Friday, March 31, 2017

How Much Time is Enough in Spending Time With Your Kids?

How much time is enough in spending time with your kids? It's a fair question. We all ponder this question quite often. If we are parents working inside the home or outside the home, there is always money to be made and work to be done. There is, also, always those children who need your attention. It seems like parents are always pulled in so many directions, and it gets confusing which way to turn. Most of the time, we second guess ourselves, and still do not find the right answer. Well, I can attempt to help you find the answer right now.

Have you ever learned the power of a daily routine? A daily routine involves sticking with a set of tasks that you complete every day, in order to make sure the most important aspects of your life are taken care of. This routine only has to involve a small portion of your day, because you do have work to do and people to see. It is a busy life we live. After all, we are pretty complex creations, and we live in a complex world. It takes a lot of work to live life to the fullest.

In considering a daily  routine, I believe spending time with your children works the same way. You cannot just leave it all for the weekend and expect them to feel loved and appreciated. In the same way, you cannot just leave the exercise for the weekend and expect to get into shape. It needs to be a daily practice.

So, you may be thinking, "Well, of course I spend time with my kids everyday. I get them ready for school, cook them dinner, clean them up, and do it all again the next day." I'm sorry to say, but that does not count. If that is the best you can do for the time, I understand. However, you should put goals in place to spend more quality time with your children. Your kids are valuable, as you already know. They need your undivided attention every day.

Let's clarify what I consider undivided attention, and then we can look into the question of "How much time is enough?" Undivided attention is not exactly undivided. It just does not involve work (i.e. cleaning the house, cooking dinner, etc.). It can involve reading your kids a story, singing a song, playing a game, running around outside. It involves a time when you and your family are valuing one another and enjoying each other's company. It is a time that your children will cherish.

You may be wondering, "Does this involve the television?" I am happy to say "NO." As you have heard, your brain is more active when you are sleeping than it is when you are watching TV. How often have you been watching TV and hours later you completely forgot that other people were in the room? Exactly. Trust me, they would much rather be dancing around the living room than participating in an activity that does not really involve them anyways. As grown-ups, we realize that it was the quality time with our family that mattered the most, and made the greatest impact in our lives.

Does this mean no television? No. I am just suggesting that you do not consider it to be the undivided attention that you give your children every day.

Let's return to the original question. How much time should this be that we focus on our children? I think a great goal is one hour per day of undivided attention. That could be a half hour in the morning just talking and drinking some hot tea and a half hour in the evening doing a family devotional. It could be a half hour in the morning getting some fresh air outdoors as a family and a half hour in the evening playing basketball. It could involve taking a break in the middle of the day and just hanging out with your little ones.  These times can be completely unique to your family. They are special to your children, and will be invaluable in shaping your relationships with one another. Do what you enjoy together, and the joy will be ever-present in your home.

Yours truly,
~Melissa Seng

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Encouragement for Your Marriage!

Recently, I was listening to Dave Ramsey, and he brought up an example of what it is like to go through life in marriage. He used the example of two Belgian horses to paint a picture of the amazing gift of marriage and the power that lies within a team of a husband and wife.

God's creation is pretty amazing. It is easy to be in awe of beauty, the elegant design, and the details of the work of our Intelligent Designer, One creature that I mentioned is the Belgian horse. Did you know that one Belgian horse can pull 8,000 lbs? That's quite a job that can be done. What is amazing is that two Belgian horses that have never worked together can pull 24,000 lbs. That is three times the load. The horses just have to be pulling in the same direction. If we compare this to marriage, it is like a husband and wife that are headed towards the same goals, but maybe feel like they do not even like each other most days. They have not yet figured out that the person next to them is an awesome gift. They have yet to see the beauty and power in the relationship. But what happens when a couple discovers these truths? What happens when a husband and wife start to like each other again, and maybe even begin training to work as a team? Well, in horse terms, they can pull 32,000 lbs!! That's the power of a great marriage!

The Bible tells us that "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22). We are a gift to our spouse, and our spouse is a gift to get God's work done, a gift so that we can have God's best for our lives. It's much more fun to go through life when you are pulling in the same direction and working as a team.

