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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Talking with your teenager

If you have teenagers (or preteens), this might sound familiar...
Mom, "How was your day, dear?"
Teen, "Fine."
Mom, "Anything good going on?"
Teen, "No."
Mom, "How did your test go?"
Teen, "Fine."
And so it goes...

 If you're looking for meaningful conversation with your teen, you're probably going to have to wait a few years.  :)  However, you might get a few more words out of his or her mouth if you try asking open-ended questions that can't be answered with one word.  For example, you could say, "Tell me about your day, dear"  or "What was the best part of your day?"  You still might get short answers but at least his answer requires a little more thought.  If you ask a whole slew of questions in an effort to get a little dialogue going, it's only going to sound like interrogation and will only hinder any genuine conversation.

Be patient.  If you can maintain a trusting and open environment, he'll eventually open up...when he's ready.  Good luck!
"How does that sound?"  "Fine."

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday travel preparations

Beautiful mural at SEATAC airport!
I just got back from a trip visiting far away family (which is why I haven't written any blog posts recently) and there are probably many of you who are going to be doing the same during this holiday season.

Here are a few reminders before you walk out the door on your adventures.

1. Clean your house!  This is VERY important!  Coming home tired and cranky, the last thing you want to be faced with is dirty dishes, dirty laundry, a dirty bathroom and a messy house.
2. Empty all the freshies (milk, eggs, fruit and veggies) out of your refrigerator.  You don't want to come home to rotting, moldy, stale food. 
3. Take care of all your bill paying and other paperwork before you leave. 
4. Attach an automatic timer to a few prominent lamps around the house, set to turn on at dusk and turn off around 10 or 11 at night.  You don't want your house to appear empty and vulnerable to break ins.
5. Arrange for a neighbor to bring in your newspaper and mail in your absense.
6. As you walk out the door, check that the oven/stove are turned off, the doors are locked and all the kids are accounted for  :)

It feels so good to be home after a long trip, especially if you come home to a neat and clean house! You will have enough to do to get back to your normal routine without having to be in catch-up mode.  Happy traveling!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Simplifying Thanksgiving

There are many ways to simplify Thanksgiving but I must give a warning first.  Changing a familiar holiday routine can upset some members of the family...those for whom tradition is very important.  So, tread carefully and make sure you aren't eliminating someone's ONE MOST IMPORTANT part of the holiday  :)

Having said that, here are some ideas to play around with.

1. The week before Thanksgiving, clean out your refrigerator, getting rid of all the mystery tupperware containers, rotting fruit and stale leftovers.  Give yourself as much room as possible to hold the holiday food you'll be buying and refrigerating.
2. Prepare as much as you can before Thanksgiving day.  Most dishes can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen.  Then it's only a matter of reheating.
3. If you're expecting many people, ask everyone (or every family) to bring their favorite holiday food. (see first paragraph above)
4. Use paper plates and other disposable goods like cups, tablecloths and silverware.  I know, I know, it's the only day Great Grandma's china is brought out and if that's the case, change your attitude about washing dishes afterward.  Maybe you can think good thoughts about Great Grandma instead of the mounds of dirty dishes.
5. Speaking of washing dishes, while you're preparing food, keep a sink full of hot, soapy water to wash dishes as you work. 
6. Buy pre-prepared food.  Perhaps not everything but canned cranberry sauce, bakery rolls and pies and a vegetable platter will save you time to concentrate on the things you LIKE to make.
7. If no one likes a particular dish but it's served every year because it's TRADITION, consider eliminating it.  Let's face it, how many people actually eat the mincemeat pie?
8. Use a crockpot to cook some of the side dishes, like stuffing.
9. I use an oven baking bag (from Reynolds) to cook my turkey.  It cooks the bird faster and cuts way down on mess.  Highly recommended.
10. Stay calm.  There are always restaurants open on Thanksgiving.  :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thanksgiving memories

Thanksgiving - a time to reflect on blessings and express gratitude.  We usually connect the holiday with family get-togethers, time-honored traditions and eating copious amounts of food.  :)  But sometimes our circumstances are such that we have to make new traditions and experience new adventures.  In hindsight, these are usually the holidays we remember the most. 

One Thanksgiving, we had just moved into a new area, away from family and friends.  We thought we'd do something special with our five young children so we made reservations for a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast on a sternwheeler cruise down the Willamette River.  Everything went beautifully...until it was time for dinner.  Apparently, the dinner staff underestimated how much food they needed to feed all the famished Thanksgiving guests so by the time our deck was called into the dining room, almost all of the food was gone...literally!  The kids were getting cranky and we weren't too happy either.  There were no offers to compensate for the error and we returned to port, hungry and just a bit miffed.  We piled into our car and headed to our hotel when we noticed a Sizzler restaurant open for business.  That was just what we needed so we ended up well fed after all and had some new memories to remember the day we had Thanksgiving on the sternwheeler.

Another memorable Thanksgiving was the year before the sternwheeler adventure.  I had just given birth two days before Thanksgiving (to my fifth child) and again, we were in unfamiliar territory as my husband was working a year long contract in Pennsylvania.  I didn't feel well enough to make the entire Thanksgiving dinner for my little family so my husband volunteered to make everything...except for the pumpkin pies.  I made those and he did the rest.  And he did a marvelous job!  A man of many talents  :)

Moving on Thanksgiving day with eight children was another unique Thanksgiving!  The day before, I cooked a turkey, made fresh rolls and organized all the fixings for the holiday.  We started the next day with pumpkin pie for breakfast and ended the adventure 100 miles away, in our new home, eating a traditional thanksgiving dinner on the floor, picnic style.  That had to be one of my favorites!

Whatever circumstances you're in this year, enjoy the day, make new memories or find comfort in familiar ones.  Whether you're surrounded by tons of extended family or celebrating on a much smaller scale, take time to count your blessings and give thanks.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chocolate Raspberry Smoothie

Chocolate Raspberry Smoothie...Yum!
Evolution of a smoothie -

Me, "What kind of smoothie do you want for breakfast?"
Dan, "Raspberry and banana."
Me, "No problem."   (gets raspberries and bananas out of freezer and puts in blender)
Dan, "Oh, and why don't you put a handful of spinach in it?"
Me, "Ok."  (adds handful of spinach, a scoop of protein powder and about a cup of water, turns on blender)
Dan, "The spinach made it look brown, almost like chocolate.  Do we have any cocoa powder?"
Me, "Yup.  I'll add some."  (blends some more and pours into glasses)
Dan, "Hey, this is good...chocolate raspberry smoothie!"

So, here is the recipe for chocolate raspberry smoothie.  :)

Chocolate Raspberry Smoothie
1 c. frozen or fresh raspberries
2 bananas, cut into chunks, preferably frozen
1 handful fresh spinach
1 T. cocoa powder
1 scoop protein powder

Blend everything with enough water to make the right consistency (I used about 1 c.).  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Over-reacting vs under-reacting

Many years ago, a family moved into our neighborhood and they attended the same church as my family.  This family consisted of a mom and dad and six children, including 13 year old twin boys.  These boys were tall, smart and handsome...and totally out of control.  They caused teachers to quit in tears.  They disrupted each and every activity they were involved in.  Their peers loved their antics and the adults shuddered when they entered a room.

I was in the foyer of our church one Sunday, taking care of my toddler and one of the twins came up to me and said something I'll never forget.  He said, "I like you.  You don't put up with our crap."  From this boy, that was quite a compliment.  :)

Children like attention and often will go to extreme lengths to get it. They seem to know just what "buttons" to push to get a reaction from us.  The best way to deal with this?  Instead of over-reacting, try under-reacting.  This will throw them off guard.  You're not ignoring them.  You're just not responding in a way they anticipate, defuses the situation, and puts you in control (at least of you).

Next time your child does something to intentionally provoke you, try under-reacting and see how he responds.  It won't be what he's expecting and you'll be surprised how quickly he realizes that he doesn't have the power over you that he thought he had.  It's a very liberating feeling.  :)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Lilly goes to jail :)

Yay!  Lilly isn't in jail!
Lilly(3) and her family were playing Monopoly when she pulled the card that sent her to jail.  She started crying and said, "now I'll never see my mom again!"  It took a while for her to calm down, with much assurance that it was only a game :)

When you're 3 years old, the line between what is real and what is not is still not fully developed.  Keep that in mind when talking about zombies and other scary things...or going to jail  :)