Ways to Encourage Communication at the Dinner Table

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When our kids were still young, we rarely ate together at the dinner table. We had a dining room, but it was used more for various projects than for meals themselves. Often, my husband and I would eat at the kitchen counter. The kids would eat in their high chairs, which were parked somewhere in the kitchen or in the family room.

When we finally realized that this set-up was doing nothing to encourage communication within our little family, we moved our meal times to the table. Here are some ways that we have found helpful and fun to facilitate conversation during meals that sometimes have kept everyone sitting down long after the finishing the last bite.

Reading Aloud

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Even though my older kids can read on their own, these times of reading aloud to my children still hold a special place in my heart. When I read to them during meal times, I have a captive audience. But in this activity, I’m not the only one talking. The kids are eager to ask questions, make their own observations, and offer commentaries about the story. For more on this, here’s a post I wrote a while back about “How to Have a Successful Reading Time with Your Kids”

Bible Memorization

Last year, we had committed to memorize Bible verses together as a family. I tell you, I’ve been amazed at the children’s ability to memorize so much Scripture that it puts many of us adults to shame. Memorization can become a mindless, repetitive activity, but making it a point to discuss what the verses mean and how it would apply to our lives has certainly encouraged more talking in our family.

Guessing Games

It can be a simple game of “I Spy” or “Twenty Questions.” My husband is really good with this, starting it off with some random, “What’s long and orange and good for you to eat?” Pretty soon, not only are they clamoring for a turn at guessing the answers, but also to be the one asking the questions. Honestly, my husband and I are often cracking up at the creative things that they come up with.

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Ask About Each Other

In this world of technology and social media, it is not an unusual scene to walk into a room full of people, where each is engrossed in the “conversation” on their device instead of engaging in meaningful interaction with the person next to them.

Being at the table together is just one of the times we can encourage real conversation with our children by simply asking them how they are doing, what their interests are, what they did today, who their friends are, etc. Those brief talks at the dinner table are sometimes just a springboard for deeper, meaningful discussions later on, especially as they get older.

What are some ways you have encouraged communication in your family?

 

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Grandma’s Hands

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“Your hands remind me of my Grandma.”

This is what my husband said to me when we first started dating. Not exactly the line you would advise a young man to say to his new girlfriend.

But after I met his grandma, I realized it was one of the best compliments I have ever received.

Grandma’s hands were weathered. They have …

… washed many dishes
… cooked several meals
… served countless people
… touched numerous souls
… held many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren

And, even with all the work that her hands did, they never felt more at home than when they were held by her beloved.

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Often, we would see Grandma sitting next to Grandpa on the couch, her hands tightly grasping his, while she gave him sweet kisses.

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“When you’ve been married as long as we have, you run out of things to get mad at each other about. All you have left to do is laugh with each other.”

Grandma’s hands were special. She used them to the glory of God. I only hope that these hands of mine could do even half the things she did.

Our dear Grandma went home to be with her Lord last week. She was 92.

We will miss her.

 

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5 Ways to Help You Get to Bed Early

image In college, I would pull all-nighters, head to class in the morning with caffeine running through my veins, take the dreaded final, then head back to my apartment and crawl into bed. Those days are long gone (though the caffeine thing probably still applies). But, today, I seriously cannot function, taking care of my home and kids if I don’t get a good night’s sleep.

Last week, I shared my renewed resolve to make the most of my mornings by getting up early before my children wake up. I also mentioned that if I really want to get a head start on my day, I must go to bed at a good hour.

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If you’re on a quest to get more sleep, here are some ways that can help you stick to your bedtime.

Get the kids ready for bed early

How long does it take your kids to get ready for bed? However long it takes, dial your clock back by that much. For our kids, they need to start at 7:30 in order to be in bed by 8. Sometimes, what helps is having them get ready even earlier, like right after dinner, if our plan is just to stay home in the evening. image

Set your own bedtime

My husband shared a tip from an article he read to set a bedtime alarm. I thought this was a great idea! You can set an alarm to go off 15 minutes before your bedtime to alert you to wrap up whatever task you’re doing.

Plan your date night

It is possible to have time with your spouse, even with an earlier bedtime. When you reserve an hour or so to hang out with your honey after putting the kids down, you can be more intentional in how you spend that time. Need some fun at-home date night ideas? Check out this post on “How to Have a Date Night When You Don’t Have a Babysitter”

Make your night time to-do list short

If you want be in bed by lights-out, don’t start any major, deep-cleaning chores. Your to-do list should be things that will make your mornings go more smoothly. I shared mine in the previous post, and it includes getting homeschooling and coffee ready for the next day. image

Let it go

I’m sorry to have to use an overused line, but sometimes, you just have to “let it go.” I like waking up to a clean sink, but there have been times when I’ve had to go to bed, leaving the sink full of dirty dishes. And you know what? It was still there the next day, and eventually, I got around to tackling it. My point is those unfinished chores will, sooner or later, get done. Maybe you wanted to check them off before the end of the day, but perhaps, it will be a good lesson for the kids the next day on how to fold laundry.

