Browsing Category: mother’s sanity

Rainy Day Survival Tips

It is raining, reader.

The rain began here yesterday as we were leaving a local restaurant after Sunday brunch.

As Miss E. attempted to navigate the cold, hard rain while wearing shoes that mysteriously became too big overnight, she cried “Don’t get my dress wet!” to the drops that fell from the sky.

That sweet little girl, already understanding  how some rain can upset a girl’s day.

The rain has continued to fall all night long and is predicted to be with us until tomorrow morning. Rainy days can be both a blessing and curse to the stay-at-home mommy. They allow us a chance to stay home and enjoy our sweet babies. Rainy days also allow us a chance to stay home and be driven crazy by our sweet babies who are being driven crazy by the confinement of an indoor space.

Bless all of our hearts.

Having a plan for a rainy day cuts down on the craziness, the whining and the fighting. (Notice I said “cuts down.” I have no cure to completely eliminate the craziness, the whining and the fighting.). Below are some fun activities and ideas for surviving a rainy day at home with young children.

  • Host a birthday party. This is a Mommy  trick that works every time. Have children select a favorite stuffed animal or doll and throw a birthday party for it. Children can make invitations, set out decorations and help bake a tasty treat. This activity is also a great way to make use of those random leftover party supplies sitting around the house.

 

  • Create an indoor zoo. My children did this activity back during Snowmaggedon 2011 and loved it. Haul out all the stuff animals and have children arrange a zoo. Create zoo keeper vests out of old paper bags. Teach children how to classify animals and set up various exhibits. Once the zoo is established, Mom and Dad can be the visitors and be taken on a tour by their lovely little zoo keepers.

 

  • Bake a treat for someone special. I love to bake, but hate having the temptation of cookies sitting around the house. Baking for someone else gets kids in the kitchen and the yummy food out of the house. Baking for others also teaches children about hospitality and sharing with others.

 

  • Read a good book out loud. Currently the children and I are reading Peter Pan together, after finishing up Around the World in Eighty Days last week. Today is the perfect day to snuggle up on the couch and read a few chapters together.

 

  • Encourage a time of independent play. Children need to learn to play alone in a room by themselves. Have a set time when everyone plays quietly in their rooms. This gives mom a break and teaches independent play skills. Remember, it is OKAY for kids to be bored. Boredom can really ignite one’s imagination when given the chance.

  • Measure the house. I love this activity and my children are about to take part in it right now. One can also Count the House, an activity that we did a few months ago (and might repeat depending on how long today starts to seem!).

 

  • Make a productive craft. Mother’s Day and Teacher Appreciation Week are all upon us. Take a moment to have kids craft something with purpose. I love these Tin Can Treats. As for our house, this morning we are working on decorations for Miss E.’s upcoming birthday party.

 

  • Map the Neighborhood. Haul out some large craft paper or even unused wrapping paper and help kids draw a map of your neighborhood, being sure to include fun landmarks like one’s house, the local park and important roads. Once the map is complete, use small toys and cars on the map to create an interactive experience.

Embrace the rain today and spend time with your kids. Teach them something, provide a quiet moment for them and do something productive for others. Remember that God not only gives us a day of rain to nourish the earth but to nourish our own spirits as well.

Making Use of the Public Library

The public library is my friend.

Despite the fact that I once harbored a book from a library in the bottom of my closet during the majority of my childhood, I am a frequent patron of our local public library. Once the husband and I married and settled into suburbia, USA we quickly got our own library cards. We routinely visited the library after work in search of fun and exciting reads.

The moment my first born could be stuffed quietly into a stroller, he was introduced to the library. There were many times that I hurried through the aisles, attempting to find a book and pacify a fussy baby all at one time. The boy came to love the library as well. By the time his sister came along, that love of the library ran deep. We often tell the story of the day I loaded both kids into the car and set out to return a few books. Not wanting to do the whole unloading/loading process of a baby and a very young toddler, I opted to merely return our books through the drive through window.

Once it became painstakingly clear to a particular not-quite-two year old little boy riding in the backseat that we were not actually going inside the doors of the library, he wailed “LI-LARRY!!!” all the way home.

Bless his sweet little book-loving heart.

