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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Creativity Chuck style :)

Chuck and his iPad  :)
Oh my goodness...cutest story ever!

Chuck loves his iPad but his mommy and daddy are concerned about how much time he spends playing zombie games on it.  So, yesterday Daddy deleted all the non-educational games from it and left only the learning games.  Chuck was not happy.

This morning Mommy discovered him sitting on the couch, contentedly playing his favorite zombie games.  He'd downloaded them!  Now Daddy wasn't happy so he took the iPad away.

Mommy got busy doing other things and then looked over to see Chuck "typing" happily with the "iPad" he'd made with legos. :)  He spent the afternoon "downloading his apps" and playing them just like he always does!

I guess you can take the iPad away from the boy but you can't take the boy away from the iPad.  :)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Nothing stays the same

Much as you may try to raise your children all the same, it isn't possible.  You aren't the same as you were when you were newly married, your family income doesn't stay the same, your child rearing style might change, your children definitely change.  The only thing you can do is do your best in whatever circumstances you are in.

I have eight children who are spaced over sixteen years.  The oldest four spent most of their childhood in Oregon while the youngest four claim Washington as their home base.  We traveled a lot with my husband's job when the older children were little but we've stayed in the same location for fourteen years now.   These things change the dynamics of a family whether you want them to or not.  And, we're not even taking into account the different personalities that each child brings into a family. 

So, don't worry if your younger children have different experiences than your older ones.  That's perfectly normal.  As long as you consistently live by your core values and standards, your children are going to be fine...even if Junior DID get to do something that big brother didn't get to do :)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Camping with children - Part 2

Having made the decision to venture into the wild with your children, there are a few things you can do to make the adventure more enjoyable for you and safer for them.

1. Everyone should have a flashlight!  You can hook a small flashlight onto your child's belt loop so he doesn't lose it.

Hanging out in his own chair
2. Dress your young children in bright colors.  This is not the time to dress them in camo.  You want to be able to see them!  A good source for clothes for camping is your local thrift store.  That way you won't feel bad when someone rips, stains, or loses a shirt or pants.

3. Except for the necessities, pack lightly.  The more you bring, the more you have to haul back into the car when you're tired and just want to go home.   Besides, you're there to enjoy nature so let nature be your entertainment.

4. Speaking of packing, unless you're backpacking, use plastic storage containers to hold gear.  They are easy to carry, can double as seating, are waterproof and wildlife proof (well, sort of).

5. Always plan for rain.  Even if it's just a poncho, everyone needs something waterproof.  Mornings can be damp so you can always use it to sit on.

6. Have lots of easy-to-eat snacks available.  Trail mix, fresh fruit, granola bars...all these help keep the hunger away and in case it rains and you can't get a fire started, at least you have something to eat while you're driving home cold, wet, and cranky. :)

7. Don't forget sunscreen, first aid supplies and insect repellant.  I don't think I need to say anything else on those subjects.

He's helping wash dishes.
8. Even during summer months, the mornings can be cold so pack some warm clothing especially for babies and really young children.  Their little hands get cold so mittens are a good idea.

9. Teaching children to use a whistle in case of emergency is always a good idea.  They can wear their whistle around their neck, under their shirt and hope they never need it.

10. Bring along several large plastic bags to hold dirty clothes and trash.

11. Don't worry about dirt.  You're camping.  The kids are going to get dirty.

12. BUT, give them chores and responsibilities around the campsite.  They can learn how to clean up after themselves, wash dishes and help with meal prep, and keep their tent tidy.

13. Buy the biggest tent you can.  Being able to stand up in your tent makes such a difference in comfort.  And don't believe the label on the tent that says it's a 5 person tent (or whatever).  You're not going to be comfortable if you have 5 people in a five person tent.  That's a promise!

14. No campout is complete without marshmallows and hot chocolate.  Plan accordingly!

15.  Most of all, have fun and be patient with the kids.  You are all learning how to camp together so keep it an experience they'd want to do again.

