Tag Archives: kids

The Toy Free Summer Challenge- How to Jumpstart Imagination

At the moment it’s a gorgeous, sunny afternoon in Midtown Atlanta.  The windows are open and the fans are spinning with the sweet, peaceful drone that’s hypnotized me since I was a child.  To my left is a lovely iced coffee with stevia and coconut cream that Selah (9) made for me after she  folded a load of laundry.  The children’s bedroom is basically immaculate.  The TV is off and there is no one asking for batteries or chargers or to talk on the phone. In front of me are  my four children, a 4th grader, 2nd grader, kindergartener and 3 year old, all playing contentedly with a pile of construction paper and one pair of scissors. Yes, I mean together. Yes, I mean without fighting. No, they don’t have anything battery operated involved, especially with letters like DS, Xbox, Wii, I(enter your choice of pad, phone, touch)… It’s a moment of bliss. Something to be documented.  And it’s all because we made a commitment together as a family yesterday. We’re spending the summer without toys!!

Wait, let me explain,
Last week I had a moment where I lost my cool with the kids and threatened to take all of their toys away and give them to goodwill.  I say threatened because it was one of the few times that I really didn’t expect to go through with it all the way.  The poor crew was already in one room with 2 sets of bunks and hardly any toys…. Anyway, the story… Poor Selah and Jake asked me to go ahead and do it!  Now, if I were assuming adult motivations in my children, which we all often do, I would have gotten more angry. I would have yelled at them to not talk back, treated them poorly for the defiance they were clearly showing. Instead, I looked in their eyes and didn’t assume it was just defiance. Instead I asked them why they would say that and if it’s really how they feel.  To my surprise they were as serious as I was! They weren’t trying to trap me or call my bluff. They both agreed they would rather go without toys than have the constant stress and pressure of picking them up. So we sat down and talked about what that would mean for all of us. Lucas got involved. They all got excited… The idea of  the Toy Free Summer Challenge was born.
Also, we have been in a rut, so to speak, and I know other families get in them, too.  They play the same thing, they do the same thing and they fight over the same thing.  For our family, it’s always creative, but for yours it may not be. I’ve had friend ask me how I get my kids to play together. I’ll share some other tips on that later.  But for a lot of people, joining in the Toy Free Summer Challenge could really help jump start imaginations that have been going dormant amid a world of Ipad, Itouch… well, key word being I, I, I…right?  Let’s help them snap out of it!!  Get your kids creating!!

The goal is to get rid of anything that  creates mess, causes solidarity, destroys any community in your family and wreaks general  havoc in the house, so we can enjoy our moments better. Here are the rules for our family. Yours may be different.


  1. Things that are messy and doesn’t get put away on a regular basis.
  2. Anything that causes strife and gets fought over instead of shared and played with together.
  3. Things that don’t get played with, or we are tired of, but still takes up space.
  4. Anything that drives someone else in the family nuts.
  5. Anything that steals our peace, space or happy moments. (by fighting, excluding, hoarding…)
  6. Anything that makes noise, causes hyper-focus and ignoring of parents and/or siblings
  7. Extra blankets, cuddlies, stuffed animals, lovies… things that we can live without but cause clutter.
  8. Movies, handheld games, zone-out material other than books


  1. Games that require multiple players
  2. Smiles
  3. Things that require creativity, instead of direct it
  4. Hugs
  5. Things that we work with together on a regular basis without conflict.
  7. Smiles
  8. Things that have been consistently cared for and put away. (legos!)

So, it’s a work in progress, as anything like this is, but in this case it is the brainchild of a little boy and girl.  We’ll give them some time to perfect the process, shall we?

Feel free to do your own version of the Toy Free Summer Challenge and tell us about it!!  We’re so excited about creating this concept for a stress-free summer outside the box, by boxing things up!!!

