Snapshots of Thankfulness

320 days ago I was given a book called 364 Days of Thanksgiving, by Andrew Schroer.

This book challenged me to take a moment each day, for 364 days to write down something that I am thankful for.

The thankful moments are supposed to be unique each day which forces me to take tiny snapshots instead of always looking at the big picture. I can’t simply write, “I am thankful for my kids” because it encompasses too much. However, I can write about a specific game time with my youngest, or a quick car conversation with my oldest. I write about being thankful that we have a weekend day at home together with no plans and I write about being thankful when they go back to school on Monday.

It has also given me an opportunity to take snapshots of my jobs and adult life. Comments about coworkers that are excellent at their jobs. Observations of ways that the community surrounds those who are sick and hurting. Moments where I relish the fact that I get to work with my husband and we enjoy each other!

On the last day, #365 I will take the time to read through all of these thankful moments and reflect on my year. I know some of my thankful moments will be very lighthearted (clean socks) while others very big moments (a friend finishing cancer treatments). The important lesson to hold onto is that there is something to be thankful for in every moment.

Our day-to-day lives are filled with moments. Sometimes the tough moments can feel overwhelming. During this year of thankfulness, I have watched friends fight cancer, lose family members, start new school situations and struggle with children who are facing their own challenges. In the midst of those tough moments, stopping to see the good was an important way to find balance and hope.

The month of November is typically a month of thankfulness leading up to the Thanksgiving Holiday. Perhaps you and your family would like to try a 2 week challenge of a similar sort. Write down each day a snapshot item that you are thankful for. It can be a warm house on a cool morning, clean clothes in the hamper, or a kind smile from a stranger. On Thanksgiving Day, read through the items that you are thankful for. Share them with each other and BE THANKFUL!

If you would like to try the 364 day version, you can get a copy of Andrew Schroer’s book here.

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Raindrop Days

Do you remember playing the raindrop game as a kid? Riding on the bus or in the car with my parents, I would look out my window and choose two raindrop splatters that would “race” across my window. Which would win? Would they both make it across the window pane? Would they merge with other raindrops?

My kids still play this game as we ride around on these rainy days. I love hearing the simple fun created by this activity as my 7-year-old cheers his raindrop victory.

Rainy days can create all kinds of opportunities for play that involves all of our senses. In the midst of life that can be filled with volleyball matches, soccer practice, piano lessons and more – give yourself and your family the freedom to enjoy some time together that might feel a little old-fashioned and a little slower than our current day-to-day pace.

For example,

Have you LISTENED to the raindrops on your roof? In the midst of conversations and homework and dishes going in and out of the sink, take a moment and hear the rain drizzle, drip or pound of the rain on your roof. What a glorious sound! Teach your kids to enjoy this beautiful example of nature.

Have you WATCHED the rain pour down in sheets on your street? Imagine the power of the rain streaming out of the sky. Talk about the clouds filled to bursting and ready to overflow into your neighborhood.

Have you SPLASHED in the puddles left over from the rain? Dressed up in rainboots or old shoes, ready to see and feel the fun of a big two-footed jump into the nearby puddle. And then, racing home, to dry off or tuck into a warm tub.

Have you stopped and SMELLED the air after the rain? Take a minute outside and sniff. What descriptive words do they use? Is it a fresh? cool? smell like old leaves? Do they like the smell?

Sometimes rainy days can feel like they are stopping us from enjoying the outdoors, but consider using them as a chance to explore another type of nature and create some fun memories for you and your kids!

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Learning Compassion

Merriam-Webster describes compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”.

A few years back our oldest daughter started riding the bus and it was not a smooth transition. Tears, pleas for mom or dad to drive her and sad glances out the bus window were a regular part of our morning routine for several weeks.

During that time, we learned that an older girl on our daughter’s bus has taken it upon herself to walk her to her classroom each morning after getting to school. We did not ask her to do this and didn’t even know it was happening. Our daughter took this as normal “big-kid” response, but I saw this as wonderful act of compassion.

Just as the definition of compassion teaches us, our daughter’s bus-mate recognized her distress about riding the bus and came up with her best solution to help her feel better.

At the time, I realized that I want my daughter to be the child who sees a need and fixes the problem. But how do I create that instinct in her?

I see two areas of life where we can proactively teach and model compassion.

We need to teach our children to see need and ways to alleviate it within their own sphere of influence. This means helping our child see and verbalize how other friends or family members are feeling and noticing if they are having troubles. If so, is there a way our child can help ease that trouble? For example, our youngest son is too small to reach some of the games on our gameshelf. Instead of swooping in myself to fix the problem, I’ve started mentioning his problem to our daughter and letting her be the problem-solver. It’s so easy for a young child to be completely egocentric, but small reminders of how others are feeling.

We have watched a number of friends and family members go through challenging medical diagnosis. As our kids get older and can comprehend these illnesses, we talk about them as a family, imagine what the person is feeling and work together to make cards or treats to share with them as an act of compassion.

Another area of compassion involves recognizing the needs of others that we don’t know personally. As I read the paper or hear stories on the news, I try to introduce appropriate topics to my kids. I watch for stories about other children in our town who are suffering from illness or a family struggle. We read stories in a children’s magazine about the lives of children on other countries. Once we comprehend the struggles of other families, we need to talk about how to alleviate it. In a few months, our school will be organizing Christmas gift boxes for international children. Instead of grabbing needed supplies for the boxes while I’m our running errands, which would be quicker and simpler, I want to be sure to discuss this project with our kids and take them along so she sees this as their opportunity to serve those children. As our kids gets older, we can add service opportunities here in Grand Rapids to expand her understanding of need and her ability to serve.

Small steps for small children, but I hope each conversation and each opportunity to serve others will increase my child’s radar to seeing needs and meeting them.

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Building up and Encouraging Kids

It’s already been a rough start to the week. Hearing about Las Vegas just makes us all cringe and cry out and wonder how this can happen. I don’t have any answers to our Las Vegas questions, but as we  grieve and mourn, I can only remind myself and others to build each other up and encourage one another in their positive actions.

This is something that we can so easily do for the kids in our lives, but don’t always have the time and energy. Over the past year, I have been encouraged by teachers and pastors to write words of encouragement to kids in my life.

It’s not hard. It doesn’t take too much time, but it can be so vital to the life of a child. I personally love the written word – something that the child can tuck into a drawer or a special book and come across and look at in the years to come.

Here are just a few simple examples:

When our daughter was wrapping up 5th grade, her teacher asked for a note from the parents for the kids to read on a reflection day.  Here’s a small section:

Since you just finished studying parts of the human body I thought I would tell you how much we love you from your head to your toes!
We love your eyes – You see your family and your friends and you look for ways to be a good sister, daughter and friend.
We love your legs and feet and your willingness to try new sports, your desire to run and play and all the adventures that your legs can take you on!

For a niece who was making a commitment at church, I focused on how she can use her gifts and talents of communication, acting and kindness to show love and kindness to others. I finished with “you are spunky, kind, confident, thoughtful and a child of God. Be blessed and always know how much you are loved.”

For my young sons, it has been as simple as a note slipped into their lunchbox. Try to pick something specific to encourage or emphasize. Instead of, “ I think you are awesome.” (which is true) take a characteristic that you want to build up. “I think you are going to be a great friend today. See if you can make someone smile!” OR “I love your math abilities. Hope today’s math class goes great!”

For a student I had years ago, I encouraged her to be the leader that I knew she could be. While naturally quiet and reserved, I knew that she had great thoughts and ideas that could bloom if she was encouraged. From a brief comment, she gained more confidence that she had worthwhile ideas to add to our classroom.

Words are so powerful and so easy to share. Take a moment and write a note to a special child in your life. Let them know that you see them as they are right now and all the potential of the amazing person they will be.

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Continuing to Let Go

Six years ago, Jeff shared a post about Letting Go. He shared that his professor at Calvin Seminary had said one time, “You spend the first two years of a child’s life holding them tightly; you spend the next 16 years letting them go.” Our goal as parents is to move children from a place of complete dependence to a place of independence. It starts when they are very young by giving them very small opportunities to be on their own.

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First solo bike ride

Jeff went on to share about the first big step of letting our children bike around our cul-de-sac by themselves. Watching for cars in driveways gave them that first taste of freedom and independent decision making.

Now it is 6 years later and time to do an assessment. How have Jeff and I done in letting our children go? Are they practicing independence? Are we trusting them to make decisions both good and bad and helping them learn from it?

Running their own lemonade stand

Last weekend was our neighborhood garage sale and my children decided they wanted to host a lemonade stand. Traffic is poor on a cul-de-sac so they moved their stand to the end of the road for better business. Since that post 6 years ago, they have been given permission to bike the whole neighborhood so one child scootered around with a sign advertising the sale.  I had the chance to step back and let them interact with customers, make change, pour lemonade and develop a business plan.  We have already come so far from those first tentative laps around the cul-de-sac 6 years ago.

Proverbs 22:6, states, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Here the Bible teaches that if we raise our children well, we can rest in the confidence that they will make good decisions when they are older and have the complete freedom to choose their own path.

Note that Proverbs says, “the way they should go”, which is very different than the way they naturally would go! We must be very active in helping to set the direction our children are going while they are dependent or they will likely make very bad choices when they are independent.

If you are in the long process of letting go of your children, I hope that you have the wisdom to know what freedoms to give and the will-power to let go when its best for your children. Work towards actively instilling in your children good values that will become firmly established in their core identity.  Also, take a moment and look back on how far your children have come. They will continue to grow and develop and you can rejoice in their developing independence.

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Finishing Strong

We are in the final month of school and I can feel it. So many other parents have shared with me that they can feel it as well. Life feels full, busy, possibly stressful. So many little details to watch and care for. Final projects, End-of- year parties, Sports and more.

And then once you make it through this month, it’s SUMMER! Summer with all of its warmth and fun and excitement. And Summer with all of it’s childcare needs, children who want to be entertained, siblings who need to get along with each other and so on and so on.

So – what can we do to finish strong?

It is easy to say, but sometimes hard to do. STAY ORGANIZED. Read the emails from your teachers, sign the permission slips, keep track on the calendar of events.

ENGAGE YOUR KIDS. Keep your kids engaged in the year-end activities and ask them to help keep everything on track. Do they have any papers in their backpack that you need? Is there lunchbox getting emptied every day? How is that book report coming?

LOOK AHEAD. Summer is coming and with that comes a new schedule and new needs. Have you looked at any camps the kids want to be involved in? How is your day-to-day routine going to change? How can the kids pitch in and help? Do you have childcare needs?

As always – Northlight Nannies is here to help with your summer childcare needs. Now is the time for us to start a search for a great match for your family’s personality and schedule. If you have any questions, please contact Jeff at 616-363-9966.

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Living Intentionally

A friend of mine just finished spending 40 days focusing on Mindfulness. She simply made it a priority to be mindful of her thoughts/actions and how they affected others. It was interesting to watch her observations and see how often they affected how she interacted with her children.

Just little things like taking a deep breath before responding to her children when they were acting impulsively.

Taking the time to cherish a moment when her child grabs her hand to show her something that catches their eye or seems extra special.

Choosing to enjoy time spent just hanging out. Whether this is riding in the car together or getting ready for bed. Enjoying the moment.

I really enjoyed watching her look at these snapshots in her life through a lens of mindfulness. I want to take the moment to take her idea one step farther. Mindfulness gave her a chance to look at events as they happened and choose what she was going to take away from the moment.
I would like to challenge myself (and others) to choose to to incorporate both mindfulness and intentionality into their day-to-day life.

How does this look with our kids?

This can include taking a deep breath at the start of the day, focusing on each of your children and thinking about what they are going to need from you that day.

Does your youngest need a one-on-one moment with you to share a great story without older kids interrupting or one-upping?

Can you help your child by taking a moment to help them lay out their clothes for the day or help them make their bed?

This can include planning (and following through) with 15 minutes at the end of the day to read a book with your child or listen to their reading.

This can mean looking for an opportunity to demonstrate compassion to another by letting a tired mom cut in front you at the grocery store.

There are so many opportunities to love and teach our children throughout the day. Being mindful and intentional about these opportunities can allow us to seize these moments.

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Remember When

Someday “today” will become “remember when”.

This past Sunday, my family was able to enjoy a wonderful skiing day with some extended family. We enjoyed riding up the chairlift together, telling stories of how the previous run had gone and spent time in the lodge snacking and chatting. Others spent Sunday watching a Superbowl game that turned out to have an amazingly shocking ending.

