Managing the Monday Madness

Honestly, I have never really quite understood all of the dread for Mondays.  I kind of like Mondays.  For me, Monday generally represents a fresh start.  I start a new list, everyone jumps back into their routine and I get a chance to begin anew.

But I will tell you that when it comes to cooking dinner, that is what I dread – especially on Mondays.  In our house Monday evenings mean homework, baseball practice, Boy Scouts, very soon 4-H, showers and multiple bedtime stories .  It gets kind of crazy sometimes.

In order to remain sane, I have learned to embrace the fact that dinner’s primary purpose only need be sustenance within the evening hour.  In giving myself this grace our Mondays are much more pleasant, for everyone.  This may mean cold turkey sandwiches and fruit for dinner, but that is o.k.

Today I have decided to make Baked Potato Soup in the crock pot.  My favorite (because it is simple) potato soup is inspired by a recipe found at Suchamom.com.  This recipe is super quick and easy.  And best of all, the kids love it!

Loaded Baked Potato Crockpot Soup

Just Let Them Play

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For us today is Opening Day for Little League Baseball.  While I hope Little League is an exciting experience that my child looks forward to each Spring, and looks back on over the Summer as an achievement and something to be proud of, I enter the season with much hesitation and concern.

Fortunately, the kids don’t always see what goes on beyond the dugout – at least not for the first few years.

Why must we (the parents of these children) apply so much pressure?  Why do so many coaches and parents act like they are paving their child’s path to Major League Baseball?

Did you know that even if your child continues beyond Little League to play on a High School team only 11.2% of those players will continue to play baseball in college (Scholarshipstats.com)?  And then if your Little Leaguer continues to MLB he will be 1 of the 10.5% of college players to do so.

Odds are not in your favor to be a professional athlete.

So how about we just let them play?  Perhaps in doing so our children will learn a little about character, courage and loyalty, and grow to be superior citizens rather than superior athletes.  After all, this is the Mission of the Little League Baseball.

Encourage your child to always do their best.  That is the only thing that matters.  And after the game praise your child equally whether the game was a win or loss because in the end those statistics are not really important.

But I want a cookie…

May I have a cookie?

No, not now.

But, I want a cookie.

Not now, we will eat dinner soon.

I want a cookie.

Not now, later.

But I want a cookie…

Have you had this conversation before?  If you have a toddler I am sure you have.

Well, bad news is there is no convincing your toddler to wait until after dinner for that cookie (or whatever else it is they are transfixed upon at that moment).

Good news is that your toddler is not really an evil little thing that knows if they just ask one more time you will be broken and give in.  Often that is the way it works out, but really, that was not a plan schemed by your 3 year old.

The fact is that a toddler really cannot make the connection or understanding that he cannot have the cookie now but perhaps sometime in the future.  He also cannot move beyond the desire for that cookie.

I attended a VERY interesting discussion this week on children and brain development.  At birth until about 2 years old a baby’s brain is still quite undeveloped.  All of the parts are there, but there is still much room for growth.  Until the age of about 2 years a baby’s right and left hemisphere is only partially connected to one another, and throughout infancy a child primarily functions according to the right side of the brain, which is known to drive social, cognitive functions, like feelings, touch, play and emotions.  After about age 2, a child’s brain begins to form a fibrous connection between the right and left hemispheres, although this connection is not fully complete until sometime after age 4-5.  Think of this connective fiber as a system of power lines used to connect functions between the Right, social, feeling, emotional side of the brain and the Left, analytical, numerical, thinking side of the brain.  Until this system of connective fibers is complete a child’s response simply cannot be formed using both his feeling and thinking functions, yet is based mostly on purely a need created by emotions.

So… you have two options next time you hear, “May I have a cookie?”

First, you could wait about a year for the brain to grow and you receive an agreeable response.

Or, you can attempt to distract your toddler from this topic and move on to something else.  Good luck!

If you would like to read more about infant brain development check out the book, Bright From the Start by Jill Stam.

How well do you really know your children?

How often do you talk to your child?  And I don’t mean the everyday mundane conversations.  How often do you really communicate?

