Showing posts with label MotherCare. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MotherCare. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Turtle Shell Mode

When my days start to feel more like this...

and I identify more and more with this...

It is time to re-evaluate because this is what I want....

but lately we've had lots and lots of this....

We need more and more of this....

and I crave scenes like this...

So, Pete and I are working through many tear (my tears) filled talks about what can we do, what can we change, what will help.  When I remove excess from my plate this time, it isn't because I want to step away from my commitments, it is because I have a larger one to my family.
A good friend recently shared that by saying 'no' to something, you are saying 'yes' to those moments you don't want to dismiss or overlook.  
We are going to put that into practice, but that is very hard for me because I can only imagine my letting others down.  
Slow down.

Recognizing limits, I think that will be the theme of 2015.

*Katie Daisy*

*Holly Hill Pond by Susan Wheeler are Bunny Photos*

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Subtraction Again

When I wrote in August about Subtraction, I was thinking of an entirely different concept than what I'm thinking of today.

Today, I'm realizing the joy and heartache of subtraction in the form of children leaving the nest.  Noah leaves today and Jonah (below) left over a year ago.  My heart is full of happiness for them, they are following their dreams and finding their way.  Noah writes and loves all things theater.  He accepted an internship with a theater and is ecstatic to begin this journey outside the classroom and the curtains beyond our local theater.  Noah is really who brought our family into the world of theater and broadened our world into a community of amazing people.

Jonah watched the movie 'A Few Good Men' at some point during his early teen years.  It shaped the dream of becoming a Marine.  He quoted that movie to us constantly, he must know the whole thing by heart.  We now quote it to him regularly and celebrate his becoming a Marine.

Isaac has stepped onto the path of becoming a teacher.  He has incredible patience and an ability to break down even the hardest math formulas to help his younger brothers (and his Mom).  He will live at home for this next year, but you never know at this point where his education will take him as he looks at Universities beyond our local Community College.  His time at home is already less and less with studies, work, and the life of a young adult.  

I love LOVE watching my children grow up and become the people God intended.  They take my breath away with how they think, work, believe, etc..  Subtracting them from our everyday life is hard.  The grocery budget may stretch a little farther, the rooms get a little less crowded but the reality is more about the space left within who we are as a family that will never close up because when you subtract a child from the nest, the space does not fill in - it is always there waiting for those phone calls, visits, and updates about all they are up to and going through, the good and the hard.  I do not like subtracting their presence in our home, not at all.  I'm so happy to ADD their new stories and adventures though. 

Also, I often think of that young YOUNG mother (me) who was so overwhelmed and sometimes thought it might be welcome to get sick enough to include a hospital stay because then, just maybe she might get some sleep.  I wish I could go back in time and give her a big hug and let her know that YES, it will all be worth it and she will be so VERY very happy she was open to all those little lives God planned to fill her heart with. I had no idea the joy, love, and wonder those babies would bring.  It isn't that it wasn't hard, because it was.  Being selfless never comes easy - at least not for me.  I would let her know, it was worth it.  100%, I wish I could do it all over again - sleepless nights and all.  Truly, watching them follow their dreams and seeing their happiness makes every single moment that was hard feel like it was nothing at all.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Well Fed & Well Rested - What Works For Us!

Leila posted a fantastic article about boys.  I love her no nonsense wisdom and her loving way to impart the practical.  Leila is my hero.  I tell people to throw out their multitude of parenting books and either find a family you admire that will let you hang out and ask dozens of questions (like I did many years ago) or if you can't find a good example just go read everything at Like Mother Like Daughter.  Even better, do both!

I was inspired by her article to expand upon the concept of 'well fed and well rested'.  I agree wholeheartedly with her on the point that no parenting tactic or discipline strategies will work unless the children are well fed and well rested.  What does that look like though?

