Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Aging Happens



Look at this.



And this.

Yes folks. That is gray hair you see. Lots and lots of gray hairs. Too many to keep pulling out every morning. I guess it's time to face reality. I'm aging.

But I'm only 26!!


Blake Lively Picture
So is Miss Lively here. Think she has gray hair?

Gray hair is for old people. You know, like people in their fifties.
                                 
       
Vanessa Williams Picture

Er....maybe their sixties?

kim basinger hot photo kim basinger hot images kim basinger hot pics 1996x1919 Hairstyle Medium


Okay, okay, seventy. Seventy is REALLY old, right?

Mick Jagger Picture
Ah, Mick. Say it ain't so!


So after this very scientific study of what aging looks like, I have come to the conclusion that I'm allowed to do all the aging I want...once I hit seventy.

Which is why my gray hair is a problem. A genetic problem. Apparently my great grandma was completely silver by fifty.

That might have been okay back in her day, but I'm pretty sure I should just be entering my thirties at that point if Miss Williams up there is any indication.

So what's a girl to do?

I suppose I could just dye my hair for the next 44 years and then "surprise" everyone at my 70th birthday party.

Ta-da! It's gray! Been that color for the last 20 years! Suckers!

But, once I've been dying my hair a rich auburn for 45 years, I might as well take my secret to the grave, right?

The thing is, I swore off dye several years ago after it nearly destroyed my hair. 

So now I have to ask. Is aging really that bad? Will gray hair change who I am? Does it somehow make me less valuable as a person?

Maybe those gray hairs can be embraced. 

Yeah I'm going gray. You know what those gray hairs mean? 

I've lived. Really lived. I've birthed babies and moved around the country. I worried about a sudden job loss and rejoiced over blessings that came just in time. I've celebrated siblings' and friends' marriages. Mourned their children gone too soon. I've loved, connected, left, learned, and loved again.

If all of that living comes along with some (or a lot) of gray hair, so be it.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I have a confession to make...

I think I'm a pretty good mom.

Shocking. I know.

Perfect mother's are like perfect pictures. They usually require a lot of photoshopping.


Am I perfect? No. You can ask my mom and husband about the breakdown I had in Early November because I felt like all I did was yell at Max. Or ask me how I feel about my housekeeping skills on Sunday evening when my house has finally descended into complete chaos after the weekend.

But most of the time, I think I'm doing a good job.

I don't think any of us will lose the "mommy guilt" entirely, but we can do away with a lot, if not most of it. And we'll all be better mothers for it in the end.

So here are the things I've learned to help me feel better about myself as a mother.


1. Get enough sleep.  I know I'm not the only one who gets more and more pessimistic the more tired I get. I think it's a pretty common human trait. And motherhood is filled with nighttime feedings, bad dreams to comfort, late-night projects, and just plain ol' worrying.
 
      I have a great husband who knows this about me. When I start getting down on myself, one of the first things he says is, "I think you need to go to bed." More often than not, he's right and that's exactly what I need.

      So....feeling bad about yourself? What time is it? Do you need to go to bed? Did you get enough sleep last night? Maybe you should take a power nap or go to sleep early tonight. Enlist your spouse's help tonight. But get your rest! In my experience, this solves about 75% of my "mom guilt" related break downs.


2. Decide what kind of mom you are/want to be.  There are lots of different kinds of mom's out there. They're all over the neighborhood, your congregation, and the blogosphere. You know them. There's "Crafty Mom," and "Organic Mom," and "Clean and Organized House Mom." Fun Mom, Gardening Mom, Interior Decorating Mom, Eco-Friendly Mom, Soccer Mom, Classroom Mom, Reading Mom, Sugar-free Mom, From Scratch Mom, and the list goes on and on.

    Guess what? You can't be all of these mom's. You can't. I'm sorry. You just can't. It's impossible. But you can be some of them.

   And now here's the fun part. You get to choose what kind of mom you want to be!

  Now here's the hard part. You have to choose on your own terms, for your own very private, individual reasons, based on your own values. You are not allowed to choose in order to impress anyone or compete with anyone. This will only lead to more guilt.

