Summer Bucket List

  1. Make play dough
  2. Water balloons
  3. Set up a “car wash” for bikes and trikes with buckets of water, a garden hose, brushes and soap.  OR for toddlers set up a bucket of water, a bucket of dirt, some brushes and some toy cars.
  4. Beach Day
  5. Eat lunch at a local food kart
  6. Build a lego town
  7. Go for a bike ride.  Pack some snacks, water bottles and a book for breaks along the way.
  8. Sidewalk chalk or paint
  9. Visit the zoo
  10. Go for a hike
  11. Backyard camping – set up a tent in the backyard and make lunch over a campfire.
  12. Visit your local library once a week for story time, crafts or any other special events they may have going on.
  13. Read aloud together every day
  14. Have a garage sale or bake sale
  15. Wash all your stuffed animals or doll clothes and hang them out to dry in the sun.
  16. Set up a store or hospital in your playroom
  17. Games Day – this could be active outdoor games or board or card games inside.
  18. Track and Field – organize events and hand out ribbons.
  19. Puzzles – set up a separate table so your puzzles can remain easily accessible for a few days as you work on them
  20. Plan a scavenger hunt
  21. Have a pool party with a couple friends.
  22. Spread out a blanket in the front yard and eat lunch there.
  23. Do something touristy in your town
  24. Dairy Queen
  25. Visit a splash pad and take a picnic
  26. Introduce your child to audio books.
  27. Find a summer market or fresh produce stand to frequent.
  28. Go strawberry picking.
  29. Plan your back-to-school shopping trip.  Set a budget and give each child the allotted amount to spend.
  30. Build a blanket fort together and have a snack inside it.

Ask for Help

Many families go into foster care with the idea that if they do not perform perfectly as foster parents they will not be allowed to foster.  I can easily see how this happens in a system where there are many rules and regulations that need to be followed.  Certainly there are certain rules that, if not followed, will jeopardize one’s role as a foster parent.  Those are clearly laid out, logical and always related to the safety of the child.

However, there are many foster families that worry, even after spending years involved in the system, that they will be removed from their role for any random misdemeanor.

A messy kitchen floor,

a child throwing tantrums in the office in front of ten social workers,

forgetting an appointment or visitation,

a visit to the emergency room after a child falls off a bike or does some other childlike thing,

and maybe most common of all…having to ask for, or obviously needing,

HELP.

I remember our first foster placement.

I was only 23 years old and I had never been a parent before.  I was reminded of this continually and cautiously all throughout our home study process.  It was not in a superior way, just gentle reminders that encouraged me to be open to advice from those around me who were more experienced than I.

Despite that, the first child placed in my arms and my amateur care was a five week old baby struggling with drug withdrawal symptoms who had spent all his little life so far in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

I didn’t know enough to be intimidated, but I did know I had something to prove.

I would have to earn the respect and trust of the doctors and nurses releasing him into my care from their expert hands, the social workers putting me on duty as “foster parent” for the first time, the birth parents of this tiny child and maybe most of all myself.

That placement only lasted a few short weeks, and I came out proud of the way I had handled it and grateful for the knowledge I had acquired.

However, looking back I know for certain even if I had been in way over my head…a phone call to our social worker would have been the last option on my list, and one that terrified me.

Despite the friendly support, gentle guidance and beginnings of a relationship we’d developed through the home study process, I was sure that if I showed any sign of weakness or incompetence I would be deemed unworthy.  Maybe even worse, in my own mind asking for help meant I was somehow not enough…and I desperately wanted to be enough.

Thankfully, God brought me just what I needed.

A child who broke me.

A child who needed more than I had to offer.

Asking for help was no longer optional…and when I finally did…the relief and support and encouragement I received made me realize how proud I had been.  Where I had ever gotten the idea that I alone could be enough I have no idea.  It takes much more than just one person to raise a child, especially a child who has been through the physical and emotional trauma most of these children have endured.  Though motherhood certainly requires us to take on aspects of many roles in life, we will find ourselves discouraged, disillusioned and burnt out if we try to be all things to these little people.