It does not look like this:
Cereal and pop tarts or some other convenience item for breakfast....wait, toddler is screaming and I barely finished cleaning up the mess.  Hand them fruit chews and buy myself 10 mins of peace - wait, that wasn't even 30 secs.  Schlep along until lunch where more 'easy' food fills their plate.  Pray they take a nap (and they might if they are in enough of a sugar coma).  They wake up from nap and since you are in better spirits thanks to the down time you offer them ice cream, little snack cakes or some other treat.  This leads you head long into the arsenic hour of trying to prepare dinner with babies and toddlers hanging off of you left and right screaming and snacking (for your sanity) until you all sit down at the table for dinner and suddenly the constantly hungry, cranky kiddos are picky eaters, hmmmm.

It does not have to be that way.  A warning though, even under the best of nutrition, calmest households, order and beauty that would make a Pinterest board swoon - children are going to be cranky, and challenging on many days.  I want to encourage young Mom's to prep themselves for success and most of all to leave off this notion that if you do everything perfectly you will get perfectly behaved children.
Free will doesn't work that way.
Illness doesn't either.  While I can attest to a diet with little prepackaged and prepared foods (convenience foods) helps children ward off many illness's - they still get sick.  Illness is not a pass or fail in parenting.

I know from experience. 
 I was the Mom who purchased all the convenience items because I'm a sucker for good packaging and cute 'eye catchers'.  I justified the basket of 'goodies' and enjoying of ease because I was either pregnant or nursing for many, many years.  I was perpetuating a cycle of disaster.  I met a Mom while living in Virginia who had a large family and would literally bring a loaf of homemade bread, apples and a huge block of cheese for their breakfast after daily Mass if we were heading straight to our co-op.  The kids drank milk or water (mine always had some cute little juice box).  I was intrigued.  These kids almost never got sick, all glowed with health, and also didn't seem to be prone to the melt downs my boys were having on an almost constant basis.  
I learned quite a bit from this Mom by simply observing, she was from a large family and had learned many good habits about raising children.  One thing she passed on to me was that convenience foods do not buy you time, they buy you trouble.  Those fruit by the foot - buy them apples instead.   Cute little boxes of raisins - buy a canister of raisins/craisins and teach them to share and divide.  Corn dogs/chicken nuggets/fish sticks/ boxed mac & cheese - her kids really had no idea how often other families ate this stuff.  She fed REAL food all the time and insisted on LOTS of outdoor play and work.
I began to switch our diet and my kids learned to let go of thinking everything should come served in an individual style container.  It was a revelation to me.  My mornings went (over time) to the first version I shared to this:

Wake up and prepare scrambled eggs, sausage, and grits or steel cut oats or some other protein & fruit strong breakfast.  After all my kids were over 5, I let go of serving a morning snack.  Lunch consists of leftovers from dinner, or soup & sandwiches or a big hearty salad loaded with protein.  Just read through my recipe links to see how I feed them.  Afternoon snacks are more often than not cheese and crackers, veggies with homemade buttermilk dressing,  Take one day to prep many days worth of vegetables.  Go ahead and get all the fruit washed and ready to go.  It isn't that we don't enjoy treats, but they are few and far between.   Dinner is very often prepared at breakfast and placed in the crockpot.  I worked hard to reduce the difficult moments between the hours of 4 pm and bedtime.  The whiny, cranky, frazzled kids and worn out Mom all did much better when the real food and keeping us all well fed and hydrated became my focus.  

As to well rested.  
Do not ever give up nap time!
Guess what, my oldest is about to turn 22 (in 3 days) and my youngest is 7 - we still have quiet time after lunch EVERY.SINGLE.DAY that we are home.  The kids actually would sleep up until age 4 with a few stinkers who didn't think they needed it (but still had to stay in their room quietly).  Around the age of 12, my older kids came to look forward to this down time every day.  No electronics are allowed.  I set the timer, kids go to their beds (except the adult children) and read or rest or draw.  Everyone is quiet.  It is renewing to the whole family.

