Bring Your Best to Mothering

“I looked on childrearing not only as a work of love and duty but as a profession that was fully interesting and challenging as any honourable profession in the world and one that demanded the best that I could bring to it.”
– Rose Kennedy

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I haven’t always felt like Rose Kennedy. Early on I assumed it was my role, my duty, as a strong woman, to pursue a career. But by the time I got engaged, my heart had changed a lot. But God wasn’t finished yet…

When we became pregnant for the first time, it was both of our heart’s desires to have me home with our child full-time. Financially, that wasn’t possible. So I spoke to my boss, and they were willing to employ me half-time, working two 10-hr days each week. We found a daycare that would take Anja 1 1/2 days per week, and Husband kept her home with him one morning each week and worked four full days and one half-day. It was a wonderful arrangement that we kept until Anja was just over two. At that time my photography business had experienced a very successful first full year, my income was matching that of my half-time job, and so I quit three months shy of Markus’s birth.

So even though I was home with my kids, I was also working a LOT of hours in mid-spring through late fall, shooting on weekends, editing every night after we put the kids to bed. I got a lot of time with the littles, but virtually NO time with my husband. That took its toll on our marriage.

Fast forward three years, and Husband received several promotions and raises. Because I’m too stubborn (stupid?) to pare down my own schedule, God began to take away, bit by bit, some of my photography obligations. I no longer worked in the commercial sector, and I no longer felt I had to accept every engaged couple if they weren’t a good fit.

God also gave me a husband who has vastly different “down time” needs from me, and that has helped me keep more of a balance in my life. I would work non-stop until I burnt out and only then evaluate what was truly something I should be doing. See a need–fill it! was my modus operandi.

Today I am a full-time mom, home educator, and very part-time photographer. I still help out at our co-op, at church, and have many outside-the-home duties, but I am feeling more comfortable each day with saying “no” to things that will take time away from my family or be detrimental to my marriage. I definitely find mothering fulfilling, interesting, and certainly challenging, but I still struggle with the feeling that I’m not “doing my part” financially for our family. I have been wrestling with that bit for a couple years now, and I think it will just take continued prayer and trust that God really does want me here, that He really does have a plan for me even if I’m not raking in the dough, and that plan just might include spending more time with Him, more time with my kids, and more time NOT running frantically from activity to duty to event.

Every mom wants to do their best (or should want to, anyway!). We each have different scenarios…some work full-time, some work part-time, some stay home…and God has different things in store for each and every one of us. But let’s do our best to mother, in His grace, and see the joy and challenge and honor in it.

Anja, 7 years

Anja, at seven years old, you:

  • Are attached to your guys just as much as when you were a toddler. Sherman and Malia remain your top picks, followed by Coco and Elsa (a dolly I made for you last fall). You rarely go anywhere without at least one of them with.
  • Are very emotional. We’re back to tantrums again, only now they aren’t just loud screams, they are vitriol and threats against your family. Yikes. Hoping and praying this will be overcome.
  • Are, on the other hand, very nurturing at times. Especially with other little kids (besides your brother). You are patient and kind with them, always trying to help entertain and lead.
  • Continue to be a self-proclaimed “artist.” 🙂 I am glad that you enjoy your artistic abilities…we’re working on humility.
  • Have new favorites. Color: pink, snack: cheese and crackers, cereal: Chocolate Chex, book: Bobbsey Twins series, holiday: Halloween, food: cookies, game: hide and seek.
  • Are silly and happy most of the time. You dance like your mama with a bit of your daddy thrown in. You are always making awful jokes and trying to get others to laugh along with you.
  • Are generous. You would give the clothes off your back if someone else needed them.
  • Are in 2nd grade.
  • Have grown so much at your reading and writing! Your cursive is rather pretty, and you will sit and read chapter books in your room now. You still hate math with a fiery passion, but we’re plugging away.
  • Can pose like nobody’s business. I took you out for your 7-year photo shoot, and every time you heard the shutter click, you struck a different pose. It was amusing, yet concerning, if that makes sense. 🙂
  • Are on the charts again for height! 93rd percentile. Yet you continue to grow out of pants at a rate that makes me consider taking out a loan…
  • Are a poet (and you know it…*groan*). You write songs and poetry in your spare time and will often perform them without any entreaty to do so.
  • Have no fear of speaking in public. I’m thankful that you started CC last year, because each week includes an oral presentation, and you could go on and on…you’ve come a long way since being scared of other kids when you were three!
  • Are playing better and better with Markus. As you two age, you seem better able to come up with things to play together, though you still take the role of “boss” while Markus is often the “underling.” Thankfully his strong personality doesn’t stand for too much of it.
  • Seem to be having lots of moments of “hearing” God. I don’t put too much stock in them yet, because often they aren’t very biblical, but I’m thankful you’re interested in reading His word and learning to listen to what He says.
  • Have lost two teeth and have one more on top that is wiggling.
  • Want to be a ballerina and a photographer when you grow up. Well, then.

