Dealing With Early Risers

For the past few weeks, I’ve been getting up at 5am.

No, I’m not crazy.

(well, I might be a little bit crazy, but it has little to do with my wake up time).

In the 90-minutes I have before the kids alarm goes off, I read my devotionals, prep breakfast, make lunches, watch the sun come up, and enjoy a cup (or two) of HOT coffee. 90 minutes is long enough that towards the end, I find myself wondering what to do, because the things I’d normally do (empty the dishwasher, vacuum, etc.) would make a bunch of noise.

I LOVE IT.

I love feeling like I have NOTHING to do.

Until my kids realized I was getting up early.

And I let them come snuggle if it was after 6am.

Yes, I love the extra snuggle time. Yes, I love not having to rush around or bark orders at them to get ready for school on time. Yes, I love having a moment to breathe to be able to actually braid their hair.

But what I don’t like is the fact that they are disasters (for the most part) when they would normally be more even keeled. Middle even said to me yesterday “Mommy! I saw the sun come up!!”. Ummmm… you’re 3. That’s not a good thing. At least, not for Mommy!

The Bigs share a room, so when one kid gets up, she wakes the other up. Big actually came out of her room at 6:03 this morning fully dressed! It robs her sister of the sleep her body needs, which is most evident around 1:30pm, which blows, because she doesn’t get a nap until 2:30pm!

And did I forget to mention that we are going to be working on transitioning Little into the same room this summer? I’m reevaluating my statement regarding my sanity.

How would you deal with a situation like this? I don’t want them to think I don’t love spending time with them and those warm sleepy snuggles, but something’s gotta give.

What say you? Comment below!

Calming the Dinner Time Chaos: Part 2

In Calming the Dinner Time Chaos: Part 1, I shared how I was FED UP with the way our dinners were going. I could be “Zen Mama” all day long, but once we sat to dinner, if I wasn’t serving pasta with butter and cheese only, pizza with olives, or quesadillas, I’d be in for a battle! Until the book Dwelling: Living Fully from the Space You Call Home by Mary Beth Lagerborg inspired me to make a change. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, I suggest doing so now so you get where I’m coming from. 🙂

As I was thinking about how to solve our dinner time woes, I thought of how a classroom works. You need to have a plan. You need to have a focus, so as to keep the child engaged. I realized dinner time was a free for all, and that was spiraling out of control! So, now we have dinner time activities, which the kids look forward to!

1) Dinner Time Show and Tell Box. 

If the kids have something they want to share with the family, whether it’s an art project, a good report from a teacher, or a flyer for something they’d like to do, they put it in the Show and Tell Box. Each child can put ONE thing in the box per night, so they need to use decision making skills.  At the end of dinner, we take the things out of the box and take turns sharing them. It gives the kids an opportunity to share what is important to them without feeling like they are having to compete for our attention.

2) Blessing our food (We are TERRIBLE about doing this)

My dad still says the exact same prayer (at least when we are all together) as he did when we were kids. Like our answering machine message, which has been the same since the first answering machine used plain ol’ tapes, I knew it was expected for my parents to hold their hands out to “bless this food and us to Your service”. In our house, we ask if anyone would like to do the blessing. Middle usually chimes in with “Thank You, Heavenly Father for this food. We like food and we like to eat it. Amen.” It’s sweet, to the point, and honest. I love it.

3) Eating “Family Style”, even if it means more dishes to wash.

It feels pretty yucky to have slaved over a stove for an hour or more, only to have the kids start picking at their food before my rear hits the chair. There is usually the “Mom, I’ve already finished my water”, or a condiment that we’ve missed, which extends the length of my absence from the table. I’m not a servant. I am a part of the family, and we sit down TOGETHER to eat.

4) Dinner Time Conversation Box

This one warrants a post all of it’s own. Check again this evening (7pm PDT)!

5) Child created centerpiece

My kids, like many other kids, like collections. When we walk home from school, we invariably have a tagalong “sparkly rock” or “world’s biggest leaf”. I allow the kids to take turns decorating our table. There are a few parameters, though.

  1. We need enough space the eat
  2. You can’t play with the centerpiece, especially if you choose toys to put out.
  3. Little can’t be able to reach it.

6) Candles

Candles add a little sophistication to dinner, dontcha think? Plus, I love that the lighting of them signifies the start of dinner and the extinguishing of them is a close to the hour.

7) Cloth napkins

Cloth napkins save paper, are prettier, and feel more grown up to the kids. However, they are never to be used for blowing a nose. (seriously. I’m scarred for life, especially after having to “do table” and grabbing at the wrong spot).

 

Calming the Dinner Time Chaos: Part 1

You know the drill….

“Don’t talk with your mouth full!”

“I don’t need to see how big your mouth can get when it’s full of food!”

