Saturday 30 November 2013

How Do You Keep Your Toddler Busy? A Growing List of Ideas!

Last week I shared how I had been unwittingly viewing my little guy as an "inconvenience".  One thing a friend said struck me as true - it takes some creativity and planning-ahead to allow yourself the time to get things done (ie: dinner) when you have toddlers.

See, up until recently I was still sorta living like our son was in the infant stage - the one where you plop them on their tummies on a mat near the kitchen and coo at them every once in a while and they are perfectly content!  Even though he was now running, hammering, building, exercising - I somehow still expected the same sort of ease in distracting him with a few (same-old) toys on the floor.

Since talking to other mom's, I see that isn't the case!  There is wisdom in planning interesting things for your children to do, and setting them out for the occasions where you need to be able to focus on your task at hand.

What I'm hoping is that you'll share a new idea (or ideas!) here in the comments, or on Facebook, and I'll add them to a growing list in this post - so that we can all benefit from a little creativity and planning!  Feel free to include links to your post, or great ideas you found on Pinterest! (Update: Lots of great ideas coming in - please continue to add yours!)


  • Give them some pots and pans, wooden spoons, a bit of water, and your veggie peelings so that they can make their own dinner/soup!
  • Spread out some towels on the floor and let them "wash dishes" in some soapy water in the sink, or on a tub on the floor.  Expect there to be spills, so you aren't discouraged when there are!
  • Get out some huge pieces of paper and tape them in place and let them colour with crayons on the floor, table, or in their high chair.
    • Do be careful as it only takes a moment for them to decide to colour off the paper!
  • Put them in a large cardboard box and let them colour inside it.
  • Have different jars of things like dried beans or  assorted pasta shapes.  Spread out a sheet and have various containers for them to sort into.  Be wise about what they could choke on and how likely they are to put them into their mouths. 
  • Give them shapes and blocks - toddlers like to sort things or line them up over and over. Large rubber blocks are good for building and easy for little hands, and are still used by bigger ones.
  • For those that are noise tolerant - noisy toys can often bring lengthened contentment!
  • GREAT POINT: Most important of all though, is to find a couple of (or more) things your toddler ABSOLUTELY LOVES to do and use them ONLY in those specific times and ALWAYS make sure you stop while the interest is still high.  Even if you're not finished your own task, change what they're doing so they don't get bored.  If we allow them to play with "it" until THEY'RE done, it will shorten the life span of what you're using to occupy them, and we need all the advantages we can find at this fun age :)  
  •  The book Slow and Steady Get Me Ready is a fantastic book for every young mom. It has an activity a day from birth through to age five. The last activity is learning to pack a suitcase.  I highly recommend it as it is filled with a plethora of age/ ability appropriate ideas.
  • An indoor "sandbox" is a huge hit in our house. We use cornmeal, but you could use anything. We put it in a shallow rubbermaid container with a lid, so it's easy to put away if necessary. 
  • Homemade playdough or fingerpaints - that way it's okay is they decide to do a "taste test".
  • Hot Wheels cars and ramps made out of cardboard provide lots of entertainment - especially when the cars go far! A ramp with a parking garage underneath is even more fun.
  • Bowling with a soft ball and paper towel tubes or anything else that stands upright. 
  • Stickers and a blank sheet of paper are great fun. Puffy stickers are easier for littler ones to peel off on their own. When the masterpiece is finished we sometimes mail it to grandparents, which spreads more joy!
  • Put together a bin of dress-up clothes and the creativity begins. 
  • Make a fort out of dining room chairs and some blankets and let your little one explore. 
  • Cotton balls, a little bowl of glue and cut out shapes (ie a sheep or snowman). 

I can't wait to see how this list will grow! As you leave comments or links I'll add them above!

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Monday 25 November 2013

Debt-Termination - the story of a family climbing out of bondage

I am really excited.  I am excited because a very wise woman, who happens to be one of my best friends, has decided to share some of her wisdom with you!

She has always loved to write, journaling her thoughts and prayers for years (and encouraging me to do so as well) and she has a severe passion for mentoring younger woman.  God called her out of ladies ministry in the church many years ago, and since then her home has been flooded with younger woman as he proves himself faithful in providing opportunities in HIS time.  And now He has done it again, with a new-found challenge, and her husband's blessing - she has just began blogging their family's journey to get out of debt!