These days the library is a standard errand. Now that we have three readers and an emergent reader living in casa de phillips, I often swing by the library at least twice a week. Sometimes these visits are long, drawn out affairs with everyone taking the time to enjoy the many facets of the library. Other times I am simply dashing in to return a stack of books in exchange for a new stack of books.

Like I said, the public library is my friend.

If you think the public library is simply home to a few old dusty books circa 1974, think again. Libraries are staying true to the times, keeping up with popular trends and staying in touch with the latest technologies. Below are some ways that today’s family can make use of the public library.

Books, Books, and More Books

Obviously, a public library is home to books. I find an abundance of books in the shelves of my library. Often times, I check out popular online book sites, such as Amazon, following trends for my areas of interest. I then scoot over to my library’s website to see if they have the same titles waiting for me on their shelves (which they often do). I am able to read my way through a variety of books for free. My children have both discovered new and exciting books in the vast children’s area of our library. As their reading levels have developed, they are able to experiment with a variety of leveled reading books. Again, for free! Isaac is a fast reader and is currently plowing through several series of books. The library is a great way to encourage a love of reading in children by providing a large quantity of books for children to explore and enjoy. (Did I mention that it is free?)

Activities

Most public libraries offer more than just books and the preschool story hour. They offer a variety of services and activities for citizens of a community. From classes on parenting to seminars on finances to family craft night and tween movie time, libraries are stepping up as a place for those in the community to come and interact. Check out the local library’s website to see if they offer clubs for kids and adults, weekend activities, seminars and events. One might be surprised to see that the library is a hot spot of family fun.

Key to the city’s history

Casa de phillips is currently located in a city rich with history. The husband and I became very interested in our town’s history upon moving here. Our library is active in preserving this history and in housing resources that help patrons learn more about our fair city. Often times it is easy to take the presence of one’s town for granted. However, all of our towns and cities have a tale of origin and founding fathers who decided to settle in a particular area for a particular reason. Utilize the public library to learn more  about the place where you live.

Tool for teaching children

Everyone remembers learning about the card catalog system in grade school. For most, it was boring and dull to learn what random fact was placed where on a small manila card that was stuffed into an old wooden drawer. The library can be a place to teach more than the card catalog system to children.

 Use the library to teach manners. The library is a great place to teach children how to be quiet, sit still and pay attention. The basic rule of a library is that one must be quiet when inside. Teach children this rule from the very beginning. Another basic rule of a library is that one must sit and listen when a story is being read. When they were younger, my children were both removed from story time on more than a few occasions because they simply could not sit still and listen. However, we kept trying and trying until they eventually learned to sit and listen. We started this training young and the hard work has paid off.

Use the library to teach responsibility. Although library books are free, they come with a price tag. Usually an expensive price tag. A great way to teach children to be responsible with belongings is to use library books as a teaching tool. Teach kids that library books are simply borrowed and must be treated gently and returned in a timely manner. And never, ever let them sit on the bottom of one’s closet for three years  (gulp).

Use the library to teach computer skills.Most libraries are equipped with a computer area. Our library has one specifically for children. It was on these computers that I taught both my children how to navigate a computer mouse and keyboard around basic educational games. We have made trips to the library just so the children can use the computers. Take advantage of the technology a public library provides and share it with your children.

Use the library to teach the Dewy Decimal System. Although the wooden card catalog is obsolete ( I would LOVE to have one for my home), the Dewey Decimal System is still alive. I recently have begun teaching my oldest the basics of this system and how to use it to find books of interest. Children need to understand that books are placed on shelves for a reason. This allows them to find books on their own and to understand why the librarian glares at them when they randomly pull books off the shelves and then stuff  them into empty spaces.

The public library is an excellent resource in one’s community. Take the time and make it a friend of yours as well.

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Just for fun, here is an interesting story about something the New York Public Library did to inspire their patrons to look at books differently.

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Yes, the pictures in this post are books checked out just today. We check out about 20-30 books at a time. Did I mention they are FREE???

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How does your family use the public library?

Sleep for the (not so) weary

As a new mom, I remember when the whole nap thing came together.

I had just read and implemented the sleep bible. I had discovered the miracle blanket. I had a child who was (finally) eating on a regular basis.

