I’ve been asked several times how our family sets up tech in our van when we’re on long trips. We’ve come up with a pretty awesome solution that keeps the kids very happy for the long trips, without fighting, and without spending a fortune.
So what we’ve done is purchased Kindle Fire Tablets (http://amzn.to/2taMVqj) for each of our kids. The Kindle Fires are relatively inexpensive (around $50 a piece) particularly when compared with say Apple iPads ($250 – on the low end). It’s SO nice because each child has their own device and doesn’t have to cooperate with anyone else or watch what anyone else is watching. Oh, and did I mention that the device they have is not *my* device, so I can still navigate/listen to my book/play Pokemon Go? Everyone wins 🙂 We really like the kids cases that have the handles – they’re cheaper than the ones that Amazon manufactures, they’re more functional, and I think they protect the kindles better. We haven’t had any problems with damage to our kindles inside these cases – except when our kids have poured sticky things in the ports (you can only do so much right?). Here’s a link to one of the cases we’ve liked, but there are similar ones available through a lot of different sellers – http://amzn.to/2v9Ugrm
The Fire tablets don’t hold a ton of media on them (although you can upgrade with micro SD cards very easily), but what we’ve done is purchase a portable hard drive that also acts as a wi-fi hotspot within the car – like this one by Seagate Media that will hold up to 2 Terabytes of movies – http://amzn.to/2taIOdQ! We’ve put all of our movies on there and all the kids can access whatever movies/TV shows they want – and we don’t have to worry about whether they have *the* show they want already on their device. It is also great if the boys want to play Minecraft together – they can use the wi-fi to play local games together (they don’t have internet access obviously, but we don’t let them play online anyways).
We’ve also gotten these headphones for our kids and been happy with them – http://amzn.to/2t0YgxH . They’re comfortable and don’t have pieces on them that are easy to break. Plus the kids look super adorable with animal headbands 😉 I’m not convinced that the volume goes up as high as they really need to overpower the road noises, but my younger two haven’t complained yet so for now we’ll keep doing what we’re doing 😉
So, that’s how we keep our kids occupied on long car rides. We’ve set the rule in our household that the kids don’t get electronics for car rides that are under 30 minutes (you’d be surprised at just how many 29 minute car rides we’ve gone on 😉 ) and this whole set up was MUCH cheaper than installing a DVD player in our car – and we get a lot of use out of everything outside the car too! I hope someone finds this useful!
When I was a little girl I remember every year being excited to sit on Santa’s lap, tell him what a good girl I’d been and ask for something special for Christmas. I loved watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. My parents didn’t make a huge deal of Santa but he was still an integral part of our Christmas celebrations. When I was in fourth grade my friends started to tell me that Santa Claus wasn’t real, that it was just my parents who bought the gifts. In all honesty, I think I knew logically by then that was true, but it didn’t bother me too much. I still loved the idea of Santa Claus and chose to keep believing anyways because he was part of the magic of my Christmases and I didn’t want to give it up.
Now, a full two decades later I find myself on the other side of the Santa Claus celebration. Instead of believing in Santa Claus – I am Santa Claus for my three sweet children. I love that part of Christmas where I now have the chance to prepare surprises for Christmas morning for which I will not take credit. I love trying to find something that will make my kids eyes light up on Christmas morning and bring joy into their hearts. Even though I want their Christmas to be Christ-centered, I feel like the tradition of Santa Claus can turn their minds, and mine to the Savior.
However, I have been troubled by the first question that my kids are asked this season by almost every adult they see at this time of the year, “What’s Santa bringing you for Christmas?” Since I’ve already claimed that I really do love the tradition of Santa Claus so much, how can this bother me? It’s an innocent question and it is fun to see the things that kids are excited about for Christmas morning. But I feel like it places too much emphasis on the wrong part of Christmas for young minds.