You can check it it out now at The Debt-Termination Blog, or you can listen as I tell you a bit more about her, and this new adventure.

I don't want to give you the whole story - because I think you'll love the way she tells it herself!  She only started blogging the week before last, so it is really worth starting at the bottom of the page, so you can read the whole thing chronologically.  Then you'll be up to speed and can follow along as she give you the play-by-play of the blessings and challenges coming along the way!

In a nutshell, this is just your average North American homeschooling family of ten!  And like most families, they have a mortgage.  Also, like most families, they figured this was pretty normal - in fact if you looked at debt statistics for the whole country, you'ld see why they figured they were doing pretty good!  Thank the Lord that He doesn't leave us be at "pretty good", eh?  He convicted my friend and her husband that they needed to take some radical steps to get themselves out of debt - ALL debt! And this is where you come in....

My friend is going out on a limb, and trusting that the Lord will use this experience not only to benefit her family - but to possibly benefit yours as well!  It's much easier to talk about a journey once it's over and you have that "hindsight is 20/20" perspective, but its much harder to share when you're in the thick of it - and yet this is exactly what she's doing.

And I'm sharing this with you here because I have been so blessed by her friendship and openness about her family throughout the years I've known her - and I want you to have the chance to benefit from it now too!

So head on over to The Debt-Termination Blog!  Be sure to be as kind over there as you are over here! :)

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Saturday 23 November 2013

A Surprise Christmas Gift for your Husband (or wife)!

Okay friends,

I'm going out on a limb sharing this with you here because I really want it to be a surprise for Andrew for Christmas!  However, I think it is such a neat idea, and it would be a shame to wait until after Christmas to share it with you!  Also, Andrew has amazing self-control when it comes to not being curious about things he knows are a surprise, so the only way he should find out is if one of you tells him - please don't! :)

I originally saw the idea for a "Year of Dates" here, and she explains it really well and has lots of good tips for organizing it.  Also, if you go on Pinterest and search "a year of dates", you will get lots of other similar pins as well:

Search "a year of dates" on Pinterest
The basic idea is this:  You put together 12 pre-packaged dates for you and your spouse - one for each month of the year.  You may simply include a page explaining what you will do, or you may add things like gift-cards, little presents to go with the date, or anything else you can think you!

I decided to split my date ideas into three categories:
  • outdoor dates, 
  • eating-related dates, and 
  • free dates
We are trying to save money and so I've tried to keep costs for the dates low, and planned things that can come out of our monthly "date" budget throughout 2014.  We try to plan two dates a month - one recreational one, and one more conventional one (ie: dinner), so I know these will fit in with our routine.

Some ideas of what I'm including are:
  • A new board game and a plan to get take-out (this is for the month our baby is due!)
  • A triple-date: bowling with our parents (we did this two years ago and had so much fun we've been wanting to do it again!)
  • A picnic date (this is sort of a "free" and an "eating" date)
  • Rock climbing (one of the more expensive dates, but an activity we both enjoy and have probably only done twice together)
  • Starbucks gift card and a date brainstorming dates for 2015 (this will be the December one)
So that's the plan!  And I would LOVE to hear your creative input for more ideas!!

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Wednesday 20 November 2013

The Post it Pains Me to Write (or the trouble with "inconvenient" children)

It hurts my heart to say this, to even admit it:

Sometimes I treat my son like an inconvenience.

Oh I love him, I know I do, but I don't always treat him like I love him as much as I know I do! Sometimes whats more important to me is having time to myself.  Whether that is time to cook, or time to sleep, or time to blog.  Lord, forgive me.

This isn't to say I think it is wrong to train your children to play by themselves.  I don't think it is wrong to decide it is best to cook dinner without a whining toddler tugging at you.  But what I know needs to change in myself is my own inner thoughts when dealing with such situations.  I need to know, and to convey to him, the reasons why I'd like him to play alone - not just brush him off with a terse "No - you need to go play in the living room!".

