Funny Parenting Hacks

There are some great ideas in this article on parenting.  There are so many challenges in parenting, it’s always nice when you can find some fun and easy things to do to make your life a little brighter!

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35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget

This is another great post by Becoming Minimalist.  It helps to redirect the focus towards what really matters in life, not stuff, but people and our relationships.

Read on…

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” – Kahlil Gibran

I have countless holiday memories. Most of them center around faith, family, and traditions.

Very few childhood memories actually include the gifts I received. I distinctly remember the year that I got a blue dirt bike, the evening my brother and I received a Nintendo, and opening socks every year from my grandparents. But other than that, my gift-receiving memories are pretty sparse. Which got me thinking… what type of gifts can we give to our children that they will never forget? What gifts will truly impact their lives and change them forever?

To that end, here is an alphabetical list of 35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget.

  1. Affirmation. Sometimes one simple word of affirmation can change an entire life. So make sure your children know how much you appreciate them. And then, remind them every chance you get.
  2. Art. With the advent of the Internet, everyone who wants to create… can. The world just needs more people who want to…
  3. Challenge. Encourage your child to dream big dreams. In turn, they will accomplish more than they thought possible… and probably even more than you thought possible.
  4. Compassion/Justice. Life isn’t fair. It never will be – there are just too many variables. But when a wrong has been committed or a playing field can be leveled, I want my child to be active in helping to level it.
  5. Contentment. The need for more is contagious. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an appreciation for being content with what they have… but not with who they are. (I think I know what he meant by this, that we should strive to continually improve ourselves, but I’m not sure I liked the word choice here.  Our kids need to learn to love themselves just as they are, even though they know there’s always room for improvement and growth.  We just don’t want to encourage stagnation.)
  6. Curiosity. Teach your children to ask questions about who, what, where, how, why, and why not. “Stop asking so many questions” are words that should never leave a parents’ mouth.
  7. Determination. One of the greatest determining factors in one’s success is the size of their will. How can you help grow your child’s today?
  8. Discipline. Children need to learn everything from the ground-up including appropriate behaviors, how to get along with others, how to get results, and how to achieve their dreams. Discipline should not be avoided or withheld. Instead, it should be consistent and positive.
  9. Encouragement. Words are powerful. They can create or they can destroy. The simple words that you choose to speak today can offer encouragement and positive thoughts to another child. Or your words can send them further into despair. So choose them carefully.
  10. Faithfulness to your Spouse. Faithfulness in marriage includes more than just our bodies. It also includes our eyes, mind, heart, and soul. Guard your sexuality daily and devote it entirely to your spouse. Your children will absolutely take notice.
  11. Finding Beauty. Help your children find beauty in everything they see… and in everyone they meet.
  12. Generosity. Teach your children to be generous with your stuff so that they will become generous with theirs.
  13. Honesty/Integrity. Children who learn the value and importance of honesty at a young age have a far greater opportunity to become honest adults. And honest adults who deal truthfully with others tend to feel better about themselves, enjoy their lives more, and sleep better at night.
  14. Hope. Hope is knowing and believing that things will get better and improve. It creates strength, endurance, and resolve. And in the desperately difficult times of life, it calls us to press onward.
  15. Hugs and Kisses. I once heard the story of a man who told his 7-year old son that he had grown too old for kisses. I tear up every time I think of it. Know that your children are never too old to receive physical affirmation of your love for them.
  16. Imagination. If we’ve learned anything over the past 20 years, it’s that life is changing faster and faster with every passing day. The world tomorrow looks nothing like the world today. And the people with imagination are the ones not just living it, they are creating it.
  17. Intentionality. I believe strongly in intentional living and intentional parenting. Slow down, consider who you are, where you are going, and how to get there. And do the same for each of your children.
  18. Your Lap. It’s the best place in the entire world for a book, story, or conversation. And it’s been right in front of you the whole time.
  19. Lifelong Learning. A passion for learning is different from just studying to earn a grade or please teachers. It begins in the home. So read, ask questions, analyze, and expose. In other words, learn to love learning yourself.
  20. Love. …but the greatest of these is love.
  21. Meals Together. Meals provide unparalleled opportunity for relationship, the likes of which can not be found anywhere else. So much so, that a family that does not eat together does not grow together.
  22. Nature. Children who learn to appreciate the world around them take care of the world around them. As a parent, I am frequently asking my kids to keep their rooms inside the house neat, clean, and orderly. Shouldn’t we also be teaching them to keep their world outside neat, clean, and orderly?
  23. Opportunity. Kids need opportunities to experience new things so they can find out what they enjoy and what they are good at. And contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t have to require much money.
  24. Optimism. Pessimists don’t change the world. Optimists do.
  25. Peace. On a worldwide scale, you may think this is out of our hands. But in relation to the people around you, this is completely within your hands… and that’s a darn good place to start.
  26. Pride. Celebrate the little things in life. After all, it is the little accomplishments in life that become the big accomplishments.
  27. Room to Make mistakes. Kids are kids. That’s what makes them so much fun… and so desperately in need of your patience. Give them room to experiment, explore, and make mistakes.
  28. Self-Esteem. People who learn to value themselves are more likely to have self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. As a result, they are more likely to become adults who respect their values and stick to them… even when no one else is.
  29. Sense of Humor. Laugh with your children everyday… for your sake and theirs.
  30. Spirituality. Faith elevates our view of the universe, our world, and our lives. We would be wise to instill into our kids that they are more than just flesh and blood taking up space. They are also made of mind, heart, soul, and will. And decisions in their life should be based on more than just what everyone else with flesh and blood is doing.
  31. Stability. A stable home becomes the foundation on which children build the rest of their lives. They need to know their place in the family, who they can trust, and who is going to be there for them. Don’t keep changing those things.
  32. Time. The gift of time is the one gift you can never get back or take back. So think carefully about who (or what) is getting yours.
  33. Undivided Attention. Maybe this imagery will be helpful: Disconnect to Connect.
  34. Uniqueness. What makes us different is what makes us special. Uniqueness should not be hidden. It should be proudly displayed for all the world to see, appreciate, and enjoy.
  35. A Welcoming Home. To know that you can always come home is among the sweetest and most life-giving assurances in all the world. Is your home breathing life into your child?

