Covering Our Nutritional Needs with Green Smoothies

If you are anything like our family, it is rather challenging to get my little ones to eat any vegetables. So we mash and puree soups and some casseroles at the request of my little girl just so the evidence of their existence has disappeared. Salads are another challenging task unless they are nicely sweetened with a raisins and apples. Green smoothies has been my solution for a long time to help supplement their diet and ours as well.

Green smoothies are very nutritious because they are easy to digest, are a complete food because the contain the fiber (as opposed to juices), are enjoyable for all ages and optimal for human consumption (with a recommended 60:40 ratio of fruits to greens), and so easy to make. (Ten Health Benefits of Green Smoothies)

Here are a few tips I have learned in the journey of creating delicious smoothies backed with lots of greens and fruits:

Limit the Ingredients

When I originally started on this quest of creating green smoothies, I tried to stuff everything imaginable in them – multiple fruits, greens, and nutritional herbal powders. Some smoothies would turn out descent, but others were downright gross. I was just trying to get the most nutrition out of one smoothie! I recently discovered that the key to a green smoothie is limiting your ingredients to 3-5 items. Why? “This makes the absorption and digestive process easier on your body and to derive the maximum amount of nutrients from the ingredients you do add.” (Green Smoothie Guide).

Find A Good Base 

Some of the best base liquids to use in green smoothies, include yogurt, coconut milk, kombucha or orange juice. I keep all of these liquids on hand to create a variety of smoothies and they add simply delicious flavors and added nutrition with priobiotics and protein from yogurt, healthy fats from coconut milk, and fermented benefits with kombucha. I like to add a bit of orange juice concentrate to most of my smoothies for a touch of added sweetness and flavor. Also, you will always want to keep bananas on hand. I add a ripe banana or two to every smoothie for smooth texture and wonderful sweet flavor. Avacado makes another good base for a similar end result.

Eat Your Smoothies as a Snack

I’ve also learned the importance of eating your green smoothies as a snack as opposed to part of a meal. It is recommended to eat other foods in a 40-60 minute window before or after eating your smoothie to give your body adequate time to consume the maximum nutrients from the smoothie. So a green smoothie makes the perfect afternoon pick me up before dinner time!

Rotate Your Greens

In order for your body to get the most value from your green smoothies, it is valuable to rotate your greens. Celery, spinach, romaine make good choices to rotate through. I have also found that an organic spring salad mix is an awesome option because there are multiple different greens in one mixture including baby leaves of red and green romaine and oak leaf lettuces, lollo rosa and tango lettuces, red and green chard, mizuna, arugula, frisée and radicchio. I buy the 1 lb packages of organic salad mixes (example pictured at right) that are stored in the plastic container and these greens really last in this packaging. Yes, not ideal in plastic. But something about the process of being pre-washed, dried, and packed in this container keep the greens fresh and extend their life incredibly so. I buy 2-3 of these bins each month and they last me at least through the entire month. This is our main green choice but I also love getting celery in there as well. I’m not sure if I’m officially following the rotation of greens idea with this mix…but it works for us and we are getting a good variety!

Here are some of the combinations we like best. Have fun and be creative!

Banana + salad mix (I like to stuff my blender full!) + 2 oranges + 1 can coconut milk + 1 Tbsp concentrate = creamy orange julius!

Banana + salad mix + 1 cup raspberries + 1 cup blueberries + 1 cup of grape juice = berry delicious!

Banana + 1 apple + 3-4 stalks celery + orange juice concentrate + water/kombucha = light apple kick!

Banana + frozen mango/pineapple + lots of greens + orange juice concentrate & water/kombucha = citrus bliss!

Banana + salad mix + strawberries + orange juice = strawberry banana delight!

Looking for some more recipes to get you started? 

Check out these free guides:

The Green Smoothie Guide (download from the sidebar of Raw Smoothie Recipes)
Fruit & Green Smoothie Recipes
Green Smoothie Web App – tons of recipes with the ability to search by ingredient! They also offer an iPhone app for $1.99.

Photo Credit - I didn’t have my own picture to share…but this Blendtec photo looks incredibly similar to our daily concoctions! We use a Blendtec at our home on a daily basis if not multiple times a day and we love it!

Comments { 51 }

The Hidden Power of Family Prayer

By monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan of Harvest Ministry

Do you sometimes feel inadequate in prayer? Do you often struggle with praying together with your spouse or children? Do you perhaps wonder, since it’s so difficult, if praying together is even worth it?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are a PERFECT candidate (for one reason and one reason only) to pray effectively with your family:

You can rely totally on the Cross of Jesus Christ!

If you are a Christian, you have likely heard how important is is to pray together as a husband and wife, or together as family unit . . . but have you often wondered why this is often so difficult and humbling? Or maybe you’ve honestly wondered if your prayers, and the simple prayers of your far-from-perfect family, can really make a difference?

It’s actually that very gut-level of honesty within a family, and our knowledge of each others’ inadequacies, that makes praying together so powerful.

You can’t be fake when praying with your family; you have to rely on God’s forgiveness and His righteousness through the Cross of Jesus Christ.


