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Friday, February 28, 2014

Worth fighting for

I try to keep my posts upbeat and positive but today I am writing about something that makes me sad.  Two people, with whom I am very close, are considering divorce and I wish there was something I could do to stop it. 

Both are intelligent, caring people, and good parents.  They have so much going for them but are ready to give up. They won't consider counseling.  Separately they each express a desire for their marriage to work.  What I want to do is get the two of them together and ask them straight out, "What do you want?  Do you want to keep your family?"  "If you do, what are you willing to do to make it work?  What changes are YOU willing to make?" 

To keep a marriage strong and healthy, each person HAS to consider the wants and needs of their spouse.  Focusing on what they're NOT getting or what their spouse isn't doing isn't going to rebuild the relationship.  A wise person once said that divorce is spelled S-E-L-F-I-S-H-N-E-S-S.  Two people working separately might make a marriage work but two people working together are more likely to achieve an unbreakable bond that will survive whatever challenge they are faced with. 

Marriage isn't easy.  It's hard work.  And it's constant work.  But it's worth fighting for...especially when there are children involved.  Being mature and acting responsibly is a lot harder than giving in to impulsive words and actions but that's what being an adult (and a spouse and a parent) are all about.  Our time to be children and act in childish ways are past.  It's now our turn to be the adults.  It might be hard but it also provides us with our greatest joy and happiness.

I don't know what will happen with my dear friends but I know I will be supportive and pray for the best resolution for them and their children.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Change takes time

Most of us take a while to adapt to change (even change that is good for us!) and kids are no different.  Although we'd like them to change instantaneously, it takes time.  The key is baby steps.  A step in the right direction is a step towards mastery of a task or behavior.

I was thinking of this while I was preparing dinner tonight.  Even a year ago, I never would have believed that we'd be eating mostly vegan now.  We became much more health conscious several years ago, slowly replacing unhealthy food with better choices.  Some "old" recipes I made with less frequency while others had "makeovers" to reflect our new dietary goals.  New recipes became family favorites.  As long as I didn't make drastic changes, I didn't get too many complaints  :)  I also learned that no one likes surprises.  The "sneaky chef" approach was guaranteed to bring mutiny to the dinner table.  Saying after dinner, "Guess what was in that meatloaf?" isn't a nice thing to do.  Even husbands won't trust you after hearing about all the healthy additives, cleverly disguised under lots of spices and BBQ sauce, that he'd just consumed.  So, be honest and upfront if you are trying something new on your unsuspecting family.  Tastes will change...eventually.

By making small changes over a period of time, big changes can occur.  It doesn't matter if we're talking about changes in diet or changes in habits or changes in attitude, give your family (or child or husband or yourself) time to adjust and learn new patterns of behavior.  Baby steps!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tidy Tuesday - Books and DVD's...again

Bye bye books!
Let's face it.  De-cluttering the house is a never-ending job.  We are constantly bringing things into our homes but rarely letting things go and getting them OUT of the house.  It's no wonder we run out of space!  But space isn't the problem...too much stuff FOR the available space is.

My husband's and my weakness is books.  We both love to browse bookstores for fun.  We love looking at thrift stores and garage sales for hidden treasures. The result is obvious...too many books!

So, today I did one of my semi-regular brutal book trimming sessions.  It was raining outside, my husband had my car, so I was stuck in the house and the urge to purge (books, that is!) came over me. I tried to be honest with myself as I looked at each title and was able to pull out about 60 books and a stack of magazines to part with.  I know there's more but I think I did a pretty good job.

Eclectic collection, isn't it!
I did the same thing with our DVD collection with one exception.  I know my husband likes some movies that I don't and I don't want to risk throwing out something that he'll miss.  So, I went through the movies and when I came across one I could definitely live without, I put it on its side so he could look at them and decide if he wants to get rid of them too.  Whichever way he decides is fine with me.  If it means that I can get rid of even 5 or 10 titles, it's worth it. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

"Mommy, my tummy hurts!"