Bedtime is also a big deal around our home and always has been.  I read a study in my pre-internet parenting days (the early 90's) about how little sleep we get here in America and how it is affecting our health and our children.  When Pete and I had young children we craved that time in the evenings to have for each other.  We stuck strong to the whole 8 pm bedtime.  Once older, they boys got to stay up until 10 pm.  Unless it is a weekend or special occasion, this house shuts down at 10 pm.  I have adult children living at home right now, I do not insist on quiet time or bed time only that they respect what is happening in the house.  They may still be up at 11 pm, but they are quiet and do not wake anyone up.  Since the internet shuts down when Pete and I go to bed, they are usually up reading.
Small children need lots of rest to be at their best, but so do teenagers!!!!  Teens are growing at such a rapid rate and have so many changes taking place within them, adequate sleep is imperative.  I honestly believe that many a surly teenager would be less surly if they were not exhausted too.  Just a thought!

Trust me, well fed and well rested will help you take your family from this stage of the game
to this one, 

with less stress and better attitudes all around!

*a disclaimer - I came to understand the concept of well fed and well rested because I've truly done everything backwards or wrong first.  My poor family.  I've been blessed by learning a lot from older, wiser Mom's who let me ask, observe, and learn.*

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Snack Ideas for Growing Boys

*Norman Rockwell*

I have 8 boys, and feeding them has been such a learning experience for me.  I'm going to also do a post on meals, but since boys (especially teenage boys) tend to be hungry ALL.THE.Time, I wanted to focus on snacks first.
Despite the fact that my boys are always hungry, I do not allow grazing at our house.  I think set snack times are a better idea than constantly grazing, at least for our family.  I could go into this, but I think for now I'll just focus on the snacks.  I do my best to make sure most of the snacks are good for sustaining boys for several hours.  Sugar, just causes the kids to get cranky and then to be starving within the hour.  I learned that the snacks I've shared below really do help them feel full, balance that blood sugar, and provides them the fuel they need until meal time.

*I buy DOZENS of eggs.
Boiled eggs are a staple around here.  Loaded with protein, they really fill up a hungry boys stomach and they are not expensive.  *A tip for getting the peel off eggs easily.  I always boil with 2 tsp of baking soda plus a dash of salt in the water.  When I store the boiled eggs in the refrigerator, we always run the egg under tap water to sort of 'shock' the shell into loosening for easy peeling.  If we take them on picnics, I do this before I pack them.  They almost always peel easily.

*I buy bulk carrots, I keep 3 or more peelers at the ready.
Sometimes I let them peel their own, some boys just wash the carrot and eat it without peeling.  Sometimes I not only peel them, but I also cut them into sticks.  

*Celery in bulk, peanut butter too.  

*Apples, lots and lots of apples.

*Popcorn, I purchase a 50 lb. bag of popcorn once a year.  When you break it down, the cost per pound is less than a dollar.  We air pop it and also pop it on the stove.  They love this as a snack.

*Hummus, with veggies, or with pita chips

*Pumpkin Bread

*Banana Bread

~all the quick breads & blondies - I will add flax flour and use half whole wheat when I want to bulk it up.  

*Granola - sometimes I make this with more honey and make granola bars, other times I let them pour almond milk or dairy milk over this.  (this is one of the more 'sweet' of the snacks)

*Large bags or buckets of peanuts or sunflower seeds.  They especially love this in the months where they can be outside and just toss the shells into the yard.

*I generally have large bags of grapefruit or oranges, clementines etc... Citrus does NOT fill them up, even with all that fiber.  When we have oranges, it is usually accompanied with something substantial, like cheese.

*String cheese is fun, but buy large blocks of cheese.  It is cheaper, and the slices can be thick to give them a substantial portion. (I do also buy string cheese every once in a while as a treat)

*We also have peanut butter sandwiches or turkey sandwiches for after school snacks when I know dinner is going to be late.

A note on bread - buy the WHOLE WHEAT or WHOLE GRAIN, this sustains growing boys much, much longer!  Ezekiel bread is even better, but who can afford to spend over $5.00 a loaf regularly.