   To do this, you will need to sit down and think about your family vision. What do you want to spend your time doing? What do you think is important in this life? What makes you feel really good about yourself?

   I'm not "perfectly clean home mom." I never will be. When I look at my list of priorities, a clean house isn't up there. I'm more, "twenty-minutes-to-a-decently-tidy-house Mom. And that's okay, I know that about myself and I'm not going to pull out my hair trying to keep a perfectly clean house. Some people love a clean house and are great at that. More power to them. If that's you, go for it! If that's not you, quit trying to impress "clean-and-tidy-house mom down the street." Let's be honest, she probably doesn't care if you leave the mopping for tomorrow...or next week.

    Here's the other secret to deciding what kind of mom you are. Some of these mom's don't work well together. You can't be Full-time-job Mom, Clean and Organized Mom, Classroom Mom, Soccer Mom, and Everything from Scratch Mom. At least...not without going crazy, or sacrificing something important...like time with your kids.

    You can only pick a few. Look at your values, your vision. Choose wisely.

Which leads me to number 3.

3. Be flexible.  Being crafty mom isn't working out for you? Being Soccer Mom leaves you so exhausted that you end up yelling until everyone's in bed? Being Clean house mom winds up with you at the end of the day not being able to remember a single thing you did with the kids?

   Time to reevaluate and change it up. It's okay. We're all learning and growing in this motherhood thing and sometimes life throws you a curveball. Did you just have a baby? Maybe you need to take a break from being everything-from-scratch mom. Moving across the country this summer? Gardening Mommy has to be packed up too.

    Repeat after me: IT'S OKAY!

4.  Make your goals dependent on YOU! If you look at my list of moms, you'll notice I didn't include "Perfectly-mannered-children Mom," or "Super-smart-kids Mom." You want to be this mom? Let me also introduce you to, "Screaming-yelling Mom," and "Pushing-nagging Mom."

    This isn't to say that we shouldn't try and raise our kids to be educated and well-mannered. But you can not base your self-worth on your children's actions. Or your husband's actions. Or anyone else's reactions. All you've done is handed over the power to control how you feel about yourself to someone else. Someone who has their own free-will. Somebody that, try as you might, you can't control. That's where the screaming and nagging come in.

     Don't do that to yourself. The only way you will feel good as this kind of mother is if you also happen to be "Dumb-luck Mom."

5. Give yourself grace.  As a Mormon, this was a bit of a weird term for me when I started seeing other bloggers use it. I believe in grace, but I don't think we talk about it enough in our church, and I think many of us misunderstand it.

   God gives us grace by forgiving us when mess up. Grace makes up for our many shortcomings. It helps us carry our load. There was an article by Brad Wilcox on Grace in the Ensign a while back. One of my favorite quotes from it is hanging on my fridge.

"Grace is not the absence of God's high expectations. Grace is the presence of God's power."

If we are giving ourselves grace, we are not letting ourselves out of any expectations and eating oreos on the couch all day. But at the end of the day we are saying, "I worked hard today. I made some mistakes. But that's okay. I'll try again. And every day I'll get a little better."

If we are giving ourselves grace we are allowing God a place in our life and letting Him help us along the way. The whole way. Not just at the end or when things get hard. We realize we are not perfect, but He is. And He will make up the difference. 

Are you expecting perfection instead of Grace?

6. Get off the computer. Get down on the floor with your kids. Hug them. Kiss them. Tell them you love them. Play with them. Laugh with them. Look into their eyes and see that little being with so much life and potential.

If at the end day, you can say you have done this, even if it is only this, then you have nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I'm willing to bet it was a pretty good day.

Good night, mom guilt.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The perfect cookie recipe to make with the kids.

Peanut Butter Blossoms!

This is another one of my kill three birds with one stone activity.

Unwrapping the kisses is great for fine motor skills. I counted the mixing by hand and ball-rolling as our sensory activity. And it was some yummy Christmas cookie making.

The number of ingredients are so small that no one will get bored or fidgety and you won't get frustrated. Learning to scoop the peanut butter into a measuring cup is good for their little hands to do, too.

So turn on some Christmas music and get baking!