Praying Together as a Christian Family

If we could comprehend, deep in our spirits, the true power of prayer, we would all pray more–and the difference would radically impact our lives and the lives of those around us.

James 5:16 tells us, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

We want our prayers to be effective, but what does it mean to stand “righteous” before God? It’s totally standing and relying on Jesus Christ and HIS righteousness, not coming to God based on our own “good works” or efforts!

As a family, we’re very aware of our differences and our faults. We’ve all sinned, and we need to acknowledge that no one of earth can stand blameless before our perfect, holy, and awesome God. No matter how good we try to be, our own works are nothing but filthy rags in His sight (see Isaiah 64:6). To pray effectively as a family, we need to grasp the importance of the “fear of the Lord.”

We need to realize how powerful and mighty He is.

Our Self-efforts are like Filthy Rags . . .

Teach Your Kids about Prayer with Filthy Rags:
The next time you come across an extremely dirty rag in your house, use it an opportunity to share an important lesson with your kids. We may think our own self-efforts help us earn “Brownie points” with God. But, to Him, our human works are as worthless as stinky rags. If we try to earn favor with God–instead of trusting in Jesus–it’s like collecting yucky rags. The more they pile up, the more they stink and mildew.

But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.

Isaiah 64:6

 3 more family prayer ideas:

Take a Prayer-Walk:
As you walk around your neighborhood, take time to quietly praying for each neighbor, and seek God for ideas on how your family can be a light for Jesus.

Make a Poster:
Have your children make a “Ten Most Wanted” list or poster. Have them think of ten people who need Jesus. These can be relatives, neighbors, famous people, or the man who works at the convenience store. Use this list or poster to remind you to pray for these people to come to know the Lord.

Use a Map:
Put a small world map on your refrigerator, and use this area to display newsletters from missionaries you support, along with current international news updates. Pray regularly as a family, perhaps around the dinner table, for specific world needs and for people you know who need the Lord.

The power of family prayer is relying on Christ’s righteousness!

In prayer, each of us must come to God in an attitude of total surrender and humility, keeping our hearts clean and open before Him. Through the cleansing sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, every mom and dad, and boy and girl, can pray as a “righteous man” before God. Because of Christ’s forgiveness and righteousness, even your family can come before God with boldness and authority to effectively intercede on behalf of others.


So, what do YOU think about family prayer?

Is praying together as a family (as a husband and wife, or with your kids) a spiritual priority in your family? Has praying together been a delight . . . or a struggle and a challenge . . . and can you share any specific reasons why? Have you had any specific moments of encouragement  (or a key or idea that has helped YOUR FAMILY to pray together with more effectiveness)? Or do you have a story, or a “testimony,” of a time when a specific family prayer was answered?

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts . . .

Comments { 38 }

Take Time to Live Intentionally

Over the last month I have become lethargic. This season has been full with my husband launching a new business, with periods of insomnia and multiple sicknesses. I have been in survival mode. I have stopped doing any planning, journaling, or seeking to simply evaluate where I am going. Aimless walking is the feeling stirring in my soul. I felt lost. I’m running haphazardly. I am thankful for the grace that God supplies for these seasons, but also for the grace he provides to guide me out of the forest again and onto the straight and narrow path before me.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. (Psalms 90:12)”

My time is certainly limited with my calling to nurture my three little ones, but I want to make each moment count. This life is precious and short. I want to be faithful with the gifts God has given me to be used to impart life in my home and extending out from my doorstep. I want to bring life to every relationship entrusted to my care – my husband, children, and the brothers and sisters and needy around me. Investing intentionally in my relationships is what I am called to do. I want to live for Jesus. And we have a faithful guide, the Holy Spirit, who promises to walk before us. Through prayer, He directs us as to the most effective use of our time. He is faithful to inspire us.

I want to balance my time so my family gets the meat and not the scraps of my time and energy. I want to take simple practical steps to build up, encourage, and strengthen these relationships. How can I spend quality time with each of my little ones? How can I encourage my hubby? I’m not trying to take on a boatload of projects…I’m just praying weekly about one way to bless each of these precious lives. One simple action. One doable act. I am certainly not limited to one…but I feel a greater chance of accomplishing any if I start with one and then let the juices flow to inspire more.

I want to think each day how I can bless another today. An email of love to my hubby. Getting down and dirty with my kids. A simple text message with a verse or word of encouragement to a friend just to let her know she is in my thoughts. A small handwritten card with truth to inspire a weary soul. A simple pot of soup to nourish a needy family. A bouquet of flowers from my garden to bless a sister. I want to write words of truth.

We need focused time…It might be a weekly planning retreat or just an hour or two before the week begins on a Sunday evening to think, pray, and plan. Designate a specific time when you could intentionally plan for your week.

Taking a few minutes on a daily or weekly basis can redeem many a wasted hour. You may not get to every dream on your list, but that’s okay. We are not striving for perfection, but God glorifying intentionality in the grace that He supplies. This last week I took a chunk of time on a Friday afternoon to sit down and just prayerfully think. The results?

