How to Handle Separation Anxiety in the Classroom

how to handle separation anxiety in the classroom (great tips for parents too!)

*Photo by 1313 Photography*

When I started teaching again I landed a position in the preschool department – teaching 2 year olds.

I thought – Hey!  I’m the mom of a 2 year old!  We’ll sing songs, change diapers, get stickers, take a nap…  This will be CAKE.

:-)

Then the first day happened and I had 50% of my little class crying hysterically – completely undone by the fact that they couldn’t be with their mamas (and I seriously could not blame them).

**If you had seen the emotional state of my classroom on the first day last year you would have wanted to be with your mother too.**

Did you know some kids can cry so hard they throw up?

Did you know some kids get aggressive and try to kick you?

Talk about getting thrown in the deep end.

As soon as pick-up time was over (and after I got done crying, myself), I made it my personal mission to be prepared with EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE trick in the book to talk a toddler down off the ledge of an emotional CRISIS.

And I have 8 NEW precious kiddos coming to my room on Tuesday so I need to be prepared for what’s coming.

((Hopefully what’s coming involves smiles and giggles instead of me ending the day with hearing loss and in the fetal position.))

  • PREP the parents in advance.  I send a letter home about separation anxiety before school begins.  You can find it HERE.  Getting parents on board with you is CRITICAL to helping develop a successful classroom routine and atmosphere.
  • Don’t let parents linger.  A quick good-bye is best!
  • Sing a song (start with the Wheels on the Bus and If You’re Happy and You Know It and go from there).
  • Blow bubbles together (it’s hard to cry when also trying to blow into something).
  • Let the child bring in a lovey or photo of their family from home to keep in their cubby.  I like how THIS LADY has a special shelf for framed photos of her students’ families.
  • Acknowledge the child’s feelings.  Say, “You miss your mommy,” then follow up with, “You will see her soon.”
  • Read books like The Kissing Hand or Llama, Lllama Misses Mama or Bye Bye Time that deal with the concept of being away from parents.
  • Hold the child and slowly count to 10 together.
  • Post a visual schedule in your room so the children can see how close they are to being with their mommies (or other caregiver) again.
  • ACT CONFIDENT – stay calm.  Keep your voice happy and upbeat.  If you start to feel otherwise, just imagine me looking you in the eye and saying, “You got this, girl!”
  • Give student a squishy ball or pom pom and let them put it in their pocket and squeeze it whenever they feel anxious.
  • Hang in there – it might take several weeks to build trust and rapport with the children.
  • Put on a fun CD and dance.
  • Make sure parents say goodbye before they leave – sneaking out is not helpful.
  • Don’t spend a lot of emotional energy on the anxious child – be loving and reassuring, but carry out daily plans as usual.  Occasionally give child a gentle pat on the head.  Eventually they should see that everyone else (including you) is having fun and they should too!
  • Give the child a calm down glitter jar.
  • Never send a crying child home – this reinforces the idea that if they cry, they will get their way.
  • With that said, keep in mind that some young children (especially 2-3 year olds) might not be ready for school yet.  Make sure you discuss this possibility with your school’s headmaster and the parents in extreme situations.
  • If other kids complain about the noisy child, encourage classroom unity by saying something like, “So-and-so is missing his mommy.  He needs a little extra time to learn how school works.  Let’s show him how much fun school is!”
  • Bring out a puppet.
  • Go outside and play with chalk or a water table.
  • Make that student a special helper – give him/her a specific task like setting out the puzzles, hanging up name cards, or passing out the crayons.
  • Have an established routine like a special hello song you can sing at the same time each morning – familiarity breeds comfort.
  • Pull out a pinwheel.
  • Have a basket of ‘back-up’ lovies (small stuffed animals, vibrating baby toys, etc.) for the children to hold.
  • Make sure you have a helper in your room the first week (if you do not already).
  • Tell them that you miss your mommy too and follow up with something positive like, “I’m so proud of you for being such a big boy/girl and coming to hang out with me today!”
  • See if Daddy can drop off the child instead of Mommy.
  • Reassure the parent!  Say things like, “This is TOTALLY normal.  Don’t worry about a thing!  We are going to have a great day!”
  • Have a Cuddle Bear Chair – set up a small chair with a stuffed bear.  Allow sad children to sit in the chair with the bear and tell the bear their problems.
  • Try using these cute No Cry GoodBye Punch Cards from HERE.
  • Suggest parents make a Family Photo Book like THIS ONE or a Family Necklace like THIS ONE for their child to bring to class.
  • Have the parent draw a heart on the child’s hand like THIS.
  • Make a Kiss Box.
  • Play with SHAVING CREAM (this is such irresistible fun!).

Even with all the tricks, I still had a student that cried every. single. morning he came to school.

For the entire year.

On the morning of the last day I gripped the steering wheel and prayed in the car, “Lord?  Could I just have one day?  PLEASE?”

And sure enough – on the last day of school this precious little boy did not cry.

So maybe that is our biggest tool when it comes to teaching children who struggle with separation anxiety -

PRAYER.

And possibly a nice glass of Merlot.

:-)

- Julie

How To Manage a Mommy Meltdown (Without a Trip to Target)

Managing a Mommy Meltdown - I need this for those tough days!!!Let me paint a picture of something we are all familiar with.

You’ve been up with someone all night long.

And that someone was probably either throwing up, pooping, or wanting to suck on your boob every 5 minutes.

The sun finally peeks over the horizon and your other children are now awake and demanding food, squeezing toothpaste all over the countertops, and bringing out every toy in their closets.

Someone gets hurt climbing on the couch.

Siblings argue over the the last waffle.

The How-to-Homeschool book you recently bought is gathering dust on the counter.

You check Facebook in between kissing booboos, wiping up syrup spills, and throwing your hair in a messy bun and you see that all your friends have gone for a jog at 4 am, actually taken showers, dressed their children in adorable matching outfits, and shared photos of their morning smoothie #kale.

Someone discovers a trail of sugar ants in the pantry.

You hear what sounds like a box of toothpicks being dropped on the floor in the next room.

You discover that the dog has eaten your favorite pair of shoes.

A child that might belong to the neighbors comes barreling through the kitchen with muddy feet.

You go through an old pile of mail to find a bill that is now past due.

Finally, you sit down to breathe for a minute, reach for your coffeemaker and…

It’s broken.

That is the moment where the tears start piling up in your eyes and spilling over like the mountain of laundry that is overflowing in the upstairs hallway.

You yell at the next little person who walks in the room to ask for a banana (which you know you will find later in the week under someone’s bed).

You race to the bathroom for a full out ugly cry session, but as you sit on the toilet, 3 sets of hands start poking their way under the door crack.

How is a woman supposed to deal with these moments without pulling out what’s left of her post-natal head of hair or spending a child’s college fund on a therapy shopping trip to Target?

Here are some ways that I have learned to cope on those days when ALL HOPE SEEMS LOST.

#1 – Take a 5 minute Time-Out

When I feel my insides bubbling like a bottle of Diet Coke with a Mentos in it, I try to stop things before the big explode.  I will announce loudly that Mommy (not them) needs a time-out and then head to a spot in the house to be alone for 5 minutes.  Usually this is the bathroom.

*Note – If seeing hands poking under the door bothers you, climb into the shower and close the curtain.*

The hardest part is sticking to 5 minutes.  Be careful not to fall asleep in there or get lost checking email (and don’t – I repeat – DON’T get on Instagram or Facebook during a mommy meltdown – scrolling through everyone’s ‘best’ moments will not help your current situation) because for every minute past 5, a child will probably be doing something in the house that will create more work and drama for you later – like getting into the china cabinet or playing with your favorite pieces of jewelry in the kitchen sink.

#2 – Get dressed

If you are still in your pajamas – put some clothes on.

Sometimes just putting a bra or mascara on gives me that extra umph to think clearly.

