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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Four important school skills

Ready for her first day of school!
Two kids might have the same high IQ and similar home environments but one might excel and another struggle.  Why the difference?  You'd think that being smart was enough to guarantee success but there's more to success than pure intelligence.

The children who have mastered (or are in the process of mastering) the following skills and behaviors are more likely to have a positive experience at school and later as adults.

1. The ability to follow directions and its companion (2.) the ability to listen.  You've been teaching this since your child was a baby.  Just a couple of examples - Giving her chores commensurate with her age helps her learn how to follow directions.  Asking her to repeat what you said if she seems distracted, helps her learn to focus on what you say.  Keep working with her on this skill...she definitely needs it for school!

3. Reasonable self-control.  Ah yes, being able to control himself!  This includes refraining from tantrums, hitting and other physical no-no's; yelling, swearing and other verbal no-no's;  keeping hands and other body parts to himself; not taking things that don't belong to him.  Even some adults haven't mastered self-control yet but it's something your children will greatly benefit from learning, and the sooner the better.

4. Basic organizational skills.  Some kids are naturally neat and tidy and others need LOTS of help!  To succeed at school, your child needs to be able to keep track of assignments and other papers, school supplies and things like jackets and lunch boxes.  Losing these can cause stress and lost time for you, your child and her teacher. 

These are skills that can be taught, starting while your children are young and then expanded upon as they grow.  As you interact with your children every day, you are teaching and reinforcing these important life skills. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Birthday Traditions

My daughter's favorite birthday cake!
Birthdays mean different things to different people.  For kids it's their own personal holiday.  For parents it's a yet another year flying by.  Whatever it means to you, it's still a special day to celebrate.

What are your family birthday traditions?   Ours are both quirky and traditional.  Let me see if I can get most of them...

-The birthday child got to choose what to have for dinner.  Usually, that meant macaroni and cheese.  Sometimes, we'd take him or her out to dinner...again their choice.
-He or she got to choose the birthday dessert, which was not necessarily cake.  Sometimes we've had pie or fruit cobbler or doughnuts or cake.  One daughter always requested that her cake be a wild rainbow of colors (see the picture above).  Whatever the dessert, before blowing out the candles, everyone always said, "Swallow!" so he or she didn't spit on the cake accidently  :)  Ewwwww....
-While eating cake, it was time for the birthday story to be told.  That was my time to relate the events surrounding the pregnancy and birth, with as much drama as possible, while leaving out the gory details. Now that my children are grown, maybe I should give the uncut version  :)
-Then it was movie time...again their choice.  To their credit, the older children rarely complained about sitting through Curious George or Scamper the Penguin. 

Any wonder that I lovingly referred to the birthday child as the birthday tyrant?  So much power in one day can make a child a little demanding!  But, so worth it!  Each birthday is a reminder of their anxiously awaited arrival into our family...truly a celebration!

What are YOUR birthday traditions?


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

You know you're a mom when...

You know you're a mom when you look forward to going to the dentist.  Where else can you lay back in a lounge chair (with heat and massage!) with your eyes closed, listening to soft music, with no distractions during the middle of the day?  Ahhh, peace and quiet for one whole hour!

Monday, August 25, 2014

How to create a book lover :)

If you want your children to love books, you need to make books part of their life.  Surround them with books they can love.  Introduce them to a variety of genres.  Read to them.  

Is it any surprise this little baby grew up to be an avid reader?

Raised on classic Disney...

And classic board books...Love Goodnight Moon!

And books that can be properly "devoured"  :)

Throw in a little geography for balance...
So careful with the pages!
Same little girl, same love of books  :)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Elevator

Shopping with my husband and three young children turned into quite an adventure for our three year old!  We were upstairs in a large department store, heading to the elevator because our youngest was in the stroller.  I was holding our three year old son's hand when suddenly, he let go and started running towards the open elevator.  For such a little guy with short legs, he sure could run fast!  Before I could reach him, he got in the elevator and the door closed shut behind him.  The blood-curdling screams could be heard all over the store as the elevator began its descent to the first floor.  My husband raced to the escalator, in hopes of getting to the elevator downstairs before the door opened but it didn't matter.  His screams were so distinct, that there was no question where he was.  :)  The little guy learned one of those natural consequences that day.  Stay with Mom and Dad!

I'll have to ask him someday if he remembers that experience and if he's still afraid of elevators.  :)

Thursday, August 21, 2014


I was driving around, running errands this morning when my cell phone rang.  Because my state has a law prohibiting cell phone use while driving, I let it ring and continued on.  But my brain started thinking.  I truly understand a law prohibiting texting while driving.  THAT is incredibly dangerous.  But I know of some things that are far more distracting than talking on a cell phone while driving.