We love you lots, little lady, and we are partners with you in prayer that you will continue to grow in maturity and in love for Christ.

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Good Reads for Kids – August 2014

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This month I’m focusing on poetry. There are some great poems out there for kids, and there are some truly crummy ones. Let’s focus on the good ones!

1. Oxford Illustrated Book of Children’s Poems – Not every poem in this book was our favorite (some I didn’t even read to the kids), but the classics plus illustrations made it worth checking out.

2. A Meal of the Stars – Anja originally didn’t want to read this book because “it looked boring.” But the puzzle of figuring out which way to read each poem lured her in at once, as did the clever illustrations. Bravo, local author Dana Jensen!

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3. The Real Mother Goose – Classic children’s poems (some quite frightening!) as you remember them, and some as you don’t. The price on this is outstanding

4. Where the Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silverstein’s poetry tomes have become classics in their own right, and Anja regularly picks this one up to read the silly, somewhat sordid verses. They usually rhyme, which appeals to her at age six.

 

Markus, 4 1/2

Little man of ours, at 4 1/2, you:

  • Verbalize everything. You are a non-stop talker from the moment your feet hit the floor until your head hits the pillow. It is exhausting for this mama, who is an internal processor.
  • Are incredibly creative. We marvel at your drawings, the things you create out of Duplos, your play stories, your questions. I love how God has wired you!
  • Are getting more adventurous with foods. You will now occasionally accept a small amount of sauce or dressing with salads, and you’ve eaten tomatoes (only one and very on purpose) several times.
  • Have stopped napping. You gave them up cold turkey at the end of May. That’s been a transition, to say the least. 🙂
  • Are as intense as ever. You have patented what we call your “pterodactyl scream,” which occurs anytime you are interrupted, anytime your sister gets near you, anytime you aren’t getting what you want, anytime we “aren’t listening to you,” and many other instances. We. hate. it. And we are still working with you on overcoming your need to it. “Please use words instead,” is heard a lot around here.
  • Disassemble everything. We find screws, bolts, nuts…just PIECES of your bed, your easel, your toys…everywhere. I fully expect your bed to collapse beneath you some night.
  • Demand very specific coloring pages. Your coloring books are not good enough anymore. I have had to limit you to one coloring sheet per day, or I’d be printing them out hourly. And you always have a very specific idea in mind when you request them, which isn’t easily met. “Mama, I want a racecar coloring sheet, but no faces on the cars, and with lots of cars on a racetrack, and one of them is the number nine…” I can’t tell you the number of coloring sheets I’ve ended up drawing for you because nothing online matched your customized request.
  • Enjoy reading. I read aloud to you and Anja probably 30-60 minutes per day, and you both enjoy it immensely. Daddy has read you Redwall and has started Mossflower with you over the past six months, and while they’re a bit over your head, you still listen for the most part. Some other chapter books you’ve enjoyed are: The Cricket in Times Square, Henry Huggins, and several of The Bobbsey Twins series.
  • Are getting more independent. Some days you’ll even open your dresser and grab your own clothes and get dressed before I’m awake. I don’t mind that at all!
  • Say the funniest things. We really appreciate your sense of humor. For instance, just while I was writing this, you fussed, “I have to pretend destroy Anja, but she’s running really fast and she’s not going to give my Legos back to me unless I pretend kill her!”
  • Need to be externally motivated. Unlike your sister, who is only self-motivated, you need a carrot dangled in order to accomplish tasks, whether it be a treat, a privilege, or an outing. You see no need to complete chores unless there’s something in it for you.
  • Wrestle with anyone who will let you near them. They might be your size or 6 times your size (Mr. Dustin?), you charge at them with the same ferocity. Your sister does not always appreciate this. You are competitive.