Earlier this week a friend posted this article by Jen Hatmaker called The Christmas Conundrum. In it she describes her experience as a pre-teenager being totally disillusioned by finding out that the presents she received on Christmas morning weren’t what she expected, and how it ruined her whole Christmas. She goes on to say how sad it is that her Christmas was completely defined by material things with no actual thought of the real meaning of the season – the birth of Christ.
I don’t think we’ll be going to her extreme of cutting out Santa from Christmas entirely, but I do want to help my kids from a young age be more aware of the real meaning of Christmas, rather than the consumerism aspects. While I like knowing what my kids want for Christmas I’ve never had them sit down and make Christmas lists, or badgered them for what they want most. We’ve gone to visit Santa Claus (although with very little success getting our boys to sit on his lap so far) and we’ll talk a little about things they might like, but I really try to focus on other parts of Christmas. I try to find ways to read Christmas stories with them, or sing songs, or serve others, rather than expending too much of their energy on what they want to get from Christmas. In addition to taking the focus away from Christ, I think focusing on what you’re hoping to get sets kids up for disappointment. If you have high hopes of getting the 5 things on your Christmas list and you only get 4 of them then you’ll be sad. But if your focus is on other things than yourself then anything you get is just a sweet surprise. I would like to suggest some alternate questions that we could pose to young children that would help bring the focus back to our Savior and less on Santa Claus.
What are you going to give this year for Christmas? I will never forget listening to this inspired talk by President Monson back in 1995 called Christmas Gifts, Christmas Blessings which he gave at the Christmas Devotional that year. He suggested rather than asking what someone got for Christmas we should ask what they gave for Christmas. Quite often we put a lot of thought into what we’re giving different people for Christmas and it’s much more exciting to focus on how we’re hoping to make someone else’s life brighter. I think if we try to ask this question to kids it will help them to want to do things for other people and be a little more selfless rather than selfish.
Do you love the Christmas music at this time of year? What song is your favorite? Yes, you might still get answers that are more about presents and snow and jingle bells, but the music at Christmas time is inspiring to the soul. There is a joy in that music that helps bring in the spirit of the season better than almost anything else. You can even take that chance as an opportunity to share your favorite Christmas song too, maybe one that bears a small testimony of the Savior.
Who are you spending Christmas with? I’ve heard people say before that the meaning of Christmas isn’t to be with family, but I think that’s baloney. Our Savior died so that we can be with our families forever, so what more fitting way to celebrate His birth than by spending time strengthening those family relationships? Children will get excited at the thought of grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, or even just having a day or two extra at home with their mom or dad off work.
What is your favorite part of Christmas? I’m sure many children will respond with an answer of Santa Claus or presents, but it opens the door for you to include your favorite part of Christmas too. Whether that’s serving others, or the love people show at this time of year, or Christmas music. Even if their initial answer isn’t part of the real meaning of Christmas I think it’s a good way to at least suggest to their minds that there’s more to this season than just presents under a tree or in a stocking.
Does your family have any Christmas traditions that you love? When I was growing up my family had the tradition that on Christmas Eve we would all get a new pair of Christmas pajamas that we would wear to bed that night and then we’d stay in them all day on Christmas. For whatever reason that always seemed like such a treat to me when I was younger, and that day spent at home, with my family, in our PJs is still one of my favorite memories of Christmas time.
It takes a little creativity, but I think we can find ways to help our kids turn their focus from Santa to Christ. I’ll try to post some more traditions and suggestions to help your family’s Christmas be more Christ-centered this year. But for now I’ll leave you with this one challenge – as you try to engage the kids you see in talks about Christmas, will you try to find ways to bring their focus away from Santa and towards our Savior?
What other questions could we be asking our kids instead of Santa questions? I’d love to hear your suggestions! Leave them in the comments below 🙂
Since having Maeli 6 weeks ago I’ve been frequently asked what it’s like to have 3 kids. This was my day today-
Woke up to get Sam ready for school. Laid out all his clothes and then went to get myself ready. Came back 10 minutes later to find Sam still with no pants on just wandering about his room. Get him dressed. Downstairs for breakfast. Sam wants a smoothie and oatmeal. While I”m making his food, Danny wanders downstairs and says he’s going to stay with Eric while I go to my doctor’s appointment. Just as I’m about to walk out the door he changes his mind and wants to come with me. Run through the house to find him some pants, a fresh diaper, shoes and a coat. Put all three kids in the car, race to the bus stop – we’re too late. Also, the van is almost out of gas and I don’t have my wallet. Run back to the house, get my wallet and some other things I’d forgotten. Get back out to the car and Maeli is screaming because she hates being in the car when it’s not moving.
Take Sam to school, drop him off just minutes before the bell rings. Head over to Smith’s to fill the van with gas. While pumping notification on my phone pops up that my doctor’s appointment is in 10 minutes – I’m at least 15 minutes away. Finish fueling, hop in the van. Maeli is screaming again. Drive to the doctor’s. Arrive about 15 minutes late. Have my appointment – everything looks great and I’ve lost 18 lbs since the beginning of the year! Best. diet. ever. 😉 Finish at the doctor’s, Danny keeps asking why they were shining a light on my bum.
Go out to the van and fight to get Danny into his carseat again. Waffle for a little bit and finally decide to be brave and finally take some returns from Christmas back to Macy’s (by some I mean about $200 worth of clothes from Black Friday sales). Danny won’t go through the door I open and insists on opening his own different door. Sales lady comes out to help him and looks at me like I’m being neglectful or mean. Go to take the returns back and find out that I have to take the specific items to their department. I only have items from 2 departments, but still, not the easiest to work with. Make my returns. As we’re leaving Danny insists that we go get french fries. I decide to make that deal with the devil… I mean, my son… and we head out to the car without too much more problem. Hit up Burger King on the way home and get a large order of fries. As soon as we’re through the drive thru he starts saying “no! I want a soda too!” Too late kid. Then the plea is for ice cream. *sigh* Finally about half way up the mountain he’s figured out that he’s not getting anything extra and asks for the french fries. Give him the french fries. Reaction? “No, lots of!” Good heavens! Tell him to suck it up.
Get home. Realize that Danny’s still in his PJs with his cowboy boots on. His sweatpants have made their way up to his knees. He looks like an orphan. This is how we’ve been out in public all morning – awesome. Also find that Sam drank about 3 sips of his smoothie. Danny proceeds to carry the smoothie around the house. Tell him to take it back to the table. He goes back… but then decides to walk around the kitchen with it. Slips on the floor and gets smoothie all over the floor, the back window and the curtains. Exactly what I was trying to avoid.
It’s time to go pick up Sam. Decide it’s a nice enough day that we can walk to the park. Leave Maeli with Eric and let Danny ride Sam’s bike to the park. Carry Danny’s bike so we don’t have the problem of Sam not having a bike. Get to the park just in time to see Sam get off the bus. Confiscate Sam’s bike from Danny so that Sam can ride it. Give Danny his bike. Huge fit. Tell Danny I’m going to ride his bike instead. Go back and forth between me threatening to ride the bike, Danny riding the bike, Danny walking the bike, Danny throwing a fit for about a block. Finally Danny decides to ride the bike. The boys want to go to the scenic overlook on the way home. Danny insists on riding in the mud close to the edge of the dropoff – just to give me gray hairs. Get home.
Tell the boys we’re going in for lunch. Danny is adamant that he’s still riding his bike. Threaten to put the bike in timeout. Argue with Danny. Danny keeps faking me out that he’s coming in, and then whines again. Danny falls off bike and is very mildly hurt. Carry bike into garage while Danny is still sad about the bike. Have lunch.
Get the last few forms to finish off our taxes. Let the boys play on the tablets while finishing filing taxes. Taxes filed – WOOT! Realize it is now 4pm and still need to go to the grocery store. Take another hour to finalize list, and decide that Danny is coming to the store and Maeli and Sam are staying with Eric. Move carseats so we can take the Corolla instead of the van. Danny fights over whether I buckle him or if he buckles himself (he says he wants to do it but won’t). Run in for something I forgot. Come back out and Danny is furious that he can’t reach his door handle. Re-engage child lock on his door. Drive as far as the park with him mad at me. Put state returns in mail box and get mail. Got the CD of proofs from our recent family photos – yay!!
