Wednesday, May 28, 2014

An Open Letter to My Children

My dear precious child,

I feel like no words I say could adequately express how much I love you.  When I think about your smile, your laugh, your personality and the light in your eyes, I feel as though I'd burst with love.  I didn't know that a heart could love so much!

(c) John Stubler Photography (,
used with permission. 

This was me at 9 months pregnant when I was  expecting
my daughter!  Our friend took my pregnancy photos -
check him out at www.JohnStubler.Com
Once, when I was 9 months pregnant, I was walking to a parking lot and tripped on a curb.  I was holding the oldest by the hand and the other was in my belly.  I didn't even have time to think, but my body instinctually fell in a strange way to protect both children and I ended up with scratches in the oddest places.  It was really a testament of how God designed for the love that a mother has for her children from the time they are in the womb to become so strong that it becomes one with her body.  I wouldn't think twice before risking my life for one of you, you mean so much to me!

Unfortunately, you know - probably more than anyone on earth, how human I am and all the mistakes I've made.  And I'm sorry for every single one of them.  I'm not afraid to apologize to you without reserve for each and every mistake that I made, some out of fear, emotion, exhaustion, or ignorance.  This is not a list of excuses, but a reality that I am human and I am sorry.  But it is not your fault and I've made mistakes not because of anything you have done, but it is only proof of who I've always needed to become.

The world might tell me now that I wasn't made to be a mom, and that my struggles are because I'm not putting me first.  Wouldn't I feel better if I put you aside and took care of my needs and wants?  But, my child, the world knows nothing.  It does not understand sacrificial, deep and lasting love.  It knows nothing of the importance of raising the next generation, the value in bringing up good people in which our future is held.  I can't imagine a more worthwhile or fulfilling job in the world.

Raising you is SO important to me, that I don't often want to do a good job, I want to do a perfect job.  Sometimes I'd get too stressed about doing a good job and would actually make mistakes because of the desire to be a perfect mom and then would be upset when I wasn't and then would get tense and irritable and just repeat this vicious cycle of ridiculousness.

But, my child, we have had so much fun together in spite of it.  The GREATEST joy in my life has been bringing you into this world and spending time with you.  Your growing has been bittersweet, because I have enjoyed every moment and didn't want it to pass.  Even when I've thought I needed a break, the entire time I was away (even for 30 minutes!) all I could do was think about you and how excited I was to see you again.

Every night when you go to bed, I think about how I will be a better mom to you tomorrow and make resolutions to be kinder, gentler, and more consistent.  And I pray that every day I am even just a little bit closer to that goal, because I love you so much and it terrifies me to possibly scar you in any way.

However, I feel that scarring you is eminent.  I don't give up fighting to be a better person, nor will I, but there is a certain point that I have to let go and pray that God will do the rest.  

When your dad and I went on our first official date (ok, second, but the first one he kinda tricked me into!  That story is for another time!), at one point we walked to a nearby university campus, enjoying a beautiful sunny day and the gorgeous scenery and talked in depth about children and parenting in general.  Our conversation sticks with me to this day, because it was so meaningful and has given me so much hope in my own parenting.  We talked about how children's first "god" is their parents.  They idolize them, thinking them all-powerful, all-knowing, wise and perfect.  As children get older and they start seeing the mistakes that their parents make and that they are human, it can knock kids off their feet and crumble their world.  They get disappointed because they want someone that they can trust and won't let them down.

So, why does this give me hope?  Because on that day, the solution your dad and I came up with was simple.  Though we didn't know we'd end up being married (ok, maybe your dad did! Have I mentioned how much I love him?!), we concluded that the only way to go is to start pointing to God as God (not us) from the very beginning of our child's life, by recognize and admitting our faults to you and apologizing, and by showing you how perfect GOD is and providing you the means to have a real relationship with Him from the beginning.

I know how important it is for you to know that someone won't let you down.  Ever.

It's given me so much freedom, to know that I don't have to be a perfect mom.  I need to be a mom that loves unconditionally, and without reserve: God can and will do the rest.