My reward for the long weeks I put into sleep training a child: Nap Time.

I believe the heavens open and the angels sing when a child naps, because it is such a glorious thing.

I did the same sleep training with my second child and again was rewarded. Having two children two and under was a challenge in that first year of Miss E.’s life but every day I was given a couple of hours of complete, blissful quiet.

Now the children are 5 1/2 and almost 4 years old. Many of their friends bid farewell to naps years ago. However, we are still hanging on to this sacred time of the day. Do they sleep during this time? Rarely. Do they pop in and out of their rooms with urgent questions? Frequently.

For example, it is currently nap time/quiet time here at casa de phillips. We are closing in on the final stretch. Both children have had some sort of emergency during the past hour, one’s emergency having to do with a shortage of Kleenex in the bathroom while the other’s emergency had to do with the fact he could not find a list he had made three weeks ago. Both children have complained of terribly empty stomachs that can only be remedied by a cold glass of chocolate milk and some teddy grahams (which happens to be today’s snack….which will be served after nap time ends). Both have reported strange noises coming from downstairs (the sound of the vacuum scooping up the crumbs from lunch). Both have questioned what their sibling is doing during nap time today.

Obviously, gone are the days of the quiet couple of hours known as nap time.

Despite the interruptions, we are hanging on to this portion of our day. Typically, every day we rest between 1 and 3pm. There are rules in place during this time (one might not know that on such a day as this with the incessant opening and closing of bedroom doors and little faces peeking from behind door frames). Some days, the children sleep yet most days they do not. They often read in their beds. Evelyn sits and sings songs to her stuffed animal collection. Isaac is currently writing a series of books. They often entertain themselves quietly in their bedrooms  for these two hours each day.

As for me, I take a small portion of this time to read a book or catch a bit of shuteye myself. I also clean, tackle my to-do list, blog, send emails, make phone calls, start supper, collect my sanity and do a host of other things before the clock strikes 3:00.

My question today is how do you navigate nap time in your house? Do you make older kids have quiet time in their rooms each afternoon or is a free-for-all for the entire day?  Do you have younger kids that still nap, thus allowing you a little bit of a break from your role as parent? Do you nap and let the children run wild?

Let me know, readers.

In the meantime, I am going down to the laundry room to hide from my “napping” children who want to inform me that for some reason they  “just can’t sleep.”

Spend Spring Break in Dallas/Fort Worth…and keep your pennies in the bank

Spring Break 2011 is here, my friend.

In times when gas prices are reaching astonishing highs and airlines are charging passengers per piece of luggage (good-bye, suitcase dedicated solely to shoes); dreams of a spring vacation to somewhere exotic and sunny are quickly fading. Before all hope of having a fun and exciting spring break is lost, take a look around at the Dallas /Fort Worth area. Home to thousands of family-friendly attractions, DFW is a great place for a family to spend their Spring Break.

Knowing it is just as easy to break the bank on a vacation at home (When will we ever get over using the tired word “Staycation”?) as it is laying on a tropical beach, finding local, affordable fun is a must for the budget-conscious family. Below are  two great fun-filled days of budget-friendly activities in the Dallas Fort Worth Area.

Unpack your bags, give your bank account a rest and load up the kids for some fun at home. Texas-style.

Dallas

There is a reason ol JR, Bobby, and Pam took residence in Dallas: Big D is home to a plethora of fun adventures. Although JR likely never had to check the family budget before taking out Sue Ellen and the boys, these days Dallas residents know the Dallas places to play that are both family-friendly and kind to the wallet.

Dallas Museum of Art

The Dallas Museum of Art is welcoming Spring Breakers by giving half-price admission and ½ price parking to all their guests the week of March 14-18th (After 5pm). The DMA is hosting “Spring Break Family Experiences”, four fun-filled days of activities including a chance to craft with wire in the Space Bar, an opportunity to create a Stickley-inspired photo shoot, story times, interactive gallery tours, and family movie time. Art museums are not merely for the old and educated. The Dallas Museum of Art makes the museum-going experience fun and interactive for guests of all ages.

