Tot-Time Tuesday- Traveling Time- Screen Free Ideas

Tot-Time Tuesday Traveling

We went on a short family trip over the weekend.  I knew that we would be spending a bit of time in the van- about 3 hours each way. Although the kids would have been thrilled to watch movies the whole time, I wanted at least one way of the trip to be completely screen-free. With a little research and a few Pinterest searches, I came up with some ideas.

Here is what we did…

Tot-Time Tuesday- TravelingTimes

We started our trip off with a quick trip to Wendy’s (no fast food judgments-LOL.) My son found a creative (and disgusting) way to entertain himself. I also had plenty of other healthy snacks on hand. Granola bars, dried fruit, pretzels, almonds, and Annie’s Organic Fruit Snacks. The fruit snacks were a hit. I rarely buy them so they were a treat for the kids to eat.

tot time tuesdy dressup tot time tuesday dressup 2

The Kid’s Meals came with a toy (King Julien’s crown) which provided about 5 minutes of entertainment.  And since we like to “Move it, Move it”….

Music and Traveling

We had some great music to listen to in the van. Yes, we are that family! We sing loudly and “dance” in our seats. Recently, my son has started to demand “MUCK” “MUCK” (translation “music, music”) from his car seat and we are happy to oblige with a “please” and “thank you.”

Our top music album choice this weekend was TOBYMAC’s ***THIS IS NOT A TEST*** This album was just released August 7th. It is a great collection of soulful dance and pop music. With family friendly and uplifting lyrics, it is hard not to move or be in a good mood listening to it.

Check it out! http://tobymac.com/

Coloring on a Car Trip

I was surprised at how long coloring occupied my little guy. Before the trip, I printed out free coloring pages of some of my son’s favorite things- tractors and monster trucks. I put them all on a clip board and handed him one crayon at a time. I was afraid to give him more than one as the whole crayon box would have been poured out. This was also a great time to practice and reinforce color recognition. “Oh, you want a GREEN crayon.” “Sure, here is a GREEN crayon.” It is amazing how much learning is done naturally.

bingo

For my older girls, I found some fun car bingo sheets. We are still working on reading skills, so I loved the one from Stuck On You. This BINGO sheet had pictures AND words. It was simple and clean looking.  (link below)

http://www.stuckonyou.com.au/ourblog/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/cartripbingo.pdf

For older kids try: http://www.free-puzzles.net/travel-games-for-kids/printable-games/scavenger-hunt/scavenger-hunt.pdf

Gold Balls and Pipe Cleaners

We did not get to use this in the car but we used it in the hotel. I found this idea online and modified it for my family. I purchased practice golf balls and had a bunch of pipe cleaners. The kids stuck the pipe cleaners through the holes (fine-motor skills) and created “creatures.”  Or try to lace one pipe cleaner through all the holes. I tried but couldn’t do it.  Even my husband got in on the fun. 🙂

pipe cleaners pipe cleaners and golfballs

I was prepared with other ideas but we did not have a chance to use them. I came across some cute and great resources on Dating Diva’s site . http://www.thedatingdivas.com/tara/the-road-trip-date

Their Road Trip FINAL QUESTIONNAIRE  was great but the questions were geared for a husband and wife trip. I came up with my own questionnaire that could be used with the whole family. (See PDF below.) It’s going to be a great way to get the family talking on our next road trip. Something to look forward to on our next adventure!

Road Trip Family Questionnaire

Click below for PDF

Road Trip Family Questionnaire


Unexpected Treasure

Treasure

“MOMMMM, LOOK!!!”  My daughter was standing knee deep in foamy, ocean surf holding up something small, white, and round. I moved closer to get a better look. She could barely contain her excitement. In the palm of her hand was a perfect, whole sand dollar!

“How did you find THAT?” I stared in complete disbelief. We were surrounded by the rhythm of the ocean. Waves crashed at our legs.  Rocks, pieces of shells tumbled in and out, over and around our feet by the undertow.  Our legs were encompassed by a bubbling blanket of foam making it almost impossible to see the ocean floor.  Enthusiastically, my daughter explained that she had caught a glimpse of something being swayed back and forth by the waves. Even though the thick foam made it really hard to see, she had tried to keep her eye on it. A few times, she had tried to grab it but it was pulled away from her. One last time, she reached down and pulled out what she thought was a random shell, but to her surprise it was a sand dollar. A perfect, whole sand dollar!

Treasure

After a minute or so of joyful acknowledgement, the treasure was given to me for safe keeping.  My excited daughter bounced away to resume jumping through the waves with her sister.  I tuned in to the peaceful rhythm of the waves.  Shifting my gaze downwards, I caught a glimpse of something in the water. In and out it went, tumbling through the waves. I did my best to keep my eye on it but a blanket of foam kept interrupting my view. A few times, I tried to reach for it, coming up with only a rock or a handful of sand. Still, there was something there.  I reached down again.  This time my hand locked on to something small and round. With excited anticipation, I slowly opened my hand to what I thought it held. There in the palm of MY hand, sat another perfect, whole sand dollar!  Holding MY treasure, I yelled over to my daughter, “LOOK!!! LOOK!!!I found one, I found one too!!!”

Treasure in Dollars

As fast as she could, with equal excitement for my treasure, my daughter pushed through the surf over to me.  I am not sure of the exact words that we spoke as we held our matching treasures. But within that conversation there was a moment when our excited, brown eyes locked and the world around us disappeared. And I knew, that moment and those two perfect, whole sand dollars were worth more than any treasure valued in dollar amounts. No price could be put on this moment!  I had done nothing to earn this but only had approached the day with hopeful, open eyes and faith that there was something great was to be found. These unexpected treasures were true, free gifts from God!

DSC_0045

Dear MOPS Leader,

I want you to know that I have been thinking of you and praying for you. I hope that your eyes are wide open with excitement and the anticipation of all the treasure God has prepared for you to find at MOPS this year. Like the rhythm of waves, I pray that you will find the right rhythm, between rest and work, for you and your group.  Some treasure will be right out in the open to see and some will take focus and perseverance to uncover.  Your treasure may come in many forms- MOPPETS workers, a well-needed hug, an old hobby or interest revitalized, a new mom that comes to your group broken and weary but leaves your meetings patched with love and with a renewed fierce strength to continue on her course.  I hope that you will lean into each other and show shared excitement for what each mom, woman, and leader in your group finds along the way.  And I hope that you will have faith and leave room for God to work in all the unknowns. Let him cover you and your group with a blanket of love and strength.  Through that blanket of love and strength, ask God to show you the glimpses of his good gifts. Keep your eyes focused on Him and His work, and be prepared to fiercely uncover and pull up treasure from all around you.

Love, Your Ministry Coach

Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


Tot-Time Tuesday ~Straws and Pasta~

Pasta and Straws

I am always searching for ideas that are easy and that keep my two-year old entertained for longer than one whole minute. I found this idea on Pinterest from Laughing Kids Learn. The author calls this activity “Pasta Threading.”  It is great for the development of little one’s fine motor skills.

Fine motor skills generally refer to use of the small muscles like fingers, hands, and wrists. Development in fine motor skills help with tasks such as stacking blocks, zipping zippers, turning book pages, holding a pencil, handwriting, and using scissors. As a child develops, they gain more motor control and can perform more sophisticated motor tasks. As a parent and teacher, it is important to provide opportunities for your little ones to practice these skills.

I had everything in the house that was needed for this activity.

  • Playdough  (Store bought! It would have been nice for homemade playdough but that is a project for another time. )
  • Straws
  • Rigatoni Pasta (Penne and Ziti would work great too!)

1.) I made a ball of playdough. 2.) I stuck straws in the playdough. 3.) My son placed the pasta on the straws. It was a easy as 1-2-3.  This activity kept him entertained for enough time that I could unload and load the dishwasher AND prepare dinner in the crock pot. After a while, he just wanted to play with the playdough and that was fine because playdough is another great activity for developing fine motor skills.

Pasta and Straws

TIP: When we do this activity again, I am going to have a larger area of play-dough available, more straws, different widths of straws, and different types of pasta. If I get really ambitious, I might use different colored pasta too! I think having some different options would have kept my son engaged for a longer period of time. (Maybe wishful thinking?)  And we could work on some other skills like color recognition, compare and contrast, sorting and attributes.

Pasta and Straws

You can find the original idea here:

 http://laughingkidslearn.com/2014/03/pasta-threading-activity-for-toddlers.html/


The Lake

regret choices

We stepped off the boat and onto the dock. Another item off our Summer Bucket List crossed off.  I had FINALLY made it to the lake. All summer, I had hesitated to accept my friends’ many invitations and gentle encouragement to come to the lake. It wasn’t that I did not want to go. The main issue was that I was fearful of all the what-ifs. The what-ifs coaxed on by the unknown and my insecurity about my two-year olds sporadic behavior. Add to that the exhaustion that comes with managing his behavior and bringing him to a new place (especially one located by the water) and the trip seemed like it would be too much for me to handle alone. I had been dying to go to the lake and spend some time my good friends. They are the friends that challenge me to be a better person.  We share a love of Jesus, learning new things, homeschooling our children, and when I am with them I always leave feeling more energized than when I first arrived. So, what was my problem? Where was my sense of adventure? Where was my enthusiasm?

 I am not sure what made me say “yes” to the latest invitation.  Maybe it was the fact that I felt like I was missing out on something.  Maybe it was the fact that I was sick of feeling like a wimp. Maybe it was my declaration that my family’s summer was going to be the “Summer of Fun.” I certainly did not want to be a hypocrite to my very own declaration. Regardless, of what it was, I said “yes” and plans was made.

The morning of our “big” lake adventure came and I pushed back my anxiety. I fully committed myself to the possibility of all the fun that was to come.  I had tried to go over all the scenarios of what possibly could happen with kids near the water. I had swim vests, extra sets of clothes, sneakers, sandals, towels, sunscreen, snacks, and a book for me to read (How is that for positive thinking?) With the VBS music pumping in the background, the three kids were buckled in and we started out on the road. About two hours and one wrong turn later, we had arrived.   Fresh air, beautiful pine trees, a sparkling lake, and happy faces greeted our van.

The fun began seconds after we parked.  The lake house is better than a resort. There are cabins and everything you might need to enjoy various activities on the lake and playing in the surrounding pines. You can swim, fish, snorkel, float, go boating, go tubing, sit on the dock, play horseshoes, sit in a hammock, go on a scavenger hunt, run through the pines, view the point, read a book, sit and relax, collect mica, and sit on a tractor. That was my two year olds favorite part. Sit on a tractor by the lake- doesn’t that sounds perfect if you are a two-year old boy?  But one of my very favorite parts of the lake was that my daughters had some of their best friends to play with. Within minutes, all the kids went off together and some of the older kids took my son for me. I was able to start to unwind and relax.

As nice as the relaxing was, it wasn’t enough! I had finally made it there and now I was ready to experience it! So when the kids and I had a chance to go on the boat (item off our bucket list) and go in a towable tube (now on the bucket list) – we took it! I hadn’t been in a tube since I was about 15 and that is exactly what age I felt being towed behind the boat.  Flying across the lake in the tube, I forgot about all my adult worries and commitments. I gave the thumbs up sign to go faster, I laughed hysterically and let the wind whip through my hair. It felt like pure freedom. I eventually crashed into the water. Some of my anxiety and need for control crashed off me as well.  I emerged a lighter, more fun version of me.

Since I was already wet and my son was occupied, I thought why not swim and float in the lake with my friends. Normally, I am the one on the shore/side of the pool as the towel-keeper whose main job is helping my kids out of the water and wrapping towels around them with a kiss and a hug. Normally, I am not the one in the water. My husband is usually the “fun” one. BUT not today! Today, I got right in ignoring the fact that the water was a little cold. I instantly warped back to my childhood when my sister, brother and I would want to swim no matter what the temperature or the weather was like.

A raft that you could jump off of was floating not too far from shore. My oldest daughter was on top. She seemed determined and terrified to jump. You could tell that she desperately she wanted to but could not get her body to move to do it. Even with everyone’s encouragement and different jumping techniques demonstrated, she still would not move. So I thought maybe if she jumped with me, she could do it. Today, I was a fun-mom.  I pulled myself up onto the dock and tried to persuade her to jump with me. When it seemed that there was no way she was jumping, I decided I was. I am not sure what technique I used, I just remember plunging into the water, rising bubbles tickling my skin and swimming to the surface leaving even more anxiety and control into the lake.

The whole day was fun and filled with good conversations and time spent with my friends. My friends and their family showered us with warm hospitality. We all felt welcomed, safe, and included. The kids had a blast. My two year old son had fun and did fine. Everything I worked myself up about and all the things I worried about did not come true.  By the end of the night, I was exhausted in a good way. The type of exhaustion that feels like it is a cleansing for your body, making room for something else. The kind of exhaustion that helps you to reevaluate your strengths and weaknesses made through your efforts. An exhaustion that energizes you.

We stayed until 8:30 PM! As I pulled out of the driveway, I felt so incredibly grateful. I was grateful for friends that did not give up on me and kept asking me to come.  Friends that stayed by my side to help me and cheer me on through the day. Everyone should have friends like them. I was grateful for summer, fun, and God’s beautiful creation. I was grateful to be alive and the opportunity to experience all of this with my kids. But most of all, I was grateful that I took a chance and ignored my fears. I was grateful that I pushed through my anxiety and proved to myself I could do it. My resolve was worth it, it was truly one of the best and most fun days of the summer.

(Note: My daughter finally did “jump” or should I say “slid” into the lake. But it was terrifying for her and it resulted in tears and all of us going to shore. Much later, she was proud that she did it! But I don’t think that it will be happening again anytime soon.)


Lessons From A Playdate

I was enjoying the peace and quiet of the morning. The girls had a new friend over for a play date and the three of them were playing upstairs.  As quietly as I could, I crept upstairs to peek through the half-closed door of the bedroom. It had been turned upside down- every costume owned was on the floor, tap shoe boxes were empty on the bed, random toys were scattered around. All signs of a play date going well. I smiled, walked away and left the trio to their imaginations and laughter.

Moments later, my youngest daughter came to find me, “Mom, E said that S could not play in her house and now S just walked down the stairs and she is sad.” What! I almost could not understand what was just said. One, I had just checked on them and everything seemed great. Two, my oldest, who in my eyes, is very sensitive and including of others, just told our guest that she could not play in her house (whatever the house was) in a way that made someone upset. That did not sound like something she would do at all. I got up to go see what was going on and found S at the bottom of the stairs about to cry. E was coming down the stairs with a convicted, guilty, concerned look on her face. She looked like she was about to cry.  The play date was quickly falling apart.

After trying to figure out what exactly happened, giving some “wise” words about how we treat our guests, and asking my daughter to apologize, I motioned my oldest daughter to the couch to sit with me for a moment. My youngest and her new friend, bounced back up the stairs as if nothing happened at all.

Through whimpers and sobs, I was able to piece together the real story of the play date. My daughter felt left out- like the third wheel. She felt slighted, her sister and friend were not listening to her ideas about WHAT and HOW to play. She admitted that S and A had tried some of E’s ideas but they decided that they would rather play another way.

These were relatively new and very real feelings for E.  Her sister was usually the youngest in the group and the one following along with E’s friends.  Today A had a chance to play with someone her own age and with someone who seemed to share many of the same interests as her. They just clicked. I was happy that A had found a friend of her own and someone to play with in their own way.

My daughter may not agree with me, but I think it was good for her to have this opportunity. A chance to walk in her sister’s shoes. I hope this will teach her to be a more open to listen to her sister’s ideas of how and what to play. I also hope that she is able to see what a good thing a friend just for A is.

For me, I learned that my daughters still need me to help them in social situations. Allowing kids to figure out things on their own and not micro-managing their behaviors is a good thing. But I think it is healthy and beneficial to talk about the attitudes and behaviors that you have observed.  Provide opportunities to role model and practice positive attitudes and behaviors that need work at home. Help your children become socially aware and competent in the security of a safe environment and with parental love.

About ten minutes post couch, the tears dried and the three girls were back to playing a new game. The play date ended as successfully as it started. A promise of another play date was met with excitement and hugs. It was a good learning experience for all of us and the girls are now looking forward to the next play date- this time without the tears.


Hesitation

I hesitated to start this blog.  Conversations with other moms, about mommy-blogs, produced chuckles and comments like:  “Why would she want to write that?” “How does she have time to write a blog? I barely have time to ..xyz…” Not wanting to be the receiver of those chuckles and comments, I laughed along and kept quiet my own desires to one day start a blog.

In the safety of a few friends, I have shared my thoughts about wanting to blog and in those conversations it was ME who chuckled and made the comments. “But who would want to read what I write?” “Do I really have something to say?” “Writing is not my strong point.”  Those dear, encouraging friends smiled, encouraged me to write, and assured me that they would read what I wrote. Time after time I have talked myself out of it, convinced that “blogging” was not for me. My stalling to be out of a lack in self-confidence and self-consciousness about sentence structure and grammar. (I’ll save the topic of my struggles with a Type-A personality for a future post.)

Days and months went by, but the desire to write and share my ideas persisted. Then came an opportunity to write a few paragraphs for a leadership website. I tried to ignore the opportunity. I tried to not think about what I could write about or the things I could say. I tried to convince myself that I was not a writer and someone better than me could write it. But the harder I tried to stop thinking about it, the more I thought about it and the only way I could get “it” to stop (what ever “it” was) was to sit down and type everything that flowed out of my mind and heart. It felt so good! Therapeutic!

After my initial word and thought “dump,” I took time to add and delete and improve my writing. It was like crafting but without the glue, ribbon, and paper. When the post was finished,  it was more than accomplishment, it was like something that had been stirring inside me was brought out and was staring at me on the paper (or I should say on the computer screen.) I know, that sounds very dramatic but that is exactly how I felt. I decided to send the passage in with no expectations, just thankful that I had accomplished the task. Long story short, the post was picked and posted to the website. And that small bit of writing is what gave me the confidence to write some more and start this blog.