Amidst the everyday hustle I find it is easy to overlook the opportunities and/or just be too consumed with the current tasks to really talk to my kids, and more importantly to listen.

Recently I found this quote based on a long term study of parents and children,

“While most parents wanting to transmit their faith understand that their own examples and actions as parents are important in achieving success, some may not be aware that it is the nature and quality of the relationship they have with their child that is crucial-perhaps as much or more that what parents do or teach religiously” (Bengston, Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations).

This is a great reminder that no matter what we try to teach our children through lessons, words, even modeling of our own actions, that ultimately, the most important aspect in portraying the values we wish our children to have is the quality of our relationship.

And just like any other relationship, to strengthen our relationship with our children we must talk and listen.  Talk in a way that is meaningful, ask questions, and most important of all – listen.

If you need a little motivation, or just some fresh ideas, try something like this conversation starter you can download to your iPhone.  Try it out this week, maybe as you are driving from one activity after another.

Ask questions and listen.

Our Family’s Family Night Top 10

In discussing creating a family culture I have mentioned our family’s “Friday Family Night”.  Usually we stick to board games or a movie night, but sometimes we get a little creative.  Have you planned your next family night?

This is our Top 10:

1. Make pizza together.  If you like to get really messy you could make your own pizza dough.  I really like this recipe.  We often buy pre-made pizza dough from Whole Foods along with all of the toppings of choice.

2. A picnic and bike ride in the park

3. Make fancy desserts together.  I’m not really sure if this dessert qualifies as “fancy,” but it definitely was time consuming and not a cake for any ordinary day.

Rainbow Layer Cake

4. Board games  Our favorites are Qwirkle, Blokus and Animal Upon Animal.

5. Movie Night.

6.  Dinner at a favorite restaurant.  Or maybe try something new like an ethnic restaurant.

7.  Make something together.  We made birdfeeders once.  It was a mess, but loads of fun.

8.  Work on a puzzle.

9. Get take out and picnic at a local playground.

10. Hold a family meeting, maybe to plan something exciting like a summer vacation.

Family Night, a means for developing your family culture

Each family has its own Family Culture.  As a parent it is up to us to help develop this culture, because whether it is intentional or not, our choices and actions associated with our family will create the culture that ultimately molds our lives.

In our family, the Commander and I are very intentional (although we do have our unintentional moments) to create a family culture which will nourish and strengthen our children in ways we believe important.  One way we do this is through Family Night.

For us, Family Night is decided on a rotation.  Each week one of the five kids will be the one in charge.  We aim for Fridays because it is an evening that most often works for us.  Whoever’s turn it is for the week has the opportunity to decide on the dinner and an activity.  For the most part the options are limitless.  Meals are usually predictable kid favorites and afterward we  do something together which always varies.

Ironically though, family nights are not always as smooth and happy as they seem.  Honestly, there was a time I even wondered, “why bother?”.  Often there is someone who hates the dinner choice, doesn’t like the movie or stomps off because he didn’t win the game.

About this same time I was attending a parenting seminar.  It was a video course where teens were interviewed regarding their family experiences.  Overall, of the teens who regularly spent time of some sort with their families, they expressed that even though not each event went smoothly, or was their favorite, the time spent together was absolutely worth it and because of the consistency of this time together they felt much closer and more loved by their parents.

With this in mind I now see that even though not every family night is a complete success, it is still worthwhile.  Some Fridays we may laugh and play games until midnight, and other Fridays we may have tears and someone that chooses to go to bed early.  But this is normal.  It is life.  Not everything is going to go your way and you have to choose how to deal with it.  Who better to learn this lesson with than your own family?

 

And the winner is…

Last week the winners were announced…  My favorite book  wasn’t the winner, but it was an Honor Book!

Check out this list for the great children’s books of 2014.