On our last campout, my daughter-in-law introduced a couple of other innovative ideas...wish I'd thought of them!
1. She tied a bright yellow rope around the perimeter of the campsite as a boundary for her three year old.  Sure, he could climb over or under it but it was a physical reminder of the limits that were set for him.  He actually stayed within the boundary.
2. I really liked this one...she bought several packages of glow sticks from the dollar store and when it was time for the kids to go to bed, she hung the glow sticks from the ceiling of the tent.  It looked so cool!  I wanted some glow sticks too!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Camping with children - Part 1

I just got back from my first camping trip of the season so this is a good time to write about camping with children.  A daunting undertaking but with patience and planning, doable.

Although the picture of a happy family enjoying the beauties of nature and bonding over a campfire and sleeping under the stars looks so idyllic, there are some realities you need to consider first.

 Most important is safety.  Campfires, woodsy trails, wildlife...all these and more can all be potentially dangerous.  The younger the children, the more vigilant you are going to need to be.  Even though you have tents to set up and food to prepare, you can never lose sight of your little ones.  It doesn't take long for one to wander off...or stumble too near the campfire...or pick a pretty leaf that happens to be poisonous.

This little guy has been going camping all his life!
So, having said that, there are ways to ease your family into camping.  What I would suggest first is to have several backyard campouts where you learn how to set up camp quickly and efficiently, introduce your children to sleeping outside in sleeping bags and tents, and learn how to cook over a fire or camp stove.  Backyard camping gives you plenty of camping experiences without the isolation.  When you start out slow, your kids are in a safer environment (they're not going to get lost!) and they get familiar with safety rules.  During this time, you can also build up your camping equipment so you will be prepared for more involved trips in the future.

I wouldn't even attempt to try a bigger camping trip until the kids consistently obey your directions and show that they respect safety rules.  THEN, I'd try someplace close with good facilities and see how that works.  I'd keep introducing new things in baby steps.

If you go slow and use your children's maturity as your guide, you'll be able to handle increasingly more complex and diverse trips until you are a regular camping family!

PS.  Another good thing about backyard camping is you can use your own bathroom and not have to rely on porta-potties or worse!  :)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What's cooking? Wednesday - Stealthy Italian Vegetable Soup

It's been a while since I've posted a recipe.  That's because I'm still trying to eat healthy (which limits substantially my repertoire!) and I'm still experimenting with my new VitaMix blender.

Having said that, I came up with a really good tasting vegetable soup that is packed with veggies even though it doesn't look like it.  Hence the STEALTHY.  If your kids don't like looking at a bowl full of gross veggies, try this  :)

This recipe is vegan, gluten free and dairy free although you could add meat and/or cheese if you want.

Stealthy Italian Vegetable Soup
In blender combine one onion, 3 roma tomatoes, 1 yellow pepper, 1 big handful of spinach and about 1 cup water. 

 Blend until smooth.

Pour contents of blender into large saucepan and cook on medium heat until hot and steamy.
 Add 2 tablespoons spaghetti sauce mix.  Stir in.
 While mixture is cooking, chop 3 celery stalks, 3 small zucchinis, 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, and one 15 oz can black beans.
Optional - Add sliced mushrooms and/or sliced olives.  I don't like mushrooms but my husband does and he likes them in this soup.   Whatever...  :)
 Stir veggies into soup.  Notice the soup has changed color from bright green to a soft brown.
 Continue to cook over medium heat until veggies are tender but not mushy.
Serve but don't tell anyone that they're actually eating spinach, onions and peppers!

You can also use the blended veggies as a great base for spaghetti sauce.  Yummy!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I wonder what she's thinking about...
We spend a lot of time telling our kids what to do, correcting them, disciplining them, giving them directions.  Have you thought about ASKING them questions periodically to see what they're thinking about, if they understand what you're telling them to do, or just to get their opinion?  I think we sometimes forget that our children are people with their own thoughts and opinions.  It can be very illuminating to get a glimpse into their minds.   A caution...asking too many questions though can sound like interrogation so be careful about coming across too strong.  Try to keep your voice neutral and listen without judgment so your child will be comfortable expressing herself.

