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Dec 2, 2014
Comments Off on The Kindness Elves Have Arrived!

The Kindness Elves Have Arrived!

 

We are so excited to be joined by the delightful Kindness Elves this holiday season!  I first heard about them on the brilliant blog, The Imagination Tree, last year and knew right away that I wanted to do it myself this year.  So, when I discovered these adorable little guys at my local Dollarama in early November (gah!  Christmas stuff in early November!), I immediately snatched them up.  They were soft, cute and cheap — perfect for my intended purpose.

We don’t teach “Santa” in our home — we have discussed it with Naomi and explained to her that Santa is another name for St. Nicholas.  So she knows that it’s just me playing a game with the elves.  Nevertheless, it’s been fun to wake up to their antics.  The first day of their arrival, she found them sitting on the stairs, with a little note asking that she give them names.  She named the Red one “Red” and the green one “Purple” (she does know he’s green, she doesn’t have any trouble with colors or naming them).

This morning, Red and Purple asked her to help them come up with a list of names of people she loved that she wanted to show kindness to, as well as some ideas.  It was fun to come up with names of all her friends and family, though she did specify the ones she was shy of and we discussed ways she could be kind to them that she would be comfortable with.

Are the Kindness Elves coming to your home this Advent season?  How are you sharing their fun and antics?  Tell us about it in our comments section!

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Nov 26, 2014

Your Child’s Car Seat: One Of Your Most Important And Most Neglected Safety Tool

Source:  Ontario Ministry of Transportation

Sometimes, a piece of information comes up on your Facebook feed that grips you — that just challenges you and convicts you thoroughly.  On Monday of this week, I had one such experience.  This blog post appeared in my News Feed and after reading it, I sat and cried.  The story of a poor little boy who lost his life due to an improperly installed car seat was gutwretching, and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking all the different “What if” scenarios.  I have a very precious little man and little girl that ride around with me in our car, and while I felt our seats were safe, I am very convicted about it and determined to improve.

 

Cuddles and apples go well together. #somuchlove #siblings

A photo posted by Nada (@nadasings) on

The truth is, I should not be alone in this — according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3 out of 4 car seats are not safely installed into their vehicles.  That’s chilling.  And horrible.  And just further motivates me to make sure my children are safe in our vehicle, as safe as they are in my own home.

I had asked for my and Michael’s family to chip in to buy Jude a new car seat for his birthday this year — one that would convert from a rear facing seat to a front facing seat when he was older, but I hadn’t gotten around to it.  I am now more determined than ever to get our car a new car seat, hopefully by this weekend, and install it properly.  Naomi’s car seat is still adequate, but I know now that we faced her forward too early, and in fact, she is just now the size and weight she should be for forward facing.  I am so incredibly thankful to Jesus that we have never had to go through any kind of vehicle accident or injury, especially where our children are concerned.

I have contacted some local baby stores and organizations to see if there is a car seat safety workshop put on anywhere in my community.  Til I know more, I will be studying and learning from various videos and making sure that things are safe.  If you’re looking for resources for proper purchase and instillation of car seats, please check out the following links.

How To Find the Right Car Seat

How To Install An Infant Car Seat

Tips For Installing Car Seats

Installing A Car Seat

Car Seat Instillation Videos Playlist from The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (English and French)

Please make sure your precious babies are safe in your vehicle!  Let’s never have any other mother and child have to go through what Cameron and his family have gone through.

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Nov 25, 2014

1 Incredibly Simple Thing I Have Done That Has Vastly Improved My Marriage

Source: Google Search

 

I was never a big fan of the show King of the Hill.  The comedy was pretty dry for me and not that appealing.  However, one of the few episodes that I remember had one of my favorite quotes in it that I have ever seen on a TV show.  The episode is called Bobby Goes Nuts and I will spare you the details.  However, after Bobby refuses to obey his injured father, Hank, Peggy steps in, hands her glasses off to Hank and says,

“That is it.  I would not let a stranger, let alone my own son,
think for one second that they could get away with showing any disrespect
toward the man that I love.
You do that, and you have to deal with Peggy Hill.”

It has always made me smile.  Peggy was never the perfect wife, but she was entirely and unconditionally devoted to that uptight redneck husband of hers, just as much as Hank was devoted to her.  And when she saw that Hank couldn’t defend himself from Bobby’s disobedience, she felt no shame in stepping in to defend her husband.  It was one of the few moments in the entire series that I felt was redeeming.

I am like Peggy — Michael is the most kindhearted, gentle and honorable man I know.  I couldn’t imagine sitting idly by and listen to anyone disrespect him.  Heck, I get angry when I hear some of the stories he tells me about things that happened to him in his past with other people!  And I would and do stand up for him when I hear someone say anything less than flattering about my husband.

But I realized one day that there was one person whom I would tolerate badmouthing my husband, and sometimes relentlessly.  During one difficult period I actually allowed this person to badmouth my husband quite fervently and without a hint of retaliation, showing him great disrespect and dishonor.

And that person was me.



Photo Source Share a Verse

Any time I felt upset with Michael, or felt unappreciated or disrespected myself, I would silently seethe and run through all his bad qualities in my head, going over his failures and mistakes for extended periods of time, sometimes even days on end if I was really upset.  I don’t think there is a single person in the world who doesn’t do this when they get upset at their spouses.  It’s a natural response, to begin building a wall when we have been hurt.  And it is one of the worst things you can do when you are hurt, is block the other person from finding a way into your heart again.  We can cause ourselves and our relationships so much pain and anguish when we dwell on the negative qualities of our partners.

So I promised myself that I wouldn’t allow myself to think any negative thoughts about my husband anymore.  Nothing.  Not one single negative thing.  I stopped dwelling on his negative qualities (a list that is truly quite short and unimportant) and focused solely on his positive (and there are a LOT of those!).  I gave myself permission to release any anger I felt towards him, to give it up and leave it with Jesus, and to focus solely on his strengths, rather than his weaknesses.

Now, when I am upset over something and feel anger, I don’t dwell on it for very long.  I release it, give it away and start thinking about the good things.  He might be tired and laze around on the couch all weekend, but he worked so hard all week beforehand!  And he made sure that I got a chance to have my bath last night and watched the kids.  And he stopped watching that television show that I didn’t like when I’m around.  And he made sure there was enough money in the grocery budget to buy me more cocoa.  And he really appreciated my frugal meal creation that I made last night.  And he sat through a TV show he wasn’t crazy about because he knew I enjoyed it.  The list just goes on and on…  How can you stay angry at a man as wonderful as that?  The truth is, you can’t.

Once I started focusing and appreciating all his good qualities, the few bad ones melted away, to the point where I hardly even notice or focus on them.  I am so proud of the man that he is, and trust him implicitly to be the leader and protector of our household.  I am forever grateful to him for the sacrifices he has made for our family and the role he fulfills everyday.  I refuse to let anyone do or say anything negative about him, myself included.

IMG_1806

Us sharing a chuckle outside the restaurant on our 5th wedding anniversary.

Do you struggle with negative thoughts about your spouse?  How have you combated them?  Share in the comments!

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Nov 24, 2014
Comments Off on 7 Rules Our Family Follows

7 Rules Our Family Follows

Hands
Photo by Barnaby Wasson
When Naomi was about 3 or so, we started developing a set of family rules.  These are rules that all of us in the family try to follow as best we can. We started with the first three, and then slowly, as situations arose, we added more. These rules have grown with us and have seriously helped our family come to a situation in which she trusts us, we are better able to trust her, and we have all come to a kind of common ground, one in which we are able to discuss openly when one of us has a problem and we are able to come to a positive outcome.

