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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Warning - serious topic

A tragic news article prompted me to write today.  A 29 year old mother couldn't stand hearing her young babies and toddler crying so she tried to kill them.  Now the mother is in jail facing attempted murder charges and her three little children (aged 2 and twins 6 months old) are fighting for their lives.

You think, "How could this happen?"  "What could have been done to prevent it?"

The vast majority of mothers (and fathers) would never dream of hurting their children, no matter how frustrated they are. Yet, periodically there are stories like the one above that are sobering reminders that coping strategies must be taught to parents, especially vulnerable ones.

Young children cry.  No doubt about it.  Babies cry.  They cry because that's the only way they know how to communicate.  They cry because they are tired or hungry or need a diaper change, or are too hot or too cold, or are getting sick, or teething, or in other discomfort.  During sleep they might have had a frightening dream or been startled by some noise.  Sometimes, they cry for no apparent reason.

To cope with a crying baby, consider the following -
1. Babies feel tenseness in people around them.  If their crying makes you tense and anxious, they very possibly might cry more.  Try to remain calm and soothing.  No shouting or yelling!
2. Check for the obvious reasons for the crying.  Feet and hands cold?  Cover them.  Baby sweating? She's too hot.  Remove some layers.  Change diaper.  If baby is young, try feeding him.  Check for signs of discomfort.
3. If all the above fails, soothe baby with quiet, gentle words and put her gently back in her crib and close the door. 
4. If your baby seems like she is in pain, call the pediatrician, even in the middle of the night.  All doctors that I know have answering services that can help you determine whether your baby's symptoms are urgent or can wait until morning.
5. Periodically check on her but try to avoid disturbing her.  Yes, you are not going to get very much sleep but remind yourself that this stage of your child's life is a short one. 

If you find yourself unable to remain calm and get increasingly frustrated, even angry, you need to discuss this with your doctor immediately.  She can help you with additional coping strategies.  You might be suffering from a severe form of postpartum depression.

You need to schedule an appointment with your baby's doctor also to rule out possible physical reasons for her distress.

Having a "safe" person (a friend or family member) available to call when you are at your wits end, will help you calm down and think rationally.  Talk with someone you trust and ask him or her to be that safe person for you.

If your feelings intensify, put your crying baby in her crib and close the door. Then call your safe person or the doctor.  Do not give in to impulsive actions. 

Make sure your husband, babysitters and other care givers know what to do if they feel overwhelmed by your baby's crying. Teach them if necessary.

No one likes to hear a baby cry but it's a fact of life that they do.  If you are unable to cope with your children for whatever reason, you must find help.  It's possible to learn the strategies that will help you be a calmer mother and learn how to handle your own emotions in a healthy way.

Every innocent young baby deserves to be safe and loved.

Friday, January 23, 2015 not the movie :)

Years ago, when I heard about the idea of making a month's worth of meals in a day, I was intrigued.  Then I thought about the practicalities...with a family of 10, that would fill up a HUGE freezer!  Also, the idea of spending an entire day planning and grocery shopping for those meals and another entire day in the kitchen preparing them sounded like torture!  The less time I spend in the kitchen, the better!

But...I came up with a compromise that worked for my large family and works even better for smaller families!  I don't prepare complete meals but I do make some things in large quantity for throwing together into a dinner later.  Things that take a relatively long time to cook, I'll make at least double and sometimes more to freeze for later.  It takes no extra time to make 8 cups of rice than it takes to make 4 cups.

Here's an example - I had a dinner in mind but my husband said he felt like Cashew Chicken.  He also said it probably would take too long IF we had all the ingredients.  I just smiled and headed into the kitchen.  I pulled out a quart freezer bag of cooked chicken breast cubes, a freezer bag of cooked brown rice, and a handful of toasted cashews from the freezer.  With the addition of a can of chicken broth, some Asian spices, chopped onion, garlic and celery, some thickener and soy sauce, my Cashew Chicken was ready to eat in 15 minutes.  Super easy, super fast and didn't taste like it had been in the freezer  :)

Some of the best things to make in quantity and freeze in portions are beef, chicken, and ham.  I'll take two fairly large beef roasts and cook them in the crock pot.  When finished cooking, I'll take one roast and divide it in half.  One half goes in a freezer bag as is...that will be for a pot roast later.  The other half gets cut in cubes for stew or soups and divided in more freezer bags.  The other roast I'll shred for BBQ beef, taco or burrito meat, and beef and gravy.  Again, it gets divided into several freezer bags.  Chicken is prepared similarly...several chicken breasts cooked or grilled then frozen for teriyaki chicken, stir fry, pot get the idea.  With the meat already cooked, the rest of the meal is easy and quick to prepare.  I also regularly freeze brown rice as it takes fairly long to cook and sometimes, I don't have that much time.  It freezes wonderfully. 

When freezing, I like using freezer bags because they are compact and stackable.  Rigid containers sometimes leave too much airspace and therefore, take up extra space.  Always label what is in the bag, how much and when it was prepared.  

Whatever you cook regularly is a possible candidate for making in bulk and freezing.  It saves on energy and time, which is a great help for a busy mom!  If unexpected visitors arrive just in time for dinner, it's so easy to pull out another bag of meat, thaw it and add to your meal.  What could be easier?  Ok, calling out for pizza...   :)


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chasing Chase

As my husband and I were sitting in a buffet restaurant, I couldn't help but notice the little boy at the next table.  I soon learned that his name was Chase and he was three years old.  I'm not sure if the name "Chase" was prophetic or he just grew into his name, but he definitely kept his mom and dad chasing him throughout their meal...and for such a little guy, he sure could run fast!

At one point, the dad got up to refill his plate and left mom with Chase.  He was bouncing on the bench and trying to escape his mom's clutches.  Getting more and more exasperated, the mom shouted that if he didn't stop he wouldn't get any dessert.  (the usual threat at a restaurant)  These threats continued to escalate in volume and Chase paid no attention.  In fact, he turned to her, laughed and pointed his finger like a gun and pretended to shoot her!   The mom had enough.  She emphatically declared that there would be NO dessert at all tonight. 

I leaned towards my husband and whispered, "Just watch...he'll get dessert."  Sure enough, it wasn't five minutes later before dear little Chase was smugly licking a big drippy ice cream cone. 

Is it any wonder why some children misbehave?  Moms, you have to be consistent!  You have to be in control of yourself.  You are setting an example for your children.  You shouldn't make any threat that you aren't willing to carry out and that threat (or warning) should only be told once before the consequence is implemented.

By following through and being consistent, you are teaching your children (even young toddlers) that they can trust that what Mom says, Mom means.   The sooner they learn that, the sooner you'll find peace in your home.  You might even be able to take your children out in public occasionally  :) 

Monday, January 19, 2015

A wild and crazy birthday cake!

A wild and crazy cake!
Birthday traditions...every family has them.  And even within a family, some kids develop their own unique traditions that they HAVE to have  :)  Such is the case with one of my daughters.  From the time she was 12, she has always requested a "colorful" cake.  So, every year I try to out-do myself with coming up with a wild and colorful cake  :)

A few months ago, I saw a fantastically beautiful cake on Pinterest.  (Found on  I immediately knew what I was doing for my daughter's next birthday!  Let's just say, as usual, my "creation" didn't turn out quite like the amazing picture I pinned but it was a big success anyway!

