see me making ME the center of my world. 

Oh, it’s the last line that stops me in my tracks. It happened again. I got stuck in emotions that began and remained with ME at the center. But, that realization leads to a clearing of my heart and mind and the beginning of the Lord’s answer to me.

You see me and You say, “Come to me, all who are weary and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

You see me and You say, “I am your shepherd, you shall not want.” Psalm 23:1

You see me and You say, “My compassions never fail.” Lamentations 3:22

You see me and You say, “Abide under my shadow. I am your refuge and fortress.” Psalm 91:1-2

You see me and You say, “I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49:15

Let His Word wash over you today. Let Him see you. Let Him fill you. Let Him remind you that you are not forgotten. Let Him remind you that you are His.

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What I Learned in July

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.IMG_0018Beautiful July in the Pacific Northwest. Hikes, the beach, overnight camp, parks, swimming, reading in the backyard. Love, love, love!

Our Reading

Admittedly, we haven’t been reading as much as I’d like. Both of my girls are participating in a writing contest and it seems like any spare time we’ve had has been spent working on their writing. I am so excited, as they are both doing a fabulous job and will have really nice historical fiction masterpieces when finished.

We have two ocean beach trips planned this summer so we decided on a read aloud with a setting at the beach:

  • Pagoo by Holling C. Holling

And, we have continued our Old Testament reading through:

  • The Child’s Story by Catherine Vos

My Reading

I have continued my reading with our women’s group at church in the book titled:

  • Taming the Giants: Stripping the Power from Overwhelming Emotions by Cathy Dickinson

Audiobooks I thoroughly enjoyed this month are:

  • When God Doesn’t Fix It by Laura Story
  • No More Faking Fine by Esther Fleece

My Learning

My learning this month originated with my children. How did I ever learn anything before they came along? The growing, refining, stripping away, changing, and learning that happens in parenthood is exhausting but, oh, so good.

Never Say Never

My youngest daughter went to overnight camp. 4 nights away at overnight camp. This doesn’t sound amazing, but let me tell you, it was. Years ago when we brought my oldest daughter to camp, Abby, our youngest looked at me and said, “I never want to do this.”

“You never want to do what?” I naively asked.

“This. I never want you to leave me here overnight,” she replied with a straight face, looking me in the eye.

“Okay. Camp isn’t something you have to do. If you don’t want to go, you don’t have to go. But, you may change your mind when you are older.”

“No. I will never change my mind.”

Okey dokey. Count her out!

But, about 6 months ago, out of the blue, Abby began talking about camp. “I want to go to camp this year.” This same statement or some variation was repeated weekly up until the day she finally got to go to camp.

She did suffer some homesickness while she was away at camp. But, she made friends, had fun, and learned to rely on God while away from the comforts of her home!

This process for my sweet Abby, reminded me of myself with God. “I will never have peace in situations like that, God.” “I will never speak in public, God.” “God, I will never make it through this trial.”

He says to me, “Today is not the day. But, one day, with my love, refinement and Spirit, YOU WILL!”

Interruptions are Ministry Moments

Our church, Calvary Chapel Marysville, has been going through a parenting video series by Paul Tripp on Wednesday nights. I have had so many take aways in the 4 episodes we have watched so far. But, the biggest, life changing take away so far has been viewing interruptions from our kids in a different light. 

Paul Tripp told about the importance of seeing our children’s interruptions as ministry moments rather than interruptions. When our plans are interrupted by our children, rather than being annoyed and angry, we can see it as a God appointed opportunity to listen to, possibly counsel, and love our children.

Immediately after learning this new thought process, I was put to the test. During my quiet time, no less! My sweet child knows not to interrupt my quiet time, but nonetheless, the knock came.

The words were on my lips to say, “Not right now. Just wait!” But, then the message from the night before flashed in my mind, and I asked, “What is it?”

She entered my prayer closet and told me of her need for which I couldn’t meet. Then she said the sweetest words, “That’s okay, mom. But, will you pray for me?”

Yes! Yes, sweet girl. Take your every need to Jesus. Let that be your first thought…pray for me.

Can you view changes in your plans today as “ministry moments”? Can you look for what God is doing in the interruptions? Can you open your heart and mind to the possibility that you are not to be annoyed but instead interested in what God is doing?