#3 – Make contact with the outside world

Often we need to get out of our 4 walls and be reminded that there are other women out there having rough mornings too.  A few days ago when a solo trip to Ikea went really bad – like one kid screaming hysterically through the store for 15 minutes straight because his flip flop felt sticky???  And the other kid throwing a tantrum because we’d already gone on the elevator 503 times and he wanted 504???  She promptly responded with her own tale of a child just having a massive meltdown in the library.  The library, people.   We were able to encourage each other to keep persevering and I felt loads better.  Not because I was happy about my friend’s bad experience, I was just relieved to know that I wasn’t alone.

#4 – Turn on some worship music

When my spirit is in turmoil, I reach for my CD player (I am slightly Amish and don’t have an iPod). :-)

Listening to worship music (Hillsong, Elevation, Jesus Culture) or any Kari Jobe album (which is the equivalent of listening to angels sing) is an essential tool in my mommy meltdown arsenal.

Every once in awhile I will even scoop up my kids, buckle them in the car, give them a bag of Goldfish, set up the worship music and go for a drive.  Sometimes just driving around listening to songs about the Lord’s faithful, loving hand – with no destination in mind – can create an unexpected peace.

Just make sure that your turbulent mental state isn’t going to cause you to hit the gas pedal too hard.  Adding a speeding ticket to your already ‘perfect’ day will not be amusing.

Plus, it’s not safe.

#5 – Have a ‘Do Over’

On days when nothing is going right, attitudes are stinky, and situations keep circling from bad to worse, I tell my children that we are having a Do Over.  We all climb in bed and pretend to start the day over.  We ‘wake up’, greet each other happily and begin the day again with all our normal morning routines.  You can even go as far as serving breakfast a second time.  Whip up a batch of homemade waffles to redeem that argument from earlier. :-)

This usually gets everyone smiling and is a great demonstration of that verse from Lamentations about His mercies being new every morning…

#6 – Do something nice for someone else

Having a bad mommy day?  Go Ding Dong Diaper Ditch a new mom.  Or leave a new doormat on someone’s doorstep.  Or head to Starbucks and pay for the order of the person behind you.  Text a friend an encouraging word.  Send someone an E-card.

You will feel better.  I promise.

#7 – Bedtime Redemption

When all else fails and the day is ending and you reflect back on a whole lot of tense situations, angry glares, and harsh words, I like to use bedtime as a place to seek my childrens’ forgiveness for the ways I failed to honor the Lord (and them) with my behavior that day.  There is something special about those moments before bed – their little hearts are open a bit more (possibly because they know hanging out with me allows them to stay up later – ha!), but nonetheless, they are a bit more subdued than during the waking hours and it makes for a quiet pocket to reconnect.

**End the day well.**

#8 – The only thing that will REALLY work

The above suggestions are great, but managing a mommy meltdown can truly only be solved with the powerful words of God.

Because often a mommy meltdown is fueled by overwhelming feelings of weakness, unrealistic expectations, inadequacy, failure, self-condemnation, and other destructive lies.

And the only way to destroy lies is to replace them with truth.

Speak to yourself Psalm 18:32 – “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.”

Or Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Or Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Or a favorite of mine – Deuteronomy 33:12, “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.”

Those are the words that will wash over your soul and remove away the anger and stress and 100,000 tiny things that led you to the point of critical mass.

So when you’re headed to the bathroom for your 5-minute time-out, grab the Bible on your way.

Use those precious minutes to get filled up with all the wonderful promises He has for you in that Good Book.

And when your 5 minutes are up, let Him lift you up on His shoulders and carry you out of the bathroom and through your house (stepping over the laundry and discarded banana and yes, toothpicks) to continue pressing on in the calling of motherhood.

Being a mom is tough.  Days like the one I described above are probably going to happen and you will probably struggle to manage it well (unless you happen to be in the Duggar family).

But grace is about His strength being made perfect in weakness.

So let your mommy meltdown be the thing that draws you closer to Him instead of closer to bankruptcy.

Because Target ain’t got nothing on Jesus.

How do you manage a Mommy Meltdown?

- Julie :-)

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

For Busy Moms – What To Eat For Lunch

Hey there readers!  Today I am excited to share with you one of my dearest friends and college roommate – Jenna Braddock, from Fresh Food Perspectives.  This girl is AMAZING.  I loved getting to live with her during our FSU days and see what God was doing in her heart as she pursued a calling in nutrition.  She taught me so much about living for Jesus, eating healthy and caring for my body.  I asked if she would write a post for Happy Home Fairy featuring ideas about what busy moms can eat for lunch because, I don’t know about you, but this is the meal that I tend to have NO CLUE what to do with and usually end up eating yogurt and chocolate chips – which isn’t exactly fuel for finishing the laundry and having tickle fights with my boys.  I know you will love her wisdom and fresh ideas about food. :-)

What can busy moms eat for lunch?? Great, easy ideas!Lunch time.  Oh, lunch time.

In my house it usually happens like this:

We’ve been out all morning (at the gym, playground, grocery store, Costco, etc.) and because we don’t live near ANYTHING – except a Starbucks – we are literally out for the entire morning.

When we walk in the door, hopefully a little before noon, my baby is cranky, I’m starving, and my toddler is saying he is hungry– every. ten. seconds.  I’m trying to put away bags or food, entertain baby until I can feed him, figure out what we are going to eat, and pray for patience to answer my toddler’s non-stop food requests.

It’s not always pretty.

For a while, I just focused on feeding my boys and getting them down for their nap.  I figured that I’d feed myself after all that chaos was over.  But by the time I did end up eating (around 1:30pm), I was either too tired to care (and then just picked at something dumb) or I’d be ravenous and attack chips or chocolate before a thought of a vegetable even crossed my mind.  Neither of these paths left me feeling good in any way.  And it certainly didn’t set me up to have a productive nap time – which is crucial for my work life.  Most of the time, I’d end up needing a nap myself (which I 100% support, but don’t always want to feel like I need one).

After one too many afternoons of this, I realized that in order to be the mom I need to be for my family, my lunch needed to be just as important as my boys’ lunch.

Since then, things have changed a little around here at lunch time.

One, I try to plan ahead.

In fact, I do this for my sitter when she is here during lunch time so that it will be smooth and easy for her.  So why don’t I do that for myself?  Hmm.

Two, I now take a few extra minutes to prepare my lunch as well and then we all sit down together.

Usually I will serve my toddler and I the same thing.  I don’t necessarily eat his lunch, he eats my lunch (it’s semantics but I think it’s an important point).  Sometimes they come in slightly different versions – his is a “deconstructed” version of mine – but this makes it easier and enforces the idea that we all just eat food (as opposed to kids eat ‘kid food’ and adults eat ‘adult food’).

Here are a few ideas of the lunches I eat that make me feel energized and are fairly simple to prepare.  Cooking quinoa or prepping veggies on the weekend makes these meals happen a lot more easily during the week.

  1. Deli meat and cheese roll ups with a slice of avocado inside; broccoli and hummus.

  2. 1 cup Plain Greek yogurt with chopped cucumber, fresh dill, cumin, and raisins mixed in. Whole grain crackers on the side.

  3. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich (natural PB and all-natural jelly) on whole wheat bread, carrot sticks and fresh berries on the side.

  4. Quinoa and black bean bowl with salsa, cheese, avocado.

  5. Salad with grilled chicken (leftover from dinner), fresh strawberries, chips and guacamole.

  6. Frozen veggie burger (lately, it’s this brand) with slice of cheese or sliced avocado, carrots and hummus, and blueberries.

What I look for in a lunch is a source of protein, at least one fruit or veggie, and something “happy” (e.g. a favorite healthy food like avocado, hummus, PB, black beans, whole grain chips, or sparkling water like La Croix).  Anything too high in carbs makes me feel sleepy and I need to have energy to get stuff done during nap time.  Including a “happy” food helps me not go back to the pantry several times during the afternoon to find something for my hankering.  It’s also a good idea to try to include many colors in your meal – especially something green.