I just typed this out quickly, without putting too much thought into it.  I know as I remember other snacks I'll edit the post.  Please feel free to add ideas in the comments too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Works For Us - Illness & Mothercare

*No one is sick right now, this photo is from last May*

Cold and Flu season are upon us and I've noticed that some of my blogging friends with lots of little ones are sharing that they are dealing with this illness or that flu bug and it sure brings back memories of when I had 6 kids under the age of 8 or 9 kids under the age of  14.  An illness could linger forever as it passed from one family member to the next and I often felt that a virus stayed with us long enough to mutate so that we could catch the new strain all over again.  No kidding, I started to believe it with how often we seemed to get sick.  I did find out at one of our homes we had some water issues which required a better light/purification treatment but that is not my focus of today's post.  It is relevant in some ways though, because I've known other families to be constantly ill and to find out later their water source was the root problem.

I learned a few tricks that 'work for us' when our kids were very young.  You may already know these, but I tend to find things about by doing them wrong  a few times and in that spirit I am happy to share what I learned along my way.

*Air quality is important.  If your family has been battling one illness after another think about changing the air filter more often than required.  We started changing the air filter whenever a stomach virus or Strep came into our home.  Our daughter shows zero signs of Strep until she breaks out in a Scarlet Fever rash so if one of our kids tests positive for Strep, we get her tested too.  We treat them with antibiotics and then we change the air filter.  When a stomach bug has run its course through the family, we change the air filter. 

-Open a window in the house (rotating which window) for about 30 mins a day no matter what season.  In today's energy efficient homes, the air exchange doesn't happen.  Air exchange brings in fresh air, just by opening the windows you can change the air quality and help keep illness from hanging out longer than welcome (is it ever really welcome).  Trust me, this works!

*Try to relax about the antibacterial gel, soap, no germs allowed craze.  Kids are messy, and getting a little dirt, snot, spit or whatever isn't going to hurt them.  In fact it helps build their immune system.  I'm the first to encourage you to give your children frequent baths or showers, simply because it helps them feel better when they are sick or cranky.  I don't want to give the wrong impression that I think kids should run around filthy. In our current culture it would seem that some poor mom's are under the impression that if their child gets sick, they have failed to protect them from germs - not true!  Kids get sick, it s a reality and not a parenting failure.  Relax if you can regarding the germs, let them be kids and follow their instincts to explore the world and all the dirt in it!

*Keep a 'Sick Pantry'
 I always (during this season) try to have on hand ginger ale, chicken broth, assorted medicines or homeopathic remedies for fevers & coughs, Vic's Salve, cough drops, popscicles, and assorted herb teas.  It helps me not be stressed but better at the TLC when I don't have to fret about getting to the store for these items, just keep them on hand.  Illness never comes when it is convenient and rarely with warning.

*When a stomach bug hits, DO NOT GO TO BED WITH CLOTHES IN THE WASHER OR DRYER!  There is nothing worse than having to change sheets in the middle of the night and needing that washer (just to get rid of the smell if nothing else) but it is full of wet laundry and the dryer is full of unfolded clothes.  I don't know about you but night time parenting is not my strong point.  Multiple kids throwing up on multiple nights can just about put me over the edge of sanity, and this THIS is when they need you the most.  Be pro-active and set yourself up for better mothering by just emptying the washer and dryer so when the inevitable happens and one throws up and cries, then wakes up another one, and they cry and then it is like dominoes and your trying SO hard not to cry too.  It is small, but knowing you can shove that first set of bedding in the washer helps and then moving it to an empty dryer is a blessing.  You will be so thankful you did this, and your tired self will be praising for this small act of kindness to yourself in the long night of sick babies.  