Here are some examples...
The family is watching a TV show and the characters are making some bad decisions.  Instead of telling the kids that what they're watching is wrong, try asking them what they think of the character's actions.  Engage in some dialogue with them, if possible.  Not in a preachy way but to get an idea of where their thoughts and values are.

You are with your daughter at a store and you see a teenager with multiple piercings and tattoos.  You ask your daughter what she thinks of body decoration.  It might open a discussion about what is appropriate and why.

Your son is fighting against some of the rules of the house.  You ask him why he thinks you (the parents) set those rules.  You ask him what he would do if HIS kid broke rules.

You are trying to give instructions to your child who doesn't appear to be listening.  Asking him to tell you what you said will help you determine if he understood or needs some extra instruction.

By asking occasional questions, you will get an idea of what your child is thinking.  You will show him that you care about his opinion.    Questions can also serve to help your child develop her thinking and listening skills and learn how to vocalize and defend her opinions.  Useful skills!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Even Mom's have limits

You've heard the comment, "She's reached her limit."  You've seen it in your own life...the kids have been whining and nagging all day and all of a sudden, you lash out in frustration.  Or Daddy is driving through rush hour traffic and yet another car cuts him off and out pops a string of expletives.  Oops!  I guess he reached his limit!

We all have limits.  Limits are good.  They define how you treat other people and how you let them treat you.  They create boundaries from which you live your life.  Without limits, we would be subject to every stress and frustration that enters our life.

Do you know your limits?  Do you know the triggers that cause you to lose your cool?  Some of the more common ones are being tired (aren't we all?), hungry, or overwhelmed, crowds, being in an unfamiliar place, certain people or events.

When you are able to identify the things that cause you to reach your breaking point, you can take steps to eliminate them or lessen their impact.  You can be proactive rather than reactive.  You can anticipate situations and prepare for them.

No one wants to be out of control, especially towards loved ones.  It happens.  But having an awareness of how you react at certain times and in certain circumstances will go a long way towards helping you change those destructive patterns and replacing them with more appropriate behaviors.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A safe haven for our children

Tragedy, either by accident or by evil intent, seems to be more commonplace these days.  It can be very difficult to comprehend how unpredictable life really is.  If it's hard for us to understand, think how hard it is for our children.  Often the magnitude of an event isn't known to them but they can sense the worry or anxiety of those around them.

Our children need to feel secure in our love and in our homes.  Whatever tragedy a family (or the country) faces, it is our responsibility to provide that safe haven for our children.  However devastated, worried or upset we feel on the inside, they need to see us act in a reassuring manner.  That often requires a tremendous amount of self-control on our parts but is so important for our children.  They need to know that we will take care of them, whatever happens. 

Life comes with no guarantees that it will be painless or trouble-free or even long.   But we do know that it can be full of joy and happiness when it is shared by those we love. Never take your family for granted.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The big food experiment - Part 2

After my husband had a heart attack (at the age of 42), I really wanted to change the way we were eating.  You know, cut down on fat, sugar and other unhealthy things.  So, I got all kinds of cookbooks and experimented with new recipes and substitutions.  Unfortunately, even though I was trying hard, my husband just wasn't into it.  I did succeed in making several changes in our diet but they weren't enough to make a difference in my husband's weight or overall health.  In fact, he was soon diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as well.

Then a month ago, he heard about a diet that his mother was on and something clicked.  He thought it sounded doable and wanted to give it a try.  (It's based on cutting out grains, dairy and meat and increasing beans, nuts and fresh produce.)  I  wrote a blog post about it March 18, 2013.

We are generating a TON of compost!
Do you know how hard it is to change habits that you've been used to for more years than I care to admit?  I'm having to learn new techniques and ways of preparing food.  I'm trying to figure out how to keep our meals balanced.  And I'm trying to use up the fresh stuff before it spoils!  Not an easy task!  I've learned I don't like broccoli in smoothies (yucky texture!) but adding raw spinach doesn't affect the taste or texture at all.   Protein powder adds smoothness and sweetness so it's kinda cheating but oh well.  I learned that hummus is pretty good.  I can say now that soy milk (Silk) isn't bad.  Most of all, I have learned that adding more vegetables and cutting out meat in a diet isn't as hard as I thought.