It doesn't take long for a child to learn that the words, "Mommy, my tummy hurts!" will produce instant action on the part of Mommy.  If the kid is lucky, it will mean a day home from school, lounging around watching unlimited movies and being waited on by Mommy.  If Mommy is wise, she'll think twice before assuming the worst.

Junior is thinking, "I don't want to go to school today. We're having a test.  I have to sit by a GIRL.  I'd rather play my video game.  I think my tummy hurts."

Mommy is thinking, "Hmmmm, Junior ate a good breakfast.  He looks and acts normal.  Isn't he having a test today?  I think we'll chance it and see what happens."  And Junior is sent off to school, complaining all the way.

Mom, I think I have the plague!
Most likely, Junior will be fine once he's at school.  It's possible that he DOES have a tummy ache, but probably caused by some level of anxiety, not illness.  Your observation of his behavior is key.  You can usually tell when your child is legitimately sick.  If he seems ok, he probably IS ok.

My mother was a master at seeing through my attempts to stay home because I was "sick".  If I managed to actually stay home, I had to stay in bed, no TV and only books to read.  I couldn't get up to play after the other kids were home from school and only had simple, bland food to eat.  It wasn't very enjoyable and I usually miraculously recovered enough to go to school the next day.

Poor Moms!  We're the ones who need "sick days"!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Simple pleasures of Winter

February is one of those dreary months where the novelty of snow and cold weather has worn off and Spring seems so far away.  There is still a chance of more cold, more rain and snow, more storms, more hassle of scraping snow and ice off cars, more wet boots and coats dumped on the floor...and so on.

The cat stole my sunny spot!
BUT...there are some uniquely positive things about Winter.  Instead of focusing on all the annoyances, can you think of something to enjoy about it?  I was thinking about this as I sat on the floor, folding laundry in the "sunny spot" of the family room.  It's been raining for several days straight but today the sun came out and its rays streamed through the sliding glass door, casting a warm, bright glow on the floor.  I couldn't resist it.  :)  Here are some other simple pleasures...

Getting dressed in front of a fireplace or heater.  Ahhhh, feels so good!
Drinking hot chocolate, topped with marshmallows and warming your hands with the mug.
Curling up with a big blanket and reading a book.
Being the first one to walk outside after a snowstorm and yours are the first footprints on the ground.
Listening to the wind and rain at night.

And, best of all...watching for those first signs of Spring, reminding us that, while it doesn't seem like it, Spring will come.

What are YOUR favorites?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tidy Tuesday - Battle of the wills

Face it - toys multiply!
Four year old Lilly is often my source of inspiration for blog posts.  She is an amazing, exuberant, smart, princess-loving little girl.  She also occasionally has an attitude.  :)  Right now, she is dragging her feet about cleaning her bedroom and her mother is feeling frustrated.

Parents and the cleanliness of their children's rooms are a constant source of friction from the time Baby starts to crawl (and pulls everything off shelves) to the time Lanky Teenager packs up and leaves home (hopefully, taking ALL his stuff with him!).  Wouldn't it be nice if we could just set up their room with a wonderful organizational system and that would be it?  Probably not going to happen.  In my entire life, I've only known one family where their two adorable children actually cleaned their own rooms without help, encouragement or nagging.  It was almost freakish  :)

Anyway, I digress.  Children's belongings are only going to multiply.  You can do one of three things.  You can...
1. Ignore the whole mess, keep the door to their room closed and try to keep everything confined to just their room (or toy room).
2. Set up an elaborate organizational system with bins, labels, and shelves.
3. You can trim down the amount of toys they have so there is less to clean up.

Option #1.  Chaos is not comfortable to live with and kids are no exception.  Toys get broken, lost and scattered.  Children probably will be overwhelmed and won't want to play with their things.
Option #2.  Looks good in the initial stages but children are notorious for shoving their toys in whatever bin or container is closest and it isn't long before everything is mixed up and there goes your nice, orderly system.  Tried that one  :)
Dream on!
Option #3.  Trim down the number of toys available and rotate them from time to time.  The more responsible the child (or children), the more sets of toys are available and vice versa.  Best combined with a smaller version of option grouped, kept in bins, labeled and stored within easy reach.

