So Much Stuff

Recently we moved.  In many ways moving is no fun.  But there is a silver lining – it is the perfect time to declutter, trash the trash and just reduce the overall amount of Stuff.  The amount of garbage bags of trash I was able to get rid of was amazing (and embarrassing).

I am now unpacking in the new house.  As I am filling the cabinets and closets I realize how nice it is to not have so much stuff shoved in every crack and crevice.  Without all of the stuff the house I have been able to keep the house fairly clean.  Mind you we have 5 kids, clean is a relative term.

Seriously though, without all of the stuff everyone’s room stays picked up.  Everything has its own place.  It has been great.

This is my dilemma: Christmas is coming…

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas.  I love Advent, and the celebration as we prepare for Christmas.  I love everything about Christmas – even the anticipation of opening gifts on Christmas morning.  I am just not excited about more stuff, which was exactly why I was so excited to find Nourishing Minimalism’s this list of non-toy gifts.

I will absolutely be looking to this list for ideas in the next few months.  Take a look at these great ideas.

18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children

  1. Classes. Music, dance, riding, drawing, classes are a great way to encourage children in their interests and let them know that you pay attention to them and what they enjoy.
  2. Memberships. Zoo, science museum, children’s museum, YMCA membership, etc. These are particularly great for family gifts! Many young families want to enjoy day outings, but affording them can be a challenge, so give them the gift of a yearly membership.
  3. Subscriptions. Kids enjoy getting things int he mail. Why not encourage their reading by getting them a magazine subscription for something they are interested in!
  4. Events. Movie tickets, tickets to a play, concert or sports event are really exciting! Having an event to look forward to makes the rest of life more enjoyable.
  5. Activities. Mini golf, bowling, skating rink. These are so much fun! And a big part of the fun is going together. Children love spending time with the adults in their lives, they want to see you enjoying your time as well as enjoying them.
  6. Recipe and Ingredients. Kids love cooking with their parents. Baking something special or cooking dinner is an ideal time to spend together and learn life skills. Print out a recipe, purchase all the ingredients and set a date for cooking together.
  7. Crafting Date. Our daughter loves making crafts. I do to, I really do enjoy the creative aspect. But I rarely take time out to do it with her. These crafting dates mean the world to our creative little girl. Keep a basket of craft supplies and get out a book for inspiration. We like this book.
  8. Arts and Craft supplies. If your craft box is running low, stock up a little on things you need. Add in something fun the kids haven’t used before. A gift of art and craft supplies often brings on the imagination and kids can’t wait to get to work!
  9. Coupons. An envelope of coupons that they can “spend” at any time: I’ll do one chore- no questions asked, movie and popcorn night, you pick the movie!, 1:1 game of cards or basketball (whatever the child’s interest is in), sit and read a book with me, Stay up 1/2 hour past bedtime
  10. Restaurant Gift Card. Dinner, ice cream, coffee, cupcake- whatever suits their fancy! Give them the freedom of inviting whoever they wish: it may be mom or dad, it may be a grandparent, aunt or even teacher that they would like to spend more time with.
  11. Dress Up Clothes. These do need to be limited, but  2 dresses and couple play silks can get hours and hours of play!
  12. Books. We get a lot of books from the library, but there are some that I just can’t find there, or it takes us longer to read through. We have read through the entire Little House series, Narnia and are working our way through Shel Silverstein’s books. Be sure to pass the books on when you are done, so they don’t clutter up your home.
  13. Clothes. When kids only have a certain amount of clothes, they often enjoy getting clothes. Make it a point to get something that fits their style. That may mean western clothes, super-hero, fancy dresses, etc.
  14. Snacks. If your child is a foodie, they will love this! Some homemade granola or cookies made just for them, is a special treat!
  15. Outdoor Supplies. If you are an outdoorsy family, giving kids their own fishing tackle or gardening equipment can be a big deal. It’s also something that gets left on the shelf in the garage, so you always know right where to find it.
  16. Telling Time. The average child these days doesn’t know how to read analog, or finds it takes too long to think about it, so they search for a digital watch. Getting them a cool watch makes them want to be able to tell time on it. Boys, girls, and even teenagers can be excited about this.
  17. Games and Puzzles. Games and puzzles are great activities for when kids have to be indoors. It’s a good practice to have individual quiet times during the day, and having a puzzle to sit and work on by themselves helps brain development and problem solving skills. Games teach a lot too! My kids talk about how they passed geography, just because we played Risk when they were little. Monopoly and PayDay have been popular and help cement math skills. Memory games are great for younger children.
  18. Calendar. Many children like to know what is going on, what day it is, how many days until ____. These kids are the ones that want to know what the plan is for the day, in what order things will happen, what time friends are expected over, etc. They struggle with spur-of-the-moment and can be frustrating if you are a spontaneous parent. But celebrate it! These children have many strengths and make our world run smoother. :-)  Embrace their inner schedule and get them their own calendar. They can write down their own classes, appointments, play dates, etc. And if they ask you, send them to their calendar so they can get used to being in control of their own schedule. You can even schedule “spontaneous days”, so they know that something different will happen that day. Trust me, it will help them enjoy the spontaneous outings!



How well do you really know your children?

How often do you talk to your child?  And I don’t mean the everyday mundane conversations.  How often do you really communicate?

Amidst the everyday hustle I find it is easy to overlook the opportunities and/or just be too consumed with the current tasks to really talk to my kids, and more importantly to listen.

Recently I found this quote based on a long term study of parents and children,

“While most parents wanting to transmit their faith understand that their own examples and actions as parents are important in achieving success, some may not be aware that it is the nature and quality of the relationship they have with their child that is crucial-perhaps as much or more that what parents do or teach religiously” (Bengston, Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations).

This is a great reminder that no matter what we try to teach our children through lessons, words, even modeling of our own actions, that ultimately, the most important aspect in portraying the values we wish our children to have is the quality of our relationship.

And just like any other relationship, to strengthen our relationship with our children we must talk and listen.  Talk in a way that is meaningful, ask questions, and most important of all – listen.

If you need a little motivation, or just some fresh ideas, try something like this conversation starter you can download to your iPhone.  Try it out this week, maybe as you are driving from one activity after another.

Ask questions and listen.

Mom, Please Let Me Fail

We have all heard it before, “in order to succeed one must first learn to fail.”  As a parent this means we have to let our children fail before they can succeed.  I know, it is so difficult to watch your child fail.  And it all begins so very early.

As our babies learn to walk it is hard to sit back and watch when you know they are going to fall.  But if we were to swoop them up every time they wobbled, how would they ever learn to walk?

My older kids seem to rarely take my advice, and on the occasion they do I can tell they are not always completely convinced I have any clue what I am talking about.   I have learned to be ok with this.  When they gain wisdom through their own mistakes they truly learn – they succeed.  Through their own experience this newfound knowledge is concrete, definable and able to be reconstructed and amended – they own it.

Forbes Magazine recently published an article, “7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders.”  Guess what number 1 on this list was – “We don’t let our children experience risk.”

So do your kids a favor, let them fail.


Are you looking for a Great Book too?

Certainly I have mentioned this before, but just in case you missed it, I LOVE books.  I especially love really great books and children’s books.  Currently I have been reading quite a bit of non-fiction.  And it isn’t really that non-fiction is one of my favorites, but if I read a novel, I want it to be awesome.  That you see is the problem with finding a really great book, from there forward the expectation has been raised.

So as always, I am on the hunt for another awesome book to read…  Let me know if you have any ideas.

Until then, there is only one week until the announcement of this year’s Youth Media Awards!

On January 27th, the American Library Association will announce various awards for children’s books including the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and Coretta Scott King Book Awards.  If you are looking for some great children’s books to read take a look at previous years’ winners.  Books that have made these lists are always a pleasure.

These are the two books I would pick if I were on the 2014 committee…

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Eye Opening

(Photographer unknown)

Huh?  French Kiss?  That is what I secretly remember thinking the first time I heard the word.  I recall being in elementary school, on the playground, underneath one of those half-dome monkey bar things that all of the playgrounds used to have, when I first heard of a French Kiss.  I had absolutely no idea what those kids were talking about.  But they all seemed to know so there was no way I was going to ask and let it be known that I was clueless.

It was most likely a few years later before I used all of the many context clues I had gathered to really know what a French Kiss was.  There was not really much on television I watched that would explain this, I would never have asked my parents, my brother was younger than I was so he naturally didn’t know anything (at least that is what I thought), so I just had to wait and piece it all together.  At some point I do recall the stunning realization that some of these words I had been stumped by could be found in the dictionary.  I suppose that was pretty helpful.

Have you considered how this process will work for your children?

Until recently I just expected my children’s experience with sex and the like to be similar to mine.

Today I read a post by a thirty-three year old, daughter of a Southern Baptist Preacher and recovering addict, entitled “Three Things You Don’t Know About Your Children and Sex.”  Wow, huge eye opener!

This is what made the most impact on me: Miller states, “Google is the next Sex-Ed.”

Just like we use Google to search for anything else, children are using Google to search for these phrases, like “French Kiss.”  Why not?  Google won’t laugh, criticize or condemn.  This is very logical.

Although the thought of the Pandora’s Box this innocent search might reveal is sickening to say the least.

My desire to maintain my children’s innocence and joy for as long as possible is a constant concern.  Too often it seems our children are approached by evil.  It is reassuring for me to remind myself evil can only be defined by what it is not – the good in the World.  So in order for evil to exist there must also be the good.  We just have to look for it.

This is another good reminder.  Talk to your children.  Talk to them often.  And let them know they can ask you anything – tell them this.  It is my hope that my children will be comfortable asking me, not Google when they really want to know something.

Whistle While You Work

Do your kids have chores?  Mine do.   Even the Commander has chores!


I am absolutely a proponent for chores.  And I don’t think there is an age too young to start.  My 18 month old helps fold laundry.  Sure, he doesn’t fold quite the same way I do, but he can absolutely shake out some wrinkles and throw hand towels in the linen closet.  And he is so proud of himself for helping.

Chores are so much more than cleaning up.  Those little responsibilities given to children are huge.  Chores give children an ability to be a part of something larger than themselves – the family unit.  Chores give children something to be accountable for, something to own and be proud of.  Chores teach children they are not entitled and that hard work is appreciated, even sometimes rewarded.  Not to mention most chores are merely life skills that will only be helpful at some point.  Eventually your child will thank you for giving them jobs a kid, mine have not yet, but I know they will one day.

So why not start now?  Summer would be a great time to ease into a new routine.  Start small.  And if you would like some assistance (maybe motivation) check out these great apps to track chores and encourage your little ones.




(And just in case you are wondering, no I don’t really make my little guys scrub the floors on their hands and knees.  For some reason they chose to do that on their own.)