Monday, December 31, 2012

What To Do When We Turn the TV Off

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. And for me, January is the most blah time of the year. No Christmastime stuff to look foward to. No exciting or fun holidays until Valentines in February. Cold weather so we can't play outside.

I have other New Year's goals and resolutions, but one of my continuing goals is always to watch less TV. Sometimes we do really well and other times (like when we're sick), we slide backward and watch way too much. This January (and the rest of winter), I'm renewing my effort to keep the TV off. Especially since Daddy will be gone for two weeks this month, we need stuff to do to keep us busy. So I made a list. None of them are new or amazing ideas, but sometimes we need a list to remind us that there really are lots of things to do around the house, even in winter.

Read books
Play with toys (what a novel idea!)
Play board games or card games
Paint/color/draw pictures
Play with play doh (maybe even try making our own sometime!)
Preschool art projects
Learn a letter of the alphabet
Have a tea party
Write letters/draw cards to send to family
Clean something—windows, dust, sweep (my daughter loves this!)
Play in the tub (with bubbles, of course)
Skype/Facetime with someone
Look at scrapbooks and family pictures
Have a dance party
Learn about something new: animals, places, people
Invite friends over to play
Paint toenails
Bake/ cook something
Make music
Play dress ups
Build with Legos
Have an indoor picnic

Thrift store
Dollar store
When we’re really stir crazy: trip to Boise

There is a lot more to do here than there was in our little town of 90 people, but when I'm bored and stir crazy, I sure do wish there were a few more places to go around here.

What do you do in winter to keep your TV off?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Struggle with Santa

I struggle with Santa. When I was a child, probably much younger than my parents would have liked, I set out to try to disprove Santa. As a skeptical and logical child, I knew that the myth of Santa Claus couldn’t be true, but I wanted my parents to admit it.

 Now I’m a parent. The first couple of years with a child in the house still didn’t need to involve Santa. Last year was a little different. We made cookies for Santa, but my daughter really didn’t get it.

This year she is a lot more aware. She sees Santa everywhere. I don’t like the idea of lying to her, no matter how magical and fun it might be for a few years. I also don’t want to squash any of that magic and fun for a three-year-old.

This I do know about Santa: Any discussion of Santa is going to include the original story of St. Nicholas and the spirit of Christmas and Santa Claus rather than a fat man who brings you presents because you’ve been good. Last year I saw a Veggie Tales movie called Saint Nicholas: The Story of Joyful Giving. I bought it this year and it’s going to be a regular part of our Christmas experience every year. It tells the story of the original Saint Nicholas and focuses on the joy of giving and serving others. But you may have gathered that from the title.

I also know that if my children ever question Santa, I’m not going to try to perpetuate the myth. No matter their age, if they have doubts in the fat man in a red suit, I’m not going to lie to them. In our house, Santa will be a symbol of giving. Which will involve us giving to those in need since we are so blessed (and when I was young, my family was often on the receiving end of that kind of giving). And the focus of Christmas will be on the birth of the Savior.

Here’s a blog post I’ve seen about what Santa means and how to explain it to your child once they do start wondering.

Truth About Santa

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What My Christmastime Baby Taught Me

I didn’t want a Christmastime baby. Silly reasons like birthdays being overshadowed by Christmas. But only after I had a Christmas baby (little Noelle, born nine days before Christmas last year) did I realize how much more special it would make her birthday. And how significant the event would be in my life and my understanding of Christ’s birth.

 Noelle is my second baby, so I’d been through labor and birth before and joined the sympathy club of women throughout the world and time who have done the same. But after giving birth to a child in my home with nothing but my own limited abilities, my family, and my prayers to God to get me through did I really think about what Mary went through to bring the Christ child into the world.

Giving birth on a dark winter’s night with the stockings hanging nearby and the lights of the Christmas tree reflecting off the Nativity, made me think of another little baby born so long ago who grew to be the Savior of the world. He began life as a helpless baby like you and me and my little one, Noelle. Yet he went on to save us all. His atonement made it possible for us all to repent and be forgiven, and made it so he knew and understood all the pain and anguish of the world—including the pain I went through to bring Noelle into the world. His death and resurrection made it possible for us all to live again. And for us to see loved ones who have died. Noelle will one day know her Papa Newman who died before she was born and her Great-Grandpa Newman who died this Christmas season.

