3 Benefits of Audio Books for Kids

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For our family, trips to the library mean hauling huge bags of books home. But even though my kids love books, it doesn’t necessarily mean they love reading. I wanted my older ones, especially, to move on from looking and do more reading.

One discovery that we made was the usefulness of audio books. I never thought much of them, but one of the books we borrowed from the library had an audio CD included with it. One of my kids pulled it out, and asked if we can “watch the movie.”

I explained to them that it wasn’t a movie, but they were still curious, so I played the CD, having low expectations based on their short attention span. Surprisingly, they listened. Once they realized it was the same story that we had been reading together, they grabbed the book and started following along.

Audio books certainly provide some great benefits for children. Here are just a few of them.

Enhance their reading ability

After listening to that audio book and following along in their book, my oldest was later able to pick up the book and read it on his own without the help of the CD. The practice of listening and reading the book at the same time engaged his senses, and I believe that strengthened his ability to read. He was able to get a better command of sight words. And during times when he may have been hesitant to pronounce unfamiliar words, hearing them on the CD gave him some confidence.

Expand their listening skills

A friend of mine had shared that she began using audio books to help her son with his listening skills. I had to give this a try, so I brought home C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, complete with sound effects [affiliate link]. I played the CD while the kids were playing in their room. At first, they were confused. “How am I gonna understand if I can’t see what’s happening?” was the initial protest. But, it wasn’t long before they got into the story.

This is also great way to start your children off with chapter books. After we listened to the CD version, I began reading from the actual book copy of The Magician’s Nephew [affiliate link]. The story was already familiar to them, and they were used to hearing the story without the visual aids.

Enlarge their imagination

Books, as opposed to movies, enlarge one’s imagination. How many times have you watched a movie version of your favorite novel, only to be disappointed because the movie just didn’t measure up to what your mind imagined?  TV can put a child’s mind in a more dull, passive state.  But a good audio book will help a child’s imagination soar.

Has your child ever used audio books?

 

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What Road are You On?

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Have you ever read the book of Ruth? It’s a short, 4-chapter story tucked within the pages of the Old Testament. It’s a story that took place during turbulent times in the history of the nation of Israel. It’s a love story, one that you would never expect at that time.

At first glance, it may seem like a love story between a poor, young widow, who has left her country to help her mother-in-law (also a widow), and a respected gentleman in Israel. But, as beautiful as that love story is, it points to an even greater love story between God and His people.

I have been studying through this little book with a couple of women from my church. And, in my study, I came across a sermon that was preached on this amazing story. It was too good not to share.

“The life of the godly is not a straight line to glory, but they do get there. The life of the godly is not an Interstate through Nebraska, but a state road through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. There are rock slides and precipices and dark mists and bears and slippery curves and hairpin turns that make you go backwards in order to go forwards. But all along this hazardous, twisted road that doesn’t let you see very far ahead there are frequent signs that say, ‘The best is yet to come.’ And at the bottom right corner written with an unmistakable hand are the words, ‘As I live, says the Lord!’

“Ruth was written to help us see the signposts of the grace of God in our lives, and to help us trust his grace even when the clouds are so thick that we can’t see the road let alone the signs on the side. Let’s go back and remind ourselves that it was God who acted to turn each setback into a stepping stone to joy, and that it is God in all of our bitter providences who is plotting for our good.

~ John Piper

To read John Piper’s sermon in its entirety, click here
To read the book of Ruth, click here

 

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How to Deal With Loneliness

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When I was 13 years old, my parents decided to move to the other side of town. What that meant for me was leaving all my friends and transferring to a new school. At such an awkward and insecure season of my life, such a change was devastating. For the first couple of months, I spoke to no one but the teachers, and lunch time was spent sitting alone in the cafeteria. In junior high, to be by yourself during lunch is the equivalent to holding up a huge sign that says “Unpopular. Stay Away.”

My story is not uncommon. Many have gone through periods of loneliness during the adolescent years, but it doesn’t necessarily get easier to deal with as an adult. You can even have a good amount of friends, but in the middle of a crowd of familiar people, you can still feel very alone.

“No one talks to me.”

I know this might be a tough pill to swallow, but often we are lonely because we stay alone. For introverts, it can be hard to initiate the conversation. (Believe, I know. I’m an introvert, who is constantly praying for God to give me courage to talk to others.) Start with a “Hello” but don’t stop there. Have some good conversation starters in mind, like “What do you like to do for fun?” or “What are your favorite foods?” or “Tell me about your kids.” Most people are more than happy to talk to someone who is willing to listen.

