Convicted by a Toddler

Today was not a good day. I had a bad attitude and I lost control of myself. I woke up late and rushed to get everyone dressed, fed and raced out the door to their swimming classes. I chose to snooze the alarm, check Facebook (uh-huh) after I finally woke up and dilly-dilly-dallied before I looked at the clock and panicked. I had to pump, get the boys fed, changed, and into the car all in 15 minutes! Uhhh no way that was possible! I quickly got up, pumped Titus’ milk, changed him and went to get Micah in his room. Micah was happy and energetic like he always is in the morning, but mommy’s agitated spirit caused his mood to change. I greeted him with a cheerful good morning but followed it up with a “Get up! Let’s go! We gotta go now! Hurry!” I could sense that he felt stressed because he wanted a morning hug but instead he was greeted with mommy’s bad attitude. I told him to hurry up or else he wouldn’t have any breakfast. I had packed his cereal to eat in the car but my empty threat had given him an anxious heart. I carried Titus and the swimming bag to car and yelled, (yes, yelled.) “Micah, I said let’s go! NOW!” in a mean and rude voice. Micah started crying. He started whining as he made his way down the stairs and out to the garage. His cheerful disposition had disappeared. It was replaced with apprehension and distress. He quickly got into the car with tears rolling down his eyes as he whined about wanting his cereal. In my stern and angry voice I told him to sit down and buckle up. The whole time I knew I was struggling and battling my flesh. I tried hard to control my temper but I lost it.

It was silent for a few minutes as we drove away. After a while, Micah quietly and humbly said, “Mama, I’m sorry for crying and whining. I’m sorry God. I had bad attitude.” I was taken aback and convicted. My heart sank. I realized that it wasn’t his fault at all that we were late. It was mine. I woke up late. I was slow. I chose to check Facebook over getting ready sooner. He was actually up earlier than I was and was just waiting for me to come inside his room. (because that’s the rule.) I pulled over, looked up at the rear-view mirror and in a gentle (much gentler) voice, I responded, “Micah, I am sorry. Mama is so sorry for yelling. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have yelled at you at home. I could have asked you nicely to get ready but I shouted at you instead. That was not kind or pleasing to God at all. Will you please forgive me?” He smiled as he looked back at me and said, “It’s okay Mama. I forgive you. Let’s pray and say sorry God.” We prayed together as I asked the Lord to forgive my rude and harsh behavior. I asked Him to teach me how to speak gently and control my temper. Micah quickly added that he was sorry for crying and whining.

My heart was blessed, convicted and touched by the Holy Spirit. My son not only showed humility, he showed me grace and forgiveness. He showed me how to quickly forgive and with a smile. He showed me how to apologize sincerely and how to receive apology graciously. He taught his mama how to turn to God in prayer after I offended our Heavenly Father. God truly touched my heart in a remarkable way today.

As I shared my guilt and shame with my husband, I realized that I am such a recipient of grace and I too need to extend that to my son and others. I admitted that it was my fault because I was late but instead of owning up to it, I blamed Micah for it and rushed him so we can make up for loss time. My sweet husband encouraged me that this was a great reminder for me but also a great example to our son. He graciously said that I showed a great example by apologizing and acknowledging my mistake. I gotta admit, I’m usually the teacher but today, I learned a lesson or two from my toddler and it was good. He showed me how a  humble heart, a gracious smile and a sincere apology can turn an unpleasant morning upside down.

God allowed me to experience Him through my two and a half year old. In the midst of my chaos, I can have peace. IMG_3651

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The Reading Habit

Even while I was pregnant with my firstborn Micah, my husband Chris had always expressed how much he wanted our kids to love reading. Not only that, his next goal was to make them understand and comprehend what they are reading. He would read a bible story to our boys while I was still pregnant. We admit and regret that we read more to Micah than Titus while he was in the womb. We kinda figured, Titus was “read to” a lot because he hears all the books when we read to Micah. Back then, we would either read a chapter a book that we go through as a couple or just a bible story to Micah right before bed. We wanted to get into the habit of reading to him every night even while he was growing in the womb. After he was born, we would continue to read to him every day. We practically memorized some of the board books because we’ve repeated it so many times! It was an investment worth making!

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Quiet time (bible reading) can be establish even at his age. 🙂

As Micah grew older, we noticed he was drawn to books more and more. He would choose to have some quiet reading time on his own after naps and before bed. He would look forward to reading time with Daddy after dinner and bible stories were a must before lights out. A few weeks ago, I noticed Micah “reading” to his little brother in the living room while I was making dinner. I heard him repeat the words on the page pretty accurately and I was totally caught off guard! I thought he was reading! But after a few minutes the words would dwindle down to something else. I realized he wasn’t reading the words but due to countless repetition of certain books that he absolutely loves, Micah has now memorized the words on the page. He was reciting the words (in surprisingly the right order) to Titus. As he turned the page, he continued on. He would even recite it with the tone or voice changes his dad would do while reading that certain paragraph. It made me realize how important it was for us to keep this great thing going. I admit, sometimes I am tempted to just say, we can just read tomorrow.

