How To Help Your Boys Balance Fun And School

Kevin Doyle, over at Toys Advisors Blog has written a great guest post today about balancing. It’s tough with kids but especially with boys, if like mine, love to keep their heads buried in video games. Check out what Kevin has to say…..

Do you stand looking at the calendar and dread that awful date when school starts? Do you stand and recall the seemingly, interminable arguments that arise around school, homework, sports, computer games and hanging out? Does the incessant bowed head over a play station or tablet drive you nuts when you know there are school projects to be done?

Did you look into the bright eyes of your young son and know that there is an intelligent, curious being inside that fun-loving body and yearn for a time when he simply did as you said instead of rolling his eyes when you tried to get him out of play mode and into work mode?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then read on, perhaps we can give you some idea of how to balance that schedule, so there is time for everything.

Draw up a schedule.

The first place to start is to have a schedule to which the entire family can stick. In our busy lives, it pays to have things laid out, so everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing, what their responsibilities are and when there is time to have fun.

The place to start is to give everybody a notebook with the days of the week on each page and the day broken up into 15-minute intervals. Ask everyone to take time in the week to jot down what they have been doing and how long it took them. In this way, you can show your boys that doing chores does not take for-EVER but take little time and make things so much better for everyone.

Get everyone around the dinner table and on a large sheet of paper draw up a schedule using input from the whole family. Record the time for chores, the time school, time for homework, and make sure there is time for play. Children will be more likely to stick to the schedule if you include them when drawing it up.

Be reasonable about the time set aside for each activity. It is pointless to say that a young child must do homework for three hours. They will not concentrate for that length of time, and you will end up with a recalcitrant child and many hours of fighting on your hands. Set time periods commensurate with the child’s age so that they learn to enjoy learning new things and don’t become bored or despondent.Blog guest 1

Make time for play.

It is very important that children see that there is time for fun in their lives, but it needs to be balanced with their responsibilities. So, when drawing up your schedule, block in the time at school, but don’t put homework immediately after school.
Allow a period for a sport to be played or for play and then block in some time for homework. Again, after homework find time for more play. In this way, children develop an understanding that responsibilities must be taken care of, but they can be balanced with fun times.

blog guest 2Fun can be educational too!

If your son is struggling at school, find ways to make his fun time educational too. For example, if he is struggling with math then find some games for his play station or tablet that will help him with his math problems. If you do not have electronic means of playing, then look around for educational toys that you can use to help him overcome some of his problems at school. Obviously, this supposes that there is no medical reason that he is struggling.

If your son is a little older, use his hobbies as a basis for helping him overcome some problem areas. Math is needed to calculate batting averages, touchdowns or yards gained, as well as calculating the cost of costumes for a play or working out the money saved by reading on an electronic device versus buying paper books.

All of these things can be made fun while helping him to understand where math fits into the world. There are many examples on the internet, so spend some time browsing and get some ideas on how to make his fun time educational as well.

blog guest 3Teach your son to multitask.

Take the time to show your son how seemingly wasted time can be used to achieve his goals. Is he sitting in the back-seat while being driven to soccer practice? Perhaps he could read that book on which he has to submit a report? Another idea is to get him to write out facts for a test on flash cards and take them with him in the car. He can learn the facts and you can make a game of testing him on the answers on the way home.

Set boundaries and don’t deviate.

To become responsible adults, children must learn that they have rights but all rights come with responsibilities. They need to be guided towards an understanding that at this young age school is their most important responsibility and while they have the right to a good education they have the responsibility to apply themselves to that education.

Applying themselves to that responsibility is a top priority, but there is time set aside for fun. When the schedule says it is time for homework then games, sports, and other distractions are turned off, and we apply ourselves to work.

Emphasize that removing the game box is NOT a punishment but a favor. Removing the temptation will help them to concentrate on the task at hand. A small treat after work goes a long way to making that task more bearable so break out the cookies after homework.

Conclusion
Teaching your son to set up and keep to a schedule will not be a walk in the park, but it is an important skill and life lesson that he will need to learn.
It is vital that children develop discipline and self-control as one day they will be off to college and into the working world where these life skills will make a huge difference to how they respond.

I am Kevin, co-founder of Toys Advisors blog. I have a lovely family with my wife Anna, my son Tom and my daughter Jane. I spend most of time with my family, I learn and share about parenting and DIY.

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Ever Asked Yourself What is God’s Purpose for Me?

