Friday, April 29, 2016

Critical Fuel: A Good Breakfast

Whenever our darling third born had cereal for breakfast we noticed a particular result about 10 am ... our Miss Jekyll suddenly turned into a Miss Hyde. No joke. She was irritable, unproductive, non-cooperative, and cranky. Food was the miracle cure. If I gave her a snack she'd be back to Miss Jekyll.


If our beautiful girl had eggs, or bacon, or even yogurt for breakfast, she remained Miss Jekyll all morning. It was the protein that was critical for her to remain focused, calm, and productive. And this is the way she was all her growing up years. When she went off to college we talked about making sure she ate protein for breakfast each morning. So she kept peanut butter and protein bars handy in the event she was short on time and couldn't get to the cafeteria.

Although our third-born was the most obviously responsive to a hearty breakfast, all our kids benefited from morning protein. I felt better myself. And now as a classroom teacher it is very noticeable when a student comes to school without having eaten anything.

For crying out loud... FEED YOUR KIDS BREAKFAST!! There, I got it out of my system. Seriously, just get up a little earlier and make them a hot hearty meal. If they tell you they're not hungry, then wake them up even earlier so they will be hungry and eat something before school. And all it has to be is a spoonful of peanut butter, a cup of yogurt, two pieces of bacon, a sausage patty, even a protein drink. Sitting down to a family breakfast gives your family a chance to read Scripture and pray together before being separated for the day. Remember we're proactive here! Isn't this better than waiting for your child to totally melt down at school and then have his teacher recommend he get tested and possibly medicated for ADHD?

Here are some breakfast ideas:
* pancake shapes (make fun animals or letters with the batter) and add bacon or sausage.
* eggs - cooked scrambled, hard or soft boiled, poached, panfried
* Egg-in-the-Hole - cut out a hole in a piece of bread with a biscuit cutter and place it in a pan with butter. Pour a cracked egg into it, and flip when browned. 
* Cornmeal mush. Start this the night before. Boil 6 cups of water and then add 1 cup of cornmeal, stir, and reduce heat. Place a lid on the pot and let it simmer for about 15 minutes (stir occasionally), until thick. Put in a well-oiled breadpan and place in the fridge until morning. In the morning, pop it out of the pan, slice it, dredge in flour and panfry until golden on both sides. Serve with syrup and bacon.
* Oatmeal or cream of wheat- Add milk, nuts, and fruit.
* I'm sure I don't need to convince you to serve juice and fruit. And oh... a hot cocoa in the morning is a real treat!

And now for a refashion...
I was having way too much fun making jewelry this week. 

Have you heard of steampunk jewelry? It's a combination of Victorian and sci fi futuristic. It mixes lace, metals, clocks, and mechanical parts and odds and ends. It's very fun to play around with the stuff and artistically put it together into something that looks elegant yet everyday classy.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Limitizing Your Life

Limiting and Prioritizing - Limitizing! Isn't that a great word? I just made that up and I think it's a perfect word that captures how we should go about scheduling ourselves when we're raising our kids.

I think fear often dictates how much we fill our kids' days.We're so afraid that our kids will miss opportunities, or miss something critical in their development, or miss something that we enjoyed or missed in our own childhoods. So we schedule them all sorts of lessons and activities. We think they need to learn dance, an instrument, scouting, 4-H, horseback riding, soccer, baseball, youth group, Awana, etc. Kids come home after the stress of performing well at school and then they have to turn around and go out again for a lesson or activity. Dinner is either on the road or a graze and grab from the fridge.

Now, any one of those activities would be awesome to do, but it's the quantity that stresses their lives, and ours too as we have to not only be taxi driver but participate in those activities ourselves as scoutmaster, 4-H leader, soccer coach, Awana volunteer, etc. So the craziness of our week is felt by everyone in the family.

Then comes the inevitable scheduling nightmare - when all the activities have an event on the same day. What do you do when one kid has a concert and the other has a baseball game on the same night? Or how about when the same kid has 2 or more events on the same evening? Yikes - which do you choose?

