Ads 468x60px

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The year in review...bye bye 2013

The highlight of the year was the marriage of my youngest daughter to the love of her life.
How time flies!

Camping with family
A seasoned camper at one year old...
94 year old veteran shoots off his cannon every 4th of July
Cannons are LOUD!
Hiking the mountains above Provo, UT
Beautiful view while hiking
Lots of hikes
5K run in Tacoma, WA
New member of the family (see puppy)  Puppy is now LARGE!
New Vitamix means lots of smoothies!
Emerald City ComiCon...My famous nephew and his son
One of the booths at ComiCon...Love it!
Gardening floors!
Fall fun!
So sweet family moved out of state!  Miss them!  

So we now say good bye to 2013.  I wonder what 2014 will bring.  Wishing you all a happy and joyous new year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Surviving Christmas

If you add up cold winter weather, financial woes, cooped up hyper children, husbands home on vacation from work, increased demands for your time, and unrealistic expectations, it's no wonder depression, or the "holiday blues" is so common among women (Moms in particular).

You're not alone if you don't feel all warm and fuzzy this time of year.  You're busy enough juggling being a wife, a mom, maybe an employee, and all the other roles you fill on a daily basis.  While your children and husband are "vacationing", you still have to shop for meals, do the laundry, keep the house clean, and (maybe) chase after babies and toddlers.  Where is the time for baking holiday cookies, decorating, hosting and attending parties, gift buying and wrapping, preparing huge feasts and entertaining?  And if you are able to sit down for a minute, the loneliness for loved ones far away and memories of simpler times, sink in and the tears flow.

Well, let me tell you that as much as you'd like to crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head, it's not the best thing for you to do.  Dwelling on things you don't (or can't) have is only going to make things worse.  I know.  Been there, done that.  Some things you just can't change, no matter how much you wish you could.  But there ARE things you can do to get through the holiday and maybe even enjoy it.  It all centers around YOU.  Sigh, that's the answer for everything, isn't it?

1. Can you recognize when you are feeling down?  Recognizing and taking action is the first step.  Acknowledge that you're having a hard time.
2. After acknowledging your feelings, don't focus on them.  You can choose what you are going to do with that information...wallow in it or set it aside.
3. Recognize that your perceptions might be skewed.  It's so easy to pick out negative memories to reinforce your depressed mood.  It's possible to focus on positive thoughts and feelings instead.  Again, you have control over which thoughts you choose to dwell on.
4. Get active!  Get off your behind and do something physical.  Take a walk, do some of that housework, exercise at the gym, anything positive.  Try to find something to do outdoors.  Our bodies need sunshine and fresh air.
5. Take care of yourself.  Are you eating too many treats and goodies?  Try to eat as healthy as possible.  Are you getting enough sleep?  Your body needs adequate rest.  Give yourself some quiet time (if possible).
6. Look for ways to serve others.  There are people who need a little love and kindness.  Help them.  Visit the elderly and brighten their day.  Do something anonymous for a neighbor or struggling friend. 
7. If nothing seems to help and you just can's shake that depressed feeling, give yourself permission to see a doctor.  Sometimes there are physical reasons for depression that can be addressed and treated.  There's nothing wrong with that.

You're not alone if you are feeling anything but joyous this time of year.  It's ok.  Be kind to yourself.  Surround yourself with the people and things you love.  Remember always that you are in control of your thoughts and feelings and what you do with them.  Choose wisely.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Simplifying Christmas - Part 6 - It's about YOU

Simplifying's all about things, right?  Wrong.  It's about attitude.  It's about choosing to accept the people in your life.  (Yes, all of them!)  It's about accepting the circumstances you are currently in.  It's about letting go of the past.  It's about finding joy regardless of...anything.

Nowhere is this more more important than in dealing with relatives.  You might feel like you are being forced to interact with people you don't like, who are mean to you, who are obnoxious, whatever.  You might be perfectly right.  But that doesn't change the fact that they are your family...either yours or your spouses.  If they are as bad as you think, you probably don't interact with them often throughout the rest of the year.  It's only that obligatory Christmas get-together that you dread. 

Why don't you try something different this year.  Knowing that this relative drives you crazy, knowing that you only have to deal with him/her once or twice a year, knowing that this particular activity can have the potential of ruining your entire Christmas season...try being the mature adult and choose to not let them get to you.  It IS possible.  It isn't easy.  But do you really want them having such power over you?  Don't give it to them.  Let it go.  Choose to enjoy yourself.  If you have to, find something (socially acceptable) to occupy your time while helping in the kitchen, playing with the kids, visiting with someone you enjoy, or even knitting!  Don't ignore them but don't focus on them either.  Don't look for reasons why you don't like them.  Maybe even try to find something positive about them. 

There is so much good in your life.  You don't have time to focus on the negative.  It's in your power how you choose to be.  I don't know of too many people who consciously choose to be unhappy.  It's more of an unconscious reaction.  So, consciously choose to make this season a happy one.  It might be your best Christmas ever.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Simplifying Christmas - Part 5

I love the book "Skipping Christmas" by John Grishom.   Seriously, how many of you have ever wished that you could just hibernate through the whole winter and wake up in...maybe April or May?  Just think, no crowds of cranky people, no blowing your budget getting presents for people that you don't even know if they'll like, no gaining 15 pounds and feeling sick after eating all the treats and goodies, no whining, hyper children who are driving you crazy (well, that might happen year round anyway),  no suffering through events that you have no interest in, no staying up until 3 am wrapping presents only to be woken up two hours later by those same whining, hyper children...  The idea of taking a relaxing vacation to Hawaii sounds more appealing every year, doesn't it?

It may be hard to believe but there are actually people who enjoy making each Christmas season more elaborate and spectacular than the previous year. I am not one of those people.  Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas and what it represents.  I love being with my family.  But I don't like the blatant commercialization bombarding me everywhere I turn, telling me (and my family) what we HAVE to have in order to be happy.  Our poor children are especially vulnerable.  The strains of , "I WANT, I WANT..." are far more common than the sounds of children merrily playing and singing Christmas carols.