Peanut Butter Blossoms
makes about 18 cookies

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
18 chocolate kisses


Instructions:

1. Mix peanut butter, sugar*, and egg. Have child mix by hand. It's ooey, gooey, and so much fun!
2. Roll into balls and put on ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.
4. While baking (or before you even make the dough) have your child unwrap the kisses. Immediately press them into cookies after removing from oven.
5. Enjoy!

*I like to make this recipe with 1/3 white sugar, 1/3 brown sugar, and 1/3 powdered sugar. Or 1/2 and 1/2 brown and white sugar. So, if you're making this with older kids you can thank me later for the built in lesson on fractions!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Max's tonsilectomy

It all started this summer. I walked in on Max taking a nap. He's fallen alseep in the car and I didn't want him wetting the bed, so I was going to put a towel under him. His face was really pale and his lips were all white. I didn't notice at first, until I lifted his legs up and put the towel underneath. He immediately gave this huge gasp and the color returned to his face and his lips. HE HADN'T BEEN BREATHING.  It was pretty scary, but I wasn't sure when I should cal someone. It was only one time, right?

Nevertheless, I had Rob look in Max's mouth to inspect his tonsils. I have a friend who's sons both had to have their tonsils out for sleep apnea reasons. Rob's not an ENT, but being a dentist, he sees plenty of tonsils. He said they looked pretty big to him. I sat on that for a few months.

Then Max started sleeping in our room because he got scared at night (nightmares about fire, apparently). We have a little camping mat on our floor and he sleeps there. Every now and then I would hear him gasp in the middle of the night.

Tommy came and our life got turned upside down. I kept thinking I should call the ENT, but just never seemed to remember. Well, I finally got around to it and took him in. Dr. Romeo told us that sleep apnea is the number one reason for tonsils and adenoids to be removed these days.

He took one look in Max's mouth and said, "He's really never had a throat infection with those things?"

I shook my head.

"They're really big."

We scheduled the tonsilectomy and Max had it done on Friday. Dr. Romeo came in to talk to us when it was finished. He said he kept scraping out pockets of infection from the tonsils, which was unusual for someone this age because that usually takes years of infection. He also said that when he removed the adenoids tons of pus just drained out.

Basically, Max has had tonsilitis his entire life and we never knew. The kid must have a high pain threshold. I felt awful. But I'm so glad we got them out. Not only will this solve the sleep apnea, but it will stop the constant runny nose all winter, and maybe even help clean up his terrible eczema.

Max is being a champ. Which I can't be too surprised about with someone who's been sick for years and never let us know. The worst part was bringing him out of anasthesia. He fought and wrestled for an hour and kept trying to bite out his IV.

He's such a good boy, and I can't wait to see how much better he feels once he's recovered.


Christmas Bells Preschool

This week was all about bells in preschool! It started when Jane requested that we sing "Carol of the Bells" for circle time. 
Daily circle time: I borrowed my mother-in-law's hand bells and we sang "Carol of the Bells" and played the "ding dong ding dong" parts with the bells. The kids actually did really well with it and seemed to enjoy it. Then we practiced spelling "bell" with these letter beads I found at the store. We also recited "Ride a Cockhorse to Banbury Cross" since that talks about bells.

Day 1: We did a big Christmas sensory tray. It was filled with that fake snow confetti stuff and little doodads from the dollar store. Tiny drums and presents. Cut up pieces of garland. Max played with it for over an hour. You can see how much fun it was from the mess.

I also had the kids do a sorting activity with red, white and green pom poms. They sorted them by size and color.


Day 2: We made Jingle sticks by attaching jingle bells to pipe cleaners and wrapping them around small dowels. Then we sang Jingle Bells and added that to Circle time. These homemade instruments now sit on my piano for anytime we want to sing Christmas songs. Here's a video of the kids kind of singing. We'd already sung it a few times before I took the video so you can tell their interest is waning. video


Day 3: We learned about India. We found it on a map and then watched a video of some classical Indian dancing. We talked about the ankle bells they wore, called Ghungroos. I had crocheted some jingle bell anklets the night before. We tied them on our feet and followed a Bollywood dance video. Then I put on a classical Indian music station on Pandora and Jane danced her heart out.