This week has been filled with sweet intentional moments…visiting a dear friend in the hospital while her son goes through surgery, taking a walk one-on-one with my little guy and talking about trucks and wind in the trees, surprising hubby with his favorite treats, planting flowers in the garden with my kiddos, acting out “The Wheels on the Bus” around the yard, and reading books in the front yard enjoying a beautiful sunny day. Scattering God’s love to those entrusted to my care. It does not have to be extravagant. It just needs a little love. I want to savor each moment that I have been given and live it to its fullest. I feel blessed to be His hands and feet and I just can’t stop…

Free printable: My Weekly Intentional Living Plan. 8 simple questions to evaluate at the start of each week in helping to grow in Christ-likeness and living a generous intentional life in each priority relationship in your life.

Here’s some further inspiration to get you started:
15 Little Ways to Bless Your Husband

12 Ways to Love Your Husband Without Saying A Word
Take the 30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge
Reaching Out to the World from Your Doorstep
100 Ways to be Kind to Your Child
100 Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids
100 Ways for Your Family to Make a Difference

My favorite quote that inspires me again and again in this call to be intentional in the short life I am living:

Only one life,
T’will soon be past.
Only what’s done
For Christ will last.

“So I keep stopping and loving one person at a time. Because this is my call as a Christian. I can do only what one woman can do, but I will do what I can. Daily, the Jesus who wrecked my life enables me to do so much more than I ever thought possible.” – Katie Davis, Kisses From Katie

Photo Credit

Comments { 31 }

Just Second Rate

She won every competition she entered…and I was always left with second prize. I strove so hard to prove that I was smart, but always fell just a little short. I was the tallest girl with the lanky skinny legs compared to a colt that wasn’t comfortable on my feet. I had a mad bush of curly, frizzy, untamable hair. I knew nothing about style or fashion or even how to apply some basic eyeliner or shadow. Did I mention I didn’t wear makeup till I was 18? I was kind of an outcast at extended family gatherings because I was homeschooled, shy, and modest. I didn’t flaunt it because I sure didn’t have it. Just second rate.

Comparison…self-identity….depression…insecurity….have been frequent struggles in my heart over the years. They have entangled me time and time again through a comment received, through the success of another, and through my own failure. God’s mercy has been paving the way for my deliverance through the only thing that can possibly bring change…and that is the gospel.

In my heart I have based my own security and happiness on the way that other people think of me. I had raised the approval of others to a place of idolatry in my heart. My feelings and emotions went up and down based upon the opinions of others. I had made the opinion of others my God-replacement and the results were continual sinking into despair.

I need the gospel for every struggle. I need to be reminded that the gospel is the only thing that can truly draw us out of our idolatry and provide us with the true freedom in Christ. “In Christ” I am fully accepted and approved because of Jesus’ work for me. No improvement, good behavior, or performance is necessary in order to experience the deep acceptance we long for and in fact strive for on a daily basis.

Colossians 1:12-14 says,The Father…has qualified you [past tense; it's finished] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us [past tense again; the deliverance is completed] from the domain of darkness and transferred us [past tense once more: the transferal is already concluded] to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have [present tense; this very moment we possess it] redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Dear sister, whatever your struggle, stop with me know and recognize that we serve a God who has paid the price for your freedom. Soak it in. Claim it as your own. We are free in Christ from the slavish demand to “become”. WE ALREADY ARE!

I love how Tullian shares it: “If you’re a Christian, here’s the good news: who you really are has nothing to do with you – how much you can accomplish, who you can become, your behavior (good or bad), your strengths, your weaknesses, your sordid past, your family background, your education, your looks, and so on. Your identity is firmly anchored in Christ’s accomplishment, not yours; his performance, not yours; his victory, not yours. Your identity is steadfastly established in his substitution, not in your sin. As my friend…recently said, ‘The gospel doesn’t just free you from what other people think about you; it frees you from what you think about yourself.’ You’re free!”

You are a unique jewel, my friend.

You are beautiful…just the way you are.

You are accepted.

Each quirk was fashioned by a glorious Father that designed it to add to your beauty.

Your vessel may be cracked…but each crack allows the beautiful light within you to shine more brightly.

Every fear and failure…He has overcome.

Can we just let go and embrace his love for us today?

And remember…all those worldly trophies, they just get dusty on the shelf or boxed up in the garage anyway.

Photo Credit

Comments { 42 }

Remembering the Gift of Marriage

Written by contributing writer, Daniele at Domestic Serenity.

I’m not sure exactly what possessed us to take on the project – usually engaged couples have lists to tackle, details to attend to.

We were no different. All the same, bypassing dozens – hundreds? – of possible wedding songs available, we decided a few short weeks before wedding day to write our own song :: music, words, the whole thing. See what I mean by possessed?

To our credit, we’re both musicians with a creative knack for words. Teaching wedding singers our latest invention, everything went beautifully without a hitch.

We titled the song “Gift from God”.


Marriage is a Gift

It’s fairly safe to say as Christian women, we understand marriage was designed by God to be a good thing, a gift. No one argues that point. Yet sometimes, the ‘all-we-ever-wanted’ grows into a cross we must grudgingly bear.

What’s happening to us? This gift we dreamt about and prayed for cannot become what we grow to despise. To pretend that all is roses is hypocrisy; the combining of two personalities, perspectives (not to mention our past) is tricky business and no, it doesn’t always go well. We can and should receive help in those seasons.

But, we can get into trouble when forgetting this principle of God’s: marriage is a gift. God’s perfect idea in our imperfect hands, but an incredible union still.

Our Husbands are a Gift

In a marriage conference once, the speaker asked each spouse to draw a line down a sheet of paper. On one side, we were to write five of our spouse’s weaknesses. I did as asked, assuming we’d write five of our own on the opposite side. There’s was a twist.

“Now, write five of the weaknesses you’d like them to have.”

What? Everyone was stumped, the speaker dove in and made his point. Our spouse has blind spots, personality quirks, annoyances and tendencies towards mistakes — they have weaknesses, they are human. Expecting they never display those is completely unrealistic!

And while we may wish they didn’t do ‘such-and-such’, it’s helpful to remember they are going to be weak in some area. I remember smiling and thinking it’s easier to stick with what I knew! But we are not without hope, we can design them by prayer :: asking the Holy Spirit to shape and mold their hearts, to encourage and uplift them (instead of trying to play Holy Spirit ourselves…ahem).

Even in his mistakes, my spouse is a gift from God.

We are a Gift Together

Here’s the meat of what I’d like to encourage today:

You + Your Spouse = Shaking the World for God

God didn’t just design marriage to be a lovey-dovey relationship where husband and wife are simply all into each other (though this is really nice, right?). He intended we also impact the world around us.

Why did He bring you two together? Two sets of gifts, of different talents and abilities, of various passions and ideas? To shake heaven and earth as one! To move mountains, to further His plan of redeeming a lost world, to expanded the kingdom of God together!

But, we get distracted – doubting God’s plan for our lives, questioning if He really means what He said. Satan takes advantage, filling our hearts with thoughts leading us to words, actions we know are wrong. It worked in the beginning, and that simple plan still stumps husbands and wives today.

It’s happened to me; it’s happened to you.

Again, we are not without hope. We can lift our eyes towards a greater vision and purpose instead of grumbling about him not picking up clothes or attacking the to-do list. Yes, the everyday matters…

..but the eternal matters so much more.


My husband and I recently celebrated 16 years since crazily writing out our wedding song. Humming our tune throughout anniversary day, I prayed for grace to remember this always:

Marriage is a gift, my husband is a gift – and together? We’re gonna shake this world for Christ’s name.

I believe the same for you.

{photo credits}

Comments { 14 }

Favorite Classic Children’s Books

Regina asked: I was wondering if you ever considered compiling a children’s reading resource list, putting together all of the children’s books you have or would recommend? It could include holiday themed books, faith building, educational, etc. I know that I would find it very helpful.

I have often heard it said that you can never have too many books. Books are such treasures to enjoy. But recently, the thought struck me that you certainly can have too many books, especially if you don’t read them. If you’re shelves are cluttered with tons of titles that are simply collecting dust, then maybe it is time to re-evaluate which ones really do deserve a place on your shelves. We recently did a serious purge with our children’s books. We wanted to keep the treasures and pass on the ones that were falling apart or never really interested the kids. If my children hadn’t grabbed for a title in who knows how long, we decided to say farewell. We currently keep just a small collection of 10-15 books in our living room, toy room, and the kids bedroom. And with a small collection the kids don’t get overwhelmed, and they actually get read and re-read!

I am one that prefers investing in the true classics that had stood the test of time and leave the others to be borrowed from our local library. We also like to buy books in collections, as they save space and money by combining multiple titles under one cover. So here are some of our favorite collections that are worth investing in:

The 20th Century Children’s Book Treasury - this compilation has over 44 classic stories that you’re kids will love in a hardcover book that will last!
Harper Collins Treasury of Picture Book Classics  - a smaller collection of 12 titles including Harold and the Purple Crayon, If You Give A Mouse a Cookie, Caps for Sale, and other fun treasures to enjoy.
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh - all these lovable humorous tales of Winnie the Pooh in one volume.
Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales
Eloise Wilkins Stories – I love these adorably illustrated stories of little ones helping mommy, enjoying God’s creation, and so much more!
Tony Mitton Amazing Machines Collection - this set includes 10 small books for that little boy that loves machines and anything that moves! I absolutely love this set of books that are written in rhyme with great information on how these vehicles work. We recently bought these for my 3 year old Titus and he is in love. I was struggling to find books that interested him until I stumbled on this great collection for such a great price!
Arnold Lobel’s books – My kids can’t get enough of Arnold Lobel’s fun books! We love the Frog & Toad Treasury, in addition to Mouse Soup, Mouse Tales, Owl at Home, and his Mother Goose collection.
Mike Mulligan and More: Four Stories by Virginia Lee Burton - the best of Mike Mulligan, The Little House, and more.
The Little Bear Treasury - Little Bear was one of my favorites as a child.
Dr Seuss Beginner Book Collection - the best lovable Dr. Seuss!
P D Eastman’s Big Blue Book of Beginner Books - a fun collection with Go, Dog, Go!, Put Me in the Zoo, and others.

I am sure there are many more that you could add to this list of the children’s classics, but these are the ones we have most greatly enjoyed and highly recommend!

Recommended Reading List:

Here are some of the recommended classic reading lists that we have found helpful when ordering books from the library. I usually choose 10 titles every 2-3 week period between library visits.

Early Years Read Alouds – this compilation of recommended reading by Charlotte Mason has been my source for finding books for my toddler this past year. Great titles!

1000 Good Book List – this list has been extremely helpful in finding the true classics, picture books and otherwise, to read with our children. We’ve read through nearly all the primary level reading list with my 4 year old this past year and found them very suitable and enjoyable for her level.

Sonlight Reading Lists - I also have found the recommended reading for the various curriculum cores from Sonlight to be a great source for ideas for good quality books. You don’t have to use their curriculum to enjoy the wealth of good books here! I use their lists for many of our educational pursuits.

Here are a few posts from the archives:

Favorite Christian Literature for Ages 0-8 - our favorite Christian titles for your little ones!
Recommended Children’s Books for Christmas - the favorites for the holidays!
Recommended Children’s Books for Easter  - at the bottom of this post you will find a list of book recommendations for Easter

Please note: There are affiliate links in this post which we only use to share products that we truly love and recommend for your family. We receive a small percentage of each sale made through our links which we use to help support an orphan home in India and other ministries. 

Comments { 14 }

Infant Routines at Our Home – Part 3

This is the final installment of a short series on infant routines. Read part 1 here, and part 2 here to catch up with us.

We Love Baby-wearing

Again, I love baby wearing. I love holding my baby close to my heart and snuggling and cuddling with them at moments throughout the day. I love the ability to be able to wear my baby’s but still have my hands free to do dishes, fold laundry, or various other household tasks. It is extremely valuable for their healthy physiological development and growth. Having contact with a parent, especially skin to skin contact is very beneficial to a baby and reduces the level of cortisol, the stress hormone.

But on the other side, I don’t wear my baby all day long. I believe it is important for baby to take most naps on their own in their own bed. But when we are out and about, at church or other events, baby will often take naps in the carrier. From an early age, I also would take along my pack-n-play to friends/family’s homes, so baby could learn how to sleep in different places and environments. This enabled us to have freedom to stay later if desired because baby could sleep nearby. But there have been numerous times when baby just wouldn’t go to sleep in his/her own bed, so I would carry them for the nap period. So there was grace to adapt as necessary even when there was confusion over baby’s needs.

Check out my review of my favorite baby wrap, for the newborn to 6 month range, the Moby Wrap carrier. Another favorite for the older infant and toddler is the Ergo Baby carrier. These are the two carriers we always have on hand. They are also wonderful to use when you are in crowded gatherings and a stroller would be too much work to maneuver, or when shopping with multiple children in tow and having your infant in a carrier gives you two hands free to hold other things.

Entertaining Themselves

I also value the importance of them learning how to entertain themselves, so from an early age, each of my children has short periods where they are laying on the ground with their own little toys and playing on their own. Since their infancy, they have always had alone time in this manner and my little ones now can entertain themselves sufficiently for much longer periods of time. We just recently assembled some fun sensory baskets for my 7 month old and she loves them. It’s so much fun to watch her touch and explore with basic household items.

Afternoon Nap Routine with Multiples

As the children grew, we would adjust the schedule so that the kids would nap at the same time. I found this essential so mommy has the option of taking a nap or spending some time to herself during rest periods. Sometimes this would require us to stretch a tired baby just a bit longer so they both could be laid down together. Often I would actually wake the baby early from their morning nap so they had sufficient awake time and were tired at the same time as the older child for an afternoon nap.

That being said, we plan on having our children nap until they are at least 5 years old, if not longer as needed (usually from 1-2:30 or 3pm each day). I believe they really need it to this period. My little girl will be a mess of tears for the rest of the day if she doesn’t have a short afternoon nap. If they ultimately do not sleep (which certainly happens at times), they can have a quiet rest time looking at books or listening to a book on tape. We have had our nearly 5 year old and 3 year old taking naps together until recently. We now have found taking rest times in separate areas of the house to be much more successful. The older kids go to sleep each night at 8:00 pm and sleep till their nite lite comes on at 8:00 am (granted they often wake up before this period, but we train them to not come out of their bedroom till 8am). These practices allow this Mommy to have a rest period in the afternoon and so focused Daddy time in the evenings. They thrive on this routine and it works very well for our family.

Sleeping Multiples in One Room

Now the question has been asked, “do you have any tips for getting multiple children to sleep well together in one room?” Ultimately, no. I have not found a secret formula for this. It certainly takes some work. We have found it helpful to use a electric fan in their bedroom to help mute any extra noise that may result from one or the other waking up in the middle of the night. We also cover the windows with a blanket to keep it dark to encourage longer sleep periods. Finally, we have found a good nighttime routine to be essential for helping them both wind down together.

