Monday, May 31, 2010


Many of you know that my father served as a military pilot.  He entered the Marine Corps before I was born and left two years after I had my first child.  Like other military kids, I moved from base to base enduring more goodbye's and more new introductions than most people will experience in the course of their lifetime.

But you probably don't know that my mother's father also served in the military.  He fought in the Pacific long enough to collect stories for a lifetime.  I have uncles who served, too, and my husband was in the military when we were first married.

In fact, members of my family have served in the military as far back as the Revolutionary War.  On Memorial Day, as we remember the men and women who have given their lives in service to our country, I am thankful that most of the men in my family returned home.   I'll never forget the first time I saw the Vietnam Wall in Washington DC.  The names of my father's  contemporaries are engraved on that stone.  They were sons, brothers, husbands, friends.  I was one-year old when my father left for Vietnam.  I realized, as I stood there with tears streaming down my face, that had he not returned, everything--everything--would be different.  This would not be my life. 

So I pause every Memorial Day and think of the men and women who gave their lives; some of their names are on that wall, where my father's is not.  I silently thank them for fighting for our freedom and our rights.  I tear up as I think of the ones who once waited for their return; those whose lives were inconceivably altered the moment they heard the news.

Today, as I think of them, I honor both the service and the sacrifice.  And I offer a heartfelt thank you to all who have served.

Friday, May 28, 2010

This is probably not what they had in mind.

So since I'm new around these parts, and still getting used to the idea of posting within specific topics rather than just spouting off whatever comes across on the digital scroll display that is my brain.. (Oh look, the mail came! The new Entertainment Weekly is here...)

Anyway, Friday's usual topic is Food. Now, here's a little something you might want to know about me.

I don't really cook much.

I used to like to cook. Really, I did. But then I married a very picky, non-risk taking eater. And then I bore him two children, of equal mindset in regard to "I WILL NOT EAT THAT."

So anytime the conversation turns to food or cooking, I generally try and steer things toward wine. As in, "I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food."

Which is a long way of explaining that for years I did a Friday Wine Goodness series over on my personal blog, We're Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto. And I plan to re-invigorate that series here, for you lovely people. But first, let me explain my critical theory, if you will. Generally my code for wine recommendations goes like this:
  • Cheap, but not headache inducing cheap
  • Yummy
  • Funny or interested labels
Yeah, I know, most wine critics don't really care about the label, but since I fill out my NCAA March Madness bracket based on the hotness of the players, you might guess I'm not a purist.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What my kids are reading.

I was a major bookworm as a kid. Seriously, I even have this friend from elementary school that I reconnected with as adults, and she has these memories of coming over to ask me to play and I'd always say no because I was reading something, which didn't really compute with her. But anyway, Deoxyribonucleic acid ain't just a spelling bee word, because my nine year old son is not just an avid reader, he's a vacuum. He hoovered his way through all seven books of the Harry Potter series last summer -in about 8 weeks total.
I was both overjoyed and suddenly panicky when I realized that summer that his reading appetite was so voracious. It was glorious to see him so excited to get a new book, or reach a new chapter, or understand a new character being developed. I worried at first that some of the themes were a little too dark for an eight year old, and educators may say Erickson's theory would agree, but he handled it pretty well and we talked it through when needed. But then there was a little warning lamp that started glowing in the back of my brain - Uh oh, what's he going to read next? After book seven, what I am going to feed the beast? We can't exactly go back to Encyclopedia Brown now.

So one afternoon I swung by the school librarians desk. She gave me a whole list of books and authors appropriate to age and reading level, especially for boys who like series.

Before I start listing them here, let me just point out that the school librarian is the most undervalued warm body in the entire building of most elementary schools. They do not just obsess over the Dewey Decimal system, they know everything about what your child should, could, or would read. Seek them out whenever you can.

Anyway, a not very comprehensive but good jumping off place for boys (and some girls may like these, too, I don't know, I only have boys) in 3rd-5th grades who enjoy series books with modern characters:

  • Harry Potter, JK Rowling
  • Percy Jackson and The Olympians
  • 39 Clues
  • Artemis Fowl
  • Stormbreaker series - Anthony Horowitz
  • Warrior series - Erin Hunter
  • Redwall series - Brian Jacques
  • Tucker series - Paulsen? (Inkheart, Eragon)
  • Charlie Bone - Jenny Nimmo
  • Keys to the Kingdom - Garth Nix
  • Avi is an author with lots of books at this age range, not necessarily series builders though
My seven year old likes to read, too, but is really only in it for the snuggling in mommy's bed. Some of his favorites, however, include the now classic Magic Tree House series, Jigsaw Jones series, Bunnicula (and others by James Howe) and Hank the Cowdog. For the record, Hank the Cowdog is, I believe, the best damn audiobook series for kids available.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

She's such a hack.

I had always thought calling someone a hack was a bad thing, until I became a parent in the age of the Internet. But as it turns out, a "hack" has come to mean a way to get what you need, working with what you have. I love that.
You know, my mom and I talk about this parenting thing sometimes. She's a little in awe of the network I have to work out some of the problems we come up against, or to celebrate and share the wins. She didn't have Dr. Google to turn to when someone ran a fever with a weird rash in the middle of the night. She didn't have girlfriends in other cities to which she could reach out and vent in a strange mix of over-sharing and anonymity. She didn't have ParentHacks.

So here's my favorite hack, for your use or amusement. It's very simple.

I keep a large cooler in the back of my minivan, so that I can feed my kids decent, healthy snacks or meals without hitting the drive-thru every single night.

See, I spend a ridiculous amount of time driving my kids from one activity to another. As kids get older, they get more and more activities, exponentially. Even for those of us who think that we are making an effort not to over-program our children, it just happens. I swear, one minute you're all "OMG Sally is such an overachiever helicopter mom with the karate and the cheer and the piano lessons and the basketball - does that kid ever just get to play in the yard?" and the next you're all "Oh gotta go, I have to run drop off the boys at soccer, then swimteam then feed them something and get them to cub scouts by 7 so they can race their Raingutter Regatta boat that we just built last night at 10pm."

Sometimes I have my own activities and meetings to go to. Then it gets really interesting.

Anyway, We do probably hit some kind of fast food drive-thru at least once a week. I try and use it as a rare reward, but some nights it just can't be helped. Calories are important to active kids. You can't drop a kid off at a sports practice and expect him to function for an hour on nothing but a granola bar. Funny enough, volunteer coaches don't really like your child when he's a starving basketcase melting into a pile of goo after only a few laps.

So, I keep a cooler in the car. Then, on the days we leave the house at 4:30pm and don't return until 8, I can have sandwiches, protein packed yogurt smoothies, cold Gatorade or G2, and fresh fruit ready to go.

The great thing is on those days we just hit the drive-thru for the ice cream. Kidding.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What's the matter with Kansas?

Hey folks, I'm Jenny, and I'm new here at Midwest Parents. Well, I'm not new to being a parent in the midwest, of course, I've been doing that for the better part of ten years.
Ten years.
OMG you guys I'm about to have a ten year old. Hold Me.

