Monday, June 29, 2009

Holding tomorrow in your arms

"The charity of good women is such that their “love makes no parade”; they are not glad “when others go wrong”; they are too busy serving to sit statusfully about, waiting to be offended. Like Mary, they ponder trustingly those puzzlements that disable others. God trusts women so much that He lets them bear and care for His spirit children."

"We salute you, sisters, for the joy that is yours as you rejoice in a baby’s first smile and as you listen with eager ear to a child’s first day at school which bespeaks a special selflessness. Women, more quickly than others, will understand the possible dangers when the word self is militantly placed before other words like fulfillment. You rock a sobbing child without wondering if today’s world is passing you by, because you know you hold tomorrow tightly in your arms."

Neal A. Maxwell, “The Women of God,” Ensign, May 1978, 10

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The One and Under Crowd

It's been four and a half years since I became a mother. My memories of those early months of motherhood are really just a blur of breastfeeding and diapers and all my energy spent getting to know this strange new creature who was my daughter. The transition from full-time-working-woman to full-time-stay-at-home-mother was a challenge I was happy to undertake, but I found myself wondering "What do I do with this baby, all day long, for an entire day, day after day?" So here are some ideas for the one-year-old and under crowd that worked for me.

Sing, Sing, Sing
Sing to your child. It doesn't matter if you are a great singer or not, your baby will love to hear your voice. Sing in the car. Sing in the bathtub. Sing while you're preparing dinner. Sing while you're snuggling. Sing before sleep. Primary songs top the list at our house, but we've also accumulated quite a list of favorite traditional children's song: Down by the Station, If all of the Raindrops, You are my Sunshine, Puff the Magic Dragon, etc.

(If you are interested in seeing our complete song list, leave a note in the comments or email me at nurturemama2{at}gmail{dot}com and I'll send a copy your way).

Read, Read, Read
There are so many wonderful board books available. Make reading (with regular trips to the library) a part of your daily routine. Don't worry if you only get through a page or two in each sitting--it's still worthwhile!

I've posted before about our favorites by Sandra Boynton and Eric Carle, but here are a few more that are well-loved in our home.

Two great articles on early literacy:
Developing communication skills in your baby or toddler
Helping your child learn to talk

Explore the Outside World
Load up the stroller and head outside. There are so many fascinating things to see and hear--trees, birds, cars, flowers. Fresh air and exercise is good for both of you! And if you have another mom to walk with, even better.
I really miss my days of living at Wymount and being able to step out my door and take a walk around the Provo temple and up into Rock Canyon!

Other places to explore: grocery stores, pet stores, museums, parks...the list can go on and on! Be creative. Talk to your child as you go and show them what a fascinating world you live in.
Give your child the opportunity to "touch and feel". A pile of leaves, cold winter snow, a sandbox, soft grass. Just watch closely because at some point they will likely do a taste test!

Explore the Inside World
Make your kitchen safe for exploring. Moms spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and so will your child. Have a few places like this that are safe for your baby to explore.

Plastic dishes are really quite fascinating things! So are measuring cups, spoons of all shapes and sizes, pots and pans. There's no need to go shopping with a kitchen full of toys.

Stimulate the Senses
Try finger painting with colored yogurt. Let them sniff the spices you use when you bake. Listen to stimulating music. Sit on the front porch and watch and hear and smell a summer rainstorm.

Most importantly, just hold your child close and let them see your smile and feel your love. That's the best thing to do everyday!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Immerse yourself in the scriptures

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994): “Success in righteousness, the power to avoid deception and resist temptation, guidance in our daily lives, healing of the soul—these are but a few of the promises the Lord has given to those who will come to His word. … Certain blessings are to be found only in the scriptures, only in coming to the word of the Lord and holding fast to it. …

“… Recommit yourselves to a study of the scriptures. Immerse yourselves in them daily so you will have the power of the Spirit to attend you in your callings. Read them in your families and teach your children to love and treasure them” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 82).

“Search the Scriptures Diligently,” Ensign, Apr 2009, 63

Friday, June 19, 2009

On Fathers

Obviously, this blog focuses a lot on mothers. But where would we be without fathers?

"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families."
The Family: A Proclamation to the World

"In order to strengthen the father in the home, I make two simple suggestions: first, sustain and respect the father in his position; second, give him love, understanding, and some appreciation for his efforts. . . .

"In terms of giving fathers love and understanding, it should be remembered that fathers also have times of insecurity and doubt. Everyone knows fathers make mistakes--especially they themselves. Fathers need all the help they can get; mostly they need love, support, and understanding from their own."
James E. Faust, “The Father Who Cares,” Ensign, Sep 2006, 2–6

"We encourage you, brethren, to remember that priesthood is a righteous authority only. Earn the respect and confidence of your children through your loving relationship with them. A righteous father protects his children with his time and presence in their social, educational, and spiritual activities and responsibilities. Tender expressions of love and affection toward children are as much the responsibility of the father as the mother. Tell your children you love them"
Howard W. Hunter, “Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign, Nov 1994, 49

"Fathers, yours is an eternal calling from which you are never released. Callings in the Church, as important as they are, by their very nature are only for a period of time, and then an appropriate release takes place. But a father’s calling is eternal, and its importance transcends time. It is a calling for both time and eternity".
Ezra Taft Benson, “To the Fathers in Israel,” Ensign, Nov 1987, 48

"The sacred title of 'father' is shared with the Almighty. In the Church men are called and released. Did you ever hear of a mortal father being released?

