Make Today Better

My mothering lows are far lower than I ever imagined they would be. Mothering is also far more difficult than I ever expected. At the end of a particularly frustrating, irritating day it seems like all my efforts have been for nought. Despite my good intentions and hard work, my children are selfish, whiny small people who I often do not want to be around.

The next morning three simple words cross my mind: MAKE TODAY BETTER.

I already know that my children are not quite as bad as I felt the night before – they have weak areas in their character, to be sure, but also I have failed to institute and enforce necessary family systems that would help us all live together better. I have been inconsistent in my approach to discipline.

Overall they are warm, loving kids who like to have fun.

So MAKE TODAY BETTER.

I can institute the system that our family needs and begin to enforce it.

I can reevaluate my discipline strategy to target what are the real issues and leave the rest alone.

I can make time to really see each child, even for a few minutes, and let them know my interest in them personally by listening to them or playing with them or reading a book to them.

If God will give me the love and grace that I otherwise do not have, today can be much better than yesterday.

Toys We Keep

 

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Among people who call themselves minimalists there is a broad spectrum of how much stuff people keep. Some minimalist parents keep only a few toys for their kids and it works out well.

While we did get rid of a lot of toys and will continue to purge as needed, there are a fair amount of toys that we kept. Children like toys. I liked toys when I was young. We have long winters where we live, and going outside can be impossible for long stretches of time. Toys are a good thing for us – especially those toys that encourage creativity.

Here are some of the toys that we keep:

  • Legos & Duplos
  • K’Nex
  • Hotwheels cars & tracks
  • Wooden & foam blocks
  • Trains & tracks (we have Thomas Take ‘n Play & wooden sets from Ikea)
  • Mega Bloks
  • Games & puzzles (that have their pieces)
  • Balls
  • Nerf guns
  • Trio blocks
  • Play kitchen set
  • Transformers
  • Stuffed animals (only the well-loved ones)
  • Toy musical instruments (like these)

Some people would probably disqualify us from the minimalism category after looking at this list, but in reality it is a good amount for us. We live in a very small space, but unless multiple items are out at once, this amount is easily manageable. These are the toys that get played with over and over.

Parenting Breakthrough: Not Discipline, but Gluten?

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I never thought I’d be writing this post!

I used to say things like, “People have been eating bread for millenia. How can it be suddenly bad for us?”

But last night I gathered together all the remaining gluten-containing food items in my kitchen and will give them away today.

My family and my kitchen will be gluten-free now for one simple reason: Anna is happy.

After two solid years of reading parenting books and wracking my brain to find a way to parent our strong-willed, spirited daughter, we finally have had a breakthrough.

On August 1, in desperation, I began a novena to St. Thérèse (of Lisieux), Anna’s saint, asking for her intercession for our precious and very difficult daughter who seemed so unhappy so much of the time.

On August 8 I consulted with a naturopathic doctor regarding Anna. She told me to make Anna’s diet gluten-free because of suspected internal inflammation, probably in her small intestine. We started that night.

It was not until six days later that I noticed a difference. At first I thought she was responding to the stricter discipline I had been using. Then I realized that her whole demeanor, especially noticeable in social situations, had changed. As the days went on, it became increasingly obvious that something BIG had happened.

Anna was happier: warmer, open to other (even new) people, more interested in playing with her older brother, more cooperative in transitions or when she needed to change behavior that was affecting another person, and simply more engaged in life instead of fighting against it.

I do not know if I would have believed a story like this if I had not seen it happen before my eyes.

But it’s true! My parents, who babysit our children often, have confirmed the unmistakable change.

Caleb (husband) went gluten-free the same night as Anna, and he has noticed a big difference himself. He says that his head is clearer, he feels better internally, and it’s as if he always had a slight fever before (without realizing it) that now is gone.

So we embark on our gluten-free journey. It has been easier than I would have thought so far. I have a lot of learning and experimenting to do, and more questions.

But mostly I am thankful and happy. Thankful to God for providing this breakthrough. Thankful to St. Thérèse for her prayers on Anna’s behalf. And so SO happy to see our beautiful daughter embrace life with joy.

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Update 12/1/17

There have been a lot of ups and downs since I wrote this in August.  I’ve learned a lot and I think we’re on a good road, but I don’t have everything figured out.  Go here to see a more recent post about how I suspect leaky gut syndrome is the root problem and the ways I hope to help heal it.

Our Favorite Children’s Books

Books! There are so many we have grown to love since having children. Some of them are from our own childhoods and some are not. To make it easy I’ll put our favorite books in list form with notes.

  • Goodnight Moon – This became a nightly read when our oldest was a toddler.  Read it slowly and quietly and you’ll almost put yourself to sleep.
  • Sandra Boynton books – My introduction to these silly, fun books came via my oldest niece. Some of our favorites are The Going to Bed Book, Pajama Time!, Blue Hat, Green Hat, Snuggle Puppy and Night Night, Little Pookie.
  • Bread and Jam for Frances and other Frances books by Russell Hoban. Frances is just delightful.
  • Katy and the Big Snow, Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel, The Little House, Choo Choo and Maybelle by Virginia Lee Burton. She was a mastermind at illustrations for children as well as the stories behind them. Our six year-old still loves tracing Katy’s path through the snow of Geopolis.
  • Just A Bath, Just Lost and other Critter books by Mercer Mayer.
  • The Please and Thank You Book and Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry.
  • Big Dog, Little Dog and The Alphabet Book by P.D. Eastman.
  • The Boy With A Drum, My Good Morning Book, My Goodnight Book, Poems to Read to the Very Young, Baby Dear and others illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. Wonderful!
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Eric Carle. We give each animal in Polar Bear its own voice, and the last page becomes a song.

I look forward to adding many many more books to this list in the future!