When you are working together, there is one important point you need to keep in mind. This is something that I realized a few months back, and it was just mind-boggling to me. I know you will be surprised, and you might even fall off your rocker, as the saying goes. But, something I realized was that my husband is not God. I know, it's crazy. You would have never guessed. (Okay, I'm just kidding.) But, think about it. Don't we all sometimes act as though our spouse is God. Do you ever expect your spouse to meet all of your needs? If you are like me, you have a pretty lengthy list of needs. A clean house, a restful night's sleep, lots of time to exercise, a few hours to sit back and read a good book (on the beach!) and some good home-cooking are all "needs" in my book. Having a great coach for my kids in life and in sports is also high on the priority list, But, most of all, I desire for someone who can always reassure me that everything will be okay, that my family will always be protected, and that they will be guided in the right direction. I want peace, joy, and comfort. I want foreknowledge that everything in life will be just fine and dandy.

Wow, that's quite a role to fulfill. The funny thing is, we really expect these things from our spouse! We think our spouse can give us these wonderful gifts. and I would love for that to happen. However, God and our spouse are not one in the same. Even if you think highly of your spouse, these wishes will probably only be granted by God.

Our spouse is our team, our motivator, our gift for enjoying life. He can help you to pull a load four times what you can on your own! So, be thankful! 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reads to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). God desires for us to notice the good things in life. So, even if your spouse cannot perform miracles, know that he can pray for them to happen, and he can be God's answer to the help that you need. That is great news!


Think of one thing you could not do without the help and encouragement of your spouse? Have the two of you been able to pull the load about four times what you could on your own? Feel free to comment below or on my Facebook page what you are thankful for (or just let your spouse know how they are greatly appreciated).

Personal example:

I am thankful for my husband's help with cooking. Because of him, I was able to enjoy zucchini noodles with garlic and parmesan, red-skinned potatoes, and healthy no-bake chocolate chip cookies this week! I could not have done it without him!

Have a great day!

Yours truly,
~Melissa Seng

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Tips for the Terrible Three's

I know we have all heard about the "terrible two's," the age when kids learn that they have an opinion. However, the terrible three's can be challenging, as well. This is the time when kids have learned how to talk, and now they are learning how to talk back. They have more freedom than ever before, and they want to take it to the limit. They are loud, proud, and unpredictable.

It's such a challenging time for parents, as we are, most often, left with no idea what to do in fulfilling our role as a parent. Three-year-old's no longer place you solely in charge of their lives. They act as though they are halfway between the stages of birth and adulthood. Three-year-old's can eat, walk, play, and talk on their own; however, they still need a roof over their head and some love and care from their parents.

During this stage in our children's lives, do we as parents take a tighter grip or do we loosen up on our reigns in parenting? Of course, there are many different opinions and many different ways of parenting. Raising our son through this stage of life, my husband and I have made some observations that might help you as a parent. All kids are different, but the tips that I have mentioned below have helped us greatly. We hope they make a difference for you, as well.

*1. Kids don't really want to misbehave. They want power, but they do not want to be a bad kid. Even if they seek temporary satisfaction by being a rebel, they really are most fulfilled when they are at peace in the arms of their mom or dad. Take time to recognize the joy in their spirit when they are behaving. You can see that that is when they are most happy.

Helpful hint: try laughing with your child more often. If he/she gets loud in a grocery store for no reason, or if he/she has an emotional fit at home, or if he/she tells you "no," try laughing. Why? Well, the more you find humor in the behavior, the more your child will see that their behavior is ridiculous. They will realize it's more fun to laugh. and the situation will not be elevated by your negative reaction. (P.S. this is not advised for every situation, but try it every once in awhile. You may be surprised at how well it works. You may actually receive that respect you desire and deserve.)

*2. Try not to raise your voice. Don't build on the emotion or the anger. Kids listen amazingly well when you talk softly and kindly to them. They realize that they are important and, ironically, that what you are saying needs to be heard.