I hope that as she grows older Noelle will know how special it is to celebrate her birthday at Christmastime, that she gets to share her birthday with the time that we are celebrating Jesus’ birthday. That while presents for her birthday and Christmas are fun, her birthday is a really a celebration of her and Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth and life. We named her Noelle as a reminder and a way to celebrate the time and circumstances of her birth. So happy first birthday, Noelle! Today we celebrate you. Thank you for coming to our family when you did and giving me such a beautiful lesson in the reason for Christmas in the first few days of your life. I will never be able to forget Christ at Christmas because your birth will ever be my reminder.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas with Children

2012: My baby wants to play with the magnets belonging to the advent.

Christmas is just more magical when you have children. Even if you don't make a big deal out of Santa Claus (more thoughts on that to come).

This is my baby's second Christmas, but she was only nine days old for her first one. This year she is enthralled all the lights and colors and sparkles of Christmas. She spends much of her time reaching for the advent calendar, the stockings, and the tree. And Christmas day will be full of boxes and ribbon and crinkly wrapping paper--what could be better?

My favorite new thing this Christmas is my three year old. She remembers Christmas last year and is adding to her idea of Christmastime. Many people feel jaded by the commercialism of Christmas. But in her innocence, my little girl sees things a bit differently. She is amazed and excited every time we go into a store or any public place and she sees that, "Hey, look Mom! They have Christmas stuff here!" Every new evidence of Christmastime is something to be celebrated and wondered over.

2011: The wonder of getting presents is even better than the presents themselves.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When One Parent Is Gone...

Okay, I have absolutely no experience with being the absent parent. I've always suspected it's easier to leave than to be left alone with the kids. Maybe I'll test that theory someday when my children are much older and can survive a few days on cereal and cookies (because I know that's what my husband will make them for dinner). But for now, with my children small and my husband being the one with the job outside the home, he leaves and I stay.

With his new career, he leaves at least a few times a year and is gone anywhere from one to three weeks at a time. My main concerns when he leaves are 1) me staying sane for my children, 2) his relationship with his children, and 3) me getting to shower or bathe on a semi regular basis.

To stay sane, I make a great effort to get out or have visitors. I'm way more social than I normally am. I also get more done around the house. I know that I have to stay busy or I'll get incredibly bored and my children will get stir crazy and then I just might become truly crazy. We spread out our shopping trips, go to the library, and go to and invite others for play dates. Much as my girls and I love each other, we need to see someone else during the day. Yesterday it was almost 50 degrees outside so we went on a walk. There's no way I would have done that if we'd been expecting Daddy to come home in a couple of hours. If it were summer we'd be going on more walks and to the park, but we have to do what we can with what the weather gives us.

To keep my children's relationship good with their Daddy, we Skype every night that he's gone. It's not the same as seeing him in person, but it works a lot better than phone calls for small children. Last night my three year old tried to give Daddy a kiss on the computer, and I think the almost one year old wanted to jump inside the computer to get at him. During our Skype sessions, we've started reading scriptures and even saying prayers together. It seems a little strange at first, but prayer and scripture reading is an important part of our family when he's home, so it's important to keep it up while he's away. I also take pictures of fun or silly things that the girls do throughout the day and send them to him. Our iPod Touch has helped because it's easy to snap a pic and send it to his inbox right away. So far this trip he has received a picture of us going on a walk, of the baby running away from me naked, and of her trying to eat an apple almost as big as her head. Anything sweet or funny that keeps him a part of our day.

The keeping clean thing has changed with the ages and stages of my children. My oldest can watch a show while I shower. But my youngest is too young to be left unsupervised (especially since she learned to climb) and too old to be restrained in the bathroom without spending the whole time screaming. I've heard of mothers showering when their kids go to bed. Sadly, my baby cannot be depended on to go to bed at a certain time or to stay asleep once she's down. Some nights she might sleep for hours at a time, other nights she's up often. When my husband's home I either shower at night or really early in the morning before he gets up. I've had one full day without him and worked out the showering thing okay. When the three year old was down for the night, I took the baby in the bathroom with me, put up anything she could get into (garbage can, toilet paper), gave her a toy and locked her in the room with me. She wasn't too happy about not getting in the bath with me and then she was annoyed that she couldn't get out of the room, but she didn't scream and I got clean. And that's a very important part of #1: keeping me sane.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas, Christmas Time Is Here!

Our Christmas tree is up, our stockings are hung, and we started our Christmas season by visiting a community Nativity Exhibit last night. Afterward we drove around a little to see the lights that many people have already put up. Christmastime has begun!

I had most of my Christmas shopping done weeks ago, so this year I’m trying to focus on doing things instead of buying things to celebrate the season.

This is the first year I’ve wrapped our Christmas books to count down to Christmas. We only have 20 books instead of 24, but I don’t think my daughter will mind having them all opened and being able to read any she chooses early. In fact, she thought we would get to open them all today.