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How often have you pondered over the question What is God’s will or purpose for my life? or What does God want me to be? I have spent much time pouring over the same questions and honestly the answer seems to change often. I have all sorts of ideas that pop into my head that I want to do or accomplish for the sake of His glory.

I will wake up and have something on my heart and think to myself, yes that’s a great idea God. I’m going to do that! However, the next day my feelings have totally changed or I have an even better idea or plan.Or I feel that maybe my idea from yesterday is just not possible.

During my prayer time the other day, I ran across a verse that has opened my eyes and given me insight to God’s plan and will for me.

The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise, the simple.   ~Psalm 19:7

There are 3 very important truths in this verse about God’s plan for us

What God wants of me is good and perfect for me.

Doubt can be one of my biggest enemies. But this verse reassures us that God made me with a plan that is uplifting to my soul and refreshing to my spirit. It’s not going to make me feel weighted down and burdened. Jesus says My yoke is easy and my burden light.

I can trust Him.

I can have complete faith knowing that God loves me. He is for me. And His plans are best for me.

God’s plan is simple, wise and uncomplicated.

It’s me who make it complicated. If you are trying to do something that is very complicated and you continually are running into closed doors and road blocks, then that may not be what God wants you to do or maybe it’s not something He wants you to do right now. I’m not saying that some things we are called to do are not hard but God opens doors and makes the way for us.

In the book, Design for Discipleship, Dwight Pentecost says “The word of God claims absolute authority over your life.” And the bible tells us everything we need to know about who God is and who we are in Christ. He wants whats best for you. You can trust Him. It’s just that simple. Look around and think what is the most simple, easy thing I can do where I’m at in life right now. He has placed you there….on purpose.

 

 

A Devotional Thought for the Stepmom Dealing With Some Difficult Feelings

a-new-heartAre you a stepmom that is having a hard time right now because of some difficulties you are facing? We have all been there. I wrote this short devotional post three years ago but feel it is still a hot topic for struggling stepmoms.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. ~Ezekiel 36:26

During my engagement to my husband, I scoured the internet reading posts, forums, articles, etc….about blended families and being a stepmom. The relationship with my little 6 year old stepson was very important to me and I wanted to do things right. I remember reading forums, posts and articles about stepfamilies and stepmoms.

I was surprised at how many stepmoms are struggling. There were numerous posts about how the stepmom can’t stand the stepkids, or how the stepchild tries to manipulate to get more attention from their father, or that the husband doesn’t understand.

The thing is, the father and his kids are a package deal.

Maybe you are one of those moms. You may feel hopeless in your family situation but prayer changes things. Maybe it’s not the stepchildren, but your relationship with your husband that needs mending. God doesn’t want your family to fail. God wants your family to be strong, compassionate, and loving. And I truly believe it starts inside our own heart first.

I encourage you to pray for your husband and your children no matter how you “feel”. Ask Him to help you see them through His eyes and ask Him to change your heart. Ezekiel 36:26 is a promise that God will change your heart if you are willing and open. Don’t think for one second that because your family was a product of divorce or brokenness that God thinks less of you or doesn’t want your family to succeed! Remember that Jesus lived in a blended family…

Let God work healing in your marriage and family. Let Him start by giving you a new heart and renewed spirit.

A Special Place-Teen Room Makeovers For Our Kids

When my husband and I got married back in 2008, we were living in the house I had been in since 1998. It was a small 1000 sq ft home with one bathroom and when we combined our families, the five of us were a bit crowded. We both wanted to move and start fresh and after a lot of hard work and nearly a year of searching and trying to sell my house, we moved into what we hope will be our forever home in July of 2010.

I love our house! Growing up as a preacher’s kid, we moved a lot to plant or rebuild churches. I never got to put down roots, so it was my dream to give my children what I didn’t have, raising them in a nice suburban country neighborhood where they could ride their bikes and have other kids to play with and we have been so blessed. In fact, our yard has typically become the gathering place for the neighborhood boys.

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We have slowly made our house a home. Over the summer, we decided to surprise and redo all of our children’s bedrooms while they were gone on summer vacation with their other parent! Keep in mind, I am not one of those brilliant decorating bloggers whose home looks like the completed project at the end of a HGTV episode. However, I wanted to share what we did.

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Our daughter, Meredith, was the first to go on vacation with her dad and his family. She is starting her senior year and is also duel enrolled in college. She spends a lot of time doing homework and studying in her room. Her walls were already a pale aqua and comforter set was yellow and gray.