"...Fatherhood is not a matter of station or wealth; it is a matter of desire, diligence, and determination to see one’s family exalted in the celestial kingdom. If that prize is lost, nothing else really matters".
Ezra Taft Benson, “Great Things Required of Their Fathers,” Ensign, May 1981, 34

"God bless you, dear fathers. May He bless you with wisdom and judgment, with understanding, with self-discipline and self-control, with faith and kindness and love. And may He bless the sons and daughters who have come into your homes, that yours may be a fortifying, strengthening, guiding hand as they walk the treacherous path of life. As the years pass—and they will pass ever so quickly—may you know that "peace... which passeth all understanding" (Philip. 4:7) as you look upon your sons and daughters, who likewise have known that sacred and wonderful peace."
Gordon B. Hinckley, “‘Great Shall Be the Peace of Thy Children’,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 50–53

I am grateful to be married to a man who fulfills his calling as a father so lovingly, balancing well the many demands on his time. You can visit his thought-provoking gospel blog here. Thank you, Jared, for walking by my side as we travel on this journey as parents.

To my dad, thanks for spending time with me. I remember riding with you in the big truck to haul water. We would sing lots of songs--I especially remember shouting loudly at the top of our lungs "FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!" at the end of Mrs. Ol' Leary.

You're a great person to share a birthday with! I love you!

Happy Father's Day

This video is a great example of a father who knows what's most important. Watch it, you'll be touched.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Screen Time and Free Time

Screen Time
It is probably inevitable that in this day and age, our children are going to spend some time each day in front of a "screen"-computer or t.v. If you paid attention to my summer schedule you probably noticed that the Ant Bug has screen time every afternoon. The Ant Bugs screen time gives me one-on-one time with the Sweet Bee to get her ready for a nap, and gives me a little time to myself (I confess, I usually take a 10 minute power nap then).

Here are the sites that she most frequently visits. Where children have fun learning to read!
This is my number one recommended site. There are four levels: Starfall ABCs, Learn to Read, Fun to Read, I'm Reading. Everything is presented in a fun, interactive manner. The Ant Bug started using this site when she was 2 years old and she hasn't tired of it yet. I can't say enough good about it, so just go check it out.

PBS Kids: Curius George, Super Why, Sesame Street--all the favorites

NickJr.: Dora, Diego, Blue, etc.

Sesame Street

Storyline Online: Actors read childrens books aloud

Spell with flickr: Have fun with letters doing things like this

KMcElman_090514_A2 letter B letter C

Bembo's Zoo: This is just really cool

And two sites where you can make art without a mess:
Leave a note in the comments if you have a great site for children to share!

Free Time
As you plan out your summer, I just wanted to make you aware of a few great "freebies".
Mars Real Chocolate Relief Act: Get free chocolate every Friday this summer (limit of 4 per household--I've already received one coupon in the mail)

National Park Fee-Free Weekends: There are 3 fee-free weekends at many National Parks this summer. Check this list for a park you might like to visit.

Don't forget to check out your local library! Most libraries offer some kind of summer reading program with prizes and activities. Check the calendar for free events. Last week we went to a Music Together class and this week we went to a juggler show. Lots of variety and lots of fun!

For more ideas for cheap summer fun visit Being Frugal is Fabulous.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Discipline must be motivated by love

"One of the most difficult parental challenges is to appropriately discipline children. Child rearing is so individualistic. Every child is different and unique. What works with one may not work with another. I do not know who is wise enough to say what discipline is too harsh or what is too lenient except the parents of the children themselves, who love them most. It is a matter of prayerful discernment for the parents. Certainly the overarching and undergirding principle is that the discipline of children must be motivated more by love than by punishment. Brigham Young counseled, “If you are ever called upon to chasten a person, never chasten beyond the balm you have within you to bind up.” (In Journal of Discourses, 9:124–25.) Direction and discipline are, however, certainly an indispensable part of child rearing. If parents do not discipline their children, then the public will discipline them in a way the parents do not like. Without discipline, children will not respect either the rules of the home or of society.

James E. Faust, “The Greatest Challenge in the World—Good Parenting,” Ensign, Nov 1990, 32

Thursday, June 11, 2009

4 Activities for Kids

Here are a few fun activities to try on a long summer day!

