A Mother’s Embrace, A Glimpse of God’s Grace (featured article)

http://blogsbychristianwomen.com/2014/08/a-mothers-embrace-a-glimpse-of-gods-grace/

Thank you blogsbychristianwomen.com for allowing me to be a guest writer in their featured reads, parenting section. What a great opportunity to share my heart and my experience with other women-wives, moms, moms-to-be and singles who want to move towards the direction I am in.

Truly, it is only by God’s grace that I was able to learn and grow from this experience. May the spotlight be on the One who is able to redeem, restore and refresh my life daily! Feel free to share it with others so they to can be encouraged by God. May God be glorified!

It is not I but Christ!

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” 

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Sensory Bin Success!

My interest sure has shifted from tiaras and tutus to trucks and trains after having a little boy. I’ve driven by construction sites countless of times but it has never caught my eye. I never even stopped for a glance. Heck! It wasn’t even on my radar! But having boys has definitely diverted my attention. Now, I would spot it from a distance!

After I saw how much he loved his construction book “Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site” (great book by the way!) I thought it would be fun to make it come alive by allowing him to have his own little construction site. A couple of weeks ago, we were also fortunate enough to get up close to a real bulldozer when we saw the tow truck drop it off onto the site. I asked permission from the driver if we could get close and take a picture with it. Micah was “truck-struck.” He couldn’t believe how gigantic the machine was. It never looked that big in the pictures!

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Thumbs up indeed!

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I gotta admit, that was pretty cool even for my husband and I!

 

We built our own construction site sensory bin. A sensory bin is a small container with a variety of materials placed together to stimulate the senses. Sensory bins give your child opportunities to assume the role of a scientist and explorer as he handles, manipulates, sorts, and examine the items in the bin. They also increase your child’s ability to be attentive. The potpourri of items in your bin will give him the ability to make decisions on how he may want to use them. Creativity and imagination are given a free reign. Self-discoveries allow for new concepts to form such as new vocabulary, sorting, and integrating old and new knowledge. You are also giving your child the opportunity to develop the essential sensitive period of refining his senses. For those of you who have a couple of children, it gives them a chance to work together. As an added bonus, did I mention that it is so much fun?

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Micah enjoyed these sensory bins so much so that not only did it occupy him for 1.5-2 hours in the morning, he asked to do it again after he woke up from his nap. It fostered lot of independent work, exploration and self-entertainment. I observed how he worked with his materials and used his imagination. Phrases, sounds, and memorized paragraphs of books that contained those items were being recited. He even got the books that he associated those items with and integrated them to his activity. He also cleaned them all in the sink after he was done because the coffee beans made them a little sticky. 

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He even asked to wear his crane truck pjs to match his work for the day!

 

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He was reciting the lines he memorized from each page as he matched each truck.

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Clean those trucks!

After seeing how much he enjoyed the trucks, I decided to do it with dinosaurs too. I was able to find a book that included the dinosaurs and had information about them (which made it so much easier for me since I don’t know what they are called). He had a blast and I did, too! It brought me joy to see that such simple things can bring such delight to him. Best of all, we used everything we had at home and incorporated them into the activity.

Materials:

Construction Site: plastic bin, Toy State Caterpillar Construction Mini Machine 5-Pack Target about $5.89 (vs Amazon $15), old Folgers coffee, pearl barley


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Can you see what I picked up? The bulldozer, excavator and the dump truck all had their share of fun…now it’s your turn!

 

Jurassic Park: plastic bin, Junior Groovies dinosaur book with dinosaurs inside, small container with vinegar (as lake/”bath tub”) with a drop of vanilla extract, blue food coloring (to make it look like a lake), baking soda, marbles, trees collection from Safari Ltd.

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Check out both their smiles! These two are such eager learners!

Micah loved being in his Jurassic Park dream world. My original thoughts were, the baking soda would be the ground, the vinegar would be the lake and the marbles as the rocks. But he had a completely different idea in mind. He pretended that it was a dinosaur bath party! The baking soda was the soap that he covered the dinosaurs in and he gave them a bath in the vinegar tub. The fizzle effect caused by the reaction of the vinegar and the baking soda really entertained him. I would hear him say words like dinosaurs take turns, wait in line, and “Yehey! Bath time!” It was fun to see and hear him use his imagination and get creative. I changed the vinegar every 20 minutes when it stopped fizzling. Towards the end, Micah asked for two containers with different colors, he used it to sort out the marbles from the dinosaurs.

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Concentration and fascination at its finest!

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Vinegar + Baking soda bubble bath was a real dinosaur treat!

I hope you’ll get inspired and create your own little spaces for your little ones to enjoy. Feel free do share your ideas here, too!

Routines that Rock our Cradle

Juggling a toddler and an infant is definitely one of the most entertaining and exciting chapters of my life. But it can definitely turn into a circus act, too! Therefore, establishing a routine quickly became my top priority. Having a routine allowed all of us to settle into the new changes and transitions that happened over the past 5 months. We were able to adjust our schedules which allowed us all to better spend our time together as a family. It also helped us to deal with each child especially with Micah since we wanted him to adjust well to his little brother. It allowed us to have time for ourselves and with each other as husband and wife.