Through the next few years, I had many opportunities to practice asking for help.  It is getting easier, though I still have to fight against the craving to somehow be everything for my children.

In foster care and adoption, especially, I soon discovered I won trust and respect much more quickly when I was willing to learn and admit my own weaknesses or lack of expertise.

When I demonstrated a heart that was open to new ideas, new methods, outside resources when needed, others’ opinions and yes, even breaks at times…the relationships formed became solid and deep.

Now, our resource worker is a person I go to quickly when I’m feeling overwhelmed or discouraged and I know she will see my heart because she’s had many opportunities to learn it.  I know without a doubt in my mind that if I’m feeling tired or needing a break, if I just come and ask for help she will try her best to supply that need.  I also know that using these resources to help me prevents burn out, frustration and actions that I would end up regretting as a mother.

We are stronger when we admit we are not always enough.  There is much to learn in parenting…especially children who’ve experienced trauma and heartache to the measure these kids have.  But there is also much that can be accomplished when we choose to learn what we can, tap into resources and even change our lifestyle to accommodate special needs.

Ironically, I have found in the world of foster care and adoption admitting I alone am not enough makes me less afraid, not more, of new challenges.  It feels less frightening to take on children with challenges such as extreme behavioral difficulties, medical needs, permanent diagnoses, etc when we remember we will not have to do it all alone.

It takes a village to raise a child,

but as a parent I will need to choose to tap into the village.

So if you are new to foster care or adoption…my best advice to you is this.

You don’t need to be a superhero.  Admit you do not know everything and be willing to listen, learn and grow.

Even if you’ve parented for years, there is much you do not know about the children who are about to enter your care.  I can guarantee it.

Take the courses.  I have taken the same attachment course three times now and still I have so much to learn.  Many of these are available for FREE through your local agency.  Ask your social worker.

Read the books.  There are more and more child psychology books available on topics such as attachment, exposure to drugs and alcohol, poverty, domestic violence, anxiety, mental illnesses, etc.

Ask for help.  Friends, family, your social worker, community counselling services, your church, etc.  Explain what you need clearly and humbly.

Ask for advice and opinions of those who have been there.  If you don’t know anyone, find a group online.

Seek out professionals and research.  Family doctors, paediatricians, child psychologists, resources for speech and language, behavioral therapy, etc.

Don’t try to do it alone.

You will become a trusted, respected and humble foster/adoptive parent only to the degree that you are willing to ask for help.

I want to give a special warning to Christian families involved in foster care and adoption here.

While it is certainly true that the Bible is full of advice for parents, please do not reject the knowledge and wisdom you can gain from professionals and public resources and services.  Just because someone is not a believer does not mean they have no insight into your situation.  Emotional and physical abuse and neglect causes changes in the way a child’s brain functions and develops.  Alcohol and drug exposure will do the same.  The life your child has come from may be one you could not even begin to imagine.  Just as you would seek the advice and research of an expert on other topics, you will need it here.  You would not expect a teacher to use only the Bible as a textbook for Math, Language, the Sciences and Arts.  There is much knowledge to be gathered about the human mind.  The pieces you already know and the ones you learn will all come together to give you a greater insight than you can imagine and a greater ability to parent your child successfully and biblically.  Your child’s heart is at stake.  Do not be so arrogant as to believe you hold all the keys.  We have an opportunity to display God’s heart of humility and gentleness toward the professionals we interact with.  The church will be valued as a resource for these children only if we show a willingness to learn.

More than anything…remember that with God all things are possible.

Believe that, and seek His guidance in all that you do.

Pray for your children and your self.

Pray for wisdom to seek the right resources and help for your child.

Pray also that you will have wisdom and discretion when seeking personal friends and confidantes.  A lot of damage can result from sharing too much information with the wrong people.

Seek out a faith family that will encourage and build up your family physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Find at least  one friend that you can tell ANYTHING.

The best, the worst

the triumphs, the failures.

You do not have to be alone in this.

Ask for help.

AF

 

 

 

 

Foster Care

It’s official.

We are back on the “call” list for our local foster care agency.

Any day now we could have another little person walk through our doors and stay for a night, a week, a month, a year…or forever.

We did not predict that we would be ready this quickly.  Less than two years after our daughters’ placement in our home and just over 3 months after our son’s birth, we are jumping back in.

I can see the raised eye brows,

the widening eyes.

I can hear all the questions you are asking.  I’ve asked them too.

I can hear you saying that we have no idea what we’re getting into; that we are putting our children’s lives in jeopardy; that we should draw our limits.

But there’s something you need to know.

We don’t get to choose.

When we dedicated our lives, our home and our family to Jesus Christ, we surrendered the right to choose how, when and what we do as well as the right to follow whatever our feelings dictate.

God has made it very clear to us in the past month that it is time.

It’s time to jump back in.

It’s time to serve.

It’s time to love.

It’s time to once again offer our home and our family as His hands and feet.

And even though it doesn’t make sense; even though we have every reason to say no, I trust Him.

My girls are ecstatic.  Naive, but ecstatic all the same.

They know what it is like to be in foster care.

To feel alone, unwanted, unloved and frightened by life itself.  So their hearts are jumping at the chance to show another child what family can be.

In our home we don’t just play “house” or “dolls”, we play “foster care”, “adoption” and a pretend life that is shadowed with the tragedies most children aren’t yet aware of.  Our dolls have been hurt and abandoned.  Our play phones ring with calls at 2 am from social workers.  Our precious little babies leave us at a moment’s notice and return to biological parents.  They’ve suffered head injuries, malnutrition, long hospitalizations, broken limbs and bruises.  They cry and throw tantrums.

This is our reality.  We’ve been there.  As the kids in care and as the foster parents loving them.

This time around I have battled a lot of intense emotions and fears that I didn’t experience the first time we entered foster care.  Three and a half years ago when we started fostering I was so excited, so confidant and so ready.  This time?  Well, I’m still filled with all those feelings, because God’s been nudging my heart for a while now and preparing me for this.  But I’m also incredibly overwhelmed, exhausted and fearful heading into this new season of our lives, because this time there is so much more at stake.  It feels like there is so much more to lose.

I am keenly and painfully aware that I am throwing my three children into chaos.  Painful, challenging, heartbreaking chaos.

Foster care is no walk in the park.

It’s hard.

It hurts.

It’s intense.

It’s unpredictable.

It takes a lot of time and effort.

The truth is, I don’t want them to have to give up the secure, predictable environment we’ve worked so hard to create in our home for them.  I don’t want them to have to share their clothes, their games, their stuffies, their rooms, their parents and their home.  I hate that this might mean I have less time, less energy and less patience for them.  I don’t like the idea of putting extra strain on our marriage.

I’m afraid I will crash and burn physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I’m afraid I will not be able to be the Mommy, the wife, the home schooling mom or the foster mom that I want to be.

I’m afraid my daughter’s education will suffer.

I’m afraid we will fall back into old patterns and habits that go along with insecurity and change in this home.

I’m afraid I will not get to enjoy my beautiful baby boy the way I want to.

 I’m afraid I will not possibly be able to love another as much as I love these three.

 I’m afraid I will fail.

Miserably.

I am so aware of my own short comings and my own limitations.  In the eyes of the world and all it’s logic we are not prepared!

Yet God says,

“Go.”

While I stumble through the questions and fears in my heart and mind I hear Him say:

“Have you forgotten so quickly who sustains you?

Have you forgotten how small you are?

