Archive | March, 2011

meeting the McGillicuddys…

31 Mar

Piled on the floor in front of the fireplace, the children each picked out their choice book. We went to the library yesterday and came home with a huge stack!

I had a different book in mind to highlight, but after reading today, I changed my mind. This book had us all giggling! It is called the Rattlebang Picnic by Margaret Mahy. It begins with the newlywed couple, Jack and sweet Marion McGillicuddy “talking things over seriously”. The best line is when Mr. McGillicuddy says, “We can afford either a wonderful, speedy car that never breaks down, or we can have lots of children. What a pity we can’t have both.”  (So True!)  I love the lively, happy pictures that are in the book!

I am looking forward to finding what other gems may be in that stack of books!

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menu planning

30 Mar

When I was little, I remember  watching my mom plan menus.  She would find two weeks worth of recipes that suited her, make her grocery list, and head to the store. She had a plan. If  she was not available to make dinner, she could confidently  assign one of us the job, knowing that the recipe and  ingredients were all set.

As my family has grown, I have tried to implement a version  of my mom’s plan.  She was gone at work all day; I homeschool  all day.  She had three children to feed; I  am presently  cooking for twelve.  My dad’s goal was for my mom’s recipes to  be on a computer in the kitchen (unheard of at the time); I  have countless  internet recipes at my fingertips! She needed a  system in place, so do I.  Her plan was for two weeks; mine is a  four week plan, repeating monthly.

Coming up with a months worth of recipes is time consuming  but well worth the effort. I found it helpful to do a different  theme for each night. For instance,  Monday: Italian, Tuesday: Mexican, Wednesday: Soup, Thursday: Something with Chicken, Friday: Homemade Pizza, Saturday: Extra Special Sandwiches, and Sunday: Special Company Meal. Then it was easy to find four or five different Italian recipes, and so on. Next I scheduled each recipe on my Google calendar, making sure that it was a reoccurring event, every 4th Monday. I found it helpful to photocopy each recipe, compiling them into one 3 ring notebook. By the time I had finished filling in each day of the week, I felt so accomplished! I no longer had to wonder what in the world I was going to make for dinner. I had a plan!

The next step is equally important.  I went through each recipe, recording and sorting all the ingredients (vegies, spices, dry goods, dairy…). Because this list is on the computer, it can easily be printed for duplicate copies.  Keeping a current list on the fridge makes it easy to highlight with a yellow pen when an ingredient runs low.  My husband does the grocery shopping (what a blessing), and I think he is blessed when I have a complete list ready for him!

Each night before bed, I like to check my calendar to see what is on the menu for the next day.  It just takes a minute and reminds me to pull some meat out of the freezer or to make sure I put some legumes in the crock pot to soak.

I am thankful for a mom that fed and taught me well! [Next key concept- family story- “Kids in the kitchen”]

Profound and lasting effects…

28 Mar


As I watered my growing seedlings today, I enjoyed listening to the kids practice their reading out loud. My daughter patiently listened to her two younger siblings taking turns reading alternating pages.  They both are beginner readers and need frequent helps. What really got my attention though, was when I heard one of the readers saying, “blah, blah, blah,” in a loud voice while covering up his ears! He definitely did not want to hear his sisters advice!

At every age, advice is hard to take.  It doesn’t matter if it is sibling to sibling, parent to child, husband to wife… a gracious response is not natural. Like many things in life, it takes a conscious effort to be deliberate. We can instruct the children to receive advice. We can discuss the consequences. However, what speaks loudest of all, is seeing it in action.

Probably the hardest area for a  married couple to receive even constructive criticism, is from each other.  As a wife, my goal is to listen attentively, wanting to embrace what is being said.  Visibly taking the time to consider and apply advice goes a long way, especially in the example we set for the listening ears around us. This can be everyone’s goal, but as a wife and mom, I have an imperative responsibly in this area!

I see a mirror image of myself, as I observe my children’s respect (or lack there of)  of their father. When  a growing disrespect is displayed, whether in unkind comments or simply through facial expression, I know it is time for a little self evaluation. My children watch me. They notice if I roll my eyes, shrugging off my husband’s comments. Conversely,  if I receive his counsel and even thank him for sharing it with me, they take note. The effects are profound and lasting, benefiting not only our children, but our marriage!

After attending to the flair up during the reading process, my son stopped and listened to his sister’s counsel. I was so pleased to hear my daughter enthusiastically affirm her younger siblings, “Thanks for reading with me, you did a good job!”