Michael and I believe in positive, gentle parenting. We don’t spank our daughter, and try to use natural consequences as often as possible, though we do believe in punishments when the need arises. However, we do often believe in second chances and if Naomi asks for one, we usually give it to her. We discuss with her, quite regularly, that her actions are her own choosing and she has a choice as to whether she wants to follow through with the family rules, or whether she wants to break the rules and get punished. Punishment in our home usually means the removal of some privilege, such as a treat, or some television that evening, or a toy for the night. We always explain why the punishment is enacted, give her options as to what punishments she can choose from (lose TV for the night, or put away a toy for the night, etc) and let her choose the one that she prefers.

This method has worked out quite well for us. For the most part, she is very well behaved and kindhearted. Though I will never claim that this method has solved all of our parenting dilemmas (frankly, I think we just lucked out and were blessed with a very caring, kindhearted and wonderful little girl), I do believe it has greatly helped us in coming to a common ground.

The other good thing about having a set of family rules, is that Naomi not only is aware of the rule, but when she makes a mistake or does something wrong, she understands what it is that she did wrong and isn’t confused. It’s a form of consistency for her, and she understands that what she did broke said rule. Usually we have a brief conversation, and it’s over. If the rules are broken again, we have a further conversation, and maybe a brief punishment, or we change plans for that day. We are also aware and look to the situation at hand — did she not sleep enough? Is she off her regular routine? Did she consume more sugar than usual? Punishment is doled out when it’s obvious that she needs something removed from her environment in order to regain normalcy.

The first three rules we came up are as such:


George Burns, Gracie Allen, & Their Children Featured on 1954 Family Circle Magazine Cover
Photo by Classic Film
1.  We are a family first.  This means that the actions we take in our family are for the greater good of the family, rather than just one individual person.  For example, we all understand that Daddy needs to get lots of sleep — he is our breadwinner and his health is extremely important.  So when Daddy goes to bed, that means that we are all to be quiet and let him sleep.  He needs to sleep so he can go to work to provide for the family.  Likewise, if we are particularly short of money one week, we don’t make our usual weekly trip to the library, because that requires gas, and we don’t always have the money.

This rule was enacted to help Naomi understand why she couldn’t go out to a restaurant every time we went out.  We had gotten into the habit, while I was pregnant, to go out to eat quite regularly so we didn’t have to cook at home.  This of course is not feasible when you aren’t making a lot of money.  So we had to explain to Naomi why we couldn’t afford to go out to eat all the time — because we simply can’t afford to go out to eat a lot and still be able to afford food and gas at the end of the week.

Albeit, it is a large amount to expect a child to understand.  But once you sit down and explain to her why this is the way it is, and help her to see and understand it, it truly sinks in.  She now understands why she needs to eat healthy foods (so we don’t get sick), why she needs to get lots of sleep, why we need to be quiet while Jude is napping, etc.


Hands are for Helping
Photo by Evelyn Saenz
2.  We don’t say “no” — we say “compromise” or “cooperate”.  This rule came into effect when Naomi learned that she could say “No” to us, and mean it.  It wasn’t easy for any of us — it was hard to expect her to accept us saying “No” to her requests for play, and then turn around and not accept her saying “No” to our requests to help pick up her toys or eat her meals.  So we came up with this alternative — we no longer say “No” when a request comes in.  If something comes up that one of us says no to, such as me asking her to pick up her toys, instead of demanding, we say something like, “How about we compromise and we pick up everything but your dolls?”  Or when she asks us to play with her and we don’t feel like it, we say, “How about we compromise and I play with you for 15 minutes, before I finish the dishes?”

It’s become quite a wonderful resource.  I no longer seethe with anger every time I am dealt with a defiant and angry “No!” shouted back at me, and she no longer huffs off with a pout and a sad look in her eyes.  She herself often comes to me and says, “Mama, how about we cooperate” and then gives me the alternative she comes up with, often a very good idea!