Are these three precious little people I’ve placed in your home and your life more important than all the rest I have made?

Have you forgotten they all belong to me?

In your weakness, I can best show My strength and glory.

It is not out of confidence, ability, power or strength that you serve.

It is out of gratitude.

Humble gratitude for all I have done for you.”

So what can I say?

To the One who intricately formed each of my children, as well as the child who will walk through our doors next.  To the One who loves them each the same with His everlasting, unbreakable love.

To the One who can give me strength and energy for each long day and night.

To the One who is waiting to pour His love into the gaps my own heart cannot fill.

To the One who has given us everything we have and blessed us with abundantly more than we could ever need or want.

All I can possibly say is YES.

I will go.

I will serve.

I will love.

I have no promises that this will be easy or that we will not have to sacrifice anything dear to us.  In fact, I am quite confidant that it will most definitely be very challenging and that we will have to sacrifice some things that are very dear to us.  But I also know that if He is calling me, He will provide enough for each day and that I would rather live in the center of His will than in my own carefully crafted security bubble.

So are we ready?

No.

We are not ready…and yet…we are more ready than we’ve ever been.

We understand things we never did before.

We have more love to offer in the shape of two young hearts who have gone through their own journeys.  They are so eager to love, and I am humbled by that and reminded what exactly my job as their Mom is.

My job is not to shield them from all hurt…though I wish so much I could.

It is not to give them everything they want, but to have the wisdom to see what they really need and realize that sometimes this includes hardship; hardship that produces character and spiritual maturity.

It is not to make them the center of our home and world, but to point them to Jesus, the One who needs to be the final Voice in all our decisions as a family and the center of our home and our lives.

It is not to teach them to weigh pros and cons, as if life is all just a big game where we are all looking out for ourselves alone…but to teach them that we are here to serve those around us.

“But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Matthew 23:11

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”                Matthew 25:34-36

“And whatsoever you have done to least of these my brethren you have done unto me.”  Matthew 25:40

“”And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”  Matthew 10:42

“In humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Phillipians 2:3-4

 

 

 

 

A Pile of Toys and a Grumpy Mom

I knew we had a problem as I lay in bed staring at the ceiling this morning.  The unwelcome thought that had just flitted through my brain was:

“I don’t want to go down there to that mess!”

I could hear my daughters playing downstairs and I could just tell by the tones of their chattering and shrieking that it was going to be one of those mornings where they had completely demolished any sense of order accomplished the night before.  It seems to be especially bad on weekends, when my husband and I stay in bed a little longer and relax.  Something about the combination of morning and no supervision ends up with me coming down to random items scattered all over the house.  Dolls, clothes and play food dumped all over the floor in the search for that one item desired.  Papers and crayons left on the couch where someone was playing school.  Hair clips and elastics on the floor inside the door.  A blue bathrobe laying beside the coat rack.  Coats and shoes dropped halfway through the house.  Books everywhere!

Do you ever feel like you’re in a constant battle with your children’s toys?  No matter how many times you reorganize, sort and pack bags for the Goodwill you just can’t manage to keep ahead!

Getting up with this thought and coming down to the expected chaos hardly had us starting off on the best foot this morning.  I was a grumpy, growling bear prowling around in her pink pajamas barking out comments like,

“What is this doing here?!”

“Didn’t I tell you to put this away?

“How many times do I have to tell you to put things where they belong!?”

It was less than a 5-star-Mom moment.

Ok, it lasted longer than just a moment, too!

Somehow, we did manage to get some things sorted out and once again I am packing bags, selling items on the Buy and Sell site and reorganizing toys.  My daughters joined me and made a pile of stuff they don’t want to keep, which turns out to be pretty substantial!

We are cutting back to the basics.

But I know, I just know, that a month from now I’m going to feel exactly the same way I did this morning!

So HELP!

I need some ideas here.

How do I manage this ongoing battle?

