Mar 24, 2015

Home life (with a baby and toddler).

I've thought for a while that it would be fun to do a post that shows what our at-home days are like. I know I've gathered tips or benefited from seeing how other moms structure their days or manage life with little ones at home so this is my attempt to document what is working well for us at this stage (with a 2 year old and 12 month old). Plus, I enjoy keeping a record of these little things to remember later and if it doesn't get written here it will probably be forgotten (as I don't tend to record lists or little details like these in my journal)!

So welcome to a peek inside our home - this is a typical day if we don't have guests or an outing or errands planned.

6:30am - Miriam wakes up and nurses and then goes back to bed - she is almost one and since she wants to go back to sleep I know she doesn't need this nurse but for now it's working. I normally go back to sleep for a few minutes afterwards too.

7:15 Up for the day - breakfast with my husband and I try to pack his lunch and he's off to work by 7:40. Joshua normally is up for breakfast by 7:30 and he eats his oatmeal while I putter around or look at facebook. (Hmm, perhaps I should stop ignoring my child first thing in the morning and actually sit with him at the table?)

8 - 8:30 Miriam is awake or if she's still sleeping I wake her up and feed her breakfast. I normally change both kids for the day at this point but to be honest if I know we're staying in they might get fresh diapers but stay in their p.j's. The next hour and a half is spent as playtime - Joshua picks out a bucket or two of toys to bring out from his room and they play in the dining area or living room together (I sometimes have to play referee) as I wash up the breakfast and snack-from-the-night-before dishes and try to do a general tidy-up. If I'm ambitious I try to tackle one thing like cleaning a bathroom or vacuuming.
A note on cleaning: Some days I am busy or preoccupied with other things and our house quickly becomes cluttered and messy with laundry and dishes and toys and mail and books and who knows what else. This is normal when you're at home with kids right? Everyone is different in their approach and preference to this, but I try to make it a priority to keep on top of things since having constant mess or clutter around me (in our own home) can stress me out after a while! I enjoy having a peaceful and lovely environment as much as possible so I'm slowly learning how to be more organized and minimalistic as well as forming habits of routinely doing chores so procrastination doesn't cause everything to build up!
So continuing on with our day - we normally have some time reading on the couch or if Joshua wants to we might do an art activity or look at some flashcards. I don't believe in pushing academics too early on kids and my main goal educationally at this age is to encourage creativity and curiosity and hopefully to foster a love of books!

10:00 Independent play-time/nap-time/my break time! Miriam goes down for a nap and Joshua goes to his room for play time on his own. I started this a few months back since Joshua hadn't been going for a morning nap in quite a while. I felt like we both needed a reset mid-morning and it occurred to me to try to encourage him to play quietly on his own. Good for him, good for me! I put the baby-gate up in his doorway so he knows he has to stay in but I can still hear him. The first few times he resisted a bit and we kept it short, maybe ten to fifteen minutes? Now he actually looks forward to this time and happily plays by himself for an hour, talking away to his stuffed animals as he builds towers with blocks or pulls books into his bed to look at or plays with legos. A word of caution - if toddlers are going to be put in a room alone to entertain themselves you must first survey the room and think like a toddler! In Joshua's room we have a high shelf where I keep all his art supplies. One day I thought he was being so quiet he must have fallen, he hadn't. He had climbed up onto a small table and pulled markers down and decorated the entire back of his door as well as a ton of wall space!

During this time I make coffee and try to resist other distractions so I can sit and have some time in the Word and to pray. With a newborn or with older children I know this scheduled quiet hour won't necessarily be feasible so I am grateful for the season we're currently in and am trying to be faithful in seeking the Lord when He provides the time.

11:15 Joshua is allowed out after tidying up what he's played with. We go wake Miriam and I take a minute to make our bed and pick up a few things upstairs. I also shower or get ready for the day while they play in the hallway (it's almost a small room so I keep a few toys there for this purpose).

12:00 Lunch. I often put on a podcast or radio program while I make our lunch and then we sit at the table and eat together. They play some more afterwards and I might go on the computer for a bit to read some blogs or browse pinterest. Once the weather is warmer (this has been the snowiest and coldest winter on record for a while) we will probably try and do a walk or outside time after lunch but for now we just mill about indoors! Sometime before nap we usually find our way to the couch for a library book or two.

1:30 Naptime for both kids. Joshua only seems to fall asleep during this time a few days out of the week but it's still a rest for him at least. I pull the curtains in his room so it's darker and if he doesn't sleep I normally find him in his bed with books or just talking to his stuffed dog. Sometimes I hear a crash as he's brought the lego box from the shelf and emptied it into his bed but as long as he's playing quietly I leave him alone. If he complained I would let him out earlier but he seems to like this second quiet time so I'm happy to leave it in the schedule for the time being!