I don't think option #1 is acceptable because it's important for children to learn how to respect and care for their things.  The degree of cleanliness and orderliness is also something that is an individual matter.  You might be fine with a relaxed system or you might be someone who is only comfortable with a stricter approach.

Stay calm, don't react to whining and make putting away toys part of the kid's daily routine.  At least it won't take over the entire house that way.  Good luck!  Oh, and Lilly, go put away your toys!

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Everything Is Awesome!"

I'm not sure whether I'm a geek or a nerd but whatever,  I love Lego's!  When I heard about the new Lego Movie, I HAD to see it!  What a treat!  If you read the title of this post and started singing, I know you saw it too!   :)

It's not often that you can sit by a four year old who is totally engrossed in a movie, rocking to the music, laughing and clapping, and at the same time be surrounded by adults who are doing the same.  This movie was truly fun for the whole family.  I loved the animation, loved the music and was totally surprised by the sweet ending.  (No spoiler, you'll have to see it for yourself!)

Can't wait until it comes out in DVD!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

My six year old daughter made this Lego heart for me on Valentine's Day many years ago!  Still have it and love it!
Happy Valentine's Day!  So many ways to show your love for your family, today and every day.
 Here is a super quick activity for you to do with your kids.  Let them be creative and have fun! 


1 package pretzel rods
Candy Melts, in whatever colors you want
Various sprinkles

Melt Candy Melts in microwave or in top of double boiler until completely melted.  Be sure NO water EVER touches the melted chocolate.  It will cause the chocolate to seize.

Dip pretzel rods in the melted Candy Melts, sprinkle with sprinkles (that sounds odd) and let cool on a sheet of wax paper.

With leftover candy melts, put melted chocolate in heavy duty freezer bag, cut off a tiny corner of the bag, squeeze candy down to that corner and let the kids make designs on wax paper. They harden quickly and the kids can decorate cookies, cupcakes, even a bowl of oatmeal with them!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Adventures of a little runaway :)

The runaway  :)
 A good friend posted on Facebook about her four year old son yesterday and the story was soooo cute that I asked her if I could use it in my blog.  She laughed and gave me permission so here's the adventure of Casey...

First post - (Casey) "wants to run away and live with his friend today... He packed his bag and put on his coat and shoes all by himself. I don't even know what he's upset about!"

Next post - "He got to the end of the drive and asked me which way to his friends's house. I pointed the direction and a car came by. I reminded him that he needed a grown up to go on the road with him. He kept asking me to drive him there, but I kept telling him that I loved him too much to help him to leave our family right now. We called Daddy. They will talk about it when he gets home tonight. I figured out that he is mad that I won't let him make a fort with the living room cushions."

Two hours later... "He's been waiting for Daddy to come home ALL.DAY.LONG so that Daddy can take him. However, he just came to me a few minutes ago (he's been playing with Legos in his room the whole time) and said to me, "Mom, I'm going to STAY! Because you love me too much." YAY! He's staying!"

Now, THERE is a smart mom!  I love how calm and rational she is and this is such a perfect example of how to respond to a young child.  No yelling at him to get in the house.  No pleading with him.  No caving to his demands.  No analyzing the "why" he wanted to leave.  Just straightforward and factual.  Perfect! 

PS  Thank you my friend for the use of your story and pictures!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Catch-Up Day

Last night as I was trying to sleep, I started thinking of all the little projects, errands, and phone calls I needed to make.  Some of these things have been on my mind for several days (or weeks) and I just haven't gotten around to doing them.  So....

I just LOVE Costco hot dogs!
Today I got up with the resolve to tackle as many of these little nagging things as I could.  I got out my trusty spiral notebook, started furiously writing down all the obligations I needed to address and  set to work crossing off each item.  I paid bills, organized my financial papers so I could do my taxes, set up this year's files (so I'm a month late - I said I was behind!), made phone calls and wrote emails.  This afternoon I'm going to vacuum the furnace filters, clean out the fireplace and get a bedroom ready to paint.

Sometimes we just need a day to "catch up".  It's fairly easy to keep up with the usual routine of living but some things tend to get pushed aside.  Most of the things I neglect are little things that only take a short time to complete, which may be why I put them off.  But it feels so good to finally get them off my mind!  Maybe I'll designate an official Catch-Up Day every month and for dinner that night we'll have hot dogs, french fries and...catsup!

Here's to Catch-Up day!

Friday, February 7, 2014

What's for dinner? Cashew Stir Fry

Cashew Stir Fry
 I've been experimenting with meatless dinners for quite some time and recently tackled one of our favorite meals - chicken stir fry.  I substituted raw cashew pieces for the traditional chicken in this stir fry.  I also added yakisoba noodles and omitted rice as a side.  It tastes delicious! 

I think you'll like this recipe.  It is super quick to make.  Tonight's stir fry started at 6:05 pm and was set on the table at 6:20pm.  That's my kind of dinner!

Cashew Stir Fry
1 T. oil.  I like sesame oil because of its flavor but any kind will do.
1 T. beef soup base, dissolved in 1 c. warm water.  Or, you can dissolve 3 bouillon cubes in 1 c. water.
1-2 T. soy sauce.  I use Kikkoman light.
1/2 c. raw cashew pieces.  They're quite inexpensive bought in bulk.
2 c. yakisoba noodles.  You can find them at Costco, Walmart and most grocery stores.
Vegetables of choice.  In Winter I usually buy bags of frozen vegetable mixes from Winco and/or Costco.  Tonight I used 2/3 of a bag of Bird's Eye Oriental Stir Fry Vegetables (58 oz).  Amounts vary depending on how much veggies you want to use.

In large frying pan, heat oil over high heat.  Add raw cashews and stir around until they start to brown.  It browns quick!  Add Yakisoba noodles, about 1/4 c. beef soup base/water and about 1 T. soy sauce.  Stir around until noodles begin to brown in areas.  Dump in veggies and another 1/4 c. soup base/water.  Stir everything together.  Reduce heat to about medium and cover pan for a few minutes.  This helps the frozen veggies cook quicker.  If you use fresh veggies, you won't need to cover the pan.  Lift pan and stir again.  You might need to cover again for a few more minutes.  When veggies are beginning to get tender and all water has evaporated, you are done.  The amount of water you use will depend on how high your heat is and if you use fresh or frozen veggies.  If your stir fry starts to stick to the pan, add a couple tablespoons of water/soup base or more soy sauce.

The instructions might seem complicated but really it's simple and quick.  Experiment with your own combinations and flavors.  It's quite flexible.  Enjoy!

Cashews, frozen veggies, yakisoba, soup base, soy sauce and sesame oil.  That's it.

Cashews and yakisoba starting to brown.

I cover my pan with a pizza pan - no lid large enough  :)

Veggies tender, not overcooked.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Lessons from Super Bowl XLVIII

I'm not usually a football fan but with all the hype leading up to the Super Bowl, I couldn't help getting sucked into the excitement.  By excitement, I mean settling down on the couch, laptop in lap, checking out the latest on Pinterest and FB, tuning in and out while the game was being played.  :)  Oh, and in case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm a Seahawks fan, from the great state of Washington.

What really impressed me were the comments made by the players afterwards.  If kids who played sports could develop some of these attitudes, their games would be a lot more fun, they'd make more friends and they'd develop a few useful character traits as well.

Focus and determination -
"You only want to surround yourself with people that want to see you succeed.  The ones that don't, and want to pull you down to their level, walk away from them."  Derrick Coleman, deaf fullback.
"I think it was a total effort.  It took a lot of discipline and hard work."  Richard Sherman, cornerback.

