In Defense of Fun Food

Every time my kids go to their Grandma’s, they want to make “spiders.”

These spiders are made by spreading peanut butter between two Ritz crackers, sticking straight pretzels in for legs, and adding a few raisin eyes. They take about 45 seconds to put together. And my little ones think they are the best thing ever.

Is it because they truly adore crackers, peanut butter, pretzels, and raisins? Not really. Those are all foods they like. But the excitement comes from the whimsy. From the silly act of eating an arachnid.

Surprise – there is a lot of criticism on the Internet. And whenever someone shares a picture of a silly or creative food made for kids, there are haters. “Who has time for that?” “It’s tricking your kids!” “You obviously have too much time on your hands.” “Kids don’t care anyway.”

And if it’s not your thing, I get that.

But I love the light in my kids’ eyes when they have a “spider,” a pumpkin sandwich with candy eyes, a sandwich cut into a butterfly shape. It’s such a simple act that truly brings them enjoyment.

It makes me think of how Jesus said we should come to Him like a child. My little ones grow wide-eyed and giggly every time they hear a jingle bell, open a Christmas book during December, or see a wreath on a door. They just take joy in the little things. They are in awe of Jesus and the world around them.

I’m taking advantage of their childish joy while I can … and trying to grasp a little of my own through them.

Tomorrow we’re all having snowman pancakes for breakfast.

photo via Kraft Foods

Tips to Help Your Children with the Daylight Savings Transition by Danielle Rowe

Do you remember the days when the “fall back” Daylight Saving Time meant you got an extra hour of sleep? Pure bliss, right?? Well, the time change in the fall is no picnic when you are a parent. Unfortunately our little ones do not understand the joys of another hour snuggled up in bed. So according to the new time, they will be up an hour EARLY throwing the whole day off kilter. You are not alone in this early rising tango as millions of parents will be going through the same thing. Good news for you is there are a few things that you can do to ease the transition. Founder of Dream Little One Family Sleep Consulting, Danielle Rowe, shares her five sleep tips for the daylight saving time transition.

5 Sleep Tips for the Daylight Saving Time Transition

1. Start the transition early. About 4-5 days before the time change you can slowly start shifting bedtime and meal times 15 minutes later every 2 days. (This is harder to do with children who attend school.) So if dinner is typically at 5:30pm and bedtime is at 7:00pm you would move them to 5:45pm and 7:15pm on day 1. Eventually it will end up with dinner at 6:30pm and bedtime at 8:00pm (which will be the new time of 5:30pm and 7:00pm) … and VOILA!! the transition is made.

2. Delay getting your baby out of their crib.
Some babies are early risers which means they will be getting up even earlier. When you start the 15min. bedtime shift you can start delaying when you get your baby out of their crib by 15min. For toddlers and older children you can use an “Ok to wake” clock to help push back the time that they get out of bed to wake you up.

3. Use Blackout shades. So once you have established the bedtime routine you may need to work on the early morning wakings. Waking up is greatly affected by sunlight entering our room. You can use a bit of trickery for all age children (and yourself) by putting up blackout shades (or taping up black garbage bags) to block out the early morning sun.

4. Make use of sunlight. When it is an acceptable time to get up you should open all shades and let in as much sunlight at you can. Sunlight exposure throughout the day helps to set the body’s sleep rhythms. This plus social cues (such as meal time and bedtime routines) sets your child up for sleep success. Use sunlight to your advantage.

5. Be Patient! When the transition is made slowly you can gently ease your child (or children) into the time change. If the transition needs to be more abrupt you run the risk of creating an overtired child, which can be very unpleasant. Regardless of how you make the change you need to remain patient. As with any schedule change it can take a week or 2 for everything to “fall” into place.

Danielle Rowe is a certified child sleep consultant with The Family Sleep Institute and the founder of Dream Little One Family Sleep Consulting. Danielle works with families to develop a customized sleep plan that best fits your child’s sleep challenge as well as your parenting style. There a variety of consultation packages to choose from to best fit your budget. She began her journey as a sleep consultant when she ran into some sleep issues with 2 out of her 3 children. It was an amazing feeling for her when they began sleeping through the night with the help of a sleep consultant. And now Danielle wants nothing more than to help exhausted moms and dads out there to get that same relief. She has a passion for teaching parents about sleep and would love to help families get the sleep they need. Dream Little One Family Sleep Consulting is your key to a better night’s sleep.