So ladies, please take the time to care for yourself at lunch.  You may need a few different strategies to help you pull off lunches, depending on the schedule for your day.  Crazy days may need a short and sweet plan.  Less involved days may allow you to put in a little more time.

Either way, a little planning goes a long way!

What are your favorite go-to lunches?

- Jenna

________________________________________________

Jenna Braddock, MSH, RD, CSSD, LD/N is a registered dietitian and a mom to two boys. When not chasing down her sons or watching her husband coach football, she enjoys helping people have a positive relationship with food and reach their goals. As a nutrition expert she works as a healthy living speaker, nutrition counselor, blogger, recipe developer and media spokesperson. You can follow her fresh perspective and healthy recipes on her blog at www.FreshFoodPerspectives.com or on Twitter and Instagram as @JBraddockRD.

How To Make A Number 5 Cake

how to make a number 5 cake at happyhomefairy.com.jpg

The Happy Buddy turned 5 on the 3rd of July and I really wanted to make him a special birthday cake to celebrate.

I almost gave up and called the Publix bakery after looking on Pinterest and seeing so many intricate, difficult, you-might-need-a-culinary-arts-degree-to-make-it cakes.

But then I saw a few Number 5 cakes and knew I could pull it off without having to buy fondant or 300 special frosting tips.

This cake is SO easy.

Here is a photo tutorial of what I did -

how to make a number 5 cakehow to make a number 5 cake 1how to make a number 5 cake 2how to make a number 5 cake 3how to make a number 5 cake 4how to make a number 5 cake 5how to make a number 5 cake 6how to make a number 5 cake 7how to make a number 5 cake 8

At this point I decided to decorate the cake with M&Ms.

About 10 minutes in to the color sorting and meticulous placing, I regretted this decision immensely.

how to make a number 5 cake 9But I persevered and the finished product was so cute I forgot about the 27 times my hand cramped up.

:-)

Happy How to Make a Number 5 Cake-ing!

*Quick Tip – For crumb-free icing, I recommend freezing your cakes first.  Go HERE for a simple step-by-step guide.*

Extreme Picky Eater Solutions

extreme picky eater solutions - such great advice! i SO need this for my picky eater!

The tips I am about to share with you are a bit… unconventional.

I am well aware of the fact that I am not a perfect parent and have made PLENTY of mistakes along the parenting way.

{{Sometimes I’m amazed that my kids are alive at all.}}

Some may say those mistakes created my picky eater, but I love Jesus and His Spirit lives in me and therefore I must remember that my weaknesses are opportunities for the Lord to redeem and get glory and draw me ever-so-much closer to Him in the process.

These tips were birthed out of a long and frustrating season with an extreme picky eater who ended up pooping out his poop sac because he was so constipated from malnutrition (you can read about that HERE – IF you have a strong stomach).

Every kid is different and sometimes we parents need to get creative to get results.

So if you’ve tried hiding vegetable purees in your child’s pancakes and you’ve tried renaming vegetables as well-known super heroes and you’ve tried spending 30 minutes making carrots and celery look like a spaceship only to watch your stubborn child precious little angel go to bed hungry because he refuses to eat food that isn’t beige -

THESE TIPS ARE FOR YOU.

It took the better part of a year (and a lot of nights spent praying for a broccoli breakthrough), but I am happy to report that my extreme picky eater is now happily munching on that broccoli, AS WELL AS carrots, green beans, spinach, asparagus, strawberries, raisins, zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, onions, apples, and grapes – to name a few.

Ok, I guess I should say he’s mostly happily eating those things.

Ok, somewhat happily.

Ok, so it’s more like how you feel about exercise – you do it because you know it’s good for you, but it’s not like you’re frolicking up the sidewalk to your local gym with a huge smile on your face.