*3. Explain all you can to them. They understand. And, sometimes, take the time to tell them why the answer is "no." They will learn so much from you, and you will have less battles to fight in the future.

*4. Remember their biggest influence comes from the example you set before them. Even beyond the situation, they are watching. If you are calm under stress, your child will learn to be calm. If you are filled with anger under stress, your child will learn to be filled with anger. If you can be joyful and loving, your child will learn to have love and joy. Your reactions make a bigger difference than the discipline you administer.

*5. Compliment them often! Kids are always trying new things, learning new skills, etc. Compliment them when they master a new skill, or say a new phrase, or eat a new kind of food. Notice the little things. They need a ton of confidence! You can make lasting deposits into their self esteem.

*6. Encourage two-way communication. Many times children at this age will get very upset for a specific reason. If we do not take the time to listen, we are not delivering the message that we care. Three-year-old's can begin to learn to have control over their emotions through good communication. As a parent, I am thankful that I have encouraged two-way communication when my three-year-old is upset. Many times there has not been a "battle of the wills" because I have listened to his needs at the time. In some instances, he has gotten upset, and I have learned that it was due to me forgetting to get him a drink or take care of one of his needs at the time. Kids can learn to communicate, if we give them a chance. If you master this concept, you will be glad you did! You will save so much time and energy, as you care to communicate well.

*7. Leave room for fun. Fun is always a great way to help children want to behave. Having fun seems to actually be a need for them. When they are having fun, there is less reason to misbehave. This can even involve the parent. For example, recently, we learned that our son listens amazingly well to Mickey Mouse (a.k.a. my husband speaking in a Mickey Mouse voice and puppeteering our stuffed Mickey).  He also listens well when my husband is just being a weirdo.

You may be one of those people who believes in the old fashioned way of parenting. "You do as I say because I am in charge." That is great, but if it is not working, because your child is a typical three-year-old, than feel free to try some of these ideas.

Start showing mutual respect in your household, and you too will find your toddler respond to you and your family (quite frequently!) with "Yes, Sir!" "Yes, Ma'am!" and "That's a great idea!" It's definitely worth a try!

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Dreaded "I Have To's" of Daily Life!

Isn't it terrible to think of all the things we have to get done in a day's time!? There is just work, followed by more work, work, work, until we finally lay our head down to sleep. The thoughts of work clutter our mind about 18 hours a day. Thoughts from "I have to finish the laundry," to "I have to pick up my kids on time," to "I have to help them with their homework," to "I have to cook dinner," to "I have to go shopping," to "I have to clean the house."

Isn't that awful!? That's quite a bit of pressure we place upon ourselves! Yes, we have so many responsibilities as a mother, and probably an employee. After all, mothers are cooks, nurses, taxi drivers, financial planners, coaches, school teachers, and entertainers. That's quite a list. Not only do we have to fulfill those roles, we have to learn to be successful at them for the benefit of those we love. The responsibilities are rewarding, but the stress of fulfilling these obligations can take away much of our joy. How can we possibly live in good spirits when our days are loaded with duties?  Our role as a mother and wife is fulfilling; we just need the joy back in our life. So, is it possible to have the craziness and the joy in our life? Let's take a look.

In order to enjoy our duties as a woman, we need to gain a sense of control over our lives. Our days are full of "I have to's." Our to-do lists just keep getting longer. And, it looks like there is no break in sight.

Well, there's good news. You have the control to bring back your joy. Your source of control is summed up in one word: attitude. Attitude changes everything. Watching parents pick up their kids at school, or seeing the frantic shoppers in the grocery store, you can guess the mindset of those busy people. They have the typical "I have to" mind set. There is so much they have to do. It robs them of joy and peace they most likely desire for themselves and their family.

But what happens if we take people with the same responsibilities with a different mind set? What happens if their mind set is one of "I get to!"? How does that change the situation?

Can you imagine the peace that would come over you walking through life with an "I get to" attitude? What would that look like? Well, let's take a look and see...

Picking up your kids at school: "I get to see my kids! It's going to be a fun family night!"

Shopping for groceries: "I get to try my new recipe! The kids are going to love it!"