*Nap when they do, mandatory quiet time is a must when the house is sick.  It will revive you, a power nap is not to be dismissed.  Do not think that plugging in a video while you catch a few on the couch will actually help.  Be the boss, tell them it is quiet time for 1 hour.  Put the liveliest down to nap with you.  Our rule is this:  You do not have to sleep, you can read or play quietly in your room.  You just must be quiet.  If you are not quiet, then you must stay down for 2 hours.  Once the kids realize, a fresher and more cheerful Mommy emerges from this respite, they get with the program.  I would often promise a special treat for after naps.  When ill, this could be when I bring out the Rainbow Jello
(when you have older kids adjust accordingly, they don't mind Mom taking a nap and staying quiet because it gives them a break too while the littler ones rest)

I hope these tips help, it has sure made the difference between my drowning in illness as opposed to making through it in a way that preserved all our sanity as well as family bonding.  I truly believe it is in these most stressful times (like illness) when very young children have their hearts knit to yours, to their family in such a way that it helps carry you through the more difficult years ahead.  We all fail, we all have our moments of 'just can't take it anymore' and fall apart even with the best strategies, but I do believe these proactive measures keep those moments fewer and farther away.  I know they helped me get closer to being the kind of Mother I want to be rather than the victim of the kind of Mother I hate to be, stressed, worn out, feeling like a failure.  I've learned a little along this parenting journey of 21 years and am happy to know now, that be being proactive, I helped my family feel better faster and didn't lose my mind or their hearts in the process.
*edited to add, please see comments for even more great ideas!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Rainbow Jello

I had posted this tutorial on my previous blog.  With the cold/flu season upon us I decided to share this again.  My kids love it when I make this for them, and usually it only gets made when someone is sick.  I leave off the whipped cream or fix a little ramekin just for the sick child sans whipped cream.  This is sooo easy, and  inexpensive to make (like most of my recipes).  It takes a few steps and some time but very worth it when a sick child perks up at the sight of it.
Here is a photo of the end result, I generally buy up Jello when it is on sale and then let the kids select the flavors.  This one had berry blue, cherry, lime, and strawberry.

I always have 2 liquid measuring cups.  One is for mixing and one is for measuring.

I allow the flavor to cool a long time (about 30 minutes) before I add it to the 9 x 13 inch dish holding the other flavors.  It goes like this:  Mix up first flavor, pour in dish, immediately mix up second flavor and let it cool on counter while the first flavor is setting in fridge.  I use 2 cups hot water for this and no more.  The jello is more the consistency of jigglers.

When I add each flavor I pour it over a spoon, the helps to keep a hole from forming and I move the spoon over the dish as I pour so that it is even.

Here is the little ramekin I usually make up several of these as I go - they set faster and the kids get to enjoy their treat sooner.  I save the big dish for a late afternoon treat or dessert if I topped it with whipped cream.

Having a ready list of ingredients for this time of year truly helps you be prepared.  I always stock my pantry and fridge with chicken broth, ginger-ale, saltines, jello and make sure I have children's tylenol and ibuprofen on hand (not to mention some Popsicle or Luigi's frozen ice treats).  Our first 6 kids were born in 8 years, and we lived far away from family.  Kids never get sick at a convenient time, so I learned to keep these items on hand.  Rainbow Jello was born out of necessity, it brightens up a sick child's day so easily.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

St. Teresa of Avila - Chicken Stew With Lighter than Air Dumplings

Here I go again, being a Feast Day Recipe Hack.  
St. Teresa of Avila's Feast Day was October 15th
I know she was brilliant, a Doctor of the Church, but I strongly suspect she had as sense of humor.  When I read some of her quotes and stories I am inspired, and usually a few of them spark some imaginative ideas among our children about her humility allowing her to laugh at herself (sometimes, I know she also begged for no more public favors).  I might be wrong, but I love the thought that she did have a sense of humor so and with that in mind I decided to hack my Chicken Stew with Dumplings into a recipe just for her.  The dumplings are very light and the stew is hearty, so why not - think about it.