I also know that these are incredibly minor, first-world problems!  Really nothing to get your knickers in knots about, right?  But somehow, that seems to be just the kind of aggravating feeling that drags me down.

Maybe I just need fresh perspective.

Either way, if you’re a mom, tell me what you’ve discovered that works!!

AF

Summer Days

It’s July 16th.

The summer is already a quarter spent!

Here today, gone tomorrow.

By this week I feel like we’re finally hitting the summer groove around here.  It always takes much longer than expected to adjust to a whole new schedule and routine.  We’ve had some busy weekends with late nights that kept us struggling to play catch up on sleep, laundry and other necessities, but this week…ah…we are finally feeling it 🙂

I have been looking forward to this summer so much.  It is wonderful to have hit the official one year mark with our girls.  We are into our second year, creating traditions, reliving memories and basking in the comfortable feeling those things bring.

It was time for a break from school and I am delighted to once again be the centre of my daughters’ world.  Since I’m at stay at home mom and the girls aren’t in any type of extracurricular programs, the three of us spend every day all day together.  Granted, that gets a bit stifling at times, but I truly do love us seeing the world together and knowing the seconds and minutes of their days, something I never got to experience with them as infants and toddlers.  I love knowing every little thing about them and why exactly they are tired, grumpy, happy, sad, overwhelmed or silly at the end of the day.  There is so much intimacy in that knowing.

I also spent some time thinking about the summer before it actually came, so I was prepared for the longer days and lack of routine and personal space.  I decided I would build those elements into our days and so far it has worked really well!  I knew I wanted to enjoy the freedom of summer with them, but I also knew that my pregnant body would need rest each day and my daughters and I would all benefit from some personal space!  So every afternoon we spend at least 30-60 minutes having Quiet Time.  It’s not always at the same time, as our days vary in schedule and activities, but we try to make it happen every day, even if it has to be right before dinner.  To prepare for this, I created our ‘Quiet Time Box’ which is filled with activities that only get used at Quiet Time; puzzles, games, notebooks, magnetic dolls, simple and no-mess crafts.  Nothing messy, nothing complicated and nothing electronic is the rule.  They each pick one thing from the Quiet Time Box each day, as well as some books to read.  Then we each disappear to our own little corner of the house for that time.  There are only 2 rules for Quiet Time.

1) Be quiet.

2) Stay in your spot.

Usually my littlest A, who loves to talk and hates to be alone, falls asleep because she is bored and gets in a nap, which is a bonus and extends my quiet time quite substantially!  I sometimes take a nap or just sit down and read a book, spend time with Jesus or do nothing at all.  Today I’m blogging 🙂  Occasionally I’m busy preparing dinner or doing laundry in that time but it’s still great to have some time where nobody is calling for Mommy or squabbling or just making noise!  Thinking space, I call it.

Another way we’ve built in routine is that we’ve continued with our morning jobs routine that helped us during the school year.  Once we’re all up and we’ve eaten breakfast, the next step is to get ready for the day.

Wash your face.

Brush your teeth.

Get dressed.

Make your bed (This one’s only for the kids…I know, I know I should really do this too! 🙂

Pick up your dirty laundry.

Brush your hair.

After all that is done, you’re ready to go play! 🙂

If you’re thinking…”Wow, my kids would never remember all that or stay on task!”…know that this has been a work in progress for the past year.  My girls each have visual charts to help them remember to do each job, and my younger daughter who can focus for about 3 seconds max on her own has hers divided into 3 categories and has to report to me with her chart after she’s finished each category.  Now that we’ve been doing the exact same thing the exact same way for over 6 months (it took awhile to find a method that worked) they are finally moving through the routine pretty smoothly and with very minimal assistance.  It’s awesome!  I really love having the same start to our day, weekend or weekday, and knowing they can do it without me nagging them.  It also pushes me to get out of my bathrobe just a little sooner and we all feel better by 9:00 am than we would without the schedule!