“Locomotive,” illustrated by Brian Floca, is the 2014 Caldecott Medal winner. The book was written by Brian Floca and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named: “Journey,” written and illustrated by Aaron Becker and published by Candlewick Press; “Flora and the Flamingo,” written and illustrated by Molly Idle and published by Chronicle Books LLC; and “Mr. Wuffles!” written and illustrated by David Wiesner and published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

 

Mom, Please Let Me Fail

We have all heard it before, “in order to succeed one must first learn to fail.”  As a parent this means we have to let our children fail before they can succeed.  I know, it is so difficult to watch your child fail.  And it all begins so very early.

As our babies learn to walk it is hard to sit back and watch when you know they are going to fall.  But if we were to swoop them up every time they wobbled, how would they ever learn to walk?

My older kids seem to rarely take my advice, and on the occasion they do I can tell they are not always completely convinced I have any clue what I am talking about.   I have learned to be ok with this.  When they gain wisdom through their own mistakes they truly learn – they succeed.  Through their own experience this newfound knowledge is concrete, definable and able to be reconstructed and amended – they own it.

Forbes Magazine recently published an article, “7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders.”  Guess what number 1 on this list was – “We don’t let our children experience risk.”

So do your kids a favor, let them fail.

 

Are you looking for a Great Book too?

Certainly I have mentioned this before, but just in case you missed it, I LOVE books.  I especially love really great books and children’s books.  Currently I have been reading quite a bit of non-fiction.  And it isn’t really that non-fiction is one of my favorites, but if I read a novel, I want it to be awesome.  That you see is the problem with finding a really great book, from there forward the expectation has been raised.

So as always, I am on the hunt for another awesome book to read…  Let me know if you have any ideas.

Until then, there is only one week until the announcement of this year’s Youth Media Awards!

On January 27th, the American Library Association will announce various awards for children’s books including the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and Coretta Scott King Book Awards.  If you are looking for some great children’s books to read take a look at previous years’ winners.  Books that have made these lists are always a pleasure.

These are the two books I would pick if I were on the 2014 committee…

17262290  17333265

 

 

It’s A Family Tradition

Just in case you have not noticed…  Thanksgiving is next week!  Are you ready?

Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite holidays.  Christmas is awesome as well for some of the very same reasons, but Thanksgiving is special.  Thanksgiving is an opportunity to spend time with your family, celebrate your friends and loved ones, and most importantly be thankful for everything you have – without presents.

We are a very consumer driven, materialistic society.  I often find myself overwhelmed by this need for stuff at this time of year.  I am especially overwhelmed by the tendency to over schedule in an attempt to “celebrate”.  This is very ironic to me considering most people, if asked, will say their most important priority is spending time with family, friends and loved ones, which shouldn’t require much scheduling (unless you live far away) and definitely does not require gifts.

But then I think back to my own childhood.  In the midst of the holiday rush I have some very distinct memories of Thanksgiving holidays.  I have very fond memories of activities my family did together year after year.   On Thanksgiving morning we always watched the Macy’s Day Parade.  It is kind of funny though, because as a child the parade was not necessarily my favorite event, it was just the best thing on television prior to football.  But now as an adult the parade brings to me joyful memories of sitting in my grandfather’s huge Lazy-Boy recliner watching the parade as the adults prepared food in the kitchen.

And then I have some memorable moments, that fortunately only happened once, like the year my grandfather had excuse himself from Thanksgiving Dinner in order to bail my cousin out of jail for driving too fast through the little, one stoplight, South Georgia town where he lived.  And while this sounds awful, it wasn’t nearly as bad in my mind as the time I accidentally bit into a big fat slimy oyster hidden inside of the cornbread dressing.

And now that I have my own family we have created some traditions of our own.  We like to use our time together the weekend after Thanksgiving to drive up the mountain to search for and cut down our Christmas tree.  We also make little cookies the kids call Pilgrim Hats, which are something we HAVE to make.  I put them off one year and didn’t get it done before Thanksgiving.  Guess what we were making the first weekend in December…

So in all, I suppose every little detail really is important.  You really never know exactly what your next family tradition will be and what it is that your children will value as they grow older.  But it sure would help if we could figure it out so that we could skip some of the other stuff that needlessly fills up our calendars.