“No one is in my stage of life.”

I remember feeling lonely when all my friends were getting married, and I longed to wear my own wedding dress rather than another bridesmaid dress. This loneliness can also set in when all your BFF’s are proudly showing their baby bumps, while you are waiting each month for that positive pregnancy test. Or, you’re figuring out how to juggle all the responsibilities as a single mom, while your married friends can always get help from their husbands.

The fact that we don’t all have the same experiences presents us with a unique opportunity to serve one another. A young woman with no kids can offer babysitting services to a single mom. A married woman can invite younger women for some cooking lessons. A single mom can organize a play date at the park to give other moms a chance to hang out together. In other words, stop focusing on yourself and figure out a way to help someone else. You will find that this mindset will begin to break the chains of loneliness.

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

“No one understands what I’m going through.”

Are you going through a really difficult trial and you feel like no one can really relate? That’s how I’ve felt, having to deal with the challenges of raising a child with special needs. And maybe your friends really can’t completely understand what it’s like to be in your shoes, but we ought not to fault them for that. And the more that you remain closed up, the less they are able to understand. Often, we are looking for someone who can empathize with us when we should be glad there are people who are willing to sympathize.

It is not easy to step out of the prison of loneliness. However, once you realize that the door is unlocked (and has always been so), you can take the first step outside of that cell. And remember this … even in your loneliest time, you are never really alone. God is there. Go to Him!

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4)

What is your advice for someone who is struggling with loneliness?

 

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3 Steps to a Successful Reading Time with Your Kids

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I had always imagined raising children with a love for books and reading aloud to them for years to come. But by the time my third child was born, I was reading less and less. Aside from reading them their school assignments, read-aloud time became, at best, a sporadic activity. Needless to say, I was pretty discouraged at my own failure.

I’m so glad God lifted me up from my discouragement because now, our reading times throughout the day are some of the simple joys that we look forward to as a family.

If you want to get started with reading aloud to your children, here are some things to consider.

Pick the right books

With young children, the task isn’t too difficult. The story needs to be simple but engaging, not too many words, and good illustrations.

As my kids got older, I wanted to be able to read chapter books with fewer illustrations. At first, I wondered if this was possible with preschoolers in the mix. Well, it is possible, even with your squirmiest child. Pick a book with short chapters. The one we are currently reading, Little Pilgrim’s Progress, has chapters that are no more than 4 pages long. Let them do a quiet activity while you read, like color, play-doh, or snacks. With their hands busy, they won’t be as restless and will actually listen.

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Pick the right times

There are certain times in the day that we do read-alouds. We’ve done it regularly enough that the kids now expect it. I believe that with that expectation, they become more attentive. And, if you are reading a book that ends each chapter with a cliff-hanger, they are more likely to look forward to the next reading time. The best times for us to do read-alouds is during mealtimes and before bedtimes.

During a meal is a good time to read a chapter book because I have a captive audience who is not going anywhere. And, it really doesn’t take that long to read. I usually finish the chapter before they finish their meal. After putting the book down, I start eating, and we spend the rest of the time discussing what we just read.

Pick their brains

Don’t be afraid to pause now and then during your reading to insert some of your questions. Simple observation questions, instead of “why” questions, are great for helping young children develop narration skills.

When we finish, I always ask them, “What is one thing that you remember from the story?” This simple question helps them with their ability to recall the story and retell it in their own words. I’m always pleasantly surprised at their answers, from the 9-year-old to 3-year-old.

Resources for selecting books

It can be an overwhelming task to select books for your children when there is so much to choose from. I love getting book recommendations from friends.

There are also guide books that can help you in picking out age-appropriate books for your kids. These are the ones that I have used.

Ready, Set, Read!

The Read-Aloud Handbook

Books to Build On: A Grade-by-Grade Resource Guide for Parents and Teachers

The New York Times Parent’s Guide to the Best Books for Children

What are your tips for fun read-aloud times with the kids?

 

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5 Things Moms Should Never Expect After Their Time Away

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Last year, I attended a women’s conference at my church. I was hesitant to go at first, feeling bad that my husband would have to take care of the kids the whole weekend. But, he knew I really needed this time away to recharge and get encouraged.

I had a wonderful time, catching up with friends I haven’t talked to in a long time, making new friends, and hearing from a great speaker, who taught on the theme of becoming a peacemaker.

Now I was ready to come back home to my loving family. Or was I?