Clear it out and find the space to move and breath, together…



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Well, Gluten Happens :-(

This weekend my whole crew of littles were fed from the wrong spaghetti leftovers. They were accidentally “Glutened” by mistake, and the mistake ultimately was mine for not having made sure myself that those leftovers went straight in the trash and never made it into my fridge.  I thought they were pitched, but instead they’re wreaking havoc in my children’s digestive systems.  Selah is doing well, just they typical rash.  She’s actually off on a hike with a friend’s family today.  Jake has been grouchy. touchy and had one accident that I know of.  He doesn’t say anything anymore if he’s bleeding.  At seven  years old, he’s decided to be a man about it and I have to trust that he’ll let me know if he needs help.  Lucas and Irie are both in pull-ups, with full blown loss of control and bleeding rashes.
Life in our house is rough when #$*% happens. And by $#&%  I do mean gluten.  Being gluten-free has become very trendy lately. On one hand I love that there are more options, and I DO believe that the majority of people shouldn’t be eating gluten.  Certainly not as much as we do!
But there’s one little side effect of everyone wanting to treat gluten like a dietary choice. People like my family don’t have a choice.  So when their friends know others who are “gluten-free” but cheat when they want to (I’m personally guilty of this for me, but NOT for my kids) they assume that everyone can.  It’s like someone on a diet.  But this isn’t a diet.  Gluten tears my babies up.  It throws our whole household off for a few days. My children have intestinal bleeding and bleeding rashes.  It’s not the same as sneaking a bite of cake and not counting the calories. It’s devastating.
And no one has acted as if it’s not serious for us.  We’re surrounded by loving friends and family who care.  I’m so grateful for that!  It’s just that I see the general public being more aware of gluten, but in a way that desensitizes them.  They see it as a fad. And who doesn’t know someone who read an article and decided that they must be gluten intolerant? Once again, they most likely are!  And I love sharing and helping people become GF.  It’s just the way it is perceived as a simple choice in general that scares me.  And I suppose for me, I wonder if people think that I’m doing it for attention (let me tell you, NO ONE in their right mind would be doing this for 6+ years, with 4 kids, for an ego boost).

Anyway, that’s the end of my rant.  Shit happens. In my house, it tends to start out with gluten.   I just needed to pout publicly for a minute.  It’s not what I typically blog about at all, but darn it.  It stinks.
And speaking of stink, some uninvited guest seems to have climbed up into the new, lovely wall that my husband finished in the bathroom a few weeks ago.  The stench is so overwhelming that I’d almost RATHER change a pullup in the living room than sit and “wait” with them in the reekugb stench of our only bathroom.  See, there’s always a silver lining, right?  Travis will be back from Greenville late tonight so I don’t see much hope of finding the offender today.

Lucas is crying and leaking down his leg.  Irie is at my side crying and saying that her tummy hurts. Jake just ran through the house screaming “I’m not going to make it to the bathroom!”

Lord have mercy on my babies and their poor bellies and bumms!



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Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

While we’ve intended to homeschool for quite awhile, I have always been extremely cautious to not make it about a ‘school is evil’ thing.  Because it isn’t. The reality is that as a parent you have to dedicate 25% to your children’s education.  The CHOICE is whether it’s 25% of your time homeschooling, 25% of your time in supplementing public schooling with extra education and morals, or 25% of your time/money to send them to private school.  No matter how you do it, it takes a huge chunk to do it right. And no one ever does it perfectly.

I feel like a breakdown is inevitable.  I know that I can tough it out and force myself to be the all-powerful, homechool super-mom, but I WILL have a breakdown at some point. I don’t want it to be at 3rd or 4th grade after a miserable year, where I’m putting her in public school because of a failure. I feel strongly about homeschooling, but I think that taking a break now for a year to get a good head start and be really prepared next year (or the next if we decide to send her longer, whatever) is a healthier decision and it’s on my terms.  I’ve always said that I’m not married to homeschooling. I’ve seen it done so well that it produced amazing, confident adults. Yet I’ve also seen children broken by horrible circumstances where parents insist on homechooling for their OWN identity.  I have to choose on what is best for Selah and Jacob, and right now their momma is tired and overwhelmed. I don’t know that I can do the best job for them *this* year.   The only 100% is that my children are my priority, and I will sacrifice who I want to be to see them be who they need to be any and every day.