  • Act shy around strangers until they look away. Then you realize you might lose their attention and begin talking their ears off.
  • Are a very social boy. You want to be around people constantly. Getting you to stay in your room for longer than 5 minutes for afternoon quiet time is a big challenge.
  • Have some favorites. Color: blue. Food: pizza. Movie: Planes. Bible Story: David and Goliath. Book: Transformers something-or-other from the library. Toy: Audralina the fox. Indoor activity: Legos. Outdoor activity: biking.
  • Learned to bike with pedals. Now we can do family bike rides! They’re on the slow side, but still fun.
  • Can write most of your letters and some of your numbers. I think we’re going to work on letter formation this year. After spending months un-teaching and re-teaching your sister all her letters in first grade, I want to start you off right!
  • Still like to cuddle with your mama. I’m so glad!
  • Are curious. I think this is why you take things apart and ask so many questions…you have a great desire to learn! We were amazed by your little sponge-brain picking up almost all of Anja’s memory work just from listening along in the car.
  • Have had a little growth spurt since spring, but are still short for your age. All the friends you dwarfed as a baby are taller than you.

We love you, Markus, and we are excited to see where God takes you and how He uses your unique giftings.

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Spring 2014 Fun List

Every season, we make a “Fun List.” They’re probably similar to the “bucket lists” you see on Pinterest, but we strive to keep our lists relatively short (10-20 items per season) and attainable. And though we live in MN, we use them for the actual 3-month seasons, so often our fall and spring fun lists need to include snow activities. Here are a few lists from past years as well as a list of what we have on our current list:

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1. Go eye-balling

2. Go swimming at the gym

3. Sprinkler/water table fun

4. Make an Easter craft

5. Hike at a local park

6. Family bike ride

7. Eat at our favorite local diner

8. Fly kites

9. Play at the park

10. Go to Dakota Heritage Village

11. Rides at the Mall of America

12. Special surprise for Daddy

13. Plant a garden

14. Draw flowers on the sliding door with dry erase markers

15. Pick strawberries

We keep this list posted in the kitchen so that we can revisit it every week or so, crossing off things we’ve done or planning when to try something else on it. As you can see, the items vary widely in the amount of prep/$/time involved. And I try to steer the kids toward things that we already have on the calendar. So far, spring cleaning hasn’t made the list. 🙂

Good Reads for Kids – May 2014

Since we’re on a reading kick this month, I thought I might start a monthly feature about what kids’ books we’ve recently enjoyed. My kids are both avid readers and have both loved books from a young age (I sure hope that continues!). As they have gotten older, I’ve gotten more choosy about which books we have in the house. I want them to enjoy reading, but I also want them consuming decent literature.

Over the past couple of months we’ve done quite a few chapter books. Here are the kids’ favorites:

1. The Cricket in Times Square

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2. The Boxcar Children

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3. The Mouse and the Motorcycle

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4. Henry Huggins

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5. Ralph S. Mouse

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6. The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport (first in a series)

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7. Redwall

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I read all these books as a kid (except Redwall, which Husband introduced to me in college), so it was great fun for me to re-read them with my own children. I was surprised that Markus could keep up with the plots, but even in Redwall he seemed to pay great attention and remember tiny details. If it’s helpful to reference my kids’ ages, they are 4 and 6 1/2. I wouldn’t say any child could handle Redwall, but my son loves battles of any kind, and my husband did a good job of editing anything inappropriate as he read.

