Friday, March 28, 2014

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Friday, March 21, 2014

12 Ways to Get Kids Outside- and Keep Them There!

Spring is finally here...the calendar says so, and one bold crocus has poked its head up through our snow, so there is no denying it.  Time to kick the kids outside after a long winter of being cooped up.  The goal is to keep them out there for as long as possible so that they can come up with as many ideas, solve as many problems, take as many deep breaths of fresh air and bust through the knees of as many pants as possible.  Here are a few tricks I use to get my kids outside- and keep them there!

12. Make them go out for 10 minutes.  Once they are out, they are likely to want to stay out. Unless it is a polar vortex, it is not child abuse to make a child go outside.  Tears are salty and very unlikely to freeze.  Get them out there!

11. Set it up so that the kids can go out, come in and clean themselves up independently.  Kicking them outside is supposed to make your life easier, not harder!

10. Make it easy to get their outdoor toys and put them away again.  Use bins, buckets, bike "parking" spaces so that things don't get left behind the car or eaten by the mower...whatever it takes so that they can clean up by themselves.

9. Give them real things to play with outside A few pails, shovels, some real pots and pans to "cook" in and real silverware from the thrift store are the best toys you can buy.

8. Pick your battles.  We have a few firm and fast rules- helmets must be worn, boundaries must be respected, basic safety stuff.  Other than that, we try to let them rule themselves outside.  I don't believe you have to prepare kids for every awful scenario of injury, kidnapping and danger that could arise.  A few good rules and a bit of covert supervision out the window is sufficient.

7. Don't mediate arguments.  If kids are playing outside together, it is up to them to get along...or not.  We reminisce about the good old days when kids played outside all day together...pretty sure those moms were not out there negotiating five minute turns on the tire swing.

6. Teach them how to take care of each other.  Stay together.  Make sure the littlest one doesn't get left outside alone.  Make sure nobody goes by the road.  If someone is hurt, help them.  Am I my brother's keeper?!  Yes!

5. Use clever questions like:"are you happy out there, or are you ready to come inside for your nap?"  I call these Mommy's win-win questions.  Somewhat akin to "are you still beating your wife?", they are also effective on customer service reps: "should I expect all your products to break after 2 weeks, or did I just get a defective one?"  Get creative- they're fun!

4. Be incredibly boring.  Remember you are not the playmate right now- fold laundry, pay bills, stare into your coffee, master 2048...just don't chat or be interesting in any way.

3. Be ready with chores.  I try to casually mention several chores that I could use help with at some point during the day before sending them out.  Nothing motivates my kids to avoid me like a list of chores.

2. Read stories about children who explore.  The Boxcar Children, American Girl books, Little House on the Prairie, The Magic Treehouse books...there are many great ones.  Sometimes all it takes is a comment like "wow, our tree reminds me of the honey tree in the Kirsten story" to get their imaginations rolling.

and drumroll please......

1. Leave them alone.  Play is the work of childhood.  Don't interrupt their work!

Happy Spring- here's to lots of great outdoor play.  Hopefully a few of these are useful to you.  If none of these work, try hiding a bag of animal crackers outside and tell the kids they can eat them if they can find them.  Call it a "safari."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Yes. This.

If the link doesn't work on your device, try this link.

So when four separate people all send you the same TED talk on the same day, I guess you have to listen to it, right?  This is a great talk on the foster system and I think I can feel the combined head-nodding of every Safe Family right now.  Doing the same thing over and over gets you the same results over and over.  It is time to try something new!

Yarn Along- Happy Birthday Edition!

In honor of the late Mister Roger's birthday this week, I thought I had to do a little ode to my most favorite sweater pattern...the in threes cardigan.  We have a few little versions of this sweater that seem to get worn at least once a week or so.  It is fun to knit, easy to knit, seems to grow with the child, and is cute to boot.  I know it doesn't ZIP up the front, but Mister Rogers, consider yourself honored anyways!

As for reading, I have just picked up a copy of Growing Up Again, by Jean Clarke...a book that was recommended at the last Safe Families training.  We are also reading a lot of American Girl Doll stories right now- both in print and the audio books.  Haven't picked one up in about 20 years, so it is kind of fun to revisit the stories and watch my children enjoy them.  So far we've read Kirsten's stories and have started on Molly.

Happy Wednesday!
Linking up with Ginny today over at Yarn Along!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


"Grace is connecting to a person's heart, not their behavior." -Renee Franks

Recently I had the chance to meet with one of our pastors, who wanted to share a bit about our ministry with Safe Families in his sermon.  I got to tell the fun story of our new house and how God orchestrated everything just perfectly for that.  I got to share funny little stories about some of our Safe Families was a nice chat.  At the end, he asked the hardest/best/challenging question...why do you do this?  What is it that makes you want to connect with mothers in crisis in this way?

Hmmm...good question!