Of course, none of these gifts are on sale at your local department store. But, I think that’s the point.

The Video Every Mom Must Watch

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/31/the-video-every-mom-must-watch_n_4181007.html

This video is short, and it’s probably not anything we haven’t already heard.  It’s just that us moms need to be constantly reminded that we ARE doing something right, even  when we’re beating ourselves up about everything we’re doing wrong.   Don’t give up out there.  Our little ones aren’t keeping a tally of our shortcomings, they’re loving us just as we are.  Hopefully we’re doing the same for them.   And we’re their heroes, ladies.  Let that sink in for a moment.  And take heart.

Why Your Kids Shouldn’t Be The Only Thing In Your Life

Even if you don’t believe in God, you can glean some good advice from this article, They Are Third {on holding our children loosely}

I have said this to many of my friends: Yes, we should adore our children and love them unconditionally, but we cannot hold them too tightly.  And we cannot put them before everything else in our lives.  Because above all, we are trying to raise them to be independent, mature adults, and eventually they will leave.

I have seen marriages fall apart because the parents (often the mother, actually) made the children more important than nurturing their relationship.  Not that there aren’t sometimes urgent things that require our attention, and our spouse time gets put aside temporarily.  But our marriage cannot ALWAYS be on the back burner.  Because ideally, our spouse will still be there long after our kids leave, and we are going to need to know who they are and how to connect with them.  It is far too easy to start treating a spouse like a roommate instead of a life mate.

