The Hail Mary Dinner

 

The “Hail Mary” Dinner. You know the one I speak of.

When you get home from your kids’ activities at 6:30pm and realize you don’t really have the time or the ingredients to make a substantial dinner.

I used to feel so smug because when everyone else was posting and complaining about Mondays, I was this stay-at-home / work-at-home mom and Monday was just another day for me. But now all 3 of our kids have dance on Monday nights which means our Monday afternoon schedule looks like this:
2:30pm – Get B&C changed into dance clothes, double-check A’s bag to ensure she has everything she needs; pack snacks for everyone and water or coffee for myself.
3:00pm – Leave and pick up A from school
3:30pm – Arrive at dance studio and help A change; do her hair up in a bun
4:00pm – A’s Tap & Jazz class; C usually naps so B & I sit in the car for awhile
4:30pm – Go inside and have snack
5:00pm – A has Ballet; B&C have Pre-Ballet; I work, read, or chat with parents
5:45pm – B&C finish class; go downstairs & get everyone into outdoor clothes; possibly read a book; collect all bags and miscellaneous STUFF
6:00pm – A finishes class & changes; we all head out to car
6:25pm – Arrive at home; make & eat dinner; homework
7:15pm – Start bedtime routine
7:30pm – Tuck-in Time
8:00pm – BED! A will sometimes stay up to read quietly in bed until 8:30

You can see why it takes ALL MY ENERGY to get through Monday afternoons. This past Monday I used some peppermint & wild orange oil aromatically and it actually gave me an energy boost better than the coffee ever does. (Yes, there’s an oil for that!!)

Which brings me to… The Hail Mary Dinner I whipped up yesterday.

I opened up the cabinets & fridge to see….
Nothing.
Nada.
Zip.
Zilch.
…at least that would be quick and nutritious.

But what did I have?!? Some egg noodles, some leftover chicken, some leftover veggies, and a cookbook. I figured I could whip up a simple sauce/gravy and throw all the stuff together. Kind of a deconstructed casserole, if you will. Sure, we’ll go with that.

So I got the water going for the noodles, pulled out my Betty Crocker cookbook, and opened it to the Sauces section. “Basic White Sauce.” PERFECT! Here’s how to make it:
In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter.
Add 2 tablespoons flour and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined and the lumps are gone.
Gradually add 1 1/2 cups milk, stirring all the while.
Season with salt & pepper, and heat over medium high heat until it starts bubbling.
Continue cooking until sauce thickens.
Because it was so bland, I added some garlic and onion powder to taste.

While the sauce thickened, I reheated and cut up the chicken into bite size pieces, and reheated the leftover veggies in the microwave. I cooked the noodles and added a pat or two of butter, stirring until melted & mixed.

I added the chicken into the sauce.
I spooned the noodles into bowls.
I sprinkled some veggies over the noodles.
I scooped the chicken sauce over the noodles, and….
BAM! DINNER!

 

HailMary dinner

It was actually pretty good! Thankfully, the chicken was well-seasoned, so when I mixed it with the bland sauce, it was perfect. The kids gobbled it right up. To be fair, they probably would’ve eaten anything at that point, since they were so hungry.

Regardless, it boosted my confidence that I could create a real meal in a pinch without too much trouble. (PS. Leftovers make an excellent lunch the next day.)

HAIL MARY

 

When have you made a delicious dinner in a pinch? What did you make?

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Sharing

Like I think most moms with toddlers, I naturally taught my first, second, and third child to share. You know the situation:
A child you don’t know is playing near your child at the library. They suddenly both want the same toy. You say,
“Be nice honey. You need to share.”

I mean, sharing is caring, right?

A year or so ago I came across an article that suggested sharing is actually not the best thing to teach your kids after all. The idea was that you shouldn’t FORCE your child to share, or expect other kids to share with yours, because when they grow up and get in the real world, adults don’t share with each other – you just have to get your own or deal with disappointment.

I tried that for awhile. I was looking for a new approach to the conflict all us moms have in which Child A is playing with Child B’s toy, and suddenly Child B wants the toy. Well, who has rights to it? Child A, because they picked it up first? Or Child B, because it ‘belongs’ to them? This new “no sharing” approach didn’t really solve my dilemma: There was still a loser.

For awhile I tried a kind of in between where I just did whatever I thought the situation called for, taking into account the temperaments of each child involved.

This has left me feeling like I have no ‘method’ at all, except to be intentional about how I problem solve with them.

But tonight I realized maybe having no ‘method’ isn’t so bad after all, after I witnessed this most beautiful exchange which I hope I never forget (and is mostly the reason why I’m writing about it):

B: Mom, do you want this bite of the cookie with the snowflake sprinkle? It’s the tastiest!
Me: Oh, are you sure bud? That’s the last sprinkle. You can have it if you want.
B: No, I want you to try it. It’s really good.
Me: Okay, thank you! (takes bite)

(I’m not sure exactly how this part started, I must have missed a sentence while I was chewing! haha! But it went something like this…)
B: Aubrey, do you want my other cookie?
A: What, that one from your Christmas party?
B: Yeah!
Me: Brendan that’s so sweet! You don’t mind her having it? It’s your last one.
B: Yeah, I’m sure. (hands the cookie across the table)
A: I can have the whole thing?
B: Yeah!
A: Here, do you want me to split it in half?
B: Oh, yeah!
A: (splits cookie in half and gives some back to him)
Me (amazed, silently in my head): YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m taking a mental picture of this whole conversation because it was just beautiful. There were so many good things in that one exchange: selflessness, love, compromise.

I’ve been seeing that B is such a loving, caring, selfless kid. Quite often he gives up a toy to his little sister when he can see she’s upset and wants to play with it. Or he’ll share his food with one of us.