The Bible says a LOT of things, but two things it says over and over and over are: love each other and care for the widows and orphans.  There are a lot of people doing great, important work with orphans (and always more people needed...this is so important), but I feel like sometimes we overlook the widow part.  Maybe the word confuses us- we think that there really aren't all that many widows these days.  But change "widow" to "single mother" and voila, you have identified a very vulnerable group of people...people who Jesus probably would have spent a lot of time with.

It is so. very. hard. to make it on your own.  Work a minimum wage job, pay for childcare and afford a place to live?  Try it and see how well you do!  It is NOT an easy task.  Add in the fact that in our society, a lot of people live away or estranged from family, away from the network of mothers and aunts and sisters and brothers...away from their so many of these women DO make it I don't know, but they have my respect.

Once upon a time I thought maybe I would travel across the world to make a difference somewhere, but life rolled on and brought me a wonderful husband and three beautiful children.  For now, we are putting down roots where we are...but that doesn't let us off the hook on those widows and orphans.  Sometimes the needs in your own backyard are the hardest to see...or at least to accept.  But they are there...and once you open up your eyes to them, how can you turn away?  You can't fly home from...home...and leave the troubles on the other side of the ocean.  No, they are here, and they are real.

I think sometimes it is easier to love people who live so far away, who are so different from us.  We have some ugly reactions to the poor, marginalized, struggling people here in our towns.  They are different from us- or are they?  They point out everything that is unfair about life.  How, but for an accident of birth, we could be them.  We didn't work harder or deserve more than them...we just got lucky.  We see their behaviors...the way they act, what they choose to buy, their affiliations, their clothes and we try so hard to believe that they are other.  They are NOT like us.  Because if they are not like us, we couldn't be them.

But we could.  Because they are just like us, in all the ways that count.

Grace is connecting to a person's heart, not their behavior.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Serial Casting Graduate!

Someone is excited to get her casts off!

Have we mentioned that this process requires a LOT of waiting?

Worth the wait- her nighttime AFOs with PURPLE straps!

Finally getting to wear the fancy outfit from her Aunt and Uncle!

Check out those shoes and her daytime AFOs

But really, the backs are cuter...she picked horses and has named them Elsa and Anna.
I am happy to report that we have no more casts at our house today!  We went in for a marathon appointment today. They cut the casts off, we washed her legs as usual, and then they brought in both her day and nighttime AFOs (ankle foot orthotics).  They drew a chalkline around where they wanted them to sit, and then took them down to the "shop" to have them adjusted...while we did a nice long puzzle and read some stories.  Then she got her feet and ankles measured again, walked up and down for the specialists to see, and then we discussed things like seeing a physical therapist out by us each week, horse-riding therapy, what to do and not do with the AFOs, and they taught us the 4 exercises she has to do without the AFOs each day.  

Then they brought them back up, and we started the l.o.n.g process of trying to figure out which of the three shoe sizes we brought along would be best.  We CRAMMED her feet into them over and over, trying to loosen them up.  They removed the foot beds, watched her walk, put two foot beds in one side, watched her walk, took one out, watched her walk, etc.  I appreciate that they REALLY fine tune it and want to get it just perfect...making sure her pelvis is level, her knees are at the correct angle, etc.  Then we got our PT exercises that we will do with the braces on.  Finally, finally we hit the road.  

She got to take a short bath (this week we have to limit it to 10 minutes to prevent any swelling that could make the AFOs tight), but she really enjoyed it.  Then she got to try on the beautiful purple outfit that her Aunt and Uncle sent her from Singapore as an end-of-casting gift.  She was soooo pleased.  

She is feeling good about the braces- eager to show them off to everyone.  She went to bed tonight in her nighttime braces with the strict instructions NOT to walk on them...not even as far as the bathroom.  Luckily, it looks like with a bit of practice she will be able to get them on and off by herself (the daytime ones with the shoes are another story- not easy to get on even with help!).  And so we move on to the next phase...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A New Room!

Well, this was supposed to be one of those fun before and after shots...but I realized after we cleaned up and put this room together that I had never taken a before picture.  Which just goes to prove that it has been in a state of utter chaos and mess constantly since we moved in last August.  But now we have a guest room...a grown up guest room.  We have a playroom/guest room with a twin bed that has served as a bedroom for our Safe Families kids- and we almost always have the pack n play set up in there for whatever visiting babe we happen to have at the moment (the same reason we have a high chair in our kitchen when our youngest has been out of it for over a gets used at least once a week by friends and I got tired of hauling it in and out of the garage!)  So now we have a guest room with a Queen sized bed.  Come visit us, put any kids you have to bed here and we'll have a glass of wine and play a game!  We LOVE LOVE LOVE to have people over!  Your room is waiting!

Friday, March 7, 2014


Oh, oh, tomorrow is one of my favorite mornings...RESALE SHOPPING DAY!  The huge resale in our area is on.  I have a friend coming into town with her husband and ADORABLE baby to join us.  We get up early, a couple of us meet there at 8am to get our numbers, then grab a cup of coffee before we start our power shopping at 9am.  