Many of our Christmas traditions are done as an entire family. But Daddy is going to be out of town for the first two weeks of December, so some of our Christmas activities will help us pass the time without him. I’m going to set up a play date with a friend and her little girls to decorate gingerbread houses because it will be a lot more fun with more kids to enjoy it.

Here are a few of the things we have planned for this Christmas season. What’s on your list?

Christmastime Activities

Remembering the Reason
Read the Christmas Story from Luke
Christmas Scripture Chain
Talk About and Play with the Fisher Price Nativity

Build a Snowman
Go Sledding
Drive to See Christmas Lights

“Charlie Brown Christmas”
“It’s a Wonderful Life”
“Veggie Tales: Saint Nicholas” 

Christmas Books Advent
Sing Christmas Carols
Letter to Santa

Make Paper Snowflakes
Make Ornaments
Christmas Cards for Grandparents 

Christmas Cookies
Gingerbread Houses
Homemade Wassail

Giving Is Better…
Donate Food to the Food Bank
Give Christmas Goodies to Friends
Donate to Community Needs Basket

Community Creche Exhibit
Church Christmas Party
Shop Local

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Gluten Free Thanksgiving

I like to think we would make an effort for one person in the family, but since there are five people in my family who eat gluten free, our Thanksgiving dinner was planned so almost everything was gluten free or had an alternative.

Here's how it went down:

Turkey: Used gluten free flour to coat the turkey bag.

Mashed Potatoes: Naturally gluten free.

Gravy: Used gluten free flour or cornstarch as a thickener. Not sure which since I didn't make it, but there are options.

Stuffing: Obviously gluten. There was discussion of making a gluten free one, but most of the gluten free eaters didn't even like stuffing anyway.

Cranberry Sauce: Naturally gluten free.

Sweet Potatoes: Naturally gluten free.

Green Beans: Skipped the traditional creamy sauce w/ french fried onion topping. I wrapped them in bacon and drizzled them with a sweetened garlic soy sauce. I used my sister's soy sauce because many soy sauces have gluten in them. My 11 month old ate the green beans like candy, and even my brother who never eats green beans tried them because they came with bacon.

Veggie Tray: Naturally gluten free. The ranch dip had to be checked to be sure it was gluten free, and for me it was egg free too.

Rolls: Someone made gluten free rolls. A few others brought store bought gluten rolls. If I'd been at home, I'd have made some rolls, but I didn't want to spread gluten flour around my sister's gluten free kitchen. There were separate butters and jams for each and the gluten and gluten free rolls were put on opposites sides of the table.

Pies: Gluten free pies were made. Gluten pies were mostly bought (with one apple pie being made from a store bought crust). There were separate whipped creams and were put on the opposite ends of the tables like the rolls.

All of this planning satisfied my love of organizing things. And I even got to make little labels to keep things clear and separated.

Some might think that this is a lot of work, but even my  limited understanding of celiac disease and gluten intolerance tells me that even if we all had to eat gluten free rolls and pies, it would be worth it. My sister has written a great piece about what it means to have her husband and son eat gluten free (which I'd love to post here, hint, hint). The risks are not worth the possibility of a crumb of contamination. Plus we all ate good food and stuffed ourselves silly without having any component of Thanksgiving dinner that was important to us left out. And isn't that what Thanksgiving's all about? Oh, family was there too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Unexpected Breastfeeding Benefit

We all know that there are benefits to breastfeeding. The most important to me have been cost, convenience, and the relationship it has fostered with me and my babies.

Health is certainly a factor. No formula can replace breastmilk. But a benefit I didn't encounter with my first has just come up with my second.

Last week while out of town for Thanksgiving, pretty much everyone we knew got a nasty stomach bug. People had vomiting, diarrhea, fevers, or all three. I hoped my 11 month old would be spared. She wasn't, but she did not seem as sick as many others. She threw up twice--but only when she ate solid food. She has kept breastmilk down 100% of the time.

So I've kept her on only breastmilk for the last 24 hours. She hasn't thrown up again and has received plenty of nourishment and hydration.

Two weeks ago I was seriously considering weaning because she was biting me so hard, now I'm glad I didn't. Plus in that time she learned the sign for milk and has never bitten me when she requests it so obviously with sign language.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Thankful Thanksgiving

I'm excited for Christmas. But even while the Christmas music plays, I'm trying to remember Thanksgiving and all the things I'm thankful for. We watch Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and as much as I've tried to talk to my daughter about what Thanksgiving means, all she comes up with when I ask her about it is that we get to eat pumpkin pie. Which is an awesome part about Thanksgiving.