(Except for the few crazy birds out there who actually enjoy breaking a sweat and waking up at 4 am for a run or for spin class or for CrossFit.  **These are probably the same people who don’t have picky eaters.**)

The point is, we’ve come a lonnnnng way from that fateful night last July.

And these Extreme Picky Eater Solutions were what saved us.

#1 – Vegetable Brain Washing

One of the most important aspects of training picky eaters is to change the way they think about food.

They need to see foods like spinach and blueberries as powerful tools to fuel their body and foods like nuggets and ice cream as occasional blessings (and by occasional I mean only a few times a week :-)).

So I have made it my mission to sneak in ‘vegetable subliminal messages’ whenever and where ever I possibly can.

I downloaded THIS APP featuring dancing, happy vegetables and let my boys play with it at special times throughout the week.

When we have pretend play in the Happy Buddy’s kitchen and he asks me what I would like to eat, I ALWAYS ask for a salad.  I am happy to enjoy his delicious felt cupcakes and delectable plastic cookies only after I have eaten all my veggies.

We watch lots and lots of Veggie Tales and I make comments like, “Oh, look at Larry.  He’s a cucumber. Mmmm, I love cucumbers.”

We talk about the differences between ‘God-made’ food and ‘man-made’ food.

Once we were at a birthday party and they were serving cupcakes with green-dyed shredded coconut on top.  The Happy Buddy pointed to it and said, “Look, Mommy!  Zucchini!”

Bam.  Brainwashed.

#2 – Tiny Bites

Once we tried to give the Happy Buddy some full-sized strawberries and he went and threw up all over the back of the couch.

**He has sensory issues.**

So I started cutting everything to be the size of something Polly Pocket would be pleased with and this helped our vegetable and fruit eating efforts tremendously.

#3 – Dip It

Picky eaters usually like ketchup.

As long as I’ve got a bottle of the red stuff in the fridge, the Happy Buddy can get through almost any vegetable I serve him.

(Except avocados – the texture on those is just way beyond his capabilities.)

And, besides, we all KNOW that ketchup is a vegetable, too, so it’s alllllllllll good.

#4 – Wrap It up, Serve It Again

This is the tip that brought us the MOST success in getting our boy to eat – BY FAR.

I make a healthy dinner.  I put a sufficient portion of it on my child’s plate.  He is responsible for eating it.

If he doesn’t eat the food on the plate (in a reasonable amount of time – sometimes we have to set a timer as a motivating factor), then I wrap it up and put it in the fridge and his job is to finish it in the morning.

It sounds harsh, but let me tell you something – we only had to do this TWICE before the Happy Buddy realized if he ever wanted to see Saturday-morning pancakes or scrambled eggs and toast again, then he’d better finish his dinner.

Now please don’t think I’m militant about this every single night.  If he’s tired or sick or he really (really) doesn’t like the meal or seems to genuinely be not hungry, there is always GRACE.

But for the most part all I have to say is, “Hmm, I wonder how that will taste for breakfast?” and his food is gone in a matter of seconds.

#5 – Bartering

I have found that sometimes having nutritionally unprofitable food around can be highly beneficial to getting my child to try new, healthy options.

For example, the other day the Happy Buddy had a hankering for pretzels.

So I calmly said, “You can have pretzels, but first you can eat this yummy bowl of carrot sticks.”

If he is reeeeeally hungry, he will eat the carrots.  If he’s not, he’ll just be hungrier for dinner.

It’s a win-win.

#6 – Fun Times

Some people might say these tips are more power plays and could potentially make mealtime a negative experience for my child.

To that I would say – Um, do you even know me??

There is a reason why this blog is called HAPPY Home Fairy.  I’m ALL ABOUT pursuing a happy home.  So even though I might be laying down the law when it comes to what my kids eat, we always have a good time in between reminders to get all that broccoli in his belly.

We use THESE Free Printable Conversation Starters.

We play the soundtrack to Frozen.

I occasionally perform selections from the Broadway musical Wicked.

