Thursday, September 29, 2011

I may like Lego's more than they do...

Somebody please tell me that I am not the only parent who does this...

As most of you know, Caedmon recently celebrated his 5th birthday and was blessed to receive several packs of Star Wars Lego's. This is a new addition to our toy collection. I was not familiar with how precise you have to be in putting together the Lego's in order to create the desired/intended outcome. It's honestly a little too advanced for Caedmon, but nevertheless, he LOVES them and is very excited to have them.

I have spent hours (not at all an exaggeration, I'm just embarrassed to tell you how many!) putting these Star Wars Lego's together. I actually quite enjoy it. The activity is strangely relaxing and therapeutic for me. The only thing is, Caedmon quickly loses interest in watching me construct "Ewok Attack" or "Sith Nightspeeder" He'll start off by handing me pieces that I need and trying to construct things on his own. Then he'll move on to playing with a different toy right beside me. Then I'll notice that he's not even in the room with me anymore. And here am I, 30 minutes later, diligently focused on this project (and enjoying it a little too much)!

The other night I had all the Star Wars Lego's constructed and on display. I was so proud of my work that I took pictures!

The Lego creations are actually quite fragile so it's a little tricky for a 5 & 2 year old to "play" with them without destroying them. So after we were finished all playing with them together, I put them up so they couldn't be touched without adult supervision. We wouldn't want my hours of hard work going to waste, right?

The next morning I walked in the playroom where the boys had been having fun with another unnamed adult in our family only to find little pieces of Star Wars Lego's all over the floor! Really? They lasted less than 24 hours?! Caedmon said, "I'm sorry, Mom. We were just having fun!" Well, I guess that's why we have them after all. And it gives me an excuse to engage in a little "play therapy"! :-)

Please tell me that I am not the only parent out there who finds themselves lost in a toy long after their child has lost interest!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Caedmon the Creative

I am of the belief that every child has the potential to be a creative genius. Their imaginations are astounding. One of the best things that you can do to nurture their creativity (and develop a valuable skill) is to teach your child to tell a story. To get started, you can tell a story back and forth. You add a line, then they add a line. You can say things like, "We need to think of a setting. Where do we want our story to take place? At the beach, in a jungle, in a hot desert?" 

Then you can say, "Who are the characters in our story going to be?" Our stories tend to be full of superheros...not as much variety as one would hope for as of yet! :-)

After you have the setting and the characters, you can start to tell the story. They always turn out really funny by going back and forth. You can talk to your child about how every good story needs some kind of problem and then a solution.

This is a great game to play in the car or over dinner.

Storytelling like this prepares our kids to be great writers. When I taught kindergarten, I wanted my children to see themselves as "Writers". Many of them didn't even know their ABC's but, by-golly, they thought they were writers because they had a story to tell. Getting the words on paper is just the details. It was so important to me that they didn't get bogged down in their efforts to form letters or sound out words that they lost their story.

So how do you do that? How do you teach a child to write who can barely form letters?

You teach them to draw their story!

I got Caedmon a spiral notebook (Star Wars, of course) for his writing journal. About twice a week, we pull it out and add another story to this treasure chest. I draw a line horizontally across the middle of the page. He draws his story on top of the line and then he dictates his story to me as I write the words on the bottom half of the page.

Is he always eager to do this? No. Because it takes a lot of mental energy and focus to do it.

Are our stories always coherent? No. They are rarely linear and often make no sense at all.

Is he learning a valuable skill? Absolutely.

Here are a few examples of stories we've come up with:

By having the child dictate the story to you and then reading it back to them, you are teaching them that
  • letters/words have meaning,
  • left to right reading,
  • one to one correspondence in pointing to words.
As your child advances, you can have them help you think of the beginning sounds to various words, recognize sight words, and eventually sound out words by themselves (that is closer to the middle/end of kindergarten for most kids). Don't get bogged down in sounding our words and miss the story!

Logistical details:
  • I set my timer for 15 minutes. Caedmon has to sit at his little table and draw his story for the entire 15 minutes. Even if he's "done" early, he has to continue to add details.
  • Sammy and I do some type of activity together while Caedmon "writes" his story. Read, puzzles, etc.
  • When the timer beeps, Sammy begins an independent activity for about 15 minutes while Caedmon and I work on the words to his story. Sammy sits on a blanket with his activity in the same room where we are.
  • I try to do this on Monday and Wednesday mornings. 
  • I would not attempt this particular activity with a child under the age of 4. Younger children may still like to draw a picture and have you label what they drew. But the concept of writing a story is a little advanced. I would just stick to orally creating stories until their language skills and storytelling abilities are a little more solidified.
Most importantly, keep it fun! Trying to get a story out of a child's mind and onto a piece of paper can be frustrating if you let it. Some days Caedmon needs a little more assistance and prompting. Other days he comes up with the whole thing on his own. The goal of the activity is to train your child to think like a writer and believe that they have a story to tell!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sammy the Swimmer

Evidently there is a little myth "floating" (pun intended) around out there that black people can't swim. Well, 2-year-old Sammy is on a mission to prove everyone wrong. He's swimming better than any other 2-year-olds I know!