It's been a month since the grand experiment and my husband has lost 10+ pounds and his diabetes is showing signs of improvement.  I admit...I still eat bread products and I have a stash of chocolate when I get desperate  :)  Hey, a wife can only go so far...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Diamonds are beautiful and valuable gemstones.   Formed under very high temperatures and great pressure, they are extremely strong and durable.  When changed from a rough stone into a finished diamond, the result is a multifaceted, sparkling gem of beauty and strength.

Being a mother is like the process of becoming a diamond.  Our trials and difficulties make us strong.  The many roles we fulfill make us multifaceted.  Experience polishes us and completes us.

It's hard to look at challenges and difficulties as positive events in our lives yet without them, we cannot develop our full potential.  We need to be tested under pressure to become strong, just like the diamond.  Otherwise, we'll just be a rough stone.  I'd rather be a sparkly diamond.  :)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tidy Tuesday - What's in a word?

I overheard my husband talking with a friend about some of the changes we've made in our home.  I thought that our goal had been to de-clutter but I found out that my husband's goal has been to "compress" his possessions.    There is a HUGE difference in meaning of those two words.  While I've been trying to get rid of as much as possible, he's been trying to find ways to fit as much as he can into whatever space he has available.  Now it all makes sense!  No wonder I've been frustrated with him  :)

If you choose to keep everything you've ever owned and compress it all into the tightest space possible, you will be able to hold an awful lot of stuff but I promise you that it won't be easy to get to if you ever want to use it.  What good does it do you to have a large number of well-packed and labeled boxes consuming half of your garage?  Belongings that aren't used regularly, become susceptible to infestation of bugs and rodents, rot, mold and mildew and THEY TAKE UP SPACE!  The old adage "Out of sight, out of mind" also applies.  Are you really going to remember what you've packed away?  Are you sure?

Think about you REALLY need to keep everything?  Can you envision what your closets and garage would look like if they were stripped of unnecessary belongings?  Can you imagine what your home would look like without overwhelming clutter?  Would it be more calming and relaxing?

Now that the weather is starting to warm up again, it's the perfect time to rid yourself and your home of things that weigh you down and keep you from functioning at your best. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

No hitting

Why do kids hit other kids?  There's not always an easy answer to that question.  They might be tired, or frustrated, or imitating someone they saw hitting, or angry or any of a number of reasons.  But regardless of WHY they hit, your responsibility as a mother is to see that they DON'T hit another person, child or adult.  That is an unacceptable behavior.

The most important thing you can do is not be an example of someone who hits.  If you don't want your child to hit, then don't hit either.  Ever.  If you do, then you need to work on your own behavior first.

Then, in as calm and firm a voice as possible, tell your child, "No.  No hitting."  "We do not hit."  Be simple and straightforward.  A toddler can understand what you are saying.  Repeat every time your child hits someone.  No yelling, screaming, or long diatribes on the evils of hitting.  The important thing for your child to hear is that what he is doing won't be tolerated.

If he still cannot control himself, it's time to remove him from the situation.  Put him in time-out or in his room or take him home.  Show that you are serious.   Be consistent.

As with most undesirable behaviors, you're going to have to do this over and over again until he finally gets the message that there are predictable consequences to his behavior.  It would be nice if you only had to tell a child once to stop doing something but be realistic.  It isn't going to magically happen the first time...or the second.   If it's any consolation, the sooner you get involved, the sooner his behavior will stop. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sparkly Minerals :)

Princess Lilly  :)
Lilly left her plastic tiara in our house and I returned it to her...

Lilly, "Oh, you found my princess crown!  Isn't it lovely?  And it has sparkly minerals on it."

I love how three year olds discover the world of language  :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thrifty Thursday - Teach your children well

It really is satisfying to learn how to stretch your money to meet the needs of your family.  Think of all the skills you have learned to save money on food, clothes, entertainment, education, and all the other household expenses you incur.  So, the question is...have you taught your kids any of those skills?