Why am I telling you this?  It's not because I'm enjoying it, that's for sure.  But maybe you've noticed the same sort of tone in your own voice.  Maybe you too sometimes fall asleep at night thinking "Did I love my children as well as I could have today?"  And I want to encourage you that it is worth crying out to the Lord to change your heart!

I don't want to go through my days getting the things I "need" done and just having my little guy along for the ride.  I want our time together to be valuable for him too!  I wan't to use the opportunities I have him by my side to teach him truths about life and God and people.  To help him gain knowledge he can use in his future tasks.  And to instill in him the strongest sense that I love him THIS MUCH - but that even that is only a small fraction of the love God has for His children.

I don't want to take my time with him for granted.  I know I am so blessed to get to spend all day, every day with him - and I can gladly say I don't think I have ever wished for any other situation.  But I want him to know that.  I want him to come to understand it through the way I interact with him, and how I include him in our day.

The love I feel for him is overwhelming, and yet in the heat of things it is often overshadowed by an immediate desire towards some less eternal work than raising an eternal soul.  But yesterday I read: "While we do not look at the things which are seen, but the things which are unseen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)

May God help us all as we raise our children, to do so with a love that is patient and kind, not self-seeking or easily angered.  May our love for them be more like a picture of His love for us.

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Friday 15 November 2013

Our Birth Story - a Joy to Share!

(You can read how we decided to have a natural birth at home here.)

A few years ago I would have thought it completely strange to be writing a "birth story".  I don't think I'd ever heard one, and I certainly wouldn't have been interested if the option presented itself!  However, as we found ourselves pregnant with our honeymoon baby - thinking about birth became something I did a bit more often!  That said, I am now practically a birth-story junkie!  And so I'm posting this for others like me now...and for those like me then.  Maybe this will be the first birth story you've ever read - and I pray it will be an encouragement to you that birth can be an amazing, positive experience!

Walking the hospital halls trying to keep things moving along!
January 10th - my due date - came and went.  As did January 11th, 12th, 13th.... By the morning of January 24th we had plans to meet with our midwife and an OBGYN at the local hospital, as I was officially two weeks overdue!  We were told the Doctor would push for induction (haha - get it!?).  We weren't super keen on this idea, as there was nothing from the ultrasounds which had shown the baby was in any danger, and the midwife had told us that the decision was ours, so we were planning to decline induction. (We loved our midwife!)

As it happens - thanks to many prayers and God's perfect timing - I went into labour that morning!  (I think it started very mildly the night before but I wasn't going to get all excited - I took two Graval (anti-nausea pills) throughout the night and slept until about 5:30am) .  We called the midwife at 8am and she decided to come meet us at the house.  After we confirmed that I really was in labour and things were moving along - she recommended that we have the baby at the hospital (although we had planned to have him at home) because I was technically post-term (more than two weeks overdue) which is when risk factors increase.  This was fine with us - I was so thankful not to have been induced!

Finding out he's a boy!
So I laboured at home until about noon and then we went to the hospital.  The whole time I was there it was only us, the midwives, and our birth photographer in the room.  It was so great to know EVERYONE who was around.  (Not the case if you are birthing with the OBGYN and nurses who are on call).

The amazing thing is that during the breaks between contractions I felt FINE.   (I tried to relax during the breaks and not think about the next contraction).  Sometimes I would feel like eating cookies, calling my mom, joking around, etc - and then a contraction would come - I'd focus on getting through it - knowing it will end - and the cycle continued.

One of my favourite pictures of Andrew ever - admiring his firstborn son.

Eventually around 3pm the midwife broke my water to try and get things moving along and I had to stay in bed after that hooked up to the fetal monitors (basically just bands around your belly that measure the baby's heart rate and your contractions).  The doctor had spoken with the midwife and said I should have them on.  This was the worst part, but I was able to take them off to go for long, leisurely bathroom breaks.  Also I was getting tired physically and so didn't mind lying down for the most part.