Sammy was terrified of the water this time last year. But after watching Caedmon take swim lessons this summer and seeing how much fun the water can be, he has virtually taught himself to swim! He does not want a life jacket and does not want you to hold him. He wants to swim! It's been a lot of fun to watch.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Quiet Time- What's that?

Yesterday was an amazing day at South Bay Church! 832 people, 87 first time guests (who turned in connection cards), 12 first time professions of faith. It was such a great day! We kicked off our 40 Days of Purpose Campaign with a new message series called, "What On Earth Am I Here For?" Over the next 40 days, we are challenging every person in our church to read Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life book and participate in a discussion group throughout the week. I know that God is going to use this season to do an incredible work in individual lives and our church as a whole.

I realize that asking people to find time to spend alone with God every single day for 40 days straight is tough. But the dividends far outweigh the sacrifice, so we just have to be creative and fight to get that time each day. Speaking of having to fight for time alone with God, I thought I'd share with you an excerpt from my journal last Tuesday. See if you can relate! :-)

I feel like I'm out of breath ever morning when I finally have a chance to sit down to read my Bible. Mornings are so busy when you have little ones. It's just now 9 AM and here's how my morning unfolded:

5:30     Alarm - snooze
5:40     Up,  put on work out clothes, notice lights just turned on in the living room but Andy & I are still in the bedroom. Put Sammy back in bed.
5:50     Begin "Insanity" workout
6:10     Sammy comes out again. Put him in pack-in-play with books
6:35     Finish workout. Put away clean laundry. Make bed. Andy showers.
6:45     Shower, get ready. Andy starts breakfast with boys.
7:30     Andy starts his quiet time. I make my breakfast. Distribute vitamins. Change diaper. Clear table.
8:00     Get boys dressed. Comb hair. Brush teeth.
8:15     Play Hungry, Hungry Hippo- 4 rounds
8:25     Get Caedmon's socks on. Finish doing his hair.
8:30     Sit in dark closet with the boys, lightsabers, blankets, and Darth Vader masks
8:35     Caedmon off to preschool with Dad
8:40     Empty dishwasher. Reload with breakfast dishes. Make cup of tea.
8:55     Set Sammy up for room time. Put away puzzle he pulled out in the playroom. Shake my head at the rest of the mess. Clean up a juice spill on the carpet.
9:00     Sit down with tea & Bible trying to still my heart enough to hear from God. The timer is set, though, because Sammy's room time won't last long. So I've gotta hear from God FAST!

How's that for "Be still and know that I am God"?!?! (insert panting & gasping for breath here)

My hat is off to all the moms out there whose mornings look exactly like mine, but then would need to write "Out the door for work". It is not easy, I know!

Prioritizing that time alone with God each day is tricky, but it is what keeps us grounded amidst all the craziness and frantic pace we often live our lives. I am so excited for all of you who are taking this 40 day journey with is going to change our lives!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Muffins, anyone?

Big, huge, exciting things are happening at South Bay Church right now! This weekend we are launching into 40 Days of Purpose with our "What On Earth Am I Here For?" message series. The amount of preparation and hours of work that has gone into this is unbelievable. We are praying BIG prayers and expecting God to move mightily in our midst over the next 7 weeks.

This week we are starting over 50 new Life Groups- each discussing "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren. We have really encouraged our Life Group leaders to invite friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors to join their groups instead of simply filling them with people who are already connected to South Bay. Our goal is that every adult who attends South Bay will get connected in a Life Group, but we don't want to stop there. We want to be salt & light in our community as well!

To bridge the gap of connecting with neighbors, Andy challenged our church (and specifically our leaders) to host a "Matthew Party". To listen to his whole sermon, click here and listen to the message from 8/21/11. But in short, a Matthew Party is just an informal and typically fun environment where followers of Christ and those who don't yet follow Christ can interact and engage in conversations.

Our friends, Dawn & Kent, had an awesome idea to host a "Mug & Muffin" party in their driveway one Saturday morning. They invited all of the families who live on their circle in their neighborhood to drop by and have coffee and a muffin together. Check out this awesome invitation that Dawn made: 

They had a great time that morning building friendships with about 13 families that dropped by. What a huge win! They are living intentional lives, investing in those that God has put in their sphere of influence. Their neighbors may not be interested in spiritual things or South Bay Church or coming to a Bible study in their home. But God can use our willingness to reach out in ways that we can never predict ahead of time.

At the Mug & Muffin, Dawn & Kent had out these fliers inviting people to join them at their Life Group:

Intentional, but not "in your face". A non-threatening invitation to spend more time with fun people learning about our "purpose" in life...something that is important to everyone.