28 Mar


It is  a beautiful sunny day! Don’t take it for granted, who knows what tomorrow what might bring.  There’s so much to be done, so much already accomplished…   Whatever your circumstances are today, don’t forget to smile. Take time to play with your precious children and find a way to bless your husband!

Don’t Wait. Start Today.

25 Mar

If I could pass on only one practical help for parents of toddlers, without a doubt, this would be it. Learn this concept, practice it daily, and it will repeatedly be a life saver for you!

It was an evening wedding. My son and his beautiful bride had planned, prepared, and anticipated  this moment for some time. The day had been full of preparations, excitement, and much visiting with friends and family.   By the time we were through the wedding and on to the reception, it was 8:00, with a full evening still ahead. It was an exciting night for all of us, but through the eyes of a 2 and 4 year old, it may have been a bit overwhelming. I couldn’t have been more thankful that I had remembered to bring a blanket. After the children were fed and had partied enough, we simply found a corner and laid them down. Almost like magic, they were soon asleep!

Why did this work? Is it because my children are perfect? Of course! Actually…. No! This will work for any child whose parent will take the time to enforce it (and- practice, practice, practice). Yes, it does take time.

Blankie Time:

I like to begin this training at around 9-12 months old.

– Pick a blanket that will become known as the “Blankie time” blanket. Don’t use it  for anything else, reserving it for this purpose alone. Create a positive, loving attitude about this blanket. I know this may sound silly, but it changes the response if it is used for punishment.  This is a special time!

-I usually begin by sitting with the child on my lap on top of the blanket. Setting a timer is helpful way to set the boundaries so the child doesn’t feel like this process is going to last forever. Five minutes is probably a good place to begin for the first few times.  Reading a book together or playing with a small toy is fine, but the child should learn to be completely still and silent for that time period. When the timer rings,  praise the child, always speaking with a positive attitude about the experience. This is so fun!

-After a few a days of this process (which should be everyday), it is time for you to move off the blanket and begin to require the child to remain there alone. Stay very close by, but not on the blanket. Most likely the child will attempt to leave the blanket, but do not allow him to. Be gentle but very firm. This point is crucial – do not give up! If you give even a little on this, your child will notice and use it to his advantage. Again, this takes a practice. The good news is that while your child is learning this simple concept, you are learning much patience!

-The next step is to start increasing the minutes on the timer. Try adding 5 minutes at a time. This is one of the best lessons that you can use to teach your child self control.

-As the child gets a little older and understands the “blankie time” concept, have fun keeping it interesting.  At times the child might be required to have nothing, learning to patiently sit still and  be quiet. Other times a small stack of books or puzzles, maybe a basket of little cars and trucks might be a special treat. The important thing is to keep it simple and for the child to learn to be content with only what is on the blanket.

[Although it will take time to teach this to your little one, the pay off is huge] …the long anticipated night of the wedding came and went. I am so thankful, as my children peacefully slept in the midst of a noisy crowd, I was able to fully enjoy the evening.

All the Places to Love

24 Mar

Years ago my son Eli received a book for his birthday from his grandparents. They had chosen this book partly because Eli’s name was in the story. Some books are read once or twice and set aside, while others become loved and worn. All the Places To Love, by Patricia MacLachlan, has become one of our family favorites.

The story provides a window into the simple pleasures of a growing family in a rural setting. The author draws the reader into the sights, sounds, and smells of life on their small farm; “Where else, he says, can the soft sound of cows chewing make all the difference in the world?” Mike Wimmer, the illustrator,  does a wonderful job portraying the gentle loving relationship between the young son, Eli, his new baby sister, and his three generation family.

As the birth of our last child grew near, and I repeatedly read this story to the children; I began to love the names. Now we have two treasured copies of this book, one for each of the children sharing the sibling’s names. Of course you would have to read the book to know our dear little daughter’s name…

Snuggling with a story…

24 Mar

One of our essential goals, as we are raising our children, is to nurture their love for reading.  Mark enjoys reading longer books to the kids in the evening. Often we have at least a half hour of quiet individual reading time in the afternoon. My personal favorite story time is right before naps. Often I end up with cuddlers snuggling in on each side of me and one or two on my lap.

My hope is to regularly share some of our favorite children’s books with you. I would love to hear about your favorites as well. As you think of them, please take the time to comment and share them with the rest of us!