Young children don't need to know the details of your household budget or if you're having financial difficulties.  They need to feel secure and safe.  But you can teach them that we can't buy whatever we want and we won't buy everything they want.  We can teach them about saving money to buy something special.  We can teach them about treating their belongings well.

Older children can be included in more of the family finances.  They can be taught how to make simple, economical and healthy meals.  They can learn how to earn money by taking on small jobs at home and in the neighborhood.  They can be encouraged to save.  They can be taught how to compare prices (especially when it comes to clothes, toys and entertainment).

Hopefully, teenagers have learned all of the above.  In addition, this is the time to make sure they know how to work, giving their best and being dependable.  They should know how to budget their money, saving some for long term goals.  They should be able to make simple household repairs.  They should know how to make responsible decisions.

Everything you have learned would be very helpful for your children to know too.  It does them no good to leave the home after high school without the skills and knowledge necessary to live on their own.  You can't pay for their living forever. Teach them while they are young and as they grow and you will be giving them a priceless gift.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I can't believe I'm highlighting a product called Beer Bands :)

Identifying personal bands
 While my kids were growing up, we used color coded Tupperware cups to distinguish whose cup belonged to which child.  (See blog post 6/26/2012) That worked fine when they were young but recently I got tired of Tupperware and wanted something a little more...classy. I still wanted my family (and friends) to know which glass was theirs (I hate washing large numbers of drinking glasses!). 

So, I came up with a great great I would market it and make millions!  I'd use brightly colored silicone bands (like wrist bands) to strap around each person's glass and...instant identification!  Everyone would want them!  It would be the next big fad!  :) 

Let guest pick their own colored confusion!
Guess what?  Someone already came up with the idea and they're called Beer Bands.  :)  I came across them last week while shopping at T.J. Maxx in the kitchen gadget aisle for $4.99/12 bands.  They work just as good as I imagined!

So much for my grand money-making idea but that's ok.  The bands are still a great idea if you don't want any confusion as to whose cup belongs to whom.  Even if you don't drink beer...which I don't  :)

Monday, April 8, 2013


Some moms have the misguided although well meaning idea that correcting their children will bruise their fragile ego or self esteem.  While the idea is commendable, generally, it doesn't hold up in real life.  Children are more resilient than we give them credit for and when treated with love and consistency, they understand the reason for correction (even if they won't admit it) and do not resent their parent for it.  This is not to say that children aren't affected by harsh, belittling or extreme behavior on the part of their parent. There is no place for that...ever. 

Our children are young and will make mistakes...many of them.  They will do things we don't like.  They might even throw tantrums.  Don't take it personally.  Instead of over-reacting with anger or roughness, act with calmness and firmness and show your child, by YOUR example, how THEY should behave.  They'll get the idea.  Maybe not the first or second time you correct them, but it will get through.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Animals and kids

I was reminiscing with my son tonight about the animals we had while the kids were growing up.  For some reason, I thought animals would help teach children responsibility and with eight kids and four acres, you can have a LOT of animals  :)

We had the usual motley collections of dogs and cats.  The cats earned their keep by keeping small rodents away...although they'd usually present us with a severed head or liver as proof of their prowess.  We were so bad at training the dogs that it wasn't uncommon to see the dog dragging the boy rather than the boy walking the dog.  Not bad for a beagle  :)  Then the dalmatian...beautiful dog but got a little too protective when runners went by the house.  Bye bye doggie.

Living on a small farm, we just had to get farm animals so we started with Nubian goats and the grand dream of milking them and providing fresh milk for the family.  Have you ever tried goat milk?  I don't recommend it :) And although the stereotype of goats is that they will eat anything, it isn't true.  They are fairly picky, although we learned it was best not to let long hair get too close.  OUCH!  But one thing they CAN do is escape whatever enclosure you make for them.  And when they're mad, they will butt you with their heads.

