It’s funny how people float in and out of your life. Your best high school buddy has disappeared, but the girl you didn’t know, who sat in the back row of homeroom, is now your dear friend and neighbor.
In a way, Esther Goetz is that kind of person. She was the friend-of-a-friend at our college on the outskirts of Chicago. I knew she was outgoing and friendly, and had grown up in Ethiopia as a missionary kid, but I didn’t know much more about her while we shared the same campus,
We went on with our separate studies and friends and lives. Graduation scattered everyone to build their own careers and families all over the map.
Here I found someone with a kindred world view, words of truth, and a winsome sense of spunk. Esther’s photo and name looked familiar, and later I discovered that she was the Esther from college years, molded and sharpened by a life yielded to God and His Word.
After college, she married Allen; they have four adult children, one son-in-law and a feisty toddler grandson. Esther and her husband lead the marriage mentoring ministry at their church (they have met with over 120 couples over the past 15 years!) Esther also leads a women’s group.
Her blog reflects what she does in real life, as she discusses faith, family and friendship.
Besides family, church, blogging, leadership and more, Esther likes to read! Right now, she is enjoying The Next Right Thing by Emily Freeman, and her three favorite books of all time are:
I live in Minnesota, where snowy forecasts threaten and chapped lips are a way of life.
Despite a desire for a little more elbow room, I simply cannot bring myself to banish my children out to the frozen tundra on restless January afternoons.
So, I, with many other hearty Midwest parents, have been forced to plan creative indoor activities, thereby saving our kids’ eyes from electronic combustion.
Here are three indoor activities to offer your children — and if the parents play along, the fun rate exponentially increases…
Puzzles may look like a simple, slow activity, but working jigsaw puzzles is actually a brain-building, skill-building pastime. Jigsaw puzzlesenhance problem-solving skills, improve learning, support social interaction, and generate a feeling of accomplishment.
Puzzles are an absorbing, therapeutic activity that can last days or weeks. If you have a spare table where a puzzle-in-progress can stay available, this is optimum. (We don’t; we just let the puzzle take over the dining room table until it’s completed.)
Jigsaw puzzles are great for many ages (but not all — watch those tiny pieces and keep your babies away.)Puzzles are beneficial for older people, too; they stimulate the brain and may delay the onset of dementia.
Kids can listen to audiobooks while they draw, build, or work puzzles. Audiobooks are also great for car trips — long or short.
Young readers can listen to an audiobook while they read along with the print version and reluctant readers who aren’t enthusiastic about print books can be wooed into a love of reading with audiobooks. (True story.)
Audiobook narrators are usually awesome, and they transport a child right into the pages of the book. Some of our favorite audiobooks for kids include:
Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries
Chronicles of Narnia
Mysterious Benedict Society Series
Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Note: We listened to three (Hardy Boys) audiobooks while we worked the Ocean Life puzzle shown at the beginning of this post.
Okay, this one was dredged up from my childhood math class (thank you, Mr. Kesti) and it’s more educational than it is pure fun. But, approached creatively, Krypto can be a pleasant addition to your indoor arsenal of activities.
There is a commercial version ofKrypto, but this is how we play it at home, without buying the game:
Choose 5 cards from a joker-less deck of cards.
Write those numbers on a white board.
Choose one more number and write it at the bottom.
Everyone looks at the board and tries to find a way to use all top 5 numbers to get the target number at the bottom.
You can add, subtract, multiply and divide the numbers until the target number is reached.
This uses all of the numbers, and the result is the target number (2) at the bottom.
When someone arrives at the target number, she yells, “KRYPTO!” and demonstrates how she got the answer.
We keep track of points and play it regularly as part of our homeschooling routine.
If your kids take to it, you can plan a lively Krypto tournament.
With or without competition, you’ll have some fun and keep math skills sharp over the holidays. Krypto is also a great low-key summer activity – a great way to stay math-savvy over school break. For more explanation, here’s a Krypto video.
Whether you live where it’s cold, or just need some rainy day ideas, hopefully you will enjoy some of this indoor fun that keeps Minnesotans snowbound but smiling until March.
The Hillstroms from church needed a babysitter and my daughter couldn’t do it after all. She wouldn’t export her runny nose and annoying cough into the already stressed Hillstrom home.
Linzy was going to meet her husband Matt for marriage counseling, and their six active kiddos needed energetic supervision.
So I approached their country home, not knowing what to expect. I had never been there; never helped out. I was a little sketchy on all their names and I was out of my comfort zone.
First, we plunged into backyard hide-and-seek. Between games, we paused for show-and-tell breaks, like when Riley showed me his recent bow-and-arrow injury and Jojo pointed out the onions poking up in the garden. Then we returned to our crouched positions under the pine tree or behind the bikes in the shed. I huddled with the little ones, who squirmed and rustled and ruined the hiding places. Then we started all over again.
Suddenly, everyone grabbed their bikes, trikes and scooters and soared freely along the dusty, rural road. I strolled the baby, ready to redirect the parade if a car came along.
I employed my former public school teacher’s voice and relied on 20+ years of motherhood to cope with minor scuffles and occasional sibling rivalry.
“Linzy is a good mom,” I thought as I served the meal on the stove to her happy, helpful kids. The able dish-doers scaled a wooden bench to reach the sink and finish the cleanup.