I get the majority of my kids' wardrobes at these twice-yearly events...for three kids I tend to spend a bit under $200...not bad if you ask me.  There are TONS of clothes, shoes, toys, books, and a lot of baby gear.  I wish I had known about these when Lego was little.  Babies outgrow things before they wear them out, so most of the stuff is in pretty nice condition.  

I have gone through the kids' clothes and bins, figured out what they need for the Spring and Summer and made my list.  I like to include not only what they DO need, but also...NO PAJAMAS for LEGO or NO SANDALS for BEE. 

Now if they would just have a rack of clothes that all fit me...

Hooray for resales!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Yarn Along

Preemie Hats...Ravelry Notes Here

I've been happily knitting some tiny baby hats recently.  I am blessed to have MANY friends expecting babies soon, which should keep me happily in knitting and sewing projects.  I made a few of these tiny hats for a couple of the babes who I expect will make an early appearance.  And if they don't, they are great for dolls, too.  There are few things as satisfying as making baby hats- they fly off the needles!

In other happy knitting news, my wonderful friend gave me some skeins of wool that her brother spun on his farm up in Minnesota.  It is gorgeous, and I am still pondering what exactly to make with it...I am thinking a bag of some sort might be really nice.  Can't wait to get started!  Any pattern ideas for me?

Linking up with Ginny over at Small Things today!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lent for Kids

Lent begins tomorrow with Ash Wednesday.  Every year our church does a neat Lenten activity.  Families collect one item for the food pantry each day during Lent, and then bring their boxes to church on Easter to donate.

We like to include the kids, so they painted our Lenten box.  Then we wrote a Bible verse on it and put 40 little boxes on it so that we can check off each day as we add the food.

I think this is a nice way to mark Lent with little ones.  Giving up something for Lent is not developmentally appropriate for small children, but this is a simple, tangible way to mark the 40 days, and focus on the giving part of the season.  The message I stress with the kids is that we give to others as a reflection of the love that Jesus gave to us.

I found some cards- 1 for each day of Lent- with a bible verse on each that takes you through the very basic stories of the bible.  I think we will use these for a small daily devotional. 

And finally, we are going to try out a Good Deed Bean jar to reward and draw attention to the kind things we can do for others.  On Easter the beans will morph into jelly beans to celebrate all the good deeds.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Serial Casting- another update!

Casts off, legs washed, waiting to do some walking and get measured.

Done with PT and measuring, wrapped in cotton and ready to be casted.

Getting the plaster cast on one takes 3-4 people to do each cast...this is only half the team that crowds into the room.  She is pretty good about holding still!

The casts are drying.  This is her least favorite part- the chemical reaction that hardens the plaster makes them get very hot and she hates that feeling.  The pouty lip is quite justified!

Here are a series of pictures to take you through the general casting process.  What I didn't photograph was the part after the casts dry where the orthotists and physical therapists (yes plural...there are usually three to four working together) try different levels of lifts and inserts in her cast boots to get her walking just how they want, and then she goes through and does another session of PT in the casts to make sure that everything looks good and that we know the exercises for the week.  Sometimes this takes 30-45 minutes to get just the right combination!

We got HAPPY NEWS this week...these are probably the last casts!  Funny enough, they are also the last two colors she has not had yet (orange and I am craving dreamsicles!), so she can say that she had every color.  She was SUPER patient today while they took molds of each leg twice...once for her daytime AFOs (ankle foot orthotics...aka leg braces) and again for her nighttime AFOs.  To make the molds, they put on a long cast sock and then wrap her legs in just the fiberglass cast material (the colors) with a strip of plastic down the inside.  Then they take out a utility knife and slice them open along the plastic strip (Be still my mom-heart...a utility knife...and I thought the saw was bad!)  They peel out the sock layer and voila...fiberglass legs!  They will use the molds to make her AFOs (she chose to have a picture of a horse on them, and purple straps- no surprise there!).

So we get next week off (woot!) and then we go back the next week to fit the AFOs...we have some shoe shopping to do before then.  She will wear "regular" shoes, but about 2 sizes bigger than her usual shoes, in wide.  She will need knee-socks to go under the braces as well.  They said to plan on it being a long appointment because fitting the braces can take a long time.  After seeing how long it takes just to fit the cast boots, I believe it...but I am grateful that they know what they are doing.  I am continuously impressed with how knowledgeable the staff are- they pioneered this process and it shows!

I talked with another mom today (we were swapping casting woes and cover patterns) and she said that they did serial casting last Spring at a small office near their was just casts, no measurement, no physical therapy program...and it was a complete failure.  That made me good that it really is worth the drive in to the children's hospital to get this done by experts.  And she drives THREE hours in each week, so I guess we don't have it so bad!

Sooo...I think that is the story for now.  Hooray for progress and moving on to the next stage of this process!