I got my inspiration and ideas for the canopy from Cottage Instincts. We took the bed that I had since childhood and painted it black to match her tall dresser. I found a black TV stand on Craigslist for $10 and made a cushion for it. We turned her desk in to a dressing table (she never used it, preferring to study on her bed), added a little wall art and a lamp and we were done (at least for now).

 

Our youngest son was next to go on summer vacation with his dad. I have written about Luke often and his brain condition, Chiari Malformation. Because of his condition as well as the fact that I homeschool him, he spends a lot of time in his room. He is really into college basketball and his favorite team is NC State, so we decided to give him a red, black and white Wolfpack room.

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I want to give a BIG shout out to my amazing husband. He made the trophy case, painted Luke’s old desk, and the stripes on the walls. The inspiration for the trophy case came from Shanty 2 Chic. We changed out the antique brass handles for modern ones on his long dresser and framed his posters and certificates/awards.

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Our oldest son was the last to go on vacation with his mom. He will be turning 14 soon and loves duck camo. The boys once shared a room and we hung their beds from the ceiling to give them more floor space and he wanted to keep his bed that way. We painted three of his walls a camo khaki color and the 4th wall, a deep burnt orange.

We took my old dresser that went with the bed frame from Meredith’s room, gave it a fresh coat of black paint and added new drawer pulls. We covered his bed and corner shelf with duck blind netting. We framed some awards and photos that were special to him. I found this poem, tweaked it and took one of his favorite photos from our trip to the mountains, had it printed and framed.

 

ethans-room

lb-graphicsHowever, the biggest highlight of his room was totally inspired by this awesome blog post on Make Them Wonder. Our wonderful neighbors, Brande and Lee, have a fantastic vinyl decal business L & B Graphic and can make anything! (In fact they made this scripture Joshua 24:15 that has been on the wall in our family room since 2010.) I sent her a picture of the shadow duck hunter and they turned out perfectly. We added reed fencing and LED lights.

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I have read so much about making room in your heart and life for your blended family but I believe it is equally important to make a special place for them in the home. A place, inspired by who they are, where they can relax and be themselves. My husband and I felt that there have been some major changes going on in each of their lives for the past couple of years. We wanted to make a space for them that was stable, comfortable no matter what was going on outside of our home in their lives, a true haven.

It doesn’t have to be a complete makeover like we did. Not everyone has enough space to give each of their kids their own room but you can make a special area for them with pillows, special bedding, pictures, etc… The most special, most wonderful part was the look on their precious faces when they got back and walked into their new rooms for the first time. PRICELESS!!

What I Can and Can’t Imagine about Melissa Graves, The Mom Who Lost Her Toddler Son, Lane

As I am packing and preparing for our family to go on vacation in a few weeks, I can’t stop thinking about Melissa Graves, the mom whose little boy was snatched by an alligator while vacationing at Disney. I can imagine she was preparing much the same as I am now for her family’s vacation last week.

I can just imagine her, excited with anticipation of the fun, memories and adventures that were coming, as she washed and lovingly folded size 2T socks, pajamas, and everything in between. Moving so methodically, casually from room to room, drawer to drawer.

I can imagine her checking to make sure her little guy had his special blankie or stuffed toy, knowing as mommies do that no one would sleep if it were left behind.

I can imagine her packing sippy cups, Cheerios, and Gold Fish into a smaller bag that would be close at hand in case little Lane let his mommy know he was hungry for a snack. I can imagine her adding a few beeping, button-laden toys to the front pouch of that bag to try and keep him busy or still for about thirty seconds, knowing that her toddler had boundless energy and never seemed to stop moving.

I can imagine her posting on Facebook and social media about her family’s upcoming trip to Florida, maybe even counting down the days or “sleeps” until Disney.

I can imagine her taking one last glance around the house, making sure nothing was forgotten, checking the thermostat to make sure it was set just right and reminding her husband to make sure all the doors were locked and their home was secured.

I can imagine the pleasant exhaustion that she felt as she tucked her children in at the end of each fun-filled, miles of walking, stroller pushing days they had so far.

I can imagine her watching Lane happily splashing in the water, finally occupied for a few moments and in those few moments feeling peace, happiness, and contentment.

Bubbles

Photo credit: StephanieByrdPhotography.com

What I can’t imagine is the sheer heart-stopping, horrifying fear she felt when realizing he was there one minute and gone the next, like being caught in a nightmare where everything is in slow motion and you can’t run fast enough.

I can’t imagine the agony that she must feel, not being able to scream because it’s so deep inside her with its choking grip making it hard for her to even breathe, much less utter a sound.

