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Monday, July 29, 2013

Exceptions to the rule

We all know that giving children choices is a sound principle.  It helps them make decisions and learn about consequences.  There are a few instances however, when it probably isn't the best idea.

1. When you really can't honor their choice.  For example, if you're planning a vacation and know you have to go visit the grandparents, don't ask your kids for their input on where the family will go.  It's already arranged.  What you CAN do is announce that "this year the family is going to visit Grandma and Grandpa.  What are some things we might consider doing while we're there?"   Then get their ideas.

2. When there's more than one child and the decision will affect all.  For example, if you are with two children and you ask them if they want to go to McDonalds or Arbys, you can bet that one will say McDonalds and the other will say Arbys.  Then you're in the uncomfortable position of "siding" with one or the other.  Better to just say "We're going to Arbys.  You can have a roast beef sandwich or a chicken sandwich."

Kids have a way of complicating even our best intentions.  But's ok if you don't let them choose EVERYTHING.  We, as parents, can't choose everything either.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Losing your temper

My friend is a wonderful, loving mom.  She juggles work, child raising, volunteer work and just being an awesome person with apparent ease.  And then she called me because she (as she said) blew up at the kids.  They had been bickering and fighting and she'd just had enough!  She felt completely guilty and like a horrible mom for losing her temper.

I reassured her that she was ok, her kids were ok and she hadn't damaged their fragile psyches beyond repair.  Even the best, most calm mom has a breaking point.  Moms may be supermoms but they're people too and have limits.  Let's face it, kids can drive you crazy!

If you DO lose your temper, don't despair.  When you've calmed down, apologize to your child for yelling at him, simply and without long explanation or justification.  Try not to make a big deal out of it.  Most likely, your kids will accept your apology and that will be the end of it as far as they're concerned.

As for you, dear overwhelmed Mom, next time try to recognize when you're experiencing that overwhelmed, out-of-control feeling.  Excuse yourself from your kids (if you can) or put them in their rooms or in their crib or someplace safe and tell them that you need a few minutes to yourself.   Take a deep breath and wait until you can deal with your children with calmness and self control.

They'll appreciate it and you'll feel better.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I love this little family!  So thankful everyone is going to be all right.
Last night my brother-in-law and three of his young grandchildren were in a car accident.  A drunk driver T-boned them, causing their truck to roll over.  My brother-in-law sustained injuries, including a punctured lung, several broken ribs and assorted other minor injuries.  One granddaughter broke her hand, a grandson lost a tooth and the youngest escaped without injury.

What started out to be a normal quick trip to take the children home, became instead one of those major life-changing experiences that won't be forgotten.  So many emotions come quickly to mind.  Foremost is gratitude for lives saved and the people who came to the aid of the family, providing comfort and calm reassurance during such a stressful time.  This little family is well loved and there has been such an outpouring of support and love as they deal with this unexpected trial.

It's yet another reminder about how precious and fragile life is.  We cannot live in fear of something bad happening but we always need to remember that the most important things in this life are our family.  There is no place for grudges, contention, anger and other negative emotions.  Today is the day to mend broken relationships.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring.  We should wake up every morning, thanking God for the blessings He has given us and feeling joy for the most important of all relationships, our family.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What's cooking? Wednesday - Broccoli Cauliflower soup

This is another of my experiments with the VitaMix blender.  It's super good and is adaptable to different diets.  I use imitation bacon bits because my husband doesn't eat bacon but either is fine...whatever your preference!  Same with cheese could use shredded cheddar cheese instead.  Anyway, play around with it and see if your family likes it too.

Broccoli Cauliflower Soup...yum!
Broccoli Cauliflower Soup

2 c. broccoli florets
2 c. cauliflower florets
1 medium onion, quartered
1 T. chicken soup base
abt. 2 c. water
2 T. cheese powder
1/4 c. almonds (optional)
bacon bits (real or imitation) to sprinkle on top
pepper to taste

In large pan combine the broccoli, cauliflower, onion, chicken soup base and water.  Cook until broccoli and cauliflower are tender.
Transfer ingredients to blender bowl.  Add cheese powder and almonds.  Blend until smooth and creamy.
Pour into bowls and top with a sprinkle of bacon bits and a little pepper.
Serve with a crisp green salad and warm bread.  Yum!

Monday, July 22, 2013


Ah yes, preteens.  That lovely period of time when your sweet little boy or girl turns into a gawky, awkward teenager.  Poor kid!  Do you remember when you were 11 and 12?  Most of us try to forget the insecurities we felt then but it all comes back when our own child reaches that age.

Some parents have asked me how to know when their child is starting the transition into the teenager.  I laugh and tell them that they will be able to know by the smell.  :)  Not to say that preteens neglect their hygiene but they no longer smell like sweet little children.  Their hormones start acting up and producing more...grownup smells.  In other words, your boy's (or your girl's) room smells curiously like a locker room.

Moms, be gentle on your kids at this time.  It's hard enough for them to deal with wildly fluctuating hormones and changes in their bodies without being teased or made to feel ashamed or embarrassed by things beyond their control.  All kids have to go through changes to reach adulthood.  None are immune.  Some days you'll think you have a mature young person in your family.  Other times you'll think you have another preschooler.  Other times you'll wonder just WHERE this kid came from!

Hopefully, you'll give them some warning of what's going to happen to their bodies and emotions BEFORE it's obviously happening.  Be matter-of-fact about changes and speak positively.  Encourage questions and provide information as they ask for it.  If they don't ask for it, provide it anyway.  Some kids are too embarrassed to ask. 

Even though this can be a challenging time for your child, it marks the beginning of a new stage of life.  And with anything new, there has to be a period of adjustment...for both your child and for you. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Chuck's zucchini

There's something magical when a child gets to pick his first vegetables from the garden.  After planting, watering, weeding and watching, the day finally arrives when he can harvest the fruits of his labor.  Chuck has been fiercely protective of his zucchini and corn and was so excited to pick a particular zucchini he's had his eye on ever since it was a flower.
"This is the happiest day ever!"

Proud moment!  Chuck's prized zucchini! 

Cleaning the dirt off his zucchini...ever so carefully  :)
Even if a garden isn't as productive as you might want, it's totally worth it for the joy it brings to children.  After all, who doesn't like to play in the dirt and water on a warm summer day?  :)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thrifty Thursday - Back to School!

It's that time of year again...the Back to School sales!   Even if you don't have kids in school, the yearly sales are too good to pass up.  When else can you buy spiral bound notebooks for 19 cents, Crayola crayons for 49 cents, filler paper for 79 cents and find great buys on underwear, socks, backpacks, athletic shoes and basic school clothes.  Sometimes the prices are even lower.

I usually concentrate on socks and art supplies when the sales are really good.  Kids are so hard on socks...they get holey and stained even before the kids grow out of them.  And there's nothing quite like putting on a new pair of socks...soooo comfortable!  I get socks for the whole family and then go home and throw out (or recycle) the old ones. 

Art supplies are another group of supplies that suffer abuse during the year.  Crayons get broken, lost, chewed on and have their papers ripped off them.  Markers get dried out.  Paints get contaminated by being mixed with other colors.  But when prices are low, it's worth it to "retire" old supplies and refresh with new.  I usually take the old crayons and put them in a zip lock baggie for future craft projects that use melted crayons.  The markers get thrown away.  No use mixing the old with the new.  It's frustrating to reach into a box of markers and find the one you want, only to find out it's all dried up.  Get rid of the dead markers!

This is the time to make sure everyone is all current and up to date with basic clothes, shoes and underwear.  Inventory your family's clothing and school needs and keep your eye on the ads.  You probably won't find better deals than over the next month or so.

If you DO see an ad for something at a super low price, be sure to get to the store early.  Really good buys quickly sell out.  Often you can get a rain-check but that's up to store policy.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My little "cocoon"

Being a good mom, I tried to give my children lots of opportunities to learn about their world.  We'd explore beaches, forests, parks, anywhere and everywhere and look for and identify plants, insects and other living things.  The kids would bring home shells, flowers, rocks and whatever else caught their interest.  That was all fine and good...until that ONE time...

While getting ready to move from Pennsylvania to Arizona, I found (what looked like) a cocoon firmly attached to a twig of a tree.  (I am NOT an entomologist!) Thinking that it would be interesting for the kids to watch the butterfly emerge from its cocoon, I snapped off the twig and brought it home for the kids.  We put it in a glass mason jar, stuck lots of holes in the lid and set it on the kitchen counter.

About a week later we moved cross country; my husband, 5 young children, and one carefully protected little mason jar containing my "cocoon".  We arrived at my mother-in-law's home and I gently put my jar on the dresser in the bedroom we were going to use while we were looking for a home of our own.

Being busy with little kids, a strange environment and trying to get settled in a new area, I admit to forgetting about the jar on the dresser until I woke up one morning and noticed that there was a large number of very tiny insects all over our room.  It didn't take me long to find the little jar.  Crawling out of the lid and all over the room were hundreds of tiny praying mantis'!  I had transported an ootheca (that's the fancy name of the protective capsule containing the mantis' eggs) from Pennsylvania to Arizona.  I have no idea if I had just introduced a insect species that would upset the fragile balance of nature in Phoenix, AZ or if they all just died out but I sure worked hard to get them out of my mother-in-laws!

Lesson learned...whatever nifty thing you or your children find outside, don't bring it in the house and try to find out what it is BEFORE you get unpleasantly surprised!

Oh, and if my mother-in-law is reading this..."I'm sorry I let praying mantis' hatch in your room."  :)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tidy Tuesday - A losing battle :)

It seems like work is never done because it IS never done!
When I went into the bathroom last night to brush my teeth, I noticed that a certain someone (who will remain nameless) dropped his clothes about one foot away from the clothes hamper.  Really?!  Just 12 more inches and it would have made it into its proper place.  It got me thinking about all the homemaking frustrations we moms deal with on a daily basis.  It didn't take long to come up with a list  :)

1. Well, let's put my example as #1...not putting clothes in clothes hamper.  The hamper is NOT a decoration!  It has a function!
2. Not covering refried beans (or anything that isn't a solid) in the microwave and leaving an exploded mess to clean up.
3. Advertised cleaning products that don't perform miracles.
4. Recipes that don't turn out ANYTHING like their gorgeous pictures.
5. Tomorrow's dinner ingredients eaten as a midnight snack.
6. Putting damp towels in the hamper.  Isn't it funny that the dirty clothes end up on the floor and the wet towels are put in the hamper?
7. Burning a new pan or scratching a new non-stick pan.
8. Not using a cutting board on the kitchen counter.
9. Forgetting shirts in the dryer so they get all wrinkled.
10. Not noticing the gel pen in the pocket of the shirt going into the washer.
11. Not putting the lid on the blender!  And then not cleaning the splatter off the ceiling  :(
12. Produce that gets "lost" in the refrigerator until you come across an unidentifiable liquid mess puddling the shelf.
13. The "new, improved" design of Costco milk jugs.  Hint...transfer the milk to a gallon pitcher.
14. Sharpie marker in the hands of a preschooler.
15. And of course, the ever famous...stepping on a stray Lego in the middle of the night!  Ouch!

This list took only about 10 minutes to think up.  Given a little more time, I'm sure I could write pages and pages...

How about you?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Chuck's words of wisdom

Chuck (5), "Sissy hit me with a shoe but I wasn't mean to her.  I walked away because when you're mad at someone it doesn't mean you can be mean."

Oh, I know some grown up adults who would benefit by that philosophy.  Good job, Chuck!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The DPT shot

I have a new respect for babies and toddlers who are routinely immunized against certain diseases.  While I was at the doctor's office, it was suggested that I get a booster of the DPT shot as it's been a long time since I had a tetanus shot and last year there was a whooping cough outbreak.  I readily agreed.  No big problem.

So...since then, I developed sore muscles and joints, chills and fever and a really sore arm where the shot was administered.  It's no wonder our kids get fussy and cranky after they get their shots!  They can't vocalize their discomfort in any way except by crying and acting uncomfortable (which they ARE!).  I feel like crying myself  :)

Be extra kind and gentle with your little ones after they get their immunizations.  A fever reducer (dosage by age and weight, of course) might alleviate their discomfort.  I know I'm going to go take some Tylenol before I go to bed.

The things we do to protect our children and ourselves...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What's cooking? Wednesday - Super Smoothie to the rescue!

Blueberries, spinach, beets, bananas...Super Smoothie!
It's blueberry season and what better way to enjoy the sweet little berries than by pulverizing them into a smoothie?  Not only does this smoothie taste good but it's packed with healthy fruits and veggies.  Love it!  Your kids might even like it!

Super Smoothie

2 bananas
1 big handful of raw spinach
1 medium size raw beet, cut into quarters
1 to 1 1/2 c. blueberries
1 scoop vanilla protein powder

Combine all ingredients in blender.  Add about 1 c. water.  Blend until smooth.  Ahhhhhh....

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tidy Tuesday - My little Swiffer

This little Swiffer makes cleaning your floors easy and mess-free!

Ok, so everyone is probably using Swiffer and I'm the last one to join the party.  Typical  :)  My husband brought this little sweeper/mop home (while I was gone on a week long trip) and loved using it!  I still can't believe he actually went to a store, bought a mop and USED it!  However, he did and he couldn't wait to demonstrate it to me when he got home. 

I will never go back to a traditional mop or broom for my kitchen and bathrooms.  No more buckets or pans of dirty, yucky water.  No more mess.  It really is as good as it advertises.  Yes, it is more expensive to use than the traditional method but stores like Costco and Walmart make generic refills if you don't want to spend a little more for the brand name.  It's still worth it!  I actually don't mind cleaning my floors now.  :)

Oh, and I'm not getting paid to endorse this product.  Wish I was!  :)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Why complicate things?

More and more I'm coming to the conclusion that many of us complicate things unnecessarily.  Activities, meals, home decor, child raising, parties, trips, you name it, it's possible to over-do it.  Some people have the mindset of "Why do something when you can overdo it?"

What happens when we overdo things?  We become inflexible.  We stress out when something doesn't happen as planned.  We can't enjoy ourselves.  Our family feels our stress and then they become stressed.  We overspend and worry about that.  Our focus becomes about things and not about people.  And at the end of all our effort, we look back and wonder why we feel let down.

Now, don't get me wrong.  Everyone's stress level is different.  For some, even having a small backyard get-together causes intense anxiety while others love to create events worthy of Martha Stewart Magazine.  You know your own stress level.  You don't have to compare yourself with anyone else.

But whatever your comfort level, people are more important than things.  Being relaxed and happy and providing your family with simple, enjoyable experiences will build a close family bond and cherished memories to remember forever.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Funeral for a shrew

This little fellow met his untimely demise sometime in the wee hours of the night at the hands (paws?) of our cat, Pokey.  Lilly was distraught and felt he needed a proper burial.

Lilly, "Is the shrew in heaven?"
Me, "Yes, he's with his mommy and daddy shrew."
Lilly, "Will they find him?"
Me,  "Yes, they're having a nice get together right now."
Lilly, "Good!  I don't want him to be lonely."

We then buried him in a nice deep hole next to the compost pile.  Lilly was worried that snow would cover the grave then decided that the snow would make a good blanket.

Rest in peace, little shrew.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

Ellie enjoying the 4th
It occurred to me this morning that Independence Day is the only major American holiday that isn't celebrated during the school year.  I know kids are taught about the Revolutionary War and the founding fathers and the Constitution and all those other important historical facts but they don't really get to celebrate what it all means.  That leaves it up to us as parents to see that our children know and understand why we celebrate the 4th of July.  It's more than a day to have a BBQ and play games and camp out.

I hope you take a little time and stress the sacrifice and courage of millions of men and women who gave everything for the freedom of this country.  I hope your kids know the Pledge of Allegiance, the patriotic songs like The Battle Hymn of the Republic, The Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful.  I hope they know about the founding fathers, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and others.

Our kids need to know about the greatness of our country and have honor and respect for those who went before us to give us the freedoms we enjoy today.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What's cooking? Wednesday - Apple Pie Smoothie

This is one of my favorites!  Rich, creamy and satisfying, it has only a few ingredients and can be made in minutes.  On a hot summer day, try it out!

Apple Pie Smoothie
2 apples, cored and quartered
2 bananas, cut into chunks
about 1/4 c. almonds
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
about 1 cup water (or ice if your fruit is room temperature)

Blend on high power until smooth and creamy.  Serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.

Note - I buy several bunches of bananas at a time and when they're ripe, I peel them, cut them into pieces and freeze them.  I always have a freezer bag of banana chunks ready to add to any smoothie.  I rarely need to add ice to make the smoothie cold.

Apple Pie Smoothie - apples, bananas, almonds, cinnamon and protein powder.  Super satisfying!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tidy Tuesday - Special rules for Summer

Kids are messy.  I think I can say that without reservation.  Moms want their homes to be clean.  I also think I can say that without reservation. Can the two co-exist?  Maybe not all the time but most of the time, yes.

Summers are especially hard because you have kids home all the time running in and out of the house multiple times a day.  There are things you can do to make it easier on both you and your children...even in the Summer.  Here are a few possible Summer rules you can implement in your family.
Oh yes, guns are for outdoors and NO aiming at people!

1. No wearing shoes in the house.  Leave all the muddy/dirty shoes outside, not inside.
2. No bugs or other living creatures in bedrooms.  Let them live in their natural habitat (outside).
3. Food is eaten in the kitchen.  Or, if it's a popsicle, eat it outside.
4. Bathing suits and wet towels are to be hung up the bathroom or outside or wherever you designate.  NO wet clothes laying around the bedroom floor!
5. Dirty kids are subject to a hosing down before coming in the house.  :)
6. No practicing soccer, baseball, gymnastics or any other sport inside the house. 
7. Limit the number of pets in the family, especially inside pets.  And, a cockroach is NOT a pet. (see #2)
8. Even if it's hot, we wear clothes.  Nudity is not an option.

Can you think of any other rules for the Summer?  Most of them seem pretty obvious but you'd be surprised how creative kids can get!  :)

Monday, July 1, 2013

The great (and dangerous) outdoors!

Have fun and keep a close watch on her!
With summer well upon us, the urge to be outdoors is great.  After all, who wants to be stuck indoors when it's so beautiful and sunny outside?  There are so many things for kids to do and explore and of course there are chores to attend to, like mowing lawns, weeding and tending to gardens.

With all this activity going on, one thing cannot be neglected.  And that's, "Who's going to keep a close eye on the little ones?"  It's so easy to get caught up in a project or activity and kids can get into trouble so quickly.  Preschoolers have no ability to reason or judge whether what they are doing is dangerous or not.  They can wander away.  They can get too near ponds and pools.  They can get too close to a hot BBQ grill.  They can find a way to get gates open and head towards the street.  They can come across a neighbor dog and get too "friendly".  You know what I'm talking about.  These are only a few of the ways little ones put themselves in danger outdoors.

There are too many stories every year about tragedies that happen to young children whose parents thought they were safe.  No one thinks the unthinkable can happen to their family.  Of course you don't want to be paranoid and think that something bad is going to happen every time you take your family outside, but you need to be smart.

One simple step will prevent almost all accidents or lost kids.  And that is to make sure that one adult is watching the younger children whenever you take them outdoors.  If you can't watch your children (because you're busy tending to another task), ask a responsible adult to watch them for you.  Don't assume that because you're in a group of people that someone will be keeping an eye on your children.  That's your responsibility.  There is nothing more important than the safety of your children.  Other things can wait.  It only takes a moment to wish you hadn't gotten distracted by something less important.  Take care of your kids and make it an enjoyable summer.