Drive to Smith’s with Danny mad for most of the way. Park in the parking lot. Danny fell asleep – crap. Unbuckle him and stand him up outside the car. He’s still mostly asleep. It’s pretty funny to see. Make him walk into the store half-asleep. There are no more shopping carts with cars. Let him grab a small cart and walk towards the other entrance to check if there’s a car cart there. Try to direct Danny’s cart. Danny is mad that I would dare touch his cart. Stop at the pharmacy to get a prescription. Continue to other entrance still praying there’s a car cart – there isn’t. Boo. Go through the store with Danny with a little shopping cart and me with a big one. Feel like a broken record. “Danny, stay near me. Watch out for other people. No we’re turning down this aisle.” Have lots of coupons and random items on the list. Takes longer than usual. Heading towards checkout and realize it’s after 6:30pm and we haven’t had dinner yet. Grab a rotisserie chicken for dinner. Checkout. Danny keeps trying to go through cashier’s station. Find out he wants stickers. He gets some. Puts one right on the top of my leg. Decide not to fight it.
Out to the parking lot. More pleas for Danny to stay near me. Put all the groceries in the car. Danny still has his cart and is spinning in circles, just to give me a panic attack. Get groceries into car – probably have smashed things that don’t want to be smashed but mostly want to get finished so Danny isn’t in the parking lot anymore. Remember there are plastic bags in the trunk. Take them back to the store when we return the carts – win! Out to the car again. Danny fights over buckles again. Drive home.
It’s after 7pm. Send Sam to get ready for bed. Bring groceries in. Try to get perishables put away before dinner. Maeli is hungry. Sit down to feed her. Turn dinner prep over to Eric. Eric finds missed perishables – doh! Maeli’s done eating. Eat food quickly while she swings. Finish just before she starts to be mad. Hold her while continuing to referee boys. Eric has an important business call. Trying to keep the boys volume down while holding Maeli and trying to get them to finish their food. Eric retreats from his downstairs office up to the master bedroom – we failed. Boys finish eating.
Sam gets a story for bedtime. Read it to the kids while Maeli is angry at me. Finish the story. Danny wants another. Send him up to pick one out. Try to make Maeli happier. Realize Danny’s been gone for awhile and that Eric is still upstairs on his call. Dash upstairs. Find Eric reading the story to Danny. Danny came in just as Eric’s call finished – phew. Time for scriptures. Sam reads 3 verses on his own – his reading is getting pretty impressive! Read the rest of the chapter aloud. Eric has put Maeli to sleep – hooray! It’s Danny’s turn to pray. Debate with him about whether he’s praying or not. Danny finally prays… or something. Prayer involves lots of random stories about imaginary friends. Decide to go with it and just say amen.
Time for Sam’s pre-bed game. Sam plays one level with Eric and then up to bed. Go lay down with him. He wants to play a couple levels with me. Start the levels. After the first level Danny comes in, throws lightswitch rave. Finally disable wall switch by pulling cord on the light from the fan. Take that Danny. Boys get rowdy. Threaten remove Danny. Boys settle down and snuggle for 8 seconds. Danny is getting rowdy again. Take him downstairs much to the dismay of both boys. Eric’s turn to snuggle Sam. Danny follows with promises of piety. They finish snuggling. Danny comes downstairs with Eric.
Maeli’s mad again. Give Danny the option of snuggling with Mom or Dad while watching Olympics – Dad is chosen. Strap Maeli into BabyBjorn – still mad. Take her out. Change her diaper – it’s slightly wet. Feed her a little more. Back into the BabyBjorn. Still mad, but less so. Watch Olympics for about 30 minutes. Eric decides it’s time for him to go to bed. Eric takes Danny up to bed with him. Watch some Men’s Figure Skating. Maeli asleep-ish. Eat a snack. Write this post. Time to collapse into bed.