Do you go to bed early? What are some of your tips?

 

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{GIVEAWAY}: Nursing Nightgown by Savi Mom

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Many posts ago, I did a review on Savi Mom’s nursing nightgown. Click here if you missed it.

Not only is it super soft and comfortable, but it is a must-have for those middle-of-the-night feedings with your sweet baby. The hidden slits on the sides make it very convenient for nursing, even while lying down. No straps or clasps to fuss with, especially when your eyes are only half open.

Are you expecting a little one soon? Or, do you know a mom-to-be, who would love to add this to their nighttime wardrobe? Now, you can have a chance to win this nightgown!

This giveaway will end on Sunday, January 18th (11:59 PT) and is open to residents of U.S.A and Canada.

You can earn up to 5 entries by completing certain actions. See the entry form below for details.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored giveaway.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Click here for more information on my disclosure.

 

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Getting Up Early Even When You’re Not a Morning Person

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Maybe this isn’t for everyone, but for me, I really see the benefits of getting up early before my kids. I don’t like being dragged out of bed by my children. And, when I get a late start, everything else will inevitably follow. It’s not rocket science. Breakfast will be late. Homeschooling will be late. Chores may not even get done. And, I’m running around like a mad woman all day, always feeling like I need to catch up but never getting there. Getting an early start eliminates these pitfalls for me.

But I must confess … lately, having an early morning routine has been hit-and-miss. Can I blame it on pregnancy fatigue and morning sickness?

Well, enough excuses! I’m determined to get back into a more consistent morning routine. This post is as much for me as it is for all of you out there, who want to start your day early but different excuses seem to get in the way. Here’s what we need to do.

Have a Plan

If I’m going to make the effort to rise early, I need to have a plan. Otherwise, I’ll get up, shower and get dressed, and go back to sleep … believe me, I’ve done that before. Make a list of a few things that you want to accomplish in the morning. For me, this includes

  • have a time of Bible reading and prayer
  • exercise
  • check email
  • light blogging
  • look over my goals for the day

When making your list, consider what you want to accomplish with little interruption.

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Our Morning Routine Starts the Night Before

My best mornings have always started before the alarm goes off. Having a before-bedtime routine will help you execute your early morning plan better. What I usually do the night before is

  • have the kids set out their clothes for the next day
  • prepare any homeschooling stuff
  • get coffee maker ready
  • prepare my husband’s lunch
  • go to bed at a good time

This last one is important. When I go to bed late, I will almost always not have a good morning. I will either wake up cranky or not wake up at all. This takes the most discipline for me. When I get going with a task at night, I want to keep going because my sweet angels are fast asleep. Seems like a good idea, but those kids that sleep so well through the night will get up bright and early the next day. And, I want to be ready for them.

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Discipline, Discipline, Discipline

This is going to take discipline, lots of it. Most times, you probably won’t want to get up. This morning, my alarm went off, and I felt like I just feel asleep. It was hard and tempting to milk my already-worn-out excuse, “But I’m pregnant.” But, I sat up (sometimes, it starts with just sitting up), and eventually, with each step towards the shower, I began to really wake up and look forward to my morning.

How do you like to start off your day?

 

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“Why Does Her Life Seem So Perfect?”

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You have finally reached it: the end of a seemingly endless day when every obstacle imaginable dropped right in front of you. And right when your head is about to hit the pillow, you realize it was too soon to celebrate. “Mommy! I didn’t make it to the potty!”

This was me … on more than one occasion.

And when I looked around at other women I know, I began to wonder why I had been left out when perfect lives were being distributed.

Oh, I know it’s not true. Nobody has the perfect life. But when your world is looking pretty dreary, it sure seems like the sun is shining brighter on everyone else but you.

Has this happened to you? How do you keep yourself from such gloom?

Recount Your Blessings

There are blessings in your life. Really. Did you know that the Bible even tells us to “consider it all joy when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2)? When you begin to see how a trial is your teacher, how suffering produces strength, and how hardship brings hope, you will experience blessings.

Resolve to Find the Good

If you still find it hard to count your blessings, I challenge you to dig a little deeper. Find at least one thing good, no matter how small. The more you look for these little nuggets each day, you will realize you have filled a storehouse of priceless treasures.

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Reach Out to Others

Perhaps the life of the person next door seems so perfect because you have not actually stepped in her shoes, let alone stood outside her door. If we reach out to others, we can find those who can encourage us in our difficulties, but we may also learn that they’re not so perfect after all. Moreover, you will have gained a friend, who knows exactly what you’re going through and help you bear your burdens.