Micah and Titus reading together

Reading the book The Day The Crayons Quit!

I praise God for my husband’s wisdom and persistence in making sure we were intentional in making reading a priority in our home. More importantly we are delighted to see that he is so enthusiastic about reading God’s Word. He would not go to bed without reading a bible story no matter how sleepy or tired he is. Indeed, he is a great reminder of how we need to improve on our bible reading and the enthusiasm we put into it. If we want our boys to love reading God’s Word, we need to do a better job modeling it to them.

Bible reading before bed.

Bible reading before bed…

Here are some ways to help encourage a love of reading in your child.
1. Encourage and expand their oral language.
Depending on his or her age or level, your child can read a story, have a story read to him/her or even take turns reading and listening. As you read, ask your child questions about the details you just read. Keep them engaged by having the little ones point out the characters being discussed on the particular page.  When you are done, invite them to identify their favorite part is.

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The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen

2. 1 to 10 and read them again!
The more exposed they are to different kinds of books, the more their love for reading will grow.  We have enjoyed several authors whose writing styles are completely different yet each of them bring something great to share. Don’t underestimate your child’s ability to understand the content. If you think some words are too “big” for him, explain it! Check out our list of favorite authors whose books are quickly filling up our shelves.

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3. Sing a song and recite a rhyme.
Name that tune to your favorite nursery rhyme! Rhymes and songs are creative ways to encourage memorization, rhyming, and melody. It’s a great way to introduce poetry and other creative writing styles. Sing together on trips, on walks, and even in the shower! Add hand gestures or dance moves or start a rhyming band to enrich the overall experience. My husband loves to make up words to familiar songs and Micah just bursts out laughing!

Sandra Boynton books are so much fun!

A family favorite!

4. Have a book nook and hang out there!
Micah can hang out here for 30-45 mins after he wakes up and just read all the books on the shelf. He would look at the pictures, make up words or recite the ones he has memorized and time just goes by, while I get my chores done. Make the area inviting and fun for your little reader. A couch or bean bag, a rug and a shelf make a great little space for some quiet reading time. Designating a “quiet reading time” encourages them have a special time with their books. You can do solo silent reading or reading aloud together there, too. Reluctant readers may be encouraged to read more in a fun and unique environment.

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The book nook in his room.

5. Be a literacy advocate!
I need to do this more! My dad is an avid reader and so is my brother, but for some reason, I didn’t get that gene. I only read about the things I am interested in. I need to learn to broaden my literacy choices so I can encourage my boys to do the same. If you have an older child, you may want to encourage your child by setting reading goals and when they achieve them, recognize and reward their efforts. Get the other members of your family to read with your kids too!

Auntie Kim reading with Micah

Auntie Kim reading with Micah

6. Add creative intonations!                                                                                                                                                  Intonation refers to the rising, or falling pitch in a person’s voice as one says words or phrases. Stress the different ways you can read the questions, commands or conversations in the book.  Make different sounds or change your voice or accent as you read aloud. We noticed that Micah would copy our intonations when he reads the books to himself or to his brother. Echo reading is a great way to encourage paired reading as well. (Paired reading can mean alternating sentences while you read aloud together.)

7. Make it a habit! 

The reading habit is one of the best things we can pass on to our children. In an age where everything is digital and kids can easily get sensory overload from media, books have a way of opening their eyes, increasing their imagination, and making them appreciate some down time in those magical pages amidst this fast-paced world. Read on! AND don’t forget to teach your child about the author and illustrator of the book he is reading too.

Titus enjoys reading time too!

Make it a part of your routine!

Our Top 13 Authors & Their Books
1. Kevin Lewis & Daniel Kirk: My Truck Is Stuck-This is the first book Micah memorized.

2. June Sobel: The Goodnight Train– love the rhyme and sounds in this one

3. Alice Schertle: The Little Blue Truck; The Little Blue Truck Leads the Way- Who doesn’t love Blue? The sounds the characters make just adds to the fun.

4. Drew Daywalt: The Day the Crayons Quit– Brings back great moments with Crayola box! My husband and I were laughing while he was reading it to Micah.

5. Sherry Dusky RinkerSteam Train, Dream TrainGoodnight Goodnight Construction Site- She does a great job teaching the different kinds of trucks and trains

6. Mo Wilhems: Elephant and Piggie Series: These are just hilarious!!! You will just fall in love with these two!

7. Amy Krouse Rosenthal:Little Pea; Exclamation Mark; Spoon; Chopsticks- Simple concepts, great points, fun & entertaining for the whole family!

8. Chris Van Dusen: Circus Ship; Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit; If I Built a House, If I Built a Car (our first one); Camping Trip with Mr. Magee, Down by the Sea with Mr. Magee, and more- I think we have all his books! We love all of them! Illustrations are great and the rhymes are just incredible! His characters are funny & the conversations are witty.