My wonderful, amazing children, I have confidence in God that he will guide you and protect you.  You are not mine, really, but have been on loan to me in this world.  You are children of God, made in His image and as sons and daughters of Him loved by Him, you are infinitely lovable!  Did you know that if he didn't think of you, even for a thousandth of a second, that you would not exist?  Realize that he is loving and thinking of you every second of your life!  Every breath you take has been willed by Him.

I pray not that you become CEO of a huge corporation, make lots of money, or become a celebrity.  I only pray that you become a person that loves deeply and passionately, sees good in others, shows mercy and compassion - even when you are justified in anger and resentment.  One of my favorite quotes right now is:

"Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love."
-Mother Teresa

Love, with all your heart.  Love will change the world.  Do not look to me as your example, look at Christ, on the cross - the most beautiful testament of love, and rest in Him.

My dearest child.  I love you with all my heart.


Your mommy

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Our Kids' Montessori-Inspired Bedroom

I decided to call this post "Montessori inspired" because I'm not always 100% Montessori (not necessarily because I don't want to be, but it's a process making your home and environment the way you want it).  However, when I was decorating my kids room earlier this year, I really wanted it to be a place that they felt comfortable and happy.  Above all, I wanted it to be theirs.  True to Montessori, we have toddler mattresses directly on the floor and pictures a their level.  I know I shouldn't be amazed at this point by the relevancy of the Montessori philosophy with my kids, but here is another example: We have lots of art and pictures all over the house and my son has never said anything.  However, after I put up the pictures on his level in his room, he wanted to know about each one and even told me that the little child that Jesus is embracing was himself.  ;)

So, what did we do to their room to make it kid friendly and a place they love?  Just a few simple things that went a long way:

1.  We Painted The Walls
I love how a bright paint can change the way a room looks.  Before we painted the kids room, it looked gray and dark, and not exactly the most inviting or where I would want to spend a whole lot of time, let alone the kids... So, I got my son involved and asked him what color he would want his room.  He chose blue, and since his sister was going to share the room with him, too, I picked a few shades of blue that I pre-approved and let him choose.  He was very happy to make the final decision and his eyes LIT up when he saw me painting in there... :)

2.  We Found FUN Decals

To be honest, when I was first looking for a decal for their room, I gravitated towards the elegant and pretty ones - ones that I would like.  Then I started thinking about my kids, and what would be more appropriate for their age.  I finally decided on the tree decal that you can see in the picture above, and though it took about 45 minutes to assemble on the wall - my kids LOVE it.  Yes, the first few days I had to tell them not to touch the stickers, but ever since we haven't had a problem (except for a nice friend of theirs that thought it would be fun to pull a few flowers down!  :(  Good thing they are repositionable stickers!!).  The decals add so much character to a kids room...

3.  I Established An Economy of Toys and Order That THEY Can Replicate

This is so important... Too many toys can be overstimulating and kids actually play with more of them if they have a few out at a time.  See my earlier posts on this subject: Household Tornado - Part 1: Prevention and Household Tornado - Part 2: Maintenance.

4.  We Put Pictures, Books and Toys on Their Level

I've always had books in the kids reach, and they spend long lengths of time looking at them EVERY day.  As a matter of fact, books are my 19-month-old's favorite activity and when I notice that she's escaped to her room and run to find her, 9 times out of 10 she is sitting quietly looking at books.  Having everything at their level really does allow their development to flourish and encourage the freedom of natural growth.

5.  We Have Their Mattresses on The Floor

Again, this allows them to get up and down without help and also put themselves to sleep if needed.  A funny story about this is that one time, someone came over to my house and after seeing my son's bed (at that time it was only him on the floor) offered to give us money to pay for a bed frame - totally thinking that we didn't buy one because we couldn't afford it!!  Yes, it does help the pocket book, but that was not the intention.  :)

6.  Clothes in Bottom Drawers of Their Dressers

One thing that I totally believe in, but honestly have not been very good about enforcing - is having the kids put away their own clothes and pick out their own clothes.  I've at least started the process by putting the clothes in their reach.  Next on my to-do is to have them put the clothes away.  Of course, the clothes will probably end up not being folded and a complete mess; but, it's the thought that counts and it is teaching them responsibility and order.  After giving them the job of putting away their clothes, eventually you can work on order and teach them how to fold, etc.