Simplifying Christmas is just an attempt to bring a little sanity into a crazy time of year.   You (and your family) are in charge of how you celebrate one else.  Whether you have a simple, humble holiday or an elaborate one is all up to you.  And some years might be different than others, based on circumstances.  It really doesn't matter.  What DOES matter is how YOU treat it.  If Christmas makes you anxious and tense, no amount of money will "make the spirit bright."  If you act deprived and envious, no one will be happy.  Moms (and Dads) set the tone.  Be thankful for your blessings.  Reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.  Focus on your family.  Enjoy the simple things of life.  Now THAT'S important!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Simplifying Christmas - Part 4 - Read aloud time

One of my family's favorite (and simplest) traditions at Christmastime was reading aloud a Christmas chapter book.  We'd usually start on December first and read throughout the month.  If the book was fairly long, I'd divide the number of pages by the number of days we had to read before Christmas and read that many pages each day.

Here are a few of the books we enjoyed...

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson.  Written in 1971, it's still a classic that all ages enjoy year after year.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.  There are so many variations of this book, as well as movie adaptations but nothing compares with the original by Dickens.  Fairly long and best for older children and teens.

The Birds' Christmas Carol, by Kate Douglas Wiggins.  This little book was written in 1888 and is a sweet story about a little girl named Carol.  Have tissue's a tear jerker.  :)

The 24 Days before Christmas, by Madeleine L'Engle.  My kids were big fans of The Wrinkle in Time books so they were excited to find this book by their beloved author.

The Gift of the Magi, by O Henry.  Another classic from long ago (1906), this tale of sacrifice and love is always appropriate this time of year.

And a list of Christmas stories to read aloud to the family is not complete without the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, found in the New Testament, Book of Luke.  This is a Christmas Eve favorite.

With all the crazy, hectic things going on, sitting down and reading with your children gathered around, is a simple, bonding experience that your children will remember long after they're grown.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Simplify Christmas - Part 3 - Breathe Deep!

With only about two weeks before Christmas, the malls and stores are super crowded, the shoppers are no longer in the "holiday spirit", the parking lots are jammed with irate drivers.  For most of us, we're in the middle of a winter freeze with icy roads and sidewalks.  Bundling up in layer upon layer of warm clothes, braving the treacherous road conditions to get that last Christmas present is no our idea of fun.  (I hope you aren't taking your kids with you on this excursion!)

What to do?  Take a deep breath and relax.  Before you walk out the door, tell yourself that the other shoppers are going to be insane, the poor cashiers are going to be exhausted, the parking lot is going to be full and you won't be able to find that Christmas present you went out of your way to get.  In other words, prepare for the worst experience and try to turn it into a positive one.

If you assume that people are going to be impatient, you are more likely to step aside for someone and let them go before you in a long line.  Open the door for someone.   Don't fight over a parking spot with a rude driver.  Try smiling and thanking the exhausted employees, instead of grabbing your purchases and hurrying on your way.  It's almost fun to try to change someone's day and be the one person who treats them like a real person.

If the last present on your list is sold out, it does no good to get upset about it.  Either settle on something else, give an IOU, or go home and look online for it.  Either way, life will go on and everyone will be much happier if you don't stress about it.  You have no control over the weather or people around you but remember that you DO have control over you. 

To truly simplify shopping at this late date, forget going out at all, curl up before a warm fire with a mug of hot chocolate and shop online.  :)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Safety Post...

Scarf not needed.  Zip up the coat and pull the hood up!
We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog post for a special safety post...

While I was at the mall today, looking for Christmas gifts, I noticed that several stores sell fashion scarves for children.  Maybe I'm just paranoid but I think it's a really bad idea to let little kids wear something around their necks that could get pulled or caught on something.  They can choke or worse! 
Fashion is one thing but protecting our kids from possible harm is far more important!  It was only a few years ago that manufacturers had to modify drawstrings on coat hoods and sweatshirts to prevent just this kind of danger.  I can't imagine how anyone could think it's safe for kids to wear long, dangly scarves for fashion or protection from the cold.  Please don't let your kids wear them.

Thank you!  We will return to our regularly scheduled post tomorrow.  :)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Simplify Christmas - Part 2 - Scheduling

What's Christmas without the Christmas lights?!
FAMILY MEETING TIME!  That's the husband and kids together today, tomorrow or as soon as possible.  Get your family calendar and get to work!  There's no time to lose!

Part of the stress of the holiday season is all the activities that are planned during such a short period of time.  Office parties, school parties, family get-togethers, church activities and parties, neighborhood parties, parties with special friends, trips to see the Christmas lights, the annual production of The Nutcracker, the annual Messiah Sing-along, caroling, visiting care facilities, volunteering, the annual Cookie Exchange...I know I'm forgetting things but you get the idea.  Add the number of family members in your home and the list explodes faster than you can say, "Merry Christmas!"  To stay sane, you HAVE to get in control of your (and your family's) time.

Start by sitting everyone down (with a nice cup of hot cocoa and a plate of cookies) and begin writing every activity, party and obligation during the month of December on your family calendar.  Every member of the family needs to contribute.   What does your calendar look like now?  Probably pretty crazy!  Is it any wonder why you feel stressed this time of year? 

Now the hard part.  Prioritize the events.  Most likely, you'll find conflicting activities on one or more nights.  Talk about it.  Come up with a plan.  Work together as a family.  Some things lower on the priority list might have to be sacrificed for something more important.  Decide as a family how many and which activities you want to be participate in.  When cutting back though, make sure that everyone gets to do at least ONE of the special activities they added to the calendar. 