Because the boys understand the predictability of their schedules, they have learned to adjust and be flexible even if we are at a different place or even in a different timezone. We are able to leave the boys with my wonderful in-laws on weekends so we can catch a late-night movie or go to dinner with friends and come home to them fast asleep. We can also go on road trips or take 14-hour flights with minimal fussing and take vacations with ease. It’s easier for us to find babysitters (family and close friends) to watch the boys for us when we have to attend weddings or “adults only” events because we are confident it will be a pretty “easy” evening or at least I think so…because they still end up babysitting for us again (on another occasion…which I am guessing is always a good sign! haha)

Research has shown that set routines are very important to a child’s sense of well-being and growth. They are happier when they know what to expect because it gives them a sense of security and comfort. This helps them trust adults and feel more comfortable in exploring their environment. With my little one, settling him on a fairly predictable pattern has definitely helped him a lot. I structured his naps to sync with his older brother’s with occasional mishaps. This definitely allows me to have some “me time,” cook, take care of the house, fold the never-ending laundry pile, and even take a shower! But the first rule of establishing a routine was: NIGHT TIME IS SLEEP TIME!

Predictable routines also encourage learning. Waving hello and saying goodbye are some social routines that adults quickly introduce to children. Routines help children make transitions between activities and events. Remember, routines don’t have to be rigid to be effective. Flexibility and variations are fine as long the child knows what will ultimately happen in the end. Children feel safe and also develop a sense of mastery when a routine has been established. Helping them create a structure allows them to internalize constructive habits that eventually lead to independence and confidence.
Of course you have to throw in some spontaneity to spice things up a little bit sometimes. Staying up to pick up your visiting relatives from the airport or hanging out with a friend can certainly be a welcome exception!

Benefits of Having a Routine in our Home


1. I can cooperate!


Micah knows exactly what to do when we say “go upstairs and get ready for bed.” Of course, now that he is able to negotiate, he often asks to read one more book or he needs to drink water but other than those predictable requests, he knows what needs to be done before bed. Titus, on the other hand, also benefits from the same bedtime routine. Once we are done with reading, singing, and praying with both of them (and drinking milk for Titus), they both know that they will be escorted to bed, given hugs, and kisses and it’s see you in the morning. Titus falls asleep on his own once we lay him down in his bed, too. This definitely reduces power-struggle and nagging!

2. I’m in charge!


Micah loves being in charge of himself. He loves being independent. Most kids do! Giving them the freedom to do things for themselves increases their sense of mastery and competence. Being independent decreases the need to rebel and be oppositional.


3. I can look forward!

Micah is slowly understanding the concept of looking forward to something. He is learning that once he wakes up from his nap, he can have some quiet reading or Lego time. It gets him excited for what is ahead. It may be an occasional trip to the park or playing in the sandbox, too.


4. I am expected to obey joyfully.
Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents for this is the right thing to do.”

Micah knows that this is what happens in our home. He is expected to obey mommy and daddy because it pleases God. With a routine, we are most likely expected to stick with healthy expectations that benefit everyone in the family, because that’s the way we do it in our household. This results to healthy habits in a happy home, where everything runs a little more smoothly (for most days at least).

5. I am intentionally loved!

We enjoy doing things with our boys but we like to have down time too. We love just rolling around on the ground and dancing to random made-up songs together as a family. I think they do, too! Micah looks forward to his special time with daddy after dinner when they read books, play basketball, throw the football or hit golf balls together. I love hearing them laugh together and enjoy each other. Titus loves tummy time with Daddy before he goes to work in the morning. He actually gets up around the same time everyday because he knows his dad will pick him and bring him to our bed to snuggle with him. More than anything, these are the memories I want the boys to have with us. That we set aside time apart just for them. Building little connection rituals into your schedules every day allow these precious moments to happen. Making a habit to set aside bonding moments with your children creates a sense of security, an environment of love and a lasting memory of special connections that only you and your child can have.

It can be really challenging having an infant and a toddler at the same time but having a set of routines will help your family life more manageable and enjoyable. It’s also good to have your husband partner with you in imposing these routines so that your kids will know that these are the house rules to be followed even if one of the parents is not around. Each day will have spur of the moment incidents that you can’t control and that’s fine. Just deal with it and go back to your routine. It takes patience and practice. Soon enough you’ll realize that each member of your family benefits from the routines you’ve put in place.

Daily Schedule  
8:30-9:00 Wake up/ Quiet reading time
9:00-9:30 Brush teeth / Breakfast
9:30-12:30 Homeschool/ Work Time (errands, museum, swimming class, library)
10:15-12:00 Titus’s morning nap
12:30-1:00 Lunch
1:00-1:30 Quiet reading time
1:30-3:30 Both boys nap
3:30-5:30 Quiet reading time/ Lego
5:30-6:15 Playtime
6:15-6:50 Dinner
6:50-7:50 Daddy Time!
7:50-8:15 Wash up, ready for bedtime
8:15-8:30 Read, sing, pray
8:30 LIGHTS OUT!