The chickens were a little more successful and the kids loved gathering eggs every day.  We kept about 10-12 hens for several years. They were gentle and small so easily handled by even the youngest kids.  The rooster however had a real problem with attitude.  When he tried to assert his domination over my husband, well, that was the last of dear Cocky Boy.  :)

The rabbits wouldn't reproduce.  How can that be?  Well, to be fair, we did have one batch of babies but the mom ate them.  Gross.  They didn't last long.

The ducks lasted an even shorter length of time.  They were so cute, the mom, dad and six babies, waddling around and playing in the stream.  We called the parents Millard and Helen Mallard (named for my parents, Millard and Helen).  Unfortunately, living in the country meant we shared our property with various species of wildlife and one day an apparently hungry bald eagle had a duck dinner.  No more ducks  :(

Last of all was Goosie, the Toulouse Goose.  We called her a watch goose because she was very predictable at honking whenever anyone came near the house.  She especially loved greeting my husband when he came home from work and they would both carry on a honking conversation.  I can't remember what happened to Goosie.

When we left the farm, we found homes for the goats, chickens and the other animals we had accumulated...all except one cat which we brought with us to our new home in another state.  I can't say I miss them.  However, last week I was at a farm store and saw the baby chicks and ... who knows?

Friday, April 5, 2013


Mother Theresa said, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."  Have you ever considered what you are doing when you judge someone?  Basically, you are saying that you are in a superior position, you know more and are entitled to determine whether what someone else is doing is wrong or right.  There are very few of us who are actually in the position to judge another person accurately and fairly. 

He plays with SWORDS?  Don't worry about it  :)
When we judge someone because they are doing something different than what we are doing, that doesn't necessarily mean that what they are doing is wrong.  It's just different.  So they choose to raise their children in a particular way.  It works for THEIR family.  Maybe you wouldn't choose it for your family, and that's ok too.  Maybe they wouldn't want to raise their family the way you do.

It can be hurtful to receive judgmental comments from others.  Instead of putting someone down and criticizing their way of parenting, look for understanding.  Try to see where they're coming from before you pass judgment. 

When it comes to parenting, we need all the help and support we can get.  It doesn't hurt to think before you speak.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Five Year Plan

One day one of my daughters brought home the young man she was dating (and who she eventually married) to meet some of her siblings.  Her older brother took this young man aside and asked him, "So, what is your five year plan?" Awkward  :) We all laugh about it now but in truth, that is a good question for us and our family and our children.

What do we want to accomplish as a family in the next five years?  Do we want to buy a house or a car?  Do we want to take an expensive vacation?  Do we want to save money for college?  

What do our children want to accomplish in the next five years?  Do they want to get accepted into college?  Do they want to learn how to play the piano?  Do they want to be on the football team?

What do YOU want to accomplish in the next five years?  Do you want to lose weight or get fit?  Do you want to go back to school?  Do you want to learn a particular hobby?  Do you want to start a business?

If you have a five year plan, you can make short term decisions that will get you closer to your desired goals.  Think of it as a road map.  Sometimes there are detours and roadblocks, but without that map, you won't get to your destination.

So, what is YOUR five year plan?  :)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Focus on the future

Children's concept of the future is very limited and they are pretty much focused on right now.  They can be impulsive and short-sighted.  Because of that, it's up to us to help them see how their decisions NOW will affect their future LATER.

Although this is true in every aspect of life, it is especially obvious when it comes to education.  Even though YOU know that good grades and study skills are important and will be necessary for whatever profession your child chooses to pursue, your child is only thinking that homework is an inconvenience and is keeping him from what he really wants to do...whether that's playing video games or whatever.  He doesn't realize that what he is doing now is building a foundation for future opportunities.  He's not going to appreciate you reminding him of his responsibility to his schoolwork but you understand the importance of it so you help him "adjust" his priorities and encourage him and give him as many opportunities as possible so his options won't be limited.

We are important in the lives of our children.  Our knowledge and understanding of consequences based on our experience can be used to help them avoid much disappointment and be prepared for anything they want to do in the future. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy April!

Traveling today and tomorrow and won't have access to a computer...I'll be back on Wednesday!  Happy April April's Fool  :)