This year we made Thankful Trees. Ivy, Mommy, and Daddy each got a tree to put leaves on of things we are thankful for.

Ivy's first thing she was thankful for was Jesus, then Daddy, then Noelle, then Mommy. She repeated those things every new time I asked her what she wanted to put on her tree. After I pointed out that we had them up there, she started naming grandmas and grandpa and cousins and aunts and uncles and friends. I put cousins on one leaf because we didn't have enough space to name them all individually.

Some of the things I wrote that I was thankful for had to do with what happened that day. Playgroup was playgroup day. Our washer and dryer was on the day when our washer was leaking and I didn't have a washer for a couple of days. Husband and children and family are obvious ones, but they are what I think of first and what I am most grateful for.

Since Daddy works long hours, he had a harder time keeping up with our trees, but he busted out a whole bunch of them one day and Ivy helped him glue them on. Which is the best part of any project for Ivy, the gluing.

What are you thankful for this year? What are you doing to stop and remember all you have to be thankful for?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gentler Discipline

Discipline is a sensitive topic. I've heard people from my parents' and my own generation take pride in the fact that they yell at, constantly put in time out, and even spank their kids.

I don't have the answers for everyone, but I do know that when I yell or react in anger, I don't feel good. Forget about whether or not it's effective, I feel like crap. I also know that Christ and church leaders that I admire would not advocate anything but gentleness, kindness, and love to our children. This doesn't mean no discipline.

I was talking with my sister last week (who is a model for patience and kindness in her parenting to me). After a long discussion, I had an epiphany. I talked about how my daughter completely shuts down when she hears loud noises. We were trying to get in the car while the neighbor was running a chain saw and she covered her ears and froze and couldn't follow simple directions to get in the car without help. So why do I think that yelling at her is going to be effective discipline? All I do is scare her and cause her to shut down.

Another common discipline method is the time out. We have used time out a lot. But I don't think it's been effective most of the time. My daughter is terrified of being left alone and abandoned. So why exactly are we leaving her alone in a corner for every little infraction? Even if she starts obeying, it's out of fear, not because she understands why she should or shouldn't do whatever she was sent in time out for. I am a fan of natural consequences. It takes more time and thought, but in the long run, I feel it is a lot more effective. And when she has to navigate this world as an adult, no one is going to send her to time out, but there will be plenty of natural consequences for her actions.

It will change with age and time, and may even be completely different for my second daughter, but right now this is what I'm trying to do with my firstborn.

- Instead of yelling, I get down to be level with her, hold onto the sides of her face, and calmly talk to her about her behavior. This always includes a why for the expected behavior, a consequence if the poor behavior continues, and an "I Love You" and a kiss on the head at the end. I noticed an immediate improvement when I started this.

- Yelling happens. But the only times that I feel it's okay is when she is doing something dangerous to her or others. There are times when I need to get her attention fast. But a calm explanation follows. (And since I've just started this, yelling happens at plenty of other times too, but I'm working on it.)

- Natural consequences are the most commonly used form of discipline. If she won't help clean up her toys, she won't get to play with those toys the next day. It's honestly hard to think of other examples off the top of my head because my daughter is usually a good girl. Another thing I need to remember.

- Time outs still happen. But usually only for blatant things like hitting. A time out can also be different for different kids. My mom used to send us to our room until she realized that we liked it. Then she started assigning extra chores instead. For kids who need to calm down more than anything, I've seen a time out held in a parent's lap. This wouldn't work for my daughter because as soon as she's in trouble, she wants to sit with me. A hug eventually comes, but a hug shouldn't be the first thing she gets after hitting her sister. That comes after a period of time spent sitting and then an apology to her sister. I also don't send her to her room or to a corner for time out. As I said before, I don't want to scare her. She sits on the cedar chest in the living room and waits for the timer to go off (3 minutes because she's 3) and then she can come talk about what she did.

- Another important thing for my daughter's personality is to not be disciplined in public. Public shaming is popular right now, and for some personalities might be appropriate. My daughter is a very private person like I am, so I understand her needs in this respect. She usually behaves very well in public, so that's not a huge issue. The issue comes when we are visiting or being visited by relatives. The solution to this is simple, we remove her from the main living space and take her into a bedroom to talk to her.

Here and here are two of many articles that have made me rethink my disciplining techniques and offer ideas for gentler discipline.

Any thoughts on disciplining children? What have you found that works? Does one size fit all in your family, or do you tailor it to the child?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Preschool: Families

The month of November is about gratitude in our home preschool. Last week's focus was on family. We drew a picture of our little family which my daughter identified as herself, Daddy, her sister, and with some prompting, Mommy too.