What are your favorite chapter books for littles? I’m always on a quest for recommended titles. Some that are on our list for this spring and summer are Martin’s Mice, Betsy-Tacy, and In Grandma’s Attic.

The Post Alpha-Bits Little Free Library is up!

We’ve had quite the weather this April, from continued snow to a couple days of sun back to super-cold and then a week of rain. All that to say my lovely friend Maggie was finally able to get the Post Alpha-Bits Little Free Library up and ready for use this weekend!

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It is located at 15858 Harwell Avenue in Apple Valley, with a cute little path leading to it from the sidewalk. We would love to have you stop by and check out a book! Now that it’s finally outdoor weather, come out for a walk with the family, or bring your grandkids. If you have a book you/your kids have outgrown and would like to share it with the neighborhood, drop it off! It really is a community endeavor. We all win when kids have easy access to age-appropriate books, and we can all contribute to each other’s learning and access to great literature! And you can’t miss it–it has the Super Why? characters on the side. 🙂

Anja and I stopped by today, and she checked out a Berenstain Bears book and left a little note in Maggie’s notebook. She was very excited!

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Do you live too far away to stop by our LFL? There is probably one in your neighborhood, too! Check out this map.

We are so thankful to Post Alpha Bits for the opportunity to share all the literacy fun with our community. My son continues to love Alpha Bits as a snack in the afternoons, plus there’s the added fun of picking out the letters and spelling his name with his snack! Here are some recipe ideas using Alpha Bits. Click here for more information on Alpha-Bits cereal.

To learn more about Little Free Library and how you can get involved, find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

Little Helpers

“What are you doing?” I asked sternly, as my son walked up to me, soaking wet and holding a child-sized broom.

“Cleaning the bathroom,” was the short reply. I hustled upstairs, leaving my daughter to tend to her schoolwork, and surveyed the “clean” bathroom with dismay. The sink was filled to the brim with murky, greenish water, which I later decided was from the natural bristles of the broom being dipped repeatedly. Almost every square inch of the bathroom—the floor, the vanity, even the mirror—was dripping. I was upset.

“Markus, this is NOT okay,” I said, and grabbed him a rag to begin wiping up. After a full change of clothes, he was put down for a nap with a hug but without a story. Later that evening, as I moved a lotion bottle and found water pooled beneath it, the Holy Spirit nudged my heart. “He was trying to help; he didn’t mean to make a mess.”

I repented. So often I assume my children are making messes, throwing tantrums, or fighting with each other just to get to me, just to make my day harder. This is usually not so. They are just being kids. Sinners. Like me.

1 Corinthians 13 comes to mind, two parts:
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (ESV)

Part of their behavior is just that: childishness. I resolved next time to ask questions before getting mad.
“Can you tell me what you were trying to do, Markus?”
“What is making you so upset?”
“What is causing you to treat your sister in this way?”
In seeking to understand my children’s heart motivations better, I think I will find that they often ARE trying to please me, but they just have trouble processing the outcome of their “helping” until they find themselves in a big mess. I will be much better able to show them love, to not be irritable, resentful or rude, to endure all things, if I remember that I am in the same humble place: dependent on God’s mercy.
Lord, help me to have the same grace with them that You daily have with my messes.