Have you ever been hit on the head with a toy by a toddler with very good aim, who is sitting angelically in her car seat in the back seat?
Have you ever driven with your left hand while your right hand is trying to stop a fight between two fighting siblings?
Have you ever been driving innocently along when, all of a sudden, the back door swings open?
Have you ever heard to words, "Mommy, I don't feel good" at the same time you hear retching, throwing up sounds?
Now, THOSE are distracting!!!

Let's face it.  There are more distractions than phones and the number one distraction is the kids you haul around every day.  If there is one place where rules should be clearly in place and firmly enforced, it's in the car.

Make sure your child safety seats are correctly secured in your vehicle and your baby/toddler safely strapped in.
If your baby/toddler has toys, only allow those that have little straps to attach to their seats.
Have a strict NO FIGHTING rule.  Pull over and deal with it when you are at a complete stop.
Have a strict NO TOUCHING rule.  Kids can be very subtle in the way they annoy their siblings.
If you're going on a long drive, consider putting some empty plastic bags under your car seat...just in case one of your little darlings gets car sick.
If your car has child locks on the doors, use them.

Probably the most distracting time I can remember is the time I was driving at a high speed when I felt something on my leg.  I glanced down to find a hornet casually crawling up my leg.  I stayed focused on driving while I smacked that hornet and smashed him dead all over my leg.  Ugh!   Even in such circumstances, you can't lose control.  Some people have died from accidents where a bee flew in the window.  It's not worth it.  Concentrate on driving, no matter what!  Whether it's children or insects or anything else, getting to your destination safely is the number one priority.  Teaching your children to behave properly in a car is one less distraction you have to worry about...hopefully!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Small and simple things

When you get overwhelmed with all you have to do and how great your responsibility as a mother is, remember this quote.  You don't have to perform great miracles.  You don't have to be Supermom.  You only have to consistently do the little things that some day will add up to become big things.  Love your kids.  Teach them basic principles of honesty, obedience and virtue.  Work beside them.  Discipline when necessary.  Set a good example for them.  Be patient.  Simple doesn't necessarily mean easy but remember that your efforts will pay off with children who love you back and appreciate you for never giving up on them.  Give it time.

Note - This quote is actually a paraphrase of a verse from the Book of Mormon which reads, "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass." (Alma 36:6)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The lay off

At the beginning of May, my husband was laid off his job.  Although I knew his time of unemployment would be temporary, all of a sudden the future became one big unknown.  I hate that feeling!  My anxiety went into overdrive!

The first thing we did was put ourselves on a spending freeze.  No unnecessary spending.  We carefully went over our budget and reviewed each item to decide if we really wanted to spend our drastically reduced income on it.  Out went the gym membership (we rarely used it anyway!).  A phone call to our insurance agent lowered our monthly premium.  Turns out, we'd been overpaying for a couple of years due to children no longer on our policy.  A call to our internet provider got us a lower monthly price also.  And so it went.  Nothing was sacred.  Well, except for tithing...and one tenth of nothing isn't very much anyway!

We cut out eating at restaurants.  We stopped recreational shopping.  We were more careful with the groceries we bought...careful not to waste!  We worked on home projects that had been started and not finished.  We spent more time working in the garden and yard.  Our "movie nights" were in our living room, courtesy of Netflix and Redbox.  In short, we simplified our life.

Simple pleasures are the best!
A funny thing has happened since that day in May.  Even though my husband got a new (and better!) job in mid June, I still have no desire to spend money.  That spending freeze was just the thing I needed to put my spending in perspective.  Sometimes we need a crisis to wake us up and help us remember our priorities and goals.  Money is a wonderful resource and everyone needs it to live but often we get careless and use that resource unwisely.  I do not take it for granted any more.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Normal vs average

Precocious little one!
As a mom, you want to be reassured that your child is developing "normally".  As you look around at children who are the same age, you notice that some reach milestones earlier while others are later.  Is that normal?  What is the difference between "normal" and "average"? 

One of my babies was walking at nine months.  Another didn't walk until he was fifteen months.  One chattered away using clearly distinct words at one year.  Another didn't talk until he was three.  Both of these examples are of normal development.  Neither was average.

Average is a mathematical formula where you take a group of numbers, add them up and divide by the number in the group.  The resulting number is the average.  Normal, however, is not nearly so precise.  It describes something that is typical for a situation, based over a long period of observation.  So, while the average age of a baby walking is 12 months, normal is somewhere between nine months and sixteen months.