I stole the next idea from my sister and we made a stick figure family tree of my side of the family and another one for my husband's side. I did the drawing, but I asked Ivy who each aunt and uncle had married and who their kids were. She did pretty good. And I thought it was great timing for reviewing the members of our extended family because we're going to see them all the week of Thanksgiving.

This week's focus is on friends. And without planning it to coincide with this week, we actually have two playdates at our house. So we'll have lots of friend time and I'll probably talk to her about sharing and being nice and how we treat our friends in preparation for having so many people over.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Best Books

In another life and time I was an English major. I've been a big reader since I learned how to read. And though I don't have nearly as much time for it as I used to, reading is still a priority in my life. I don't often read the heavy literature of my college days anymore--I need escape more than intellectual stimulation (though I still need a bit of that too).

A friend recently asked for my top 25 book recommendations. I cheated a little because I listed only 20, but I counted series of books as one book. My personal list of best books is constantly in flux, but here it is. (I emphasized in American Lit in college, so it is better represented here than Brit Lit.)

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
A favorite since I was very young. Probably too young to be reading something so dark.

2. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
A new favorite, but I was on the bandwagon from book one.

3. Matilda by Roald Dahl
As a bookish child, I naturally wanted to be Matilda. Though I didn't envy her parentage.

4. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
This book took me months to get through, but the ending moved me emotionally like few books ever have.

5. Poems by Emily Dickinson
Not a book exactly, but she is my favorite poet. I started reading her when I was young because we shared a first name. In college, I read her complete poems every summer.

6. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Holy the Firm is actually my favorite Dillard book, but this one is much more accessible. Think Walden Pond.

7. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
I'm eventually going to read all of Faulkner's books. I got a good start by taking a Southern Gothic Lit class in college. He's amazing, but he's odd. He's definitely not for everyone.

8. Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Modern fairytale telling at its best. Not her most popular book, but by far my favorite.

9. The Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer
I honestly enjoy reading these. Robert Fagles is my preferred translator.

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
If you haven't read it, read it now. And watch the movie. And read it again.

11. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
I can't explain my obsession with this book, but I've read it at least once a year for the past 20 years.

12. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
My copies of these books fell apart because I read them so much. I now have a pretty hard bound illustrated version. And I read them aloud to my children. I think it's time to start again.

13. Beauty by Robin McKinley
I love retellings of Beauty and the Beast. Her Rose Daughter is my favorite. But Beauty is more mainstream and you can read it with your daughters.

14. Short Stories of Flannery O’Connor
Another Southern Gothic and so not for everyone. If you took an American Lit class you probably read A Good Man is Hard to Find

15. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
I read all of the Newbery books. This is another one that the ending has stuck with me for years.

16. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
If I had to pick one favorite novel (but please don't make me choose just one!), this would be it.

17. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
I did not read these until this year. It was too popular for me to appreciate it right away. I actually liked reading them all one after another and was able to appreciate her storytelling abilities more than in the early days of the Potter craze.

18. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Everyone should read some Shakespeare. And it's not original of me, but Hamlet is my favorite.

19. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Another Newbery winner whose ending stuck with me a long time.

20. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Can you be an American without reading this book? If you only read it as assigned reading in high school, read it again. Twain is one of my favorite humorists.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Unexpectedly Creative

I've never thought of myself as very creative. I'm not artistic--even my stick drawings are pretty pitiful. I don't sew, I'm not good at interior decorating, and I've never been much of a crafter. I write, but I'm not a fiction writer.

But as I spend more time as a stay at home mom, I do more and more things that might be considered creative (if you leave traditional art expressions out of it). I like to try new recipes (hey, if you have to make and eat dinner every night, you might as well have fun with it). I've even gotten to the point where I not only tweak recipes, but I often even cook without a recipe at all. I scrapbook. Though my method feels more like organizing pictures, I am creating something for my daughters to see later.

And after talking to my mom last night about my daughters' Halloween costumes (pictured above), I realized that I am one of those moms who made their kids' costumes. Wait, what? So it's not elaborate and detailed and not a bit of it was sewn (Woodstock's costume was made by cutting out felt feathers and taping them with fabric fuse stuff to a onesie), but their costumes were homemade. And cost less than $5 each.

This made me think of a quote about creating something and how it makes us happy:

“Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter. … Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it. … Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether this voice comes from the outside or the inside.” - Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Creating something, a happy (if messy) home, dinner, or whatever is part of what keeps me sane as I spend my days at home. I'm even making some homemade Christmas gifts. My ten years younger self wouldn't recognize me. But that's a good thing.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Family Traditions: Pumpkin Patch

A favorite fall tradition is going to the pumpkin patch to get pumpkins for carving. Carving pumpkins is much more elaborate in my husband's family than it ever was in mine (I'll be sure to post pictures later), and it's a tradition we've picked up in our little family together. We're visiting my husband's family this weekend, so it's the perfect time to pick out and carve some pumpkins.