I can’t imagine the sickening nausea as she packs away the sippy cups, snacks and toys knowing the round chubby little hands of their owner will never again reach for them. Can’t imagine her folding and packing away soft little pajamas with their sweet baby smell that she had dressed him in the night before.

There are many facets of this unspeakable tragedy that I cannot possibly imagine but sadly it doesn’t make this any less real. The reality is the unimaginable happened and this mom is going home with aching empty arms and a gaping bleeding hole cut through her chest that nothing or no one on earth can fix.

However, although we can’t imagine ever being in the living nightmare that she is going through, we can honor the memory of her son by hugging our children a little more tightly and drinking up every precious moment we have with them whether they are adventure-filled or ordinary. We can honor him by sending our prayers and sincerity, instead of blame and judgement about something we cannot possibly imagine.

As for me, I will be continuing to think and pray for Melissa and her family, thoughts and prayers that she probably never imagined she would desperately need.

How a Coke Revealed to Me What Was Important in my Marriage

Scarcely had I left them when I found him whom my soul loves; I held on to him and would not let him go. ~Song of Solomon 3:4a

My husband and I just celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. I found a clean white envelope on the kitchen counter simply addressed to my angel. Later, as I placed the sweet card on my desk that he had given me, I noticed a Coke can sitting there. I remembered the day he gave that to me as well.

It had been one of those days. I had come home from work unusually stressed and tired. Trying to scramble to get dinner ready while snapping at my husband who was trying to help me, as he often did. As I was getting the plates and silverware, he gingerly came up to me holding a can of soda. I looked up and it was one of the new “share a Coke” cans and on the side it had the word Soulmate. Eagerly he said, “I want to share this with you over dinner.” Immediately I felt all the tension of the day leave my spirit. Isn’t it amazing how one act, one word can change everything?
Later, my heart felt heavy with guilt as I lovingly rinsed out that soda can and placed it among my special treasures on my desk. How often does my husband get the back seat in our life or after our children for that matter? How often does he get my leftovers? I would never treat others, such as my boss with such disrespect. I know the answer is because at home, I am most comfortable. I feel safe among my precious loved ones enough to let my guard down. But does that make it more excusable?

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Scarcely had I left them when I found him whom my soul loves; i held on to him and would not let him go. ~Song of Solomon 3:4a

It has been a long and difficult journey thru heartbreak and divorce to finding my way to my husband and the same for him. Our dynamic is different because we each have children that we must prioritize. We may not have the luxury for just the two of us to go off on an exotic getaway. The children’s medical bills, braces, college and family vacations come first. However, I can show him he means so much to me, not in the elaborate but in the every day. I can give him my best, my encouragement and support. Set aside a small part of my day just for him.

I want to be my husband’s true mate, a real partner in life and I was reminded of that by a soda can. I pray that I will always be continually reminded. Reminded that showing my husband everyday in some small way that he truly is the one that my soul loves.

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post and South Africa’s All4Women

 

Blue Blessings

WP_20160319_21_25_43_ProThere are moments that happen in our lives that I like to refer to as blue blessings. They happen when we are really down and heavyhearted. They seem to come out of the blue and whisper that it’s going to be okay. Surprise us with their simplicity to touch our hearts and encourage us to keep going, and that somehow what we face has purpose and meaning.

It’s been just over a year since my son, Luke, had brain surgery for Chiari malformation. He has come so far and I think it’s given him a love and compassion for others in ways that continues to surprise me. I have had so many tell me how special he is and inspiring to them.

Recently, I learned that a coworker who had battled cancer before and beat it had recently found out it had returned. My heart broke for her. Luke decided to make a large card for her. He spent hours on it, drawing and coloring. He would not let me help in any way.

When he was done, we packaged it up and also sent with it, a prayer bear. I included a note explaining how Luke and I had prayed over it and when she hugged it close, we prayed she would feel our love and prayers of healing and comfort for her.

Lately, I have been discouraged. Luke has had some health issues come up that have burdened my heart with worry. Because he has an incurable brain condition, he will never have just a normal headache or just a typical stomach ache. As his mom, it will always cause me to wonder if it is something more. It will cause me to question if I am doing the right thing, making the right decision for him on how to treat it or what doctor we see.

So the sweet card that we received this past week from my coworker came out of the blue and the words she wrote at the end brought tears to my eyes and to my little guy’s as well. Sometimes we just need to know that there is a reason and purpose for the bad times we face. We need to be reminded that we make a difference, that we matter. Sometimes it comes to us as blue blessings.