We also did a fun sensory art project. I attached jingles bells to paint brushes and let the kids paint with green red and yellow.


Day 4 was kind of a bust. I was going to do this science experiment with a hanger and string. But then I realized I didn't have a single metal hanger! Not one! I could have done it with a spoon, but by the time I realized I didn't have the materials it was getting late and I had to get Max ready for his tonsilectomy in the morning.

So there you go! A fun, easy preschool week just in time for Christmas.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Your presence is a present

Dear Self,

It's the holiday season. And you know what that means. We are in full multi-tasking mode! You know what I'm talking about.



You've got a pie crust in the oven. Sweet potatoes boiling. Kale sauteeing. You're adding to your list of last minute grocery shopping while checking pinterest for preschool ideas. All the while your daughter is painting forty different pictures and you have to admire and comment on each one. You decide to start a five minute pick-up before hubby gets home. Then the baby wakes up and you decide during all of this that he really could use some good face time with you, since it's been a while.

And during all of this. You've forgotten something.

(Hint: It's the kale. It's totally burnt. Don't look at it. Definitely don't taste it. Just put the pan in the sink and run it under some water. Maybe count yourself lucky that you were able to use that particular item from the CSA box without actually having to eat it.)

And this isn't the first day something like this has happened. Yesterday you ruined the fancy cheese cakes because you were in too much of a hurry to let your cream cheese thaw out.

Suddenly you stop, to breathe, maybe for the first time since lunch. (Did you have lunch?) And you wonder what else you're missing.

Because tomorrow, it might not be kale or cheese cake. It could be that new technique Jane is trying with her art. Or maybe one of Max's crazy dance moves. Maybe it will be a chance to share your love or testimony with your children. Or just one of those so special cuddle sessions with a baby that will be grown all to fast.

Yes, you are an expert multi-tasker. But this holiday season you don't have to be. I'm giving you a break. In fact, I'm ordering you to take one. Because what your children want more than pumpkin pie from scratch, real cranberry sauce, scented paints, perfect decorations, and a sparkling clean house, is you!

Jane didn't care about your pie or sweet potatoes today. She just wanted you to help her hang her paintings around the house and then admire them.

And so this is your new goal for the holidays. To slow down and be still. It won't kill the holidays to take a break, sit down, and cuddle. In fact, it might just make the season.

Your presence, your absolute presence, is the best gift you can give your children. And the best gift you can give yourself. So sit down, breathe, smile, look into those faces that you love so much. And just be here!

Don't let your mind wander to the perfect facebook post for this moment. Don't pick up your phone to snap the perfect shot. This moment is perfect just the way it is. With you here.

You can't make memories for the future without being here now.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have crescent rolls and cranberry sauce to make all while watching Mickey's Christmas Carol.

Much love,
Amanda

PS Don't count on the crescent rolls turning out either.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cranberry Dough

I've decided to do a different sensory experience each week as part of our homeschooling. I'll probably get most of my ideas from pinterest and blogs, and I'll share and review them here.

Today we made Cranberry Dough. All it was is cranberry sauce and cornstarch mixed together. I added a little less cornstarch than the blog caleld for to make it kind of a mix between play dough and oobleck.

The kids loved it. They played with it for an hour and a half with the only interjection from me being, keep it at the table. They gathered cars to play in it and then Max kept adding other food like skittles and pickles. It smelled so good, and he kept trying to eat it.

Sensory play is great for kids and I just had to keep reminding myself that there is no wrong way to play with it. Even if that does mean adding pickles and skittles.



Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Quotes from Max

Tonight Max was thankful for "Animal Mechanicals" and "the new vegetable." That new vegetable? Kohlrabi. He loves it dipped in ranch. I'm not making that up.

I told the kids they'll be getting flu shots tomorrow. Jane started whining and Rob said, "I give people shots all day."  

Max's eyes got huge. "Do you kill them?"

Haha, No. But sometimes they act like that's what's happening.

Meaningful Thanksgiving Traditions, Crafts, and Songs for Kids

The day after Halloween I turn on the Christmas music. It's tradition. It's fun. And I'm not going to stop. Ever.