Dallas Farmers Market

Nothing is more evident of spring’s arrival than a visit to the famous Dallas Farmer’s Market. The Dallas Farmers Market is one of the largest public markets of its nature in the country. It offers a wide variety of locally grown produce, specialty foods, and landscaping materials such as shrubs and flowers. Introducing children to an abundant selection of fresh produce (farmers often pass out complimentary pieces of fruits and vegetables to sample) is a great way to expand their palate. The Dallas market is open seven days a week, 362 days a year. Check out the market’s website for a list of produce that is currently in season and to learn more about events and classes hosted there. The best thing about visiting the Dallas Farmers Market is that children might be inspired to try a new fruit or vegetable…perhaps even something green and leafy.

McKinney Avenue Trolley

Ride the rails this Spring Break on the McKinney Avenue Trolley.The M-Line trolleys run 365 days a year, from 7:00am to 10:00pm during the week. The best part of this authentic street care experience…it is FREE. Spend the day in Uptown shopping, dining and enjoying a free ride on the McKinney Avenue Trolley. Children will be intrigued by the seats that can change direction with a flip of (strong) hand and watch passengers pull the stop cord to let the conductor know the trolley has reached their stop. Hint: The Dallas Museum of Art is at one end of the trolley stop. Pair a trip to the DMA with a ride on the McKinney Avenue Trolley for a day filled with adventure.

Farmers Branch Historical Park

Step back into the late 1800’s and walk through buildings reminiscent of days gone by at the Farmers Branch Historical Park. While at this park, families will enjoy visiting a school house from 1905, a railroad depot built in 1877 and the home of the former first mayor of Farmers Branch. Children can walk through a recreated Texaco Service Station from the 1930’s and stop in and shop at an interactive 1920’s General Store. Admission to the park is free, but donations are always welcome and greatly appreciated.

Heritage Farmstead Museum

When people think of Plano, they rarely of a farmstead tucked into this sprawling suburb. However the Heritage Farmstead Museum is an old-fashioned farm right in the middle of this busy Dallas suburb. This Spring Break, the Heritage Farmstead Museum is hosting a Staycation at the Farm (March 15 -18). Charging only a $2 admission price per person, this outdoor museum is hosting four fun-filled days of self-guided tours around their turn-of-the century farm. Visitors can play historic games, visit craft stations, and enjoy petting farm animals.  Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day at this living historical farm.

Fort Worth

Home to more than cows and beautiful sunsets, Fort Worth is a hot-spot of family-friendly fun that is easy on the budget. Toss on some boats, grab a cowboy hat and step into the friendly culture of Fort Worth.

Amon Carter Museum

The Amon Carter Museumis set in the heart of Fort Worth and is devoted entirely to American Art. During the week of March 15-18, the Amon Carter Museum is hosting “Family Fun Week.” Each of the four days during this series has a different theme, ranging from an inside look at the wild west to an exploration of photography. The family programs run from 10:30am to Noon, Tuesday through Friday. Admission is free.

Fort Worth Botanical Gardens

Spring is evident among the eight gardens that comprise the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens. Spend a sunny morning walking through the gardens’ grounds, examining a variety of roses in the Rose Garden or taking in the view from above as one wonders along the Texas Native Forest Boardwalk. The Gardens are open from 8:00am to dusk. Admission to parts of the Gardens is free, while entrance into the Conservatory costs just one dollar. Be sure to bring a camera, as there are many photo opportunities to be had at the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens.

Forest Park Miniature Railroad

Spend time riding the rails…miniature rails. The Forest Park Miniature Railroad is a Fort Worth staple when it comes to children’s entertainment. Children young and old will enjoy this 45 minute train ride, which takes passengers through the scenic Trinity Park and over six different bridges (including a 350 foot girder bridge that will make moms hold on a little tighter to their little ones and make kids squeal with glee). Trains run on the hour, starting at 11:00am until dusk. Adults are $3, while children are $2.50.

Fort Worth Herd

When tourists think of Fort Worth, they often think of cowboys and ranch hands. The Fort Worth Stockyards is the best place for tourists and locals to get their cowboy fix. Daily visitors to the Stockyards can witness the Fort Worth Herd, a scene of cows, horses and cowboys all coming down the brick-paved streets. Cattle-herds are not common sites these days, especially in the middle of a city, which makes this fun show a great way to spend a part of one’s afternoon. Catch the Herd at 11:30am and 4pm daily. Arrive early to grab a great spot to witness all the action.