I hope this was helpful for you!  I had so much fun decorating my kids room, and I would love to hear tip and other ideas for YOUR kids room in the comments below!  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Review of May's Montessori By Mom Box

My Montessori By Mom box arrived!!  Actually, it's my son's, and it was a couple weeks ago, but hey - it's pretty exciting for this mom over here, too!  And even now, after having used it several weeks, it's still like we are opening it up for the first time!

So, the first thing I did when it came in the mail was to tell my son that HE got a package.  OK, let me back up.  My husband is a professional online shopper.  Ok, maybe not professional, but he should be, or at least should get a commission, because it seems that not a day goes by that we don't get one or more packages.  Amazingly, they usually don't cost us money because he is always selling something on eBay and making money off of everything he purchases.  He's crazy talented.  But I'm straying from the point.  The point is, it's pretty darn amazing if anyone BESIDES my husband gets a package around here.  Let alone my little guy.  He was dumbfounded, literally, and was SO excited to see what he got!

Of course my little gal had to come over and see what was going on.  Nothing get's past her, and in 1/100 of a second she was next to her brother, opening the box.  

I had seen pictures of the contents on their website and even posted a picture in my Montessori By Mom post a few weeks back, but I was literally shocked by the amount of materials in the box, and the quality.  Honestly, I don't think the picture on their website does it justice, so I took my own and placed every material by itself (except the number cards - I ran out of room!) so that you could get a better idea of all that is included in the box:

Everything on this table (except the tablecloth) came in the Montessori By Mom box for May: Sandpaper numbers 0-9, white tray, bag of starfish counters, number cards 0-9, blue job rug, 8 beautiful REAL seashells, 2 seashell bowls, 1 beautiful and unique spoon, bag of (small) real seashells.

Even my sceptic husband was impressed with the quality of the items in the box.  Check out these pictures showing the detail:

For those of you that might think a preschooler cannot appreciate the delicacies or uniqueness of something, my son - without my urging - spontaneously stopped the job to admire the tiny shells and said in a baby voice (which totally made me crack up!): "Awww, mommy - look at this little baby shell!"

A real, ornate spoon for using in the transfer job. 

This is so unique, and has so much detail.  Every fish/shell is different.

Ok, now that you've seen some of the detail, I want to compare the Montessori By Mom box to a typical job that you might order from a Montessori supply store, just to see the difference and do a price comparison.  I did this to see if my money was being well spent and to compare the quality.

I pulled out my set of phonetical objects, purchased at an online Montessori (discount) supply store for $60+s&h.  Montessori By Mom is $39.95+s&h/month when you subscribe to a year or $45.95+s&h/month.

As you can see, there are quite a few objects...

The discount supply store job did not come with a mat or anything to display the job (which is typical).  But since I wanted to show you the two exhibits (Montessori By Mom and the other Montessori job), I put the items in a basket I had on hand:

Left: Montessori By Mom, May 2014 box, Right: Montessori discount store job

Ok, another BIG thing to mention, while we are still comparing, is that there is no other place where you can get a job AND get detailed instruction on using the materials for numerous jobs and teaching objectives.  When I got the box, Montessori By Mom hadn't posted the instructional videos on their website yet, so I guessed the obvious jobs.  When they announced that the videos had posted, there were at least 4-5 other jobs and concepts that I hadn't even thought of!  You really can use this for years, and for multiple children.

One thing that I was personally thrilled with was that, the day after I explained to him what "0" (zero) meant, he saw the number "0" on something and said "MOM!!!  That means NOTHING!!!".  I almost cried... lol.