We eat on plates shaped like Mickey Mouse.

We have dance parties and hug festivals when someone tries a new food or eats everything on his plate without complaining.

We act silly – like just tonight the Happy Baby wasn’t eating his lasagna, so I pretended to fall asleep.  He called out to me and I over-dramatically startled awake.  He burst into laughter and then immediately asked for me to do it again.

So I said I would do it again only if he took a bite of his food.

Needless to say, I had to ‘fall asleep’ about 50 times, but the plate got finished.

#7 – Be prepared for some drama.

You would not even believe the scene that went down in our kitchen one day several months back over a GRAPE.

A grape, people.

But – by the strength of God alone – I stuck to my guns.

Because the thing with picky eaters is that they can wear you down.  You’re so tired of fighting all. the. time. that you give in and throw a few nuggets in the microwave instead of having them eat the dinner you prepared.

All the visions of happy, peaceful family mealtimes you had as a starry-eyed pregnant woman are shattered as you watch your child go into hysteria over one small grape.

But if you’re really serious about seeing your Happy Buddy grow as an eater, you have to be ready for a battle (and possibly some spinach thrown in your face).

Hebrews 12:11 says, “No training seems pleasant at the time.  In fact, it seems painful.  But later on it produces a harvest of godliness and peace.”

I often have to remind myself that parenting involves TRAINING and any kind of training requires hard work and time (even the perfect Crossfit-ing parents will agree with me on that). :-)

Try to see every vegetable kick back, every mealtime meltdown, every defiant ‘no’ as an opportunity to help your child grow into the person God wants them to be.

It won’t be easy, but I promise you it will be worth it.

For EVERYONE involved.

So, sweet Mama, be encouraged.

picky eater 1.jpgpicky eater 2.jpgpicky eater 3.jpgpicky eater 4.jpgpicky eater 5.jpgpicky eater 6.jpgThe harvest will come.

- Julie :-)

*I am NOT a nutritionist or a dietitian.  I am only sharing what was helpful for our family – which is quite possibly completely different than yours.  You ultimately know what is best and what will work for your Happy Home!*

**I may or may not have bribed the Happy Buddy with a chocolate chip cookie to do the above photo shoot. :-)**

How To Give Your Child Jesus Kisses

How to give your child Jesus Kisses. The sweetest little thing to add to our bedtime routine!

My sweet friend and mentor Vickie over at Ponder365 taught me this precious little ritual to add to your child’s bedtime routine.

First you kiss your child’s right cheek and say, “Mommy loves you,”

Then you kiss your child’s left cheek and say, “Daddy loves you,”

Next you kiss their right cheek again and say the name of your child’s sibling such as, “Lilly loves you,”

Keep switching cheeks for each sibling’s name (if you are anything like the Duggar family this part might take awhile and you might regret ever launching this nightly tradition).

After you’ve gone through each immediate family member, pause and then say with a huge amount of enthusiasm,

“And JESUS LOVES YOU MOST OF ALL!”

Then give your child a seriously crazy kiss attack.

Expect lots of giggles. :-)

I do this with my boys almost every night and they love it.

They get really nervous/excited for the explosion of kisses from Jesus.

And I love how it is a precious reminder of Who loves them more than anything.

Here is a little video to demonstrate (the Happy Buddy was an absolutely thrilled participant)…

Happy Jesus Kiss-ing! :-)

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (ESV)

*Stop by Vickie’s blog and sign up for incredible once-a-week posts full of mommy encouragement. I’ve had the privilege of serving with her in our church’s MOM ministry and her wisdom/advice is so inspiring.  Her I’m Tired Prayer has been such a blessing to me this month!*

How I Got Ready For Swimsuit Season (SUPER SECRET TIP)

How one lady got ready for swimsuit season after having 2 kids. Hilarious and easy idea..jpg

I mentioned HERE that the hubs and I had an opportunity to visit the Bahamas on a staff retreat with his work.

To say I was excited about going is an understatement.