Kimbell Art Museum

Fort Worth has its own share of museums, one of those being the Kimbell Art Museum. From March 15-18, the Kimbell is hosting their Spring Break Art Extravaganza.  This free event (*Special Exhibits do require an admission fee.) is packed full of crafts, mini art tours and family friendly films. Stop by the Kimbell while out and about in Fort Worth from 10am -3pm and experience a slice of art with the family….for free!

The Mommy To-Do List

At the beginning of each week, I sit down and make my to-do list for the upcoming seven days.

Before you roll your eyes and utter “whatever”, please know that my list often times looks a lot like this:

MONDAY:

  • Call __________ about appointments
  • Clean Bathrooms
  • Vacuum
  • Organize mud room closet
  • Schedule play dates
  • Paint (insert name of random piece of furniture that resides in my garage here)
  • Find new crafts for kids
  • Go to the library
  • Wash sheets
  • Locate interesting, new, absolutely delicious recipes for supper
  • Scrub baseboards
  • Put away laundry

 

As the week, progresses the list of needed “to-do” activities seem to diminish with the days. In fact, Friday’s list usually is quite sparse and should read:

FRIDAY:

  • Attempt to survive.

 

Monday I am ready to tackle the world, tying on my Super Mommy cape and whirling around the house. By week’s end, reality has set in and I realize that once again the carpet has yet to be vacuumed and I move “Paint furniture” onto the upcoming week’s list (For the 17th week in a row). I do believe in the power and necessityof a to-do list. I want to be a productive member of society and of my household and manage to accomplish something with my time. I also know all to well that the To-Do List can become a visible sign of all that was not accomplished in one day, reminding us of everything that we have yet to do as the sun is rapidly setting rather than telling us of all the things we did accomplish.

The Mommy To-Do list, although crammed full of important tasks as “Bleach Kitchen Sink” and “Wash Family’s Underwear”, is often missing the crucial tasks that occur every day. When does a mommy actually take the time to write down the things that were accomplished during a day. Perhaps a real mommy to-do list should resemble something a bit more like this:

MONDAY:

  • Get children up.
  • Answer approximately 284 questions, ranging in spectrum from “Why do we eat breakfast foods for breakfast?” to “Does God fly in Heaven?”
  • Feed children.
  • Dress children (or remind children to dress themselves)/brush teeth/comb hair
  • Teach child for the 284th time how to make a bed.
  • Play Chutes and Ladders for a record 83 minutes, mainly because someone kept landing on that cursed long slide.
  • Dispense 27 hugs, kisses, tickles.
  • Answer 72 more questions.
  • Discuss the ins and outs of Dino Dan (our new obsession over  here at casa de phillips).
  • Spend 20 minutes helping child locate missing left sock, until it is suddenly remembered said lost sock was actually on their right foot over the right sock.
  • Clean up breakfast dishes, in order to get out snack dishes.

   (All before 9:27 am)

As moms, we often forget how much we accomplish during the day. The endless dispensing out of Goldfish, the countless readings of a child’s favorite book, the repeated cycle of preparing and cleaning up of meals, and the constant answering of little one’s life’s questions all add up to make a terribly productive days. Sure the bathrooms might not have been cleaned since company visited in mid-December and the mudroom closet is threatening to take over the entire house if an organization intervention does not happen before Winter’s end, but at the end of the day most moms accomplished far more than their little to-do list could ever hold.

They took care of their family in the best way they could at that moment.

That is a lot better than sparkling toilets, my friend.

(By the way, if you think that I ever manage to navigate even 1/3 of the things I put on my Monday to-do list, you are crazy. Almost as crazy as me for having such high expectations of productivity on a day when both children are home. I consider myself to be in to-list rehab, attempting to slowly wean myself away from writing out such outlandish lists.)

Bearing Fruit: Reading Edition

It is a odd January day here at the current location of casa de phillips. Although the calender reads “January 6th”, the temperature is a pleasant 63 degrees. I am working at the upstairs computer this afternoon (mainly to keep an eye on two children who are supposed to be resting in their rooms after a long morning at school, but instead are sneaking into each other’s rooms). The window is open, the local sports radio show is tuned in and turned up (Why am I addicted to sports radio?), and my cup of coffee is stationed carefully beside me (Oh, Keurig, how I love thee so).