I used to nap a bit during the first trimester of this pregnancy - I could barely keep my eyes open to do anything else and would often be hit with queasiness as well. Thankfully now that I'm nearly 20 weeks along I'm feeling pretty great and try to use my afternoon free time productively. Well - after a brief unproductive part where I aimlessly browse things online! The internet is good but also offers easy temptation to waste too much time! Normally after this I'll settle in with some reading or listen to a podcast. I might catch up a bit on the kids in their "Letters to ___" that I keep for them in a computer document. Sometimes I'm working on a decor project or I'll go through receipts or bills and update our budget program. There is always something to be done! I also start thinking about what to make for dinner. I've loved having a menu plan in the past but lately that hasn't happened so I'm usually scrambling for ideas!

3-:3:30 Both kids are up. Joshua is sometimes in a mood and I find this is a great time to offer specific activities - playdough at the table or playing with a set I keep in bins out of reach (like a small wooden train track set). Eventually I start dinner and both kids seem to find their way to my feet to play and I try not to trip or step on someone as I move about our small kitchen. (Why do kids do this!)

4:35 Loris is home (unless he's had to work a bit later)! He works only five minutes away which I love since no commute time means our days alone feel like just the right length.  He plays with the kids while I finish dinner and we usually sit down to eat pretty early, by 5:00.

 And that's our day!

Everyone has a preference when it comes to the topic of scheduling or routines. Personally I can't imagine not having a basic plan in mind for the majority of days that we are at home. If we want to go out or do something different then we do, throwing regular naptimes or planning to the wind. But when we are at home I find that having several set things in our schedule guides us through the day nicely.

Feb 6, 2015

Headlines on gender and sanctity of life issues: what's our response?

An online conversation with an acquaintance last week and two headlines I came across this morning brought hazy remembrances of two quotes to mind that I had to go look up:

“If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.” - Commonly attributed to Martin Luther
"Tell me what the world is saying today, and I'll tell you what the church will be saying in seven years." - Francis Schaeffer

The conversation I had (that began with a short comment I made on a friend's facebook post) turned into a debate over the merit (or lack thereof) of a proposed updated sex education curriculum for Ontario schools. (If you do some reading on this, you'll find out the updated curriculum could include such things as having kindergartners question their gender.)

The first headline I came across this morning announced an Ontario school board's aim to "eliminate non-inclusive terms - like 'husband and wife' or 'mother and father'."

The second headline announced Canada's supreme court ruling to allow physician-assisted suicide. From the article: "The court has given federal and provincial governments 12 months to craft legislation to respond to the ruling; the ban on doctor-assisted suicide stands until then. If the government doesn't write a new law, the court's exemption for physicians will stand."

What do the opinions expressed in the first conversation (in support of the proposed curriculum changes) and these two news headlines share in common?  As I washed dishes after lunch and thought about it, I realized the connecting underlying root: each decision or belief represents a questioning or denial of who, and what, our Creator has made us to be.

Although it's true that many in our culture deny the very existence of a Creator and therefore dismiss any discussion of how He has created us to function and why, we still have a crucial responsibility as believers to be able to address these issues and be prepared to answer the questions being asked. Through Scripture, we've been entrusted with truth - how well do we know it? How clearly can we articulate it? 

As a mother, my immediate concern is to be able to share this truth with my children as they grow (and then to others around me as I have opportunity). I need to consider: what questions is the world asking, and what truth is it attacking? What might my kids question as they grow and interact with the world around them?

In relation to our personhood, there are questions about gender (does it matter, and why?) and sexuality (why does God place limitations and what is His good and intended purpose?) and the sanctity of human life (whether in the womb or on the deathbed).

I know what I believe Scripture teaches on these topics, but I feel the weight (with a little anxiety) of my inadequacies in being able to communicate well why I believe what I do at times.

The quote above from Francis Shaeffer  is, I believe, a wise warning to us all. Perhaps it doesn't precisely apply in that the church is headed towards accepting such clearly anti-biblical thinking - but still, there is a tendency to a slow and steady drift towards worldliness and a secular world view in both our individual lives and the life of the church if we are not watchful.

What do we do? How do we fight? I'm impressed with the need to study, to make good use of the sound teaching and helpful resources so easily available to us today. (The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is one ministry that addresses many issues related to gender.)

But above all, may we be faithful in prayerfully turning to the Lord and His word, having our minds renewed as we seek to know Him and the truth He's revealed to us. He is wise, He has the answers, He delights in giving wisdom and ability to those who humbly ask and lean on Him.