Step One: Hitch a Ride to the Pumpkin Patch

 Step Two: Survey the Field

Step Three: Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

Step Four: Take Pictures

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What Would You Do?: Building Self-Esteem

Here's the scenario:

Playgroup. Three girls are your daughter's age (3 years old) and have been friends since they were old enough to play with other kids. You have noticed that your daughter is often left out of this group and she plays by herself or with a younger girl who is left out because of her age. Then one day at playgroup you look up just in time to see one girl point at your daughter and say, "We're not going to play with her!" And the other two follow suit.

What do you do? (Besides cry in the car on the way home even though your daughter doesn't.)

She has told me that some of the other girls aren't nice to her. I've asked her if she still wants to go to playgroup and she says yes. I've told her to play with the kids who are nice to her. But it breaks my heart. I know I can't stop other kids from being mean to her or excluding her, but what do I do to help her face these situations which come all too early?

I saw a quote recently that said something about filling up your child's bucket of self-esteem so full that no matter how many holes the world pokes in it, it will never be empty. But how do you do that?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Question of the Day: Motherhood

Someone asked me this question yesterday:

Is motherhood everything you expected it to be?

Which made me realize that either I didn't know what I expected it to be, or I forget what my expectations were.

I know I didn't expect to be a full time stay at home mom. With all my education and work toward getting a job, I thought I'd be working at least part time. But now that I'm in the midst of it, I'm incredibly grateful that I do not have to work and get to spend my days with my children, at least while they are small.

I don't know what I expected, but I never knew that my house would be so messy so much of the time. With kids this small, the clutter and the laundry simply never ends.

I couldn't have imagined how tired I'd be much of the time because staying up late to have fun with friends and roommates, or even to finish an assignment, doesn't even begin to introduce a body to the kind of exhaustion that comes with being woken up at night to take care of a baby.

I also couldn't imagine the intensity of my love for my children, or the amount of worrying I would do.

Motherhood is more exhausting, joyous, stressful, and amazing than I ever could have expected. You simply can't know until you do it.

What did you expect motherhood to be?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What I'm Reading: Philippa Gregory

I just finished reading The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory. She has written many books, most of them are historical novels based on the lives of past British royalty. I've also read The Other Boleyn Girl (which was turned into movie) and The Lady of the Rivers.

Philippa Gregory is a historian and her books are well-researched. So they contain enough history to make me feel like I'm learning something. But they are entertaining enough to keep my tired mind's attention (unlike the history of Elizabeth I that I've been in the middle of reading for quite some time now). And they feature strong women, even if these women often find themselves powerless in a man's world. They make me grateful to live today and to know that my husband isn't considering getting rid of me because I've only given him daughters.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pumpkin Season

I love anything made with pumpkin. It makes everything moist and delicious. And it's often paired with cinnamon and ginger and other warm spices that I love.

My passion for pumpkin started with making homemade pumpkin puree for baby food when my first daughter was a baby. It turned into making pumpkin muffins for her as a picky toddler who would eat little else. And it’s continued in the rest of my cooking. In the fall I make homemade pumpkin puree and freeze it. And every time I go to the store, I buy a few cans of pumpkin to stock up for the rest of the year. I had one can left when the holiday baking displays started popping up.

I used to make pumpkin muffins from scratch for my daughter, but when I was expecting my second child, I started making an easier recipe. She likes them just as much and they’re a little healthier, so I’ve kept it up even as I have more time. Here it is, take notes because it’s complicated:

15 oz. can of pumpkin (I’ve tried a few brands and I like Libby’s best)
1 box spice cake mix (any brand will work, but Duncan Hines is recommended)

Combine ingredients. Bake at 350. It will take about 10 minutes for mini muffins and 15 – 20 minutes for regular muffins. Test doneness with a toothpick. You can add chocolate chips if you’d like. Mini chips means you can use less but still have chocolate in every bite.

I’ve seen this method used with chocolate cake mix, but spice cake keeps it more pumpkiny, which I like.