Shopping for yourself: "I get to buy a few things for myself! This is going to be a good day."

Shopping for kids clothes: "I get to buy them new clothes. I am so thankful my kids are healthy and growing."

Playing with your kids: "I am so glad we get to spend time together. These days, I will remember forever!"

Exercising: "I am glad I have the opportunity to look my best!"

Wow! What a change! That simple mindset of, "I get to" instead of "I have to" can change everything. Imagine what that would look like in your life. What a relief. Even amidst the craziness, that joy can return. Amazingly, it's not the responsibilities, it's the attitude that brings the best in life to fruition! Have an "I get to!" attitude today, and enjoy then sense of peace and joy that it brings. :)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

You Know That You Are A Mom If...

Whether you are a seasoned parent or one with very young kids at home, I think you will find some truth to these statements. I hope you see that your role as a parent is important and much appreciated.

You know that you are a Mom if...

  • You can carry an extra 20-30 lb load in your arms without a sweat.
  • You have art work hanging on your refrigerator and are proud of it!
  • You finally get to do things you haven't done in a years! (Like go to the zoo, watch cartoons, run around outside all day just for the sake of having fun!)
  • You realize that relaxing is a luxury.
  • You think you are feeding and cleaning up after an army.
  • You have a cart full of groceries on your weekly shopping trip, and most of it is not for you.
  • You realize that you can be outsmarted by a 3-year-old.
  • You are reminded once again that you have called someone in your household by the wrong name...and you thought that day would never come.
  • You actually enjoy being home.
  • You are always in good company. :) 
Know that your greatest struggles lead to your greatest victories, and to some amazing skill sets, as well! Enjoy the journey!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Miracle of Life!

Children are a blessing. I never understood this concept until I had kids. It was difficult to comprehend why I should want someone to be a part of my life when I did not even know them yet. How could you want something that does not exist, at least from your point of view? There is plenty of stress in this world, so why would you want to add one more challenge to your life? The questions remain, that is, until you follow God's Word in your life. He gave us instruction about many different topics for our own good. Sometimes you just have to have faith and blessings will follow.

So why are children a blessing? After all, your life was perfectly perfect before they came into your life. Well, slowly, living life with those little kids that you never even knew before, you start to realize that you would not want to go through life without them. They are created by God with such complexity and individuality that it is incredible. They have so much energy and a mind of their own. That is a miracle itself! Their personalities allow us to grow abundantly. Children expose our flaws, as they sometimes reciprocate our actions. They help us to see the value of building our character, and they teach us to be kind. Children give us purpose and show us the miracle of life.

Listening to the teaching of intellectuals, while I was in college, I learned that babies are predictable. Psychologists could tell you at what age they will respond to you in different ways. They could tell you what the child could and could not comprehend at every stage of development. They could tell you all the reflexes that allow the child to survive. They were thought to be much like a successful science experiment.

But none of my learning in college taught me about the uniqueness of each human life. I did not learn about the miracle of God's creation. I did not learn that babies are actually very responsive and relational. Instead, I learned that they are mere creatures of existence and are nothing to fuss about. However, reality is much different than the textbook.God is real, and He creates so much variety and complexity that we cannot even begin to sum it up in 300 pages.

Watching a baby, it is amazing to see the life within the child. My three-month-old smiles at me, talks to me, and enjoys the company of his family. At his young age, he operates much like an adult in the way he carries out his day. It may sound silly, but he enjoys eating, sleeping, exercising, talking, and family time. All is good in the world if he gets to enjoy conversation with his family.

It is a miracle and a blessing that God creates children. I hope you see this impressive work of our Creator and give Him the glory.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Fun Ideas for your Rambunctious Kids

Parenting can be an interesting journey. Some days are great! Your kids are behaving, they're healthy, and you've been able to enjoy precious time with them. Other days are an uphill battle. On those days, it can be challenging to think of what to do to make the day count. I have listed some ideas here that might help. Some of them I came up with on my own, others are just reminders to us for when those rambunctious kids are running around and we are in desperate need to get some order in the household. I hope that these ideas are a help to you! I pray you are blessed by your fun-loving, energetic children and you enjoy these activities together!
  • Play Punch Ball! Who needs to catch a ball when you can punch it? (...mostly for younger kids. Just make sure it's not a hard ball.)
  • Play Balloon Volleyball! Who doesn't like an easy game of volleyball!? No net required.
  • Have a Water fight. It doesn't have to be a soaker, but guns + water + a competition = a winner for boys.
  • Race. Just make sure your kids win!
  • Make food. There's power in a mixing bowl. The power of empowerment to your kids.
  • Take a Walk. Need peace? This is wonderful for bringing a sense of peace to you and your kids.
  • Learn Sunday School/VBS Songs: Let them be loud! What better way to have fun than learn about God's Word in the process?
  • Dance. It's amazing the fun that comes from some music and dancing. You don't even have to be good at it.
  • Play Frisbee Chase. You may think frisbee is not for you, but what if it becomes a race? Your child will love it.
  • Spend time around animals. It's amazing how calm kids get when there are animals around.
  • Wrestle. It is great exercise to have the man of the house play tackle football/wrestling with those crazies.
  • Play games. I am amazed at the fun that comes out of simple family games.
  • Let them get messy! Painting or paper crafts can go a long way.
  • Read to them. Having structure is not a bad thing, even for rowdy ones. :)
Have fun and enjoy coming up with your own ideas!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

One of Those Days...

Yesterday was one of those days. Not one where everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong, but just one of those days when you feel overwhelmed to the point of being discouraged and de-energized. I woke up either tired or uninspired. I'm still not sure which. But everywhere I looked, there was work to do: laundry, dishes, cleaning, picking up toys; I felt defeated.

Those days come and go. But they go faster than they come. They are painful to get through when we are working against feelings of defeat. How can we reach all of our goals for the day and win if we wake up already defeated? That is a difficult task.  Perhaps, if we learn to change our focus, we will have less of those days.

The thought came to me recently when I was holding my baby and watching my 3-year-old play in our living room. I realized there will be a day when I will not be here for Jaden and Carter. It was a heavy thought; however, it was moving.

I realized that one day I won't be here to sit by their side and enjoy their company. One day I won't be here to teach them right from wrong. One day I won't be here to continue to see them blossom as fun-loving, energetic, goofy, intelligent, wise, handsome, Godly men.

One day there won't be anymore toys to pick up, any extra dishes to clean, any crumbs to pick up off the floor, any noisy children to quiet down. Yes, there probably will be grandchildren in the future. Yes, there will be even more blessing in Heaven, but these times will not last forever.

I looked around our home and realized, at that moment, that I needed to cherish the times when I have toys to pick up, laundry to do, and kids to keep me company at home. These days go by so fast, but sometimes the messiness seems like it will never end.

I pray that we stop and take time to be thankful for those days, that we enjoy more time together. It's so easy to see a messy home as just work needing to be done, but maybe we can start to see our home full of toys as a blessing. As grown-ups, our identity has been shaped by all the memories we have with our family when we were young. And, as grown-ups, we need to realize that these days are a story for our children, a story that will last a lifetime. I pray that it's one they will cherish forever.

I pray that, through the example of my husband and I and the teachings from the Word of God, my sons will say, "I am a child of God, cherished and loved." I hope they learn to see themselves in a positive light - hardworking, productive, responsible, able to do good, created in the image of God. As they enjoy the early mornings of reading, hanging out with mom and dad, and exercising, I hope they learn not to take these days for granted. As they wrestle with their dad in the evenings, I hope they learn the value of enjoying family time. Our children can be filled with love, joy, and peace as we receive that gift from God and share it with them every day. Even in the mundane, these days matter. They are life to our children.

The other day as I was holding my youngest son, I pictured him as a handsome young man, all grown-up. Taking some time to think, I pictured him standing before me saying, "Thanks mom." And, in that moment, I realized that all the work I had done for him over the years was worth it. We can choose to see the years of work in this life, or we can see the life that we can bring to all those years we share as a family.

I pray you see the life in your years for you and your family because God has a purpose for you on your journey.