I'm sharing all this with you because I'm hoping that God will put it on some of YOUR hearts to host a similar event. Andy and I totally swiped their idea, reused their invitation (with minor adjustments), and we're hosting our own Mug & Muffin this Saturday. We spent two evenings this week walking around after dinner to invite people. We simply went door to door through our apartments, talked to people if they were home, and left it for them if they weren't. No one was unkind to us or slammed the door in our face. Quite the opposite, actually. People were so happy that someone was taking the initiative to get people together.

I don't care where you live, God is at work in people's hearts around you. When we moved to the Bay area to start a church, we were warned about all the opposition we would likely face from people here because the Bay area is so resistant to the Gospel. While there are certainly some pockets of resistance here, there are ALWAYS people in whose hearts God is at work. And we don't know who those people are. But if we will pray that God leads us to them and then create opportunities for those types of relationships to form, I believe with all my heart that God will bless it every time!

If you throw some sort of "Matthew Party" in the next couple of months, you BETTER let me know so that I can rejoice with you!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A few more birthday pics

To read all about Caedmon's Star Wars birthday party, click here. These are just a few extra pictures that were too cute to leave out!

 This is Caedmon after "helping" bake his cake. I don't understand why some parents think it is fun to bake with their children. I must be missing it somehow because I only see it as a necessary evil. He had fun, though!

Happy 5th Birthday, Caedmon! You are deeply loved.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Star Wars Birthday Pics

Master Jedi Caedmon requested a Star Wars party for his 5th birthday, which sent me scouring the internet to come up with ideas. I'm not a big Star Wars fan, have never seen any of the movies (gasp!), and therefore had no ideas what to do. But, alas, the trusty internet came through again and provided not only a ton of ideas, but also step-by-step instructions for things like "how to draw Yoda" and "how to make a Yoda cake". 

So here's how the party unfolded...

The guests were greeted by the signs on our door, covered in black plastic, which read "Welcome to the Wood Galaxy. Warning: Jedi in Training." (The Star Wars font can be downloaded off the internet for free.)

When they came inside, there was a slide show of Star Wars pictures and the theme song from Star Wars playing on our TV. We also decorated one wall in our house to have a Star Wars look.

Upon arrival, all Jedi were escorted to the DROID FACTORY where they were to construct droids using biodegradable packing peanuts. The packing peanuts stick together if they get wet (via a wet sponge or by licking, which seemed to be the preferred method). 

Once all the Jedi had arrived, they convened for their first JEDI COUNSEL. All of the children had either of gold or black fabric square to sit on to listen to instructions from Andy, who looked something like Darth Vader for most of the party. 

Andy told the Jedi,  
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the Jedi Master Caedmon called all his friends to come help restore peace and tranquility to the universe in honor of his 5th birthday. As the Jedi arrived, your first task was to construct droids at the Droid Factory. 

You are now sitting in our Jedi Counsel Chamber where we will discuss further plans to improve our Jedi skills. What is the most important weapon that a true Jedi needs? (a lightsaber) Ahh, yes, a lightsaber! One of our favorite Star Wars hero has a problem. He has lost his lightsaber and he requires YOUR assistance in getting it back into his hands."

At this point all Jedi participated in a game of "Pin the lightsaber on Yoda." The lightsabers were made of green poster board with the handle colored black. I drew Yoda on bulletin board paper.

Back to the JEDI COUNSEL:
"Well done, Jedi knights. You completed your mission of helping restore the lightsaber to Yoda. But your job is not complete! Before you may have a lightsaber of your own, you must learn proper technique and form. A lightsaber requires delicate control, not whacking each other. In order to develop your Jedi skills we will have a relay race where you must push the ancient rock with the lightsaber."
We divided the kids into 2 teams: Black/Gold according to whatever color square they were sitting on.The relay race consisted of them pushing a ball covered in aluminum foil back and forth across the living room.


Back to the JEDI COUNSEL:
"Well done, Jedi knights. You’re skill are improving rapidly and you are almost ready for your final test where you will be rewarded with your lightsaber. However, it is very important that you have enough energy to complete this final exercise. Therefore, we are going to refuel our bodies with the nourishment of true Jedi Knights.

Today, you may choose to eat:
Anakin Apples
            Ventress Veggies
            Jedi Jigglers
            Chewbacca Cheese & Crackers
            Obi Wan Orange Chicken
            Storm Trooper Tacos, and
            Pizza the Hutt

Your parents can help you get your food, but then hurry back to our Jedi Counsel Chamber to eat together with your fellow Jedi Knights."

As the Jedi finished eating they were instructed to return to the Droid Factory to build more droids. They could also choose to color some Star Wars coloring pages that we printed from the internet.