Whether you’re coming back home from a church retreat, a bloggers’ conference, or even a moms’ night out, there are at least 5 things you should never expect when you get home.

Don’t expect the dishes to be clean

Or the floors to be swept or the toys to be put away, etc., etc. Yay for the husbands or babysitters, who can manage to keep up with house chores as well as with the kids! But don’t be surprised if cleaning is lower on the priority list for the sake of keeping your children alive.

Chores

Don’t expect your husband to follow the same routine

He’s going to do things differently. To the kids, Daddy’s way might be better (because Mommy can be strict sometimes). Maybe they’ll have pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Maybe they’ll play a little more video games than usual. Maybe they’ll do all the rough play that Mommy usually says no to. Let them have their special time with Daddy, even if things aren’t done the way you would do them.

Don’t expect the kids to be in bed

If you’re coming home in the evening, it would be nice if the kids are all soundly sleeping. You go to their rooms, gently pull the blanket over them, give them a soft kiss on the cheek, and whisper a prayer for them. Oh, such a peaceful scene! But, more than likely, they will be up past their bedtime, or if they are in bed, they are lying there awake, anticipating that you will be home soon.

Don’t expect your husband to be at his best

You may be excited to share with your husband all that happened from your time away. I’m sure he’s looking forward to hearing all about it, but let the man rest. You know how tiring it gets to take care of your kids all day. Even more so for someone who isn’t used to have so many consecutive hours with those little angels.

Don’t expect you have a break from being a mom

Sure, it was nice to get a little break from wiping noses and bottoms. It was nice not to think about what you need to make for dinner. It was nice to be exempt from chores for a day or two. But guess what? When you come back, you should be ready to be back, washing dirty little hands as well as dirty dishes.

After your time away, there is one thing though, that you should definitely expect and look forward to:

Lots of hugs and kisses!

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“Hey Mama, How Do You Find Time to Blog?”

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The loose schedule we enjoyed this summer has come to an end. We began school this week. They look happy in their pictures above, but I know they’re missing the abundance of free time from the summer months. I miss it too.

But the structure that school offers is good for all of us, especially for me. I knew that with homeschool back in full swing, I had to take a good hard look at where all this blogging was going to fit in or if I had to give it up altogether.

What I love about blogging

  • I love the creative outlet that it has given me.
  • I love growing and improving in my writing.
  • I love the new friends that I have made through this.
  • I love the opportunity to help someone by sharing the things that I’ve learned in this life.

But even though this has been a great experience so far, there are things about taking on this additional role of blogger that I don’t like so much.

What I don’t like about blogging

  • I don’t like how much time it takes.
  • I don’t like feeling distracted.
  • I don’t like losing my time in checking social media and comments.
  • I don’t like not giving my children my undivided attention because of all of the above.

Can you really be a good mom and a good mommy blogger at the same time?

I had to get a better perspective. I won’t always be a mommy blogger. I suspect that one day, this will all end. But, I will always be a mom. Even when these kids are grown, I will still be their Mommy.

So, when I was drafting our household schedule, I had to include time for blogging in there. I wanted to be purposeful, attending to my main blogging duties during the early morning or evening hours when the children are in bed. If I didn’t include it in the schedule, I would be prone to “blog” throughout the day. And that just can’t happen when I’m trying to homeschool.

Consider this quote from Kevin DeYoung’s book, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem.

“I’ve often had to ask myself, ‘Why am I blogging? Why am I tweeting? Is it for my name and my fame?’ It doesn’t matter how big or small our following; we can turn Facebook and Twitter into outposts for our glory. Or–and this is more my struggle–we can fear what others will think if we don’t show up for hours, days, or weeks. We don’t want to disappoint hundreds or thousands of people we’ve never met, so we work all night and ruin the evening of the few people who depend on us every day.”

If you are a blogger, you may not blog about every moment of your life. But, with or without a blog post to follow, you can live each moment to the fullest without regret.

What does blogging or social media distract you from?

 

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How a Simple Gift Can Brighten Someone’s Day

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After a nice dinner date to celebrate our wedding anniversary, my husband and I made our way to our parents’ house to pick up the kids. When we arrived, our daughter, self-appointed messenger of all things, told us the big news of the night. “There was a fire here!”

Wait, what? A fire? Was this a game that they were playing? But, one look inside the kitchen confirmed that this wasn’t a game. There was indeed a fire.

It happened while my mother-in-law stepped out of the kitchen briefly to change my son’s diaper. But, in that short amount of time, whatever was on the stove caught fire. Here’s the crazy thing. The smoke detector didn’t even work! (Check your smoke detectors and make sure they have fresh batteries … this is your public service message.)

Well, in the providence of God, a neighbor was walking by outside the house and noticed the flames through the window. This neighbor quickly ran to the front door to alert my parents. Thank God the damage wasn’t too bad and that no one was hurt!

But because of this small kitchen fire, my parents were without a stove for over a month, and the insurance company removed a number of items that were damaged by the smoke. Even as I write this, they are still waiting to have their cabinets replaced.

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My mom has been a trooper throughout all this. I never heard her complain once about not being able to have full use of her kitchen. This is the heart of her home, where we gather to pray before every family get-together, where we congregate around the table to talk and discuss life, where there’s always food on the counter ready to be eaten (I always gain a few pounds when I’m there), and where the kids know about all the cabinets where Grandma keeps the treats.

And for a time, this part of her home was closed.

When someone goes through a difficulty or an unexpected change like this, a simple gift is often enough to lift up their spirits. To them, that gift represents the fact that someone was thinking of them. And when that gift is personalized, like with an engraving or an inscription, it can mean so much more.

I want to introduce you to a great company that does just that. They take many different items and personalize it, so you’re not just giving a mug, but a mug with a meaningful quote or a bible verse. Maybe you’ve come across a store that sells products like these, but the vast selection and prices that Gifts For You offers is unlike anything that you’ll find at your local mall kiosk.

So, for the grand re-opening of my mom’s kitchen, Gifts For You provided the perfect present.

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When we gave it to her, she noticed right away that her name was on it. It doesn’t matter how old you are, but there’s just a cool factor when you see your own name on something, like it was made especially for you. She laughed when she read the rest of it, and before we left, she was already walking around the kitchen with it, trying to find the perfect spot for her new sign.

I suspect it won’t be long before Emma’s Kitchen will be fully open for business!

What gift would you give to brighten someone’s day?

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How to Survive Without Cable TV

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I was 5 months pregnant and a week away from my last day at work when my husband told me the shocking news. “Honey, I cancelled the cable!”

Back then, there weren’t many cheaper alternatives. We eventually got used to being without cable, but when we got tired of watching the same DVDs again and again, we explored some of the many options that are now available today.

Video Streaming

The subscription cost for services, like Netflix, is reasonable, and you get a good selection of programs for everyone in the family. The problem is trying to agree on one thing!

Most of these companies also offer a free trial period so you can see which one fits your tastes. We did the free trials, and at first, we were excited to have “TV” again. I’ll be honest with you though. After being without cable for many years, this was just TV overload for us.

Antenna

In my college apartment, we had an old TV and some rabbit ears antenna that was wrapped in aluminum foil. My roommates and I would watch fuzzy reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (I know I’m dating myself) when we didn’t want to study. I was hoping to have moved on from those days, so the thought of getting an antenna was not very appealing until we saw this ….

A flat antenna

It’s thin, matches our walls, and best of all, didn’t need foil to get good reception. We tried it, but unfortunately, this just didn’t work for us because of where we live. We only got a few channels and not any we cared to watch. However, this might be a good solution for you, depending on your location.

Streaming Players

Players, like Roku, use your home’s internet to bring entertainment to your TV. I wasn’t really into getting anything like this because it seemed only useful if you had a Netflix subscription.

But one day, my husband came home with a Roku Streaming Stick. He took advantage of a store program, where you can trade in a used cell phone for store credit, so he didn’t pay a thing. Looks like I’m not the only bargain shopper in the family! We’re not subscribed to any streaming services, but we still get a number of free channels through Roku. If you’re willing to pay the upfront cost of this nifty little gadget, it may be a worthwhile investment.

The Internet

The major TV networks make most of the current episodes available on the internet for free. Sometimes, you have to wait a few days after the original air date, so just excuse yourself when your friends start talking about what happened in the season finale. This really works for us because we’re more intentional about how we use TV. Instead of mindlessly surfing through all the channels, we plan for TV time.

The Public Library

Children's DVDs.

Older DVDs at the library tend to be scratched up but I found ways to avoid this. Our library has a “new releases” shelf, where you can check out those movies for a shorter period of time. These are usually in better condition. See if your library has something like this.

Also, libraries often allow you to put items on hold through their website and will contact you when it comes in. Before a movie is released on DVD, our library will sometimes order it and create a record for that item in their database. So, even before they receive it, I can already request a hold on it through their system.

And the best part: it’s free!

Have you explored other alternatives to cable TV?

 

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