Humility -
"It's very humbling.  Everybody doesn't get a chance to do this."  KJ Wright, linebacker
"I just want to be a normal guy on the team."  Percy Harvin, wide receiver
"One day I want to be like him in terms of the way he thinks.  He's just a master of the game.  I'm working to get there; I'm on a constant quest for knowledge."  Russell Wilson, quarterback, on Peyton Manning

Teamwork -
"It shows that hard work pays off.  It's a testament to hard work and pushing one another, holding each other accountable.  We always got each others back."  Kam Chancellor, strong safety
"Unity.  They are constantly high-fiving each other, picking each other up off a pile."  Peyton Manning on Seahawk defense

Gratitude -
"It's a true, true blessing.  God is so good.  We believed we would get here."  Russell Wilson, quarterback
Percy Harvin, wide receiver, on one person who has helped him to this level..."I would definitely say, without a question, my mom.   She has played a big part in just helping me out this season and staying focused and controlling the things that I can control.  It would be no question, my mom."

Attitude -
"It doesn't matter what you look like.  It doesn't matter if you're black, white, Latino, Asian.  It doesn't matter if you're 5 feet 11.  It doesn't matter how many people tell you no.  It's the heart that you have.  That's what I try to prove every day."  Russell Wilson, quarterback

Sure, football (and all sports) is about wanting to win.  More important though, it's also about having a good attitude, recognizing the contribution of the entire team, working together, not getting too cocky and being gracious to the other team.

Yay Seahawks!  :)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tidy Tuesday - Tackle the Kitchen!

"I don't have enough space!"  Does that sound familiar?  It doesn't take long for a home's available space to be filled to capacity and start to overflow.  There are two possible solutions.  One is a lot of hard work and usually involves spending a large amount of money - move to a larger place (until THAT place gets too small and so on...).  The other also involves hard work but doesn't require moving or spending much money - trimming down the number of possessions to fit the space you have.  It sounds so easy but acquiring things just seems to happen...much easier than deciding which things to keep and which things to get rid of.

A kitchen doesn't have to be large or fancy
One of the biggest "stuff magnets" is the kitchen.  Who wouldn't want tools to make food preparation easier?  But, do we really NEED to fill our kitchen drawers and cabinets with gadgets that we might use a few times a year?  Do you have any of the following - corn shucker (use a knife), burger press (two plates pressed together works too), pancake dispenser (try a measuring cup), meatball tongs (roll with your clean hands), onion goggles (REALLY?!),  microwave bacon cooker (two layers of paper towels, bacon, another paper towel on top), bagel cutter (a knife), strawberry huller (again, a simple knife) etc.  And don't forget the small appliances like cake pop makers, rice cookers, soda makers, rotisseries, pizza makers and so on.  These things take up valuable space.

Empty your kitchen of these space wasters and make room for the tools you regularly use.  You might even have room to put your food in the cupboards if you clear out enough space.  Wouldn't that feel good?

We have very little control over the space we have to work with but we can be creative in how we use that space and what we use it for. Even a small kitchen can hold the necessities of food preparation and service. 

PS...all those little gadgets and appliances are a pain to clean anyway  :)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Undisciplined parents/ undisciplined children

Yesterday I overheard a mother remark, "My son doesn't like to be disciplined" while explaining why her son was so badly behaved.  How could a mother be so misguided?  Part of our responsibility as mothers is to teach and train our children how to get along with others, how to follow instructions and how to learn how to control him or herself. 

Of course children don't like to be disciplined!  They'd rather do whatever they want, regardless of how it impacts themselves or others.  Unfortunately, such a child finds it hard to keep friends.  He finds himself frustrated when someone else imposes restrictions on him.  Adults would rather he not play with their children or come to their homes.  Instead of having the ultimate freedom (no rules or consequences) he finds that he is often alone and unhappy.

A rare moment of getting along  :)
Exhibiting discipline of self is one way we know that our children are ready to face the world as contributing, well-adjusted members of society.  They know right from wrong.  They live by the rules of society.  They are well-liked and welcomed wherever they go.  They will be good marriage partners and good parents themselves.

It's far easier to be disciplined early by loving parents than have to learn the hard way that most  people don't enjoy being around undisciplined, out-of-control little monsters.  Your children will be much happier if you do.