8 stress-reducing steps to a happier family

8 stress-reducing steps to a happier family When you’re at the hospital preparing to take home that 7-pound bundle of joy, the nurses don’t provide any advice on dealing with stress. They don’t even hand you a book.

I was thinking about stress recently when my wife called me at work and said, in a tone of voice that matched the circumstance: “There’s water in our basement!”

We already had a garbage disposal that wasn’t working, a dishwasher that was leaking and a clothes drier that wasn’t drying. With three small children, clean clothes and dishes are a necessity. Things weren’t looking good, but God soon provided. The basement leak slowed, and we pinpointed the problem. We fixed the drier (lint blockage) and then discovered that the dishwasher leak was linked to the broken garbage disposal.

Through it all, we told one another: Don’t stress out, this is small potatoes. In other words: Keep things in perspective.
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The 4 best smartphone apps to distract your toddler when you’re at a restaurant and they’re crawling under the table


The 4 best smartphone apps to distract your toddler when you’re at a restaurant and they’re crawling under the table

The other day my family and I were celebrating a special event at a fun Mexican restaurant, when my two-year-old son decided he wanted to be the center of attention. Well, not really, but it ended up that way.

As I was ordering my meal and talking to the waiter, my son stood up in his chair, lost his balance and accomplished a trifecta of destruction: 1) his chair fell sideways in the aisle, landing with a loud “thud” at the feet of several other guests, 2) his cup of water and seemingly 300 ice cubes careened across the floor, forming a huge lake, and 3), he fell to the floor, too, and had a look of shock on his face apparently wondering how he had made such a big mess so fast.

He thankfully was fine, but it was only our latest example of something every parent already knows: It’s not easy taking children to restaurants. One of our three kids enjoys crawling under the table from time to time. Another one wants only to sit in my lap. All three would eat anything found on the floor if given a chance. And I haven’t even talked about what one of my boys likes to do in the men’s restroom.

My wife and I use electronics only sparingly with our children, but when we’re at a restaurant trying to have a good, pleasant meal and conversation – and not waste $25 or more — we’ll sometimes pull out our smartphones and let them play a game or two.

Honestly, just about any game will work with a toddler, but I’ve found that apps with animals works best with our kids. Here are my four favorite apps that distract my toddlers long enough for me to eat more tortilla chips, drink another glass of tea, or simply talk with my wife a few more minutes.
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3 reasons Moms’ Night Out is the funniest movie you’ve never seen

3 reasons Moms’ Night Out is the funniest movie you’ve never seenThere aren’t many movies that make me laugh so much that I’ll watch them twice. There also aren’t many movies that shake me emotionally so much that I’ll shed tears multiples times. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a movie that did both, though – until now.

Moms’ Night Out, which opens Friday, is one of the funniest movies you’ll ever see, along with one of the most moving. It’s a film that does for moms what Courageous did for dads – that is, uplift, inspire and encourage mothers to better fulfill their God-given role. It’s a celebration of moms.

I watched a screener of it one night with my wife, laughed hysterically and cried a few times, and went to bed amazed at what I had just seen. The next night, I watched it again, laughed hysterically again and cried some more, again.

It’s that good.

It may be the best faith-based movie yet, but honestly, it doesn’t seem fair even to say that. Moms’ Night Out simply is a great movie that has a faith message and plenty of crossover appeal.

Who will like it? Anyone who has a child, who’s ever had a child, who has taken care of a child, or has watched in interest and horror a child at Walmart have an Aisle 6 meltdown.

It tells the story of a stressed-out mom who has small children and simply wants a night out, with her friends, but without the kids. She gets that night out, but it begins falling apart early on. Continue reading

3 biblical lessons for parents when your child is selfish

3 biblical lessons when your child is selfishIt was a picture perfect Spring evening for baseball as I took my two sons to their first minor league game.

The sun was setting, there was a nice warm breeze blowing through the stadium, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We ate popcorn. We devoured peanuts. We even got to watch a train pass close by the stadium, which always is a treat for the kids.

After a couple of innings we visited the playground located outside the foul line in left field. My sons were having a blast.

We had passed this empty stadium multiple times on the highway, and my oldest had said he longed to see a game there. So here we were, in that very stadium that my son wanted to visit, doing presumably everything he wanted to do.

Then it came time to leave. He didn’t mind leaving, but he wanted cotton candy first. Never mind that I had not promised him cotton candy, that it was too late to eat anything that sugary, that I had already bought him a ticket, and a popcorn, and a bottled water, and that he was able to play on that playground for so long that he was tired. He wanted cotton candy, and he wasn’t leaving until he had it.

I told him no, and he got mad. He raised his voice. He cried. Even stomped his feet. We went to the car with him upset and me wondering how that situation could have been avoided. And he didn’t get any cotton candy.

When our children are selfish and ungrateful, what are we to learn? I think God is telling us something – about ourselves. The Bible draws many parallels between the relationship between God the Father and His children (Christians), and earthly parents and their children. Often, our children serve as a mirror of our own actions. It’s as if God is holding up a full-length mirror and screaming from heaven, “Look!”

Here are three lessons to consider:

1. We, too, are ungrateful. When my son or daughter or your son or daughter is ungrateful, we are getting a vivid yet honest reminder from God of our own sin – a small glimpse of what our sin looks like to a holy God. When the Apostle Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing,” he certainly had in mind living in a constant state of gratefulness for our blessings. But how often do we thank God for the basics of life — food, housing, health, clothes, a job – much less the things He gives us that we “desire” (that car, that boat, that vacation)? And even when we mumble a prayer, how often are we truly grateful?

2. We, too, are prone to forget our blessings. How many times have you prayed to God and received the answer that you desired, only to forget it quickly and six months later wonder in your heart, “Why has God abandoned me?” We forget that God has blessed us multiple times in multiple ways, over and over, abundantly. We are prone to forget, to stray, to wonder. We’re like every other person who only remembers what happened five minutes ago – the meaningless Facebook post, the pointless TV show. It’s the “what have you done for me lately?” syndrome. We want the cotton candy.

3. We, too, rebel against God. So often, it’s when we’re living in the midst of God’s blessings that we’re prone to sin. Deep down, we begin to credit ourselves for our blessings, forgetting that all good things come from God (James 1:17) and that He is due praise for every blessing in life. In our sinful heart, we begin even to wonder if we need God. In other words, our spiritual life often hits rock-bottom when God is blessing us the most. Just like I did to my sons, God may pour blessings on our lives – the “popcorn,” the “peanuts.” But he’s still not buying us the cotton candy.

Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes popcorn. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog for free? Send me a message in the comments section below (the message won’t go public).

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