Here are a few of my other favorite pumpkin recipes:

Homemade Pumpkin Puree Tutorial (this is what started it all for me)

Pumpkin Gingersnaps (not just my favorite pumpkin cookie, my favorite cookie period)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (most pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are cakey, these are chewy and reminiscent of a regular chocolate chip cookie)

Pumpkin Alfredo (a savory way to use up that last bit of pumpkin you didn't use in the cookies)

And there are ever more delicious pumpkin recipes to try out. I loved pumpkin breads and pumpkin pancakes, but have yet to try one that stands out above the rest. I made the Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake yesterday, and everyone loved it. To keep track of all the pumpkin recipes I want to eventually try, I have a Pumpkin Board on Pinterest.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Kid Kitchen Craft: Soap Clouds

A few months ago I saw a post on one of my favorite blogs about making Soap Clouds. Click on the link for more details, but basically you microwave a bar of Ivory soap and it turns into a big mass of soap. I wanted to do it with my daughter sometime and decided to do it today while her three cousins were visiting.

It was a hit for all the kids from age three to age eleven. They thought it was so cool to watch the soap get bigger and bigger in the microwave. The downside was with how small my microwave is, I stopped it before it got as big as it probably could have. And when I took it out, it deflated right away. I don't know if that was because my soap was old or because I stopped it early. The soap that was still on the waxed paper was hot, so be careful!

We put the soap cloud in a bowl and the girls smashed it into little crumbles. Then we mixed it with a little warm water and they molded their own soaps. The cousins said they couldn't wait to get home and make more. And guess what Grandma? You use the right kind of soap, so watch your stash, it might be raided for some kitchen crafts.

Next time I do it with my three year old, I would probably just let her take the soap cloud into the tub and play with it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


With baby #1 I was completely neurotic. I read every book and article and knew exactly what she should be doing at every stage. I worried that I was doing something wrong if she wasn't sleeping through the night by such and such an age. I was meticulous about introducing solids and always knew what she was allowed to eat and when.

With baby #2, I'm only slightly neurotic. (I still occasionally check to make sure she's still breathing while she sleeps, but not as much as I did with #1.) I have no idea what the books say she should be doing. Sometimes I look in #1's scrapbook to compare when they got their first tooth or started sitting up, but as a point of interest, not because I'm worried that #2 isn't on track. I don't worry about what the books say she should be doing and adapt my mothering to what works for her and keeps me the most sane.

I've still tried to be careful about introducing new foods because food allergies run in the family. She had a reaction to cantaloupe and so I won't be giving it to her again till it's in season again (I'm trying to move our family toward eating seasonally, but that's another story).

But with #2, even the best of intentions are sometimes altered by #1. There are a few things I don't want my baby to eat until she's one year old. Cow's milk, honey, and chocolate. The other day #2 (who isn't quite 10 months old) was crying while I changed the laundry. Suddenly, she was happy without me having to intervene. The reason: #1 was sharing her honey graham crackers and milk. And in keeping with my more relaxed attitude, I just said oh well and asked #1 not to share those things again. But she probably will. And the baby will survive. Plus I think it's more important that my daughters learn to share and play together nicely.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Reminder to Myself

The next time I spend a few days extremely tired and wondering if I'm coming down with something: slow down. Take a nap, stop trying to get a bunch of stuff done and go a million places. Because you are probably right and you will get sick. 

And then you will have to spend a few days in an incredibly messy house and not able to do anything beyond getting your girl crackers and changing your baby's diaper. (And to be honest, one of those days was spent crying every time I had to get up to do those simple things, partly due to the high fever I had and partly due to the fact that I stepped on Legos every time I got up.) 

There ought to be a rule that moms of young kids cannot get sick, but we get sick anyway. So take care of yourself so that you can keep taking care of others.

P.S. My husband stayed home today and with his help I was able to rest more and definitely feel like I'm on the mend now. I also drank a ton of warm wassail which felt amazing on my throat even if it did seem incongruous with the 80 degree day we had yesterday.

Sunday, September 30, 2012









Dream of Christmas:

My Husband's Family's Wassail Recipe

2 quarts apple cider
4 juiced oranges
2 juiced lemons
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 c. sugar

Simmer for 15 minutes.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Clean House

My house is rarely clean. I usually have dirty dishes in the sink, unfolded laundry in the dryer (or worse, on the couch), piles of books we've read that haven't made it back to the shelf, and toys all over the floor. I do currently keep my floors swept and vacuumed pretty well, but only because my baby puts everything she can find in her mouth.

I do make an effort to clean before people come over--at least to clear a path so they don't trip on the toys. I remember once having my husband's grandparents over. The house started clean, but slowly the living room became a huge mess as my daughter brought in toy after toy. The mess made me a little anxious, but I let it be. Later my husband told me that his grandpa had said that I was a good mother because I let my daughter play and have fun without worrying about the mess. (Little did he know that I did worry, but I guess since I let it be anyway, I'll take the compliment.)