Lord, you are King and Creator. Help us today. Help us to have your eyes and heart during the interruptions. Soften our hearts and minds to look deeper at the people you place in our lives. Amen. 

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What I Learned in June

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

IMG_0581June! The month with the longest day of the year. Days full of light. More freedom from routines.

I love this path photo above. Sometimes the Lord just lays out the path in front of us. He says, “You have been stumbling over the rocks, sticks, and waves long enough. I have set this path before you. Take it! Follow Me!” He cuts away what needs cutting away and reveals His perfect way. His way which may not feel perfect, definitely doesn’t feel easy, but nonetheless, it’s His sovereign, Holy, wise plan. When I follow it, His fruit is displayed and my heart is at peace. Oh, Father, you are so good!

Books I am reading (which are encouraging me to follow Him):

  • Matthew
  • Taming the Giants: Stripping the Power from Overwhelming Emotions by Cathy Dickinson
  • Anything by Jennie Allen
  • Quick Tips for Busy Families by Jay Payleitner

Books I am reading with my girls:

  • 24 Family Ways
  • The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein
  • The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Fox

We are participating in a reading challenge, which encourages us to read books from all over the world: Give Your Child the World. Some books we’ve thoroughly enjoyed during this challenge:

  • Owen and Mzee The language of friendship. By Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Dr. Paula Kahumbu
  • Off to class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World by Susan Hughes
  • Stories to Solve: Folktales from Around the World by George Shannon
  • A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World

June books

A Summary of My Learning This Month: 

Traditions

Kids love traditions! They love having special things that are unique for our family. They love knowing they can count on the repetition of the fun activity or event or food. We have developed a couple of easy, new traditions which are helping to bring greater family connection. With our girls nearing the teenage years, we are facing a new dynamic…our kids don’t always want to spend time with us! It’s strange, new, sometimes nice, and sometimes a threat to our closeness. Traditions are helping to maintain some together time.

America’s Funniest Videos (AFV) in the big bed! We ALL load up in our king-sized bed. All the humans in the house as well as our 2 cats and we laugh and gasp at the crazy things people do on video. Fun, light-hearted time to relax and laugh together is a beautiful thing.

Visiting Tree Houses! Can a tradition be a tradition if it’s only happened once? I don’t think so. But, can we can count it a tradition if we plan to repeat this activity? I think so! My husband found us the most lovely “House in the Trees”in Tigard, Oregon where we played games, ate snacks, read books, watched Lassie and Little House on the Prairie, pretended to be pirates, slid down a slide to exit the house, drank coffee, and connected as a family. This activity is begging to become a tradition!

Sunday afternoon tea. We bake gluten free scones, put some cheese and fruit on a plate, and each get a warm beverage of our choice, and enjoy a little sit down, lovely time together before the busyness of the week takes off the next day.

Schedules

Although my children fight the idea of using a schedule for homeschooling, we all breathe a sigh of relief now that we have made the adjustment to having blocks of learning times scheduled each day. I purchased some cheap, very basic planners from Michael’s. I have always resisted using any kind of planner or schedule book because I feel so boxed into the format they use. But, the planners I found have very little on them. On a two page layout for each week, they contain only 5 days of the week, Monday-Friday, and contain 6 boxes per day, as well as a notes section.

Planner pic

Sunday evening, I sit down and think through our week and each day. It takes a considerable amount of time and brain power, but it avoids so much conflict, anxiety, and debate throughout the week. We often make adjustments to our schedule. It’s all written in pencil. But, it’s working very well for us to have a general idea of what each day holds. It’s also giving us a chance to see how long things actually take and helping to provide necessary and important breaks.

Recently, while visiting a science museum, our children’s anxiety and moodiness heightened after we’d been there for several hours. No one was ready to leave, but there was so much talk about what we were going to do next. I thought of our planners and the boundaries they provide, and quickly and verbally explained a rough schedule for the rest of our time at the museum. Everyone let out a deep breath, and my one daughter looked at me and said, “Thank you, mom. I just needed to know what was coming.”

I pray you are learning, growing and seeking what the Lord has for you. I’d love to hear what new “take away” you have to share. Please consider sharing in the comments. Blessings, dear reader!