This is the name of a super cute and simple game that my husband made up to play with my daughter when she had just turned two. It’s great for developing her visual skills, imagination, and fluency with colors. She’s able to get a lot of practice making deductions as well as using words to describe things. Most importantly, it’s fun, easy, and lends to lots of sweet cuddle time!
Here are the materials you need: stuffed animals. If you’re like us, you have dozens of them piled up somewhere. Some of them may be out in the living room for a picnic, while others are sleeping in the cardboard house that Papa built, but right now most of them are having a big sleepover in the guest bedroom. Our girl likes to snuggle up in the middle of them and play this game.
Here’s how it works. Ben goes out of the room and finds a stuffed animal somewhere in the house while she waits in the room. He spots the panda sitting on the couch, picks it up, and comes back to the room hiding it behind his back, and says, “I have a friend who…”
Her eyes light up in anticipation.
“…is black and white!”
“The dog!” she guesses.
“He’s black and white and this small!” he says, gesturing as well as he can with one hand.
“…Zebra!” she tries.
“He’s black and white, this small, and eats bamboo!” he says, sneaking in a fun fact he taught her recently.
“PANDA!” she cries.
“Yeahhhh!! Panda’s here!” he cries, tossing the little panda to her. Then he goes out and finds another friend and repeats.
Easy, right? It’s a fun and brain-stimulating activity that helps tidy up the house to boot! You’d be surprised how many rounds of this your child will enjoy. Once they get the hang of it, you can change roles and have them be the one to “find a friend” and give you hints! That’s a whole different set of great skills for your child to practice! Bonus: You can be the one patiently waiting on the couch while they scurry around the house picking up stuffed animals. Sounds like a GREAT plan to me! 😉
I recently got to spend some quality time with a couple of my best friends. Moms only. It was great. We talked about our kids, our jobs, our marriages, and our personal triumphs and struggles. The hours felt like minutes.
It’s not easy to develop friendships like this. As Angela described it, it’s easy to make “small talk” and remark on the weather and current events. Most people are comfortable moving on to “shop talk,” sharing about personal and common interests. It’s less common for conversations to progress to “self talk,” where you cover more personal things. Even more rare are the conversations that reach a deep level of “soul talk,” where you get into the nitty gritty of what’s going on in your heart and soul- the beautiful and also the unspeakable things.
She had heard about this progression of conversation at a seminar she attended at her church, The River. They had this fantastic seminar where they basically taught church members how to love better. Part of that is living in community and sharing life together. Real life, past the small talk.
That’s the kind of community I want to live in. Not one where we just talk about the weather and the news, but one where we can really be honest about who we are, be confident that we are loved despite everything, and be encouraged to be better. But it’s not always that easy, even for me. It’s not like you can just decide you want to go deep and it happens. So how on earth do you get past that and actually talk about matters of the soul? I think the full answer includes a lot of things, like spending time together, building a community of trust, and innumerable factors that range from personal history to the current state of your heart and your own willingness to expose it to others.
But here is something real and practical that may help: a list of questions. As part of the seminar, staff at the church had developed a list of questions designed to help move conversations from personal talk into soul talk. I wish I could share more about how to build a community of trust and love that ultimately ushers everyone towards God, but I’m no expert. Instead, I will share with you this list of questions that hopefully can us deepen our conversations and ultimately love each other better.
If someone shares a personal life experience with you, these questions will help them go deeper to examine their heart and also see how God has worked or is working.
Moving from SELF TALK to SOUL TALK:
I thought about giving examples of how these questions can affect a conversation, but I think it’d be better for you to try it and see for yourself! If you are in a community of believers and are hoping to take your conversations to the next level, considering using these questions to spur one another on!
This is a delicious Swiss chard recipe: soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, pine nuts, butter. Yum. The toddler GOBBLES it up. Husband likes it. I love it. Now I can finally add something fancy sounding like Swiss chard to my cooking repertoire, and by golly rainbow chard is GORGEOUS on a white plate. Even on a wok, don’t you think?
I like this recipe because it uses up the whole thing- leaves and stem. Not that I’ve ever cooked it any other way, but the author’s blurb seemed to imply that people usually don’t eat the stem. Well, it’s super tasty and adds great texture to this dish, so hooray for using all the parts!
First, you tear up the leaves and chop up the stems. Then you toast the pine nuts (she does it in her pan, I do it in the toaster oven while stir-frying), stir-fry the stems and garlic, then add the leaves, stir in the sauce, butter, top with pine nuts, and YUM. So delicious!
If you’ve never tried Swiss chard, I think this is a truly delicious vegetable dish you will want to make again and again!
I have a problem. A photo problem. A way-too-many-photos-of-my-kids problem.
It’s seriously overwhelming. First world problem, yes. But still something I have to figure out. Because what am I supposed to DO with all these pictures? Family photo book? Yes. I do that already. I usually make one around the end of each year, but this year, I fell way behind. I’ve always been a crammer, but even I wasn’t able to find the hours to sort through the 10,500 photos from 2015 and turn them into a book.
I’ve totally considered paying someone else to do this for me, but really, it’s a job only I can do. No one else can look through my pictures and say, “Oh yes, this moment was a special one. I mean, it may look like she’s just sleeping but actually it was her FIRST NIGHT in her new room! TEARS. SUCH A BIG TRANSITION. It definitely deserves a spot in the yearbook!”
I also considered letting Shutterfly take my selected photos and make the book for me, but… the way they spread their pages, I’m pretty sure it would come out to about 1,000 pages and cost at least as much. Plus, it’s filtering through and selecting photos that takes the longest time. It’s trying to figure out which pictures make the cut and which ones will likely be forgotten forever, because let’s be honest: there is no way I’m going to go through every folder and image from every year… ever. Even when I’m old. I’ll be glad if anyone even takes the time to look at the dozens of photo books we’ll have lying around by that time.
But I want the pictures to be looked at and the memories to be remembered, because one thing motherhood has done very effectively is show me just how human I am and how awful my memory can be. When I look back at photos from just one year ago, I already have moments of, “Huh- I totally don’t remember this!” and “OH MY GOSH THIS IS SO CUTE DID IT REALLY HAPPEN??” and “THANK YOU, JoEllen of yore, for not deleting these photos. Because you were right- those 10 pictures (all taken in the same second) ARE each unique and precious and save-worthy! I LOVE IT.”
I know. I have a problem.
But I jussst might have found a solution.
It’s been a full weekend. It started out with roaring laughter late into the night (morning?) with some of my favorite people, and continued with a family brunch and then a baby shower with some old friends. I’m exhausted and my eyes are burning, but baby shower season (is there such a thing??) is upon us and I really wanted to share this simple but fun baby shower activity that I came up with! Make a game of Memory!
Traditionally, baby showers mean games of baby bingo, smelling “poopy” diapers (actually baby food), or decorating onesies. All cute and fun, but sometimes it’s also nice to just sit around and catch up with friends while coloring some flowers in a collaborative ABC book for baby. I love the idea of making something that the family or baby will actually use and enjoy in the years to come, and I recently came up with a new baby shower activity that I think you’ll love!
The guests of the party get to craft and make a matching pair of tiles for the family to play the game of Memory with! You know, the game where you get to flip over two tiles, see if they match, and keep them if they do.
My friend Christina shared this post on Facebook a couple weeks ago about terminally ill patients living out their final wishes. It’s like the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes for sick children, but for older patients.
It’s one of those pieces that gently shakes you up and makes all the silly, petty things disappear for a moment and puts the real, important things in perspective. What kind of things do older people wish for after they have lived for decades and can have one final experience?
To visit the zoo.
To sit in the sun and wind and smell the water.
To enjoy a delicious ice cream cone.
These are all things I literally have on the schedule for this week. Not even kidding. And while I’m generally looking forward to them, it makes my heart feel all sorts of melty, squishy, sad and happy to think that any one of these simple pleasures could be The One Moment I wish I could return to in 50 years.
I’ve heard myself talking about this book so much in the last two months that it’s time I talked about it with you. It’s called You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis Chan:
There are plenty of great reviews of the book online, so I’ll let you peruse those here. A major theme in the reviews is that this is not a typical book full of advice to improve your marriage. It’s a book about getting your perspective on life and focus on God straight. A byproduct of that is an improved marriage. For example, if you really lived life with eternity in mind, you probably wouldn’t get as caught up in the petty, selfish details that can run rampant in a marriage.
Really, he says it A LOT better. Because he’s Francis. It’s in the intro. I recommend reading at least that much!
Instead of a general review, I want to talk about one point in particular that stuck with me: humility. As a Christian, I try to be like Jesus. I try to think and do and love like He does. I fail all the time. I mean, Jesus was everything good (and nothing bad). The expectation isn’t that I’ll ever be 100% like Jesus, but that I keep trying. Still, it’s overwhelming. Where do you even start in an effort to love perfectly? In chapter 3, Francis says:
Both Lisa and I believe that more than any other attribute of Jesus, His humility is the key to a healthy marriage. If two people make it their goal to imitate the humility of Christ, everything else will take care of itself. It really is that simple. Arguments escalate when we want to be right more than we want to be Christ. It is easy to get blinded in the heat of disagreements. Soon, all we want is to win, even if victory requires sin. The one who wins the argument is usually the one who acts less like Christ.
There is a long line of blue tape that runs across our living room. It looks like a very, very long “I.” It’s only been there for a few days, and I’m already forgetting that it’s a weird look in a house. Blue tape? Across the floor? What’s so weird about that? Doesn’t everybody have a pretend balance beam running across their rug and wooden floor?
Well, as long as it makes sense to my toddler, it’s all good. It’s there because when I started taking her to gymnastics class a few weeks ago, I realized she had some room to improve when it came to things like… walking straight haha. So I set down a blue line and did exercises with her every day, and the following week, she showed tremendous improvement in class! Bonus, it got her as good and tired as a good romp around a playground would have done… without stepping foot outside of the house! This is always a win when you’re holing yourself up at home for the afternoon so the baby can get a good nap in!
Here are some of the exercises we’ve been practicing. If you’ve got a toddler in the house, try ’em out! You can use an existing straight line that goes across the kitchen or put some blue tape down to make it feel official. It’s amazing how many activities you can build around a straight line!
Did she just say what I thought she did?
I heaped more broccoli on her plate and she went for it.
A couple minutes later, again: “More bwooooccoli peeease!”
Husband and I exchanged a glance. Just earlier, she saw the dinner spread and had spontaneously made up a song about spaghetti and meatballs on the spot. Now, five minutes into dinner, she still hadn’t touched her spaghetti and meatballs. She was just eating more broccoli!
“Ben, I feel like I just earned a mom badge of some sort.”
The My-Kid-Asked-for-More-Vegetables one, I think. AKA the “More broccoli please!” badge:
I’ve served broccoli and cauliflower this style several times, and she always eats it up. But when she kept asking for more today, I knew I had to share the magic with you! The whole family loves enjoying broccoli and cauliflower this way. I’ve even made the sauce without the ginger and orange juice, and it was still quite good (but better with!). It’s perfect for a meal where you’re going to get your hands on your food anyway, and I’m pretty sure dipping sauces are one of the best kept secrets to getting toddlers to eat anything!
Try it out, and if your toddler asks for more broccoli at dinner, be sure to leave a comment here so I can send you a personalized .png badge ;).
“Can we talk about this tomorrow?” he’d say, not even lifting his head off his pillow to face me.
“…Sure,” I’d say, dejected as I flopped my face away from him.
“You really want to talk about this now?”
“It’s fine. Let’s talk.”
I hear him turn his head slightly.
“No. I don’t want to. Night.”
“Are you sure?”
OF COURSE NOT! But I’m not going to be all needy now. Humph.
“Yes. Good night.”
He snores. I simmer and sigh and feel my “love tank” approaching empty.
Well, it’s not like he cares. He’s sleeping.
It’s a lie, I know, but when it’s late at night, those are easy for me to dwell on. This is probably because late at night is not really the best time for anything except sleeping, even for night owls like me.