The purpose of this exercise is to make time for the things that are important for each member of the family and still have time for quality home time.  It's hard to have that quality time when you're running like crazy all over the city!  Take a little time now and the rest of the month will go smoother.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Simplify Christmas - Part 1

Not exactly "Martha" worthy but the kids love it  :)
The Christmas season is now in full force.  Are you dreaming of January yet?  Are you overwhelmed?  Are you wondering HOW you can simplify things without disappointing anyone or feeling like a cheapskate?   My next few posts are going to cover easy ways to simplify your Christmas.

Today you need to consider  SILENCING YOUR INNER MARTHA!  You know which Martha I mean...the queen of creativity and DIY, Martha Stewart.  I love looking through her magazines and seeing all the wonderful and beautiful decorating ideas she has.  It makes my humble efforts look even more...humble.  If I just added more twinkly lights or garlands or bows or candles, my home might just rival her magazine spread and everyone will feel all warm and fuzzy, basking in the joyous Christmas glow.  Let's face's just not going to happen.  And besides, with little children running around and pets eyeing the dangly, sparkly ornaments, your stress level is going to go through the roof, trying to keep such a beautiful presentation from being destroyed!  Is that the atmosphere you are striving for?  If not, what IS your goal?  Do you want a home that radiates love and warmth and belonging?  Do you want a place where people (including children!) feel comfortable and at home?  Then THAT should be your focus.  Even if it means having a smaller Christmas tree on a table so the baby (and puppy) can't knock it down or placing baby-proof ornaments on the lower branches and just accepting the fact that the lower part of the tree is baby's domain.  You get the idea.  Your decorating efforts should reflect the stage of life that you and your family are currently living.

My suggestion is to focus on the things that have the most impact and meaning.  If that's the tree, great!  If Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the nativity set, definitely set it up! If you all love the twinkly lights and candles, wonderful! (Just keep them high enough so little hands and paws can't get to them.)  As the years go by and kids grow, you can increase your decorations to the point where you can do absolutely anything!  In the meantime, enjoy whatever you have.  Christmas isn't about things anyway. Right?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Talking with your teenager

If you have teenagers (or preteens), this might sound familiar...
Mom, "How was your day, dear?"
Teen, "Fine."
Mom, "Anything good going on?"
Teen, "No."
Mom, "How did your test go?"
Teen, "Fine."
And so it goes...

 If you're looking for meaningful conversation with your teen, you're probably going to have to wait a few years.  :)  However, you might get a few more words out of his or her mouth if you try asking open-ended questions that can't be answered with one word.  For example, you could say, "Tell me about your day, dear"  or "What was the best part of your day?"  You still might get short answers but at least his answer requires a little more thought.  If you ask a whole slew of questions in an effort to get a little dialogue going, it's only going to sound like interrogation and will only hinder any genuine conversation.

Be patient.  If you can maintain a trusting and open environment, he'll eventually open up...when he's ready.  Good luck!
"How does that sound?"  "Fine."

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday travel preparations

Beautiful mural at SEATAC airport!
I just got back from a trip visiting far away family (which is why I haven't written any blog posts recently) and there are probably many of you who are going to be doing the same during this holiday season.

Here are a few reminders before you walk out the door on your adventures.

1. Clean your house!  This is VERY important!  Coming home tired and cranky, the last thing you want to be faced with is dirty dishes, dirty laundry, a dirty bathroom and a messy house.
2. Empty all the freshies (milk, eggs, fruit and veggies) out of your refrigerator.  You don't want to come home to rotting, moldy, stale food. 
3. Take care of all your bill paying and other paperwork before you leave. 
4. Attach an automatic timer to a few prominent lamps around the house, set to turn on at dusk and turn off around 10 or 11 at night.  You don't want your house to appear empty and vulnerable to break ins.
5. Arrange for a neighbor to bring in your newspaper and mail in your absense.
6. As you walk out the door, check that the oven/stove are turned off, the doors are locked and all the kids are accounted for  :)

It feels so good to be home after a long trip, especially if you come home to a neat and clean house! You will have enough to do to get back to your normal routine without having to be in catch-up mode.  Happy traveling!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Simplifying Thanksgiving

There are many ways to simplify Thanksgiving but I must give a warning first.  Changing a familiar holiday routine can upset some members of the family...those for whom tradition is very important.  So, tread carefully and make sure you aren't eliminating someone's ONE MOST IMPORTANT part of the holiday  :)

Having said that, here are some ideas to play around with.

1. The week before Thanksgiving, clean out your refrigerator, getting rid of all the mystery tupperware containers, rotting fruit and stale leftovers.  Give yourself as much room as possible to hold the holiday food you'll be buying and refrigerating.
2. Prepare as much as you can before Thanksgiving day.  Most dishes can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen.  Then it's only a matter of reheating.
3. If you're expecting many people, ask everyone (or every family) to bring their favorite holiday food. (see first paragraph above)
4. Use paper plates and other disposable goods like cups, tablecloths and silverware.  I know, I know, it's the only day Great Grandma's china is brought out and if that's the case, change your attitude about washing dishes afterward.  Maybe you can think good thoughts about Great Grandma instead of the mounds of dirty dishes.
5. Speaking of washing dishes, while you're preparing food, keep a sink full of hot, soapy water to wash dishes as you work. 
6. Buy pre-prepared food.  Perhaps not everything but canned cranberry sauce, bakery rolls and pies and a vegetable platter will save you time to concentrate on the things you LIKE to make.
7. If no one likes a particular dish but it's served every year because it's TRADITION, consider eliminating it.  Let's face it, how many people actually eat the mincemeat pie?
8. Use a crockpot to cook some of the side dishes, like stuffing.
9. I use an oven baking bag (from Reynolds) to cook my turkey.  It cooks the bird faster and cuts way down on mess.  Highly recommended.
10. Stay calm.  There are always restaurants open on Thanksgiving.  :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thanksgiving memories

Thanksgiving - a time to reflect on blessings and express gratitude.  We usually connect the holiday with family get-togethers, time-honored traditions and eating copious amounts of food.  :)  But sometimes our circumstances are such that we have to make new traditions and experience new adventures.  In hindsight, these are usually the holidays we remember the most. 

One Thanksgiving, we had just moved into a new area, away from family and friends.  We thought we'd do something special with our five young children so we made reservations for a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast on a sternwheeler cruise down the Willamette River.  Everything went beautifully...until it was time for dinner.  Apparently, the dinner staff underestimated how much food they needed to feed all the famished Thanksgiving guests so by the time our deck was called into the dining room, almost all of the food was gone...literally!  The kids were getting cranky and we weren't too happy either.  There were no offers to compensate for the error and we returned to port, hungry and just a bit miffed.  We piled into our car and headed to our hotel when we noticed a Sizzler restaurant open for business.  That was just what we needed so we ended up well fed after all and had some new memories to remember the day we had Thanksgiving on the sternwheeler.

Another memorable Thanksgiving was the year before the sternwheeler adventure.  I had just given birth two days before Thanksgiving (to my fifth child) and again, we were in unfamiliar territory as my husband was working a year long contract in Pennsylvania.  I didn't feel well enough to make the entire Thanksgiving dinner for my little family so my husband volunteered to make everything...except for the pumpkin pies.  I made those and he did the rest.  And he did a marvelous job!  A man of many talents  :)

Moving on Thanksgiving day with eight children was another unique Thanksgiving!  The day before, I cooked a turkey, made fresh rolls and organized all the fixings for the holiday.  We started the next day with pumpkin pie for breakfast and ended the adventure 100 miles away, in our new home, eating a traditional thanksgiving dinner on the floor, picnic style.  That had to be one of my favorites!

Whatever circumstances you're in this year, enjoy the day, make new memories or find comfort in familiar ones.  Whether you're surrounded by tons of extended family or celebrating on a much smaller scale, take time to count your blessings and give thanks.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chocolate Raspberry Smoothie

Chocolate Raspberry Smoothie...Yum!
Evolution of a smoothie -

Me, "What kind of smoothie do you want for breakfast?"
Dan, "Raspberry and banana."
Me, "No problem."   (gets raspberries and bananas out of freezer and puts in blender)
Dan, "Oh, and why don't you put a handful of spinach in it?"
Me, "Ok."  (adds handful of spinach, a scoop of protein powder and about a cup of water, turns on blender)
Dan, "The spinach made it look brown, almost like chocolate.  Do we have any cocoa powder?"
Me, "Yup.  I'll add some."  (blends some more and pours into glasses)
Dan, "Hey, this is good...chocolate raspberry smoothie!"

So, here is the recipe for chocolate raspberry smoothie.  :)

Chocolate Raspberry Smoothie
1 c. frozen or fresh raspberries
2 bananas, cut into chunks, preferably frozen
1 handful fresh spinach
1 T. cocoa powder
1 scoop protein powder

Blend everything with enough water to make the right consistency (I used about 1 c.).  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Over-reacting vs under-reacting

Many years ago, a family moved into our neighborhood and they attended the same church as my family.  This family consisted of a mom and dad and six children, including 13 year old twin boys.  These boys were tall, smart and handsome...and totally out of control.  They caused teachers to quit in tears.  They disrupted each and every activity they were involved in.  Their peers loved their antics and the adults shuddered when they entered a room.

I was in the foyer of our church one Sunday, taking care of my toddler and one of the twins came up to me and said something I'll never forget.  He said, "I like you.  You don't put up with our crap."  From this boy, that was quite a compliment.  :)

Children like attention and often will go to extreme lengths to get it. They seem to know just what "buttons" to push to get a reaction from us.  The best way to deal with this?  Instead of over-reacting, try under-reacting.  This will throw them off guard.  You're not ignoring them.  You're just not responding in a way they anticipate, defuses the situation, and puts you in control (at least of you).

Next time your child does something to intentionally provoke you, try under-reacting and see how he responds.  It won't be what he's expecting and you'll be surprised how quickly he realizes that he doesn't have the power over you that he thought he had.  It's a very liberating feeling.  :)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Lilly goes to jail :)

Yay!  Lilly isn't in jail!
Lilly(3) and her family were playing Monopoly when she pulled the card that sent her to jail.  She started crying and said, "now I'll never see my mom again!"  It took a while for her to calm down, with much assurance that it was only a game :)

When you're 3 years old, the line between what is real and what is not is still not fully developed.  Keep that in mind when talking about zombies and other scary things...or going to jail  :)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins...Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!  Always looking for a good excuse to make something with pumpkin, I thought this was a perfect day for pumpkin streusel muffins.  So they're not healthy...oh well, it's Halloween!

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins...perfect for a fall day!
Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
1 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t. salt
1 c. pureed pumpkin
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. oil
2 eggs

For streusel topping
1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
3 T. cold butter

Combine dry ingredients in medium sized bowl.  Add wet ingredients and stir just until combined.  In separate bowl, combine the streusel topping ingredients...breaking apart the butter and incorporating it into the dry ingredients with your fingers, until crumbly.

Put muffin batter in muffin cups, filling about 2/3 full.  Top with a generous sprinkling of streusel topping.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your muffin cups.  To test for doneness, insert toothpick in center of a middle muffin.  It should come out clean, with no wet batter clinging to the toothpick.  Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

Cookie scoops and paper condiment cups...great for making muffins and cupcakes
Handy tips for making cupcakes and muffins...
Use a cookie scoop for putting batter into cups.  They come in various sizes.  Cuts WAY down on mess!
If you want to make a lot of muffins in a short time, consider using paper condiment cups (you can find these at restaurant supply stores and stores such as Cash and Carry, and Smart Final).  You can put twice as many muffin cups on a cookie sheet and bake as normal.  The cups hold up all by themselves.  You can also use the small paper condiment cups for making mini muffins and cupcakes.  They're adorable!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Core values

Sisters can be taught how to get along  :)
Society's views of child rearing seems to change with each passing decade.  The focus shifts depending on current issues of the day.  A look at presidential first ladies gives us a glimpse of this trend.  Nancy Reagan in the 80's used the slogan, "Just say no (to drugs)".  Laura Bush advocated literacy in the 90's.  Hillary Clinton believed, "It takes a village (to raise a child)".  And Michelle Obama is currently promoting against childhood obesity.