Rainbow in a Bag (from More Mom Time)
Mix the following in a pot on stove:
1 cup cornstarch
1/3-cup sugar
4 cups cold water

Heat, stirring constantly. Once it starts to thicken - remove from heat.
Divide between as many bowls as you have colors (food coloring). Add some food coloring to each bowl and mix. Primary colors are great!
When it has cooled, scoop some of 2 or more of your goop into a ziploc bag. Seal the bag and enjoy squishing and squeezing to blend the colors.
And if squishing the bag isn't enough, my girls had a blast mixing up all of the leftovers in the bowls. Messy, but fun!

Watercolor Initials (from Blissful Kids)
Contact paper

Draw and cut-out your child's initial from the contact paper. Stick the initial onto the paper. Make sure you give the contact paper a good rub so the colors won't seep underneath it during painting.
Let your little artist go to work painting the entire paper. When finished, let your painting dry, then peel off the contact paper.

Cutting Practice

We printed off these cute paper dolls and the Ant Bug had a fun afternoon cutting them all out. She didn't really play with them much after she was all done, but it was worth it for the cutting practice!
Sensory Activity: Dig and Find (from No Time for Flashcards)
Your choice of rice, dried beans, unpopped popcorn, oats, etc.-we went with rice.
Small toys or items to find-we used plastic letters and animals
Storing and scooping supplies-plastic containers, spoons, measuring cups, etc.
I loaded up two large containers with rice, hid a few toys inside, and let the girls go at it. Finding the toys was pretty easy, but they really enjoyed scooping and pouring the rice and transferring it between containers.
It got even more fun once the feet were included!
Try not to stress out about the rice all over your floor! Sensory activities are messy, but they are so important for this age. That look of happiness makes it all worth it!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Only a short time to focus on our children.

"I am impressed by countless mothers who have learned how important it is to focus on the things that can only be done in a particular season of life. If a child lives with parents for 18 or 19 years, that span is only one-fourth of a parent’s life. And the most formative time of all, the early years in a child’s life, represents less than one-tenth of a parent’s normal life. It is crucial to focus on our children for the short time we have them with us and to seek, with the help of the Lord, to teach them all we can before they leave our homes. This eternally important work falls to mothers and fathers as equal partners. I am grateful that today many fathers are more involved in the lives of their children. But I believe that the instincts and the intense nurturing involvement of mothers with their children will always be a major key to their well-being. In the words of the proclamation on the family, “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102)."

M. Russell Ballard, “Daughters of God,” Ensign, May 2008, 108–10

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Summer Schedule

The lazy days of summer are here! But I've got great plans, so I don't think we'll be too lazy!

I am really excited about our summer schedule because I think I've hit on a good balance of fun, free-play and learning activities. Here is what our summer schedule looks like:

7:00-10:00: Morning Routine

10:00-12:00: *Get Out and About

12:00-1:00: Make Lunch, Each Lunch, Clean-up Lunch

1:00-2:00: the Sweet Bee naps, the Ant Bug has computer/movie time, and the Mama gets time for herself

2:00-3:00: the Sweet Bee naps, the Ant Bug and I do reading lessons and piano lessons

3:00-4:00: Play time, Snack time

4:00-5:00: A Book, A Song, and A Craft

5:00-8:00: Dinner and Bedtime Routine

These times are not set in stone, but it does give us a nice guideline to follow. My children and I really thrive on the predictability of a schedule. The Ant Bug always asks me what we have to do each day--this week she even made up a little calendar and wrote down an activity for each day.

Just a few details on our *Get Out and About category. We live in a pretty small-ish home without a backyard, so we all like to get out of the house for a portion of our day. Here are some of the things that we will be doing in that time span:

-visits to the library (be sure to check out my Reading List to see what books we're enjoying)
-ward playgroup
-Free Family Film Festival
-teach piano lessons while my girls play with friends
-trips to the natural history museum and museum of art
-playgroups with friends
-swimming, splash park, beach, springs (we are taking advantage of life in Florida!)
-grocery shopping, errands, etc.

Here are a few links for more ideas on preparing for and spending a summer with kids:
Keeping the Kids Busy this Summer on Make and Takes
Preparing for Summer Vacation on Just Organize Yourself
Summer Schedules Series on Organizing Your Way
Summer Activities for Kids on Frugal Dad

I think it's going to be a great summer!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sunshine Days

"Find joy in your children. Don't over schedule them or yourself. You may not be able to take them on exotic vacations. It doesn't matter. When the day dawns bright and sunny, take an excursion to the canyon or the park. When it's cloudy and wet, read a book together or make something good to eat. Give them time to explore and learn about the feel of grass and wiggliness of worms." (p. 36)

Marjorie Pay Hinckley, Small and Simple Things (2003), 31.

Mondays are usually my days to stay home and work hard (laundry, recover from the weekend, etc). I had a pretty good list of things to do today. But this morning the "day dawn(ed) bright and sunny". I realized that my laundry would wait, but my little girls are growing up quickly before my eyes. So we packed a picnic lunch, slathered on the sun screen and headed out to enjoy the water and the sunshine together.

We had a lovely time, and it was time well spent!

(As a side note--I got my laundry done too.)

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