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When I Felt Judged at the Grocery Store After my Son’s Diagnosis

Mighty blog 2I only had a moment to run in for an emergency stop at the grocery store. I had so much stuff to try to fit in that day, (like trying to find big boy pajamas that buttoned down the front). I had just found out my sweet little boy had to have brain surgery.

During the first few days of learning he had Chiari Malformation, an incurable condition and needed surgery, I had such a hard time being in public. It was difficult seeing everyone go about their normal lives when it took everything I had to not fall apart with worry about what was to come. The hysterical emotions rocketing through me at that time made it exceedingly hard to fight the urge to scream, cry or both, so a trip to the grocery store was not an easy task that day.

My goal was to just get in, get out and I had almost succeeded when I turned the corner and passed her. She looked me up and down, judgement etched on her face, then scoffed and smirked as she passed. Maybe she was just having a bad day. Maybe she didn’t like the way I looked or what I was wearing. Who in the world knows? I made a beeline toward the register swallowing back tears, refusing to allow them freedom until I got to the car.

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The whole incident only lasted five seconds, but in that brief moment, my fragile spirit was crushed. Although it’s been over a year since my son’s surgery, I have still not forgotten the look on her face that day in the grocery store. It woke me up and got me to thinking. We have hundreds of five second interactions every day and we really have absolutely no idea what others around us are going through. It made me realize how in just five seconds, we have the power to change things, to go a little farther, or to do a little extra for others, (even encourage a mom who is carrying a world of worry on her shoulders).

In just five seconds, I can smile and ask how you are doing, or give you a compliment. In five seconds, I can look you in the eye and acknowledge you instead of making you feel less or even invisible. In five seconds, I can give my children a few more kisses or a big bear hug rather than say I’m too busy. In five seconds, I can take my husband’s hand rather than push him away. In five seconds, I can give my loyal furry friend an extra scratch between his ears. In a matter of mere moments I can truly make a difference in those around me and in the lives of those I love so much.

In just five seconds, we have the power to encourage or discourage. What are you doing with yours?

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Dear Hurting Stepmom: Today is a Good Day

Hurting Stepmom

I know that feeling and that look. The excitement and hope that once lit up your face has slowly, overtime, been replaced with disappointment mixed with frustration and possibly a side of confusion. Oh you try to hide it behind a “Every Thing is Awesome” smile and though most people who have absolutely no clue what it’s like to be married into a blended family won’t notice, I do because I too have been there.

I know the things you say to yourself repeatedly. “This is so much harder than I thought!” “Why am I viewed as the bad guy?” Why can’t they see me for who I truly am?” “I have always been good with children so why can’t I connect with my stepkids?” “Why does the man I love so much get so defensive when I try to talk to him?” And the vicious thought spiral goes on and on.

However, today is a good day.

Today is a good day to extend grace to yourself. You put so much effort at making this family work and extending grace to everyone else. Do you not think that you deserve to extend that same grace to yourself? Stop beating yourself up for how you handled the latest fiasco or the issues that have gone before that. Embrace your value and contribution in your stepfamily and give yourself a break.

Today is a good day to forgive. After learning to extend grace to yourself then take it to the next level and forgive. I’m not talking about forgiving your spouse, the kids, or the ex. That is a topic for another day. Forgive yourself.I’m sure you have heard the expression that forgiveness is not for the other person, it’s for you and it is, especially when you forgive yourself. It frees you from the “if” trap. If I had just said this or if I had just done that then things would be so much better. Truly forgiving yourself frees you from the “what ifs” and “what has been” and embraces the beauty of “what can be”.
Today is a good day to be you. I tell my teenage daughter all the time that all you can do is what you can do. You cannot change others. You cannot make the ex like you. You cannot make your husband or kids fit into the family box you think they should be in.You still have the power, however, to leave your mark on your blended family.

Instead of focusing on the issues or all the wrongs, make a memory instead. Go to the park and swing with them. Find a new trail and hike with them. Teach them how to play the old school games you played as a child like “Duck duck goose” and “Yahtzee”. Look up fun science experiments to do with them. Make oobleck or flubber. Pray with them. Read to them. Make their favorite food for dinner.

The possibilities are literally endless. By extending grace, forgiving yourself, and embracing who you are you can truly be a positive powerful force in your stepfamily. You have the power to build a legacy, a stepmom legacy one memory at a time.

Today is a good day to start.

Sincerely,
A mom who is working on her own family legacy