While all of these causes are noble and worthwhile, they don't focus on time-tested and tried values and standards that have been proved to produce well-adjusted children and happy families.  Without strong values, taught in the home, families are left to shift with the tide of popular policy and opinion.

What are some of these core values that are so important?  I came up with my own list and then googled the subject and found that all of the values I wrote down were also listed in numerous articles and blogs.  Apparently, these are not radical ideas.  :)

1. Honesty.  How can a society (from the family to a global society) survive without its members being honest?  Being honest is not an excuse for being cruel or harsh. 
2. Respect.  Our children need to learn how to be respectful to their parents, teachers, other adults, younger children and their peers.  I guess that includes just about everyone!
3. Charity.  By this I mean service.  When children are taught how to help other people, they gain a perspective broader than their own little world.  Service also helps children learn...
4. Gratitude.  Being thankful for what you have is a value that we all could improve on!  There is too much of "I WANT!" in our families today.
5. Kindness.  This goes along with respect.  Being unkind hurts.  Children who are kind, find that they have more friends and better relationships with their family.
6. Work.  Whether it's regular chores or periodic jobs, work teaches the concept of following through and being responsible.
7. Obedience.  A two edged sword here.  Blind obedience can get a child into trouble if they trust everyone they come in contact with but being obedient to parents and teachers is absolutely essential to a child's safety and well-being.
8. Humility.  Ok, I didn't see this value listed in the articles I read, but there are too many children who lack this vital trait.  No one likes a cocky, show-off, bragging child.  Being humble reminds children to be thankful.

You're probably not going to see a first lady promoting these core values anytime soon.  It's too bad.  If more parents, leaders and teachers were to address and act upon these values, I think we'd have more children grow up to become happy, contributing members of society. 

So, dear mothers, it's up to us.  Maybe I'll address each value in a separate blog during the next week or so.  It's worthwhile stuff  :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

What a child IS vs what a child DOES

Self portraits...wonder what mischief they're planning  :)
When you've had it up to here with your children, when you wonder how you're going to survive...remember this...there is a difference between what a child IS and what he DOES.

A child is endless potential, a work in progress, boundless energy and imagination, a loved member of the family.  A child is not a miniature adult. He is a CHILD.

As such, he is going to make mistakes, try your patience and test his limits.  It's all part of the process of growing up.  You have the awesome responsibility of guiding and teaching your precious children to be well adjusted adults and this process is going to take until they ARE grown up.  You can't expect your young children to have adult behaviors and thoughts.  Even teenagers sometimes act more like toddlers than almost adults.

Regardless, their frustrating behavior is not who they are.  When you are irritated, remember that you are irritated at their BEHAVIOR, not them.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween ideas

All ready to go out!
Halloween has been a time-honored celebration for hundreds of years.  Its roots go back to Celtic traditions of honoring the dead and the end of the harvest season.  A far cry from what it is today  :)  Children look forward to Halloween as a time to dress up in scary or cute costumes and eat large quantities of candy.

Our world is no longer the safe place it used to be (if it ever was) but that doesn't mean that you and your family still can't have a fun time.  If you're not comfortable with taking your children around neighborhoods, knocking on strange doors and having them beg for candy, there are several options to consider.

1. My personal favorite...For years (at least 30), our church has organized a "Trunk or Treat" activity where church families come to the church parking lot, park in a very large circle with car trunks pointing inward.  Each family can decorate their trunk whatever way they wish.  All the children go trick or treating to the different cars where candy and goodies are handed out.   The children have the satisfaction of getting to go trick or treating and getting their candy and the adults have an enjoyable time socializing.  It can be as simple or fancy as you wish.

2. Little children don't need huge bagfuls of candy so you can scale down their activity to just visiting grandparents and other relatives and close friends.  If the candy is really for you  :)  consider going to the store the day after Halloween and buying yourself the kind of candy you want...probably at least 50 percent off too!

3. Start an annual tradition to go to a pumpkin patch or corn maze on Halloween.  Let the kids dress up in costumes and spend an afternoon getting exercise and running off all their energy (hopefully!).  Pick up a fresh pumpkin while you're there to carve at home.

 4. Several malls and communities plan trick or treating activities, again so kids don't have to go to unfamiliar places after dark.  Usually held in the afternoon, they have games, activities, contests and of course, candy.

5. At home parties (not for little children) with scary movies, popcorn, hot chocolate, apple cider and of course, candy.

Cute little kitty  :)
6. At home parties for families whose kids have allergies, illnesses and food sensitivities.  Look for some of the "tame" Halloween movies that are geared towards children (like "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown") and fix treats that all can enjoy.  No one should be left out.

Whatever you do, take lots of pictures and have the kids brush and floss before they go to bed!

Monday, October 21, 2013

An annoyance

Just a pet peeve today.  I wish parents wouldn't let their children answer the phone until they are old enough to speak clearly and answer appropriately.  Sure, it's cute to hear little Johnny's voice answering the phone but sometimes the person on the other end actually needs to talk to an adult with an actual reason.  If you're busy and can't come to the phone, let an answering machine take the message.  If you don't have an answering machine, it's time to buy one.

Oh, another thing...when little Johnny IS old enough to answer the telephone, teach him basic phone manners and phone safety.  You never know who is going to call your home.  Teach him to never give out information that the parents aren't home.  Never give personal information.

I'm a big fan of answering machines, in case you couldn't tell  :) 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thrifty Thursday - Excess

It started out innocently enough...your little girl was given a Beanie Baby for a gift and she loved it.  So, being a "good" mom, you buy her another one...and another one...and her friend buys her another one...and the relatives buy her Beanie Babies for holidays and before you know it, a special shelf, then a whole bookcase (maybe even a whole room!) is devoted to the Beanie Baby collection.  While your daughter truly enjoyed the first and maybe the next few, it didn't take long for the magic to be replaced by the urge to collect more. 