Another thing we do every day is some work in our Gr. 1 and 2 Curriculum Workbooks.  They each do three pages a day, one from each category; Reading, Writing, Math.  If you’ve never seen these books at Wal-Mart and you have kids that need some extra academic practise through the summer, check these out!  They are designed based on the Canadian curriculum.  Everything should be review if you use the book for the grade your child has just completed.  It’s a great way to review concepts, identify strengths and weaknesses, fill in gaps and keep your child’s brain in tune academically.  Just a note, I understand some kids do not need this kind of maintenance over the summer and that is super!  Others, however, really benefit from this kind of review so that when September comes they do not have to spend the first two months trying to retrain their brain.  I also find it helpful to stay familiar with my children’s academic ability and behaviours related to school work.  The first rule of being an advocate for your child with a learning disability or behaviour problem is to know what their capabilities are so you can give insight and advocate for your child’s potential.  Be the expert on your child!

Besides the Quiet Time, workbooks and morning jobs we try to get out and do something active together at least once a day.  A bike ride, a walk or a swim.  They love it and it’s very healthy for me and baby who, by the way, we are all getting pretty anxious to meet!  Three more months to go! 🙂

We frequent the library down the street about twice a week, go grocery shopping and go do our ‘dog job.’  I found a family needing some extra exercise for their 3 ginormous Great Danes!  We go over twice a week and let them out to play in the yard for about an hour while all their family members are away.  It’s been a fun way for the girls to earn a bit of their own money, feel like they have a summer job and get some healthy exposure to some big dogs!  A great opportunity to practise responsibility and perseverence!

All the little pieces add up to days that fill amazingly quickly!

Overall, I feel blessed.

I love my girls so much and I feel so blessed to be able to stay at home with them full time.

I adore my husband, who works so hard to provide for us and truly is the best Dad I can imagine for our daughters.

My life feels full and rich and vibrant.  We have many friends and aquaintances we bump into around our small town each day which keeps life interesting.

We love camping in the summer and hope to get out quite a few times to do that.

As for the girls’ adoption, we are still waiting for the final documents needed to officially become a family.  We’ve run into delay after delay and I’m anxious to have our day in court, sign the papers and celebrate!  But in the meantime it really doesn’t change our lives all that much 🙂

So that’s our little world which continues to spin 🙂  Hope you are enjoying the summer as much as we are!

Cheers!

AF

Easing Transitions

         Hey there 🙂

I thought I would reappear for a second here and share a few little charts with you that we’ve been using around here. I’m assuming that we are not the only ones who struggle to keep transition times positive. When there’s a list of things you want your kids to do and you’re racing against a clock only you seem to be aware of, it’s hard to keep things cheerful and stress free. Whether it’s lost shoes, forgotten homework, library books, messy faces or backwards tights all it can take in those stressful moments is one little straw to bring the whole thing crashing to the floor! Let’s face it…it doesn’t exactly make you feel like Supermom when you show up for school 5-10 minutes late five days in a row. (I should know!) If your kids are already struggling emotionally, all it can take is a grumpy Mama breathing down their necks to shove them onto the fast track to a very bad day for all of the above!

So…how do you somehow get all those things accomplished without nagging at them and at the same time teach responsibility?

My answer is VISUALS.

After living with a child diagnosed with Autism for almost 10 months, I fell in love with all things PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System.) During that time I bought myself a cheap little laminator at Walmart ($60 will get you a laminator, pouches and little velcro stickers). I have been using that thing for everything I can get my hands on ever since! I LOVE to laminate things. It makes them durable, clean and it’s just so much fun! 🙂

Anyway, while we were fostering this child, I made hundreds and hundreds of little pictures for us to be able to communicate and understand each other. We had pictures of foods for mealtime and grocery shopping. We had pictures of jobs that needed to be done, down to specific steps for things like going to the bathroom and getting dressed. We had pictures of emotions to communicate how we were feeling. We had pictures of social rules, consequences and even a little square for hugs, kisses and I LOVE YOU. For little R, it meant for the first time he had a voice to be able to communicate what was going through his mind, even if his physical voice would not cooperate in the way he wanted.