I’ve said it before: We ARE going to grow and change, the trick is making sure that we grow together.  We do our children no favors if they always come first.  Besides the fact that we’d be teaching them that investing in our marriage is not important, we’d also be teaching them that they are entitled to always be the center of the attention.  And who wants to be around an adult who has grown up with that delusion?  Think about how hard those people are to stomach.  Is that really what you want your child to be?  Besides, if your kids know your marriage is weak, they will become EXPERTS at playing you and your spouse against one another in order to get what they want.

So I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that your children should be well aware that they do NOT come before your marriage, when they get old enough to understand that.  They know that I expect them to leave and lead lives of their own, and that their dad and I will still be together long after they’re gone.  We want to continue to grow together, instead of being struck speechless by empty nest syndrome.  Chances are, both our kids will be leaving within the next couple of years, and we don’t want to be one of those couples who are at a total loss as to what to do with themselves once the kids are gone.

And I’d like to take a moment here to add: Know who YOU are without the kids.  In addition to knowing your spouse (if you have one), every parent should know who they are on their own.  This is doubly hard for single parents, I think, because without a spouse it’s easy to let the kids become everything.  But again, your goal is that they will eventually leave.  You don’t want to be left floundering, directionless, and unable to be your own person when they do leave.  Nurture your own well-being, physically and mentally, and you will be better able to give your children what they need.  Constantly deny yourself and you create selfish, dependent children, and you’re too wiped out to give them what they need anyway.  It’s always a balancing act, but make sure you don’t spend all your time at the bottom of the priority list.

Now, neither of my kids have left yet, so I may be overly optimistic about my reaction, but I think I’ll be ok.  I think my husband and I will be ok.  And I think my kids will be ok.  I certainly pray that all of those things are true!  Those of you who have already survived the empty nest, please chime in and give the rest of us some sage advice!

Caring for Baby: Diapers, Sleeping, and Feeding

Since I’ve been watching little Rose five days a week since she was about 2 months old (she is now 14 mo), I’ve been thinking a lot about how I would do things differently and what I’d do the same as when my kids were small (they are now 20 and 16).  This is not an attempt to make anyone feel guilty for not being super-mom, it’s just that I’ve reconsidered some of the decisions I made then.

I think in nearly all cases there are plenty of “right” ways to raise your children, and not very many “wrong” ways.  You have to decide what’s best for YOUR family.  Sometimes it’s hard to not let other moms get to you when they tell you you’re doing it wrong.  My intention here is not to start a fight, because a lot of these topics can generate pretty volatile “discussions”.  I’m just considering what I might do differently if I were raising a kid now, instead of 20 years ago.

Diapers

I used exclusively disposable diapers for my kids.  At that point in time, nearly everyone used disposables.  This was a phenomenal expense, but it was a burden mostly borne by Rob’s grandparents.  They would constantly stop by after a shopping trip with a huge box of diapers.  I felt at the time that I simply didn’t have time for cloth diapers, and they weren’t all that good then anyway.

Now I’ve seen some of the new-fangled cloth diapers out there, and I think that if I were an at-home-mom with a new baby, I would probably give them a try.  It’s a lot more work and the initial cost is high, but in the long run it saves a lot of money.  And let’s not even talk about the literally TONS of diapers I’d be saving from the landfill.  I think it would be a lot harder to keep up with them if I were working full-time outside the house, though.  And I can imagine I would carry disposables in the diaper bag as back-up for emergencies while I’m out and about.

Napping/Sleeping

Although I didn’t really get into the co-sleeping thing at the time, there were many times that my babies fell asleep in my arms during a nighttime feeding in the recliner.  I didn’t sleep with them on the couch (which carries a high risk of accidental death), and there were probably only a few times that they fell asleep in my bed (usually during those nighttime feedings).