As contractions got harder I used nitrious oxide, which is essentially self-administered laughing gas which you can use during a contraction and it forces you to breathe deeply and slowly.  Some women say it makes them feel dizzy or high - I didn't experience this.   I started pushing probably around 6:20pm and honestly - people say this and I didn't believe them - but pushing is satisfying!  It doesn't really hurt it is just such hard work!  It was like I was being asked to do something that was too difficult - but it wasn't!  I did it!  Such a great feeling.
Celebrating God's goodness to us!
Again there were breaks during contractions where I was pushing - I even fell asleep during one of these - something I had read about women doing but also found hard to believe!  And so eventually I pushed that baby out!  It did hurt at the end when our baby's head was coming out but because I knew that meant I was MOMENTS away, it was practically a welcome pain!  I was actually annoyed early in the pushing that I wasn't feeling that specific burning pain because I knew that meant we weren't that close yet!  Andrew helped the midwife catch Jake and they put him right up on my skin.  (Holding your baby skin to skin as soon as possible is SUPER good for the baby - gets them the right temperature, helps their immune system kick in, and all sorts of other cool things).

Even though I knew I was in quite a bit of pain at the time, honestly, moments after it was over I was thinking "that wasn't so bad".   All of a sudden it was over, I felt no more pain, had to exert no more energy, and I was holding my BABY!  I don't know that it gets any better.

Our first family photo!

I was on the phone with my mom less than 6 minutes after Jake was out and had to hang up to birth the placenta!  (that was sorta funny!).  We had a whole bunch of relatives there within two hours and I felt GREAT.

Anyway - I hope this encourages someone that they can do it too and it can be AMAZING!  Also Andrew and I have been talking about how since having Jake we've been having the best days of our lives.  We are so happy we didn't decide to wait to have children, because there is nothing like it.  So hopefully this can encourage you in that way too - if it is something you are thinking about.

Welcome to the world! We loved you before we met you.

You can check out our previous post from this week to read how we had decided we wanted to try for a natural birth at home (which we obviously didn't get) - and also resources we would recommend to help prepare for one.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Our Decision to Have a Natural Birth at Home

We found out we were pregnant shortly after getting home from our honeymoon.  I didn't really have any strong desires regarding specific birth choices, but was very excited to be having a baby!  I was open to natural childbirth, but was also definitely open to having an epidural or other interventions.

My mother-in-law had given birth naturally at home to her four sons, and my own mother had a C-section with her first child (me!) and then a VBAC with her second.  One of my best friends, a mother of 8, had had epidurals, inductions, natural births at home and in the hospital.  So I had access to a variety of experiences right within my own family, and I wanted to keep my options open - not committing myself to any specific course of action.

Most of the people I knew who had given birth recently had done so under the care of midwives, and I had heard nothing but good things about them.  We went to meet with our local midwife group, and we really liked certain principles of midwifery like continuity of care, informed decision-making, and having them come to our house for the baby's check-ups in the first week.  With our midwife group you could choose to have your baby at home or in the local hospital, and had access to all the same interventions at the hospital as you would under the care of an OBGYN.

Reading and Listening

At some point in my early pregnancy I was perusing a used-book store and came upon a book called "Adventures in Natural Childbirth".  Sounded interesting - and though I wasn't planning to read it anytime soon, I thought I'd buy it anyway.  It sat on my bookshelf unread for the next few months.

During our third trimester, we began taking pre-natal classes from a local, private organization with an emphasis on making informed choices throughout childbirth, and which presented options for both natural birth and medicated birth.  We decided to take this course as opposed to the public health classes, as we were told that they were more about just letting you know what would happen when you came to birth at the hospital, less about giving you information and letting you make the choices. This course was extremely beneficial to us in giving us confidence regarding the birthing process, and an understanding of why and how one would desire to have a natural childbirth.

At some point I did start reading "Adventures in Natural Childbirth", albeit with a sort of squinty, apprehensive look - worried I was going to stumble across a story that made me fear the whole thing altogether.  That didn't happen.  Instead I saw for the first time the amazing breadth of variety there is within natural birth stories.  The book was divided into three sections - with a doctor, with a midwife, and unassisted births.  Throughout I saw that birthing a baby naturally wasn't something that only hippie-like people did, or only women with some amazing pain threshold.  This was just regular women, birthing naturally for thousands of different reasons, in different places, with different mentalities, and under different circumstances - but they all did it.

But Could I Do It?

I consider myself to have a very low pain-tolerance. Once after getting a black eye from a baseball I tried to catch, my best friend told me I looked tough, in an effort to comfort me.  Through my tears I whined back "I don't want to be tough - I wan't to be feminine and fragile!".   Was I up to the task of birthing a baby without anything to numb the pain?

Eventually the questions of where we planned to have this baby came up.  I knew that if I chose to birth at home, I ruled out any pain medication - and that was a huge barrier for me.  We went to a home birth information night, and I felt we could safely deliver our baby at home - I just didn't know if I was ready to let go of the pain-medication safety net!

I don't know exactly what happened that made me decide to go for it, but at some point I did decide I would plan to have a natural birth at home.  All of the above factored in, but the birth stories I read made a huge impact on me in terms of believing I could do it.  I came to believe that it would be the best thing for our baby as well.  Andrew was on board with a home birth from the beginning, but never pushed me and wanted me to feel comfortable with the decision we made. I was so thankful to have a husband who supported me in this, and believed in me also!

Getting Ready for the Big Day!

My best friend's mom (mother to 10) recommended the book Husband-Coached Childbirth - on the Bradley Method.  We found this very useful in actually preparing for the natural birth we now hoped to have. He focuses on relaxation techniques and trusting the woman's own instincts to mark the various stages of labour, along with much support from the husband (as the title suggests).

I made myself a bunch of inspirational bible verse cards, in nice big lettering so I wouldn't have to squint to read them!  I would look through them coming up to the birth, and wanted them in my heart, as well as there on paper as a reminder that God would strengthen me for the task ahead, and that He was in control of every situation.

Our midwifery group gave us a list of supplies we'd need for our homebirth, and we also purchased an inflatable fishy-pool online to have the option of labouring or birthing in the water.  We lived in a small apartment with a small bathroom and tub, and preferred the idea of having a larger water space in the living room.  This does make preparations a bit more complicated than if you have a nice big tub, as you need a plan for filling it and keeping the water at a good temperature.

On our due date, we had our pool all inflated and were ready for our baby to make his arrival.  However, in birth (as in life) things don't always go according to our plans...

Later this week we'll share with you what DID happen - in the birth story of our first child.

A summary of the resources which helped us plan for a natural, home birth:

  • Midwives who were supportive of our desires and willing to take lots of time to answer all our questions.
  • A private (that is non-governmental) pre-natal class with a focus on preparing for a natural birth and enabling you to make informed choices about your birth
  • Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley, M.D. - this book was recommended by a mom-friend of mine who has birthed ten babies and she said she used it for every one!  It was a HUGE help
  • Reading positive accounts of natural births. I bought the book Adventures in Natural Childbirth, Edited by Janet Schwegel at a used book store, and though I couldn't bring myself to read it until the second trimester, once I did, it was really helpful to see all the different ways women had natural births, and encouraging to read that they did it!  There are many books like this, and even online you can find many wonderful stories. 

What helped YOU in preparing for a natural birth?  

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Friday 8 November 2013

The Issue: Should Pro-Life Groups Distribute Abortion Images?

Some people are disgusted by images of aborted babies - in particular when distributed by pro-life groups. They say "A line has been crossed", "Children could see that", or "It's gross".

We have some different thoughts on the issue:

  • Shouldn't we be more disturbed and concerned for our children because of the scantily clad women and men on billboards and fliers distributed to our home almost weekly? (You don't have to get Victoria's Secret catalogs, The Bay or Sears flyers have the same sort of pictures).
  • If a line has been crossed, please state it clearly, and defend it biblically. In the above case we can refer to biblical standards of modesty, purity, and lust of the flesh. When it comes to photos of aborted babies - what biblical standard "draws the line" against unsightly images?
  • Yes, it is gross.  Abortion is gross.
  • Our culture accepts disgusting, often immoral images of violence and lust if it gives them a high, but if the image makes us feel bad - we'd rather not see it. For example, if we tell our child that he may not see the latest James Bond flick, we're likely to be labeled judgmental and legalistic.  If we speak about "protecting him" from the truth about aborted babies - everybody nods in agreement.
  • What if instead we saw it as a great discussion starter with our children?  They can hear the truth about abortion from us, before they become inundated by the lies our culture tells about it.  Pro-choice groups would have us not think about the actual babies, but only abstract (and misapplied) ideas of "choice" and "freedom" - here is a chance to talk about what abortion is really about.
For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper.  He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.  From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight. (Psalms 72:12-14) 

Kudos to those who are doing something about the problem! What if instead of spending energy speaking out against pro-life methods we disagree with - we spoke out against abortion itself!  Or better yet - implement a method you think is better and share that with others. In the words of Edmund Burke "when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." Let us not condemn those working to end an atrocity, unless we can give a clearly stated reason, lest we likewise be crushed in a society falling all around us with unchecked immorality and injustice.
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    Monday 4 November 2013

    Moving on a Budget!