I’m sure that sounds super negative, it really wasn’t a terrible day. I got lots done! I went to the doctor’s, made some returns that have been hanging over my head for a long time, filed our taxes, made a huge grocery run, got our meal plans figured out for the next week and wrote in my blog! And all that on top of my normal basic tasks – getting kids to school, feeding everyone, getting kids to bed. Honestly, it was a pretty successful day. But I’m definitely tired, tomorrow will be much less ambitious for sure 🙂 So, that’s sorta what it’s like to have 3 kids.
Today is Mother’s Day and across the world Primary children will be getting up in sacrament meeting to sing a song to their mother’s in honor of the day. In our family we have a joke about my mom’s least favorite Mother’s Day Primary Song – Mother, I Love You. If you’ve never heard this song performed by a chorus of primary children you may not understand why she has such a loathing for this song – the lyrics are really sweet and who wouldn’t love ANY song sung by their children to them on Mother’s Day?! But something about the timing of the song, and the opening few measures, the sound is reminiscent of a whining child who is slowly plodding through and fighting doing their morning chores. While that may be an appropriate depiction of motherhood, it’s hardly the one most desired for remembrance on Mother’s Day.
Fortunately in our ward this year they’ve chosen a different song to honor mothers. This will be my first Mother’s Day when I will actually have a child old enough to sing with the Primary children for Mother’s Day, and I’m stoked! When I first heard the song choice, while I was relieved it wasn’t the aforementioned song, I was a bit confused. The song that our music director had chosen is Love is Spoken Here, and while it’s a beautiful song, it had never struck me as a particularly Mother’s Day-y song. However as I listened to our primary kids sing it, tears welled up in my eyes as it made me think of my own mother. For those of you who don’t know this song the words to the first verse are below –
I see my mother kneeling with our family each day
I hear the words she whispers as she bows her head to pray
Her plea to the Father quiets all my fears
And I am thankful, love is spoken here.
I wish I had a digital picture I could post, but I have a very vivid picture in my own mind of my mother kneeling by her bed daily in prayer. It’s probably one of the most recurring and constant memories of my growing up years to see her there. Almost daily I would walk into her room to ask her where my homework was, or what we were having for dinner or to come kill a spider in my room – and there she was in silent prayer at the side of her bed. I know that my mom has a very close prayerful relationship with our Heavenly Father.
As I heard the words “Her plea to the Father quiets all my fears” I thought that even though I no longer live with my mom and don’t have that visual reminder, I know that she is still there by her bedside and praying for me. I thought of some of the things I am facing right now that are a little bit daunting. When I thought about it, I knew that my mom is praying for me to be able to get through the trials I have before me, and I truly did suddenly have all my fears quieted. Whatever I may have to face, I know that my mom is there, pleading on my behalf with the Lord. What a wonderful feeling of peace that gives me.
The last line doesn’t quite seem like it goes with the rest of the song. The song is tells a story of prayer, but then at the end the author says they are thankful that love is spoken in their home. The word love isn’t even mentioned in the song before that. However, I think that’s a powerful message right there. Even without saying the words “I love you” to her child, the mother in this song has communicated love more effectively than any words could. My mother spoke her love for us with actions as much as with words. How could I doubt that my mother loved me when she spent her time talking to the Lord to know how best to raise me and love me and do all that was best for me? I think the message of the song is that the best kind of love comes through teaming up with the Lord to provide the best care possible for your children.
I feel so very blessed to have the wonderful mother that I do. Her example of prayer and faith has been a beacon to me throughout my life, and will continue to be so into the future. I love you so much Mommy, and I hope that I can be as good of an example of faith and love to my children as you have been to me.