 For a three layer cake you'll need...
2 white cake mixes + the ingredients to make the cake as directed
Buttercream frosting...from a can, a mix or from scratch
Gel or paste food coloring in a variety of colors
Candy Melts in a variety of colors
Corn syrup
Heavy whipping cream

First, I used two traditional boxes of white cake mix and mixed it up as directed.  Then before pouring it into pans (Four  8" round cake pans), I divided the batter into 6 bowls.  Each bowl of batter got dyed a different color.  Then I randomly plopped blobs of colored batter into the pans.  A quick swirl with a knife through the colors and they were ready for the oven.
Colorful batter!
Plop the batter into the pans...
Swirl gently with a knife...
Fresh out of the oven.
After the cakes were cooled, I trimmed off the rounded tops.  I only needed three cakes so the fourth went into the freezer for another day.   Using a basic buttercream frosting, I stacked and frosted the cake, trying to get the top as smooth as possible.  I'm NO cake decorator so my results were less than perfect, but...oh well  :) 

A turntable would have been handy...
I put the frosted cake on top of a large can so I could turn it easily and put a piece of parchment paper underneath the can to catch drips.
I used six colors of candy melts (should have stuck with the lighter/brighter colors...purple was too dark).   Candy melts were divided into six bowls with 5 oz melts in each bowl.  Also, in each bowl went 2 T. corn syrup and 4 T. heavy cream.   Microwaved until everything was melted, stirring occasionally.  The consistency should be slightly thickened.

Purple was probably too dark but the rest were perfect!
Then the fun part...
Alternating colors, I dripped spoonfuls of melted candy melts over the cake, letting it drip over the sides and over the top.  (If the melts get too thick, add a little more corn syrup.  If too thin, let it cool slightly.)

And that's all there is to it!  A cacophony of colors for a girl who likes her cakes wild!

But wait...there's more!
The melts that dripped onto the parchment make wonderful finger paints!

Have fun!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lighten your load!

I grew up in Southern California where the temperatures stay mild throughout the winter blizzards, ice storms or temps dipping below freezing for several weeks at a time.  But, I have to say, I really love the winters of the Pacific Northwest.  Not being inclined to spend much time outdoors when it's rainy and cold gives me lots of time to take care of procrastinated indoor projects.

Yesterday, I spent the day sorting papers. It's time to clear out 2014 and make way for 2015.  Tax receipts are now in a folder, ready to process once the W-2's come in.  Receipts are either filed or shredded.  New file folders are set up.  Other files have been sorted and/or disposed of.  It feels so good to have a fresh start! 

Next on the agenda is another round of clutter control.  Like paperwork, clutter has a habit of piling up  :)  It's not a one time process.  Kids grow out of clothes or get them so stained and dirty that they're no good for hand-me-downs.  Get rid of them!  Make room for new and current clothes.  Same with toys.  And how about the items gathering dust in the kitchen and family room?  If no one is using them, find them a new home!

January is such a great time to tackle paperwork and clutter!  It's a new month and a new year.  Put those dreary days to good use and free yourself and your family from the burden of piles (either paper or "things").  Lighten your load and you'll lighten your spirits!

Happy January!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Time to unplug

Several times a week I walk on a beautiful lakeside trail.  Connecting with community and enjoying nature is a perfect way to start a day!  I regularly see serious runners, older couples, teenagers training, exercise groups, people walking to work and of course, moms with strollers  :) 
Today I passed a mom pushing her three year old toddler and noticed that the little boy was completely engrossed in his iPad.  A mile or so later, I saw another young mother with a baby tucked snugly in his stroller, again totally involved in a tablet.  Hmmmmm...why did this bother me so?  Well, for one thing, it was a beautiful winter day and the lake was active with ducks, geese and other water fowl that these little kids were missing.  They also were oblivious to the cars, people, clouds...even how the wind was stirring up the water, making little waves crash against the shore.  Or maybe it's that electronics has become almost like a pacifier.  Fussy baby?  Hand him a tablet programmed with games designed for babies.  Restless kids in the car?  Set them up with their favorite movies.  Sure, it's easy to entertain children with flashy electronics but is it the best thing for them?

Both parents and children miss out on valuable interactions and observations when their eyes and minds are focused on the little device on their laps.  Put away the iPad and point out the geese.  Count the baby ducklings.  Look for ripples that mean fish are near the surface.  Say hello to passers by.  Interact with your children and teach them to look around and enjoy the world around them. 

Maybe we can try to become a little more "unplugged" this year.  It's worth a try  :)