Next, Annie informed me of the house bedtime rules with a serious, spaghetti-stained face:
“You read us stories. And we can snuggle with our blankets. And then we brush our teeth.”
As we wrapped up the bedtime routine, I thought:
“When was the last time I just played and read stories with my own children for 3 hours?”
It had been a busy, but pleasant evening.
When Linzy arrived home, I thought it was over.
But the next Sunday, I was assaulted with warm embraces and surrounded with sparkly smiles.
I was suddenly the famous, beloved babysitter of just one evening.
I had run around barefoot in the backyard.
I had read books and given hugs.
I had learned their names and the house rules.
And for these small things, I would be paid with loving looks for the rest of my life.
That’s a pretty good deal for a substitute babysitter.
My son is looking forward to winter ( 😲 ) and he wanted to find out when the nearest ski hill opens. He scrolled and browsed, and started laughing out loud. Turns out he was reading customer reviews from last year. One said:
“…lines were too long and too many reserved spots at chalet tables. Mentioned this to staff but they didn’t care; they already had our money.”
It’s never funny when we are the ones complaining. And, there is definitely a time to speak up and bring grievances effectively to the right people.
But if we could take a step back and see ourselves, our knee-jerk complaints can sound rather whiny.
In our griping, we often:
Assign wicked and evil motives to those who have wronged us in some way
Build up small slights into mountain-sized offenses
Looking inward, I see at least one thing about which I have complained over the weekend.
I complained in thought and I complained twice to friends yesterday at church.
(But…I had a smile on my face and did it somewhat creatively so that perhaps it didn’t seem like I was grumbling?)
But I was.
People complain collectively about everything, from the weather to politics to jobs to whatever. When we make a habit of griping at home, our children catch the wave and join in.
Fussing, grumbling, and complaining are things we are trying to discourage here at home.
Instead, we are hoping that words like “thank you” become an almost involuntary response. We would like to foster a daily regimen of gratefulness and promote an anti-moan-&-groan manifesto.
But how can that happen if Mama is (overtly or covertly) whining or moping about circumstances?
Some clear reminders for me today in God’s Word:
Do all things without grumbling or disputing. Philippians 2:14
Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. James 5:9
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
Trying this week to advance a “no complain” campaign. Starting with the Mama in the mirror.
Bowls cover breakfast eggs, lovingly scrambled by a repentant Mama. (She had barked at her little boy when he asked her three times if she remembered her promise to make him an egg in the morning.)
Ms. Road Construction looked so fetching in her hat and trousers that I had to snap a photo. What else was there to do for ten minutes while we waited in line?
My dear daughter is celebrating her 23rd birthday tomorrow. “Where has the time gone?”
We invited some dear little people to play with us last week while their Mama went out to lunch. Back when I had my babies, I didn’t have such an awkward time getting up & down off the floor. Back then, I didn’t have to grab my reading glasses to see what the puzzle looks like. I have missed these little happy little folks who give you the opportunity to get down on the floor and make animal noises.
“Everyone from church is in Florida,” my children announced yesterday morning, as our slush-encrusted van dutifully hauled us to church.
There were several brave souls who apparently got left in Minnesota.
They were there, filling up rows and singing hymns with us.
The lively verse that begins: “I sing the mighty power of God, who filled the earth with food…” set my stomach growling, because it was also potluck Sunday, and Melanie’s aromatic chicken drummies were calling my name from the kitchen.
Hearing about Jonah put me and my stomach back on track.
There are several historical accounts of people having been swallowed by sea creatures – and surviving.
The culture Jonah ran from (Ninevah & the ancient Assyrians) happened to worship a merman-like fish god. That’s ironic.
I marveled at Jonah’s selfishness – not going, not doing what God clearly asked. If God clearly tells you something, you should do it, right? God’s words to me are in His book. Do I listen?
And Jonah’s pity-party at the end of the book. The account of Jonah is so…me.
The potluck was grand. I avoided its desserts, but made up for that later at home.
I had meaningful conversations with a few friends, learning something new about two of them.
Free day-old bread on the back table is a happy thing.
Vivian brought us our weekly 4 dozen blushed brown farm eggs.
Simon’s family brought a new outdoor game that will go viral — at least at church graduation open houses.
Looking back, it was a pretty good day to not be in Florida.
My three youngest children were draped over a bed littered with markers and colored pencils. We were listening to the audio book: You are a Writer. (So Act Like One), by Jeff Goins. The young artists created art and listened quietly. They would stir and look up when I nodded or grunted in agreement.
Note: some bribery was in play here. I promised them brownies and ice cream when the clock reached 8:30.
So here are a few takeaways from the first part of the book:
Claiming the Title: I am a writer — even if I don’t feel it yet.
Writers write: Just begin.
Practice makes habits: do it every day.
De-clutter: get rid of the distractions (like social media) that prevent me from writing.
Good writing is in the editing. Don’t expect good writing in the first…or second…or third…? draft.
Practice in public: (So here I am.)
After finishing this audio, the next book on my list is also by Jeff Goins:
Real Artists Don’t Starve.
I’ll read it with, or possibly without, a room full of young artists. But definitely with the brownies.
Here is my Etsy shop address. This is where I sell the mittens that I sew whilst listening to audiobooks and juggling children with markers: