Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kids' Art Gallery

One of the things that most kids enjoy is seeing their art work on display. I have always taped a selection of my kids’ art to our kitchen cabinets. I know most people would shudder to have papers taped to their cabinets, but the look on my kids’ faces when they see a new piece of their art on display is worth it to me. I know the time will come soon enough that I don’t have their art to display and my cupboards will be bare.

There are still options for those who don’t want papers taped everywhere though. I created a small gallery on a kitchen wall to frame one painting each that my older two kids did before their sister was born. (I guess I should get a third added!) I got two frameless frames and had the kids use the same set of paint colors so that they would have some of the same colors included in their work.

If you are so inclined, you can easily change the art to more current work every month or two. I had planned to do this, but enjoyed their original creations so much and liked how they looked in the kitchen that I’ve kept them the same for the last three years.

Another option if you have more than one child or have a child who is quite a prolific artist is to buy one of those collage frames. (This is also a good option if you have limited wall space.) I am partial to the horizontal frames with 3 or more vertical openings. Once again, offer your child or children one set of paints with only a few colors that will compliment the area you will want to hang the collage.

The kids love that their artwork is showcased as important and meaningful work. I get my home decorated beautifully and inexpensively. It’s a win-win for us!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Challenges of Child Spacing

There are several aspects of having three children that I hadn’t considered or properly realized until recently. In my case, my two older children are just that, older.

While the spacing between my second and third children was not planned to be almost 4 years, that is how it worked out and for the most part it is working just fine. We don’t know any differently.

However, one challenge of having the third child so much younger than the other two is that as a toddler she wants to do everything her siblings do even if she physically can’t do it yet. Her siblings climb the tall slides at the parks or the indoor bounce house and D wants to join them. Nevermind that there are things just her size that she can do…it’s just not the same. Her frustration at her own size and limitations is evident in the squawks and screeches and the boneless protests of being led away from the “big kid” things.

I imagine I felt some of the same frustrations as a toddler, wanting to follow my older brother around and being just a little too small to do what I wanted. My brother is also almost 4 years older than I, like K is almost 4 years older than D.

Although the age difference is a bit challenging right now, I know that it will not always be so. By the time D turns 3 she will be running and jumping with her siblings and cousins without problem. She is close to that point already and she’s not quite two.

Before I know it, my three children will be running in a pack together, forgetting what it was like to be an only, or one of two, taking for granted that there are the three.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A contented bedtime treat


There's a restaurant in town that we used to frequent, way back before we had a baby again. Before the current recession set in. You know, the kind of place where you don't bring children and where you splurge on all the courses because you want to spend four hours looking across the table at your dining companion? For the most part, we like it because they serve up food that we can't manage to prepare at home. Gruyere custard served with handmade poppy seed crackers for starters, then confit of duck leg or bourbon pork tenderloin for an entree. They'd usually throw in a small bowl of butternut squash soup in the autumntime just because it's the perfect complement to any meal. We used to splurge on a bottle of wine since it was the only place we'd spend enough time dining to actually drink the whole bottle. It was always a good time.

For dessert, however, we always skipped their specialty of the house. They assured us it was made to order and delectable. We believed them. But the amazing dessert they urged us over and over to try was something we knew we could master just as well at home...and that we'd enjoy it far more at home. The masterpiece? A plate of freshly baked, warm cookies with two cups of warm milk.

Yes, baked cookies are a mainstay at our humble abode. Right now we have gingerbread men and triple chocolate chip cookies in stock. When I was younger, I was all for scarfing them down without discretion at any time of the day. It was my husband who taught me the fine art of savoring one or two along with a warm cup of milk before bedtime. It helps calm your body right before sleep and gives you a moment to be still and reflect.

Warm milk is easy; just put about 6 ounces in a coffee cup and warm in the microwave for 30 seconds on 20% power. For the cookies, I'll share a recipe. Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies. This one is a bit labor more intensive than simple stuff, so try this when you want to enjoy time baking. The result is worth it! I didn't invent the recipe, though I can't remember where I found it. (I'm betting it's Martha Stewart for all the many, detailed steps.) If someone recognizes it and would like me to credit it, please let me know and I'll edit the post!

************

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

7 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (like chocolate chips)
1 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. boiling water
2 tbsp. water
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1) Line baking sheet(s) with parchment. Chop chocolate into 1/4" chunks, set aside. (Or alternatively, use 7 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips and set aside.) In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa powder.

2) In a bowl of your electric mixer, beat butter until softened, about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.

3) In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into batter mixture. Beat in baking soda-mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time until dough firms. Mix in chocolate; turn out on a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1" thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.

4) Roll dough into 1 1/2" balls; place, 2 inches apart, on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake about 12-13 minutes; take out of oven and press flat; bake 3 minutes longer; let cool 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Enjoy, and sleep tight.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Book Of Sleep by Il Sung Na


We're rediscovering picture books at our house. There is something about a good, big picture book that feels wholesome, you know? Huge, glossy pages, simple words and phrases, and meticulously crafted graphics. Right now we're working double-time to raise a bilingual baby too, so picture books are a ready blessing with their easy-to-translate wording and vivid illustrations. Recently, we discovered A Book Of Sleep by Il Sung Na.

It focuses on the world of nature, how the cycle of the day brings the animals to rest. How each animal sleeps differently. And how one animal, the owl, doesn't sleep at all when the sun sets.


The illustrations in this book are so enticing. Though our baby is only seven months old now, she examines each page curiously trying to take in a new part each time we read it.

It feels like the right kind of of book to read before retiring to bed.

By the end of the book, the morning arrives and most of the animals awake. Except the owl.


Well worth checking out of the library and letting your little one thumb through with you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Blankie

Here's my advice on how to get your kids to do all of the following:

  • Sleep through the night by the time they are four months old
  • Stay in their beds at bedtime and not cry once they are in a toddler bed
  • Not be afraid of the dark so that they won't need a night light and will sleep better
  • Happily do all of their bedtime rituals without any trouble (including teeth brushing)
  • Understand that nightmares are not real and be able to go back to sleep within 15 minutes of waking up
  • Wake up in the morning when you want them to, not too early and not too late
  • Come to the breakfast table refreshed and cheerful after their healthy night of rest
  • Continue these habits well into the teens years and beyond, achieving good health, good grades, prosperity, and inner peace.
My Advice: Eat your young.

Seriously, did you really think I was going to venture into the minefield of giving advice about bedtime rituals and how to get kids to do it better? Are you nuts? After my confession in yesterday's post? No way! I have no advice to give! Everyone I know does this better than I do.

That being said, I will give one piece of advice that I happened upon by accident. The situation arose gradually without me even realizing it was happening. Now that I look back on how I handled the whole thing, I don't think I made any mistakes. It may be the sole thing in my career as a parent that I can say that about. The issue? Blankie.

Blankie made an entrance into my daughter's life on her first birthday. I was flat broke and I wanted to give her something that she would especially like. With some money I had earned from making display pillows for the local Cloth World, I went back to the store and bought some inexpensive flannel and peach-colored, polyester satin. From those two pieces I crafted a big, soft, baby blanket.

Her first name was Kiki, which my daughter dubbed her when she was about 2. And yes, Kiki was gendered. She was a she. Many times during the day I would hear, "mama, where kiki? where her?" or "she soft" or "I want her." It never occurred to me to question this. Sure, she was an only child and freaked out if the blankie wasn't to be found, but that's what all kids did, right?

Kiki went to childcare every single day. On the days I got to drop in on my daughter during naptime, there she would be snuggled up on her mat with the blankie wrapped all around her and always with an edge in her hands, held close to her face. I would lie next to her for a few minutes and listen to her gentle, sleeping breathing.