Back to the JEDI COUNSEL:
"Congratulations, Jedi knights. You have made it to the final round of Jedi training. Our final exercise will take place outside in outer space. We must be sure that you have mastered your skills in all parts of the Galaxy. As we depart to the outdoor Docking Bay, we will behave as Jedi Knights. We will walk swiftly in a straight line like soldiers. There will be no smiling, no laughing, and no goofing off! We are in Jedi training! Are you ready? (Yes, sir!) Ok, follow me."
For the final game the Jedi were on one side of the field and their lightsabers (inflatable ones from Party City) were on the opposite side. In the middle of the field stood Andy & Filipe, both wearing Darth Vader masks. The Jedi had to get from one side of the Abyss to the other, retrieve their lightsaber, and get back without being tagged by Darth Vader. If they were tagged they had to freeze until another Jedi came to unfreeze them. The game was rather chaotic and there was no real point or ending to the game, but the kids didn't care and just ran around laughing and whacking each other with their lightsabers!

To end the party, we reconvened all the Jedi to sing Happy Birthday to Master Jedi Caedmon and enjoy some cupcakes & cake. I realize that my Yoda cake looks more like an elderly monkey with large ears than Yoda, but hey, it's the best I could do. I told Caedmon before I started making it, "Caedmon, I'm not sure how this will turn out, but no matter what I want you to say, 'That's awesome, Mommy! I love it!'" And he did. Andy told me, "That is hands-down the best Yoda cake I've ever seen." I said, "Andy, that compliment means nothing to me because it is the ONLY Yoda cake you've ever seen!" At least I get an E for effort!

Those are mini-lightsabers in the cupcakes.

Notice my hand covering Sammy's mouth so that he can't blow out the candles!

There are a few more pictures that are too good to be left out, but I'll post those tomorrow. Until then, may the force be with you!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Happy Birthday, Caedmon

Dear Caedmon,

All is quiet in our house after a very full and fun day of celebrating YOU. The presents have been unwrapped, the cake has been eaten, the friends have gone home. You and your brother are now sleeping peacefully in your bedroom just down the hall. Your dad passed out halfway through the movie and headed to bed. So here I sit on this couch, surrounded by Star Wars decorations, thinking of you.

I wish I had the words to describe how much joy you bring me.

I love the way you dance your goofy little dance, and the fact that you'll do it on command. Daddy made you dance for us before you could open your present this morning and we all laughed hysterically.

I love the way you laugh at yourself in instances where others would be embarrassed. That is such a wonderful quality. It sets people at ease in awkward situations. It makes people to feel close to you.

I love the way you say the funniest things without even meaning to. Today something smelled so I said, "Caedmon, do you need to poop?" And you said, "No. I just don't know why I can't stop farting. That's really weird, huh?" Where do you come up with this stuff? So funny.

I love the way you show great courage and boldness relationally. You make friends quicker than any child I've ever met. We could be at the playground for 5 minutes and you will make a new friend. The first day I picked you up from preschool this school year, you had already made a new best friend. You love people, and that makes people love you back.

I love the way you go with the flow when it comes to playing with your friends. It used to really bother me that you would imitate what other kids were doing instead of taking the lead. I thought that that meant you would be a follower and easily swayed. But now I see what an incredible gift it is. When you are with another child who has a strong opinion about what to play, you are happy to jump right in the fun with them. You are the kind of kid that everyone wants to play with because you don't always demand your way. You are a great playmate.

I love the way you are a self-declared "big kid" sometimes, but then the next moment you'll be asking me if you're still my baby. There is such tenderness in your heart. I love that you still let me hold you and we may kiss each other upwards of a hundred times a day. I told you this week that even when you are a grown man, you will still be my baby. That never changes.

I love the way your messy head looks in the morning as you bound into the living room. I told you once that your hair must have had a party while you slept. You liked that, so we say it often.

I love that you love books.
I love that you think you're "faster than anyone", but you're really not very fast.
I love that you have a great memory.
I love that you can get hit in the face with a dodgeball and laugh instead of cry.

Ahhh, Caedmon, I am so in love with you. You have captured my heart.

As I was reflecting upon the embarrassingly large amount of hours I spent preparing for this 2 hour party of yours, the thought occurred to me that I have absolutely NO idea what my parents did for me for my 5th birthday. I know they did something great because birthdays were a big deal around our house. But I have no memories of it. Not one. In fact, I probably have a grand total of about 5 memories from my whole 5th year.

The reality is, you probably won't remember this either. Today, you were on top of the world and you may remember it for a few years. But when you're 30, this will likely not be one of your top childhood memories.

As I considered that I thought to myself, "Why in the world am I doing all of this?" And the only thing I could come up with was that I just cannot get enough of your smile. I would do all kinds of crazy, ridiculous, never-do-it-for-anyone-else-in-the world things just to feel you be happy in that instant. I had such deep joy watching you today.

So maybe the party was just as much for me as it was for you. To be honest, I need moments in mothering that I remember just how great it feels to love a child all the way to the depths of my soul, and to know that that child is pretty smitten with me, too.

Caedmon Elliott Wood, this journey of getting to know you and who God is shaping you to become has been one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. In my heart I know that God has something incredible in store for you, but I have no idea what it is. With every new glimpse I catch of your personality, every new insight I have into your strengths, it is like God gives me one more piece of that puzzle to see the man you will one day be. God is going to use every single unique nuance about you to glorify Him and to change the world, if you'll let Him.

This year you'll play at a ton of playgrounds, eat more peanut butter than could possibly be healthy, and learn how to bathe yourself (responsibly). We'll play indoor dodge ball, capture evil villians, and have lightsaber wars in our living room. You will learn to read this year and the whole world will open up to you because of it. You will start kindergarten this year, and because we are still up in the air on what to do about schooling, I will keep in mind that this could possibly be my last year to have you at home all day with me. And while there have been moments that I have longed for the "freedom" that dropping my kids off at school will bring, I find myself digging in my heels as the day more quickly approaches. The thought of someone else hearing all your one liners and seeing that smile for 6 hours a day sends a ping to my heart. So on the days when I'm about ready to sell you to the highest bidder on Craig's List, I will remember that you won't stay the 5-year-old version of you very long. But I have this moment, and I will cherish it.

Happy 5th Birthday to my favorite Jedi. I love you more than words.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Birthday Overload

This blog is being temporarily interrupted due to the fact that my child is having a birthday party this week which requires an enormous amount of preparation! I keep hearing my mom's voice from high school & college in my head saying, "Stacie, just take a B." (I was always the self-driven, over-achiever.) And then I hear myself answer her back with, "I don't know what that even means!" I will be back soon.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Getting It Done: A Day in the Life

Today I thought I'd give you a glimpse into my strategy each day for "Getting It Done". The following is a schedule for my ideal day (Monday-Thursday). Notice that I said ideal, not typical. We are constantly needing to adjust things around and there are many days that certain things just don't get done. Also, Friday-Sunday are oddball days for me. Friday is Andy's day off and our family day. Saturday is a partial work day for Andy. Sundays are intense. Really intense.

5:30 AM- Wake up, begin workout ASAP
  • Andy and I most often work out together to a DVD in our living room. Believe me, it's no Richard Simmons silly aerobic workout. We've done P90X together and have just started a new program called Insanity. The name says it all. Another workout DVD that I've done that is good and not quite as intense is Slim in 6. For me, it's hard to find time to get to the gym...especially with children in tow. So by having the options to workout at home, the only barrier keeping me from working out is if I choose not to get out of bed.
  • I have to get my workout in early or I won't do it. I don't want to shower/get ready more than once a day so it either has to be at the beginning or end of the day. And it's best if I can do it when the kids are not awake. I have zero energy and motivation to work out once the boys go to sleep at night, so I just get up early.
  • The boys are not "invited" out of their room until 7 AM. If they wake up before that (Sammy almost always does), then Sammy goes in the pack-n-play with some books and Caedmon has quiet room time.
6:45 AM- Shower, Get Ready (Andy helps with the boys if they are awake.)
7:30 AM- I'm on with the kids. Breakfast. Clean up from breakfast. Get boys dressed. Etc...
After breakfast- My time alone with God / Kids' TV time
  • I allow my kids to watch 30 minutes-one hour of some sort of show per day. I'm strategic in my placement of it so that I can have that time to read my Bible. I go in my room, close the door, and focus. The reality is, I normally have to get up at least 2 or 3 times to break up a fight, help them if the show messes up somehow, etc. So, it's not exactly tranquil, but I cherish that time.
8:40 AM- T/TH preschool/room time
  • On Tuesday/Thursday, Andy takes Caedmon to school if he's in town and doesn't have a morning meeting. Sammy has 30 minutes of room time. (Mandy has an awesome post explaining the purpose of room time if you'd like to read more about it.) I put a gate on the door to remind Sammy not to come out and I will help him select a few toys to focus playing with independently. Room time is tough for Sammy. He mainly stands at the gate and calls for me. Not in a hysterical crying way, but just a "I'm not sure why I'm stuck back here" kind of way. Room time is still a new concept for him and he'll figure it out soon. I remember Caedmon doing the exact same thing when he was younger.
9:00 AM- M/W preschool at home!
  • I've started being a little more intentional about supplementing Caedmon's education with some at-home activities. Caedmon will be starting kindergarten next year and is only going to preschool two mornings a week. So, I'm just adding a little to what he's getting at preschool. Sammy participates as well (kinda). I'll share more about this later, but I get almost all my ideas from this website.
10:00 or 10:30 AM- Out and About
  • Running errands, library, playground, playdates, etc...
12:00 PM- Pick up Caedmon from preschool (T/TH), head home for lunch

1:30 PM- Sammy naps/ Caedmon room time/ I'm on the computer
  • Caedmon's room time is a little different than Sammy's. He no longer needs a gate to remind him to stay in his room. He doesn't need as much assistance choosing his activities (though sometimes I still help him if he seems bored). He engages more in the play and can have a more extended period of room time.
  • My computer time is devoted to writing a blog post, updating our finances, writing our monthly newsletter, and returning emails (which I'm horrible at). Sammy typically takes an hour- an hour and a half nap. That's a lot shorter than the 2-3 hour naps that Caedmon used to take every day. I'm learning to adjust and be very focused with the time that I get.
3:00 PM-  Snack/Candy time
  • If Sammy took a nap and Caedmon stayed in his room, they both get to choose a piece of candy. They also normally have some milk and a snack at this point.
  • Then we're back at "it"...whatever "it" is for the day. Riding bikes, errands, outdoor play, etc...
5:00 PM- Dinner prep / Computer time
  • While I prep dinner, I let Caedmon have 30 minutes of computer time. He can play on either,, or Sammy either watches him or plays around the house by himself.
5:30 PM- ANDY'S HOME! Dinner time.
  • His arrival time fluctuates slightly, but he really makes an effort to get home around 5:30 everyday. When he walks through that door, it is a big moment and highlight of our day. The boys race to see who is going to get the first hug and then typically begin a wrestling match.
  • We normally eat dinner somewhere between 5:30-6:00.
After dinner- Family time
  • We try to really focus on family during this time between dinner and bedtime. Andy does an awesome job taking the lead in this. It looks different from night to night.
6:30 PM- Bath time/ Bedtime routine
  • I'll tell you a secret if you promise not to judge me...we normally only bathe our kids every other day. Unless they're super dirty. Saves time and energy and last time I checked there was no fungus growing on them!
  • Bedtime routine includes brushing teeth, reading a Bible story from The Jesus Storybook Bible, prayer, I sing at least one song, and I recently started quoting Psalm 23 to them each night. Someone told me that if you quote the same scripture to your kids every night, they will memorize it before long. Makes sense.
7:00-7:30 PM- Boys in bed

7:30-9:00 PM- Time with Andy
  • Some nights we work, some nights we watch a show, some nights we have a good conversation. It just depends.
9:00-9:30 PM- Get ready for bed
  • If I'm going to get up at 5:30 AM, I have to go to bed at 9:30 PM. That makes for a short evening for us, but it's a values call. We value working out so this is just our system for making it work.
So, that's a ideal day in my life. Not super-exciting, but it's how I fit in my Top 4.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Priority of the Home: Part 4

There is more than enough guilt in motherhood and this blog is, by no means, intended to create more. As moms, we can feel guilty about all sorts of things, big or small:
  • I fuss at my kids too much.
  • I didn't feed my kids a hot breakfast before their standardized testing.
  • My child is the last of his peers to be potty trained.
  • I didn't come up with the most creative/homemade Halloween costume.
  • My kids only speak one language (unless you include whining as a 2nd language).
  • and on, and on, and on...
We can torment ourselves by comparing ourselves to other moms who appear to "have it all together" knowing full-well that we, in fact, DO NOT have it all together. I hope that I share honestly enough on this blog that you realize that I do not have it all together and I do not even desire to portray to others that I do. (Well, I guess some days I'd like everyone to think that, but I know it's not healthy! :-) ) I hope you know that I am deep in the trenches of motherhood trying to be the absolute best mom that I can, but there are many-a-days that I feel absolutely defeated and sorry for my kids that they have me as a mom.We ALL feel that way from time to time.

With that said, it is with great sensitivity that I write this post regarding our decision for me to be a stay-at-home mom. I hope it provides some food for thought. This week I've been sharing some systems that Andy & I have put in place to help us prioritize our home, and I would be remiss if I did not share about this very crucial element.

The decision was mutual. Andy and I both wanted me to stay home to raise our children and maintain our home. When I announced to my fellow teachers that I was going to stop teaching to stay home with Caedmon, another teacher commented (not directly to me), "I wonder how her husband feels about that..." implying that I was no longer going to be "pulling my weight" financially and he must be pretty upset about that. Not so.

There are also people who think that Andy forced me to give up my career (and goals and intelligence) in order to do the "mindless work" of raising children. Equally untrue.

It's not like we arm-wrestled and someone lost. We both wanted this.

There are a two basics reasons (I realize this list is not exhaustive) that women have shared with me as to why they decide to work.
       1- We can't afford it financially for me NOT to work.
This may be true in some cases. You may be going through a season where your husband is unable to work or there are extenuating circumstances. However, in most cases where I've heard this reason, it is simply that the family does not want to decrease their standard of living. They are unwilling to move to a smaller house/apartment, drive cars that aren't quite as nice, take fewer vacations, etc... It is true that, if the wife has a high-paying job, your standard of living can increase. But it is costing you in other areas.

As a wife, it is not your God-given responsibility to provide for your family. That role has been given to your husband (Genesis 3). In Paul's instruction to Timothy regarding men he says,

"If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and expecially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."  1 Timothy 5:8

Wives often feel pressure (whether from their husbands or self-imposed) to help provide for the family's financial needs. By doing that, they are taking on a burden that God did not intend for them to carry. He has equipped our husbands with the strength to carry that load.

I know of lots of wives that are creative in the ways they supplement the family income. Online businesses, part-time contract work with flexible hours, working during school hours, etc... There are ways to make it work.

