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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The big picture

When dealing with the daily drudgery of laundry, making meals, cleaning up after kids, referring fights, changing diapers, juggling budgets, helping with homework and all the other assorted things that make your life special, it's hard to focus on the big picture...the reason why you are doing what you are doing.

You're devoting a good portion of your life to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted children and build a strong marriage with your husband.  You want to have a home that is comfortable and inviting.  You want your children to be well educated.  You know that what you do makes a huge difference in the lives of not only your children but others you aren't even aware of.

They're worth it!
That's why we get up every morning with the resolve to make it a good day, a better day than the one before, even though the baby is crying and the kids are clamoring for their breakfast and the house is a mess.  By keeping the big picture in mind, we can handle whatever frustration or challenge comes our crisis at a time.  You're not wasting your talents and education when you turn your heart and your effort to your family.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Kids fight?

If you think your kids are constantly fighting, you might be right.  An article I recently read said that young children fight up to 8 times an hour!  Doing some simple math...let's see...assuming your children are awake an average of 12 hours a day, that means they might be fighting 96 times each and every day.   Now, add more than 2 children to the mix and it's no wonder you're exhausted by the end of the day.

These little darlings fight?  Never!  :)
You could look at the bright side though.  If your kids only fight 4-5 times an hour, you can feel good that they fight less than average.  Don't you feel better now?  :)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thrifty Thursday - Step away from the...

The whole purpose of advertisers is to sell their you.  They do a pretty good job at it too!  Why else would you come home from the store with something you bought totally on impulse because you saw it advertised in a magazine or on TV or on the radio and it looked like it might come in handy?  Or, you saw it demonstrated at someplace like Costco or worse yet, you ate a sample of it at Costco?  That last one is my particular downfall  :)  Just one taste of --- and I have to buy an entire bag of it, even though before I walked into the store, I never knew it existed.

At times like this, we get to practice the dying art of self control.  It only takes our minds seconds to process whether we need a product or not.  We can resist the urge and put the product down.  Just because we try a sample of something doesn't mean we're obligated to buy it (although that's what we're supposed to do).

Ask yourself -
"Do I need it?"
"Do I have a place for it?"
"Does it duplicate something I already have?"
"Does this encourage my family to eat healthy?"  (for food purchases)
"What would happen if I didn't buy it?"

Do you REALLY need more Lego's?  Ok, well, I guess you can never have too many Lego's  :)
There aren't many products that pass all the questions.  Too many homes are filled with gadgets and impulse items that take up space that could be used for things that you really do use.  Not only that but when we buy on impulse, we spend money that could be better used elsewhere.

In the well known words of William Morris, "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What's cooking? Wednesday - Broccoli Salad Smoothie

Broccoli Salad Smoothie - Before
This smoothie was my husband's idea.  He loves broccoli salad and wondered what would happen if he combined all the ingredients for the salad in a blender and made a smoothie.  Well, the first time I tasted it, I was not impressed  :)  His smoothie was more like a lumpie than a smoothie.  He liked it though and over time, I've tweaked it so that it actually tastes good.  Blending it long enough to make it smooth does help!  If you're brave, give it a try  :)

Broccoli Salad Smoothie

2 apples, cored and quartered
2 c. broccoli florets
1 c. pineapple chunks (I use frozen)
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1 scoop protein powder (I use the whey based vanilla powder sold at Costco)

Combine all ingredients in blender.  Add about 1 1/2 c. water (more or less depending on how thick you want it).  Blend until smooth.  Drink...if you dare  :)

Broccoli Salad Smoothie - After

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tidy Tuesday - Refrigerator magic

Plastic wrap makes cleaning refrigerator shelves easy!
One of the jobs I really disliked doing was cleaning the refrigerator..until I learned a quick little fix. Line the shelves with clear plastic wrap and when someone spills something (and with kids that is a when, not an if!) or when it's time to clean the whole refrigerator, just pull off the plastic wrap, do whatever spot cleaning needs to be done and replace with fresh wrap.  No more scrubbing hardened on spills and gunk.

Some people like to line their shelves with placemats or Rubbermaid shelf liners but I prefer plastic wrap because it's disposable.  With the others, you still have to clean them and to me that defeats the purpose.

So, the next time you tackle the dreaded job of cleaning the refrigerator, try putting down some plastic wrap before you replace the shelves and see if that makes the job any easier.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Powerful words

Words are powerful things and because they are so powerful, they should be used with care.  They can motivate us to do great things, they can give comfort and peace, they can convey love, they can bring unity.  But, words can also hurt feelings, alienate family members, cause discouragement and depression, and can even start wars.

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone and in the heat of the moment, they said something they probably shouldn't have?  The rest of the discussion might have had valid points but the only thing you remember is those few unfortunate words.  I've seen it time and again, especially in dealing with children.  Communication breaks down when certain words are said.  Words like, "You are so stupid" or "You're so lazy" or  "#&#%@^".  Those words won't be forgotten.

When we treat each other with respect and keep emotionally-charged statements and words out of our conversations, the lines of communication remain open and conflicts can be resolved.  And isn't that what we want?  To speak and to be heard?  To be heard and be understood?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lilly's potato

Lilly was helping me pull weeds from around the compost pile and we found a potato plant that had taken root among the weeds.  She was so enchanted with this tiny little potato, she wanted to keep it. 

I love gardening with children.  They are so fascinated with the bugs, plants, rocks and even little potatoes  :)  They help remind me to enjoy the simple things all around me.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Selective hearing

Children can be so exasperating!  You know they can hear perfectly well (their pediatrician will back you up on that) yet when you tell them to do something (or NOT do something) they look at you with a blank uncomprehending stare.  They have selective hearing but don't worry, it's not clinical  :)

Here's something to try when you give your child directions.  Ask him to tell you what you just said.  Most likely he'll just go "uhhhhhhh, I don't know".  So repeat what you want him to do and ask again what you said.  He'll probably be listening a little closer this time.  Make sure he got all the important facts of what you said.  Then see that he follows through.

I think kids get distracted or preoccupied and really aren't paying attention when you tell them something.  So, you assume he heard you when in reality, he didn't.  By asking him to tell you in his words what you want him to do, he'll learn how to be a better listener and a better listener is one step closer to a child who doesn't have to be reminded of everything.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Characteristics of happy families

In the opening line of Leo Tolstoy's classic novel Anna Karenina, he writes, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."  Truer words were never spoken.  Whether in 1873 (when Tolstoy penned the phrase) or 2013, characteristics of happy families are timeless.

What could be considered characteristics of happy families today?

1. Respect.  Every member of the family is important.  Disrespectful behavior and actions are not acceptable by children nor parents.

2. Put family first.  There are always outside influences that pull at the heart of the family but the needs and consideration of the family is foremost in their minds.

3. Accept.  Not one member of the family is perfect although all are trying to improve themselves every day.  Acceptance of each member, flaws and all, contribute to happiness in the family.

4. Communicate.  Being able to communicate openly with family members keeps misunderstandings from building into huge conflicts.  Having Family Councils or Family Meetings frequently gives everyone a voice in family matters.

5. Support.  Knowing that your family "has your back" helps in dealing with difficulties outside the home and builds unity inside the home.

6. Pray together.  Religious families have a framework with which to build their family on, based on principles of love, kindness and service.

7. Service.  Helping other people brings families closer together, and decreases feelings of selfishness.

8. Build family traditions.  Every family has unique traditions that help bond the family and create lasting memories.  These don't have to be elaborate nor expensive, just things that your family identifies as their own.

As no family is perfect, these are things to work on and improve in our families.  Luckily, we have the ability to change and adopt techniques that strengthen rather than weaken our families.  Characteristics of happy families have stood the test of time.   They work.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Spit bugs

Do you see the frothy "spit" in the midde of my lavender plant?
Lilly has developed a new habit over the past few weeks...spitting.  So today I introduced her to spit bugs in the garden.  We walked around the plants and I showed her the little blobs of white "spit" that spit bugs leave on leaves and stems.  She was both horrified and fascinated that bugs spit.   I told her that only nasty bugs spit...not little girls or boys.  She said she didn't want to be like a bug so she didn't want to spit anymore.  I don't know if it's a permanent fix but for now she equates spitting with bugs.

Oh, just a comment...I looked up spit bugs on google and read that the spit has an acrid taste.  Who in the world would taste the spit of a spit bug?!!!  Yuck!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Chuck, Lilly and Ellie made this special present for Grumpy on Father's Day. 

I hope we all appreciate the fathers in our lives...our husbands, the father of our children and our children's grandfathers, our own fathers.  Sometimes I think they don't get enough credit for all they do for our families. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The resourceful preschooler

I guess the shiny, silver scissors were too much to resist.  It didn't take long for Lilly to whack off a chunk of her hair, much to the distress of everyone around her.  Chuck cried.  "Can you make her hair big again?" he asked.  I'm afraid that's beyond my abilities  :)

No matter how hard we try to keep certain things out of reach, preschoolers seem to be able to find a way to get whatever attracts their attention.  I remember when my four year old son came out of the bathroom with blood running down his leg.  It seems that he wanted to shave his legs  :)  I honestly had no idea that he would play around with a razor.  Luckily, he didn't cut himself badly but it was an eyeopener to me that nothing is sacred in the house.   And one of my daughters did what Lilly did, only to her bangs.  She was frustrated with them so she lopped them off to the hairline.  Now THAT was hard to fix!

We can do our best, be smart and vigilant but beyond that, we can only hope and pray that our children don't do anything harmful.  At least Lilly didn't accidently stab herself!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Baby chicks Part 2

A year ago, I wrote a post about baby chicks (June 11, 2012).  Baby chicks need to emerge from their shell without any help or they will die.  Even though we might think that we're helping them by removing some of their shell, the chicks develop their strength from the process of hatching from their eggs.  In the same way, our children need to be allowed to develop their strength through the challenges they face.

I don't know what made me think about baby chicks today but I had another thought about the development of chicks and how they compare to our children.  Even though the chick has to hatch on its own, the mother hen is always close by, keeping the egg warm, turning it, clucking to give the chick direction and then sheltering it when it hatches.

Can you see where this is heading?  Sometimes we have to stand back and watch as our kids experience challenges but that doesn't stop us from being supportive, providing encouragement and direction to help guide them through their difficulties.  We provide a warm, nurturing home, safe from outside influences and if anyone threatening comes near, we aren't afraid to peck the intruders eyes out!  :)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It's a tool, not a toy

Funny thing about technology...we gripe about how our kids use it too much, yet we are becoming more and more dependent on it ourselves.  Where would we be without computers (specifically the internet), GPS, cell phones, our smart devices, tablets, cable TV, iPods and all the other marvelous gadgets that Microsoft and Apple come up with?  It really wasn't that long ago when those things weren't available yet today we can't live without them.

So is it any wonder that our kids are so drawn to using the same things we do?  How can we tell them not to spend time on the computer when every day they see us with our laptops on our laps, plugged into our iPods and watching the latest episode of our favorite sitcom on Netflix?  (now THAT is multi-tasking!)

Here's a suggestion.  Teach your children that all these devices have a useful purpose.  One of my husband's favorite sayings was, "It's a tool, not a toy."  We didn't mind our children using technology for their education (in fact, we encouraged it!) but we tried to limit the mindless surfing on the internet and game playing...not always successful but we tried  :)

Maybe we should remind ourselves the same's a tool, not a toy!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Kids + dirt + water =

I think someone should invent disposable clothes for kids...maybe like a jumpsuit or a hazmat suit. :)   Just think of it, your kids could go out and play and you could strip off the disposable suit when they were ready to come back into the house and they'd still be clean!

Chuck and Lilly were outside "helping" in the garden this afternoon.  They dug in the dirt and got pretty dirty.  Then they turned on the faucet and started playing around with the hose, adding water to the dirt on their dusty, dirty little bodies.  Then they went back to digging, adding another layer of dirt on top of the now muddy layer.  Finally they topped it off with a wrestling match in the grass.

Just as I was thinking that at least one of them didn't have to go to the bathroom, Lilly announced "I have to pee!"  Oh, how I wanted that hazmat suit!

Will someone PLEASE invent it?!  You'd make millions!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Averting a restaurant meltdown

Five hungry children under the age of six at a restaurant is a potentially volatile situation.  Add to that a twenty minute wait for food and the natives were definitely restless!

Time to distract!  The waitress left a pile of straws at the table so the kids and I spent several minutes bending the straws into numbers, shapes and alphabet letters and guessing what they were.  They were really good at recognizing their letters and numbers!  They even learned what a trapezoid and rhombus were  :)

Children can be easily distracted...which is a good thing!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Communication, Sudoku style

I had one of those "aha" moments today.  My husband and I both like to play Sudoku, the number game where there's a grid of 9 squares, each square divided into 9 smaller squares, with a few numbers scattered among the boxes.  You have to find the missing numbers so that in each box are the numbers from 1-9 and in the larger grid are the numbers from 1-9 across and down, with no duplicate numbers.  I hope you already basically know about the game because my definition isn't the greatest.  :)

Are our brains different?  You bet!
Anyway, he mentioned a game he'd just finished that was difficult and he told me how he solves his puzzles.  He has a very detailed and complicated formula he uses.  I got lost after the first minute of his explanation.  When he finished explaining, I told him how I solve puzzles.  It's completely opposite to his method.  I work on the big picture first and then work on the more detailed methods if I get stuck, which isn't often.

Why this is an "aha" moment is because it is representative of how different our brains work.  He is very detail oriented and analytical and I'm more of a visual, big picture kind of person.  Knowing this helps me see how conflicts arise in our interactions.  Neither of us are necessarily wrong, we just think differently.

I think most difficulties in marriage can be traced to the different ways our brains work.  You might say husbands and wives complement each other (and sometimes we do) but sometimes we just don't see things the same way! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tidy Tuesday - Go on a vacation :)

Wouldn't it be nice if you could go on a vacation and come home to a perfectly clean house?  Sorry, that's not quite what I had in mind here  :)  But what I AM going to talk about is how going on a vacation helps you see with fresh eyes the things that are all around you.

We get so accustomed to how our house looks that sometimes we don't see things that need to be cleaned or clutter that's accumulated or maintenance projects that have been forgotten.  But when we're gone for a week or so, we come home and it's as if we are seeing our home with new eyes.

I was gone for nine days and while I was gone, my husband took wonderful care of our home, doing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, and even vacuuming!  I was so proud of him :)  But I realized that I hadn't cleaned out the refrigerator in a long time and there were a few other household things that I forgot needed to be done.  I hadn't noticed them before I left.

So, I think we all need to go on a vacation every few months to help us keep our homes clean and cared for.  Doing so will also help us appreciate the comforts we take for granted.  Doesn't that sound like a good idea? 

If that isn't possible, you can almost get the same effect if you pretend you're a visitor, entering your home for the first time.  What do you notice?

I'd still rather take a vacation  :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Don't cross the yellow line

 Funny thing about kids...if you tell them not to cross the yellow line, they will see how close to the line they can get without going over.  There could be plenty of room on their "side" but it's not nearly as enticing as that forbidden yellow line.

Testing's what kids do.  And what do Mom's do?  They are consistent.  They set the boundaries and see to it that they are respected and obeyed.

The "yellow line" represents safety.  Kids don't understand where danger exists so it's up to us to set boundaries for them and help them learn that the safest place to be is far away from that yellow line.

Wouldn't it be nice if all dangers were marked with yellow lines?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The glow stick controversy :)

Marie (7) and I were at the Dollar Tree store and I told her that she could pick out something she'd like.  Marie was all happy and excited and started looking up and down the toy aisle, having difficulty making a decision.  I suggested a coloring book.  No.  A puzzle?  No.  A craft set?  No.  PlayDoh?  No.  Finally, she pointed to the glow sticks and said she wanted those.  She loved glow sticks!  Great!  Let's get those.  She decided on glow bracelets but when we headed to check-out stand, her eye caught on bubbles.  Now she wanted those.  I told her that she had bubbles at home and she'd decided on the glow bracelets.  The storm clouds immediately formed around her head.  She didn't want glow bracelets!  She wanted bubbles!  I quietly told her that we weren't buying bubbles and we were buying the bracelets.  Oh, she was mad.  She informed me that she didn't like them and she wouldn't touch them.  I cheerfully told her that that was ok.  And then she went into a pout.  I paid for the glow bracelets and we left the store.

After about five minutes, her tone softened and she wanted to hold the bag.  Then she started peeking inside the bag and when we got home, she couldn't wait to tear open the package and snap her bracelets to make them glow.  I had no problem getting her to bed that night...she wanted the lights off so she could enjoy the bracelets in all their glowing beauty.

Long story, short conclusion.  It's ok for our kids to be unhappy with us sometimes.  When they pout and stomp their little feet, we don't have to jump through hoops to please them.  But we do need to treat their behavior lightly and not make it an issue.