Photo op- Unmeasurables

Quantifiable or chart-able or measuring success is my nature. Progress reports and grade cards and gold stars, oh yeah! But this year more than ever these things feel phony, like trying to capture something that doesn’t really want to be caught.

I just finished reading this book about time management. The weekly time log you’re supposed to keep to notice all the wastes you’re making we’re starting to stress me out. Then I got sick, and really felt like I was wasting my time, though I finished this book and another.

Ordering your time to be “successful” and achieving all your dreams sounds great, but I’m not a company. There isn’t a clock to punch in my home because homes shouldn’t have those.

Quality time with my kids just happens, it can’t be rigorously planned out, though I do try to have special time with each kid monthly. What can be planned is that I’m around. I can be present. Time management feels like it keeps me from being and instead forces me to DO it all.

I love this picture of my kids at Grandma’s pool. I have a thing for pictures from behind. It captures something utterly in the moment. They’re not swimming, they’re sitting and conspiring as siblings do. They’re so present and using that gift of time right now to be friends.

My son loves to swing. He would swing all day at Pops’ house if he could keep convincing someone to push him.

In the hustle of the beginning of September, find a picture that reminds you to BE. These are mine. The greatest things in life can’t be quantified, but they can be missed. Richly bask in the unmeasurable moments you’re given.

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Devotions Starter Kit

My friend Mari Jo and I taught a middle school breakout at church camp on doing devotions and quiet time. In a nutshell: have a time, have your materials, read your Bible, and journal.

During one of our classes, we suggested to these students to ask their parents for a back-to-school or birthday shopping spree to purchase their materials for doing devotions. The next week, a student asked me to baptize her. She’s about to be a 6th grader, so I decided to gift her this devotion starter kit. I love shopping for journals and pens so it was just as much fun giving this gift as I hope it was receiving it.

First, the Bible. The best version of the Bible is the one you’ll read. At our church we encourage elementary students to read out of the NIrV (New International Readers Version), our youth group’s version of choice is ESV (English Standard Version), but I also have begun to encourage middle school students to read the Biblical paraphrase version The Message too. That’s what I purchased for this student. I found a pink one on Amazon, and it was super affordable. Pay a little more and get a super nice leather bound one, but this worked for my purpose.

Then at Target, I found this sweet journal.

And these pens…

They’re erasable?!? Of course I bought a pack for myself too.

That’s all you really need, but Mari Jo suggested to have a drink with you for your devotions. She drinks tea. I figured my 6th grader would like pink lemonade. I bought a country time mix, they have directions to make a cup at a time, and I also got her a cute melamine cup. All hers.

I wrote my student a card explaining the kit and then suggested a place to start. Now, she and I, and my other small group leaders all committed to reading a chapter of Proverbs every day in July. 31 chapters, 31 days. If you have a young adult or an friend who is new to quiet time, this starter kit would be a great gift. Other suggestions to include:

  • Noise canceling ear buds or head phones if a kid lives in a packed house.
  • A camp chair or blanket or cheap tent if the student would do best reading out doors.
  • A beanbag chair or camp chair for inside, or a new fun pillow.
  • Get into reading plans you find on the YouVersion Bible app. So many students are tech savvy. Pick one you can do together.
  • A devotional- books that supplement or lead your devotion time. Buy one you’ll do together. Our elementary students are doing this one.

Kid Days

After reading a phase guide for each of my children’s current ages, I knew I needed to get more intentional in celebrating their uniqueness and interests.

If you’ve never seen a phase guide, it looks like this… I’ve saved the link on the picture, so if you click it you can learn more.

Our church’s children’s ministry uses the curriculum that is also made by the creators of these special parenting guides.

After writing down some notes on each of my kids’ interests I decided to do a special day with each of them.

In November my daughter and I went to a mall to be the first customers at a Charming Charlie accessories store, we also rode a double decker carousel (side note: taking a picture looking backwards while riding a carousel can lead to this mom getting motion sick.) We got personal MOD pizzas, I gave her my old digital camera and taught her basic photography, we got drinks at a cafe and brought a My Little Pony board game, then finished with a round of put put.

It was good, but exhausting. The next one, I decided would be much simpler.

My son and I spent a day in December at the St Louis Science Center.

I wanted to plan another day for each of them. His birthday is April 6th, so I dubbed the 6th or so of each month is a “Titus day.” In March we did Taco Bell, Monkey Joe’s, and McDonald milk shakes (only for Titus since I wasn’t through with Whole30.

I joined a class field trip on March 14 for my daughter whose birthday is December 14th. So from then on the 14th or so of each month has been declared “Elodie Day.”

Now each kid has a special day each month to look forward to and help plan. Their birthday months are covered already of course.

But on all other months, we do a few things that make each kid feel special. Last month Elodie Day involved going to IKEA with Daddy and getting a new light for her room. All four of us went to the science center on the 7th last month for Titus day.

We have enjoyed each time we focus on the special interests of our kids. Having an approximate day of each month gives us an easy way to set something up.

How about you? What’s one of your ways to spend individual focused time with each of your children?

Recommended Reading

On my list of possible blog posts ideas (no one is surprised I have a list) books I would like to recommend is often on it. Many posts… most posts stream from conversations I’m having with friends. Fellow readers usually ask each other for great reads, and these are my all time favorite ones to share with others.

Let me list these in age appropriate order. I have Children’s Literature on here too. P.L. Travers, author of Mary Poppins, kinda hated the term “Children’s Literature” when it came to her own writing. Mostly because she believed in the power of story for all ages. Some of these first books, published for a young audience, have had the deepest and purest impact on me.

Edward Tulane is a beautiful story of a stuffed animal. It may remind you of The Velveteen Rabbit, but it’s more storied.

Multi-generational. Nothing like a girl befriending a woman with great travel stories. It will make you want your passport updated.

Hang on as you read this. I can’t say anything else.

This is art in words. The Little Prince must be read and reread and studied and treasured.

No one writes for kids like Stuart Gibbs. One of my favorite things… his preteen characters almost always have great relationships with their parents. In this one the main character actually informs his parents as trouble arises and they back him up like normal parents would and it does not diminish the story. I love that as I read this to my kids I won’t have to put it down and give a, “if you find yourself in this situation, don’t be like..”

A beautiful story with shout outs to short fiction weaves through it. I love books that introduce me to other reading.

Bob Goff is so great.

His wife, Sweet Maria, is too.

And Bob Goff has just written another one.

This is short and beautiful. I listened to this read by the author and I would really recommend listening to it.

“Good for her, not for me.” Amy kinda writes the world’s greatest solution for women bashing women ever.

I got a lot out of this book. His recommendations for fixing injustice in the court system at the end is simple and has been in my head ever since.

No one writes curmudgeons like Fredrik Backman. His characters are varied and intricate but his stories move in a way that you are NEVER bored.

Lots of language. That’s your warning. But both of these are so funny you can’t help but laugh out loud.

Loved the book. I don’t care for the movie.

Anyway…

I am not a book reviewer. I’m a reader. I can only point you to my favorites but I can’t tell you much because I despise spoilers of any kind. (I don’t read the back covers because of this. I know. That’s extreme.). Let me know if you love these… or let me know if you’ve got some you want to send my way!