I teach my kids that they should try new things and press on in difficulty. I tell them the more they practice, the better they will become. I also tell my kids that God made them perfect just the way they are, what others say or think should not change what they want to try or who they want to be (in a negative ways, of course.)

I want to write because it is a challenge for me. I know I have a lot to learn. It is a chance to improve myself in a new and interesting way and be an example to my children.  I want to write because excuses, hesitations, other people’s thoughts, and missed opportunities is not the way to fully live. This is an opportunity to take my own advice and practice what I preach one blog post at a time.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.- Lao Tzu


EVEREST- Vacation Bible School-

Everest- Group Publishing

This past weekend,  our church held its annual Vacation Bible School program. This year’s theme was “EVEREST- Conquering Challenges with God’s Mighty Power” by Group Publishing.  Church members and the greater church community came together to put on an amazing weekend for about 100 children.

Some churches have a morning program, some have an evening program, but our church has a weekend program.Weekend Vacation Bible School begins on a Friday night, goes all day Saturday, and concludes Sunday morning in a dynamic, high-intensity, family friendly worship service. Five years ago, we switched our format from a week-long, evening schedule to a jam-packed, weekend schedule. Those who worked during the week, were freed up to volunteer on the weekend and our volunteer base increased. The evening program was exhausting for all who attended and volunteered. Some parents told us it was hard for their children to be out so close to bed time. The weekend program was one session at night and “three” day time sessions. It was a successful change and we have been improving and making fine adjustments since .

After stepping down as VBS Director, my involvement with VBS came in the form of heading up decorations. My husband and a great crew of creative people help me bring my grand decorating visions to life. I love working on these types of projects.  People, that may or may not have ordinarily spoken to each other, working side by side towards completing a common goal.

Big projects like this lead to discussions. Discussions lead to discovery. Discovery helps find similarities, common ground, and form and strengthen friendships. As the leader of my Creative Bunch, the completion of the decorations were not the things that made me happiest, it was the conversations and relationships that were built.

Here is a showcase of our work:

Our Stage and Crew Signs–

 

EVEREST Stage- We created three mountains out of wood and white bulletin board paper. It was less expensive and at disposable time -better for the environment.  We followed the directions Group provides for the large cloud at the top of the mountain. Our letters are made out of kickboards from the dollar store. The backdrop we purchased from Group.

EVEREST Stage- We created three mountains out of wood and crumpled, white bulletin board paper. Compared to foam, it was less expensive and better for the environment. For the large cloud, we followed the directions Group provides. Our letters were made out of kickboards bought the dollar store., silver paper, and fiberfill. The backdrop panels were purchased from Group.

Everest VBS Stage Icy Letters

Icy Letters  Crew Signs

Our Entryway–

Everest- Vacation Bible School

Winter Tree with Trail Marker Sign– This tree was created for the Weird Animals VBS theme. Since then, it has been transformed many times and has become a fixture in our church (to the dislike of some-lol.) We brought the tree back to the forefront and decorated it for winter. We created the large snowflakes from paper, made a trail marker sign, and hid Yeddy (a Bible Buddy) in the small pine “forest.”

Yeddy Bible BuddyTrail Sign MarkerPaper SnowflakesBase Camp Store– My husband created this store from an old chalkboard, choir risers, and some old doors. One of my volunteers did the chalk art. We filled the store with donated items.

Base Camp Store           Everest- Vacation Bible School

Prayer Flags- On lightweight fabric, I wrote the names of each child that would be attending VBS. I included the names of each Junior Crew leader, the VBS Directors, and Pastors of the church. The flags were a colorful addition in the entry way. During the weekend, I noticed children and parents finding their flags.

DSC_0985      Prayer Flags- Everest VBS

Hallways and Walls- We covered bulletin board with the plastic snowflake drop, added paper mountains, and some fiberfill clouds. Our Ice Cave was created with PVC pipes and tableclothes. For added effect, we had planned to use a fog machine in the ice cave. We tried the fog machine a few times during the week without incident. However, on the first night of VBS,  my husband started the fog machine just before the first station rotation. It triggered the smoke alarm and the whole church needed to be evacuated. Thankfully, it took about 15 minutes from alarm start to getting back into the church. This was not the first visit from the fire department during a VBS weekend but we hope it will be the last.

How was your VBS? What VBS curriculum does your church use?

 

Snowflake Wall  DSC_0561 Ice Caves