Operation Christmas Child: Packing Shoeboxes for Children, with Children

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It’s something my husband and I have done for years and years: packed a shoebox or two full of toys and hygiene items and candy and trinkets for a child overseas. It’s not hard. It’s not very costly. And yet, it can change another child’s life.

I learned this firsthand when I got to hear Alex, a recipient from Rwanda, speak at the Allume Conference last year. (I would urge you to watch this video about Alex’s testimony, although please screen it before you show it to your kids. There is a lot about the genocide and war in Rwanda.) Alex’s life and heart were truly changed, all because someone cared enough to pack a little shoebox – and then Samaritan’s Purse was able to minister to him, following up with him, continuing to share the gospel story with him.

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, and literally millions of boxes have been delivered worldwide since the ministry’s inception in 1993. Personally I think OCC is an amazing way to introduce your children to the ideas of poverty, giving, and having a multicultural worldview.

Here are some tips for packing shoeboxes with your own children.

  • Let them choose which gender and age group to pack for. Often kids will want to pick out things that they like themselves – so maybe choose to pack for a child the same age and gender as your own.
  • Add homemade elements: ask your child to make a Christmas card, write a letter, or draw a picture to go in the box. If he or she is older, maybe he can crochet a small scarf or sew a fleece lovey or even make a rubber band ball.
  • Explain gently that these will probably be the only gifts this child will receive this Christmas. Answer questions in a straightforward and truthful manner, but don’t over-explain.
  • Pray over the boxes and ask God for guidance on what items this child will need.
  • Make sure to include hygiene items, even though they aren’t as much fun. What toothbrush and toothpaste do you kids like? What soap? What about a comb or brush? A trip to the Dollar Store can go a long way to completing your shoebox with toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, bar soap, and a few fun hair bows.
  • Remember the rules! Here are the items you should not include: used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; chocolate or food; out-of-date candy; liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.

Will you pack a shoebox this year? Even if you don’t have time to shop, you can still put one together online on the Samaritan’s Purse site for $25. Smart!

Box drop-off is November 17-24. If your local church is not collecting boxes, you can find a collection site here.

Making Toys Count by Christine Satterfield

Before I had my son, I knew nothing about children. I never had siblings or cousins to “practice” on and babysitting wasn’t my thing. So the first time I walked into the big baby warehouse with my husband I was floored! Who knew babies needed so much stuff?

Well, I’ve since found out that children don’t need much. Diapers, clothes, a lot of love, and — if you don’t have empty boxes and plastic containers around — a few toys will keep them occupied for hours.

Picking out toys for our children, though, can be quite cumbersome. If you frequent one of the big toy warehouses you may know all too well the temptation to buy every single toy in the store. Even trips to the consignment sale and discount store can tempt you into buying more than needed, because the toys are such a good deal! Toys are tricky. As parents, we want to provide our children with every opportunity to learn, but we don’t want to overwhelm them with so many choices that they don’t even know where to begin.

I’ve decided to be quite choosy with the toys my son has at home. The toybox isn’t overflowing, so we try to be very purposeful with the toys he has to play with. The goal is for each toy to help instill the Word of God in his heart and reinforce the principles and stories of the Bible.

Instead of choosing a cartoon coloring book, I’ll choose one with a Bible story theme. Instead of letting him watch cartoons on TV, I’d rather he watch something like VeggieTales. When he’s learning shapes, we’ll choose the toy pictured here most often so he can hear the story of Noah’s ark.

Being choosy with toys won’t necessarily ensure that our children will grow up to love God with all their heart, soul and strength. But I want to utilize every opportunity to teach my son (and future children) about God and His Word. I want to live out Deuteronomy 6:5-9 and literally repeat His Word to my children, talk about it when we sit in our house, walk along the road, when we lie down, and when we get up.

Christine Satterfield loves Jesus, her family, and the church. She spends as much time as possible playing with her son, and she’s constantly cleaning his toys. You can find out how she cleans them on her blog iDreamofClean as well as learn other household cleaning tips and tricks for the busy mom.