It may be January, but it feels a bit like Spring outside.

Fortunately snow is predicted for this weekend (slight, slight chance…but I will take it) so I will embrace the warmer temperatures of today.

As I take in this spring-like day in the heart of winter, I have been thinking of how I can bear witness to my children in this new year. Obviously this is not a new concept. We all know the parent is the child’s strongest influence (even in those years when peer influence has such a heavy sway). I want to positively influence my children in a variety of ways, from the way I interact with others in public to the habits I have at home.

Just yesterday, my oldest child reacted to an annoyance brought on by his sister. He turned to her, got his little finger in her face, and proceeded to tell her exactly what he thought of her said annoyance.

It was like watching myself on replay.

Very slow, painful replay.

Gulp.

As I reflect this year on how I can bear positive fruit in the watchful gaze of  my children (and concentrate more on parenting with Grace…and less finger-pointing),I am going to write a series for the ol blog about ways parents can put forth a positive influence for their children in a variety of ways, from habits to behaviors to actions.

One habit that I want my children to see me engaging in is reading. Already both children love to read (Miss E. mastered all of her letter sounds at school right before Christmas and just started word building and independent reading today at school. Needless to say, she is thrilled!). I want to continue to cultivate that love by fostering an environment that places an importance on reading. I let the children see me reading quite a bit. I do not keep my books tucked away until after their bedtime, but rather sit down for a few minutes during the day and let them see me reading an actual adult book. If the story is interesting, I share a tidbit with them or explain why I am reading a particular book.

Because I am a curious person and figure the majority of the world is as well (hence the popularity of reality television and social networking sites), I thought I would share the books that are currently on my Reading List…books that I have just read, am reading or am about to read.

Sarah’s Key (read)

Still Alice (Just finished last night…Oh My Goodness. Must discuss this with somone ASAP!)

This Day: Diaries of American Women (currently reading)

Writing Motherhood (read)

Grace-based Parenting (currently reading)

A Plain and Simple Christmas (read)

Radical (Currently reading. This book will get its own post soon. It is life-changing)

Taking Care of the “Me” in Mommy (Future read…love “Blair”!)

The Homeschoolers Book of Lists (Future Read…excited to dive into this one)

A Charlotte Mason Companion(Future Read…bummed our library does not carry anything Charlotte Mason-oriented.)

Love in a Time of Homeschooling (Future Read)

The Wednesday Sisters (Future Read)

A Girl from Yamhill (Future Read..and Christmas present from the husband)

Lost Child in the Woods (Future Read)

The Kitchen House (Future Read…as soon as my mom finishes it and drops it in the mail.)

What is on your current reading list? Do you take time during your children’s waking hours to let them see you read?

Welcome, 2011

The explosion of all things Christmas in my front room tells me that the holiday season is over and ready to be packed up for one more year. In the past, the husband and I have been ones to leave up Christmas decor until January 1st to enjoy the twinkle and glow to the maximum until doing so becomes a bit tacky. This year, however, we were ready to un-deck the halls as soon as we arrived home from our trip last Monday. All decor is down and sorted, laying in wait to be placed in the appropriate container and placed back in the attic for another 300 some odd days.

I believe part of our reason that we are so done with the whole Christmas holiday is that we are ready for 2010 to simply be over and to greet a fresh, clean start in 2011. This past year began humbly enough, but started whipping up on us by the end of January and has seemed to throw quite a few blows since then. I remember looking over at the husband in late November of this year and saying, “When is this year going to stop already?”

Stop it finally did and we quietly welcomed in 2011. Although towards the end of 2010, I thought I might stand out on our front yard yelling “Hallelujah!” as the clock struck midnight on December 31st, I was satisfied with a calm New Year’s Eve (we had celebrated Christmas for the majority of that day with the husband’s family and were pretty tired by evening). I rang in the new year, snuggled up next to a little three year old girl and her various stuffed animals, patting her back and issuing sweet statements after she woke from a movie-induced nightmare.