So, now that I've presented you with all the facts, you can make your own decision... but to REALLY see the beauty of the products, you should see it yourself!

And...if you want my son's opinion... these are now his new favorite jobs!

5/20/13 Update:
If you want to try out Montessori By Mom, use this code to get $10 off your first box!!: AFFAMCA

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Spelt Flour

If you know me, you know I'm nuts about peanut butter (even though they are NOT a nut!)...  And I am never far from a batch of peanut butter cookies!  As a matter of fact, as I've gone through phases of eliminating flour and refined sugars, the recipe has changed with me.  For a while, I adjusted the recipe and made the cookies with almond flour and honey (recipe here).  Then I discovered spelt, a more ancient grain in the wheat family, less altered then our wheat berry flour and easier to digest.  And while I try to stay away from cane sugar, I think some raw sugar, in moderation, can be ok and add a lot to the flavor and consistency.

This recipe is a winner for my family.  I really enjoy this recipe because when we eliminated processed sugars from our diet I became very sensitive to sweeteners and this cookie has just the right amount.  

I freeze the dough in balls (unlike the almond flour version, this dough freezes harder and it is near impossible to form into balls after it is frozen), as I've grown accustomed to doing these last few years, and that allows me to have my nightly treat with my husband after the kids go to bed without having cookies everywhere and available during the day for me to munch on!


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Spelt Flour

1 cup salted butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 cup creamy, unsalted & unsweetened peanut butter (no sugar!)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 ½ cups spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups chocolate chips

In large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and honey and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes (or 5 to 6 minutes by hand). Reduce speed to medium-low and add in peanut butter, beating until fully incorporated, beat in eggs, then vanilla and almond extract. Reduce speed to lowest setting or gently stir by hand; gradually add in the dry ingredients starting with the salt, baking powder and soda, then the flour; scraping sides of mixing bowl as necessary, and beating just until incorporated; do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chips, then transfer to a freezer-safe container in small balls and place in freezer.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350.  If dough is thawed, cook for approximately 8 minutes.  If frozen, about 10-12 minutes or until golden brown (the center will be a bit soft, so for cookies that are more cooked, I'd lower the temp to 325 and cook them a few minutes longer).

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Teaching Our Preschoolers to Think Outside (or Inside?!) the Box

One of the things that I love about being at home with my kids is the ability to be relaxed and have time to do fun things with them (pardon me while I step aside and LAUGH! TIME?!  HAHAHA!).  Honestly, I love staying at home have to pump myself up to take my kids out (it's the introvert in me!).  And yet, I still struggle to spend quality time with my kids because of the endless chores that seem to never end, outside activities, finances, cooking, shopping, work, etc.  Our culture has become so complicated in the last 100 years!  I think about how families used to live and work on a farm, together, all day, every day.  Women had little babies and children playing at their feet until they were old enough to work, then they would work alongside their mother until they were old enough to help on the farm.  Life was about supporting your family, not family supporting your work as it really seems today.

That being said, my strength is not in coming up with amazing crafts or complex activities to do with them.  It usually consists of me looking around the house and wondering, "What can we do or learn about today?"

By vocalizing this simple question and doing this exercise randomly (at home, in the kitchen, in the car, outside, etc.), we are teaching our children how to think critically, and to establish the ability to think and learn.  For instance, it teaches them to think outside the box by looking AT the box or IN the box and to see how the box works.   Contrary to popular belief, learning is not about sitting at a desk and completing a work book or a number of exercises.  That has it's purpose and is important, but, learning is so much more than that!  Learning should be a quest for knowledge; a quest for truth. It's looking at something and not just taking it for face value but seeing what it's purpose is and how it works.  I could get really deep here.  Just think about that.  Think about what this world would be like if people actually thought when they looked around, met people, and tabulated in their mind what impact decisions would have if they made them.  It all starts when they are little people, when their brain is forming and making connections.  Everything great has small beginnings.

So, as an example of what I'm talking about, the other day I looked around the room and then said to my son, "Hey, let's look inside the piano and see how it works!"