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Anja, 6 1/2

Oh, the years, how they fly! I can never believe it when my kids hit their half-birthdays and birthdays, and this one is no exception. I’m a month late in even posting this! Anja, at six and a half, you:

  • Are challenging me in new ways. I wasn’t prepared for the flip that switched on your six birthday. You are more mature, yet sassier as well. And tantrums have begun anew. That could have something to do with the fact that you finally gave up naps around that time, or it could just be what you’re going through developmentally. Growing is hard. You have big emotions. We’re here for you, even when it’s tough.
  • Are still tall. In fact, you’ve grown another inch and a quarter since October. You are often mistaken for a 7- or 8-yr-old. And you wear size 7 and 8 clothes, except when the waists are too big for them to work. It’s hard, because you have the bodice size of a 5T or 6, but you need an 8 for length. I buy you dresses and have to return them all the time because the bodice and arm holes are too big.
  • Are an artist. At least, that’s what you tell people. We chuckle, but you do produce a lot of art, usually in the form of crayon/pencil drawings or cards made for others. We love your sweet spirit that is always thinking of how to bless others with your words. You made cards for each of us as surprises the other day. Mine said, “I love you more than ever.” Dad’s said, “Dad, you are rocking love.” And Markus’s said, “You are racing love.” Mine was clearly the best. Haha!
  • Have really gotten a good grasp on reading. We started The Bobbsey Twins series a couple weeks ago, and you are doing great. I remember reading those at your age and loving them, and it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be poring over them on your own. Your handwriting has improved immensely, and it has been both a trial and a blessing to walk through learning with you this year.
  • Are loving Classical Conversations. As with every year, it seems, we had another big decision to make for next fall, and when asked you chose to stick with that. It is a good fit for you, and you have a much easier time with the memory work than I anticipated.
  • Are still incredibly creative in your playtime. Storytelling remains a favorite activity, though you’re much more likely to stop now when someone walks up on you. I know this self-awareness has come with age, and I should’ve expected it, but I don’t like it. I miss being able to eavesdrop on all that is going on in your world.
  • Are engaging your brother in play more and more often. As he gets older, I think you see his potential as a character in your plots, so he is sometimes given a role. OR I’ve even caught you playing cars with him and doing things he likes, which is great. Big sisters can be so bossy, and you are, but you are also so tender with Markus at times.
  • Are still learning how to tidy up. You’re always willing to pitch in and help, especially with Markus’s things, but your own room…well…let’s just say it’s not very neat (and that’s being VERY polite). We’ve had to revoke some privileges and pare things WAY down to make it manageable for you, but I’m confident that if we keep after this together, you’ll be able to be tidier than me.
  • Have favorites (though they are ever-changing). Color: purple. Food: c. Sport: ballet. Book: Redwall. Movie: Aristocats. TV Show: Jake & The Neverland Pirates. Holiday: Easter and Christmas. School Subject: art. Best Friend: Markus (awwww….).
  • Want to be a dancer or a gymnast when you grow up. Considering you have taken tap/ballet for about 3 years less than the other girls in your class, you’re doing quite well!
  • Have a great understanding of the gospel, but aren’t sure yet if you want to call yourself a believer. We keep praying that God will get a hold of your heart and that He will become your ultimate treasure!
  • Love playing with friends. You are often a ringleader and have a hard time following, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m trying to teach you about listening to others’ opinions and being a little more diplomatic. Hard things for a firstborn, I realize (from experience).
  • Still favor your doll Malia and your dog Sherman. Coco, and a few other selects are out most of the time as well. I’ve taken you to the American Girl store a couple times and asked if you would like one, but you always decline. I’m glad you’re self-aware enough to resist the materialist pull, because sometimes I kind of want one. 🙂
  • Loved the Olympics. You got very into it, and your understanding of different countries and sports grew as well. We went to a high school basketball game with Grandma, and you asked, “Are either of these teams American?” We all had a good laugh.
  • Lost your first tooth! One of the bottom front ones. You were extremely excited.
  • Love to laugh. You ask to be tickled, make terrible jokes, and sometimes just get tired-silly. Those are some of my favorite times with you.

Anja, I’m so glad you’re my girl. I say that to you all the time, but it’s true. So I’ll keep saying it.

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