But that doesn't mean I go straight to celebrating Christmas. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and an important one to get us ready for Christmas. What better way to prepare to serve our fellow-men, celebrate the birth of our Savior, and give and receive gifts, than buy remembering everything we are thankful for?

You can find tons of Turkey crafts on pinterest. I'm not going to give you that in this post. Not color-by-numbers, or construction paper pilgrim hats. Those things are great, but what I'm going to talk about are a few more meaningful things to do this Thanksgiving. Things to become traditions and memories.

The ideas I have here have been gathered over a lifetime. Some of them are traditions from when I was a child, the things I remember. Some of them are traditions in my family now, and others are traditions I'm trying to start this year. Still others are traditions from other people. Do not feel overwhelmed by ideas, or like you need to do EVERYTHING! Just pick the activities that speak to you. Traditions are supposed to provide connection, not frustration.

Service Projects

Doorbell ditch the Thanksgiving turkey on the front porch of someone who could use a little help this holiday season.

Set up a canned food drive in your neighborhood.

Help deliver food for a Food Bank or homeless shelter.


Crafts

Make the napkin rings or nameplates for the table. Pinterest has tons of ideas

Make this


"Give Thanks" nature garland.


Cooking

Make a pumpkin pie completely from scratch. (Meaning straight from the pumpkin)

Read "Cranberry Thanksgiving" and make the Cranberry bread recipe in the back.

Have your smallest helpers slather the butter on the turkey. Great sensory experience and they are "helping". 

Older kids can help peel potatoes, make the jello, etc. Do not slave away in the kitchen all by yourself!

Make these Rhodes "corn" rolls.


Songs and Fingerplays




Over The River and through the Woods


Gratitude

Make a "Thankful Tree" and add to it every night. There are lots of really cute ideas on Pinterest. But I just hand draw mine on a big piece of butcher/easel paper and cut rectangles from construction paper for the "leaves".

Follow this link, to download a Thanksgiving ABC book for your kids to illustrate. Makes a great keepsake.



Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Mother's Journal

I'm making most of the kid's presents this Christmas. This Waldorf doll for Jane is just about complete. I need to remake the dress. It's a little bit too tight to get on and off. But I think she turned out really cute. Can't wait to make a boy one for Max. Then I have to finish the superhero capes, stick ponies, and (start and finish) dinosaur tails. Almost there!


We're a house of boys now. Can you believe it? Sometimes I still can't. I think I always imagined myself with a bunch of girls. But I'm getting the feeling like Jane might be it on the girl front. So thank goodness she's pretty much 150% girl. But look at all these handsome guys. This house is going to start being VERY loud and VERY busy. I look forward to camping, hiking, fort-building, and potato guns in our future.

Oh this boy is the sweetest. He gets the biggest, brightest eyes. He never wants to be alone. A social bug like his dad.

Jane is such an artist. She so reminds me of her Aunt Kim. Check out the ensemble she put together today. This is totally something her Aunt Kim would wear (okay, the five year old version of it). She just has her own little sense of style. It's so fun to see her becoming this real, little person. All her own and nobody else. You see those shoes? We got them at "the mall". All week Jane has been talking about "going to the mall." As a mom who tries to never go shopping, I wondered where she heard about the mall? Found out. Her cousins have been corrupting her. And now she says things like, "I love the mall." Uh-oh, haha. So we had a mommy-daughter-Tommy date. It was fun, and now Jane thinks that a mall is pretty much where you go for candy dispensers and sparkly shoes. (Which is basically true.)

I opened my pantry tonight and found this. Looks like a party.

Speaking of parties. My kids decided it was their stuffed animals' birthdays this week. Jane had a birthday tea party for her unicorn. See him sitting at the table/basket in the background? These two are so fun and I love to see them play together. It makes me think about having another one close with Tommy. We'll see.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Give Thanks Garland

This Thanksgiving garland was so easy and a fun project to do with the kids. We got to go outside, find pretty treasures, and then review our letters! That's like 4 birds in one!
You could make it say anything you want. And you could do it any time of year, using whatever you find on nature walks or in your backyard.



First, gather up your nature materials. Get lots of different things. We were able to get all of ours from our back yard. You may have to search a little more and go on a walk, or to a park. The picture below is how our table looked when we were finished. Get lots of stuff.