Excess.  We're all prone to it.  It all boils down to the mindset that if one is good, then two is better.  But is it true?  We only have so much space in our homes.  Do we really need to fill up our homes with things bought with the sole purpose of acquisition?  How many books do we need?  How many kitchen gadgets?  How many knick knacks?  How much fabric? How many toys?

Things cost money.  They cost time.  They cost precious living space.  Is it possible that enjoyment decreases with the amount acquired? 

So many people complain that they don't have enough space and want a bigger home.  Or they say they don't have enough money to meet their needs.  Yet those same people often have large enough homes and decent salaries.  What if those same people learned how to control their craving for excess?  Would their lives be happier?  Might they actually enjoy the possessions they have?  Would  they have the money to live within their means?

Although it's hard to resist the things you have a soft spot for, remember that things are just things.  And too much of a good thing is still too much.  Excess is the enemy of contentment.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

24 hours in a day?

We all have 24 hours in a day, right?  Maybe not and here's why.  Everyone sleeps somewhere between 6-10 hours a day.  That time can't be counted as productive time (unless you count the body renewing itself during sleep).  Husbands (and often wives) work 8-12 hours a day and that is time outside of your control.  What is left is the productive time that you get to choose how to spend.  For some people, that might only be 4 hours or less each day.  Not much is it?

With that in mind, can you see how important it is to choose how to spend your precious time?  Do you really have time to watch two hours (or more!) of TV every night, just to keep up with the latest sitcom or drama?  Do you really have time to browse Pinterest and FB for hours on end?

I'll admit that I'm sometimes guilty of doing just those things but it's a rare day, not the norm.  Where is the time for exercising?  For spending time with the kids?  For spending uninterrupted time with your husband?  For enriching activities such as service, gardening, education, personal hobbies?  When are you and your husband going to get around to home maintenance and organization?

If you put time into perspective, you'll see how important it is to choose wisely the small amount of time you actually have.  My husband's saying, "There isn't enough time to do all the wonderful things there are to do" is very true.  It's up to us what we do.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Maslow, Motherhood, and Me

Exposing my inner nerd, I admit that one of my favorite classes in college was a study of Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs.  Simply put, he believed that a person is motivated to achieve certain needs and that the most basic needs have to be fulfilled before moving up to higher levels of needs.  His model is usually portrayed in the form of a pyramid, with the most basic needs (food, shelter, water, air, etc) on the bottom, moving up in complexity until reaching the top level of self-actualization (achieving personal potential and fulfillment).

Although critics point out the flaws in his model, there is enough truth in it to be useful in various aspects of motherhood and living in general.  Babies are the most obvious example when considering their needs.  At the bottom of their little "need pyramid" is sleep, food, warmth, dry diaper, followed by interaction with mother, being held and cuddling, followed by external stimuli etc.  A financial "pyramid" would have the basics of employment, shelter, food, warmth, clothing...followed by things like health needs, communication, transportation, followed by education, entertainment, travel, philanthropy etc.

In both these examples, in order to be satisfied and happy, the basic needs have to be considered first.  Can you see how this model can be used in other areas?  Take food...the USDA used this same type of model for several years (the Food Pyramid) to show what our diets should look like.  Grains at the bottom, sweets at the top.  (I think I have my pyramid reversed!)

When there is an area of dissatisfaction in your life, try to think of the problem in terms of a pyramid.  Are the basics taken care of?   Whether the problem is housekeeping, diet, your children's behavior, your relationship with your spouse, your employment...your pyramid needs a stable foundation to be strong.  Work on shoring up that foundation before moving up to bigger and better things.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Heavenly Pumpkin Pie smoothie

Dairy free pumpkin pie smoothie!
Probably the best part of Fall is pumpkins!  I love pumpkin pie, cakes, bread, muffins, cookies, name it, if it has pumpkin in it, I love it.

Since I've been trying to make healthier meals (and snacks) for my family and have been incorporating smoothies into our daily diet, I had to try to make the perfect pumpkin smoothie.  After several attempts, I think I came up with one that meets all of my high other words, it has to taste good  :)

A note first -
Opening a large can of pumpkin puree for one smoothie leaves a lot of pumpkin to left to deal with.  Ice cube trays solve the problem.  Each little compartment holds a scant tablespoon of product (in this case, pumpkin puree) and two trays will hold an entire can of pumpkin.  Freezing the cubes, transferring them to freezer bags and using only what you need is so convenient.

Heavenly Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
1/2 c. pumpkin puree (or 5-6 frozen pumpkin cubes)
1/2 apple, cut into chunks
2 bananas, cut into chunks (preferably frozen)
a handful of almonds (I used raw...probably about 1/4 c.)
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/2 to 1 c. water
Blend everything in your heavy duty blender until smooth and creamy.  It truly is heavenly!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Some books are timeless...

I came across a little gem of a children's book last week while browsing through a used bookstore.  It was written by Munro Leaf, who wrote the famous children's book about Ferdinand, the peaceful bull who only wanted to sit and smell the flowers.  I remember that book from my own childhood and enjoyed reading it to my children when they were little.  Disney turned the story into a sweet animated cartoon, probably sometime in the 1960's.

Anyway, I digress... I recognized the author but didn't realize he'd written any other book.  Surprise!  After buying this new little book, I went home, googled him, and discovered that over his lifetime, he'd written more than 20 books for children.  Some have been reprinted recently, as was the case with the book I found.

From the book, "How to Behave and Why" by Munro Leaf
It's entitled, "How to Behave and Why"and was written in 1946.  The inside cover states, "In a time when the rules for raising children have been redefined dozens of times, here is a book for bewildered parents, from a simpler time when we all agreed on what was right and what was wrong."  It was written for young children but the message applies to everyone.  The main things you have to do if you want to make friends and keep them are..."You have to be honest. You have to be strong.  You have to be fair.  You have to be wise."