So, there it is. I feel so strange now that it is decided. I can’t imagine my children being away from me THAT much. It’s a very humbling decision, because I’m admitting my human-ness and my inability to do all that I think I should.  But I know that God has grace for this.

On Saturday we went school shopping, just the two of us.  We stopped at Starbucks, where she was thrilled to pieces to get a chocolate milk in a mini version of Mommas cup of coffee complete with the lid to sip it through.  She couldn’t help her random giggling and kept saying, “Momma, do people think that I’m drinking real coffee?  Caffeine isn’t healthy. Do they know?”  I assured her that they knew caffeine was not healthy and that anyone would easily assume that she was drinking decaf coffee like her mommy.  It was a simple shopping trip, since her school requires uniforms.  I did let her pick out some barrettes and headbands.  What  a precious morning.

Selah starts school on July 14th.  The school is a year-round program.  For the past 5 weeks she has reminded me every Saturday morning of exactly how many weeks are left until she starts school.  It’s on Saturday because she says that is when the week ends. It doesn’t matter that school will begin on a Monday, the week begins on the Sunday. But for me, I know that two weeks from today I will be alone with my 2 boys. And then only a few more weeks after that for Jacob to start preschool.

Lucas is such a wild card for us. I think that a few months of alone time with mom, before conceding the throne of  ‘the baby’ to another, will be good for him.  Selah and Jacob never had a minute of jealousy over being dethroned. They were each immediately enthralled with the title of big sister/brother.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see Lucas giving in so graciously.  While he’s more daring and adventurous he also has an edge of anger and attitude that the others never seemed to have. It’s just who he is and I have to parent him differently.  It’ll be good to have some time to work on his little heart before my time is taken up with all the newborn stuff again.  I think this year will be good for all of us.

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The Day of The Colonoscopy

Just got home and I’m totally spent.  It was a long day.  I wanted to let my mommas know that they were able to rule out any cysts or tumors. Not a polyp either.  His colon is inflamed and they took 2 biopsies that we will not get the results of until Friday.  So, at least the big scary stuff is off the list of options.   
Selah and Lucas spent the night at my in-laws house, a rare treat for them and us.  It’s amazing how well Jacob did with not being able to eat for 24 hours. He would ask for food but never fussed when we told him that he had to wait for the doctor to give him permission at the hospital. During mealtimes I sat and played with him so he got some special momma time.
He started out excited when we got to the hospital, but became uneasy when we were put in the room. We almost had a full on revolt when he recognized the gown from prior visits. He didn’t want that thing near him.  The’ goofy gas’ they gave him loosened him up pretty quickly.  We got a bit of a glimpse of what Jacob the Stoner would be like…
The took him from the room and we waited, and waited… I tried to knit. I turned on the TV. Finally I forced Travis to get off of his laptop and walk down to the cafe with me for a cup of coffee and a muffin. We hadn’t eaten, of course, since Jacob couldn’t.  I walked through the gift shop to laugh at a bunch of horrendous junk.  Who buys this stuff?
We were only back in the room for about 10 minutes before the brought him back.  Coming out of it was pretty traumatic for all of us.  He was kicking and screaming as if he didn’t even know we were there.  All I could think of is ‘This is what Jacob would be like if he was autistic”.  I’ve never heard him scream like that or have a fit like that.  I held him kicking and screaming for 20 minutes while he was still coming out. He doesn’t even remember it, but my arms are literally still sore from it for hours afterward. Finally the only thing that would calm him was to have the lights off while watching TV.  But the only thing that made it work was me talking in a constant, low voice while he watched ‘The Fox and The Hound”.  The second he didn’t hear my voice, he would start screaming and writhing again.  Eventually it all wore off and he was jut a little dizzy and off balance for the rest of the afternoon.
We let him choose to go to a restaurant after the hospital to get something to eat. Chickfila, of course. That’s a big treat around here.  It was so strange to be there, just Mom, Popi and Jake. He was loving it.
We drove up to get Selah and Lucas, about 45 minutes away, and spent the rest of the afternoon there.
By the time I got them all dressed and in bed I was so worn out.  I felt like I could use some goffy gas myself. For kicks here’s a video of him on the ‘goofy gas’ before he went in.