Our nighttime routine includes going potty, brushing teeth, singing worship songs, and finally praying over both of them individually before giving hugs and goodnight kisses. Honestly, most nights one or both of them is up multiple times for random reasons and need resettling, but in the long run they do sleep surprisingly well together. and with the use of the Good Nite Lite and a little discipline to train them to stay in bed until the light comes on…I think it is not as scary and some would imagine.

We’d love to hear your tips and suggestions for helping little ones sleep together well…

Thus concludes our short series on what infant routines we practice at our house. We pray the Lord would give you wisdom for what method might be best for your family!

COMMENT POLICY: As this can be a controversial subject, please keep your comments considerate, otherwise they will be deleted. We do not desire any argument or debate here. We are simply seeking to help those readers who have asked.

Comments { 66 }

Infant Routines at Our Home – Part 2

This is part two of a short series on Infant Routines. To read part 1, visit here

As I mentioned in part 1, my desire with this series is simply to share how God has led us to most peacefully establish an infant routine at our home while keeping a balance in our priorities. We function on a flexible routine. We want to share thoughts and ideas but encourage you to prayerfully make the best decision for your family. This is grace for your family to adopt the routine that works best for you.

Schedule Sleep Periods around Other Priorities

We believe in having a simple flexible schedule for our family. We all thrive on routine and structure with my personality. I am more productive with a schedule. We have adopted the Eat, Wake, Sleep cycle. Baby wakes up, is fed, and then given a good wake time. They are laid down again as soon as they start getting fussy.

I found it most helpful to arrange my baby’s nap routines around what other priorities I had. I want to invest focused quality time with my older children in the morning doing fun reading and school activities together, so I try to arrange baby to take a morning nap during this time. I also want my kiddos to be able to nap/quiet rest together in the afternoon, because I believe taking a rest period is very beneficial for all of us. It helps keep this mommy energized and happy to have a daily period of rest to read, take a nap if necessary, and have some personal time. Having a daily rest keeps the kids happy as well. So we intentionally set a afternoon nap period each day. This also provides me to time to spend writing, doing small household tasks, etc. So we have a 2 hr rest period every afternoon and I seek to adjust my baby’s to encourage them to nap during these periods as well.

So, in general I try to aim to wake my baby by 8:00am each morning so that she is tired again by 9:30 or 10:00am and ready for a morning nap from 10-11:30 am. With a newborn, this period of wakefulness might only be 30 minutes and will gradually stretch longer, so the naps will start earlier when they are younger. Then, I would wake my baby up (if she didn’t wake up on her, which is more commonly the case), feed the baby, prepare lunch, and then get all the kids down for a nap together by 1:00pm. Usually I will give my baby an extra nursing before this nap to encourage a longer nap period.

As the baby transitions to one nap, I will adjust my older kids to have a nap period slightly earlier and just keep my infant awake to stretch them to lay down at the same period as the older ones.

Finally, we give them a short late afternoon nap (30-45 minutes) sometime between 4-5:30 pm.

In this manner, they are ready to be put down for the night around 7-8pm. We try to put the kids to bed all at the same time. Then I normally wake my baby up around 10 pm to give one final night feeding, change their diaper, and then put them back down again for the night. Between birth and 2-3 months, there will often be 1-2 more nightly feedings. But by 7-8 weeks old, they are usually doing 6-8 hour stretches at night. They normally wake up between 5-6am, and I will nurse them again and put them down again until 8 am, when the other children wake up. This allows Mommy to have time with the Lord or get further sleep as needed.

Of course this is not the same every night and my current baby still wakes occasionally wake in the middle of the night. If she does, I give her just a minute or two to see if she will fall back asleep. If not, I nurse her again and put her back down.

Watch for Signs of Tiredness

One of the keys I have found for peaceful transitions into nap periods, is to be attentive to signs of tiredness in your child. In the beginning, I would feed the baby roughly every 2 1/2-3 hours (which looked like and slowly stretched these periods over time as the baby grew. After a good thorough nursing (trying to keep the baby awake especially as a newborn), we would have a wake period where we would play, ride on mommy, etc. As soon as the baby showed signs of tiredness (crying, rubbing eyes, whimpering, eyes beginning to look red and heavy, etc.), we would lay baby down for a nap. From personal experience, it is far more difficult to put to sleep an overly tired baby. If I keep my baby up too late, it takes twice as long to get her down.

We Keep a Schedule, but Keep it Flexible

But I have been extremely flexible with our feeding routine, especially with each new baby we add. I keep a guideline of 2 1/2 – 3 hrs between feedings but was never limited to this or focused on the clock in any way. If baby appears to be hungry and all other needs are met (diaper changed, not tired, etc), then I feed baby. I don’t believe in enduring a crying baby just to get them to the next feeding time. I want to meet my child’s needs as they grow and develop. I also will often top her off with extra milk or a bottle as needed before her naps and especially before the final bedtime feeding around 7pm. I want to make sure her belly is completely full so she sleeps the most soundly and happily.