This world will continue to surprise or dismay us with news headlines that oppose Who and what we stand for - but instead of being fearful or discouraged, let's see them as opportunities to better know our culture and prayerfully seek to be light in a dark world.

Jan 21, 2015

Craving spring, enjoying books, and a podcast recommendation.

All the cold weather we've been having has finally stirred up in me a yearning for spring. I crave to see stretches of green and new, growing things and to feel warm sun on my skin. Along with this I have a sudden desire to travel and see new places and run through the New Zealand hills...I've never been to New Zealand and actually have no idea why this thought has taken up residence in my imagination but just look at these images and I promise you'll want to join me!

But here we are, still in January, and I'm determined to make the most of this month. Taking today for what it is continues to be a learning process for me - I may wake up with a creative itch or the desire to be really productive or do something new, only to be met with the realities of sick children and a still-prevailing queasiness and a sudden explosion of laundry and dishes. This is life. And despite some of these small struggles or mundane things, I keep thinking there is nothing else I would rather be doing (the New Zealand hills came to mind again, but moving on): this building of the homelife and childhood of my wee people.

I'm finding us in a new stage - my firtborn is 26 months now and his desire for books (and ability to sit still for a story) continues to grow day by day. After way too many readings of Go Dog, Go and a few other favorites (of his) I decided we needed to forge into new territory and realized we haven't used the library faithfully since he was more into very short and to the point board books. So the two of us had a Saturday date at the library and I was reminded of the absolute wealth that is out there in children's books - no need to be going crazy with Dr. Seuss when there's such an abundance of beautifully illustrated, well written stories. (Not dismissing Dr Seuss, but there's a time and a place!)

I know I can tend to have so many ideals for how I want to raise our children - the things I want to do with them and teach them and cultivate in our home. A lot of these perhaps remain just that - ideals and not things I purposely work into our lives. But this is one thing that feels attainable right now - to read together. We can go to the library and bring home stacks of books and make time in our day for at least one snuggle session on the couch with a story or two. And when's a better time than when it's too cold to do anything else anyway!

On this topic, I'm recommending a podcast that I listened to this morning that made my heart beat a little faster because it casts such a beautiful vision of the value of books and building a culture of reading in the home during childhood:

On Living a Storyformed Life 

(And if you enjoy it there are many more podcasts from The Read Aloud Revival that you can find here.)

Jan 6, 2015

A third blessing and thoughts on family planning.

For those who don't know (although I mentioned morning sickness in my last post), we're expecting our third baby this July. Joshua's birthday is at the end of November so we'll have three under three, all before celebrating four years of marriage!

When we found out we were expecting again a month ago (we found out a bit later - apparently I must have been distracted by two somethings this time around?) we were immediately excited and joyful. We love our babies, so of course! My other thoughts after were wait can I do this and will people think we're crazy and darn I just started wearing my pre-pregnancy jeans last week but back to the stretch band drawing board...and other such vain and selfish things.

To back up a moment, with our first two babies only sixteen months apart, the tentative plan was to have at least a two year gap before the next. I was looking at enjoying these two and getting into shape again and experiencing full, uninterrupted nights of sleep. But something began to shift in our hearts, particularly my husband's. He has one brother and even after marrying me (the second oldest of seven), having a large family was not on his radar. He was open to more but would be happy with two or three. But over the last few months I think God was changing his heart and preparing both of us to be open to another child sooner if that was His will. Which apparently was, as evidenced by my growing and queasy stomach.

And this matter of children and God's will brings me to the thing I've been pondering and questioning for some time - how should we, as Christians, view children and family planning?

I have no thought of judging others or coming up with concrete rules and stances, but I'm naturally a curious person and this topic is one I haven't yet been able to settle in my mind.

Much of what I've read on the pro let God control your family size side comes from individuals or ministries that tend to be legalistic in several other areas that I believe God gives us freedom in (although requiring much wisdom). On the other hand, arguments I've seen (from respected Christians) for the God expects us to use wisdom and purposely limit our family size side just don't satisfy me or strike me as soundly rooted in Scripture.

I haven't come to a conclusion yet - I just question Christian culture that agrees that children are a blessing and that we should trust God but somehow the sum of these truths is to decide for ourselves how many are a blessing?

Aren't we told that God is the one who opens and closes the womb? Is the Sovereign one not to be trusted to close it if that is best? Is this idea of limiting children seen anywhere in Scripture (even implicitly)?

Again, I'm not judging those who have come to a different conclusion, only trying to wrestle this one out in my own heart.

Any thoughts and perspectives on this topic - whether you're married or have children yet or not - would be most welcome!