To Speak or Not to Speak

I’ve been quiet lately. It’s hard for those who know me best to believe it, but it’s true. In recent weeks, I’ve been blessed with a few spare moments of time to be alone. Not lonely. But alone. And it’s been an incredible gift.

I’ve had time to examine my life and my priorities, and I’ve had time to get to know myself again in a way I have missed for years. Most mothers are just like me. We run from one responsibility to the next, taking care of everyone and everything except ourselves. Not only had I been driving with my gas light on, my tank was beyond depleted. My engine had stalled, and it was time to make some hard choices. Some doors were closed. Some opened. And I ended up right where I needed to be.

Now, after catching up on peace and quiet and prayer and oh-so-sweet-and-sacred sleep…I feel rejuvenated and renewed. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually.

The transition was complete yesterday. Our daughter was baptized and confirmed, and we all joined the church…our first time to make that committment since college years. While we have visited many and have even been very involved in some churches, we never took the jump. There was always something holding us back.

During the service yesterday, Claire Dobbs referenced St. Francis of Assisi with one of my favorite quotes. I thought I’d share it with you today, and then….I’ll go back to being quiet.

“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” – Francis of Assisi

Meaningful Easter Gifts

Looking for a last-minute Easter gift that will send a positive, inspirational message about faith?

God is with Me through the Day and God is with Me through the Night are ideal for kids birth through third grade.

 Order signed/personalized copies from Square Books, Jr. in Oxford, MS. by calling 1.662.236.2207, or order from your favorite online book retailer.

Happy Easter!

Five Fabulously Fun Ways to Bond with your Kids in Five Minutes or Less

Got five minutes? Then you’ve got plenty of time to give your little ones pure, undivided attention – and have fun doing it!

1. Poke holes in the bottom of an empty margarine/butter tub using an ice pick. At bath time, help your child fill the tub with water and make it rain in the tub! Sing the family favorite: “It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring. He went to bed with a bump on his head and didn’t wake up until morning.”

2. Snip several drinking straws into various lengths. Keep them in a Ziploc bag and when you’re stuck in a doctor’s office waiting room, help your child organize the straw pieces from shortest to longest. Remember to start slow. Toddlers may need to start with three pieces. Increase level of difficulty by following your child’s lead.

3. Turn on some fun music and have a dance party. There’s nothing any child loves more than seeing mom or dad get silly. Sing along at the top of your lungs, even if you do sing off key. And whatever you do, just dance! Kids will have a blast and cherish those memories forever.

4. Get down on your hands and knees and see the world as your child sees it. Point out all the wonders you can find as you explore your home together. You might be surprised at all you’ve been missing by not getting down on their level.

5. Get nurtured by nature. Take a walk…and take time to share your child’s wonder. The best time to walk is after a rainstorm. Jump in puddles, help earthworms find their way back to the garden, listen to the birds and see if you can find them in the trees. Count new spring flowers (early crocus blooms are already popping up in my neck of the woods). Collect treasures. Smell various flowers and trees (did you know some pine trees smell like vanilla?). Savor the day.

Don’t forget tickle fights, pillow fights, stories, and snuggles. Hugs, high fives, and happy smiles. Even a simple thumbs-up can make all the difference in a day.

Whatever you do, try to take time to look your child directly in the eye and really listen when they talk to you.  Turn off the computer, tv, cell phone. Let your little ones know that they matter most to you. This holds true for children of all ages — as we all know that even tweens and teens really do want your undivided attention. Give them every reason to believe, without a doubt, that you are on their side in this world.

Peace,

julie

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Celebrate the imagination of America’s favorite children’s book author, the incredible Dr. Seuss (whose birthday is March 2)! One of my favorite Seuss books is Horton Hears a Who. I found this very simple craft online, and it would be an ideal way for kids to engage in meaningful roleplay activities after reading the book (and perhaps watching the movie).

 

Use hot glue to attach a pink pom-pom to a green pencil or popsicle stick. Then glue a tiny white pom-pom (or portion of cotton ball) to the pink clover. 

Now, help your children pretend they are Horton. The entire fate of Whoville rests in their hands. Be careful not to drop the clover! 

Give them daring challenges. Cross the bridge – a row of pillows on the floor; Jump the ravine – from one hoola hoop to the next; Don’t let the sharks get you – climb on outdoor play structure without letting your feet hit the ground, etc. etc.  Be sure to keep the activities child-friendly and age-appropriate with adult supervision at all times…and whatever you do, don’t drop the clover!

Visit you local library or bookstore for other fun Dr. Seuss reads. While younger children may prefer the simpler books, you may also want to try some of my personal favorites:

  • And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street
  • Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are
  • Oh, the Places You’ll Go
  • Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!
  • Great Day for Up!
  • Hooper Humperdink…? Not Him!
  • In a People House
  • Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now!
  • The Butter Battle Book
  • The Lorax
  • There’s a Wocket in My Pocket

Also visit www.seussville.com for fun online activities.