Teaching the Creation Story the Creative Way

Teaching my boys about the Lord is a top priority in our family. Raising them to love God’s Word and obey it is our desire and prayer for them. This week, as we went through our Bible study, I decided to teach them about creation. I wanted them to know and understand how great our God is since I knew that at the end of the week, we would be visiting the Cal Academy of Sciences. We went through each day following what God had created. I came up with these activities to go with our lesson to make it more fun and exciting for Micah and Titus.

Genesis 1:2-3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”

Materials: flashlight and a dark room

ACTIVITY: I would shine the flashlight on different parts of a dark room. As the flashlight is on I would say, “light” and if it was off I would say “dark”. He also learned day and night. He had a lot of turning the flashlight on and off and shining it on different parts of the room.

Genesis 1:6- 8 Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” 7 And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. 8 God called the space “sky.”

Materials: clear glass with half-full water, blue food coloring, and shaving cream

ACTIVITY: I had a lot of fun with this one too! I got a clear glass and filled it half way with water. Then I filled the top half with shaving cream to represent the sky. I asked Micah to drop blue food coloring to emphasize the difference. Then later, we learned about the different kinds of clouds as we continued to experiment on it.

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Genesis 1:9-10 Then God said, “Let the waters beneath the sky flow together into one place, so dry ground may appear.” And that is what happened. 10 God called the dry ground “land” and the waters “seas.”

Materials: play dough to represent land; a cup of water with blue food coloring, a tray/container, globe

ACTIVITY: I showed him the globe and had him point out the land and water areas to me. He recited the continents as we did it. I purposely made green play dough so I could use it in this activity. I took a chunk of the green play dough and placed it at the center of the tray. I told Micah that it was land. I recited the verse to him and while we were doing so, I asked him pour the water into the tray. He noticed that it went around the “land”. I made him feel the top of the play dough and he told me it was dry and I said, that was land. He then pointed to the water and said, “seas.” I’d like to think think he got the point somehow. 🙂

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Land & Water!

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Genesis 1: 11-12 Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.” And that is what happened. 12 The land produced vegetation—all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit. Their seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.

Materials: soil, seeds, shovel, watering can

ACTIVITY: I took him outside and had him touch the soil and water the tomato plant that his auntie had helped him plant a few weeks ago. He pointed out the flowers that were on the table and he said, “God made plants.”

Genesis 1:16-18 God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, 18 to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

Materials: Oreo cookies!

ACTIVITY: I prepared the 4 cookies and I ended up using just the full moon and new moon because the quarters were a little hard for him to understand. I took it away and focused on the two he concepts he was able to grasp. Of course, you guessed it. He ate the cookies after! But only the bottom part of the full moon without the cream (I didn’t want him to get hyper! Haha!). When we were done, we went outside and sang the song Mr. Sun as he pointed the sun to me and we even got his sunglasses because he said it was too hot.

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Who doesn’t love oreos?!

Genesis 1: 20; 24 Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.”24 Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind—livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.”

Materials: different kinds of animals, a container of water with blue food coloring, one tray with shaving cream (sky) and a green placemat (our veggie chopping mat)

 ACTIVITY: I had him lay them all out and name the animals one by one as I shared the verses with him. He had to put the birds in the “sky” (shaving cream container), land animals on the green mat and sea creatures in the tub of water. Then of course at the end, we had to wipe down the sea creatures before putting them back in their proper containers. We sorted the animals according to their habitat, (farm animals in one container, jungle animals in another, etc) and as a reminder to which container they go, I placed a picture on the outside.

Even Titus got to do it!

Genesis 1: 27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Materials: Titus, Micah, Mama 

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 ACTIVITY: We thanked God for all that He has made and Micah said God made Micah and Titus and Mama and Papa and He started naming everyone he could think of that God made—all the family and friends he could recall. We close in prayer after each lesson and throughout the day, we talked about what God had made. Now, when we’re driving he would be pointing things out and telling us that God made it. We finished off our fun week with a visit to the Cal Academy of Sciences and it was great! He was able to acknowledge what His creator has done and appreciate the beauty of all that He has made! He even got the fish guide and pointed them out and said, “Mama, God made the fish!”

Teaching your kids about God can be done in a fun and exciting way. I hope that these activities will inspire you to make Bible stories come to life in the eyes of your child. 🙂

CAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCE was a great way to end our lesson! Everyone had a blast learning about the beautiful creation of the Lord!

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Titus was mesmerized by the fish.

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Stick your hand in the touch pool!

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Titus touched the sea urchin!

I love how he attributed it to the Creator!

Mama! God made the fish!

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Grandpa and Titus!

Micah & Grandpa

Everyone learned something new that day!

Everyone learned something new that day!