Just because a book is old, doesn't mean that it doesn't have information current to living today.  What a sweet little book.  I'm going to try to find some of his other works!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Moving with little children

Moving is a stressful activity but especially for young children.  They know something is up.  You might have even told them what's going on but they don't really understand.  They feel your stress as you make preparations to move to a new house and/or city.  The only way they know to handle their own stress is to cry or cling or behave in other ways that don't really help the situation.

There are a few things you can do to lessen the impact on the family.

1. Try as much as possible to maintain your children's regular routine - before, during and after the move.
2. Make and post a countdown calendar so they can see how long it will be until the big day.
3. Regularly tell them what is going on, in simple terms they can understand.
4. Be positive and upbeat, regardless of what you're feeling inside.
5. When packing, pack their bedroom last and unpack their bedroom first.  Keep things as much like their old room as possible...especially at first.
6. When packing their room, pack one box of their most favorite belongings and mark it clearly that it is to be the very last box on the truck.  Make sure your kids get to open their box as soon as you move in.
7. At your new house, give your kids the royal tour and talk about all the fun things you're going to do at your new home and in the new neighborhood.
8. Give them time to readjust. 
9. Remember that a move is temporary.  You will all settle in soon.

Most likely, you and your family will move more than once while your children are growing up.  It doesn't have to be a negative experience.  Your kids will adjust and your family will have new experiences and new adventures.  Give it time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thrifty Thursday - Peace of mind

No one likes the idea of deprivation.  If we want something, we want it NOW!  The idea of waiting or even doing without is so foreign as to be ludicrous.  At least, that's what advertisers want you to think.

There are some things that you cannot do without.  That, housing, heat, other words, the basics.  But even within those categories we have choices.  We can make our money stretch by buying frugally or inexpensively or we can be dissatisfied unless we have the biggest and best there is to buy.

If, after your basic needs are met, you still have money left over, THEN you can contemplate how that money is to be spent.  A wise person or family will look ahead to the future and anticipate future needs.  That might include braces for teeth, savings for emergencies, college and other worthwhile expenditures.  Money can be saved for "wants" and then purchased when the money is available.  A not so wise person or family might look longingly at new "toys", going into debt for exotic vacations, and just being frivolous with the money they have.  Then when the inevitable emergency happens (job loss, unexpected medical bills, major car or home repair), they wring their hands because they have no money to meet those needs.   The "toys" paid on credit lose their excitement long before they're paid off. 

Meeting your basic needs and having the resources to handle a financial emergency isn't deprivation.  It's peace of mind.  It's knowing that you've made the necessary preparations for unforeseen expenditures.  It lets you be in control.  It lets you sleep at night.

Which position would you rather be in?  Now is the time to get back in control.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tidy Tuesday - Our job description

If you're a stay-at-home mom, you probably have a husband who works full time.  If your husband works full time, he probably is gone from the home several hours of the day.  His job probably has certain requirements and expectations that he needs to meet in order for him to keep that employment.

Being a stay-at-home mom has requirements and expectations too, although they are somewhat more...fluid.  Your hours are long and sometimes you don't get a lot of positive feedback.  But, that doesn't mean that you can shirk the basic requirements of your job.  You have to have more self-discipline because you are the one who plans how your "work hours" are going to be filled.

What are some of those tasks that are part of the job description of a stay-at-home mom?
1. Nurture, teach and care for your children.
2. Household tasks...laundry, cleaning, organization, clutter control, maintaining a neat and tidy home.
3. Budgeting to make your one income stretch to meet the family's needs.
4. Meal prep, menu selection, purchasing groceries.
5. Scheduling appointments (medical, dental, educational, home and car maintenance).

Those aren't all of the tasks that we do but they are definitely some of the most basic.  Someone has to do those things in a family and by the mere fact that we are the ones who don't work outside the home, those are our jobs.  We might not get the praise and applause of the person who works outside the home, but our work is necessary for the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health of our family. 

When you fulfill your jobs and your husband fulfills his, there is true balance in the relationship and no one is left shouldering most of the weight or feeling resentful.  It is a system that works.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hey! The lights just went out!

It's one thing to know intellectually that your family should have a plan for emergencies...things like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms and other events out of our control.  It's another thing to experience first hand one of those events.  All of a sudden, the time for preparation is over and you're stuck with whatever plans you've made.

My family was living on the east coast when we were in the path of a hurricane.  Sheet lumber was out of stock at building stores (because people were boarding up their windows), food was quickly off the shelves (gotta have food) and the city was on hold while everyone waited to see what would happen.  Luckily, the path of the hurricane moved slightly and we only got the effects of the edge of the hurricane but it was a lesson that no book or lecture could teach us.  Too bad it often takes an actual emergency to see if you're prepared or not.

It's not possible to foresee every possible event that could happen to your family but there are some fairly predictable events in every location.  Some areas are prone to earthquakes, some to tornadoes etc.  Those are things that you can (and should) prepare for.   Such preparation will ease fears in the midst of chaos and confusion in the actual event of an emergency.

Last night we listened as a storm raged outside, the wind whipped the trees and the rain pounded the roof.  About 7 pm, the lights flickered and then everything went dark.  No power.  We got out the lanterns and curled up on the couch under warm blankets, not knowing how long it would be before power was restored.  We had water stored and plenty of food.  The outage lasted only 2 hours but was a tiny reminder of times when we were out of power for a week, due to storms. 

I look at these occasional power outages as preparation for possible emergencies in the future.  Having a basic supply of food (non-perishable), water, and fuel is very comforting when the lights go out.

But I have a question...why do most power outages happen at night?  :)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chocolate Desperation, healthy style :)

Chocolate Desperation, healthy style  :)
You've gotta try this recipe!  It feels like you're eating something decadent and fattening but it's only bananas, peanut butter and cocoa powder.  The original recipe called for using a food processor to make it but I don't have one so I used my Vitamix blender and it worked fine.