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Do You Believe We Have The Right?

Got this from a friend. If you believe we should have a right to homeschool, please go and sign!  You don’t have to WANT to homeschool to believe that we have the right!

This is really outrageous. I feel for the homeschooling families in California. If you go to the HSLDA site http://www.hslda.org you can sign the petition to depublish the recent case in California. This is all explained on the HSLDA site – spouses can sign separately.

Dear Fellow Homeschooler,

Many of you have already heard about the recent ruling in CA requiring all home school families to have a state teaching certificate in order to continue homeschooling. This virtually outlaws homeschooling in that state. It could also set a precedent for other states to follow if we do not act. Dr. Dobson addressed this issue in his daily broadcast yesterday. I have enclosed the link so you may listen as he talks with several experts on the repercussions of this case.

There is something we can do about this! We can sign a petition put out by HSLDA to stop this decision from becoming law in CA. You will be helping your fellow homeschoolers in CA and eventually all homeschoolers in America. To sign the petition simply go to the HSLDA website. The link to the petition is currently on their home page.

Please stand together with us to fight this terrible offense. Feel free to forward this email to all of your home school friends to get the word out and take action.


Audrey Britt
President, Home Front Educators

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Of Mice and Media

I distinctly remember a conversation that Travis and I had with another couple when we were preggers with our first, Selah.  Somehow we had gotten on the subject of children’s media and they were incredulous at our intention of keeping it bare bones in our house. 

Them: Well, aren’t you going to let them watch the Simpsons? (insert look of amazement)

US: Ummm.. Heck no.

Them: There’s nothing wrong with the Simpsons. It’s hilarious!  Our kids are gonna love the Simpsons! Don’t tell me your going to be one of those ‘Disney is Evil.’ families!  (I almost stepped aside to look in the mirror to be sure that I hadn’t actually grown two heads)

Us:  Well, the thing of it is…

Yes, the thing of it is… what is the thing of it.  Simpsons.  Yes, it’s funny.  Seriously clever and entertaining. But honestly?  Mom’s a wimp and off in lala land.  Dad’s a lazy bum that certainly isn’t the best example for his kids.  Bart, totally undisciplined and disrespectful.  Lisa, unchallenged and unvalidated.  Maggie…whatever.  Dude, go for it. Watch the Simpsons.  I’ll watch it now and then and laugh.  But I’m not going to let a 3 year old that is just learning how to be respectful and interact with others watch that.   It plants seeds that I don’t want and I have enough weeding and pruning to do on my sweet little guys.  I’m not up for adding that into my workload.  You go for it.  That discussion was about 5 1/2 years ago.  As far as I can see, the other couple’s kids are pretty great.  I’ve never asked if they actually let them watch the Simpsons.  It’s just not that big of a deal to me.  When they get older?  Maybe. Doubt it, but maybe.

Now Disney. That’s just downright evil from the pit of hell. Oh, I so crack myself up sometimes.  There was a huge ‘boycott Disney’ movement when I was growing up.  Maybe it’s still around?  Surprisingly enough my parents didn’t get too active in it. They’d already cut out so many things that they had Disney covered long before the boycott started.  I never say scooby doo until after I was married.  I still don’t think I’ve ever really seen the Smurfs.  My father still swears that smurf means ‘little demon’ in Swedish or something.  We seriously weren’t allowed to watch just about anything.  Except the Cosby Show, Little House on The Prairie, Mash, Night Rider and McGyver.  The last three because my father loved them and his short lived stance against the media for kids wasn’t as strong as his desire to watch HIS favorite shows.  No TiVo back then.