I have also been trying to offer creative solutions to A when she is in a difficult situation. We tend to see things as black or white, but sometimes there is also red. Or blue. Or any number of other colors/solutions. I was so blown away by her suggestion – that at barely 7 years old, she has learned to:
1. Accept a gift from the giver graciously
2. Intuit what other people may want
3. Offer a compromise which makes all parties happy

I’m pretty sure I only learned how to do this in my recent adult hood. And she’s got it down by age 6.

I’m blessed y’all.

Going back to that article. Is that the kind of adult we wish our kids to be? Is that how we want them to view the world? Full of unsharing, unkind, selfish people? A mass of hardened hearts, unable and unwilling to open their hands and offer what they are holding to our Mighty God who can multiply it?

We cannot lay out one set of rules for our children, and expect as adults they will just do something different. They will do what we teach them, now, because it will become habit for them. What you choose to do and how you choose to act shapes who you are.

This situation at the dinner table foreshadows exactly what I hope for my children as they grow into adulthood: that they are able to discern the feelings of those around them with eyes to see and ears to hear (Matthew 13:16); communicate with others in love, not holding back out of fear (1 John 4:18); that they don’t hold so tight to worldly possessions that the real treasure (people) becomes secondary; and that they open their hands, surrendering all they have, for God to use in His Kingdom.

Train a child up in the way he should go, and when he is old he shall not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

Link

Discipline with Grace

I came across an article this week that I can’t get off my mind. I have been doing something similar to this for awhile now, but I love her 3 questions and wanted to share them.

Click here to view the post.

Disciplining in Love …and not from fear

31501-Love-Vs-Fear
Do you know what fear leads to? Anger.

When it comes to discipline, anger is selfish. It comes from embarrassment, impatience, and a desire to correct wrongs that have been done to US. It’s immature. And it’s a thin line: you can spank your child if it’s the expected punishment for bad behavior; but spanking your child because you are caught up in a moment of raging anger is not helpful for anyone. You will feel guilty later, making it difficult for you to be consistent, and your child, instead of learning, is just fearful of you and feeling unloved. When you lash out in anger born of fear, you make it about YOUR behavior; instead of being focused on their behavior and how to correct it, they are experiencing the results of your inability to control your emotions.

Awhile back, I realized I had made most of my discipline decisions out of fear. If I don’t hurry up and pick a discipline method and stay unerringly consistent, I thought, my daughter will be rambunctious, never listen, and grow into a disrespectful and disobedient child/troubled teen/worthless adult. And then, if we were around anyone else, I’d be so aware of their presence and imagine that they were judging every word I said and every move I made while disciplining my child. Let’s be honest: it is exceedingly difficult not to think about other people’s opinions when you’re disciplining in front of them.

I don’t know if it’s a stage of life I’ve grown into, more life experience, or if having 3 kids close together just made me too busy to care, but at some point I stopped worrying. I didn’t have time or energy to be concerned about what other people thought of my ‘parenting style’. I did, however, go through a dark period in which I was very unpleasant to be around – at least to my immediate family anyway. I was angry a lot, and yelled a lot, and didn’t show very much love at all. Thankfully those are the kind of seasons (difficult ones) that we learn the most from, if we’re smart.

So now, when a situation represents itself (and when I can keep my head clear enough), I examine my motives: Am I reacting out of fear of something? Or am I acting to teach my children desirable behaviors and attitudes? If it’s the latter, I am in the guilt-free clear zone. But if it’s the former, I do my best to correct my response, and even apologize if my behavior was really bad. (Side note: Yes, I apologize to my kids if/when I’m wrong. Our kids need to know that we aren’t perfect. Otherwise, they will not only be jaded about us, but also feel the need to live up to that same perfection.)

So what changed? Here are a few specific things that have helped me:
1. Stop fearing what other people will think of your parenting based on your child(ren)’s behavior. Children are unpredictable in a lot of ways. They act differently at home than they do away from home. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s bad. But one episode does not define your child, so stop acting like it does. “They’re embarrassing me” is not a good reason to lash out in anger born of fear.
2. Stop fearing they’ll never ‘get it‘. I’ve noticed that I don’t have to be violently angry or even super strict for them to understand a concept. I come down to their level, speak in a clear calm voice, and explain why their behavior was wrong. If possible I quote scripture. They apologize and make amends where necessary. And you know what? They get it. But if you’re afraid they’ll never get it, you’ll react out of hopelessness, despair, frustration. Why keep trying if you doubt they’ll get it? Like anything, it sometimes takes several corrections, but they DO get it. Even if I’m not spanking or giving time outs. Which leads me to…
3. Stop fearing if you don’t discipline a certain way (consistent, firm hand, time outs, spankings, etc) it won’t work. Because you know what? Our God is about grace. He knows we are not perfect, and that’s why He sent His only Son to redeem us. That is how we can be in relationship with Him in the first place. So wherever we are imperfect, He fills in the gaps through the power of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor 12:9 – “My power is made perfect in weakness.”) Tell me that’s not comforting and freeing!!! (Even if you do, I won’t believe you; my mind’s made up.) So stop fearing that you’re doing it wrong, or your lack of consistency will breed a wild child. Give yourself room to mess up. If you are consistent MOST of the time, and parent out of love, God will do the rest. Remember too that each situation is different. Take the time to know your children individually. Sometimes a spanking might be the best way to teach. Sometimes taking a beloved toy or lovey gets the point across better. You don’t necessarily have to be consistent with your METHOD – just with your love and correction. God is not a God of rules… He’s a God of Grace.
4. Stop fearing what kind of kids they’ll be when they grow up if you don’t ‘succeed’. Hand them over to God. They are not yours anyway. We have merely been given the privilege of raising them to adults. They never really belong to us. Our job is to “train them in the way they should go” (Prov 22:6), pray unceasingly for their hearts to know Jesus, pray for their future, and TRUST OUR GOD that He loves them more than we do. Isn’t that reassuring, refreshing, and… easier? 
When you trust God to reinforce what you are doing your best to teach, you will be SO much less stressed… and happier. Therefore your children will be happier… and more obedient too.

Also remember these two points:
1. Imperfect is normal.
2. Our kids learn right and wrong from us. They really have no idea what is okay or not until we teach them. Instead of being frustrated they don’t already KNOW, calm down and realize it is your job to TEACH them.

Ever heard that phrase People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care?

Parenting out of love is kind of like WWJD – more like What DID Jesus do? How has he loved you in the past? How has he loved you into desiring to change? Sometimes, for me, it’s been when I’m in the midst of loud, chaotic, raging messes and coming to Him completely honest and ugly. And imperfect.
IMPERFECT, that’s the key. When we stop being so afraid of messing up, God is able to teach us the next step. When we admit we’re wrong or angry or ignorant, He gently and lovingly whispers what to do next. He’ll point out a flaw. Or illuminate a wrong attitude. He’ll show you exactly what thoughts need to be changed and how to adjust them. Scripture says if we “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God” He will “heal our land”. He will fix what’s broken. Which is the whole point, because when our kids mess up, they’re being imperfect too. If God can meet us in our imperfections, we should be able to meet our kids in theirs. That’s what love is about – not being afraid of facing the ugly, scary, unknown, uncertain, imperfect, messy stuff. When they are in their raging messes, and we meet them there, they are loved into learning how better to love. Teach them love through your actions, and they will copy your actions and love better too. That’s why your method doesn’t have to be consistent; we’re teaching them to love, and love always wins.

I want to parent like God parents me:
– with a quiet voice

– never in a place of fear
– always with their best interests at heart – based on what you know is right for them. God knows what’s in our future. Even though we don’t know what’s in our kids’ future, we can pull from past experiences and trust God with the rest.
– with love casting out their fear and mine, inviting them to a place where they can come higher and choose God’s love over any fear.

In this video on parenting, Mark Hall puts it perfectly: “Love earns the right to speak truth… That’s how Jesus could say hard core stuff to you and you’d sit there and listen to it – because you knew He loved you.”
2 Tim 1 7

Click here for another message by Executive Pastor Steve Carter detailing how we act from love or fear.

No More Picky Eaters! Developing your Kids’ Palate

I wrote a post awhile back about how to get your kids to eat more vegetables. You can consider this an expansion of that idea. This week, we made oatmeal, and through the process I realized, in more detail, how I am helping my kids eat a wide variety of foods. I thought I should share this new clarity, in hopes that it will help you! (Even if you don’t have kids, you can use this guide to expand your own palate!)

First you have to understand the reasoning behind the way I cook. These ideas help me meal plan each week.
My Goals:
1. I want to expose my kids to different cultures through food. Every culture uses different flavor profiles, different spice and ingredient combinations, which yield a unique result. Exposing them to different ways of preparing an ingredient can help them realize they do, in fact, like that vegetable/grain/protein. The more ways I prepare something, the more likely we are to find a way they enjoy it.
2. I want them to have an extensive palate encompassing a variety of spices, vegetables, fruits, proteins, grains. I want to introduce them to new ingredients – even when (and sometimes because) I have never tried said ingredient before.
3. I want to discover my kids’ preferences. I want to find a way of preparing healthy ingredients which they enjoy. B&C love raw tomatoes. A doesn’t, but when they’re cooked with other veggies, or in a sauce, she does.
4. I don’t want to force them to eat healthy foods but rather, hear them ask for it.
5. I want to remove the fear of trying new things. I prefer they appreciate new dishes, and be willing to try things even if they don’t like them. (Our taste buds do change, and at some point in their life, they might change their mind!)

How do I achieve those goals? Here’s the clarification.
My methodology
:
1. Use descriptive cooking terms with your kids. Discuss texture, heat, spice. Words I regularly use with my kids: acidic, aromatic, bitter, sour, sweet, salty, bland, bold, burnt, buttery, cheesy, candied, stale, strong, chewy, crunchy, creamed, crispy, watery, moist, thin, thick, chunky, soft, dry, fruity, sweet, gooey, heavy, healthy, herbal, hot, cold, spicy, tart, juicy, mild, mushy, peppery, refreshing, sharp, slimy, smooth, soggy, thick, tangy – as well as whatever method of cooking I use (bake, broil, saute, steam, etc.). When you sit down to eat, discuss your food so that they understand the meaning of these words and can use them accurately on their own.
2. Introduce them to new foods. Set a goal on how often – once a week, or once a month, for example – and plan to use that item in different ways (remember this?). Educate yourself before you buy: Search for recipes, google cooking methods, ask someone you know if they’ve used it and how. Get inspiration from magazines, blogs, cooking shows, and restaurants. Let go of any preconceived notions about limitations to kids’ diets, or about kids being picky eaters. Just because they’re kids doesn’t mean they can’t eat basically the same thing that you eat. The only adjustments you should be concerned with are portion sizes, bite sizes, and sometimes the level of heat/spice in the dish.
3. Make them try at least one bite. Everyone can be afraid of new things. Help eliminate that fear by requiring one bite before they are allowed to reject it – and then let them. Offer to pick out what they don’t like, offer more of a different item, or be sure they understand that if they don’t eat what you make, you’re not making anything else.
4. Ask them if they like it. To avoid a dismissive ‘yes’ or ‘no’, phrase it this way: “What do you think?” Here’s the most important part: The goal is not to force them to blindly eat whatever you put on their plate “because you said so.” Or even, “because it’s good for you.” This should not be a power struggle! (I don’t feel like anyone ever wins in a power struggle anyway, right?) Remember we want to learn their preferences. Ask them what they do or do not like about it. Encourage them to use the descriptive words. ***Not only does this expand their culinary vocabulary, and make them feel heard, it allows you to adjust your preparation of the dish next time, to suit their taste.***
5. Give them some space. I don’t ask how they like it after one bite. I give them a chance to eat some of it first, usually after I can tell they like it. If you’re too overeager in asking this question, they’re going to feel pressured. Give them time to try it and decide what they do and do not like. I also don’t give them a laundry list of what’s in it before they even take a bite. I wait for them to initiate the conversation.
5. I’m saying it again: Encourage them to discuss and describe their food. Start the discussion yourself:
“MMM I love how sweet carrots are!”
“I like how the tart apples balance the spicy crust on the pork.”
“I love how buttery and melt-in-your-mouth salmon is.”
“I like crunchy, salty pecans.”
6. Answer their questions. When they ask what’s in their meal, don’t avoid the question or lie to them! Tell them what it is. Almost every night, my kids will choose something from their meal and ask “What’s this?” Sometimes it’s before they take a bite: “What’s this green stuff Mommy?” Sometimes it’s after they’ve taken a few: “Is there spinach in this?” (Most of the time when they ask a question like that, the next comment is “Mm! I love spinach!”) Don’t be wary of honesty, which leads me to the last point…
7. Remember: you shape their first impressions (and can reshape previous bad ones)If you are nervous and afraid they won’t eat their broccoli, they probably won’t. Keep calm and feed on. (I had to.) The moment I stopped being so worried, uptight, and forcefully claiming “You have to eat your veggies”, it became much easier. It was suddenly a non-issue. They have no idea what food is good and what is bad or ‘yucky’. YOU teach that to them. If you just naturally eat your veggies at every meal, so will they. Here’s where you claim your control – not during a power struggle at the dinner table, forcing them to eat something – but by smart meal planning, prep, knowing your kids’ preferences, starting small, and gradually expanding your repertoire. Don’t make it such a big deal; don’t stress. You are their prime meal preparer; you control what’s normal for them to eat. They only know what you teach them.

I’m giving you permission to allow yourself a transition period. Don’t try to switch everything overnight. Start by changing or introducing one thing and work your way from there. I used to be that mom that fed my daughter mac and cheese, chicken, hot dogs, PBJs, pancakes, and pizza. That was basically all she would eat, because I THOUGHT that’s all she would like. It took time to change our eating habits, but it was worth it – and the transition happened before I knew it.
All it takes is a little mental tweak, a little planning, and some extra effort. Try it, and watch your kids surprise you! 🙂

Read the story of how making Irish Oatmeal sparked this post.

Related Article: The Dessert Deal
 I just came across this on Facebook and LOVE it. I’m sure we’ve all used the ‘Dessert Deal’ one time or another.

Our youngest opening wide for another bite of dinner to 'earn' her cookie

Our youngest opening wide for another bite of dinner to ‘earn’ her cookie

But lately I’ve been wondering: what am I teaching my kids? Finish your food, and your reward is to eat more (sugary) food. 
No wonder we have a childhood obesity problem. I have started to offer healthier things for dessert (but that’s for another post) 😉

Irish Oatmeal – and how it can help develop your palate

When we were grocery shopping this week, my 6-year-old asked to get oatmeal. I don’t usually make oatmeal, so I thought this was curious. I like having oats in the house for baking, but I’ve never been a huge fan of oatmeal. I’ve recently realized it’s due to the mushy texture – with everything I eat, I need texture: something crunchy, something to chew on. Plus, I questioned the real nutritious value of microwavable oatmeal packets, and I had never made homemade oatmeal.

But my little girl wanted it, so I figured we could try it again.
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Now, I am pretty happy with A’s palate so far. She is able to pretty accurately describe what she’s eating using good descriptive words. She always asks about what’s on her plate or in her bowl. I tell her, because instead of hiding from her that she’s eating vegetables, I want her to appreciate and enjoy all parts of her food; when she inevitably likes it, I have now opened a door to using that ingredient in other ways and reminding her that she likes it. The worst case scenario is that she’s able to vocalize when there’s something she doesn’t like.

So the first time I made her oatmeal, before school this week, I made it according to package instructions, and tasted it plain. (Yep. Still don’t like plain oatmeal. Does anyone, I wondered?) I knew I could add butter and brown sugar, but I was trying to think a little healthier, so instead I added honey and a few dashes of cinnamon/sugar. Then I got thinking about my texture issue and added a very little bit of chopped pecans I had purchased to put in chicken salad. Then she said she wanted cut up strawberries on top, so we did that as well.

Well, here’s proof of her sensitivity. I had mixed the pecans in and didn’t tell her. She quickly noticed there was some kind of nut in there, and let me know she didn’t like it. But she did seem to like the oatmeal otherwise, and even asked for seconds.

She asked for oatmeal again today, and asked to help make it. I gladly agreed, thinking, here’s an opportunity to develop her palate a bit more. (You can probably try this with your kids using a different food, but oatmeal is pretty kid friendly, and pretty easy to make small adjustments and notice differences in the taste.)

When I first started cooking, I remember feeling overwhelmed at the idea of not following a recipe EXACTLY. Watching cooking shows, seeing people taste a dish and say, “It needs more ____.” How should I know what else it needs?! I was still learning what the most basic spices and ingredients tasted like, and how best to combine them, and didn’t yet trust my palate to determine what was missing from a dish. I want to prevent my kids from having the same issue. Oatmeal is one of those things that you can modify to your liking really easily, so I figured it was a good place to start.

I measured the water, put it on the stove in a small saucepan, and explained this:
“Any time you are boiling water, adding salt helps it boil faster, and brings out the natural flavors of whatever you’re cooking.”
Once we reached a boil, we added the oatmeal and put the timer on, stirring almost constantly. We removed it from the heat, covered it, and let it sit for 3 minutes. Then I removed the lid, stirred, and let her taste it plain.
“I want you to taste it how it is and tell me what you think we should add.”
She tasted it, made a face, and said, “I want to add cinnamon.”
So we added some cinnamon. She tasted again. “I think we need more cinnamon.” (I think she was right.)
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More cinnamon, another taste, and even while making a face, she said “I think that’s good,” and held out her bowl. Because of the face she made, I asked, “Do you want to add some honey to sweeten it?” and she agreed: “Last time I had it there was honey in it and it was really good!”
So we added honey and she was happy with it. She did say, “I don’t want any pecans. I don’t like the nuts and how they stick to my teeth.”

Well maybe she didn’t, but I did. I made myself a bowl and topped it with the pecans and then – chocolate chips. Not just to add some texture, but to add that smooth mouth-feel that happens when chocolate melts. And, because, let’s face it, I’m still a chocoholic at heart! ❤
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*Adding chopped bananas or strawberries, raspberries or blueberries will lend more nutrition and flavor.
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Click here to read more about how to develop your kids palate, and rid yourself of picky eaters!

Honest Mom Series – Feature #4, Kristina

Welcome to the fourth feature in the Honest Mom series! Click here to read the previous interview.

Our next mom is 31 year old Kristina, wife to Bruce and mom to 3: Big Brother, T (6), Little Sis, A (almost 3), and Baby Brother Z (1). I’ve always respected that Bruce & Kristina have such confidence in the decisions they make, doing whatever is best for their family. Kristina is a very sweet friend, super creative lady, and a homeschooling SAHM.

A little about her:
Kristina is very enthusiastic about peanut butter – and ice cream. Even better? Peanut butter IN ice cream! She’s always had the travel bug, studying abroad in England and Scotland, where she’d love to return for its beauty. She would also love to go to Greece, where her grandparents are from.

When asked about her parenting style, she says she keeps these words in mind: “Love, nurture, and enjoy.” She depends on God and her own experiences, trying her best by relying on convictions from the Holy Spirit to continue or change her ways. She admits that doesn’t always happen: “A lot of times my parenting style and choices are a reflection of how I was brought up – which are sometimes good, and other times bad. I have read a few parenting books, most of which are about “Hot Topics” that have either convicted me to change my thoughts on a subject or confirm that what I am choosing for my family is right.”

Can you describe a typical day at your house? My oldest son is the early bird and typically wakes up between 6-7 A.M. and will play in his room until someone else is up. If his little sis wakes up next, he typically will play with her and/or his baby brother. I am so NOT a morning person… so it takes me a while to want to get out of bed! Once I do, we head downstairs and I make breakfast and the kiddos watch some T.V.—usually Curious George and Cat in the Hat. Afterwards, we will either do downstairs to do some school stuff, play, or head up-stairs to get ready for the day. Lunch is anywhere between 12-1 P.M, depending on what we are doing that morning. After lunch, Little Sis takes a nap and/or has quiet time for a minimum of an hour. Big Brother and I will then do some more school stuff. Afterwards, he has some play time and I get on the computer to blog, check email, etc. Around 4:30ish, I’ll start figuring out what is for dinner. After dinner, we play some more, watch some t.v. and kiddos get to bed around 9. The bedtime routine is more go-with-the-flow, because I’m still nursing our little one. Typically I read a couple of books to Big Brother, lay with him for 10 minutes, then go to Little sis’ room and read a couple to her. More often than not, I lay with her until she falls asleep. However, if I’m busy with Baby Brother, Daddy takes over reading duties! Every day is a little different, but we pretty much stick to that schedule, adjusting for everyone’s moods, weather, or special plans.

You’re a Homeschooling mama! What would you like to say to other homeschooling moms? Oh wow, this is kind of a loaded question! We’ve been homeschooling from the get go, meaning that when Big Brother was around 3ish, I started to involve more learning activities in our day. We then continued on using a literature-based curriculum for his 4K and 5K year.  And now here we are in his 1st Grade year! I still feel like such a “newbie,” however I would encourage a homeschooling mom by telling her to remember it is a journey.  Do not focus on what others are doing and/or learning—You know your children best and know their needs and what works best.  It is so easy to think of all they eventually need to know, but take it day by day.  I would encourage her that yes, the days may seem long, it may feel like your child will never learn his/her math facts, remember simple spelling rules, how to form his/her letters, etc… but when frustration strikes, step back and know they WILL learn it eventually.  And it truly is a beautiful thing to get to experience that with your child.  With Big Brother, I really feel like I made many mistakes pushing him and being hard on him by expecting too much; I suppose it happens with the first.  In this journey, I just would want them to know that YOU are indeed capable and able to teach your child what he/she needs and wants to know.  There are so many great resources out there to help you along the way—you are not alone.
Oh, and give your kiddos and you plenty of GRACE!  It isn’t always easy (isn’t that parenthood in general?!), but remember tomorrow is another day.

What is the best part about homeschooling? There are so many great things about homeschooling: being able to spend time together is huge; these moments go by so fast and I love that we are together everyday, learning and playing side by side.  I believe that homeschooling is a lifestyle and it allows us to follow the lead of my children by getting to learn what they are most interested in at the moment.  Another one is getting to experience new things together!  When learning about “amorphous solids” (aka Oobleck), Little Sis and Little Brother were able to have some messy fun, too!  It is a family affair. : )

What is your least favorite part about homeschooling? Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all sunshine and roses.  Many days I am just flat out exhausted by mid-morning! 😉 There have been many times that my son and I have butt heads and we’ve been “in the trenches” trying to get things done.  However, I think most of that stems from my unrealistic expectations. Bad attitudes and resistance to doing anything school related come and go, but that is when it is time to step back and evaluate what you are doing and why. Also, when starting your homeschooling journey, I believe there is a great deal of pressure to make sure your child is learning like his/her peers and homeschooling starts looking like “school at home.”  Playing the comparison game is a sure-fire way to kill your child’s curiosity and love of learning.  It makes homeschooling a “chore” and school time is thus fun for no one.
But then this circles back to one of the great things about homeschooling: you are on your own child’s learning schedule; homeschooling allows you the freedom to go at the pace set by your child.

I love that you turned that back into a positive! What are your suggestions to get started homeschooling? First I’d like to encourage you that if you have any sort of inkling that this is something that would suit your family, I say pray and “Just Do It.”  Some people have no desire to homeschool, but some do and it honestly saddens me when they talk themselves out of it by saying, “ I just can’t teach my child….  Or I could never do it.”  Mama- you ARE fully capable of teaching and leading your child!!
So once the decision has been made, I would check out what your State Requirements are—each State is different; some are very lax and some are very rigid, so it is very important to know.  You can check out https://www.hslda.org/laws/.
There are many ways to homeschool; another idea is to figure out your child’s learning style and YOURS!  There are many schools of thought on how to homeschool your child—Unschooling, Classical, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Eclectic, etc.  Check your local library for books and it’ll explain the different philosophies in greater detail or search the web.  You will truly be amazed at how many resources are out there to help you!
Once you have an idea, next you’ll need to find a curriculum.  They can be boxed- meaning every subject is lined out and provided for you or you may choose to pick and choose products from different companies.  Just remember to find what works for YOUR family. Research if there is a curriculum fair in your state and if so, attend one.
If possible, find other homeschooling mamas that have been there & done that—whether that is through a local Co-op, homeschooling group, homeschooling bloggers, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  We are all on this journey together!

What do you think is the biggest challenge involved with homeschooling? I think the biggest challenge in general, in ALL areas of motherhood, seems to be this ‘you vs. us’ mentality; it’s sometimes referred to as the “Mommy Wars.”  It just seems like there is always something or someone telling us we are doing it wrong: that we should be homeschooling or not, breastfeeding or not, vaccinating/not-vaccinating, eating this and not that. I think we all should just agree to disagree instead of mocking each other’s choices and telling them they are wrong. In the end we should be doing what is best for our children – and what is best for mine may not be the best for yours. Our children, our experiences, strengths and weaknesses are all different, so who am I to judge your choices?

Well said. That is part of the reason I chose to do this series in the first place!

Other than mother and teacher, are you also homemaker? Are you responsible for the housework as well? Yes, I guess. I do the cooking, cleaning, etc. Hubby deals with making the money and with the stuff outside and whatever maintenance inside. However, he is great at helping out if I need it!

How about the kids – do they do chores? Yes, but not consistently. The kiddos are very helpful- most of the time, and will help if I ask them. Big Brother is much more inclined to help if there is a reward or it is made into a game. Little Sis is a typical toddler—may help, may not help… you just never know! 

How do you discipline them? First they are given a warning. If they repeat the behavior they get time out or something taken away. Sometimes it works. Big brother can get quite sassy sometimes, so daddy usually has to have “a talk” with him. Sometimes they are effective. Sometimes, no. We just have to make sure they know that kind of behavior is NOT acceptable.

What are your nutritional guidelines? The kiddos LOVE fruits, so we’ve got that covered. Big Brother eats most veggies—it wasn’t always like that though! Little Sis is adventurous and will try new things more than the boys, but her tastes change daily! Little Brother still nurses several times a day, so I know he’s eating well. Otherwise, I try and make three meals a day from scratch. I try to stay away from boxed foods- but it doesn’t always happen, and I refuse to beat myself up over that. We don’t buy many snack type foods as they never last more than a few days and well, they just aren’t good for you anyway! I’ve taken to the phrase, “everything in moderation.”  

What about you? Do you ever get time to yourself with all you’re doing? I’m definitely an introvert and NEED time to myself! Although with a house full it doesn’t happen much. Yeah, a bathroom break involves one or more of the kiddos opening and closing the bathroom door and/or getting into the cupboards, toilet paper, or something they are NOT supposed to. This is also the time when everything -i.e. good behavior- seems to unravel and chaos breaks loose. Thus, I probably end up spending too much time in the bathroom! Ha! I will also venture to the store childless or with one… so much different and EASIER with one. Geesh! That’s always a good time!

Do you have hobbies to help you focus your energy? In the summertime, I work in the garden. I like to craft for myself and with the kiddos. I browse Pinterest a lot. And I blog, which started out more of a family blog detailing our homeschooling activities with my oldest, but it has grown into crafts and other learning activities too. I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book, and while that still has yet to pass, I enjoy blogging for now. I just shared my 300th blog post not too long ago! It’s so crazy to think I’ve had 300 things to share!

I’ve seen your blog. There’s a lot of content and it looks so professional! How do you find the time to do it, what with everything else you do? I probably get a bit obsessed (okay, it’s not probably– I do. ha!) and stay on the computer a bit too long during the day. Sometimes I do it in the mornings while the kiddos play after breakfast.  Sometimes it is after Big Brother and I finish school work and he plays while Little Sis is still napping and/or having quiet time.  Sometimes it is after dinner when we are all just hanging out.  Sometimes it is when the kiddos go to bed and I stay up a little too late.  Most days it is a mix of all of those. And of course it’s always right when I’m about finished that the kiddos have gone wild! But it’s something I enjoy and is “my time” and a way for me to beat cabin fever!  As for the kiddos beating cabin fever we try to take advantage of our Rec Center activities, do field trips, or crafts.  And sometimes it means putting on a show and/or movie!

Tell us about your struggles and challenges as a mom. Time management is my biggest struggle, mostly due to our go-with-the flow, loose daily schedule. Seems like there is so much to do, that I want to do, need to do, that just doesn’t happen. Patience is another one… yep, it wears thin some days! And some days I didn’t get the memo that I need a lot of it! I need to improve at being quick to LISTEN; it’s real easy for me to see or hear something I do not like and put an end to it without getting the full story.

What is your greatest fear as a mom? That I am doing it all wrong!

What are some of your proudest moments? As I sit thinking about it, so many things make me happy and proud. That my children are happy and healthy; that they are great friends and loving playing together… to my son’s 1st goal in soccer or when Little Sis loves on her baby brother.

What is your greatest hope for your kids?  I hope for success in all areas of their life; that wherever they go and whatever they do they know God loves them and wants them to be happy and prosperous. To know they can dream big and to pursue those dreams. To know they are loved and special.

You can read more about Kristina, get ideas for kid-friendly educational crafts, and their adventures in Homeschooling at School Time Snippets.

Honest Mom Series – Feature #3, Kelly

Welcome to the 3rd feature in the Honest Mom series! Click here to read the previous installment.

View More: http://studiopopinc.pass.us/kelly-and-dave-1

Meet 33 year old Kelly, wife to Dave and mom to 2 adorable boys: smart, particular Rory (4 1/2) and easy going, charming Ian (2 1/2). Dave and Kelly are very entrepreneurial-minded. They’re great at DIY projects – in the traditional sense, around the home, but also on yourself – fitness, health, and bettering yourself are all areas they seem to incorporate in their every day life. Kelly is a SAHM, but always involved in projects – real estate, for example, and her new online fitness/health business.

A little about her: Dave and Kelly met in LaCrosse, Wisconsin at college. She has a degree in marketing while Dave has his in Exercise Sport Science with a minor in business. They’ve been married 8 years. Kelly’s been home with her boys for 5 years while staying active with various interests. Dave owns a sports training center and she’s getting her online fitness program off the ground. She loves steak and sushi, and calls herself crazy for liking activities like skydiving, hang gliding, bungee jumping, and rock climbing. She would love to go back to Mexico where she and Dave were married, and some day take her boys to visit all the castles in Ireland. (Dave and Kelly have a thing with castles!)

When asked about her parenting style, Kelly says they do whatever feels right for their family. She likes to take in all the advice from others and choose what works for them – this includes discipline, food choices, sleep ‘training’, etc. When asked about their parenting philosophy, she says, “We just want to have fun and see everyone laugh every day.”

Can you describe a typical day at your house, including bedtime routine? The boys wake up around 7:30 and we leave a banana or orange out for them. They turn on cartoons until one of us gets up. Dave and I alternate mornings. It’s pretty great! We have a real breakfast together around 9 (unless it’s a preschool day). Lunch is around noon, snack around 3 and dinner around 6 (but we are VERY flexible). Bed between 7:30-8pm in their shared room. Bedtime routine includes baths every other night, brushing teeth, reading books, and singing a few songs of their choice. They have been going right to sleep. I can’t believe I can finally say that after many struggles! Rory didn’t sleep through the night until 13 months old, but Ian has slept through the night perfectly since about 8 weeks old. They are SO different. My favorite part of our schedule is 8-10:30pm. Dave and I almost always spend it together: talking, watching whatever series we have on our DVR, and we sometimes (well, pretty often) have a glass of wine and cheese & crackers. Then we get ready to start over.

Can you tell us in more detail about your bedtime struggles? Rory has never liked to sleep. We tried EVERYTHING with him. After 12 months of getting up every night we finally let him cry after I stopped nursing (at 13 months old) and it took 33 minutes before he passed out the first night, 23 the second night, 5 the third night and he’s been sleeping ever since. I know that’s controversial but it worked for us and I have no regrets.

What kind of activities do you do with the boys? We try to do fun games and projects at home. We also take the kids out to lunch weekly and they usually want to go to Chick-fil-a to play at their play area or the TreeHouse in Lake Zurich. In the summer we walk to the beach and park everyday.

How do you split up the housework? Dave takes out the garbage, makes some of the meals and does a lot of the grocery shopping. I (try my best) to keep the house/toys/dishes/laundry under control.

What are the boys responsible for? They have clean-up time for toys at night, and Rory has to dress himself.

How do you discipline them? We mostly follow “1-2-3 Magic” and give timeouts or alone time to cool off. I’ll just say that having little kids is not easy. I had no idea how frustrating they can be. We don’t really have house rules – we are pretty easy-going. Except – no yelling in the house has been the biggest one lately.

Do you have meals or nutritional guidelines? Yep, we eat mostly real, unprocessed food at home so that we never feel guilty about birthday cake, special treats etc. Breakfast is usually eggs & bacon or a green smoothie, they would eat PB&Js for lunch everyday if I let them, sometimes I make homemade chicken nuggets or deli meat rollups. Dinner is usually meat and a couple veggies. We usually skip the breads/pastas but we don’t obsess over our diets or rule out any particular food.

Tell me more about the method you use to teach your boys nutrition. I am really against feeding kids junk. Special treats and parties are great but they really need to be eating unprocessed foods most of the time. We teach Green light, yellow light, red light foods (foods that are always, sometimes, rarely ever okay to eat). They also love to learn what different food does for you: build muscles, make you taller, give you energy, etc. We consider a mostly unprocessed food diet to be non-negotiable in our home. It’s a priority for me to help our kids learn healthy habits right now that they will take with them through life. Plus, they don’t get sick as often and less doctor visits saves money too 🙂

 What do you say to parents who are afraid feeding their kids almost all unprocessed food is outside of their budget? There are definitely ways to keep costs down and still eat healthy.
1)Growing your own vegetables in the summer (the kids love this)
2)Shopping at farmers markets for fresh produce.
3)Stock up on frozen veggies and even buy fresh berries in bulk and freeze them.
4)Start reading labels and choose better alternatives to what you are already buying.
I recently found a spaghetti sauce on the shelves right next to the one I used to buy (for the same price) and it was SO much better. It had all ingredients that I would use if I were making my own sauce and had no added preservatives, sugar, food dyes, or words I couldn’t pronounce. WooHoo!
These are my 6 Simple steps to start label reading:
http://www.fitfamilylifestyle.com/#!Food-Label-Reading-for-Beginners-6-Simple-Tips/cwmm/FF27B29D-BEB2-4780-A7AF-475A31F9CDEC

Focusing on you… Do you get time to yourself? When and how? I’ve been taking time to myself to simply workout (at home) and shower…sometimes that seems like a luxury. Dave and I also build art and tables and have an Etsy Shop called BuiltConcrete.

When do you find time for that – do you involve the boys in the building? We are blessed with a lot of time. Dave works for 3-5 hours each afternoon so we have most mornings together. One of us plays with the kids while the other works on whatever project we have going on. Teamwork! They go to preschool 3 mornings/week too. Sometimes the kids help out if we are working on something that they can do like gluing blocks on a board to make an art piece. 

What do you consider to be your greatest strength? Love. I’m pretty good at making up art projects, dancing, and tickling bellies too.

What do you struggle with most in daily life? The fighting. The boys are 2 years apart and fight all the time. When I hear myself yelling I usually stop and try to figure out what other ways we can solve whatever problem is going on without involving my emotions.  I’m also realizing that I used to judge parents for so many things that I now find myself doing. We always said “our kids won’t do that!” It’s pretty funny. I feel bad that I had those thoughts about other parents before I had my own kids. 

Ian crying because I gave him the wrong sippy cup.

Ian crying because I gave him the wrong sippy cup.

Rory crying

Rory crying because he didn’t want to leave yet

What do you think is the biggest challenge for moms in this generation? It feels like there is a lot of pressure to do everything and do it perfectly. Keep kids happy/entertained/educated, keep house clean, meals prepared, workout and even do something professionally and/or have hobbies. I realize that I can’t do it all. So usually the house is a mess and the kids are playing on their iPads or watching TV at some point since it’s winter. But we are all happy!

What’s a lesson you’ve learned the hard way from parenting? Try not to judge difficult children (and their parents!). Rory has been a handful since birth and I really think parents that have all calm or even children with regular temperaments will still judge and never quite understand. Like I talked about, naps and bedtime used to be a huge struggle, and Rory was the type that had NO flexibility with naps. We could not stay at a friend’s house and nap later or skip naps. For a year of my life I drove around to get him to take naps – but I actually started to enjoy it. I would make a hot drink and grab a book or magazine (since he would fall asleep then I could park someplace).  Now Ian is the opposite – he has been VERY flexible so it’s interesting having both sides.

What is your greatest hope for your boys? That they will grow up to be great friends and be happy and successful.

View More: http://studiopopinc.pass.us/kelly-and-dave-1

You can check out Kelly’s new fitness site (specially tailored for busy moms!) complete with free 14-day workout program, 20-minute at home workouts, meal ideas, and encouraging Facebook group here: www.FitFamilyLifestyle.com .

An Honest Mom Interruption

Since I’m focusing on honesty, here’s a story for you…

I run downstairs to put in a load of laundry. A is at school. B&C are playing nicely on the LeapPad. I come back up to make B some eggs and wonder why I keep stepping in wet spots.

Here’s why:

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This little one decided to get herself some water and spilled it ALL. OVER. THE. FLOOR. (and herself)

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These things always seem to happen when we are least expecting them… or if we’re in a hurry… or possibly when we’re trying to clean the house for a party. (Yep, that last one is the case today.)

They say “don’t cry over spilt milk.” (Or in our case water, which is much less a big deal) – but I found an even better approach: I saw a meme on Facebook in which a mom was admitting she used the water on the bathroom floor after a bath to “clean” the floor.

…Sounds like a plan. 😉

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.
Or… When life hands you a puddle on the floor, wash it 😉

A lesson in Endurance, Confidence, & Gratitude

There are some parenting situations where I wonder if I’m making the right decision. You know that old saying, “choose your battles”? Sometimes I think, why get all worked up about this? It’s not that important. and I’ll drop it. But there are other times when I stick to my guns and even though I’m second-guessing myself inside, when I follow through, I am pleased with the results – and my kids learn something.

Case in point: We had A’s friend birthday party this past weekend. I had the thank you cards ready to go. I wanted her to write them out herself. Why?
1. I didn’t have time at that particular moment to do it myself (enter a little bit of guilt).
2. I want her to learn from it: that it’s important to officially thank people (especially via cards in this electronic society – it’s almost becoming a lost art – one that I haven’t taken the time to teach her in the past); also the discipline of having a project and seeing it through to completion.

So I wondered, how can I make this as easy as possible for her, while still giving her ownership over it?

Here’s what I came up with:
I wrote out a script of sorts. On paper it looked like this:
Dear ____,
Thank you for coming to my party!
I really liked the _____.
Love, Aubrey

Then below that, I wrote out each attendee’s name and what they gifted her. Most gave her more than one thing, so I wrote out each item, with a line in between each girl/gift to form rows. I explained to her where to write each girl’s name, and how to write in the gifts in the “I really liked the ___” area. I told her, “You don’t have to write EVERY thing they gave you – you can choose one or two items and thank them for the ones that were your favorite. Then, check their name off the list so you know you did that person already.”

This worked out so much better than I had hoped. What started out as a time saver/discipline activity ended up being a confidence booster, learning opportunity, and very valuable life skill.

She did the thank you cards in two batches. She carefully chose which gift(s) to thank her guests for, occasionally asking me what the words said. This also served to remind her who gave her each gift. By the last few cards, she was writing some of the words herself, without looking back at the script. She’d come to me and excitedly say, “MOM!!” I wrote ‘coming’ without even looking!!!” She was so proud of herself. I rejoiced with her, and realized that this activity was also helping her memorize how to spell words – a handful which she didn’t know yet. Even when she had a couple cards left and asked me for help, I explained that she only had those two left, she was doing such a great job, and just to keep working until she was finished. (A lesson in perseverance and discipline.)

She sealed all the cards herself, and even drew decorations on the envelope of each card. (An opportunity to exercise her creativity!)image

What did I learn from this experience?
*She is absolutely capable when I encourage her and give her the tools to help her succeed.
*Encouraging my children to complete a task is always worth the valuable lessons it teaches them, even if it seems ‘hard’.
*Every day, normal situations are opportunities to teach lasting life lessons – and it’s my job to find them and take advantage of them.

And now, since she’s done it once on her own, she’ll have the confidence to know that she is fully capable of doing it again, and won’t see it as such a daunting task. I hope that she will look at it joyfully from here on out as an opportunity to not just use her manners or check something off her list, but utilize a life skill of taking time to realize and really appreciate what she has. I hope that it will become a habit that will become part of who she is – a woman with an attitude of gratitude.

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Ephesians 5:20 – Give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse God’s accomplishments is to discover his heart. To discover his heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread. It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up. – Max Lucado