He looked at me, then looked at the piano.  We walked over and I removed all the little decorative objects from the top, then opened the lid.  I let him stand on the bench (I was right next to him to help him keep balanced), and let him peer in.  He was fascinated.  He spent quite some time exploring the inside of the piano, looking at the harp, hammers, and then watching how the keys made the hammers bang the strings.  It was a beautiful moment for the two of us.  For him, his mind was being opened and stretched as he began to understand the mechanics of a piano; for me, it was watching him and seeing how his brain was working, ticking, expanding, thinking.

Gosh, we have such a beautiful job.  I mean; how could it get better than this?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Montessori By Mom

(c) 2014 Montessori By Mom
used with permission
Ok, so I don't normally go out there and write a blog post about a product... But, this is too great not to share!  And no, it's not just because the company is owned by my Montessori-teacher-sister and her husband - it really is an incredible product!  The said company is Montessori By Mom, a monthly subscription service that sends you multiple Montessori jobs per month!  :)

Because it is a bit more than people are used to paying for subscriptions, I want to explain why I think it's worth the investment:

1.  They are quality materials - no fake, cheap stuff.  Kids tend to be more interested in REAL objects, and they are smart - they know the difference.

2.  I've done a lot of research and found some discount Montessori supply stores, but even then you pay for the quality products.  A few months ago I bought this set of objects and these sandpaper letters.  There are several uses for both; we will be using them for beginning sounds, middle, and ending, writing, letter recognition, etc., but still - the total was nearly $100.  This subscription service is not only comparable, but (obviously) cheaper than if you tried doing it yourself.

3.  You don't need to know anything about Montessori education and have the lesson plan given to you - in VIDEO.

4.  As much as I love doing Montessori jobs myself, I love that I can have someone else's ideas to mix things up a bit.

5. Cost per use.  For me, I hope (and pray!) that God will bless us with more kids.  Right now, we have two that I am teaching and that will use these jobs.  As my oldest grows out of them, my younger one will be able to use the, etc.  For one student, it's still economical because we will be using them all the time.  But when you start adding additional siblings, etc., the cost per use goes down and down.  I like that!  :)

So.... Check them out, and stay tuned - I will be sharing with you what I think when I get son's first box next month!

(c) 2014 Montessori By Mom
used with permission

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cotton Ball Montessori Job

Yesterday, someone asked me if you have to be a naturally crafty person to homeschool your children...  My answer is: definitely not!!

Look at this job I threw together this morning - it's proof that you don't have to get complicated to homeschool and have fun with what you already have in the house....

2 baskets, plates, bowls, etc.
Cotton balls
Salad tongs

Demonstrate with tongs picking up one cotton ball at a time and moving from one side to the other.  Over time, you can add in counting the balls, organizing them in groups (like groups of 3, 5, etc) or other variations.

Helps them build muscle in their hands, motor skills, concentration, hands on understanding of numbers and quantity, etc.

Remember: As soon as your child looses interest in a job and starts being destructive or using the objects other than the intended purpose, remove the job.  It's important that children understand there is an intended purpose for everything and that there is a difference from creativity vs. destructiveness.

I.e. If your child starts throwing objects, remove it from them.  If they discover a new or different way to do the job - like picking up more than one cotton ball or making a tall mound; encourage them.  At first it can be hard to know the difference, but after a while you can recognize it sooner.

Also, pay attention to their demeanor.  When they are doing a job properly, they will have a certain look of concentration - usually their brows will be down and eyes focused.  They probably won't hear you if you call their name when they are in this mode as their little minds are processing lots of data.  As soon as their eye brows relax and their eyes wander from in front of them, they are not concentrating any more.

And I have a confession...  I'm a real mom... Yes, my son is still in his pjs at 8am and we spontaneously started school at 7:30am (and yes, those are chalk "crumbs" on the table in the picture...).  That's what I love about homeschooling - there are no limits on when or where we learn!  :)