Every time baby is laid down for rest, we allow them 5-10 minutes to fuss or cry to wind themselves down as necessary. Normally, if you learn your child’s patterns and signs of sleepiness it is not really a problem. Watch for tired signs: rubbing eyes, crying, laying head down, sleepy eyes, etc. They will want to sleep. Their bodies adopt the rhythm of nap times as well. If after this 5-10 minute period, they do not go to sleep, I will check diaper, burp, or rock for a few minutes to help settle them and try again. If it again does not work, I might then top them off with additional breastmilk or simply nap them in a carrier. I never nurse them to sleep because it never works for us…the moment you put them down they wake back up. The key is to keep them awake so they are tired and ready to sleep when you lay them down. Keep them awake and get their belly really full.

Follow Your Motherly Intuition

So did this work perfectly? By no means. There were many times when baby had their own plan and try as I might, I couldn’t figure them out. I had to follow my motherly intuition. So we’ve had our share of patting them on the back to help them fall asleep, cuddling, placing them in a carrier to comfort and console them, etc. Many late afternoon naps (for some reason this one has been more of a common problem) have been abandoned and baby has taken a cat nap on mommy in the baby carrier while I made dinner preparations. I don’t strive for the perfect schedule, but did the best I could so that my other responsibilities could be addressed as well. Having a simple schedule enabled me to know when I could get my housecleaning done along with setting intervals for interaction with my other children. And ultimately, every baby will be a bit different and so there is grace to learn and adjust as you go along. No method will work perfectly. Give yourself grace to adapt and adjust as needed.

We are currently in a crazy season with my own personal health and my husband’s job position, so we often have days when we throw out the routine and just follow the cues for sleep periods. I’m thankful that God gives grace for such periods of our lives.

I wanted to conclude this part by sharing that as Christians we are free from fear through the blood of Jesus. God’s grace is abundant in helping lead you and your family in the direction that he would have you adopt in your choice of infant routines. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1). I want to encourage you above all, to submit yourselves to the Lord. Seek His direction, communicate and discuss with your spouse, and preserve the unity of the body of Christ. May God give you grace to loving nurture your children in the love and admonition of the Lord.

In Part 3 we will discuss encouraging longer sleep periods, and thoughts on sleeping multiples together…

COMMENT POLICY: As this can be a controversial subject, please keep your comments considerate, otherwise they will be deleted. We do not desire any argument or debate here. We are simply seeking to help those readers who have asked.

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Infant Routines at Our Home – Part 1

Addie asked: I was wondering where you fall on the baby wise-demand feeding continuum. What is your secret to finding a routine, but still following your intuition to hold them when they are upset? How do you care for your home, your children, and your health?

There are two different camps when it comes to infant routines and the basics of parenting, and both have led to confusion, frustration, and contention among friends and family. Some have defined the attachment approach to be the truly biblical manner of parenting because it demonstrates God’s love for his children with the practices of demand feeding, co-sleeping, infant wearing, etc. While others have said that adopting a schedule (the baby wise, scheduled feedings, cry-it out camp) is important to training your children to understand authority in their lives and good routine helps them thrive and grow while helping to establish that the child is not the center of the world. I don’t believe it is right to say one way is right and the other way is wrong…or that one way is more biblical than the other. This is certainly a liberty issue and we have freedom in Christ to determine the best pattern for our family structures. I am here today to share where the Lord has led us…a balance between the two

I have one wonderful mother who falls on the scheduling side, and one wonderful mother-in-law who falls on the attachment parenting/co-sleeping side, so both my husband and I have experienced being raised by these two different camps. And you know what? There honestly is no difference between us in our levels of security, strength of relationship with our parents, or any thing else. We both grew up fully secure in our parent’s love and both family’s were happy with the routines they adopted. Although I was taught to cry it out in learning how to go to sleep, I did not feel in any way deprived from my parent’s love and affection (in fact, I am extremely blessed with a close relationship with my parents).

I say this because I want to assure every new mother out there that there is complete grace for your situation to adopt what you feel led to practice. Don’t feel guilty if you chose a more flexible on demand approach. Don’t feel guilty if you throw in the towel on co-sleeping because its stressing your marriage, as there are plenty of more opportunities to invest in your child’s well-being, physiological development, and bonding then just sleeping together with them. Adopting either of these practices will not make you a better parent. And you need not feel like a failure if either/or does not work for your family.

I love many of the ideas of attachment parenting. I love the vision of bonding with baby by being closely knitted to them through breastfeeding. I adore wearing my baby on me throughout the day with baby wraps and carriers, and cuddling up with their sweet little heads close to my heart. But I don’t practice co-sleeping, and I don’t practice demand feeding 100% of the time.

I also love many of the ideas of Baby Wise and scheduling (my mom gave me a copy of My First 300 Babies which also helped encourage a scheduled feeding/sleeping approach). I love a good simple routine. I love knowing approximately when baby will sleep and when he/she will be awake. I love having a simple plan for our feedings, so that the other responsibilities in life would fall into place. This mommy believes in the importance of sleep so she can care for her family and household to the best of her abilities. My babies are joyful and happy when they have good regular nap and bed times.