By the time my daughter was five, the blanket didn't have a name anymore per se, she was just "my blankie." And she became inanimate - "it." Her blankie went everywhere with her, though. Sure, it was hidden away where others couldn't see it. In the front pocket of her backpack to kindergarten, in the pillow case if she went somewhere for a sleepover. On trips, ALWAYS in her carry-on and NEVER in checked baggage. I think around second grade she stopped taking it to school and to birthday parties. By middle school it was a sleeptime-only thing. Now that she's 16 years old, she never goes a night without it.

It went with her when her father and I divorced. She brought it with her every time she spent time with him, every time she spent the night at his house. When she came home, it got washed right away to get the secondhand smoke and dog dander out. And it had to be ready for her to go to bed at our house.

Throughout all this, I accepted that this was all just fine. People in our extended family tease her, she doesn't care. Her friends don't dare question it. She is fine with saying she sleeps with a blanket and doesn't put up with any guff from anyone who tries to bug her about it.

When she is away from the house, sometimes I nap in her bed and snuggle with her blankie myself. It smells like her. She even did something the other day that I never thought she would. She was playing with my baby daughter, her little sister. She laid her blankie and her sister on the bed and wrapped the baby up in the blankie. She told her, 'you need to go to sleep!' and proceeded to rock her in her arms.

I've heard stories about parents being concerned about loveys, that their child was getting too attached to an inanimate object, maybe some deep-seeded fear of Freudian ills. Or maybe just that their child was immature. By some miracle, I've escaped those fears and worries. In a way, I feel comforted that she is attached to her blankie. It's something I made for her while she was a baby and something I wrapped her in. As a grown girl, she still wants to be wrapped up in it. Through the tween and teen years, there are precious few ways a mother can wrap her daughter up and hold her close to her. I'm glad that this extension of my physical affection for her is still part of her daily routine.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sleepheads

In this world, you've got a lot of negative personas you can take on. You can be an airhead. Or a deadhead. The kids have even picked up on this and invented "poopyhead." Whatever. In our house, we have sleepheads.

I know what you're thinking; you're thinking, 'don't you mean sleepYhead, Heather?' Ah, no. A sleepYhead is a cute little expression to describe someone who needs a bit more rest. Sleephead is something far more permanent. Sleephead is a state of mind. It could even be considered a condition.

("Condition" is such a great euphemism for "disorder.")

It's the desire to sleep at any given time of the day, with no real reason why. No, it's not narcolepsy; you could keep from sleeping if you really were a better person, more hard-working. Sleepheads sit at work, watching the time tick away, waiting for the time they can snooze again. They dream about sleeping. They sleep in on the weekends as late as is socially acceptable, even when at Disney World, sometimes later.

We are a house full of sleepheads, from the oldest (over 40) to the youngest (less than a year old). The teenager will sleep for more than twelve hours straight if left to her own devices. The baby will cry and rub her eyes, we lay her in her crib, and she turns on her side, sucks her thumb, and sleeps sometimes for three hours in a single stretch. And me? The mother of an almost eight month old? I should be up and at 'em most hours of the day and generally sleep deprived, right?

(Oh, I'm going to hate myself later for confessing all this here.)

Well, I sleep a lot. I don't mean that in an, "I sleep when the baby sleeps" kind of way. I mean, my baby sleeps a lot, so I do too. Which I love.

She turns in about 10 or 11p each night. Then she sleeps until about 8 or 9a. Then I pull her in bed with me, nurse her, and fall asleep in the meantime. The next thing I know, it's 10:30a or so and she's looking up at me after sleeping with me another hour or so.

That's right, I can get about 10+ hours of sleep each night if I want.

