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Thursday, May 30, 2013

The buddy system

The Boy Scouts teach it.  Firemen use it.  Policemen use it.  Teachers can't take a class on a field trip without it.  Parents would be wise to implement it too.  Do you know what I'm talking about?  If you said the buddy system, you're right!  (maybe the post title gave it away  :)  )

When kids have a partner (or buddy), they are more likely to be safe in unfamiliar or public places.  Especially if you have more than two children, it makes it easier to keep track of them.  I can't think of any place where it's ok to let children go off on their own.  It's just not that safe of a world any more.

This morning I went on a walk/hike in a beautiful wooded canyon with two kids (ages 7 and 11) and their mother.  The kids were assigned to be buddies.  They could go on ahead but not out of sight.  Let's just say that they will need additional practice being buddies  :)  Maybe that's because they're brother and sister but even then, they can be taught to stay together, stop when their mother says "stop", and be aware of their surroundings.  Failure to learn could result in someone getting hurt or lost wandering off the trail.

Teaching them will take some practice and time.  Be patient but let them know that having a partner is for their safety and you expect them to cooperate.  You might try the following...
You can start off with short walks where you practice with your kids and teach them how to be buddies. 
You can teach them how firefighters and policemen work with a buddy for their safety.   Have them think of other people who work together.   Even Mom and Dad are partners!
You can give them incentives for staying with each other.

There are amazing places to visit and explore and you and your children will be able to enjoy them so much more if you implement the buddy system.   Enjoy the adventure!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Welcome to the teenage years :)

It sneaks up on you.  You think you have this child raising thing figured out.  Your children are (for the most part) cooperative.  Life is fairly predictable.  And then you realize that things aren't going as smoothly as usual.  Your child with the sunny disposition is questioning everything you say.  He is getting an...attitude.  He sleeps a lot and eats a lot.  He drags his feet when told to do something.  And his room?  It's starting to smell like a locker room.

Welcome to the teenage years.  :)  Now, they're not always as bad as everyone says.  But they DO require some changes on your part as HE is experiencing change in all aspects of his life.  It's a time of transition and transitions mean adapting to new ideas or circumstances or experiences.  For your child, it means major changes in his or her body both externally and internally.  It signals the period of time when your child changes from a child to an adult.

What does that mean for you, his parents?  Well, first of all it means empathy...remembering what it was like when YOU were going through those years.  You may not have ever raised a teenager before but you certainly were one once so you do have insight into the kinds of problems he is facing.  You need to help him understand that the changes he's going through are normal.  And although normal, not an excuse to be disrespectful of his parents and other family members.  Family rules will still be enforced.  There will still be expectations placed on him.  But, with growing maturity will come increased freedom and trust until the day when he is no longer a child but an adult.

It would be nice if all this took place over a short period of time but most kids need several years to transition from dependence on you to independence.  Be patient.  It's going to be easy to get frustrated and annoyed when he rolls his eyes at you or answers with sarcasm but you have to remember that YOU are the adult.  You are still setting an example for him.  Being calm and in control of yourself is probably more important at this stage of life than ever before.

Teenagers do eventually grow up and become adults.   After all, you and I did  :)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Big ears and eyes

I love the way kids learn about their Daddy's occupation.
Case in point -
Lilly (3), "Look at my beautiful veins!" as she extends her forearm.
Me, "You do have beautiful veins!  Can you find my veins?"
We then spent the next few minutes tracing each others veins.  Her Daddy is a nurse.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The stress of moving

Moving is never easy but if you have children, the potential for stress is compounded by the number of children you have.  Unfortunately, there are very few families who are able to avoid moving at least a few times while the children are young.  So, you might as well learn a few things to cut down (at least a little) the stress.