You are probably very aware of the charts and apps that describe typical ages for developmental milestones.  Just remember, that they are guidelines, nothing more.  There never seems to be any worry when your child reaches milestones earlier than usual but if not, then the uncertainty creeps in.  Regular check-ups with your child's doctor are ideal for bringing up your concerns about his or her development.  If all appears to be well, don't hurry or pressure your child.   Enjoy her just the way she is. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Unstructured play

Yesterday I was looking at a parenting magazine and was amazed that probably 90% of the content concerned entertaining kids and filling kids lives with mother-created activities and projects.  There was one article about sex and another about sibling rivalry but not much else.  Is this what parenting has become?

Is it in our children's best interests to focus on entertainment?  Who are those cute crafts really for, Mom or the kids?  Sure, they look great but maybe our kids would get more out of making the craft themselves.  Or, maybe they might like to play with different materials without an end product in mind. 

Please don't misunderstand.  There is a place for well-planned out activities and outings.  But they should be the exception, not the rule.  Children need opportunities to create, not just copy or recreate something.  They need unstructured time to play and explore.  When Mom fills up their day with pre-planned activities, classes and excursions, children develop expectations that that's what life is all about.  They get bored easily.  They think they have to be entertained constantly.  Then, Mom gets exasperated and tells them to go out and play.  Funny thing though...they don't know how to play.  Sad.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Making a quilt. Part 1

It's been a long time but I'm going to make a baby quilt.  Not knowing the gender of the baby I'm making the quilt for, I wanted something neutral but not boring.  I looked at our local fabric stores and couldn't find anything that jumped out and said, "Buy me!"  So I went home and got on my trusty computer.  When I saw this fabric (found on, I knew it was what I wanted.  Based on the classic children's book "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle, the flannel fabric is lively and bright, as well as super soft.  Perfect!

Today I washed all the fabric so I won't have problems with shrinkage later.  I washed the solid blue by itself in case the dye bled.  I'm not taking any chances!

Tonight, I'll use my rotary cutter and cutting mat to make strips of varying sizes for the front of the quilt.  The back will be one solid length of fabric, the white with green caterpillars.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A lazy cook

Who says I'm a lazy cook?!?
In a conversation with my husband recently, he casually mentioned that I was a lazy cook.  I immediately and indignantly responded that I was NOT a lazy cook!  While the conversation ended shortly thereafter, in my mind I continued to mull over his words.  Me?  A lazy cook?  How could he say such a thing?  I bake bread from scratch (even grind the wheat for flour).  I make pies, cookies, cakes and brownies from scratch and even make homemade noodles when making chicken noodle soup.  A lazy cook indeed! 

Then my thoughts turned to cooking in general.  I DO like using short cuts.  I like simple food.  If I find a recipe book and it's full of recipes with unfamiliar ingredients, I put it down and walk away.  My style of cooking is basic and healthy.  (Those pies and goodies I make from scratch?  I don't make them very often!)  There are so many other things I'd rather do than spend hours in the kitchen, cooking.  If that makes me a lazy cook, then I'll wear the label proudly.  :) 

Lazy cooks of the world, unite!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What's cooking? Orzo Summer Salad

Orzo is a cute little pasta that, when cooked, looks like long-grained rice.  It makes a great base for a summer salad.  Here, I substituted orzo for the usual penne pasta in an Italian main dish salad.  Try it yourself and see if you like it as much as my family does.

Orzo Summer Salad
1 c. uncooked orzo, cooked as directed on package.  Drain and cool.
1/4 to 1/2 c. bottled Italian dressing (I used Bernstein's Fat Free Cheese & Garlic Italian dressing)
Lots of fresh veggies, chopped in bite sized pieces.  I used two zucchinis, 3 roma tomatoes, 1/2 red pepper, 1/2 head broccoli florets, and 1/2 red onion
2 oz. pepperoni 
1 oz. olives, sliced (I used Kalamata olives)
1 to 2  oz. mozzarella cheese, diced or shredded OR feta cheese
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top

In large bowl, combine the cooled orzo and the veggies.  Mix with the dressing.  Add olives, cheese and pepperoni.  Cool in refrigerator, at least one hour.  Serve with parmesan cheese.  All the ingredients can be adjusted based on personal preference. 

Just one cup makes enough pasta for a large salad

Lots of veggies!  Whatever is in your garden or your family favorites

To cut down on grease, cut pepperoni into bite-sized chunks (or use pre-sliced pepperoni) and arrange on plate, covered with two layers of paper towels.  Cover with another two paper towels and microwave for 40 seconds.