When I see families constantly on the go I want to cry out, "Stop and smell the roses!" goes by fast enough. Making yourself crazy hurts your marriage as you and your spouse have very little time together. It hurts your family, as there isn't room for dinner or conversation, nor is there time to play games or read books. Any benefit from the activity is overshadowed by the problems it all creates.

So LIMITIZE your activities. First, limit the number of activities each child can choose. Even church activities should be limited. I would suggest that you should only allow each child 1 or 2 activities a week. You know that when you multiply that number by the number of kids you have that equals a lot of evenings out! Consider keeping three nights a week completely open where no one has anything scheduled on those evenings. As much as possible encourage all of your kids to choose the same activities so the taxi only has to go to one place.

Secondly, prioritize the most important things in the schedule. This will help dictate how much you get involved in something. For example, if your church is a high priority, then any activities that take your child away from Sunday morning worship should not be considered. Teach your children honesty and commitment by encouraging them to stick with something. If they choose to be part of a children's choir, for example, and a birthday party comes along on the evening of practice the commitment to the choir should take precedence. Agreeing to participate in any scheduled activity is a promise that you and your child will attend regularly. So look at the schedule long term to see if there would be any schedule conflicts down the road, before you make such a commitment. I've spoken to several employers that can't count on young adults to actually show up at the job site on time, or even at all and I think it's because they think that the world revolves around their whims.
Let's raise kids who can be counted on to work 
hard and do their best.

And now for a refashion....

A little creativity with those seashells I picked up from the beach in Florida this past winter turns into very fun jewelry:

I fell in love with the pieces of sand dollar. So I sanded off the sharp edges.

Sand dollars have natural holes, so I looped a piece of lace through it, and wah-lah, a beautiful necklace to stand out on an appropriate background.

Before I close I want to invite you to follow a new blog series:

Friday, April 8, 2016

Separation Anxiety and a Summer Top

A mother drops off her small child at the preschool. The child screams and clings to her. The teacher peels the child off of Mom and tells her the child will be fine... just go. In reality, the child continues to cry for awhile. The teacher offers comfort, but her attention is divided as there are 10 others who are under her supervision. Finally the child does stop whimpering, resigning to the fact that Mom won't be back for awhile. The child begins to engage the class activities. And before he knows it, Mom has returned. But the whole episode repeats itself the next day.

Sound familiar? This was a typical scenario at the preschool where I taught. Quite honestly, it broke my heart to tear apart the most natural of relationships, that of mother and child. Separation and the anxiety that accompanies it may be commonplace; it may be normal; it may be typical; it may even be expected; but it isn't natural.

Mothers and babies are naturally bonded (dads too!) particularly when breastfed, but also when continually held close, cooed to, sung to, read to. It is recorded that Roman emperor Frederick II in the 13th century wanted to see what language babies naturally spoke so he ordered the nuns to not speak, sing, or express anything towards the orphans in their care. All of them died.

Parental bonding is so crucial to a child's self-esteem. When children feel secure, they are ready to explore their worlds. They are happy and eager to learn, confident that mom or dad is not far away and can touch base and engage as needed.

Parents absolutely need time to themselves. It is not wrong or selfish to leave children with a sitter, or a grandparent, or any trustworthy caretaker for a short time (or even overnight!).  Parents need to reconnect. Moms and dads need to recharge batteries. However, leaving small children every day at a day care or nursery diminishes that bond. Sure kids get used to it, but I wonder if a little piece of their hearts close up. Separation anxiety is a natural response to an unnatural occurrence. We would do well to pay attention to our children's fears.

And now for a refashion...

Remember that long 60s bridesmaid dress I cut and refashioned for Easter a year ago?

Well, I never wore it after that Easter Sunday because it was a little too short (my sewing teacher called me "The Happy Hacker"). You know it's short when your daughters think it's too short. So I decided it was time to make it into a top. Talk about separation anxiety! Hacking into something you spent hours creating is difficult! But what's the use of having something you don't ever wear, right?


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Bedtime Battles or Sandman Snuggles

Bedtime can often be the worst time of the day for parents. They dread that time of night when babies are wide-eyed, toddlers are giggling as they get out of bed and run around the house, and young children are screaming because they don't want to take a bath.

So how do you get bedtime running smoothly without incident? By managing proactively.

Bedtime is part of a daily routine that should be thought through and planned out carefully. Of course there will be interruptions and unexpected incidents, but generally if a child knows what is expected of him/ her, bedtime can become a time the whole family enjoys.

Make bedtime the same time every night. Begin a routine about an hour before... bath, brush teeth, books and snuggles, prayers and Bible reading,  perhaps a song or music, and then lights out.

The key to successful bedtimes is consistency.As soon as you start letting a crying child climb in bed with you, he/she will be wanting to be in bed with you every night. As soon as you pick up an infant after you know his diaper is clean and his belly is full, you will be picking up that infant every time he demands you do that. Stand firm and insist that your bed belongs to you and your spouse. Rub your child's back and reassure her that you are there but that it's bedtime now and she may not get out.

I am sharing with you what I've learned after four kids. By the time our fourth came along I found it easier to let her cry in her crib until she fell asleep. I knew she was protesting and that she was alright. I would just pat her back and reassure her and then leave. But I confess that the first three put me through the wringer. Or, I should say, I let them put me through the wringer.

My firstborn used a pacifier and every time it would pop out of his mouth he would wake up and cry. I would be up multiple times. I wanted to let him cry it out but it would be a Saturday night and my husband would be preaching the next  morning and would beg that I settle him down so he could sleep. Ben learned that if he cried long and hard enough I would come running.

I nicknamed my second-born, "My Little Leech", because she loved to nurse. She would nurse all day if I let her! When I thought she was sound asleep I would carefully carry her to her crib, tiptoeing so as not to make the floor creak, and then ever so gently lay her down, but as soon as I'd pull away my arms, "WAAAH!!!" and back to the rocker we'd go.

By the time my third-born came along I was so bleary-eyed keeping up with the 6 year old and the 4-year old, that time is all a blur. But I do remember doing something right with her:
When it was time for her to move out of the crib to make room for a new baby, we put her in a "big-girl bed". Of course she figured out really quickly how easily she could could climb out. So my husband just camped outside the bedroom door and each time she popped out, he gently put her right back. One night of putting her back in her bed about twenty times did the trick. She never tried to get up again.

In retrospect these are the bullet-points I wished someone had told me back then:
* You and your spouse must be a team, deciding together how a consistent bedtime routine and rule should look.
* Don't begin a habit of allowing your children to sleep with you. You and your spouse need that coveted space and time for each other. Remember that it's your spouse you'll see each morning when the children are grown and gone.
* After reassuring your child, let him cry it out. It won't last forever. If you're certain he is alright (i.e. clean diaper, full belly, not sick) do not pick him up out of the crib. Let him learn to settle himself. He will!
* Be consistent. Be consistent. Be consistent. Did I mention to be consistent? Yeah, same time, same routine, same rules. Children are fast learners and as soon as you let up, they will quickly learn there's a loop hole in your discipline and that you don't mean what you say.

Blessings on your parenting journey!  And now for a refashion...

Here is an outfit from the nineties that I still had in my closet. I wore both the denim shirt and skirt many times over the years but they clearly needed an update:

So here goes...

First I chopped away the front panels, keeping the collar, the yoke and the button strip.

Next I cut away most of the back, except for the yoke, and the sleeves.

I cut open the skirt and laid it out flat.

 I used the panels I had cut away from the shirt to be my pattern, and then laid them out on the skirt fabric.

 Making sure there was a seam allowance I cut out the pieces, including the back panel. Then I simply sewed the cut pieces back into the denim-shirt frame. Here is the finished project:

And since the buttons looked boring to me I changed them up too: