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Monday, September 30, 2013

Hey! The lights just went out!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chocolate Desperation, healthy style :)

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

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

Chocolate Desperation, healthy style
(for one serving)

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

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

Spoon into bowl and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Annoying fruit flies

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Behemoth

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

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

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

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

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

The cat thinks it's his room  :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Lego arsenal

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 20, 2013

What stage is hardest?

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

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

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

Monday, September 16, 2013

Working together

I read a short article in the newspaper today that I really enjoyed.  Apparently the superintendent of a Connecticut school district has banned cursing.  Any student who swears at an adult gets suspended for 10 days and sent home with a bar of soap.  :)  The reasoning is that quality learning can't occur in an environment where students think it's ok to swear.

"Did you hear what he said?!?!"
Yay for that superintendent!  It's about time someone in authority takes a stand against swearing.  It's become so prevalent in our society that it's not uncommon to hear little children yell and curse at each other and at their parents.  Apparently, kids are comfortable cursing at their teachers too.

As with any behavior problem, the solution begins at home.  You can't have a no swearing policy at home and expect your children to obey it if you or your spouse are guilty of using "colorful" language.  You can't expect your child's school to fix a problem that you contributed to.  Together, the school and the home can make a big difference in teaching children acceptable and civilized behavior.

Hopefully, a bar of soap won't be necessary to enforce appropriate language behavior but many a child has learned what soap tastes like after trying a new word out on Mom or Dad.  It's a pretty powerful lesson.  Good luck New Britain School District!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thrifty Thursday - Choices

My daughter made an observation about being frugal.  She said that she's able to cut down on spending by buying only the necessities but eventually, the lack of spending catches up with her and she then ends up spending more to replace what she didn't spend earlier.  She referred to money-saving books and websites and said that most of the suggestions aren't long term fixes.

She makes a good point.  Some things can only be put off for a while before they need to be eventually addressed.  But that doesn't mean that careful attention to how you spend your money won't reap benefits in both the short and long term.  For example - an unexpected expense might mean that you and your husband do a "spending fast" for a month, where only the necessities are bought so the extra money can go towards that unexpected expense.  You really don't feel deprived because one month isn't very long and the end result is a balanced family budget.  Or, knowing that a big expense is looming in the near future can help you decide how you want to spend your money now.  Both offer short term solutions to long term problems.

The fact of the matter is that taxes need to be paid, cars need gas, families need a home, clothes and food. Medical and dental expenses are part of life, and maintenance of car and home are never ending.  How you go about meeting those needs will determine whether you live within your means or spend out of control.  You have the choice whether to live in an apartment, a modest home or a house that is too expensive for your income.  You can choose what kind of food you feed your family...home prepared using inexpensive ingredients, fast food take out, regular restaurant eating or lots of convenience food.  You can choose to drive a used car until it dies, a new car every few years, or if available and feasible, bypass driving all together and use public transportation.  You can shop at thrift stores, garage sales and deep discount stores or trendy malls.

None of these choices is either good or bad.  It just depends on the income you have to work with.  There is nothing wrong with living modestly.   There is ALOT wrong with spending money you don't have.  Frugal living is just one way to help that money stretch to cover needs and some wants.  Situations change but the principles stay the same.  Life within your means.  Living simply is a much better feeling than having huge debt crushing you. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Encourage creativity

A picture of Daddy with a heart for love!
Children are full of creative energy.  As preschoolers they are wildly imaginative, making up stories, drawing pictures all over every conceivable surface, singing and dancing.  Many of them lose that spark somewhere along the way and that is a shame.  How does that happen?

Sometimes they become self-conscious or critical after comparing themselves with others.  Other times, an unkind remark made by someone else will plant the seed of doubt in their minds.  Often it's a change of priority at school from artistic creativity to more academic pursuits which results in a loss of interest in imaginative things.  And of course, we can't forget a dependence on technology can stunt a child's creative growth.

Whatever the reason, I think it's important to encourage your children to develop their creativity.  Provide lots of blank paper to draw on as well as different mediums to explore with...crayons, pens, watercolors, colored pencils.  Have them make their own greeting cards and gifts.  Join the kids in playing with play-doh. Listen to all kinds of music.  Explore museums.  Read imaginative books to and with your children.  Have a wall or bulletin board where you display their art.  Praise them often. 

Academic study is good but developing the creative brain will help your children be well rounded and balanced.  How sad it would be for a potentially gifted artist to miss the opportunity to share that gift with others.  Your encouragement can help that little creative seed blossom into a thing of beauty.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ever observing and learning

Like Daddy, like Daughter  :)
Did you know your kids watch what you do and say?  Even the youngest children are studying you and learning from you.  They observe your mannerisms, your actions, your interaction with others.  They hear your words (even the not-so-nice ones).  They mimic your tone.

You are their primary example while they are young.  From your example they learn how to interact with the world around them.  Pretty heavy stuff, isn't it?

If there was ever motivation to practice self control or watch what you say, having children is definitely it!  Hearing your children repeat things to people that you thought were private can be a embarrassing but illuminating experience  :)

It's hard to get mad at children for doing what you do.  I guess that means that you might want to remember that your kids are listening and watching.  Let them learn by your good example.  It will save you a lot of explaining later.  You don't want to be the kind of parent who lives by the saying, "Do what I say, not what I do." 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lilly's logic

I don't often see clover so big!
Lilly picked me a big, purple clover flower today.
Me, "Smell it smells really good!"
Lilly, "Uuumm, it smells like connector."
Me, "You mean nectar?"
Lilly, "Yeah, the bees connect with the flowers and make connectar."

Can't argue with that logic!  :)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Homeschooling - What about socialization?

Funny thing about when we decided to homeschool...we thought people would be concerned about our children's education.  Nope.  The main reaction we got was, "What about socialization?!"  At first I was perplexed.  Socialization?  What did that have to do with education?  Of course my kids knew how to get along with other people and knew basic social skills.  But that's not what people meant.  What they were really concerned about was the fact that my kids weren't getting educated in a classroom with 20-30 other children their age.  To them, that was the experience they felt that all children needed.

To me socialization is part of living.  It's either positive or negative, not absent or present.  Babies "socialize" as they learn how to interact with the people around them.  Children learn that hitting and biting are unacceptable and being mean to other children almost guarantees that they won't have friends.  That's socialization!  These skills and others are learned by interacting with other people, regardless of age.

There are some children (and adults) who have poor social skills who were educated in a traditional school setting.  There are also homeschooled children who are comfortable and confident in any social setting.  It has more to do with the personality of the child himself and his upbringing at home than the type of school he attends.

As long as the homeschool parent includes lots of interaction with people of all ages, exposes the kids to many and varied experiences, and teaches appropriate behavior by both example and training, the kids are going to be able to function well in any situation. 

Monday, September 2, 2013


Have you ever noticed how often we moms focus on the future?  "I can't wait until my baby sleeps through the night.  I can't wait until my husband finishes school.  I can't wait until the kids go to kindergarten.  I can't wait until we buy a house.  I can't wait until they're grown!"

Having goals to work towards and dreams to keep us going is important but even more important is focusing on the here and now.  Today is the day you are living.  Today you are making tomorrow's memories.  Make those memories good ones.  Enjoy your children at the stage they are in right now.  It won't last, I promise you.  Find humor in the crazy things they do.  Find beauty in your surroundings.  Show your husband and children that you love

Keep your goals and dreams but don't neglect the most important day of