Both of those events feel so recent. They are our “today”. But soon they will become our “remember when”.

“Remember when we went skiing with all the cousins…”

“Remember when the Patriots scored in the final seconds of the 2016 SuperBowl…”

As parents, we are reminded all of the time to enjoy the moment.  We hear quotes like “The days are long, but the years are short.” We are told that “they won’t be little forever.”  And sometimes, I hate hearing those reminders because it feels like this amazing pressure to enjoy everything – even when you have a sick kid on the couch or a cranky child who doesn’t want to get ready for school.  I don’t want parents to feel pressured that every moment has to be the cover of a Hallmark card or a sentimental SuperBowl ad.

But I do want to remind myself and others that our attitude about each and every day affects how the day turns out.  We can choose to enjoy each moment to the best of our ability and we can choose to invest the time now. So, when you are having a simple moment with your child – reading a bedtime story or having a chat in the car on the way to school – remind yourself that this today moment that seems so ordinary will someday become a remember when. Lock in the joy of it to tell stories in years to come.

 

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Mom Says…

How many times have you overheard that phrase? “Mom (Dad) says….”

Kids are having a playdate, talking with a sibling or chatting at school/daycare and they want to share a fact or truth and it starts with “Mom says….”

“Mom says that I have a great imagination.”

“Dad says that there are 5280 feet in a mile.”

“Mom says that you have to share the last cookie with me.”

“Dad says that Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are brother and sister.”

As parents, we are often the primary source of information for our children. Our word is taken as truth and fact (at least for the first 8-10 years of their life). What do we choose to do with this power?

I love it when my kids ask me questions. They are trying to wrap their brains around all the things that they are learning and seeing and they often come with me to help put the pieces together.  I have two approaches to their questions. I love having the answers (4×5 is and always will be 20; the capital of the US is Washington D.C.) and I love teaching them that I need to learn answers myself. When asked what the tallest building in the world is we can go to the internet and learn together. (Burj Khalifa in Dubai is 2,717 feet tall according to Wikipedia)

I also love the opportunity to speak truth into my children’s lives about more relational and self-awareness concepts. I love looking for opportunities to observe a positive trait in my children and verbalize that to them. I watch for chances to build them up and create a language for them about themselves. This does not mean creating a blown-up or egotistical view of themselves. I don’t want them to say “Mom says that I am the best baseball player in the whole world!”, but I would love to hear, “Mom says that I have a really great swing.” I don’t want to hear, “Mom says this is the best drawing ever!” But I would love to hear, “Mom says that she really likes how I practiced my shading.”

We are our children’s first responders. We hear the questions and observe the behaviors. Listen to what what you are saying to them and how it is being processed and re-verbalized.

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Thank you for the beautiful day!

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It can be so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life. Especially as we enter the holiday season. As adults, we see to-do lists, obligations, special events and upcoming snowy/stormy weather as things to conquer, overcome and simply push through.

However, I have witnessed two people recently who take a different approach to day-to-day life and I admire their optimistic attitude.

 

At our house, we take turns saying a nightly prayer at the dinner table. When it is my 6-year-old’s turn, he prays for his friends and his school and always includes the sentence “Thank you God, for the beautiful day.”

Listening, I sometimes smile to myself at his cute optimism and think  – “It wasn’t a beautiful day – it was rainy or cloudy, too cold or too hot.” But those are my negative thoughts. Every day truly is a beautiful day. We are alive and well. We have family and friends. We have warm houses and healthy food. Our children can help us see that and when they are having a negative day we can help them see that truth as well.

One Monday morning, I was saying hello to a co-worker and asked, “Was it a good weekend?”. When I am asked that question, I typically respond with one simple highlight of the weekend or often comment, “Well – just a typical weekend – nothing special”.

However, his response struck me. He responded, “Every weekend is a good weekend!” Perhaps his weekend wasn’t actually that stupendous – perhaps he still had work to do or the weather didn’t allow him to do what he wanted to do.  But his approach to each and every day is to see that it was good!

How do you see today? Is it a day to push through and endure? Are you simply waiting for the next weekend, the next Christmas party, the next vacation? Or can you and your family take the moment and see that today is a beautiful and good.

Blessings on you and your family this holiday season. It is a beautiful and good day!

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