There are thousands of websites that can give you ideas for creating visuals for your child. For R it was a way to communicate in every part of his life but even if your child has a perfectly functional voice (like both of mine do), visuals are still a great way to reinforce expectations and teach new skills!

For my girls, being able to see pictures of the jobs that need to be done have made our morning routine so much smoother. Now I don’t need to keep track of every move they’re making in that hour before leaving the house. They each have a list of what needs to be done and know that until their boxes are all checked off, they are not allowed to move on to playtime. If they do happen to skip one, they know that Mommy will catch it as she breezes through the house making that final sweep and they will not be able to blame anyone else for not doing it because it was on their list! It makes them feel great when they do all their jobs and don’t have to be reminded ten times to hurry up, go back and get socks or stop playing and get ready! The other great thing about visuals is that you can easily tailor it to match your child’s ability and comprehension. My daughters’ charts don’t look the same. At first I just made them each a checklist like this:

DSC05467

However, my littlest A did not do so well with this method. It was too big of a stretch for her to see words and pictures and try to comprehend what she needed to do on her own. So I made this one for her instead:

DSC05466

Now she has a list of only pictures, and instead of running around armed with an erasable marker (which is an accident waiting to happen) all she has to do is move her picture from the TO DO column on the left to the ALL DONE column on the right. The physical motion of having to move each sticker helps her keep track of what she’s done and makes it harder for her to accidentally check off a task she has not actually completed.

Are our mornings perfect?

No.

Kids will always be kids. They still fool around, get their tights on backwards, brush their teeth in 5 seconds and miss the peanut butter around their mouths when washing faces. They move at the speed of a snail some days and we are still late for school sometimes.  I have to call them back to remake sloppy beds, wash properly or focus on their tasks.

But…

It helps us stay on track and makes the morning much less stressful for me when I can make the list be the boss instead of a harried Mom being the boss. Now, instead of it being Mom vs. Kids it feels a bit more like we’re a team all working toward the same goal.

A few other visuals we use sometimes are:

Dressing Prompts for all those tricky winter layers like snow pants and boots

DSC05496

and an after school jobs list to get the lunch bag and agenda up to Mommy’s counter to be signed.

There are a thousand more visual projects I’d love to do and a few more we enjoy that I don’t have pictures of. One of my favourites is making grocery lists for kids when you’re going to the store so they can help shop too! For little ones, you can use pictures. For older kids you can make them their own list and even send them to another area of the store to get a few items if they’re responsible enough. Teaching little ones to dress is always a challenge and visuals are great for that too. Posting step by step instructions you can help them refer to makes them feel like they’ve done it all on their own. We had a step by step guide for using the bathroom posted for months to help make sure hands were washed, toilet was flushed, etc. Organizing your child’s toys and clothes is another great way to use visuals so they can start taking responsibility for where their things belong.  If you have children that struggle to understand social situations or are anxious in new environments, social stories can be a great visual tool to help them understand and  prepare for situations they’ll be facing.  You can use visuals as a teaching tool for those precocious toddlers who need more to keep their brains busy, too! 🙂  McDonald’s ordering booklets are fun and easy.  Let  your child choose what he/she would like next time and use her voice and pictures to tell the person at the cashier.  I’m guessing when you do a quick search online you’ll soon have lots of ideas too! So buy that laminator! 🙂

As for the actual pictures, you can use a variety of tools.

  1. Your camera. Real pictures taken of individual items.

  2. Free clipart online

  3. Websites that offer clipart, PECS or ready made charts.

    Once you have the pictures, all you do is load them onto your computer, paste them into a program like Microsoft Word or Office, shrink them down to the dimensions you’d like (1 or 2 inches usually), print them off, cut them out and then zip them through your laminator. Once they’ve been laminated you cut them out and stick a little square of velcro on the back.

