Friday, August 19, 2016

Simple + Easy Activities for Little Ones

We are reaching the end of a sweaty, stuffy summer in Texas, and I'm definitely ready to see cooler temps (even though they probably won't show up until October!) and more routine around here. These last few weeks have been a lot of short outdoor playtime in the morning and indoor activities in the afternoon (it's just been too hot to go out, well, at least for this Minnesota girl!)

So, I've been trying out some new creative activities to help switch things up.

Before you think that I spend every day doing something creative and uber fun with my little guys--let me just tell you that most days my creativity is handing Luke the watercolors and letting him paint. However, it is fun to add to some different activities to the mix--so I'm going to share a few ideas that we've done lately that Luke (and Sam) have enjoyed :)

1. Shower Curtain painting and sponge throwing. It was inspired by this idea from Busy Toddler. Really, the only thing I did differently was let Luke paint his own design on the shower curtain (or a tarp would work too) before throwing sponges. I also thought writing letters, numbers, or shapes would add a bit of learning to the mix. We weren't so educational, but it was fun!

2. Pan and roller painting. This was inspired by Luke finding the roller in the garage and pretending to paint the walls. I simply made it a little more colorful by squirting paint on a cookie sheet and laying paper down across the table for him to roll on. ps. I buy this paper like this to make art projects 100% easier to clean up. Plus, it lasts forever and makes cute wrapping paper ;)

(poor Sam! It was so bright!)

3. Laundry basket web. I used a laundry basket and made a web with yarn and then plopped small toys on the bottom for Luke to grab with tongs. I thought Luke would absolutely love this activity, but it was a little "eh" for him. However, I think his younger self would have been much more into it. It was an easy activity to bring outside and at least kept him out of the dirt for a bit.

4. Water bowl. Whenever we go outside with Sam, I fill a big plastic bowl with water, add a few water/random toys, and let Sam splash his hands in it and grab for toys. It keeps him busy and cool without him getting too wet. Win-Win.

5. Print + Create Kits. Okay, okay--a little bit of shameless plug. But! We really have had fun with these this summer.  Luke was part of the creative and "product-testing" for many of the activities and they kept him busy. Plus, we had lots of chats about the Fruit of the Spirit, God's creation, and what we are thankful for. His favorite is definitely the outer space kit (he has colored the space ship coloring sheet at least 6 times), but I'm kinda partial to the Thanksgiving and Prayer set (How can you not love donuts?)

Since we still have many more toasty days to come, I'd love to hear your ideas or latest kid-friendly activities you've done with your kids--I can always use some fresh ideas!

Happy Friday!

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Dear Samuel: 6 Months

Mr. Sam,

How are you already half a year old? Really--it feels like yesterday that they placed this adorable baby in my arms. And now, well, you are 20 pounds of squishy, happy goodness.

You are really starting to show off your determined and go-getter side. You are trying so hard to figure out how to move around. Right now, you can reach really well, and have pretty decent balance. Even when you do fall on your belly over and over, you keep trying. I have a feeling that when you start crawling, I won't be able to keep up with you. You are so busy! You are constantly moving--when you eat, when you sit, when you lay down, and when you play. I love seeing your tenacious spirit!

You are still digging solid foods and like 90% of what we give you. Even if you seem to not like it at first, you generally give it a few bites and end up actually liking it. We know you really don't like something because you make lots of spitting noises and scrunch your face up. Luke love to imitate you and inform us when you don't like food. We haven't tried much beyond purees because we want to take it slowly and make sure you are ready for more solid foods.

I'd like to report that you are sleeping through the night and not waking up so early, but unfortunately, you are not. You still wake up at least once a night and still often wake up before six. I guess we'll just have to be patient and wait for you to figure it out ;)

You still have that tuff of hair (I just can't bring myself to cut it!), still love smiling at people, and making you laugh is as easy as pie. Sometimes just making a silly face at you gets a giggle out of you. Although you are a happy guy, you still have your grumpy moments--like when you get scared of a loud or sudden noise, get a toy taken away (thanks to Luke), or don't get fed fast enough ;)

Sam, you're an absolutely joy to our family, and I'm so thankful that you are ours.