As the world welcomes in a new year, we are all confronted with the idea of making resolutions. Our culture tends to like the idea of resolutions more than the resolution itself. Resolutions hold the notion that we can be better, that THIS will be the year that everything will fall into a nice little row, that self perfection can be attained if one simply tries hard enough.

If 2010 taught me anything, it is that life cannot be tied up in a pretty little package with a bow placed on top. Idyllic resolutions hold little value in the real world. Sure 2011 can be the year one finally gets their body healthy through eating right and exercise, but it cannot be the year when one’s life attains cookie-cutter perfection.

My resolutions this year are not grand nor elaborate. I want to listen more and talk less, especially when it comes to parenting. I want to do more for others and concentrate less on doing more for myself. I want to appreciate simple contentment rather than continuously struggling for unattainable perfection. I want to acknowledge that I have the means to keep my body fit and healthy, which is not something everyone in the world has, and take advantage of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  I want to  actually seek Jesus rather than to seek the idea of Jesus.

2011: What will it hold for you? Do you make resolutions or do you simply try to step things up a bit?

Read it Out

At least once a week during the “school” year, the children and I have a stay-at-home day. I used to find that we were at home a lot when the kids were younger. Once they started running with the preschool crowd and have actual schedules and actual places to be, days at home can be hard to come by. However, I believe spending time at home just “being” is incredibly important to the development of a child. Therefore, I attempt to have at least one day at home a week.

Although such days at home are important to the development of a child (again, in my opinion), they do not always resemble life portrayed in the pages of a parenting magazine.

Okay, they rarely resemble the life portrayed in the pages of a parenting magazine.

Some days at home are pretty scheduled, with a list of chores for everyone to do and fun activities plaanned. Other days the television stays on for a couple of hours and no one rushes around to accomplish anything of great importance for the first part of the day.

Some days we are all happy and loving towards each other and other days I imagine we are all wondering why? WHY? must the three of us be couped up in this house together.

My solution for times at home when things seem to be getting a bit crazy is to read.

When children are fighting or are wired or are making me question my sanity, I take a deep breath, pull out a book and start reading to them.

Everyone seems to relax and calm down just a bit…and one more day is saved.

Yeah, we don’t work out our problems so much but often times “read” them out…

I am a huge fan of books of all kinds, including children’s books. We visit the library on a weekly basis and have a large family library of books as well. Although all children’s books appear sweet and cute, one must be careful when selecting books to read to their children. There are a lot of books out there, especially books based on popular cartoon characters, that are simply not well-written nor enjoyable. We strive to find books that have great illustrations, interesting story lines, lovable characters and applicable lessons. Below are some of our favorite books and series.

  • The Berenstain Bear series.We *heart* the Berenstain bears and own a significant number of books in the series (although not close to the 250 titles that have been released). I know some people have issue with how Papa Bear can be portrayed in certain books, but we all enjoy the applicable lesson and excellent illustration these stories have to share. I have read the story behind Jan and Stan Berenstain, which is a great adult read.

 

  • Nate the Great series. Isaac and I started reading these together almost two years ago. Now he reads them on his own. Great mysteries with some interesting characters tossed in.

 

  • Fancy Nancy books. Evelyn and I love the Fancy Nancy books. I love the constant introduction of vocabulary words (aka “Fancy Words”) these books use and Evelyn loves the girly nature of the books. Well-written and beautiful illustrations.

 

  • Little Critter series. I love Little Critter because he just does not get life all the time, no matter how hard he tries. Again sweet little lessons packed into a short story.

 

  • The Magic Tree House series. Last year, we all worked through half of this series. We put it on the back burner for a while (not sure why) but plan to pick it back up soon.

 

  • Giggle, Giggle Quack: Any of the duck books by Doreen Cronin are greatness. These books are great because some of the humor is a bit obscure and it is such fun to see kids “getting” it.

 

  • “If you give…” series by Laura Numeroff. My kids love the sequential nature of these books and are always delighted by the illustrations. Hats off to Chick-fil-a for making these the prize in their kids meal earlier this year.

 

  • Henry and Mudge series.Henry and Mudge books are a great way to introduce early readers to chapter books. Isaac has really enjoyed reading these and has moved up to the higher level readers in this series.