I don't know what to call it because it isn't exactly ice cream (no dairy), or pudding or mousse, so maybe I'll just call it Chocolate Desperation, healthy style.  :)  Whatever you want to call it, it's amazing!

Chocolate Desperation, healthy style
(for one serving)

1 banana, cut into slices and frozen
1 heaping teaspoon peanut butter
1 heaping teaspoon cocoa powder

In blender or food processor, blend the frozen banana with the peanut butter and cocoa.  Be patient and scrape the blender container often.  It will look grainy at first but keep blending.  Soon it will turn all creamy and yummy looking.

Spoon into bowl and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Annoying fruit flies

Every year at this time it happens.  It starts with noticing a few tiny insects flying around the kitchen and before you know it, they're all over the place.  I'm talking about fruit flies, vinegar flies, drain flies, gnats...whatever you call them (and they are different species) they are annoying. 

How can you get rid of them?  If you look on Pinterest, you'll see several different "recipes" for ridding your kitchen of the little guys.  Most are a combination of vinegar and sugar.  I tried following one of the "cures" and caught a few but in general, I wouldn't call it a success.  I then bought some old fashioned fly strips and again the same thing.  A few flies were caught but most just skirted around the traps and went on their merry way, reproducing and flying around my kitchen. 

In my opinion, there is only one way to get rid of fruit flies and other critters in the house.  That way is keeping your house (especially the kitchen) scrupulously clean.  Living creatures need food to survive and when you eliminate the food source, you eliminate the creature.

I'll admit, I sometimes leave a few dishes in the sink before washing a whole load.  Or I get called away before getting the kitchen cleaned after dinner.  When I do this, I keep the cycle alive.  By disciplining myself and making sure that there are no obvious food sources, the flies die. I am glad to report that my home is now fly free.  :)

Pretty soon it will be winter and all those nasty creatures will go into hibernation, dormancy, or die off.  In the meantime, keep your kitchen clean. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Behemoth

Be careful when you leave your husband for a week to visit family.  With too much time on his hands, you never know what you're going to come home to.  :)

This picture doesn't do it justice.  It takes up the WHOLE room!
When I came home, there was this huge thing on the grass in the backyard.  It was obviously a piece of furniture but I couldn't tell what it was.  It almost looked like a bookcase but was waaaay to unique to call it that.  I promptly asked my husband what that behemoth was!  He explained that it was a murphy bed (a bed that pulls down from the wall)/desk/shelves combination.  Uh huh.  Sure.  And where was this going to go?  And how was it going to get there?  He planned to put it in the small cubby next to the family room for visiting family.  I just couldn't picture getting it in there.  Heck...I couldn't picture it at all!

Well, he finished it and enlisted me in staining it.  And then came the time to move it inside.  We had to move a partition wall to get it into place and it wasn't easy but it fit...barely.  It wasn't very attractive so I went to JoAnn's and bought some upholstery fabric and upholstery tacks to cover the back (or the underside of the bed).  That was better!

Then there were the two electrical outlets that were high on the wall and looked...ugly...when the bed was down.  I went back to JoAnn's and bought some coordinating fabric and made a picture to cover the outlets.  Unfortunately, I couldn't hide the electrical cord so that is still visible but it still looks better than before.

The Behemoth actually looks pretty good now and the bed is definitely comfy.  My husband doesn't like the name Behemoth though  :) Oh well.

The cat thinks it's his room  :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Lego arsenal

Let me start out by saying that I'm not anti-guns.  I believe there's a place for them, when treated with respect and caution.  I DO have a problem with children playing with toy guns in the house.  It seems to be a common occurrence for kids (especially boys) to make guns out of anything available and pretend to shoot anything that moves...especially their sisters.

So, I've been dealing with Chuck making elaborate and very lifelike guns out of our Legos.  I've told him that he can't "shoot" in the house and if he aimed any of his guns at his sisters, I'd take his guns away.  This hasn't worked.  He just made more...handguns, rifles, and, the last straw, grenades (made of Legos of course) that he started throwing at his sisters.

When he was asleep one night recently, I reorganized the toys.  The basic Legos went into storage and from storage I brought out the Lego train and all the tracks and assorted accessories.  I also brought out the Little Tikes doll house furniture and people.

When Chuck saw them the next morning, he was so excited!  He didn't seem to miss his Lego least he didn't mention it.  He's been playing happily with the train and has even been playing cooperatively with his sister and the doll house toys.

It's now been two weeks since I took away the tools of destruction and Chuck hasn't tired of playing with the "new" toys.  Sometimes it's just not worth having a power struggle with a child.  As the adult, you can and should set the rules of your home as well as the consequences.

Friday, September 20, 2013

What stage is hardest?

Enjoy the moment!
I've recently come to the conclusion that the hardest phase of motherhood is the one you're currently going through right now.  It doesn't matter if you're struggling with a new baby, a toddler, a school age child, teenager or older, the challenges you are facing now are in a new and unfamiliar territory.  After having "graduated" from one developmental stage into the next, you can look back and see the things you've learned from the perspective of hindsight.  Too bad hindsight can only be achieved after the experience.

Just because something is "hard" doesn't mean it can't be a positive experience.  Sure, learning how to live with a baby is "hard" but is also filled with such joy and wonder that the hard stuff can be tolerated.  Baby's first smile, the milestones of sitting by herself, crawling, walking, interacting with you...all these are precious memories that make the poopy diapers, spitting up, throwing up, crying through the night etc, all pale in comparison.

So, don't listen to people who tell you to "just wait till they're ...".  That time will come soon enough and you'll be ready for it because you've passed through the previous stages just fine.  You'll have new challenges but with those challenges will come increased growth and knowledge for you and a stronger bond of love for your child.   There is no doubt that the experiences you are going through right now are hard but don't let that stop you from seeing and enjoying the good things that your child is doing or recognizing the growth you are developing.