5 days without kids?!  5 days not being needed to wipe bottoms, tie shoes, and pack lunches?

Ummm, when do we leave?!

But to say I was apprehensive about wearing a bathing suit in front of people (PEOPLE I KNOW) is an understatement.

Words like horrified, disheartened, aghast and other synonyms I searched for under the word AFRAID were what I was feeling instead.

So I knew I had to try to figure out a realistic way to get my body into some kind of non-scary state for the beach.

And, for me, it all boiled down to one super simple tip.

Are you ready to get ready for your swimsuit – you hot mama, you?

Here’s what you need to do -

STOP EATING AFTER DINNER.

That’s it.

No 100 crunches or 400 planks or 50,000 Russian twists or 10 million squats or 9 trillion butt lifts (although these can be helpful if you’re into sweating).

No P90Xing or T25ing or Insanity-ing or listening to Jillian yell at you for 30 minutes 10 times a day (also helpful if you like torturing yourself).

Just stop eating after dinner.

I sat down one day and asked the Lord why I was so afraid of my own body and He quietly revealed to me that a lot of my body image issues were stemming from an area in my life that I had yet to fully surrender to Him.

This area called overeating at night.

As the Lord shed light on my sin, I realized just how much peace I was losing over this.

Because I could be solidly disciplined in my 3 meals a day plus one afternoon snack (usually THIS), but as soon as those adorable children had their last drink of water and potty run and the circle of emotional support stuffed animals were in place, my craving to munch kicked in.

I worked hard all day long chasing around 2 monkeys.

I deserved something delicious.

I deserved an opportunity to eat copious amounts of crunchy things.

Yes, I could sit down with a bag of trail mix or granola or ice cream and before I knew it, be staring at the bottom of the package.

Then I would go to bed bloated and wake up angry.

And still bloated.

Then the whole cycle would repeat.

I knew I was holding onto about 5 extra pounds because of this nonsense and it was wrecking the way I felt about myself.

Then Lent happened and I thought, “Hey, if Jesus can NOT EAT AT ALL for 40 days, I can fast from eating after dinner for 40 days.”

Let me just say, I have a whole new appreciation for people who experience withdrawal from an addiction.

There were many nights where the hubs had to hold me back from chewing a hole through his shirt – like I was some kind of a rabid animal or something.

My teeth have never been cleaner because I probably brushed them 10,000 times as a distraction technique.

Sometimes we would finish dinner at 8 pm and I would go to bed at 8:01 – just to avoid the temptation.

Somewhere along the way, though, all the little tricks above began to give way to a genuine desire to obey God.

I looked to my greatest example and inspiration – thinking about how HARD it must have been for Jesus to sacrifice as He did in the desert for those 40 days.

But He found His refuge and power in something far greater than the feeling of sinking your teeth into a square (or 4 or 5) of dark chocolate.

I memorized Psalm 34:8 and stood before my evil pantry saying,

“Taste and see that THE LORD is good!”

The LORD.

Not granola.

Because when you’re trying to kick a habit like finding comfort in food, you’ve got to find your strength and satisfaction in the One who is absolutely and totally enough.

The physical results of this challenge became secondary as I grew closer with Christ and let Him become my after dinner craving.

:-)

Do I do this perfectly every single night?

Nope.

The hubs and I still like to have late night ice cream parties every once in awhile where we clink our spoons together and celebrate the fact that we survived another day of parenthood.

The difference is now I am trying to be more conscious of how much ice cream I eat and my heart behind each bite.

Is this your story, too?

Try my little trick for a few weeks and let me know how you feel.

Then go get that bathing suit on, girl.

I’ll meet you by the water’s edge and we can celebrate our rockin’ beach bodies (well, as rockin’ as they get after bearing a couple of kids and dealing with things like um, gravity) by eating a properly portioned piece of chocolate before dinner.

- Julie

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)

**Do you struggle with weight and eating issues?  HERE and HERE are the books that were incredibly helpful for me.**