Helping hands

Summer is in full swing and kids are all over the place, exploring and having a chance to wander a bit more than during the school year. Hands that have been crunching time on keyboards and lifting heavy backpacks are reaching out for some new things to do.

When mom-guilt pings about how much those hands can be on electronic devices, I pause to reflect on what their hands are grasping during those non-device hours.

Growing hands around here have been capturing frogs and releasing them into a neighborhood pond. frog visitorSweaty hands are helping with weekly yard chores of mowing and weeding…even the too-gross-for-mom removal of icky things from the yard (mice, moles, and doggie-doo). “Thank you, son.”baby turtlesCaring hands are feeding pets, brushing the dog, and transferring wriggly worms from the driveway to the backyard turtle habitat.



Embracing boyhood one summer day at a time.



Helpful hands are assisting me with meal prep and endless dishes. The noise level crescendos as cabinet doors bang and utensils clatter, dropping nearly into place as they are tossed casually on the table. Fingers swipe phones to change tunes or ask Syri random questions. Hands tap out rhythms and fingers poke playfully as we pass each other in the kitchen.

boy cleaning poolThroughout our parenting we’ve weaved “helping” into our family tapestry in daily routines and weekly chores. Each phase is a bit different and we’ve revamped schedules to better fit personality types. This summer they made their own chore schedule while I supplied encouraging parameters and crunchy snacks.

boy helping weed playgroundAs they’ve gotten bigger, we’ve expanded “helping” into community projects. It’s amazing how kids persevere on mundane tasks when they are alongside new friends in youth group and have ultimate frisbee at the end of their toil.

boy doing service projectI’m trying to catch them being natural helpers and offer a simple “thank you for ____.” My mom-brain keeps prompting them in ways big and small to see ways they can help others. I want to expand their hearts for serving. Eyes redirected to faces rather than tiny screens. Hands reaching out to open a door instead of clutched to a phone. It’s a process.


“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us.” Psalm 90:17


Today it may be picking up a piece of trash on a walk. Tomorrow may be helping a grandparent with a project. Someday it will be caring for their own family. I want their hands capable and their hearts ready, so we’re going to keep rocking the helper chores over here and maybe in the process catch a frog or two.

 

 

A Place to Dream

old playset

 

As I looked at a tired part of a swing set at a friend’s house that had been relegated to the back corner of the yard, a moment of inspiration hit me… Their daughter, who is in middle school, walked with me, and I heard the combination of grown-up banter mingled with sweet innocence of youth still on the outskirts of our conversation. Every age should have a place to dream their dreams; and at every age that place looks different. She no longer went out to swing from monkey bars anymore, but that set was not quite finished; repurposing is always fun!  We began to devise a plan and take this summertime to dream.

pails and twine   pinwheels  pails

 

She listed her favorite things: colors, twinkle lights, soft spots to linger, seashells, bunting, art supplies…

( the list itself was fun to dream!)

We kept the budget friendly, and made several things, which was more fun then buying them anyway!!

Let me show you what we created with a bit of dreams:

 

place to dream

oh so fun!

ribbon bunting

We made ribbon bunting with scrap pieces she had collected.                                                                             By tying them to some twine it made a whimsical addition to                                                                           string across the front entry.  

 

umbrella

She had a faded umbrella that was headed to the trash, but we saved it and placed it inside for a dreamy ceiling.

 

We suspended one piece of art in a window opening with twine to create an outdoor room.  enjoy moments

 

The time we spent putting this together was sweet in itself, but the opportunities for quiet moments, chats with her mom, a special place as friendships unite… such a treasure. A place to dream comes in every shape and size; the imagination is limitless! Take time this summer to set up a dream spot for a child, a loved one and absolutely for yourself! (Its more fun and less expensive than all those stress relievers out there.)

 

rainbow

“Inventors Station”

 

inventors hat

My son had turned his room into a recyclable center in the course of a week. Between the door and his bed was a thin path with looming boxes, egg cartons, milk jugs, t.p.rolls galore (!), and misc. rocks, sticks, feathers, beads, etc.

I surveyed the situation “arising” and began a plan. This is how our “Inventors Station” came to be.

inventors station                        inventors box

 

Rather then stifle his creative juices; I adapted to his way of thinking and set up a small desk that now houses all his “supplies”. It’s sort of like a tool bench, only better! There are nooks and crannies to stockpile bottle caps, rubber bands, clothespins, popsicle sticks and duct tape. (You must have lots of duct tape!!)

Many Robots, Crazy Hats, Boats and oddities have been created by my budding inventor.

robot 2   robot 3  robot

If you’re not thrilled about giving this idea prime real estate in your home, or space does not allow it, then a box is a great compromise and is portable! Once the space allotted is full of exciting aspects, no more can be stored until the ones on hand are used for a masterpiece. (This was learned the hard way when I discovered cardboard and styrofoam popcorn being hoarded in various places!)

Giving space for creative freedoms in youth will pay big dividends down the road in the life of a child! (He says he will build me a house someday!)

Yay for Inventors!!!