9. Watty Piper: The Little Engine That Could– A great classic and must have on the shelf!

10. Maurice Sendak: Where the Wild Things Are– Micah just loves this! Let your imagination lead you to the wild things.

11. Eric Carle: We read through a lot of his books for different stages in their lives. The shorter ones like Polar Bear Polar Bear, What do you see?, Head to Toe, etc- we read from 0-12 months. The longer ones like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Grouchy Ladybug and The Very Busy Spider are great for 18-24 months and up and perfect for lessons & activities.

12. Sandra Boynton: Dinosaur’s Binket is our favorite. We have a lot of her books too! We read her board books when Micah was 0-12 months. He still enjoys them when we read them to Titus. Who wouldn’t fall in love with her adorable illustrations?

13. . Audrey Wood: Silly Sally: He memorized this book and loves reciting it to his little brother. A fun, silly and entertaining book. I first read this with my 3-6 old students in my classroom and they loved it. I knew it was a must-have for my own kids.

What’s in your shelf?

A Birthday Dedication

God knew I needed a big sister to help direct my path as a mom and a woman. He knew I needed a friend, a momma-model and a partner in crime. And yet, it wasn’t after 26 years of existence that He brought you into my life.

We met rather unconventionally and Facebook was the key. It was on that delightful Saturday afternoon in Fountain Valley that we first met. We didn’t even talk much that day but meeting was a start. I thought I was there for an acquaintance and to find answers to the mysteries of my mom’s life. But little did I know that God had other plans.

When I moved here to the Bay Area, I hardly knew anyone. New life, new job, new place with no friends, no family and nothing was anywhere close to familiar. But with the surprise of our honeymoon baby, you and I reconnected. I was hesitant at first since I had no clue who you were.  But you reached out and lent a hand when I was giving up. We bonded over labor stories and my nightmares with breastfeeding as we both held our little ones across from each other. You breastfed like a pro while I struggled through the nursing covers. As I battled through the agony of nursing, you said with a confident smile, ” You’ll get a hang of it! One day, it will become really easy too. You can do it.” I honestly thought you were nuts! But I’m glad you were right! Months passed, you moved on and taught me how to make puréed sweet potatoes with a hand blender and coached me through sleep-training, teething and potty-training. I think I copied almost everything from high-chairs to bath soaps, rockers to utensils. MMMM….Amazon made a lot of money because of you! I just bought what you’ve tried and tested. I was your number one copycat!

Little do you know but you silently show me a lot of things, like how to discipline in love and develop (and try really hard to stick to) a schedule. I watch you diligently as you set the tone for a godly home and reign with Christ-centeredness. You and I know you sometimes flip the switch, but you quickly admit your faults and direct yourself back to the Lord. I love that we live 45 minutes away now and see each other as often as we can. Our kids love each other and they surely are making up for our lost time.

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I enjoy our blunt conversations about our struggles and laugh about our mishaps. I love you for your wisdom and how you generously share your knowledge about motherhood and the tips that you’ve learned through the years. I’m glad you went before me in this journey, for I have great footsteps to follow. Thank you for literally giving my kids beds to sleep on, toys to play with, clothes to wear and yummy noodles to eat. I’m eternally grateful!


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My boys and I are beyond blessed you were born…not so long ago. Happy birthday to you, Naemi! Even though you grew up in opposite ends of the world, how far we’ve come has brought me closer to home than I could have ever imagined. May God bless you beyond your wildest dreams and may He continue to bless others through you. Psalm 89:15 “How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O Lord, they walk in the light of Your countenance.” My prayer is that you will always be filled with His joy and may His countenance always be a reflection through your life. We love you! Cheers to you cousin! So glad I’m related to someone so awesome…I guess it’s in the genes!  Happy birthday Naemi!

Dough it yourself!

Who doesn’t love play dough? Squishy, bright, fun, and cheap! Come and enjoy this homemade project with me!

What you need:

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup salt
2 tablespoons oil (you can add a pinch or two more if you feel like it’s still a little too sticky)
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
1 package of sugar-free jello

1. Have your little one measure and mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan-even if takes a little longer and a little messier. Not only is it fun for them but it also encourages them to work on those motor skills! Whisking is can be challenging for their little hands but it’s a great way to exercise those muscles. Keep going until those lumps are gone!

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2. Now it’s ready to hit the stove!

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3. Get those muscles moving! Cook it over medium heat, stir continuously until it thickens to a ball of dough.  This step takes a while, so be patient and keep stirring until it doesn’t stick to your fingers.

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4. Once it is done cooking, place it on a mat to let it cool for about 20 minutes and you are set for hours of fun! Once you are done, store the dough in an air tight container. If it starts to get sticky, just add a little more flour.

5. HAVE FUN! There’s a whole lot of squishing, rolling, kneading, cutting, and endless exploring with this simple and fun sensory activity. 🙂 You can even use cookie cutters to make shapes! Check out my other post for how I used these for our lesson on land and water and on fine motor skills activities.

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If you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend it! I think my husband does too!He even made himself some taro ice cream!

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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.” 

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!