Olympic Torch Project for Kids

 

Help your children carry the ceremonial Olympic torch with this simple project.

Materials

  • 1 sheet of white construction paper or poster board
  • Clear tape
  • Red, yellow, and orange tissue paper (12″ x 12″ square of each color)
  • White craft glue

Instructions

  1. Roll the construction paper into a cone shape and secure with tape.
  2. Layer the tissue paper squares, red on the bottom, then orange, and yellow on top.
  3. Gather from the center of the squares and hold in your hand like a bouquet of flowers.
  4. Put some white craft glue into the sides of the opening of the cone.
  5. Place the tissue paper into the cone and let the glue dry completely.

Alternative Materials: If you don’t have tissue paper, use construction paper or printer paper. Simply cut the paper sheets into flame shapes and glue inside the cone opening.

While your children may have seen highlights of the opening ceremony, including the lighting of the final symbolic torch, they may not realize that the torch had been carried across Canada’s beautiful landscape for 106 days (45,000 km)! Take a moment to view a video documenting just a few highlights throughout the breathtaking Journey of the 2010 Olympic Torch. Then, have fun discussing these interesting facts.

  • The torch was originally lit during a special ceremony in Olympia, Greece. It was then carried on an airplane all the way to Canada.
  • Nearly 12,000 people helped carry the torch across Canada.
  • The torch passed through more than 1,000 communities and special sites.
  • The torch was carried for more than 100 days.
  • Torch bearers carried the torch in many unique ways, including bike, canoe, paddle wheeler, and on top of the Grouse Mountain Sky Ride.
  • Anyone could apply to be a torch bearer. Even teams of up to 20 people could work together to carry the torch. And guess what — kids carried the torch too!
  • The torch relay was added to games the 1930s, but the tradition of burning a torch at the Olympics dates all the way back to the original Greek games.

Swifter, Higher, Stronger — Olympic Fun for Kids

 

Help children spread vanilla icing over five vanilla wafers. Then use colored sprinkles to make the five olympic rings: red, green, blue, yellow, and black. (Tip: Before adding the bling, place wafers in a cookie sheet for easy clean-up.  Also, make one cookie at a time…as the icing dries quickly and then sprinkles won’t stick.)

Show children pictures of the Olympic rings and talk about the Olympic motto: “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” which means “Swifter, Higher, Stronger.”

Be sure to burn off all that sugar by running (swifter), jumping (higher), and playing tug of war or lifting weights (stronger). Use canned goods in the pantry if you don’t have small weights for kids.

If you prefer a sugar-free alternative, use the end of a cardboard tube (from paper towels) to stamp the Olympic rings on a white sheet of paper with the five colors of paint (red, green, blue, yellow, and black). Tape the paper to a straw or dowel for a child-sized Olympic flag.

 Happy Day!

j

101 Ways to Praise a Child

I’m not sure whom to cite as the original author of this great list…but I’ve seen various versions of it for years. Try serving a few of your favorite praise phrases to the little ones in your life each day — and don’t forget to give them a couple of extra hugs on Valentine’s Day.

WOW • WAY TO GO • SUPER • YOU’RE SPECIAL • OUTSTANDING • EXCELLENT • GREAT• GOOD • NEAT • COOL  • WELL DONE • REMARKABLE • I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT • I’M PROUD OF YOU • FANTASTIC • SUPER STAR • NICE WORK • LOOKING GOOD • YOU’RE ON TOP OF IT • BEAUTIFUL • NOW YOU’RE FLYING • YOU’RE CATCHING ON • NOW YOU’VE GOT IT • YOU’RE INCREDIBLE • BRAVO • YOU’RE FANTASTIC • HURRAY FOR YOU • YOU’RE ON TARGET • YOU’RE ON YOUR WAY • HOW NICE • HOW SMART • GOOD JOB • THAT’S INCREDIBLE • HOT DOG • DYNAMITE • YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL • YOU’RE UNIQUE • NOTHING CAN STOP YOU NOW • GOOD FOR YOU • I LIKE YOU  • YOU’RE A WINNER • REMARKABLE JOB • BEAUTIFUL WORK • SPECTACULAR • YOU’RE SPECTACULAR • YOU’RE DARLING • YOU’RE PRECIOUS • GREAT DISCOVERY • YOU’VE DISCOVERED THE SECRET • YOU FIGURED IT OUT • FANTASTIC JOB • HIP, HIP, HURRAY • BINGO • MAGNIFICENT • MARVELOUS • TERRIFIC • YOU’RE IMPORTANT • PHENOMENAL • YOU’RE SENSATIONAL • SUPER WORK • CREATIVE JOB • SUPER JOB • FANTASTIC JOB • EXCEPTIONAL PERFORMANCE • YOU’RE A REAL TROOPER • YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE • YOU ARE EXCITING • YOU LEARNED IT RIGHT • WHAT AN IMAGINATION •WHAT A GOOD LISTENER • YOU ARE FUN • YOU’RE GROWING UP • YOU TRIED HARD • YOU CARE • BEAUTIFUL SHARING • OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE • YOU’RE A GOOD FRIEND • I TRUST YOU • YOU’RE IMPORTANT • YOU MEAN A LOT TO ME • YOU MAKE ME HAPPY • YOU BELONG • YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND • YOU MAKE ME LAUGH • YOU BRIGHTEN MY DAY • I RESPECT YOU • YOU MEAN THE WORLD TO ME • THAT’S CORRECT • YOU’RE A JOY • YOU’RE A TREASURE • YOU’RE WONDERFUL • YOU’RE PERFECT • AWESOME • A+ JOB • YOU’RE A-OK MY BUDDY • YOU MADE MY DAY • THAT’S THE BEST • I LOVE YOU!