 

Saying Yes

As parents, we set limits and boundaries for our children every day and throughout the day. Saying “no” can be tough on both sides. Redirecting and reframing takes more effort, especially on sticky summer days.purple flowersToday I said “yes” to boys asking for a donut stop in between morning activities. I observed how each of them made their unique choice of  glazed gooeyness. Amidst their boy chatter I heard about a high school teacher who likes maple bacon donuts. I learned that two of my sons pass this particular shop every day on their way to school, casting a yearning peek out the schoolbus window yet never mentioning it. As crumbs fell during a flurry of eating, they also dropped little tidbits of experiences they’ve had at their new schools this past year. They showed me a new videogame as they teased each other about milk mustaches and amateur frisbee skills. I soaked up these bonus glimpses into boyworld as they gobbled up their donuts.donuts

Later in the day I got to say “yes” to a request for a movie night. I wasn’t thrilled about the specific movie, so I dabbled in new territory…the kids going to their movie while my hubby and I went to another. [Win-win, people. If you still have preschoolers, hang on. Your time will come!] Since our movie finished early, we slipped into their show to catch its flavor. I watched the boys’ faces as they reacted to the movie, their expressions more animated than the movie itself. Slumped down in their seats and leaning in toward each other unaware, they were mesmerized by the colorful characters on the big screen while we were captivated by their shared brotherhood.

twinkle lightsMy last “yes” of the day was to rootbeer floats when we got home from the movie. I propelled my tired momself out on the dark patio and sat with them under the twinkly lights, listening to their happy slurping. A contented sigh escaped from my blue-eyed boy as he cradled his sticky cup, savoring the last drop of this hot summer day.

All these little moments crept into my heart, softening the grumpy interactions about delayed chores earlier in the day and pushing the agenda of tomorrow a little further out of mind, all because I took the chance to say “yes.”
sun peeking through tree

What can YOUR “yes” be tomorrow?


“However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all.” –Ecclesiastes 11:8

 


Making Felt Buddies

“COLORS PURSUE ME; INTO MY VERY DREAMS” -MONET

felt buddies

 

As the last Nerf dart went whizzing by, and the whoops and hollers were trailing, I grabbed a rare opportunity: boys setting their motion down for a brief rest.

We wasted no time and “dove”  into a calm activity that makes my heart so happy. My hope in sharing, is that you and yours will enjoy such sweet moments too.

As we laid out felt, sequins, ribbon, feathers, thread, needles and scissors, our imaginations took flight! This was very hands-on for me; but the conversation and laughter that came as we worked together was so worth it!!

felt supplies

 

All sorts of Felt Buddies emerged from our craft session. We stuffed them with batting before stitching them closed. They are colorful and crazy, and we love seeing them all piled together looking back at us.

Since that inspired session, we have set up a basket that holds all the components for new Felt Buddies that may arrive on a whim. Sometimes a grandparent has stopped by and joined the process. Occasionally one child has needed a quiet retreat, and lingered at the basket to begin a new friend. Some have capes, others have feathers, a few have sequins and initials stitched in, and all have become priceless to us.

Continue to explore this summer with your children; the views are beautiful.

Family Motto

Getting away from home and reconnecting with everyone that lives under its roof can reveal some unexpected family insights and add some humorous depth to family lore.family dog

Some families may be very intentional about having a family motto or even a family mission statement. Perhaps a family meeting is called and potential options are discussed with great energy and passion. An artistic member of the family may even document it in some way so that it can be boldly proclaimed to visiting guests. We are not that family. Sure, we discuss a lot of things at the dinner table and share goals for different seasons of our busy family life, but we haven’t gotten our act together enough to identify “a family motto” let alone agree on one and put it into any kind of action plan.

So, we all got a good laugh last week when our youngest blurted out what sounded like a family motto. We were trouble-shooting some logistics on vacation, attempting to squeeze out the last nano-second of margin between one activity and another. Somebody pointed out how the timing would have to be just right, each person take care of their stuff, and everything else fall smoothly into place (as in no flight delays during a heavy storms). A brief stress-filled silence filled the rental van and maybe a grunt emitted from somewhere near the driver’s seat. I tentatively murmured some hopeful comment, clinging to my fervent prayers all week that this particular transition would pass without a hitch. All of a sudden our youngest announced emphatically,

“We are good at stuff!”

Everyone erupted in laughter and our joint tension released as we all chanted his slogan, “WE. ARE. GOOD. AT. STUFF.” This statement certainly is general enough to cover any situation, it’s positive, and it focuses on the “WE” our family embraces. Hmmm…a family motto in the making?

Our connecting flight was on time despite many delays and cancellations all around us. Our departure gate was only 2 down from our arrival (= time for a restroom break and a brief snack). Everything went smoothly once we hit the ground running. My mom even met us at the airport with chocolate chip cookies for the next little road trip. So, a potentially tense situation ended well. Our family did pitch in with all the “stuff” involved and our son made it to his next activity on time. It was in that moment of stress that we connected as a family, stepped up on that foundation of prayer and joined in silly laughter together…that is the stuff we are good at.

woods

All of this was a good reminder that family getaways are important to the soul of a family.

As a bonus, now we have a tension-breaker line to use the next time we need a little encouragement. As far as an “official” family motto? Let’s just say no t-shirts or bumper stickers have appeared just yet.

delphiniums



“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10



daily life transformed by God into extraordinary tapestries

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