Realize You Need Both Sunshine and Rain

You may be in the midst of a storm, but one day, the sun will break through. And, you will see clearly enough to help out that person over there, who is now caught in a fierce gale. Don’t waste the lessons you are learning in your trials right now. You may have an opportunity to help someone else down the road.

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So before you start playing the comparison game, ask yourself what your definition is of the perfect life. You may think it is beyond your reach, but that mom, who seems to have it all together, does not possess it either. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, rejoice in what is in your grasp and make the most of it.

How do you keep yourself from getting caught in the comparison trap?

 

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Smiling at the Future: My 2015 Goals

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Honestly, I’m not one to really write out New Year’s resolutions. I’m a perpetual goal-writer, so I never found it necessary to draft another to-do list. And perhaps, not writing out resolutions was my way of not feeling guilty when I failed to follow through.

But for 2015, I thought it would be good practice in self-accountability to have some goals written out. Really, my goals can be summarized in one word: GROWTH.

Growth as a Wife

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I’ve been married for 11 years, but I know I still have so much to learn about being the wife God wants me to be. I suspect that this coming year will hold many more lessons for me on respecting my husband, effective communication, and loving him both sacrificially and affectionately. But even the most difficult lessons yield the sweetest results.

Growth as a Mom

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I have been through a lot of “long days” with my kids but have witnessed the “short years” quickly slipping through my fingers. I blink, and they are no longer my babies. How have I cherished those early years? How will I savor the years to come? Oh, how I want to make the most of the short window of time that I have with my children!

Growth as a Friend

friendship bracelets.

It’s so easy to get inward-focused and to think that I have enough to think about within my own family. But there are other people God has put in my path. Some are on the same journey, and we find ourselves pushing each other and even carrying one another along the way. Some are on a completely different adventure, yet our own “pilgrim’s progress” is taking us to the same destination so that we can still spur one another on.

Growth as a Child of God

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I would not be who I am if not for God’s saving grace in redeeming me from my slavery to sin and adopting me into His family. As I grow more in my personal relationship with Christ, I know He will enable me to thrive in all the other roles that He has given me … as a wife, a mom, and a friend. 

“… forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Speaking of growth, my kids are obsessed with checking their growth charts. Sometimes, they’ll go through spurts, and they are amazed at how big the gap is from the last mark. Other times, the change will be no more than an eighth of an inch. Yet, even in such a small difference, they are excited for the forward (or upward) progress.

Can we be more like our kids? Striving to grow in the different areas in our lives, rejoicing in both the great leaps and the baby steps, and continuing to move forward no matter the obstacles.

What are your goals for the new year?

 

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How We Cut Our Cell Phone Bill in Half

Not Another Camerea Phone

With the beginning of a new year approaching, many of us see this as a chance to start over in certain areas in our lives, whether it’s healthy eating, exercise, relationships, or budgeting.

For us, we had always wanted to get a better handle on our phone usage because we knew it was eating up our budget more than it should.

We’re not heavy cell phone users. My husband’s job doesn’t allow him too much cell phone time.  And for me, well, even if I wanted to, the kids would never let me get more than a couple of minutes on the phone. So we really didn’t need all those minutes, all those messages, and all that data provided through our cell phone contract.

But many of us don’t like to be restricted by limits, so it just seems easier to get a plan with unlimited everything so as not to worry about going over each month. But if your cell phone activity is like ours, you may want to consider a cell phone option that doesn’t bind you to a contract like this one.

What a breath of fresh air when we found out about Ting [referral link], a cell phone provider that

  • won’t bind you to a contract
  • won’t force you to pick a plan that doesn’t exactly suit your usage
  • won’t charge you huge fees for going over your allotted minutes
  • won’t promise you unlimited everything when you don’t need everything

With Ting, your cell phone usage will put you in certain tiers (XS, S, M, L, XL). Each tier in each category has a fee. For example, maybe you use your cell phone the most for texting, then for calls, and lastly, for data. Your typical monthly fees might be

Messages-L $8 + Minutes-M $9 + Data-S $3 + Device $6 (standard fee per device) = $26

Go to their site and click “Rates” to see where you would fall. [referral link]

But wait … it gets better! If you are still stuck in a cell phone contract with a hefty early termination fee (ETF), Ting is currently offering to pay you back 50% of your ETF, up to $150 per device. But, don’t delay … this offer is only good until January 5, 2015!

Switching to Ting cut our cell phone bill in half, and we’ve never looked back. Maybe Ting will work for you too!

Click here to get started. [referral link]

 
NOTE: If you decide to sign up, I recommend that you do so using the links on this post, which contains my referral link. By doing so, Ting will reward both of us with credits. It’s a win-win!
 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “referral links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a referral credit. Thank you for your support! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Click here for more information on my disclosure.

 

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And The Winner is …

Thank you to all who entered the WordPress Blog Design Giveaway!  Congratulations to Jennifer C. on winning!  An email was sent to you by Blogelina with details on how to claim your prize.

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