Ahem, sorry. Anyway, Glad to be on board. A little about me:
  • I have two sons - age seven and almost TEN. (breathe.)
  • I live in Kansas, in suburban Kansas City. Yes, most people do in fact think that Kansas City is in Missouri, and this is true, however we are one of those weird places where the "Greater Kansas City Area" actually spans two states, like 6 counties and umpteen cities. When I was a little girl growing up here, you could call across the state line, from one area code in Kansas to an area code on the Missouri side, without having to dial the area code first. And we had party lines! Remember party lines? You could call into some random number and get on the line with some random kid from some other random part of town and have a chat, a conversation, a talk. It was kind of like, oh I don't know, Twitter: The Analog Version.
  • I drive a minivan. It is full of soccer balls, smelly cleats, and half empty water bottles that probably have bacteria growing under the lid. There may be a stray french fry or two under a seat, along with a missing arm to a Iron Man 2 Happy Meal toy. It does not, however, have one of those 3-D stickers on the back that looks like a small soccer ball broke the glass and got lodged there. Those are so five minutes ago. Now everyone seems to have those white outlined people stickers that used to be reserved for Calvin (as in, Calvin & Hobbes) peeing on Jeff Gordon's Nascar number. But I don't have one of those either.
  • I do, however, have a license plate that says MAYHEM. I think that's fairly self-explanatory.
  • I have a husband. He is busy. Right now, he's in Australia, for work.
  • I don't mind him going to Australia for work, because every mile he flies across the ocean gets me closer to a free ticket to Maui. Fly Baby, Fly.
  • I have a dog, he's a black standard poodle, named Max. He is younger than both my kids, and much more rotten. I'm not sure how that happened, I used to be good at training dogs. Then I had kids, and three years ago instead of having another baby, I got myself a dog.
  • I do work outside the home, which you can totally tell if you were to ever actually visit my home, except every other Tuesday when a really nice man comes and cleans it for me. Then its nice for about five minutes, or until the school bus comes around the block. If you'd like to come by on one of these Tuesdays, between 3:30pm when the house cleaner is done and 3:45 when the monsters exit the bus, I'd be glad to show you around. Otherwise, just know that its gross, and that I really don't care much. No, you can't eat off my floors. But I don't really think anyone wants to do that anyway, so why keep them clean?
  • Anyway, back to my working? I work at our church, I'm in charge of children's and youth ministries. I spent many years on the corporate track, albeit in a flexible environment, and trust me, this is much better.
So that's me, in a nutshell. My regular blog, which I've had for five and a half years, is called We're Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto. Yes, I know, I am actually in Kansas, but I started the blog because we were moving to San Diego, California, as a way to keep my family and friends up on what we were doing out there. Getting a lot of sand in every orifice of our bodies, turns out, is what we were doing out there. And we loved it. But we came home.

And so here we are.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is There Such a Thing as Too Many Books?

I've mostly thought no. Books can be read and reread for years. Books can be shared with friends. Books can be more than just something to be read.

I remember taking my books from the shelves as a child and laying them across the floor of my bedroom. No longer books, but stepping stones to help me avoid the sharks and the crocodiles that were in the lake that had taken over my bedroom.

Books have, in my childhood, become houses for dolls, products in a bookstore, art projects. But a couple of weeks ago I was preparing for a garage sale and decided to weed through my children's books. We have a lot of books. A LOT. It felt good to go through the books and discover a stack of perhaps 30 books that I feel confident my children will not miss.

But it was hard. Books are always positive things to have around. Mostly they take up little space. I suppose there is such a thing as a bad book. I have experienced few books for which I have not found any redeeming qualities.

The fun part about the sale was seeing people dig through the books and find treasures. Several people found 4-8 books they wanted to add to their libraries. Seeing others find books they will love is part of the reward.

But am I wrong to weed out some books? Is there such a thing as too many books? For the most part, I think there is no such thing but I also wanted to condense our collection. There are some books my kids no longer read, or never have read. The older kids are moving on to big kid books.

I still have a love for books though that makes me want to keep them all.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Easiest Way to Get Cooperation From a Toddler

If you have a toddler you know that those little people go from a squishy newborn to a roly poly baby to a nay saying toddler in the space of hiccup. That once-portable non-opinionated being morphs into a walking, talking contradiction.

Basically, the more you want them to do something the more they will fight against you. Need to put the toddler in the car seat? Stiff board is a nearly unconquerable obstacle no matter what you try once the battle escalates to this point. Want your child to ride in the grocery cart? You will start to wonder how many legs they actually have.

The most successful strategy for getting cooperation from my kids as toddlers has two parts.

First, tell them the expectation before you get to the car or the cart. "D is going to ride in the cart in the store today!" It's important that you phrase this as a statement and with an excited and happy tone of voice.