    Moving is expensive!  We spent our first night in our new rental house this week and it sure is nice to be finished moving.  We only moved to a city about 40 minutes away, so it wasn't a cross country trek - which would obviously be different.

    We're quite budget conscious, and didn't want to spend more on the move than necessary.  I figured there are probably other families in similar situations, and and it might be helpful to them to highlight some of the ways we tried to save, and where we decided to spend the money.

    Photo Credit
    • Helpers - Don't be afraid to ask for help!  Most people, even if they don't think to offer, will be happy to lend a hand when asked.  Especially if you are part of a church community, here is a great opportunity - some people want to help within the local church body, but with our culture being so self-sufficient, it can seem hard to even find ways to do it!

    • Boxes - I made it a point in the week before we were going to pack to fill up our car with empty boxes once a day, mainly from grocery stores and liquor stores. Some of our "cheaper" grocery stores leave their boxes at the front, and at others we were able to get a really great number of banana, apple, and pear boxes (which are good because they are strong and have nice fitting lids) by going to the back and asking.  The liquor stores provide smaller boxes but they are really sturdy and so perfect for books. (A great tip here is to standardize the box size(s) you pick up, making it easier for packing the boxes in a van.)

    • Packing Materials - A friend of ours works for a moving company and was able to get us a whole lot of packing paper for free.  See who you know who might have other materials you can use.  Our parents both lent us their packing tape dispensers, which are also a really useful tool.  We bought packing tape, but instead of getting the 4-pack that cost $20, we got the 4-pack that costs $4, and it worked just fine!

    • Moving Truck - We considered trying to do without one, but in the end it would have meant a lot of trips.  We rented a 17' truck (which was the same price as the 14' truck), and were able to do the whole move in one trip, along with a second vehicle for people and some fragile, awkward things.  An important thing for making this work is learning how to pack it most efficiently.  Our moving friend gave us some tips of what they always do, which we wouldn't have thought of ourselves:
      • Put the couches upright in the two back corners, facing the middle of the truck.  You can put mats under them, and then stack boxes on the arms.
      • Then try and find a dresser, bookshelf, night table etc that will fit snugly against the back of the truck between the two couches. Put boxes on this too.
      • If your truck has a ledge above the cab, put light boxes or items there (we used kitchen chairs & couch cushions) which won't break if they fall.
      • Pack the rest of your furniture and boxes next.
      • Leave your dresser drawers packed, carry them out separately, and put them back in when the dresser gets in the truck.
      • Pack your mattress and box springs using a tie-down ot hold them against everything already packed, holding it all forwards.  (You can pack a big mirror between the mattress and box spring.
      • Use the remaining space at the back to pack very awkward things (like bicycles).

    • Packing the Truck - We were blessed to have many friends who volunteered to help us pack and move.  I had a "packing party" the week before with six friends, and we had four or so guys help load and unload the truck, as well as family who stayed to help assemble furniture and start unpacking. We labeled all our boxes with a piece of masking tape and the room they belong in, so that it was clear and easy for the movers to know where it should go.  As well we put tarps down so people could walk through the carpeted areas without having to take off their shoes.

    • Attitude - Above all, no matter what happens, have a good attitude!  It rained the whole day of our big move and yet everyone stayed in sunny spirits.  The men worked hard all day, we had a big pizza lunch which helped keep everyone's energy levels high, and we all still had smiles on our face when it was done - feeling the accomplishment of a successful day's work!  If others are starting to wane, find a way to help them feel better - you can set the tone!

    I know we haven't get everything, and this certainly isn't going to be our last move!  Please share YOUR tips for on moving on a budget (or just moving tips in general)!

    Happy moving,
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