1. First and most important, involve your children.  Don't try to hide the fact that you are planning a move.  Your kids can tell that something is going on so share with them your plans.
2. As soon as you know you are going to move, start clearing out clutter and items that you no longer use or want.  Why go through the hassle of packing and moving boxes of stuff that you won't be using!  Again, involve the kids in going through THEIR belongings.
3. Designate an area of the house for packed and labeled boxes.  Stack boxes there.
4. Speaking of boxes, save yourself a ton of hassle by going to Home Depot or Lowes and buying standard size and shape boxes.  They're really inexpensive.  It is so much easier to pack boxes that are the same size than a haphazard collection of used boxes you picked up behind a grocery store.
5. And labeling?  Mark each box with the room it will be in as well as a basic description of the contents.  If there are a number of people helping you move boxes, it is useful if they know what room to put their boxes in.  And, writing the contents will help you when you are faced with 20 boxes marked KITCHEN and you need something specific.
6. Try to keep your routine as normal as possible for the kids.  Try to keep the upheaval to a minimum.
7. Pack the kid's belongings last.  Unpack them first.
8. Remind yourself that this chaos is temporary.  Soon the stress of moving will be over and you can relax in your new home.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Summer programs

The world is so much more interesting upside down  :)
With school getting out and the prospect of kids home all day, a mom's thoughts naturally turn to activities that will keep the kids occupied and maybe even teach them something.  Most communities are very accommodating with providing sports activities, art lessons, dance and music classes.  But, before you get all excited and sign your kids up for multiple classes, sit down with them and determine if they really want to commit to a particular program.  Sometimes, it's the mom (or dad) who think Junior should take soccer lessons (or whatever) and Junior really has no interest in it.  That is a recipe for unhappy kids, pushy parents and conflict.  After all, Mom and Dad invested money in lessons and equipment and supplies and don't want to waste it.  Time to take a moment and think..."Is this program important for my child or ME?"  If you're honest with yourself, you know the answer.

On the other hand, there are kids who beg to sign up for a program and then quickly lose interest in it.  In that case, it's a good idea to encourage your child to stick with it and complete it.  Sometimes a sport looks really easy...until he realizes that the sport requires practice, dedication and hard work.  Remind your child that skills are learned gradually and not to give up.

Childhood is a time of exploration and learning.  Encourage your children and help them discover their skills and interests...but don't be pushy  :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thrifty Thursday - Simple pleasures

In the giant list of things to do and projects to prioritize, we often put ourselves last.  Especially when it comes to spending, we have a hard time justifying spending money on ourselves.  But when we do that, we are forgetting something very order to take good care of others, we have to take care of us.  It doesn't have to cost much or take a lot of time to give yourself a little pampering.

If you live near a beauty school, you can find fantastic prices on services such as haircuts and coloring, perms, waxing, nail treatments, scalp treatments and all the other things expensive salons provide.  All the students are closely supervised but if you're uncomfortable, you can request an advanced student (one who is nearing graduation) to be your stylist.  Or, you can start with something not so scary, like a simple shampoo and style to see how you like your stylist.

On a recent trip to visit a daughter, we went to the local Paul Mitchell beauty school and I got a haircut with shampoo and style ($8.00!) and she got a scalp treatment ($5.00!).  It was so kids, no phone calls, just one hour of total relaxation!

You work hard.  You shouldn't feel guilty for spending an hour or two just on yourself.  You'll come home feeling great and when you feel good, you pass that on to your husband and kids.  Sounds like a win-win situation to me  :)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What's cooking? Wednesday - Southwest Chopped Salad

Southwest Chopped Salad
My husband is still exploring life without meat, wheat, dairy and sugar and I am still trying to come up with creative ways to satisfy his nutritional needs while not becoming boring.   It's amazing how much I miss macaroni and cheese and chocolate chip cookies  :)

Oh well, both my husband and I are seeing results from our new healthier lifestyle.  That's whats important, right?  I sure hope so!

This main dish salad was really good, filling and definitely not boring.  On a warm summer day, give it a try!

Southwest Chopped Salad  (you don't need to be exact with the ingredients creative!)
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
1 bell pepper (red, yellow or green), chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 small or 1/2 large red onion, chopped
1 handful black or green olives, chopped
1 can white or black beans, rinsed and drained
1 handful raw or roasted almonds, chopped

Combine all ingredients with almonds sprinkled on top.  Serve with salsa and sour cream or greek yogurt (if you are ok with dairy).  Dig in! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chuck wants help

From the bathroom...
Chuck, "I'm done now!"
Chuck, "I'M DONE NOW!"
Daddy (in the living room), "You can do it yourself."
Daddy, "You're a big boy.  You can do it."
Daddy, "When will you be big enough to wipe yourself?"
Daddy, "When will that be?"
Daddy (sigh), "I'm coming."