Of course, Mommy and Daddy do have the power to say no and have that be the final answer.  There are times when we just can’t stop at the library for an hour, or when we just can’t watch more of her favorite show.  And when we do that, we explain to her, “This is a time when we cannot come to a compromise.  You have to accept our answer of ‘No’ this time” and leave it at that.  After that, we pull out the old “asked and answered” method, which usually puts it into place.  However, Michael and I try to keep this to a minimum and only  use it in times when it is necessary, such as when we are busy cooking dinner, or when we don’t have the funds to fulfill her request.


dishes
Photo by Olga Caprotti
3.  Not helping is not an option.  This one as well was a tougher one for myself and Michael to follow than it was for Naomi.  However, at 3 we felt it was a reasonable age for her to be able to do some of her own chores and to help out around the house with simple things like picking up toys and clothes, emptying the dishwasher, setting the table, etc.  And so we started asking for help.  And when we were told no, this rule came about.

We explained to her that our home wasn’t Mommy’s home, or Daddy’s home, but it was our home and that we all had to take part in keeping it clean.  It gave her a sense of ownership and she felt she had more say in the way things were run.

Like I said, though, these rules are for the whole family.  And when we are asked to help, we have to help her.  So if I ask her to clean up her toys (a chore she is perfectly capable of doing on her own) and she asks me for help, I do indeed have to go help her.  I cannot expect her to drop everything and help me if I don’t show her the same courtesy.  Sometimes this isn’t possible, if I’m already up to my elbows in tomato sauce making, or on the phone.  But if it is at all possible, I go help her.  This was a bigger struggle for me than I expected.  The thing is, often times when she asks for help, it’s for stuff she’s perfectly capable of doing herself, and it’s sooooooo tempting to say, “No, you can do that yourself — I have other things to do!” but I do my best to stop myself, recognize that often the help I ask of her are things I am perfectly capable of doing myself, and help her out.

Those three rules were the basis of our family rules.  Over time, the following rules have been added:


kindness
Photo by Joy Jordan
4.  Gentle kindness only.  This one came up especially for Michael.  Naomi’s major love language is touch — she wants to cuddle, to wrestle, to snuggle, to sit with you, to be under a blanket, to sit in your lap, and basically be in physical contact with you in some way.  It’s how she connects, it’s how she is grounded.  And as much as he would love to have her jump on him when he comes home from work, Michael’s fibromyalgia and chronic pain prohibits it.  Even gentle touch can be painful for him.  And with Jude getting to be of age to crawl and scramble around, we had to introduce the idea of being gentle and kind to her.

So we started this rule, to help her understand that it wasn’t an appropriate way to be around others.  Showing gentle kindness (holding hands, gentle hugs that don’t put your whole body weight on the other person, sitting beside someone instead of on them, etc.) were much better ways of showing affection and love, especially for Daddy and Jude.

Michael has also learned to give Naomi some of that more intense affection first thing when he gets home — usually when he gets home, he sits on the couch with her and Jude and they have a big snuggle and cuddle before he heads upstairs to change out of his work clothes and into some comfy lounging clothes.  This usually gives her the recharge she needs and helps her to feel connected to him.


Our natur table
Photo by Rjabinnik and Rounien
5.  Clean and safe.  This one became a necessity.  Little girls have lots of little things that they like to play with — little hair clips, little rings and trinkets, little puzzle pieces, etc.  And little baby brothers love to put little bits in their mouths.  So this rule became a safety issue for us.  I showed Naomi how easy it was for Jude to put things in his mouth and swallow them, and told her she needed to stop having those little things out.  We put toys with tiny pieces in her room, where she was allowed to play with them as much as she liked.  I also showed her that anything smaller than Jude’s own fist was too small for him to play with.  Of this, she became extremely cautious and diligent.  Quite frequently she brings me things that he has and says, “Look Mama!  This was smaller than Jude’s fist!”

For our part, Michael and I installed baby proof locks in the bathroom and kitchen cabinets and baby gates on the stairs.  The baby locks were more to prevent mess than anything — we clean solely with baking soda, vinegar and salt — but it was just as important to prevent Jude from paying with nail clippers and garbage bags as it was to keep him out of the cupboards themselves.  Naomi is now quite proud of her ability to keep a room clean, and has remarked more than once, “It’s so nice to have the house all clean!”  (Now if she’d just keep that mindset in her teenage years…)


tomatoes
Photo by woodleywonderworks
6.  We don’t waste food.  This one has only come recently.  We have always had a pretty tight budget, but lately it’s become even smaller, and we have to make every morsel that comes into our mouths count.  And so, we had to explain to Naomi that right now, everything we give her, she has to eat, because we simply cannot afford for our food to go to waste.

Food has always been one area of our parenting we have been less than gentle with.  We have never made Naomi eat food that she truly does not like to eat, like bananas (both she and Jude don’t like to eat bananas — I think they are the only kids in the world who don’t!), but frankly, if it is a food I know that she does like and just decides on that particular day that she doesn’t like, I don’t allow her to say, “I don’t like that” and not eat it.

When Michael was younger, he didn’t eat vegetables, and it was a struggle his whole life to eat them.  When Naomi was born, he realized that he couldn’t say to her, “Eat your vegetables” while he himself wouldn’t eat them.  So he not only learned to eat and enjoy most vegetables, but he even went so far as to teach himself how to cook.  This was a huge feat for him.  In less than 2 years, he went from being a guy who called me at work to ask how to boil potatoes, to being a guy who made homemade croissants, mastered the art of homemade pasta, and learned to make his own lemonade and root beer.  And, he learned how to make brussel sprouts, tomato sauce, vegetable soup, eggplant, kale chips, leek soup, etc.

And when she would refuse to eat the foods he had worked so hard to learn to eat, for her, that it felt disrespectful to me for her to object.  So we put this rule into place.  She knows very well that she is expected to eat what we serve her, but she is allowed to alter things if necessary (ketchup, cheese, whatever it takes to get it down!).  I serve her half portions of what I think she will eat, and she is free to have snacks in between meals if she has eaten the food we gave her.  However, snacks are limited to fruits and vegetables only.


Baby Waving with Parents in Background
Photo by Russ Robinson
7.  Obey Mommy and Daddy first.  Most times, we get obedience from her.  The problem comes delayed obedience, or dawdling.  This occurs usually when we interrupt her play, or make a request that goes against what she desires to do.  And we can understand that — no one likes to be dragged away from a task they are enjoying.  But sometimes we need her right now! and she needs to follow through with our request.  If I’m in the middle of a diaper change and need her help getting a clean diaper, she needs to come help me right now! and not when she’s done playing or when her favorite show is over.  So we started enforcing this rule for all situations — obey us first, and then we can go back to the situation beforehand.

For our part, we try to give her plenty of warning beforehand.  “Naomi, when this episode of your show is over, it’s time to set the table”, or “I’m going to get the laundry.  When I come up, it will be time to fold the clothes,” or “I need you to get ready for our trip into town.  Would you like to play for 5 more minutes?”  Usually, if we give her some forewarning of what is coming, she is much more able to get out of the situation she is in and move on to the next task we are asking for her help with.  And when we do this, she is much more obedient.  When we just demand it without forewarning, it’s more of a struggle.  But by encouraging it every time, when these right now! moments arise, she knows what to expect and we know how to deal with it better.

As things arise, we will likely adapt and rearrange the rules, adding and subtracting them as needed.  It’s an ever-growing evolution, like our beloved family dynamics.  We try to be gentle, understanding and cooperative, but we also set high expectations of our children, and are doing our best to raise competent and productive  members of society.  She understands that the only people she is expected to obey are Mommy, Daddy and God.  But within that group are the three persons she can always trust and rely on to not only have her best interests at heart, but to be fair and trustworthy, no matter what the situation may be.

Do you have any family rules?  Share them with us in the comments below!

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