For Christmas this last year my family went back to my parents’ place to celebrate the holiday with my family. We were there for the Sunday before Christmas and got to listen to the bishop give a few thoughts on the holiday. He told a story of his family from when he was a young father. It was getting close to Easter and he and his wife had decided to read through the scriptures about the days leading up to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion with their children in preparation for the holiday. On the night they were ready to read the last part of the story, where Christ is crucified, his wife had to work that evening and he was trying to wrangle the kids while reading these scriptures to them. As he was getting to the part about the crucifixion he looked up and saw that his oldest daughter, who was only about 5, was crying. He asked what was wrong, thinking that probably she’d been hit by a sibling or something of that nature. She responded, “Daddy, why did they kill Jesus?” The father paused for a moment trying to come up with the right answer that a young child would understand. He thought about the political situation in Jerusalem at the time and couldn’t figure out how to explain this in terms his daughter would understand. Finally he turned back to his daughter and asked, “What do you think?” She responded, “They must not have known how much He loved them.”
Some of you may already know that the bishop in my parents home ward, is my dad. The little girl in this story was me. Although I didn’t know this story when my dad told it, the question is one I have pondered apparently for more years than I realized. How could anyone kill our Savior? I still believe that the only real explanation is that they must not have known how much He loved them. Somehow they missed the fact that this man had suffered for every pain, sin and sorrow that these people would endure only hours before they took Him, beat Him and nailed Him to a cross. If they could have comprehended, even to the smallest degree, how deeply and personally He loved them they couldn’t have done what they did. And yet Christ’s attitude as they gathered around Him to mock Him was “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” What perfect love He has for each of us. In a situation that would make any reasonable person say “Seriously?! I did all this for you, and this is the thanks I get?” He turns and says, “Look, they don’t get it. It’s sitting right in front of their faces and they just don’t get it. Please don’t hold them accountable for this.” Furthermore, Christ, being the only one who could tell the Father who to forgive, as the One who had taken all sins upon Himself, rather than making a simple request He tells Heavenly Father – forgive them. While they were yet in the act of killing Him, he frankly forgave them.
Last night I was putting Sam to bed and as we were discussing his behavior that day he started to throw a huge fit about the privileges he would be losing as a result of the things he had done. As I was sitting there I was just begging him inside, “Don’t you get it? I want so desperately for you to be happy. I helped make that little body you’re flinging around. Your father and I spend our waking hours working to provide you with food, shelter, clothing, activities, education, and love. I would love to give you everything I can so you can grow up to be happy and healthy. I wouldn’t even give you these rules and expectations if it weren’t truly for your own happiness.” Afterwards I thought, is this how Christ looks at us? Trying to tell us, “Look, everything I have done I have done for you. I’ve created this earth, and helped create you. I want you to have all that I have. I’ve put everything in front of you, all you have to do is keep these few commandments, be kind to each other, learn to be righteous, and it can all be yours.” Does He look down at us refusing to follow His plan and just shake His head and think “Don’t you get it? You’re pounding your head against a wall and causing your own unhappiness. Please, let go of these things and follow me and be happy.”
So today I want to challenge each of us, to get it. Do you realize how much your Savior loves you? Does that love guide your actions? And then I want to further challenge – have you shared this love with those around you? Are there those around you who are kept apart from a relationship with Christ and His love only because we haven’t shared it with them? I wonder, if more people understood the love of their Savior would we have the violence and hatred and wars that plague our world today? We read in 3 Nephi about the people who live in absolute peace for 300 years. While this peace lasts for less than a page of the 500+ page book, the period of time it describes is about a quarter of the time period of the whole record. Could it be that once the people had met Christ and understood fully how He loved them that nothing else was as important? All the petty strifes of life fell away and they cared about each other better and lived happily and in peace.
I want to bear my testimony, that I know that our Savior loves each of us, deeply, and personally. His greatest desire is for our happiness and we can achieve that happiness by following His commandments. Please, if you haven’t felt the love of our Savior pray to feel it, ask for the opportunity to catch a glimpse of that love and hold on to it tightly. I know that the gospel that He taught is true and if you live it you will be happy.