But ultimately, it is not your job. Godliness with CONTENTMENT is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). Let's affirm our husbands as wonderful providers for our families by being content with the standard of living his job allows.

Reason #2:

       2- Honestly, I feel like I might go crazy if I spent all day every day with my kids.
Wow. I have so been there. On my darkest days I have had the thought, "I just need to go find a job that will cover the cost of childcare so I don't have to be with them all day!" There is no doubt about it, being a stay-at-home mom is hard work! And it often feels like hard work that is unappreciated, unproductive, and unstimulating. At the end of the day, moms don't have a lot to "show" for our hard work and can thus be less fulfilling than accomplishing something tangible at the job.

Logically thinking, however, the person who spends the most waking hours with our child is going to have one of the greatest influences on that child. That is why those first 5 years of a child's life are so incredibly crucial. My children are learning what it means to be a "Wood" right now. No one else can teach them that. Yes, someone else could change their diapers or potty train them or teach them their letters. But I don't want ANYONE else teaching them about character and integrity. We forget that they are learning those lessons every single day, whether we are intentional about it or not.

For those women with huge career aspirations, let's say you have from age 25-65 to work in the corporate world. That is 40 years! Rest assured, you can put a parenthetical clause in your career to raise your children for ten or twenty years and you will have far more reaching results than if you solely focus on your career. We get ONE shot with raising our kids. There are no re-do's or rewinds. If we wasted today, that's too bad. We can try to do better tomorrow, but this one is gone. I realize all too clearly that Sammy and Caedmon will only be 2 and 4 years old one time.

The reality is that pursuing our own dreams and career aspirations while we have children at home can, for some women, be a selfish escape from our responsibilities. Like it or not, Scripture is clear that women are to be homeward focused. (1 Timothy 5:14, Titus 2:4) What a PRIVILEGE and HIGH-CALLING that God would entrust us with such an important task! I am not using these verses to say that the Bible teaches that it is a sin for a woman to have a job. You could definitely make the argument that a woman can be homeward focused and still have a career. I'm just saying that it's tricky...that's an awfully big load to carry.

While playing trains and building towers and cleaning sticky fingers and runny noses may not be the most mentally stimulating environment, it is growing our character. God has used motherhood more than any other role in my life to shape me into His likeness. By leaning into the trials instead of finding a way to avoid them, God reveals in me heart attitudes and sinfulness that I never knew was there...sins that I probably would never see if I was only interacting with adults throughout the day.

There are many days where I feel completely spent emotionally and the thought of getting a job sounds great. But I know in my heart that doing that would not be what is best for me (in my character development), it would not be best for my children, and it would not be best for our home.

Concluding thoughts:

Let me be clear:

Just because you have a job DOES NOT make you a horrible mother. You may be doing an absolutely fantastic job at motherhood, and I have no doubt that you are trying your very best. 

AND (equally important)

Just because you are a stay-at-home mom DOES NOT make you an awesome mother. It is possible to be physically present but mentally or emotionally unengaged.

The point of this post is to encourage you to honestly access you "homeward focus". If you do have a job, why? What are the real motivations? Is it because you are discontent with a lower standard of living? Is it because the Character School of Motherhood is a course you'd like to speed past with just the Cliff Notes? Is it because having a "real job" makes you feel more significant? Is it because you've just never considered a different option?

As I go to push "Publish" and launch this post into the Cyber World, I cringe at the thought that some of you reading this may feel judged or misunderstood or guilty. PLEASE KNOW that that is not my heart. I am compelled to write this because of a young mom that my mom was talking with several years ago. My mom gently shared with her many of the ideas written in this post and that young mom wept as she saw motherhood through a new lens. She decided to quit her job in order to focus more of her time on her child. It was a gut-wrenching decision for her, but one that she has never regretted.

Maybe there is a mom out there reading this and it will set her free to make some adjustments to be more homeward focused. If so, this post if for you.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Priority of the Home: Part 3

This week at I've been sharing some systems that Andy and I have in place to help us prioritize our home. Today the topic is Keeping Evenings Free.

For whatever reason, a lot of people think that our evenings are probably slammed with dinner meetings and/or church functions. The truth is, they're normally not. There are weeks or seasons where we will have something on the calendar multiple nights a week, but typically we do about one evening meeting per week.

We have some standard events a few nights of each week. Thursday night is almost always spent babysitting for the Santos family. Friday night is almost always date night. And Saturday night is spent preparing for Sunday morning...we rarely go anywhere on Saturday evenings.

So that leaves Sunday-Wednesday evenings as discretionary.

It would be oh so easy for me to fill up each of those times slots with an activity. There are always people with whom I would love to have dinner or an evening cup of tea. There are always several women on my heart that I would love to disciple or encourage or just have a good conversation with. There are always at least two or three initiatives rolling around in my mind that I'd like to gather a team of people to get started.

We have to fight to protect that evening time together as a family.