While I have posted before on the power of touch, and I’m a huge proponent of physical contact with the people we care about, I’m not sure I’m sold on the co-sleeping thing.  A large part of my concern with it is that the baby gets so used to having you right there beside them when they go to sleep that they get to the point where they HAVE to have you right there beside them in order to GET to sleep.  Even if you are committed to co-sleeping, there are times when you will want to try to accomplish something while the baby is napping, and if you’re out somewhere you obviously can’t just lay down with the baby.  I’m really not sure how I would deal with this issue if I had another child.  Perhaps someone who has tried co-sleeping could offer some input.

As for the timing, I pretty much let my kids dictate their own schedule, within reason.  I tried to encourage them to be awake during the day and asleep at night.  But I wasn’t a tyrant about making them take their nap at exactly the same times every day.  That I would probably do the same.  While it’s good to have a general schedule, and definitely better to have them sleep more at night and less during the day, I can’t see myself being inflexible about bedtimes.  Sometimes life happens, and not being able to go with the flow just causes unnecessary stress for both mother and baby.

Feeding

Not being able to eat wheat means you can’t just throw together a PB&J sandwich.  I wasn’t aware of my wheat sensitivity when my kids were little.  Knowing what I know now, and considering that there are MANY people on both sides of our family who are gluten sensitive to some extent, I think I would wait as long as possible to introduce wheat into her diet.  Part of the problem is that most “beginner” foods contain grains.  We have been told over and over how nutritious whole grains are, but if you can’t digest them properly, you simply can’t get the nutrients out of them, no matter how many nutrients they may be purported to contain.

I did breast feed for the first several months with both of mine, and I still think that is best whenever possible.  It is the balanced nutrition that babies are designed to thrive on.  But I’m not one of those who feels compelled to shame others for NOT breast feeding, or not breastfeeding long enough.  Breast feeding for “too long” is another issue entirely, and has nothing to do with nutrition; I’m not going to open that can of worms here.

It’s when we start to introduce other foods into baby’s diet that things really start diverging.  When it comes right down to it, grains are hard to digest, even if you’re not overtly intolerant.  Out of the grains, rice is the easiest, and least likely to produce an allergic reaction, but whether you are feeding your little one breast milk or formula, the reality is that either one has everything they NEED, nutritionally speaking, so adding in other things just supplements and gets them gradually used to the other foods that they will soon be eating more regularly.

As soon as they were ready, we started giving our kids smashed up bites of tender fruits and veggies from our own plates, along with the standard jar foods.  I didn’t have one of those magical food processors, or I probably would have made a lot more of my kids’ first foods.  But we didn’t really eat as many whole foods, fruits and veggies as we should have in those days.  I would definitely try to get more veggies in their diets as toddlers than I did.

There’s a nice “back-to-basics” list 0f first foods here.  It’s markedly different than what most doctors are recommending, but then they’re also recommending that adults get 60% of their calories from carbs, and most of those whole grains, and that’s not best either.

All in all, I think I would do most things just as I did, if I had it to do all over again.  Not that I think I am the perfect mom, or anything, but it seems that they managed to survive all of my shortcomings.  I guess that’s the best bit of encouragement I can offer to new moms–don’t overly stress yourself out over every little detail.  So many things are a matter of personal preference, and even more have to take into account the individual child’s personality.  Don’t beat yourself up about being “imperfect”.  There is no such thing as a perfect parent, any more than there is such a thing as a perfect human being.  And don’t let other moms guilt you into thinking you’re a failure because you’re not doing something the way they would.  Unless it’s a matter of threatening a child’s physical or emotional well-being, rest assured that there is more than one “right” way to raise your kids.  And the “best” way for another family may not be the “best” way for yours.  You will also find that parenting involves a whole lot of trial and error.  Even things that worked well for one child in your family may not work as well with the next one.  I think the most important thing of all is to love them like crazy, and let them know that you do, often!

I have several friends with little ones, so if you have any input, I’ll be sure to pass it on–I encourage you to comment! Civilly, please!

Parenting: A Little Honesty

For those of us who feel like a terrible parent from time to time, here’s a little encouragement:

To Parents of Small Children:  Let Me Be the One Who Says It Out Loud