I begin by making stock.  Take a whole chicken, add chopped up veggies (celery, onions, carrots, garlic etc..) and boil on the stove with herbs (parsley, kosher salt, pepper, sage, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, celery salt)  I usually simmer this for several hours, then I place a colander on top of another pot and pour the stock through to catch all the veggies, the chicken and allowing the broth to be caught in the pan I intend to make the stew in.  I take out 2 cups of broth and set that aside.  I allow 1 cup to cool to add to the dumplings and I mix about 1/2 cup corn starch into the other cooled broth and mix until corn starch is completely dissolved and set aside to add a bit later.

Dumplings are pretty much biscuits with a few tweaks.  I take 2 cups flour, 4 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 cup shortening.  Mix dry ingredients first then cut in the shortening.  Once shortening is blended well make a well in the center and add 1 cup broth.  If you need more liquid, add milk but you don't want to dumplings too wet so mix well before adding anything.  Roll out dough and then take a pizza cutter and cut into squares. 
Now go back to the broth, turn the heat up to high medium and add chopped up carrots and frozen peas (sometimes I add corn too)  I always discard the veggies from stock and add fresh at this stage.  I also season the broth if it needs more.  This can be by your preference, but I generally add more salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning.  Add the corn starch blend you mixed up and stir it in good.
Once the broth is at a good rolling boil start dropping in the dumplings - DO NOT STIR!  I'm serious, don't stir it because it will break down your dumplings.  I use a wooden spoon to push them aside a bit to allow more to be added, but I never stir until the dumplings start to look like they are done.  They will first puff up and then start settling down.  I keep the lid on the pot at this stage and cook about 20 more minutes to allow the stew to thicken up.  When you do begin stirring, do so very gently.

Voila and yum!  This is my husbands most favorite meal!  It may be a lot of steps, but it is actually easy to make and all those steps are worth it because you end up with a very hearty stew full of flavor.

While we ate the meal we passed around text with St. Teresa of Avila quotes in it.  It is such a wonderful change to go from always instructing and teaching while your children are young to see those minds formed and adding to the discussion about a Saint.  Hearing how they understand a quote and what it means to them is a lesson for the parents as well.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Apple Butter

I was gifted a peck of apples last week.  It was like Christmas morning for me to be given those apples.  When we lived in Virginia, surrounded by Orchards and Vineyards we always enjoyed going Apple Picking.  I would put up Apple Sauce, Apple Pie Filing and our favorite Apple Butter.  We have Peach Orchards close enough to us that I need to make it a priority to go, I just haven't yet.  I think a lot of it has to do with the extreme heat when Peaches are ripe vs the cooler temps when it is time to pick apples - or just that I'm not making it a priority. There is always next year.

I've given away almost all my jars over the years.  When I went to pull them out to sterilize, I realized I was out so I improvised knowing we would eat this up quickly.  I knew if nothing sealed I could refrigerate it and tell those I gave some to refrigerate it as well.  I was right, my children inhaled 3 jars in 3 mornings.  As to the recipe, I have always used the one I found in a VERY old Thrift store find called Blue Ribbon Recipes/County Fair Winners.  It even recommends setting the pot on an asbestos mat, which I not being a true follower of recipes, but using them only as a guide, chose to ignore.  When the younger ones read the recipe and ask what asbestos is, it opens the door on some lively discussions and I love it when 'life' presents the opportunity for learning.

Apple Butter

1 peck apples, unpeeled (about 40)
4 cups water
10 cups sugar (I don't think I've ever used more than 6)
2 tsp. ground cloves
2 Tbs. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice

Wash, quarter, and cook apples with water (I always remove the core, I don't like pressing the seeds into the sieve).  Cover; let simmer slowly until tender.  Rub through coarse sieve.  Should be about 5 quarts pulp.  Add half as much sugar as pulp; add spices.  Simmer about 2 hours, stirring frequently as it will scorch easily.  When thickened, pour into hot sterilized jars; seal immediately.  The Apple Butter becomes stiff when cool.
I always water bath mine for about 20 minutes to ensure the jars seals and everything is sterile.

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