The boundary that we have set for our family for this season is that I take one night each week to myself for ministry purposes. After eating dinner together as a family, Andy gets the kiddos ready for bed and I have the rest of the evening "off". I have complete freedom to fill that time with whatever my heart desires...a discipleship meeting, leading a life group, etc. 

Knowing that I only have that one evening time slot available forces me to do a couple things:
  1. I think long and hard about how to invest that time. The past 9 months I've been discipling a couple women during that time. Now, I'm about to jump back into Life Group leadership. The time limitation forces me to bypass things that could be good for what I believe God is telling me will be best.
  2. I figure out creative ways to have more daytime meetings. Anyone who has small children could attest to the fact that it is not ideal to have little ones running around when you are trying to have a indepth, heart-to-heart discussion. However, I have chosen not to hide behind that barrier and have scheduled many a "playdates" with other women (whether or not they even have kids!). I limit this to some extent because I don't want my kids to feel neglected or pushed aside every time I take them to the playground. The conversations are frequently interrupted, but God can use even that to grow and encourage us to be an example to others of what godly parenting looks like.
This system of keeping our evenings free is tricky, and it will likely look different for us once our kids are older and we're going to their sporting events multiple nights a week. But, for this season, we keep it pretty low key to make room for family dinners, popcorn with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and games of indoor dodge ball (thank you, Andy, for that one).

It gives Andy and me space to cuddle on the couch after the kids go to sleep and watch a favorite show. It gives us space to enjoy a good book or get organized for the next day. In essence, it gives us space to let our spirits catch up with our bodies that have been going like crazy all day.

This post is intended to be DEscriptive of a boundary that the Wood family has in place, not PREscriptive for every family in the world. It's just one of our systems that helps us prioritize the home.

"The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance."
Psalm 16:6

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Priority of the Home: Part 2

Yesterday I introduced some "systems" Andy and I have in place at the Wood household to help us make sure Family Life gets a top priority in our lives and in our hearts. Here's the benefit of systematizing it:

A system
       Energy &

One system that we have in place is our weekly finance talk.

I am no expert on finances. But I do know that, statistically, financial problems are one of the leading causes of divorce. One of the greatest things Andy and I ever did for our marriage was to go through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace class. I am of the belief that the class should be a requirement for every couple before they get married. It's that good.

Each week (normally on Tuesdays), I "update our finances". That includes paying any bills as well as entering all of our expenditures into our budget spreadsheet. Because I try to do it on a weekly basis, it doesn't take that long. I can typically get it done during Sammy's naptime.

We don't use any fancy programs for our budget. We just have a Google Doc spreadsheet where we keep track of each of our budget categories. In the past we used Excel for this, but we like having it as a Google Doc so that we can look at it online from wherever we are. For example, if we're at the mall and Andy wants to know how much money he has in his clothing line item, I just pull up the Google Doc on my phone and can tell him the exact amount. It eliminates the need to carry cash envelopes for the various categories, which was quite cumbersome to me.

Everybody's categories look a little different, but our categories include:
  • Giving
  • Housing
  • Groceries
  • Restaurants
  • Household/Hygiene
  • Auto
  • Auto Insurance
  • Vacation
  • Entertainment/Recreation
  • Andy's clothing
  • Stacie's clothing
  • Caedmon's clothing
  • Sammy's clothing
  • Savings
  • College savings for kids
  • Medical/Dental
  • Gifts
  • Office
  • Miscellaneous
That's more categories than a normal budget has, but I've found it's helpful to be very specific so I can track our spending carefully.

Click here to view a generic Google Doc I made to give you an idea of what our budget looks like. (I changed all the numbers and percentages.) MTD stands for Month To Date and YTD is Year To Date. You'll notice that there is a formula entered in those cells that automatically tallies your spending in each category. Feel free to copy this and make a Google doc of your own if it would be helpful for your family.

After I have updated our spreadsheet, it's very easy for Andy to glance at it on Tuesday evening and have a good understanding of where we are financially. Our weekly financial talk is typically all of 5-10 minutes, but it keeps us on the same page. There are occasions where we'll go more indepth to do some long term planning or something, but that is not a weekly conversation.

I know budgeting can feel totally overwhelming if you're not used to doing it. OR maybe it feels like you're voluntarily locking yourself in a cage. From my perspective, however, it is totally liberating. When you have a budget and know where your money is going, it takes all of the fear and guilt out of spending. I don't ever have to feel guilty about buying that shirt or that present for a friend if I know the money is there.  It also allows us to be extravagant and cheerful givers.

If you don't do any type of budget at this point, let me just encourage you to take 2-3 months to simply track your expenses. Don't worry about how much you're spending in the various categories at this point. Just enter the information in the spreadsheet. Once you get a good understanding of where your money is going, you can start to boss it around a little more. "Hey, you! You go in that category!"

So, perhaps this is not the most interesting post on this blog, but I hope it was helpful. Having a strong financial system will eliminate 95% of financial tension in your marriage. That other 5%, system is perfect! :-)

Let me know if you have any questions that I might could help you with.