I keep this a highly-guarded secret from other mothers of babies. And to make it worse, this is the second time I've done this. My older daughter slept through the night...when she was two weeks old. She slept 9-10 hours straight every night after that until she was about 6 months old. I realized after her two month visit to the pediatrician, when another mother of an infant asked about sleeping, that I should never, ever, EVER, confide in another young child's parent what my children's sleep patterns are. When I told her about my baby, she just about ripped my head off. I'm sure she was a very nice woman, she was just sleep deprived and I had no sense not to fake like I was too.

Is there a bad side to this? Well, yeah. We never can schedule anything before 10a in the morning. Seriously. Our family trying to get out the door early in the morning leads to severe duress. My older daughter is on the varsity swim team with morning practices beginning at 6a. Those are REAL killers. On those mornings, I wish we weren't such sleepheads. We have NEVER left for a road trip less than three hours after we planned to leave. And we have either missed flights or cut it way too close for comfort at the airport more times than I can count anymore. On the weekends we know that if we want to have breakfast together, we'd better not plan on the meal happening before 11a or else the meal conversation will consist of nothing more than grunts and growls. Oh, and here's a real hard one: how do you teach a kid who loves to sleep, one who's just like you, to get up when her alarm goes off and get ready for school no matter what hour of the day it is and no matter how much she wants to sleep more? We had a very difficult few years of learning that skill with my oldest. The rule is, if she misses the bus, just start walking to school. People think we're harsh parents for this rule, but we know from experience that she'll either learn now or she'll learn when she fails her college courses or she gets fired from one or two (or ten) jobs. Suffice it to say, she gets up when that alarm goes off on school days, no matter how much she adores her bed.

God save us all if someone comes into our family who's not a sleephead. Like, I'd like to have another baby, but boy, it would be tough if the baby didn't love her beauty rest. And then there's a day when my children might marry. Good luck to them. I just don't think I can handle it if family holidays begin at the crack of dawn. I like Easter egg hunts to start no earlier than 10a. Or maybe in the afternoon. That is, if we can even get out of bed in time to make it to morning mass in the first place. Mercy.

Friday, March 19, 2010

green recipe

i'm going to share with you my all time favorite recipe. not a recipe for the kitchen but the laundry. 

after my first set of twins were born, i started looking for more natural non toxic, no chemical laundry detergents.  five years ago, the cost was higher than the typical chemical laden detergent.  then i found recipes to make my own, which seemed complicated until...i found this super duper easy one

darks
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup salt

whites
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup washing soda (different from baking soda)

its easy, its cheap, its environmentally friendly, its natural and above all...its non toxic!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

waiting games

the other day, my best friend {who lives in VA} & i were texting on and off, i mentioned heading back to the dr. while there our texts went something like this:
her "whats verdict"
me "still waiting. *babies fussy & hungry."
her "do you have help"
me "just two 5 yr olds"
her "good lord"
in the last 6 weeks we've been to the pediatrician 8+ times. {all about ear infections for 3 of my 4.}

actually taking all 4 to the dr. is fun! not fun that they are sick, but fun we are together. the fish are fascinating in the waiting room. then we pass our time waiting in the exam room by either reading or usually playing "i spy" sometimes we are disappointed when the dr. shows up and our game has to end. 

once in awhile {especially while in a nursing room} we play mommy says, aka. simon says.

what is your waiting game? i'm always looking for new ideas.

*this was the one time i didn't feed my babies prior to leaving for the dr. never again if i can help it. they were great but each needed extra entertaining.

Monday, March 15, 2010

simply fun

last week my oldest kids turned 5.  in the era of over the top birthday parties, [don't get me started on that topic] we had a simple birthday party at woodlake nature center.

the first half was with a naturalist who helped them make plaster animal tracks to take home


and then she led them on an outdoor excursion to look for animal tracks or scat (animal poop) outside.
 
then cupcakes, cookies & water. [my kids don't get nor like juice]

i typically don't like party favors because it's always candy.  candy my kids can't have.  i ended up finding $1 sand pails at target.  the kids helped me load them with recycled paper shreds for filler, a bottle of bubbles, a personalized notepad [compliments of my business], a pencil made of recycled products and a squishy lizard [my kids insisted]
when we left i asked what their favorite part of their party was.  "ALL OF IT!" that is really all that matters. friends. family. nature. and some cake.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A good parenting book....