Write your letters on cardstock with permanent marker. Hand your kids some glue, and have them go for it. I only had glue sticks and a hot glue gun. The glue sticks worked great for the leaves. But the berries, and larger leaves and flowers required the hot glue gun.

All the letters looked great. But these were my favorites.









The kids actually did most of it. I did the H, N, and T, since they required the glue gun. I technically did the A, too, but it was Max's design and he brought me all the berries to hot glue.

This craft is basically free and really cute.Because we're in a rental, I didn't want to put holes in my wall, so I had to make do with hanging it from the stair railing. Yarn and clothespins look cute, but I'm sure there are numerous other ways to hang up your letters.

This was fun and the kids loved it. Try it!



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Family Devotionals with Young Children

We have a family devotional, or scripture study, every night (ok, ok, most nights with very few exceptions. Nobody's perfect!)  We started doing this consistently about 4 years ago. It has become a wonderful part of our routine. After only a few weeks, there was a noticeable difference in the spirit of our home and even our marriage. Here are some ideas to help you get started or "freshen up" your family devotional.



Have your devotional at the same time every day. Not necessarily always at 6:00 pm sharp, but at the same time in your routine. Devotional has become part of our bedtime routine. Right after bath and pajamas...sometimes during the brushing of teeth (Hey, sometimes the patience just runs out.)

Don't make it too long, especially with little ones. A few verses is perfect! When we are reading through the scriptures, we aim for a column a night, but sometimes it's only a verse. Only you can gauge what you kids are able to handle that night.

Add a song! Kids love to sing and frankly, songs teach them more than scripture verses. Choose one song and sing it every night for the whole month. You can even have a monthly theme if you want, and have all your family home evenings go with the monthly song. We try to do this and I think it helps, at least with the planning if not the comprehension.

Finish with family prayer. Always. Always. Always. Hearing your kids pray is one of the best things in life.

So what should you read? We've done a few different things with differing success.

Just read straight through. This is our go to plan. We're nearing the end of our second round of the Book of Mormon. But Heaven's knows my kids don't understand a word of it. I figure it's the consistency and thought that counts.

Children's Bible stories. Get a book of bible (or Book of Mormon) stories, that tells them very quickly. Then read the verses that go along with the story. For a long story take a week to cover all the verses, but read the story every day.

Give each child a piece of paper and crayons and have them draw what you are reading about. We haven't done this yet, but it is something I would like to try when my kids are older. A great way to engage everyone.

Have your kids "read" with you. Everyone takes turns reading a verse. Even the littles, with some help of course.

LDS Bible Videos. This is my new favorite scripture study with the kids. We started it in preparation for Christmas and will probably do it again for Easter. There are about 60 videos so far, and they keep adding more. We read the verses listed under the video (or as many as the kids can handle) and then watch. This has been our best scripture study by far. My kids listen, ask questions. The videos are beautiful, and well done. I can't recommend this route enough!
Sermon on the Mount: Treasures in Heaven

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day Ideas for Kids

So I had lots of ideas to celebrate Veteran's Day and teach my children more about the men and women who make this country great. Unfortunately half of us are sick with an awful head cold! So that rules out the parade we were going to go to.

But...

If there is a parade in your area, you should totally go!

Other ideas.

Talk to your children about what a veteran is.
Tell stories about some of the veterans that may be in your family history.
For older kids, learn the words to "God Bless America" or "America the Beautiful," etc.
For younger children, the songs on this page work well for introducing the concept of veterans.

I really liked this little mini-book to make and read to your kids. It's the poem "In Flander's Field." What's great about this, is that it is short enough to read to the younger set. You can explain what the poem is saying as you go along and then kids can color the pictures. The poem presents some good ideas and topics of discussion for the older set. It's a powerful poem. It's so important to introduce our children to quality, and classic, literature. Take advantage of this opportunity.

If possible, visit a memorial. Our city has put up 1000 flags in honor of veteran's day. We may go over today and practice some counting.

Looking for a service project? How about making cards for The Red Cross' "Holiday Mail for Heroes"?  You can find the guidelines and information here.

Happy Veteran's Day everybody!