Pepperoni after microwaving has better flavor and less grease!

Finished salad, minus the feta cheese and parmesan.  My husband doesn't like feta!  (I LOVE feta!)

Monday, August 11, 2014


Poor unsuspecting Cate was driving a friend's seven year old daughter home from an activity.  She glanced in her rear view mirror just in time to see this little girl sneeze juicily and wipe her now wet hand on the upholstery of Cate's new car.  Let's just say that Cate still has nightmares about the scene.  :)

Kids are messy.  Kids can do gross things.  Watching young children interact with each other is not a pastime for the faint of heart.  It's no wonder viruses and other illnesses are spread so quickly among kids and their families.  No one wants their child to be sick.  No one wants to BE sick.  So, how can you lessen the number of colds and flu your family goes through during the year?

Number one - Teach them early!  Preschoolers are good learners and can understand basic rules of hygiene.  But!  You need to teach them.  Don't assume they know how to wash their hands.  Don't assume they know how to wipe their nose and throw away their tissue. 

Poor sweetie!
Number two - Even though it might be inconvenient, please keep obviously sick kids home.  Taking them to school or church or a play date when they have a cold is going to spread that cold to other children or adults.  Do you really want to do that?  That kind of sharing isn't nice.

Number three - Speaking of sharing, try not to let your sick child "share" utensils, cups, food, towels, etc.

Number four - Make sure they know how to cough or sneeze into their elbow or arm and NOT in their hand.  It might seem awkward at first but soon becomes second nature.  Have hand sanitizer around and encourage frequent hand washing.  Encourage using a tissue for runny noses.  Keep tissue in your car as well as at home...oh and a bag to hold the used ones!

Number five - Discourage kids from touching their faces.  That includes picking their nose!

Number six - Around the house clean frequently used surfaces...things like door knobs, handles, telephones and remotes.  Don't become obsessive but be vigilant and keep your house reasonably clean.  That's only common sense. 

It isn't possible to protect your young children from every virus and illness but by doing a few simple things, you might cut down the number of colds your child has to endure.  You might avoid getting the whole family (or neighborhood!) sick too!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

What's in a name?

What's in a name?  An awful lot, actually.  Our name is one of the things that people use to identify us.  It is something that we are given at birth and carry with us when we die.  That's pretty heavy for two, three or four little words.

So, it is an awesome responsibility for parents to give their newborn just the right name.  And coming up with that name is not as simple as the biblical verse when Zacharias proclaimed, "His name is John."  (Luke 1:63)  No argument there!  When you start talking about names with your husband, you learn things you never learned before (and vise versa).  You can't name the baby after a former ex-girlfriend/boyfriend.  You can't name him or her the same name as your arch nemesis in elementary school.  Certain names remind you of someone mean or rude or not-very-bright.  Your movie crush is off limits.

Then there's the practical considerations.  Do you want a gender neutral name or one that is definitely male or female?  What about names that rhyme?  What about initials?  If you name a daughter, Faith Ann Taylor, it won't take long for kids to realize that her initials spell out F.A.T.  Not good!  How does the given name sound with the last name?  Oh, and do you want to name a son after his father?  Are you ok with people confusing your husband's name and your son's name?  It happens...I know, we did that.  :)

What if your husband has always wanted to name a child a certain name?  That was the case with our first son.  When my husband was a child, he always wanted a brother so all his stuffed animals and pets were named David.  It wasn't hard to decide on that baby's name.  :)  It would have been harder if I associated the name David with someone unpleasant but that wasn't the case...luckily!

When naming your baby, think ahead to the future.  Think about your little boy or girl in school and the teacher calling his/her name.  Is it a name to be proud of?  Are her friends going to make fun of her name?  Is he going to be embarrassed when someone thinks he's a girl based on his name?  Think further in the future.  He's applying for a job.  How will his name represent him?

There are numberless combinations of names available for your baby.  Even eliminating certain emotionally charged names leaves more than enough to choose just the right name for your little one.  That is unless you have the same experience we had when our fifth baby was born.  We had the perfect name for him but when we actually got to see him and hold him, we looked at each other and both said, "He's not a ......"  The name we chose did not fit the little guy.  It took us an additional week before we came up with a name that fit him.  And it was a good name.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Do you agree?

Believe me, my husband and I have our share of disagreements.  Being two distinctly unique individuals, it's normal to have differing opinions.  Either those differences in opinion end in resolution or an impasse.  We are still dealing with a few of those impasses.  :)

The one area where you and your husband need to see eye-to-eye, is in the area of child rearing.  Children seem to know instinctively when their parents disagree and can and will use that knowledge to come between you and get their way.  You might have to compromise, but remember, a united front is crucial in keeping peace in the family.

Do you and your husband agree on the following -
1. Discipline.  What kind of discipline is appropriate?  Who will be the primary disciplinarian?  
2. Education.  How will they be educated?  How early?
3. Electronics.  How much TV and/or electronic devices is appropriate?  What kind?  When can they   be used? 
4. Religion.  Is religion going to be a focus in your family?  How?
5. Dating.  It isn't too early to approach this topic.  When is dating appropriate?  What are the rules?
6. Modesty.  Do you have boundaries for dress? What are they? 

If you don't agree, you might want to have some pretty serious conversations with your spouse to discuss these issues.  When the need is immediate, it's too late.  Yes, children push boundaries all the time to see if those boundaries are actually there.  Are they? 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


My son, talking about his daughter - "I was getting money out of the ATM.  As the money came out, the funniest thing was heard..."

Annie - "Money!!! It's your lucky day, Dad!"

My son's reply - "Either she's seen too much of Las Vegas, or I have to teach her about ATMs... for now, though, it was cute..."

Annie is almost five.  She is very aware of the value of money but not the concept of ATM machines or credit cards or checks.   That's normal for her age.  It takes a while for developing brains to deal with abstract concepts.  Heck, even some adults don't seem to get the idea that you shouldn't write a check for something if you don't have the money in the bank.  

Annie's learning quickly and it won't be long before she's asking her dad for his credit card.  :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace.  This motto is part of the Boy Scout program, designed to teach boys (as well as all visitors) to leave as little impact on wilderness areas as possible.  There are seven principles associated with this program.  They are -
1. Plan and prepare.
2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
3. Dispose of waste properly.
4. Leave what you find.
5. Minimize campfire impact.
6. Respect wildlife.
7. Be considerate of other visitors.

What does this have to do with being a mother?  Surprisingly, quite a bit!  When you take your children out (shopping, visiting friends and/or relatives, to church, and to other public places), you leave an impression of not only yourself and your children but of mothers and children in general.  What kind of impression do you leave?

Let's apply the principles of Leave No Trace to your adventures with your children.
1. Plan and prepare.  Before you leave home, do you adequately prepare for extra food and extra changes of clothes for the little ones...just in case?  Are you prepared for an emergency?
2. We'll skip that one.
3. Dispose of waste properly.  Now, that is a good one!  The rule, "Pack it in, pack it out" definitely applies!  If your baby needs a diaper change, please wrap up and take the used diaper home.  I know, disposable diapers are meant to be disposed of, but leaving a stinky diaper in someone's home or place of work, just isn't considerate.  Keep plastic bags in your diaper bag or purse for that purpose.  And diapers aren't the only things...cheerios, gum wrappers and trash left on pews at church...that's a no-no!
4. Leave what you find.  Again, applicable.  When visiting someone's home, make sure your child doesn't "accidently" leave with something that doesn't belong to him or her.  Let's face it, it can happen.
5. Let's hope that one isn't applicable!  But just for the record,  keep an eye on your children at all times.  Unsupervised children tend to find trouble just as unsupervised campfires tend to make trouble!
6. Respect wildlife.  Children love animals but not all animals love children.  For the safety of both, teach your children to approach unfamiliar animals with caution.  That applies to cats and dogs too!
7. Be considerate of other visitors.  How basic is that?!  No biting, hitting, pushing, kicking, or any variation.  Be nice.

When these simple rules are applied, you can confidently take your children practically anywhere without worrying about their behavior.  Teach your kids to be good scouts!  Be prepared!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Predictable Patterns

People are creatures of habit.  Ask someone to step outside their comfort zone and do something out of the ordinary, and most will resist.  Falling back on predictable patterns of behavior is what we are used to doing.  It's comfortable. The same is true with communication.  Almost without thought, we respond in a particular way, when provoked, stressed or just plain tired.

Unfortunately, those predictable patterns aren't always the most effective ways of interacting with the world around us.  If you find yourself repeatedly frustrated with children (or spouse) because you get into the same old arguments and disagreements, a change in the way you communicate with them might produce totally different results.

For example, if you tend to yell at your children when they do something wrong, try leaning in close and talking in a low, quiet voice.  Most likely, your child is going to stop, if only to process this new behavior.  The same is true with your spouse.  Responding in a different way will result in a different outcome. 

Relationships evolve over time.  Children grow and learn new forms of driving us crazy  :)  If you feel like you are stuck in predictable relationship patterns, step out of that comfort zone and surprise them!  Do something different! 

Friday, August 1, 2014