I always know in my mind that spending time with my children is more important than a clean house. Sometimes the mess gets too much and I tell my husband that we have to clean or I'll go nuts. He tells me it's okay, but there is a point when the house is so messy that it is no longer a nice place to be or the play room is so cluttered we can't even get in it to play. Today's post on Styleberry Blog (link below) reminded me that spending time with my children is more important than having a spotless house. Next time I'm trying to clean and my daughter asks to play a game with me, I'll stop cleaning and play with her.

Styleberry: You'll never regret picking the kids.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall Bucket List

I love fall. I love the cooler weather, the leaves changing color, the boots and sweaters, the smells of apple cider and pumpkin desserts. My daughter must realize that fall is in the air because Monday morning she woke up and asked to watch Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

I enjoyed having a Summer Bucket List so much that I made a Fall Bucket List. Some are old favorites, others are new things to try out. Even if we don't get to everything, the hope is that it will help us be more active and do more fun things during my favorite season.

Fall Bucket List 
Nature Walk in a New Place
Rake Leaves
Collect Leaves for Nature Art
Pick Apples
Visit a Pumpkin Patch
Visit a Farmer’s Market or Farm Stand

Soap Clouds
Build a Fort
Family Game Night
Make Homemade Playdough
Dress Up for a Tea Party
Watch a Football Game with Daddy

Paint w/ Evaporated Milk
Nature Art
Apple Stamping
Decorate Pumpkins/Gourds
Gratitude Tree
Handprint Turkey

Homemade Pretzel Bites
Make Applesauce
Bake Apple Chips
Bake Pumpkin Cookies
Drink Apple Cider
Make Stovetop Kettlecorn

Friday, September 21, 2012

Farewell to Summer

The calendar says it's the last day of summer. And I'm almost ready to concede. Our forecast says it's going to be almost 90 degrees tomorrow, but it will cool down after that. It's definitely been cooler in the evenings and early mornings. Summertime is fun for kids, but autumn is my favorite season--boots and jackets, warm soup and cider and cocoa, pumpkins and crunching through leaves.

This summer I made a bucket list of things to do so that our whole summer didn't get wasted away indoors. We didn't get to a couple of items, but some of those can just go on my list of things to do in the fall--especially any indoor things like making homemade play dough or soap clouds. We never did have a picnic, though we could always do that on one of our last warm days we have coming up. And I never made homemade lemonade. That one might wait till next year. Here's a list of some of the fun things we did.

2012 Summer Bucket List 

- Go To the Park
- Go To the Bickleton Rodeo
- Go To the Farmer’s Market (we did this lots of times and is my daughter's favorite)
- Visit the Library
- Go To the Zoo
- Go Fishing
- Go Camping (this only happened in the yard, but my daughter loved it just as much)
- Visit Portland's Saturday Market
- Go Swimming
- Go To a Garage Sale
- Play in the Sprinkler
- Color with Sidewalk Chalk
- Take a Nature Walk
- Stay Up and Look at the Stars
- Watch Fireworks
- Fly a Kite
- Blow Bubbles
- Paint the Sidewalk
- Play Ball
- Family Movie Night
- Have a Dance Party
- Paint Toenails
- BBQ Hamburgers & Hot Dogs
- Homemade Popsicles
- Smores Over the Grill
- Bake M&M Cookies
- Homemade Ice Cream
- Frozen Bananas
- Rootbeer Floats

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Preschool: Ocean Animals

My three-year-old would love to go to school. But as cool as she thinks backpacks and school buses are, she's definitely not ready emotionally to be in preschool. So we're doing "preschool" at home. I made a schedule and everything. My sister in another state is doing the same with her son and the cousins are going to skype and show each other their projects.

This week we talked about ocean animals. (Last week was zoo animals. We went to the zoo. The end.) I got out our Planet Earth DVDs and we watched some clips of ocean animals. Throughout the day we talked about what lives in the ocean and we made a list. I printed off pictures of whales and dolphins and we figured out what was biggest and what was longest. I printed off a coloring page of a shark and she colored it. That afternoon we watched Finding Nemo to figure out what other animals live in the ocean that we hadn't thought of yet.

And very fittingly (and unplanned) Daddy came home early and took her fishing (so it was a pond, not the ocean, but still, it had fish).

I meant to go over the letter A last week, but never got to it. And I'm still not sure how to teach letters. Any advice?

Our wall of projects.

Which is biggest? Which is longest?

Note the first three on our list. This was all my daughter. She told me: fishes, sharks, and little fishes.

Coloring page (with more than one color!).

Field trip: going fishing.