That will be interesting...  :)

Monday, May 20, 2013

A window of opportunity

Today I had great plans of cleaning my house, doing laundry and catching up with budgeting.  But a quick check of the weather forecast made me put aside all those things I can do anytime and head outside to prepare our garden plot and get some seeds in the ground.  This window of opportunity was one I wasn't going to pass up.  Living in the Pacific Northwest, our Spring's are often rainy and this year has been no exception...except for today. One day of sunshine.  Today.  Why would I spend this day indoors doing the same old thing when a sunny day like today might not come again for another week or two?

That's why it's important to be flexible.  When a window of opportunity presents itself, it might not last long so you have to take advantage of it while you can.  Whether it's planting a garden before it's the middle of Summer or having an opportunity to help someone in need or taking the kids to a special activity, don't worry about your usual routine.  It will wait.  Some opportunities won't. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Plan now!

Such joy!
Summer is only a few weeks away and with it comes ... Summer Vacation for the kids!  Your kids probably have dreams of playing all day, no chores, no homework, just hours and hours of pure childhood bliss.

This might be a good time to sit down with them (before they get out of school) and talk about what your expectations are concerning their time.  You can work with them to schedule the things they want to do with the things you want them to do.  If this includes daily chores (rooms need to be cleaned even in the summer!), music lessons, maybe some math review, and limited video games, letting them know now will avoid some nasty confrontations later.  Make sure that there is plenty of free time for their activities and friends also.  You might want to write it all down in a chart for everyone to see so no one can say they didn't know.  Kids can have a very short memory when they want.  :)

By letting your kids help plan, they will feel that they have a say in the decision making process and are more likely to cooperate.   And we like cooperative children!  :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Marriage - fantasy or reality

Seeing eye-to-eye isn't always easy!
Most people think conflicts in marriage are about money, sex, in-laws and child rearing.  Wrong.  Most conflicts in marriage are about expectations.  You have a mind picture of how things ought to be does your husband.  And, you're probably reading from two different scripts.  Like most scripts, a lot of what you are picturing is based on fantasy...a perfect scenario.  But in real life, people rarely act or think in a perfect way so conflict arises.

When your husband doesn't respond how you think he should, try to remember that you are (unconsciously) expecting him to follow your script even though he doesn't even have it.  Not exactly fair, is it?  What you could do is be upfront and tell him what your expectations are.  At least then you'll have a place to start in discussing the problem.  It doesn't mean that your husband will say "Yes, dear" and automatically switch his thinking to your thinking (wishful thinking) but you might be able to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

Your husband probably isn't trying to sabotage your perfect view of how things ought to be any more than you are trying to sabotage his.  Your expectations are different.  That's all.  Share your expectations, work together and come up with something that you both can live with. Then your script can have a real happy ending  :)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

400 posts!

I just noticed that I posted my 400th post!  Wow!  I never would have imagined that I'd find so much to write about.  Thanks to my kids for the inspiration and making it possible for me to be a mom!

I need a new picture!  This one is missing a daughter, two sons-in-law and three grandchildren.  Oh, better wait.  There might be new changes soon!

What's cooking? Wednesday - Deep Purple smoothie

Isn't this a beautiful color?  I just love it!  These fruit smoothies are getting to be addicting!  In just a few minutes, you can get a couple of servings of fruit in a palatable drink!  You can even sneak in a handful of spinach if you want  :)

Deep Purple
2 bananas, cut into chunks
1 1/2 c. fresh blueberries
1 1/2 c. milk (I used almond milk)
(either the bananas or the blueberries should be frozen or add a handful of crushed ice)

Blend everything in the blender and enjoy! 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tidy Tuesday - The good ol' days

When was the last time you darned socks?
Years ago, I came across a little treasure of a book, written in 1909  entitled,"When Mother Lets Us Help".   It was written to help young boys and girls learn how to properly take care of their home.  Let me just say...times have  changed!  We might think housekeeping is a pain but have you ever considered what it would be like without electricity or modern plumbing?

In the chapter on tidying the bed room, the author gives instructions on how to empty the wash bowl and slop jar.  What?  Gross!  There is also a reminder about taking care that your candles are long enough to burn until the next morning.  I don't think I'd ever sleep if I thought a candle was burning somewhere in the house!
Gotta polish that silver!

Did you know that you're supposed to polish the silver every week?  Apparently so.  I don't even OWN any silver  :)

Have you ever heard of an ice box?  That's what people used before refrigerators.  It looked something like a refrigerator but kept things cool with a big block of ice.  In caring for your ice box you are supposed to clean it twice a week and be sure that the inside stays below 50 degrees.  50 degrees is considered totally unacceptable by today's standards!

The ice box
Your stove would be fueled by wood in 1909 and you'd have to know how to adjust the heat and keep it going and not burn down the house.  In fact, your whole house would be heated by wood...which is probably why they made such a big thing about Spring Cleaning.  Houses got really dirty during the winter with smoke and soot and stuff like that.  Oh, and the books notes that chimney fires are common...just pour table salt down the chimney from the roof!  Aargghhh!!!
Does this give you an idea of how blessed you are today?  I love indoor plumbing, my furnace, electricity, my vacuum and of course, my refrigerator  :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Chuck's observation

Words of wisdom by Chuck  :)
Chuck, "Baby was playing in the potty today."
Me, "What did you think about that?"
Chuck, "I think it was really wrong!"
Chuck, "Did Daddy play in the potty too?"
Me, "He probably did."
Chuck, "I don't think anyone should play in the potty.  It's nasty!"

Good point, Chuck.  There are better places to play than in the potty  :)  Time to make sure the bathroom door is firmly closed.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mothers... Day!

My kids...a long, long time ago.  I love being a Mom!
I don't know about you but I'm not a big fan of Mother's Day.  There is usually a nice program at church devoted to mothers but those talks, instead of inspiring me, tend to remind me of my inadequacies and failings.  So, even though my children are super sweet and help make the day special, I know I could be and should be better.

Today was different.  Instead of going to our local church, my husband and I drove down to Portland (Oregon) to spend the day with a daughter and her husband.  We got to hear the traditional Mother's Day talks at THEIR church  :)  But, that's not what I'm going to talk about.

As I was driving down (it's a two hour drive), I was thinking of Mother's Day...particularly what everyone says... Happy Mother's Day.  Three words.  Happy. Mothers. Day.  Let's dissect those words...

Happy - A feeling of joy and happiness ( I know I'm not supposed to use a word in its definition but this is my blog post so I can do it anyway!).  Sometimes elusive.

Mothers - A role we fulfill either until we die, or forever (whichever you believe).  Sounds like a blessing or a curse  :)

Day - A day is just one of 365 in a year.  24 hours.  Quite a small period of time in the great scheme of things.

So, what I got out of this rambling train of thought is I think we should focus on the first two words...happy mothers...rather than the day.   A day is fleeting, but being happy mothers will affect our children forever.  Not only that but wouldn't you rather be happy?  It's totally within our control, whether we choose to be happy or let circumstances bring us down.  Why would anyone choose to be crabby or morose.

Yes, we can all be better mothers but that shouldn't stop us from being happy even in our imperfect state.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Are our kids missing out?

I've been reading about a study conducted by the Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CLEF) at UCLA on the family life of 32 middle-class families in Southern California.  It's been a fascinating read (maybe because some of the families studied are from the neighborhood I grew up in).  Researchers went into these homes and documented (through interview and videotape) everything the families did for one week.

How can anyone be inside on a day like this?!
One of the findings that I found surprising is how little time families spend outdoors.  Even though most of the homes had comfortable backyards with children's equipment and playthings, pools, lounge chairs, and other recreational equipment, these spaces were rarely used.  The children spent most of their time indoors,  plugged into electronics and the parents were outside even less.  Considering that the study was done in Southern California where the weather is mild all year long, this is especially disturbing.

If this is the trend of most families today, our children are missing out on an important part of childhood...that of being outdoors, enjoying the sunshine, exploring and playing, using their muscles to grow strong and healthy and developing their creativity. 

With Summer approaching, this might be a good time to evaluate how you and your children are spending your leisure time.  Are you inside, even though it's a beautiful day outside or are you showing your children how much fun they can have if they just turn off the electronics and head outdoors to play with the dog, or run through the sprinklers, or shoot a few hoops, or look for bugs.  How about making this the summer you spend more time outside rather than inside!

Note - The study on families can be found in the book, "Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century"  by Jeanne E. Arnold, Anthony P. Graesch, Enzo Ragazzini, and Elinor Ochs.   2012

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Not Your Usual Spinach Salad

Not your usual Spinach Salad

This is the perfect salad for a warm Spring day...colorful, healthy and so tasty!

Spinach Salad
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
2 handfuls fresh spinach, chopped
about 10 strawberries, sliced
2 oranges, peeled, sliced and quartered
1 small bunch green onions
1 T. sunflower seeds (or 2 T. sliced almonds)

Dressing - Mix the following in small container:
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 t. olive oil
1-2 t. sweetener (sugar, agave, Splenda...)
1 t. flaxseed (optional)

Mix greens with cut fruit.  Drizzle dressing over all and toss.
This salad makes a good main dish salad if you top the salad with sliced grilled chicken.  Yum!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Glub, glub

My family had been invited to tour a friend's new home, complete with inground swimming pool.  Seeing that pool was so exciting to my three year old son that he let go of my hand, ran and jumped into the deep end before I could stop him.  Completely taken by surprise, I jumped in, grabbed his floundering little body and deposited him on dry land.  His response?  "Mommy, I go glub, glub."

Yes, my son, you went glub glub and Mommy practically had a heart attack.

Little kids are so fearless and water is so enticing.  It's fun to take a bath in water, splash around in water, make a mess in the kitchen sink with's no wonder they are drawn to it.

Which is why I'm a firm believer in teaching water safety to kids...the younger the better, especially if you live in an area where your children have access to swimming pools.  Many parents get their children involved in sports at an early age but I really, really think the first sport/activity should be swimming.  While some sports teach team sportsmanship, swimming teaches a life-saving skill.  

Your child will have many opportunities to be around water...a beach party, a scout activity, boating and/or fishing, tubing the river with friends, summer camp and so forth.  Teach your child to swim and he can thoroughly enjoy those activities and not be left out because he's the only one who can't swim. 

Let's have a safe summer!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tummy problems for Chuck

Chuck (4) threw up this morning.  :(

Me, "I'm sorry you're sick, Chuck."
Chuck, "I think it was too many treats.  It happens that way sometimes." (ever the pragmatist)
Chuck (in a somber tone), "Or maybe it's diabetes."
Me, "You don't have diabetes  :)"

I love the way children listen and process the things they hear around them.

Friday, May 3, 2013

"Those who do not learn from the past..."

A famous quote that is often applied to the condition of war is "Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it."  (George Santayana).  Now, I'm not saying that raising children is a form of war  :) but the quote can also be applied to family life.

How?  We all grew up in a family.  That family had its successes and challenges.  Our parents did many things right and some things...wrong.  Do you remember saying when you were a teenager that you would NEVER do (whatever) when YOU had children?

Well, now it's your turn.  You are the parent.  You have the opportunity to raise your children any way you please.  Are you going to remember the experiences of your youth?  Are you going to try to repeat the good things your parents did?  Are you going to try to find other ways of dealing with problems that didn't work for your parents?

It is a good thing that we don't have to start from scratch when we start our own family.  We have had experiences that will help shape the decisions we make.  By remembering those past experiences, we can have an idea of what the outcome will be with our children.

It's all up to us how we apply that knowledge.  We can use it as a stepping stone to improve our role as parents or we can use it as a stumbling block to hold us back from being the best parents we can be.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What's cooking? Wednesday - Orange Creamsicle Smoothie

Oranges, bananas, carrots, peaches, protein powder
This has been one of the family favorites so far!  Super healthy and so good tasting!

Orange Creamsicle Smoothie

2 oranges, peeled and cut into quarters
2 bananas, peeled and cut into quarters
2 carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 peaches, pit removed and cut into pieces
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
enough water to make blending easier.*

Blend until smooth and creamy.  Love it!

*If you are using frozen fruit, increase the water.  If using room temperature fruit, decrease the water and add a handful of crushed ice.

VitaMix Orange Creamsicle Smoothie