Ok, back to Disney. I don’t hate The Mouse, but I don’t let my kids watch Disney, I think.  I say I think because it’s more about individual movies.  These movies are made by some seriously talented people and I enjoy them.  But children see things so differently. They see a movie one timeand they’re consumed with the desire to BE the princess or the hero. They long for the romance that they don’t understand and aren’t ready for.  They see the villains and monsters and their little hearts haven’t yet learned to distinguish between reality and fantasy.  Think about Sleeping Beauty or The Little Mermaid.  The witches are terrifying! Not just because their witches and witches are eeeevvviillll.   They morph into these huge monsters with sounds and flashes and …terror!  It’s the picture that I don’t want to be putting into their little minds.  Their innocence is only intact as long as I protect it.  And at this point we prefer to limit their exposure to things that are a little more on the realistic side of fantasy. None of them seems scared by our oppressive parenting so far.

 But I’m also very big on giving our children choices. Because, whether we as parents like it or not, they always have a choice. And “because I said so” can be a slippery slope of uneducation that I don’t want my kids to slide down.  So, I spend a lot of time explaining their choices.

Last week Selah saw a copy of Sleeping Beauty and was just begging to see it.  The child was batting her eyelashes with a sweet little tilt to her head. She looked up at me with those big brown eyes…. “Please let me see it, Momma.”  So I sat down with her in my lap for a talk. 

Me: Why do you want to watch this movie, Love?

Selah: Because I want to watch the Princess and see the castle! It looks beautiful.

Me: She is beautiful, but this movie is a little bit scary. There is a mean witch in this movie that wants to kill Sleeping Beauty. She’s mean and hateful. She throws fire and turns into a dragon and destroys things especially trying to kill the prince that is coming to save the princess. It gets really loud and confusing with lots of fire and the big dragon. I’m worried that if you watch this you will have those pictures in your head and your heart, and they will make you afraid when you think of them. They will give you bad dreams in the night when you could have had good dreams without those pictures in your head.

Selah: Oh…. stares off with her brow creased in concern.

Me: Selah, Do you still want to watch the movie?

Selah: No thanks, Momma. I’m going to go play with my dollhouse. Maybe I can watch it when I’m 10. And off she gallops to sweet playtime adventure.

Now, had she said yes I would have talked to Travis and we may have sat down and watched it with her, asking her how it made her feel at intense intervals to see how she fared. I have no doubt that she would have asked to turn it off at some point.

So, the TV is hardly ever on around here, but I don’t go around saying the TV is sinful.  I do love that instead of begging for, well, I don’t know any shows really… my 5 and 3 year old will sit side by side for an hour at the dining room table doing puzzles.   They haven’t seen a lot of the popular movies and didn’t understand most of the costumes on Halloween that kids wore pertaining to their favorite characters.  My kiddos begged to dress up as Dorothy and The Tin Man because that’s what we were reading at the time.  See, they get some fantasy. But, I still wouldn’t let them watch the ‘Wizard of Oz’ for quite awhile.

I have found that the Pixar movies are generally pretty good.  See, I’m not totally off my rocker.  They don’t have the romantic themes and, while fantastic, they’re more realistic?  The kids were just allowed to watch Toy Story at a friend’s house.  My son immediately decided he is Buzz Lightyear.  I have to say that it confirmed my conviction a bit. If they are at a stage where they are going to take on the personalities of what they watch, I’d better get some good stuff into that DVD player for them to copy!

Anyway, I’m now rambling for no reason. I’m sure you get my point.  I’d love to see some suggestions for good movies for kids to grow on.  The current favorites are Charlotte’s Web, Mary Poppins, Sound of Music and Evan Almighty, followed by any Veggie Tales they can get their hands on.   Think about it for a second and post a comment letting me know what movies you want your kids to act like? 

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In anticipation for my official sharing of my experience with the Diva Cup (coming tonight after the kiddos are down), please enjoy this for your entertainment…

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