    Voila!

    Have fun 🙂

    AF

Happy, Tired & a Little Sunburnt

DSC04819  DSC04845

So I promised to tell you about our first camping trip with the girls, so here it is! 🙂

We, being the greedy locals that we are, took advantage of our rights as the hometown crowd by setting up our tent on our chosen site a night early.  We found an amazing spot on Huckleberry Island that friends had told us had a great little sandy beach.  It was absolutely fabulous!  Definitely our new favourite spot.  It was perfect for the kids to play in and out of the water and there was plenty of space to set up our tent on sandy soil covered with soft pine needles…which around here is like discovering gold!  Most places, especially on Georgian Bay crown land, you are literally pitching your tent on a rock.  So this was a bonus! 🙂

Since this is a popular spot for people to go camping it includes a fire pit, rack for cooking, ‘toilet’ in the bushes, table/shelf built between two trees and rope to hang your food in trees overnight.  For those of you who are not campers, this is so that the wildlife does not get into your food.  Bears and raccoons are not welcome midnight guests!

DSC04784                DSC04750

Finding this spot on Thursday evening was just such a special gift from God.  The girls loved it and seeing it beforehand helped them be even more excited!

Friday I scurried around all day crazily trying to get everything packed and Kirby was able to get off work by 4 o’clock, so we loaded everything up into the work boat. I will add in here that we’ve been abundantly blessed by Kirby’s employers at Rockscape Design. Their generosity is a challenge and huge blessing to us! We are so grateful for them and the many ways they have blessed us in the past few years.

The girls were so excited to get there and explore our ‘home’ for the weekend. They went into the water briefly Friday evening already, but didn’t last long since it was pretty chilly. Kirby ended up having to run back home for a few things I forgot…the camera battery and memory card and his swim trunks! Sigh. One of those moments where you go…really?!

Once we had everything we wanted and needed there, we settled in for some FAMILY TIME. Was awesome having all the time in the world to just be together and enjoy the outdoors. I forgot how exciting things like camping are for kids. It was so much fun watching the girls set up their beds in the tent (complete with ONE stuffy Mommy allowed them to bring), run around exploring, searching for caterpillars, finding a perfect spot to build a fort with Daddy and pretending to drive the boat.  They love campfires at home, but cooking all our meals over the fire was so fun for them.  Alexa thought that was her favourite part of camping 🙂  We got to stay up late eating s’mores, have story time beside the campfire, have chips and PB&J at random times, go for bear hunts in the bushes and swim in the beautiful, pure waters of Georgian Bay.  The girls slept great in the tent, bundled up in their fuzzy onesies and sleeping bags.  Our tent was on a bit of a hill and Alexa ended up at Daddy’s feet by morning, curled up in a little ball somewhere in the fluffy depths of her sleeping bag.  We all had fun doing dishes in the lake, though an awful lot of dishsoap seemed to disappear over the weekend with two small pairs of hands squirting!  Akeisha got to help Daddy drive the boat and practise her lefts and rights 🙂  Both girls hate porta-potties, so this makeshift toilet in the bushes with spider webs just under the rim and an awful stench was not the best experience!  Every time we had to take a trip there we’d talk about being brave all the way there and then sing songs to distract us while we got the job done…this is something I started awhile ago at a park where we needed to use the portable toilet.  It works! 🙂

DSC04821

Mommy and Daddy?  Well…we just relaxed in the sun and water, enjoying our beautiful daughters ❤

The girls are already anxious to go again…and so am I.  It’s the best thing in the world for a family trying to spend lots of time together and shut out the rest of the world.  I’m not hard core enough to be able to head out tenting for a week, but a weekend is perfect.  Easy, fun and FREE vacation 🙂

AF