Math is Sweet!

 

Help little ones boost their counting and sorting skills with this tummy-tempting game. With a box of candied valentine hearts, help children sort the conversation hearts by color (consider using a muffin tin to sort each color into separate bins).

For extra fun, set up shop. Let your child be the candy store owner, and you pretend to be a customer shopping for candy: “I would like to buy 2 pink hearts and 4 yellow  hearts.”

Encourage children to count them out and hand them to you. Add them up to see how many hearts you bought in total. Take turns trading 2 orange ones for 3 white ones, etc; and be sure to read the sweet messages to your special valentine.

Haiti Provides Opportunity to Teach Children Importance of Compassion and Action

By now, your children have probably heard reports or seen images of the devastation in Haiti. Here’s a chance to teach the importance of international compassion and social action. Don’t let your kids see you sit idle when millions are crying out for your help.

If you prefer not to send your money to victims in Haiti for political or personal reasons, use this opportunity to reach out to those in need elsewhere — for there are people everywhere who need your help. Remember, this has nothing to do with religion, politics, or race. Each one of those individuals is someone’s mother, daughter, brother, father, sister, grandparent (not to mention a child of God)….and at any second – regardless of how secure you may feel at the moment –  that could be you.

Listen. Learn. Love. Lead. Your children are watching.

According to The Centre for International Disaster the best way to help people in Haiti is by donating money instead of supplies. A complete list of legitimate agencies working to help earthquake victims is listed on The CID site, but here’s an abbreviated list:

  1. The Red Cross: Text “HAITI” to the number 90999 to donate $10, which will be added to your next cellphone bill. You can also donate online through the Red Cross website.
  2. Doctors Without Borders: Hospitals in Haiti are badly damaged and overwhelmed. To help medical aid workers, donate through the Doctors Without Borders website.
  3. CARE: This international aid group has already sent 133 staff members to Haiti, and it will be distributing food. You can donate Delta Air Lines SkyMiles to fly CARE aid workers to Haiti or give money for relief funds through its website.
  4. Partners In Health: Louise Ivers, clinical director for Haiti for Partners In Health, says, “Port-au-Prince is devastated, lot of deaths. SOS. SOS … Please help us.” You can donate to support field hospitals on Partners in Health’s website.
  5. World Vision: World Vision has taken 18 tons of supplies, including blankets, tarps and water containers to Haiti. Show your support by donating through World Vision’s website.
  6. UNICEF: The UNICEF representative in Haiti, Guido Cornale, says that the Haitian earthquake is one of the worst he’s seen in his life. To help children in Haiti, donate through UNICEF’s website.
  7. ChildFund is accepting donations to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children affected by the earthquake. ChildFund will direct funds raised to a partner organization working on the ground in Haiti. ChildFund is especially concerned with child protection and keeping children at the center of recovery efforts and rebuilding. Funds raised will be directed to child-focused activities.
  8. International Relief And Development (IRD): IRD will supply water, sanitation kits, medicine, hygiene kits and shelter materials. You can donate to IRD on its website.
  9. Oxfam: 200 volunteers stationed in Haiti are providing clean water, shelter and sanitation through donations on Oxfam’s website.
  10. The Salvation Army: The Salvation Army is sending 285,120 boxed meals of rice, soy and vitamins to Haiti, which you can help support by making a donation through the Salvation Army’s website.

You may also want to check out CharityNavigator.org, an independent, nonprofit organization that evaluates charity groups based on effectiveness and financial stability.

 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.Deuteronomy 15:11

Frozen Bubbles – Winter Wonders

With frigid temperatures across the nation, here’s a fabulous outdoor activity for kids of all ages.

Bundle up. Go outside. Blow bubbles. Watch what happens!

If temps are 10 degrees or below, the bubbles should freeze. When they break, they fall to the ground like eggshells. I remember doing this with my kids in Illinois, and they were always amazed to collect bubble pieces in their tiny gloves. When I tried it this weekend with the kids, it didn’t work…so I looked it up to find how cold it needed to be. That’s when I found this great post by Vicki Cobb — one of my favorite sources for family fun.