But, I don’t believe these practices are more biblical or look down on anyone who chooses another option. We are called to strive for the unity of the body, to love one another, to support and encourage each other.

So what have we chosen to do? First off, we have chosen not to practice co-sleeping.

We function on these principles…

Our marriage is our first priority.

Above all, we want to preserve the marriage bed as a sacred place for my husband and I. We want our children to understand that our marriage is a priority. When children become center stage, it is too easy for a marriage to lack growth because no time is spent together. We believe our children need to understand that there are boundaries. We need privacy to build our marriage in our communication and sexual interaction. The last thing we need is the fear of waking a child.

“Children are not more important than God – or our husbands. For their own well-being and the well-being of your marriage, children must understand that they come after your spouse. They need to know they fit into a secure place within an established set of relationships.” -Jean Fleming

Sleep is a priority for my health and emotional/physical well-being.

I have experienced the harm of being sleep-deprived for extended periods of time when I battled insomnia for 1 1/2 years. In order to be a wife and mother that is alive and well and can effectively manage the responsibilities under my care, I need to strive to get a reasonable amount of sleep each night. Yes, it may be interrupted by little ones, but with a routine and separate bed situation, they are able to start sleeping through the night far earlier. I have also found that they sleep longer and more contentedly in their own sleeping environment. Our little ones have learned to sleep through the night naturally at 6-7 weeks in their own beds, which I am extremely thankful for.

Ultimately, in making the decision whether or not to co-sleep, please make sure you prayerfully discuss it with your husband to make sure you are on the same page. The last thing you would want to do is cause a divide in your marriage because he thinks otherwise. Remember to honor your husbands for the well being of your family.

Where Do Our Babies Sleep?

So, for about the first few week or so, baby will be snuggled in with us in bed as Mommy recovers, but will transition to a moses style bassinet by 2 weeks. We then have the baby nearby in our room with until they around about 2-3 months old (and normally sleeping through the night by this point). Then our babies sleep in our closet until they grow out of the bassinet and are consistently sleeping through the night (around 10 months to 1 year).  This way we have a bit more privacy, but I can easily hear if the baby awakes and needs assistance. By 1 year old, we transition them to a crib and place them together in the same room with our other children.

More to come…

COMMENT POLICY: As this can be a controversial subject, please keep your comments considerate. We do not desire any argument or debate here. We are simply seeking to help those readers who have asked.

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Raising Samuels

Eli helping Samuel to learn to hear God's voice

From Contributing Writer, Trina Holden

Learning to hear God’s voice is a life-long journey. I want to give my kids an early start by teaching them they can learn to listen while they’re young. Here’s how we’re cultivating a listening ear in our home…

Read the story of Samuel {A Lot!}

I want my son to understand that God really does talk to 5 year old boys! He’s had the concept quite cemented in his mind through the story of Samuel, which we’ve read over and over in every version of the Bible we have.

Our favorite is the one in the Rhyme Bible Storybook. My kids love the rhythm of poetry so we read it over and over until they could recite it with me.

“When it happened again, Old Eli knew,

And he told the boy what he should do:

‘Listen, for God is speaking to you!’”

Teach Them That All Good Things Come From God

James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights”. This verse is key to helping us discern whether something we hear is from God. Is it good? Teach your children that we can’t take the credit for any of the good that comes out of us. Once they realize that the source of a bright idea or a kind thought is actually God’s Spirit, it can help them tune in to His voice.

The other day, when I got home from running errands, I reached for the screen door and found the wind had slammed it so hard it was jammed shut. No amount of yanking would budge it. I had a little moment of panic. The kids were cold and hungry — I needed to get them inside. Jesse (5) had the idea to try the back door.

“Thanks, boy, but it’s probably locked.” I quickly dialed my husband to ask “What to do?”

Undaunted, my boy ran around the corner of the house and, to our surprise, turned the handle and proudly announced to his mommy, “I got it! It’s open!”

We trooped gratefully inside for lunch. Later that day, Jesse said, out of the blue, “Mom, I think that was GOD for me to think to use the back door!”

I agreed that, yes, good ideas come from God.

Live It Out In Front of Them

Share openly with your children what God is working in your own heart. They may not grasp the concepts, but they will get the main idea – that one CAN have dialog with the Father.

One day I realized that the words I thought were over their head were still having an impact. Jesse said to me, “Mom, God talked to me today.”

“Yeah? What did He say?”

“Same thing He told you, Mom! ‘Be patient and keep on keepin’ on’!”

Thank you, Father!

More Ideas For Raising Samuels:

  • If you children are old enough, encourage them to keep a little prayer journal where they write a prayer to God and then jot down anything they hear in return.
  • If they are too young to write, let them dictate what they hear after you read a little scripture, or lead them to draw a picture.
  • Remind them that the quiet time in their bed alone as they fall asleep is a great time to talk with God.

“Allow the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God”. Mark 10:14

As you lead your children, your own heart will be encouraged when you witness their childlike faith.

How are you cultivating your children’s faith? What has worked for your family? I’m always looking for more ideas!

Photo Credit

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