“Get your feet off the table”

“Sit Up”

“Stop complaining about your meal. When you can cook, you can choose to not cook with tomatoes, onions, pepper, bell pepper, asparagus, lettuce, pasta sauce, or anything else you don’t like.”

“Eat it. I promise you, that air bubbles aren’t spicy”. (seriously. I’ll never buy Phineas and Ferb Mac and Cheese again)

“How can you not like it? You haven’t even tried it!”

“Didn’t you like that yesterday?”

“Eat 2 more bites.”

“Eat 6 more bites.”

“One grain of quinoa is NOT a bite.”

“No, I will not hand feed you.”

“No, you can’t have cinnamon sugar on your mashed potatoes.”

“Honey, I want to hear what you have to say about your day, but you need to take a breath and eat.”

“Honey, seriously… stop talking.”

“Baby, really. Stop talking and EAT!”

“STOP TALKING AND EAT!”

 

I’m sure I could go on, but I think then I’d be nit-picking 😉

I’ve read/heard what they say about family dinners. You know, that children grow up to be awesome human beings if they would just eat dinner at the table with their folks at least 3 times a week. (Or something to that effect. I’m paraphrasing). But you know what they don’t talk about? How dinner is at the tail end of a tiring day. That dinner time is the opportunity for kids to fill their parents ears with constant barrages of “It’s not good enough”. It’s an awesome way to end a day, let me tell you.

If you don’t have these issues, trust me, I’m very excited for you. I wish I could say the same. I’ve always protected dinner time for the family. About 98% of the time, we eat around the table. And about 25% of that, we aren’t harping on each other constantly or eating in a pissed off silence (save for the “STOP TALKING AND EAT” moments).

Growing up, we ate dinner at the table. Our lives may have been chaos financially and/or mentally (though they were often linked), but I still remember having dinner at the table ,using our manners as well as we could (“Bibis, could you please pass the salt?”), drinking 2% milk, and marveling at how smart my parents sounded when they used $0.25 words or talked about intellectual topics (Don’t ask me which ones. I just remembered thinking my folks were smarties). I remember my sister and I taking turns at “doing table” (clearing dirties and loading the dishwasher), and my parents retiring to the living room for a cup of coffee (not even decaf! Crazy.). And cloth napkins. We always used cloth napkins.

I don’t remember the dinner hour being filled with complaints (though I’m sure there were some), nagging (though I’m sure there was some), or being told to stop talking. After all, isn’t this whole “Family Dinner” thing about reconnecting with those you love most?

So, I began to assess what I dreaded about dinner time.

1) The kids talking more than eating.

2) Not having any meaningful conversation.

3) The kids digging in before my rear has touched the seat.

4) The complaining about whatever is in the dish, no matter how finely I chopped, diced, or minced said ingredient. I refuse to puree things just to get my kids to eat them.

Inspired by the book Dwelling: Living Fully from the Space You Call Home by Mary Beth Lagerborg, I began thinking about ways to change those things. Here is what I came up with:

1) Dinner Time Show and Tell Box.

2) Blessing our food (We are TERRIBLE about doing this)

3) Eating “Family Style”, even if it means more dishes to wash.

4) Dinner Time Conversation Box

5) Child created centerpiece

6) Candles

7) Cloth napkins

Have I piqued your interest? Curious how I make all of those elements work to help calm the dinnertime chaos? Come back this afternoon to read Calming the Dinner Time Chaos: Part 2!

We’re Homeschooling.

After many tries at making this post into some beautifully written piece, that would spiderweb out to the masses because it is just *so* well put, that it might help make others struggling with the same decision see which direction they should go, that they could dicern for themselves and their families the path chosen for them.

It just ain’t happenin’.

Sorry folks.

But I can do a list! (Truth be told, I can ALWAYS do a list)

Top #10 Reasons We’ve Decided to Homeschool

1. I am a teacher, I’m just not credentialed. I got my degree in Liberal Studies with an Early Childhood Education Option when Big was 22 months old. I never became credentialed because I never needed to be.

2. When I think of how impressionable my children are, I ask myself, “who do I want impressing upon them?”. The answer is simple: ME.

3. Big will have a teacher:student ratio of 1:1, not 1:32. Homeschooled children learn the same amount (or more) than non-homechooled children in less time because of this.

4. I’m not really sure why, at 5 years old, society-at-large decides we are no longer capable of teaching our own children, even though birth-5 years is an incredibly important range for building foundations.

5. No one is more invested in my child’s success in learning than I am.

6. We will be able to live by our own body rhythms. No more barking at Big to eat her breakfast, get dressed, stop asking questions because “we’re late”.

7. We can teach those pesky life skills, like how to do laundry, plan a menu, and common sense with money.

8.  We sent our kids to a play-based preschool because we see a huge value in learning through play, which Big only gets in the form of 2 recesses a day.

9. Our kids can learn at their own pace, and in a style that they enjoy. I have a feeling my house will be FILLED with arts and crafts.

10. When we look to retire in 6ish years, we are free to move wherever the Lord takes us. Big is a fiercely loyal child, and I’ve always figured the move would be hard on her. This way, she will be able to take her school with her!

So, there you have it. Our big, life-changing news. Wasn’t that exciting?

How to Beat the Icky Sickies

I’ve got three kids.

One in Elementary School, one in a co-op preschool (meaning I get the full exposure too), and one who still likes to crawl and put everything in her mouth.

We get the Icky Sickies. Often.

In such close quarters, it can be a maddening process of trying to keep the house semi-disinfected and the Icky Sickie quarantined.

I’ve come up with a plan of attack on whatever Icky Sickie you may find yourself up against:

Step 1:

Get the necessary medications or homeopathic remedies to eradicate those nasty buggers (the germs, not the kids).

Step 2: 

Assemble your Icky Sickie Arsenal. I like to use a small basket that I can leave on the kitchen counter, take in the car if needed, or have general portability of all my “tools”

Step 3: 

Remove and wash all plush toys from your Icky Sickie bed. Once they are clean and dry, fold them and put them in the closet until the coast is clear (usually 24 hours on meds). Leave one favorite blanket, and one lovey in the bed. Once the contagious period has passed, you can put them back on the bed

Step 4:

Limit access to all toys and textiles (firm and soft) until the Icky Sickies have been blown out of the water. I also cover communal sitting places (the couch and the beanbag chair, specifically in our house) with a sheet. If the Icky Sickie is on the sitting place, the sheet is down. We have a number of old queen and king sized sheets for just such circumstances. Once the Icky Sickie has moved on, I wash the sheet, so as to not spread the germ. I also remove the towels in the bathroom and give the kids a towel as they need them. Those get tossed directly in the wash instead of wondering if they’ve been contaminated.

Step 5: 

Liberally use hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes (paying special attention to the things Icky Sickie touches), and good ol’ soap and warm water.

Did you know the water should be at least 100* (barely above body temperature!) to be effective and you should be rubbing for at least 20 seconds? If you, or your kids aren’t doing those two very important things, you might as well lick the Icky Sickie’s face. Sadly, I’m not kidding.

If you follow these steps, you too can win the war!

What is your best trick you’ve found for dealing with sick children?? Comment below!

 

 

 

 

Raw Parenting

Raw Parenting is being real with your kids.

I’m not talking about saying sorry to them when you screw up (though it’s a great thing to do so), it’s about not sheltering them for the very real, the very rawness, the very brokenness that is our world. Before I get into it, you need a little background:

Middle is a resistant eater.

If it *might* be too spicy, she won’t try it.

If she can’t identify the “mystery green”, she won’t try it (it’s usually some kind of herb).

If it’s too hot, she won’t try it, even 10 minutes later, when it’s starting to congeal.

If it’s got anything “foreign” on it (dog hair, human hair, a brown spot, etc.), she won’t try it.

Last night, I threw away an insane amount of food. It broke my heart, mainly because the fam had eaten a pretty decent amount, even praising the food! (“this is REALLY good, Mom!”.)

I’m pretty good at only dishing up as much as my family will eat, and saving the rest for leftovers, but a pre-dressed salad doesn’t exactly translate to “leftovers” well. You know what else doesn’t translate well to leftovers?

BANANAS

Middle asked for a banana. “Not a whole one, just a half. I’ll share with Little. And I want it like a monkey” (peel still on).

After “filling her order”, she went on her merry way to the family room. Suddenly, I hear “AAAAHHHHHHRRRRRGGGGGGGG!!!! There’s HAIR on my banana!”

I usher her up to the counter, so she can eat in a more hair-free environment. But she just stares at the totally untouched slightly touched manhandled-by-a-3-year-old-but-unbitten banana and proceeds to throw a fit. I’m talking massive tears, splotchy skin, and snot trail galore.

Now, here is the Mom Dilemma. EVERYTHING you read tells you to not make a big deal about food because it encourages eating disorders and general craziness in regards to food. It eats away (pun not intended) at me every time I nag my kids to eat.

But she ASKED for the banana. I served it up exactly as ordered. She chose to take it to the hair-pit that is the family room. But still, I’m left throwing the banana away. (actually, I ended up giving it to Little. I’m pretty sure she thinks hair is extra protein).

I calmly sent Middle to her room, because I didn’t want her to see me give Little the banana she refused to eat. She went, making sure the world knew she was unhappy about it.

I’m at a loss. How do I not create issues for her in the future? How do I make her understand that she should be thankful for the fresh fruit I am able to give her, hairy or not? How do I parent her through this?

So I turned to the Google Machine.

I didn’t Google “How to get my 3-year old to eat a hairy banana” (though, now that I type that out, I am curious what the search would yield).

I googled “starving child”.

Once I found the picture that I thought would be understood the most (ie, the most like HER) I took the picture in to a screaming Middle. Before showing it to her, I talked to her. I asked her why she didn’t want the banana (“I want a plate”). I asked her how she felt when she was really really hungry. (“not good. I feel bad.”).

I told her about children that eat off the ground because they have to. I told her about children that have never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a quesadilla, or pasta with cheese. I told her about the children that feel “not good” all day, every day.

She stopped crying. She stared at me. Like I was kidding.

Then I showed her the picture.

I didn’t throw it in her face. I didn’t wag my finger at her. I just explained that this hurting is in our world and that we are extremely blessed to have food, clean water, doctors, and to “feel good” most of the time.

I’m not sure she “got it”, but I know I did my best at presenting it in a way her 3-year old brain could understand.

Sure, I want to protect my kids, but shelter? No thanks.

Coping with Tragedy

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

 

Romans 8:28

How on Earth could the murder of 26 people, 20 of which were children, be used for the good of those who love God??

God has opened my eyes and my heart to think of a few, even as the enemy tries to fill me with hate and rage.

20 Children have had their innocence stolen from them. They watched as their murderer ended the life of his victims before he reached them.

The Bible, to the best of my knowledge (and Google’s), does not say anything about the “age of accountability”; that is, the age at which a person has individual knowledge of sinful choices and of coming to the Father. We do not know with absolute certainty that children and babies get a “free pass” to Heaven. However, we do know God is loving, faithful, just, merciful, and always right (the only parental figure that can say that!).

Jesus was given on the cross as an atonement for all of our sins. To those that have not yet formed a relationship with Christ, this is true for you also! God doesn’t preface his sacrifice as “as long as you think I’m legit, you’re good to go”. He is just waiting for you to come to Him. It’s like making up the guest bed in your home in anticipation of a hopeful occupant. He’s ready when you are.

I believe His grace and mercy extends to those children of Sandy Hook Elementary. He had a warm cozy bed waiting for them.I believe being in the glorious presence of Christ took away their fear of being away from their families, their loveys, their creature comforts.  I believe they stood judgement, just as every other person on the planet will in their due time, but I believe these young souls, so full of life, energy, and happiness (if you’ve ever been around a child, you’ll agree), passed His eternal judgement and were welcomed into His house to choirs of angels.

The children who escaped the massacre are scarred for life. Their coping mechanisms are not yet in full-functioning mode, and they will never be the same. 

I am sure there will be some children that will carry these scars for the rest of their lives. I pray peace in abundance on them, that God may bring a supernatural sense of understanding on their hearts and minds. I pray that they may wear their scars with pride of having been brought through a tremendous battle. But even in worldly wars, there is a rehabilitation process, which these victims of terror must muddle through.

I also think there will be heros that emerge from the crowd. Maybe they didn’t yesterday. Maybe they won’t today or tomorrow. But I have faith that at least one of the attendees of Sandy Hook Elementary will go on to save lives. They will go on to show other children that war-scars can be strengthening in times of trial. They can build a fortitude in a person that is not replicable by any other source. They will change the world.

20 families have to spend Christmas without their babies. They will never hug them again. They will never smell them again. They will never brush their teeth, their hair, or tie their shoes for them again. They have lost a piece of their heart. 

Families all over the nation held their babies closer last night. They prayed for them and with them, maybe for the first time, last night. They kept their impatience in check last night. They counted their blessings last night. They listened to their child’s stream-of-consciousness with a changed heart last night. They dealt with the noise, mess, chaos with a little more grace.

I know I did.

 

November 1

On November 1st in…

… 1512, the Sistine Chapel was debuted to the public for the first time.

… 1611, Shakespeare’s Romantic Comedy, The Tempest, was presented in London.

… 1800, President John Adams was the first President to move into The Executive Mansion, later renamed The White House.

… 1941, Ansel Adams takes a picture of a moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico.

…1950, Pope Pius XII claims papal infallibility when he formally defines the dogma of the Assumption of Mary. (**sidenote** I had never heard of “papal infallibility” before. It explains a lot… that is all.)

… 1960, while campaigning for President of the United States, John F. Kennedy announces his idea of the Peace Corps.

… 2002, while attending a post-Halloween P J Jammy Jam, I first laid eyes on The Hubby. I thought he was smarmy. (What?!? He was wearing another woman’s PJs!)

Hands Down, it was the best date I could ever remember.

… 2012, I thank my lucky stars (though luck had nothing to do with it) that I’ve been fortunate enough to have known, grown with, and fallen in love with a wonderful man for the past 10 years.

 

(And thanks to Wikipedia for all the other November 1st happenings)