Related to my post on Monday regarding overparenting and raising kids to be resilient and independent. My wife bought me this book several years ago and it is one I refer to often. I would gladly let you borrow mine if it wasn't full of highlighter and notes in the margins.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oh, how I miss the old days...





So, these are all sitting in a box in the garage, waiting for Lil John to get bigger and have a sand box. The many roads I built, holes I dug, and mountains I moved!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Things kids say....

Some humor to lighten up the day...

When my daughter was little we were in the car going somewhere. And she started a conversation regarding what it meant to be a hero. This was around the time of 9/11. I tried to explain that heroes were ordinary people that did extra-ordinary things when the time called for it. To which she responded, "I would like to be a hero, but there is no way I am wearing my underpants outside my pants".

My good friends Jorge and Sara have two beautiful kids. Melina is the handful... Here is a FB quote from them that had me rolling: Me trying to encourage Melina: I say "Melina, you can be anything you want to be." With a big grin, she responds, "I can't be a purple unicorn that poops pretty butterflies." [bends over and grunts a little].

I was traveling home on the airplane and was listening to my iPod. The little kid next to me asked me what I was listening to. I said Led Zeppelin... Little kid, my Dad cries when the dog dies in that story...

Standing in crowded line with my daughter at the grocery store when she was 7 or 8. "Dad, can't believe you just did that. That really smells..." And no, I didn't do anything... Honest.

Laugh every day, for life is meant to be enjoyed!




Monday, March 8, 2010

Overparenting

Lil John is 19 month old today... Perhaps I failed to mention that he was born at 8:08 pm on 8-8-08. No it wasn't planned that way! Trust me...

We are fortunate enough that Camille can stay at home with him as her classes are at night, but we also knew it would be good for him to be around other kids and interact and learn. Daycare wasn't needed or required, so Camille took the time to look at some alternatives... which lead us to a Little Sprouts program at the City of Lakes Waldorf School in Minneapolis. John loves the time in the school, around the other kids and parents that are actively involved in the process.

Since work prevents me from attending the classes, I pour through all the information they send home to learn about his experiences and understand the philosophies. Recently, they shared an article on Overparenting that was published by Time Magazine. The magazine talked about helicopter parents that fly in, protect and fight all the battles for the kids. Here is a link to the article.http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1940395,00.html

As parents, we want the best for our kids, for them to be safe, and for them to be the best at everything we weren't. I think it is critical we all take a step back, breathe, and let our kids be kids. If we don't allow them to learn from their mistakes, to get the bruises of life, how will they ever survive college or worse, corporate America? Our kids need to learn to problem solve, to get themselves out of jams and be aware of what's happening around them. If I respond to John's groan every time a ball gets stuck under the chair, soon his reaction is to sit and complain until I solve his issue. Instead, I encourage him and help him solve the issues at hand so he learns. We want our kids to be strong, independent, make decisions and most importantly weigh the consequences of those decisions. Flying in, solving the problem, only hurts our children in the long run... let them learn!


Friday, March 5, 2010

Fast, friendly food

I know that this is typically the recipe posting day, but I wanted to change it up a little bit and talk about types of food. There is a push right now for organics and local food - and I have to say, I am in agreement. Our budget doesn't allow for all organic all the time, and our lifestyle doesn't allow for all fast food to be eliminated. From December on, I've been more intentional about getting the crap out and the good stuff in and it has made a difference, not just on our grocery bill, but on our mindset.

Our non-negotiated items are milk, eggs, chicken and cereal. Those are the items we eat every week, so we want them to be as pure as possible. A gallon of organic and local milk cost me $3.79 at our local good foods store, and it is yummy milk (3 year old approved). And the local farmer's market provides us fresh eggs and veggies year round. There is nothing like fresh pico de gallo, you know? yum. So I'll leave you with that recipe and encourage you to buy organic if you can - the wax free pepper and tomato are nice to chop up.

Pico de gallo

4 organic roma tomatoes washed and chopped
1 organic green pepper chopped
1/4 C organic white onion chopped
1/8 C cilantro chopped extra fine
1 T lemon or lime juice

Mix together and enjoy :)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Book Thief


I am in this book right now, and I can't put it down. I get so irritated when I fall asleep reading it, because it is that good. Death is our narrator during holocaust Germany. It is riveting, sad, touching, read, poignant, and a touch humorous, but all in good taste.

The language is thought provoking and the style whimsical, and yet meaningful - much like our narrator. Zusak has captivated me in a few short pages, so I can only imagine what my review will be like when I am finished. I'll let you know :).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Growns up


There is my baby talking to his best friend on the phone about Mario Kart, Webkinz, and Pokemon...time flits and flutters by in a gale force wind.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust


I liked my teachers. Hard to believe since I now am one, heh. Mr. D was my Senior AP gov teacher. Unfortunately for him, I was his TA. Every day I would pour my angst with the world out on his desk as he tried to grade papers. Finally, one day Mr. D said, "Julie, be like Peter Pan and fly." I so flippantly said, "What?" like "You're nuts, D." and Mr. D, in his most controlled but annoyed voice said, "Think happy thoughts and fly."

So I left. I am a quick study on voice inflections, but his message eluded me until years later. The simplicity of this world eludes us. Our human traits get in the way of, really, a pretty nice way of life. It wasn't until after college when I heard about Mr. D's battle with cancer that I thought to that day and recognized the lesson in the frustration.

Stop thinking and judging the world, Julie, and live. Fly. Be happy.

Fast forward to my own boys.

Drew is a serious kid with a need to know all details all the time. He is also one that will go critical faster than I can spin around and go Peter Pan on him. He, like Jane from Finding Neverland sometimes needs the reminding that it is good to be a kid. It is good to laugh with abandon, to relax around the little bro, and let life come. He sometimes needs to reminder to have faith, trust and Pixie dust. When I saw this vinyl banner at bpboutique.com, I wished for a place in my house to put it. Perhaps it is at the bottom of the stairs by the family room. It is a good reminder for all of us that indeed, sometimes we need to lighten up.

Mr. D. lost his battle with cancer, and I cried the day I found out. I had always wanted to tell him what a difference his frustrated comment made - but I never took the chance, always leaning on tomorrow...but, indeed, he impacted my life in a way that is impacting my kids - all for the better - all for the good.

Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust - it is an underlying value at the Brock house. One in which we can build laughter, love, and pure joy, which is a solid foundation in my book.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Oh the Technology Irony


I have a ton of technology. This is a side effect of being married to my husband. He likes technology. He likes gadgets, games, and gizmos. As a whole, I like the benefits that come with being married to a technology lover. For our first Christmas together, I received one of the first mp3 players - that's right, it was the size of a house and could hold, WHHHHAAAAAA? oh yea, 16 songs. I. Was. Cool.

So when Randy decided he wanted a Droid for his birthday/Christmas gift, I was all for it. When we decided we could upgrade my phone as well? Well, I was excited to say the least. Finally I would have my technology in my fingertips. I would have my calendar, web, texts, EVERYTHING in my hand. Oh sweetness of the world, mama LIKES streamlining.

However, the technology is only as good as the person entering it. So when my droid rang it's hot "droid" ring and reminded me that this was my week for blogging? Heh, it reminded me on MONDAY instead of SATURDAY. So here I am, 12.5 hours late on my post...and I have nothing to say other than, "Doh!" in my best Homer voice.