We love you!


ps. I'm actually writing this 2 days before you are 7 months old (second child problems!), but even if I'm a bit behind, I still want to capture you at this age :)

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Boundaries + Restlessness

--I wrote this post about a month ago and am finally pushing publish. When I wrote it, I had been wrestling with the thoughts, feelings, and words for a good bit--so writing it (processing it) was the way I finally was able to pin down so many of my restless feelings. Now, even just a month later, life feels more grounded. Often, it surprises me the way that God uses writing words to teach me. It's just a blog post, yes. But it's also a testament of God's work in me--so that's why I am finally hitting publish :)--

I hear Luke rustling in his bed in the room nearby and lay quietly on the bed while Sam finally drifts off to sleep.

Maybe--I think quietly (hardly daring to even think noisily)--he's not actually awake. I groan inwardly as I hear Luke pop out of his bed and loudly throw his door open.

I lift my tired self off the bed and reach Luke before he makes more noise that would wake Sam up. I feel frustrated that I had literally one minute of space between my kids tandem napping and try to shake off the midday tiredness that I seem to always wear after months of disjointed sleep.

Luke's mood is a little sour and I try my best to not let it rub off on me--because I'm not exactly thrilled that I didn't have time to take the power nap that I desperately needed (and wanted). I quick find a snack for Luke because I know his mood well (because I experience this mood often): hangry.

We settle into the afternoon and I try not to think too much about the to-do list that seems to grow because the time for myself seems to dwindle daily. Between the kids alternately napping, a certain toddler who has turned into a night owl, and a baby who is up two or three times during the night, I often feel a little clausterphobic about time.

Something about this season has triggered a response that looks like a lot of scrambling and not a lot of settling. Maybe it's because I like to place my time in tidy places, and when that isn't happening, I tend to feel disgruntled and distracted.

Do I complain when Josh get's home about the time I didn't have? Do I spend time scrolling social media while Luke plays next to me--because I just need to escape the moment for a while? Do I dwell and inwardly (and outwardly) grumble about how tired I am? Do I get frustrated and frazzled by tasks undone because I didn't have a moment to do them? Do I wish that my day could be orchestrated by my own schedule rather than by the two sweet little guys in my home? Do I feel annoyed that I can't do everything I want to do?

Yes. Sometimes I do. Actually, no, I often do.

Here's the thing-- I get why I do and feel those things. I bet that many of you would say, "Well, Nicole, of course you do. So do I." Maybe we'd feel solidarity and justification because of those shared feelings.

But here's the other thing-- I want to draw some boundary lines. Because right now I know my attitude and my time management is not my best work. It's as though I'm trying grow a crop in a gigantic field instead of setting up a boundary around a small, workable plot of ground.

The boundary isn't about having a rule--it's about saying this is where I'll stop and grow something.

For example, the level of social media buzzing in my mind is too loud, and it's definitely to helping me that about what is true, and pure, and lovely. I find my mind eating up articles that fuel resentment and annoyance. I see posts (mostly on Facebook) that are painful to read--comments that are so bitter and mean. Not only that, but it often gobbles up time that I could spend tending to more important parts of my life. Plus, after scrolling through social media, I rarely feel refreshed.

So, I decided to delete Facebook off my phone. And when I feel overwhelmed by voices and images, I take a day or two to go social media free. I am drawing a line and saying--I know this is best for me. I know this is good. And it really is. It takes me out of every one else's life and puts me in my own.

I am also drawing a line about my attitude. I'm asking God to help me walk diligently through this season--to abide in Him. Right now, it's easier to grumble than to to grow.

I feel convicted about my eye-roll attitude in my abundant life.

Yes, I'm tired. Yes, I wish I had more time to pursue those life-giving parts of my life. Yes, I hear the world saying "you should be able to do it all."

But Psalms 62: 5 needs to be my Yes.

"Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him."

Even though a good night's sleep, kids napping at the same time, to write without distractions, or to finish up those house projects would be glorious--they are not the magic ticket to contentedness.

God is.

I could have all the good things, and only God would do. I could have all the worst, and only God would do. He's all I need.

That's my version of Philippians 4:12.

Today, I'm asking God to help me draw lines. dig in where I am, and trust Him with the story.

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