 

  • A Bargain for Francis. My mother and grandmother used to read me the Francis stories and I loved them. Such sweet characters and a good moral lesson, all tucked into the pages of a well-illustrated book.

 

  • The Betsy Series. We have yet to read any of these as a family, but I loved them growing up. They are a true classic and sweet stories that everyone will love.

A resource that I have found to be useful when hunting for books at the library is Honey for a Child’s Heart, which is an excellent guide for parents wanting to find a good book to share with their child. There is also a teen and woman’s version of this book as well.

What books do your kids love and do you love reading to them?

Surviving the Witching Hour

When my alarm goes off on any given Tuesday or Thursday morning, I tend to bounce out of bed a bit easier on those days than I do the other five days of the week.

Why the extra pep on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you might ask.

One word: PRESCHOOL.

I really *heart* my children and love being at home with them….

…but I love preschool days a lot too.

This is my first year when both kids are in school at the same time, giving me eight hours a week (four on Tuesday, four on Thursday) in which I can accomplish something without a little helper following me around. After those four hours are up, my mommy batteries are recharged and I am ready to see my little ones once again.

The only downside of Tuesdays and Thursdays is the witching hour…that 1-2 hour span before dinnertime where good behavior (children’s) and patience (mine) seems to fly out the window. Sometimes I solve the witching hour problem with a video, but I hate to always have the kids sitting in front of the television like zombies every afternoon.

One trick that I have found for surviving this time on long school days is setting out a project for the kids to accomplish once quiet time is over (We do lunch and nap at home…not at school). I have found that providing a focused activity and a snack (super essential!) that is ready and waiting keeps the whining, fussing and fighting at bay.

One of the activities I placed out last week was a “Create Your Own Apple Orchard.” I left simple directions and all the materials needed for one to create their own orchard. I also had out a yummy cookie and juice to munch on while they crafted.

Such planned activities really take no time to set out. I do not spend a large amount of time thinking up projects or creating materials. Occasionally I print out worksheets or use a page from a workbook. Other times I set out a learning manipulative that is perceived by their minds as being a toy. Usually I toss out some paper, art supplies and a few directions and they are good to go.

Whatever I place out, I always make sure it has a snack to accompany it.

The main key to surviving the witching hour is being sure that blood sugar levels stay in a normal range.

Question: How do you survive the witching hour?

A tale of two apples

There are days when things seem to just *click* as a SAHM.

Children are happy, activities fall into place, and temperatures hover in the 70’s (important in a climate like ours).

Today was such a day.

The children and I headed out, along with 36 of our closest preschool friends (and with their mamas) to a local apple orchard. One might be surprised that an apple orchard actually exists in our neck of the woods, but there is one. Home to dwarf apple trees, peach trees, a pumpkin patch, a few rows of cotton and chickens that lay green eggs (which I did not even realize was possible until today), this little apple orchard provided a great learning experience in the outdoors for our two kids.

The two listened intently to what the guide is saying…or simply wondered when it was going to be time to get a cookie from the orchard store.

At the end of teh program, all the kids were allowed to pick one apple. This was quite a treat considering the apple orchard does not allow this to occur every year depending on the crop yield. After the apples were picked, they were washed and the kids were allowed to eat them (topped with honey from the orchard, if they wished). We do not get many chances to eat food fresh off the tree, so munching on these was a fun little treat.

Miss E. with the apple she picked

Isaac with his prize apple

After learning all we could about apples and bees and large spiders that reside at the orchard (*shudder*), we bid farewell to our friends, loaded up in the car and headed to a local park for a picnic. It was finally time to break out those yummy treats purchased at the orchard and enjoy a little bit more time outdoors in the cool fall weather.

The children also wanted to play a round of hide and seek, their newest obsession. We managed a few games without me getting stuck in one of the various playground tunnels or anyone mentioning that E. chose to hid in the same exact location each time.

After a few laps around the nearby skate park in which the children choose to use the stunt ramps as slides, we packed up and called it a day.

A really, really good day.

One thing of note about this orchard is that Isaac and I visited it when he was 14 months old (and Evelyn was merely a tiny, tiny baby bump). It was fun to compare the pictures from today to those from four years ago…

 

…and also a bit amusing to realize the boy wore the same outfit both times.

I guess jeans and a polo are simply a classic style.

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