Originally published October 10, 2010.

More Ways to Feel Guilty: Not Crying about Kindergarten

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My oldest child, our only daughter, Libbie, started kindergarten on Tuesday. Leading up to the day, I felt pretty emotional. I wrote about letting my baby bird fly from our nest and I wondered what it would be like having her away from home so much of the time. I knew on Tuesday I would be at the school most of the day, as I had to go to a parent orientation. Because of phasing-in procedures, she didn’t go back until Thursday. So that, I considered, was when I would probably let the tears pour.

At the parent orientation one of the counselors read a book obviously meant to turn on our tears, about letting your raindrop fall from the cloud, even if said raindrop was scared, etc. It was in rhyme, and as she read at least half of the parents crowding the school library were wiping tears from their eyes. And I sat there. Stoic. I don’t like it when books try to manipulate your emotions (see: why I have never read Nicholas Sparks).

Thursday I dropped Libbie off, letting her jump from the van and walk inside herself, ringlets bouncing as she left me in the dust. And still, it didn’t come. No fear, no tears. I took my sons to the grocery store and the doctor.

Should I feel guilty about this lack of emotion? Does it make me a bad mom?

I think if I were not completely sure Libbie was ready for kindergarten, it would be different. But she is a confident, extroverted nearly-6-year-old. She can read, and she loves to learn. She also loves to have every minute planned for her, which I cannot do at home. So we believe firmly that she is going to thrive in school.

But still, I wonder. Will it hit me someday soon that my little one has left my nest?

How about you? Did you cry when your child started school?

The Other Side of the Story

Teaching kids empathy can be a great joy and struggle in parenting. We are all self-centered by nature, and showing children how to be other-centered takes some stretching. Helping a child understand how to “put himself in another person’s shoes” can be a great way to teach empathy.

What about looking at Bible stories in a new way? In the book The Whale Tells His Side of the Story, author Troy Schmidt imagines what the whale felt like with Jonah hanging around in his belly. (The subtitle, Hey God, I’ve Got Some Guy Named Jonah in My Stomach and I Think I’m Gonna Throw Up, pretty much says it all.) In the same vein as The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Frog Prince Continued,  Schmidt rethinks Bible stories. He’s also written the following biblical “other sides”:

Even if you aren’t able to purchase these books, having your child imagine another side of a Bible tale is a good way to spark imagination and explain having empathy. It can be a funny activity or a serious talk.

What “other sides” can you imagine?

2014’s Best and Worst Cities for Families

wh-2014-best-and-worst-cities-for-familiesRecently, the personal finance social network WalletHub compared each of the 150 largest cities in the U.S. based on 31 key metrics — including the availability of quality jobs, the relative cost of housing, the quality of local school and health care systems, and the opportunities for fun and recreation – in order to help families across the country identify the ideal location to put down roots.

Drumroll please …

2014’s Best Cities for Families 2014’s Worst Cities for Families
1 Plano, Texas 141 Hialeah, Florida
2 Sioux Falls, South Dakota 142 Fort Lauderdale, Florida
3 Overland Park, Kansas 143 Newark, New Jersey
4 Fremont, California 144 Providence, Rhode Island
5 Irvine, California 145 Cleveland, Ohio
6 Virginia Beach, Virginia 146 San Bernardino, California
7 Lincoln, Nebraska 147 Jackson, Mississippi
8 Anchorage, Alaska 148 Birmingham, Alabama
9 Gilbert, Arizona 149 Miami, Florida
10 Amarillo, Texas 150 Detroit, Michigan

 

And check out these fascinating statistics:

  • Madison, Wisconsin has 88 times more playgrounds per capita than Laredo, Texas.
  • Anchorage, Alaska has 2,227 times more acres of parkland per capita than Hialeah, Florida.
  • Irvine, California’s per capita violent crime rate is 45 times lower than Detroit, Michigan’s.
  • The median family’s annual income, adjusted for cost of living, is four times higher in Plano, Texas than in Newark, New Jersey.
  • The divorce rate in Fremont, California is 5.5 times lower than in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • The percentage of households receiving food stamps is 22 times lower in Irvine, California than in Detroit, Michigan.
  • The average commute time in Lubbock, Texas is 2.5 times lower than in New York, New York.
  • The percentage of families living below the poverty line in Overland Park, Kansas is 8 times lower than in Detroit, Michigan.

Wanna know where your city ranks? Visit http://wallethub.com/edu/best-cities-for-families/4435/

We’d love to hear from you! Leave us a comment letting us know where you’re from and where your city falls on this list!

When Adopted Kids Need Therapy by Ellen Stumbo

“Just pray for her, and God will restore her heart.”

I have a confession. When we adopted our daughter from Ukraine, we believed her cerebral palsy would be our biggest challenge. Sure, we knew she would have some emotional difficulties due to spending the first four years of her life in an orphanage, but we believed in a fairy tale. You know, where God wipes away the bad memories and a loving home is all she needed to heal from those deep emotional and psychological scars. I believed in a Christian cliché.

Christian clichés bother me. Life is messy. We all carry scars from our past, every single one of us. Whether it is a message from our childhood, a broken relationship, or someone who hurt us deeply. None of us get through life untouched in this fallen world.

Yes, God is in the business of restoring hearts, offering peace, and extending comfort. But in this life there is no delete button. A reminder of why we so desperately need God to do life with us. Sometimes we only get through because of His grace.

The details of my daughter’s past will never change, neither will the pain and loss surrounding them, but I do pray and hope that as she grows up, she will see that God was with her in the midst of the pain, and He is the one that led us to her.

So every week my daughter and I go to therapy to address not her obvious physical disability but the emotional disability created as a result of trauma, abandonment, rejection, pain, and the abuse she experienced as an orphan. A disability far more debilitating and impactful than her cerebral palsy ever will be.

And I am so thankful for how God uses her therapist — how she teaches my daughter more about how to control her emotions, to regulate her big feelings, and even to trust us, her parents.

Adoption is not a fairy tale. It is heartbreaking. It is messy. And it is absolutely worth it, because watching your child grow and make sense of their life is far greater than an imagined happily ever after.

Ellen Stumbo Head ShotEllen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com.

Family Devotions

 

I always thought having a family devotion time sounded kind of intimidating. But knowing that we want God to be the center of our family, we decided about a year ago to start a very simple one as part of our bedtime routine. At the time, our kids were 4 1/2, 2 1/2, and an infant.

Our time consists of reading a story from a Bible storybook, going around and having each person tell what he or she is thankful for, and singing a song or hymn together. This is about as long as my little ones can sit still. (And really, it’s pushing it for my middle child, who ALWAYS seems to be thirsty when it’s Bible story time.) While they don’t always listen intently, it is consistent. They are hearing the Bible. And we are meeting together as a family every night and praising God. Even our baby, Joshua, who is now 15 months, joins in and makes a joyful noise some nights.

So far, we’ve used these Bible story books:

Some other sources you might find helpful as you begin or continue a family devotion time:

Do you have a family devotion or family worship time? What does it look like?

Princess Gabby Girl and the Sparkly Dress

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Like pretty much all 5-year-old girls, my daughter, Libbie, LOVES princesses. Our home echoes with Frozen songs, is coated in glitter and sequins, and Libbie’s bedroom radiates pink. She is a girly-girl all the way.

So when Camilla Battaglia’s team sent us this new book, Princess Gabby Girl and the Sparkly Dress, my daughter had it open and was looking through it before I could even touch it myself. It doesn’t hurt that one of my daughter’s best friends is named Gabby, so Libbie recognized that word.

Princess Gabby Girl is a moral tale about a young princess who finds a gorgeous sparkly gown in a secret wardrobe. She’s told by Miss Marvelous, an only semi-creepy woman in a mirror, that to keep her dress sparkling, she must be kind and do good deeds. Based on Matthew 5:14-16 (You are the light of the world), this very pink tale is a nice alternative to traditional princess paperbacks.

If your child is as obsessed with pink and princesses as mine is, you should grab up a copy of Princess Gabby Girl and the Sparkly Dress. It will incite some good conversations about being the light of the world and shining brightly with kindness.