The second step requires you to make a fool of yourself. Sing a song, make up a chant, make silly faces, whatever...while you are putting the child in the car seat or cart or whatever. Distraction from the act of "making" the child do what you want him/her to do is key.

It doesn't work always. Sometimes I'm too rushed or forgetful to remember to prepare my toddler beforehand. Sometimes I just don't want to sing.

But if I do the steps and sing the goofy song? Works like a charm.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fear in Parenthood

There are many things that have scared me about parenthood. The very act of choosing to create a baby, wondering how that baby would come out of my body...even how I would feed that baby.

In hindsight these things seem minor to the frightening aspects of sending those children out into the world without you by their sides.

When my first child started Kindergarten it was after spending years in an environment where I knew the parents of her friends well, knew her teachers well because they were former coworkers, and felt a lot of control over her environment. Sending her to a school where I knew few (one) of the children, none of the teachers and had zero control over her environment was a big shock.

I cried uncontrollably each day I dropped her off at school for days. I mourned our days together. Now, someone else was spending more time with my child each day than I was. This still irks me. I want my kids with me more than they are with someone else.

That aside, the fears of parenthood grow in elementary school. There is bullying. There is bullying even if there is an excellent behavior plan (and there is at my kids' school). Kids can be so mean and I think they are meaner than ever.

I think there are excellent parents out there and I think there are many, many more sub-par parents than ever out there. If you take into consideration parenting in years past, parents didn't have to worry about things like they do now. Yes, you may worry that your child will survive infancy in the past. Modern medicine has made this a slim worry. Now, though, you have to worry about drugs, guns, bullying to the point your child commits suicide in desperation, etc. And where do those bullies, gun-toters, drug dealers come from? Well, I'd guess some of them come from homes like yours and mine. Yes, I believe there are kids out there that will do wrong no matter what their parents do. But there are those kids out there whose parents propped them in a corner holding their own bottles when they were 4 months old. There are the mothers who smoked pot or did crack or whatever while they were pregnant. There are the parents who strike their kids for any impudence.

My kids are spirited. They back talk. I consider the back talk a sign that they are growing, testing, but they still know that they will be loved no matter what they say.

I hope that my children can navigate the school years without bullying, without shame, with heads head high.

I can't guarantee anything. There is the fear.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Homemade Baby Food

If you've read my posts before, then you know I don't like to cook.  Being a family of 6, I do it, but I don't like it.  What I do like tho, is pureeing baby food! 

With my first 2 kids I stumbled upon this book from fresh baby the recipes are basic and super easy. I was sold and soon, my freezer was full of assorted frozen baby food cubes.
You can purchase their trays or just use your own ice cube trays. I used both.  My main reason 5 years ago for making my own baby food was to save money.  Feeding 2 babies can get expensive and I couldn't save on daycare.  I also loved that there weren't any preservatives, added sugars, just o'naturale. 

I'm doing it again with my new babies to save money, be more healthful, and less wasteful. Now in the height of the green revolution, I was way ahead of my game and I didn't know it. 

Here is what their website says about making your own baby food - So Green!
"Making baby food is a great gift to give the environment and your baby. Consider the GREEN facts: 
ORGANIC - Organic fruits and vegetables are the best choice for making baby food. They are the most natural ingredients and organic foods drastically reduce harm to the environment. 
LESS WASTE - When you make your own baby food, there are no jars, labels or metal lids to dispose or to recycle. 
NO FACTORY REQUIRED - Just a little energy to steam foods and run a blender is all you need to make your baby's meals! Did someone say near 'zero' greenhouse gases? 
LOCAL - Your baby's food does not need to trucked to you from a factory thousands of miles away. Instead you can simply buy organic produce from your local farm market and get started.
HEALTHY - Homemade baby food is safe & nutritious. Baby food jars are often lined with Bisphenol-A, a controversial hormone disruptor that should be avoided. In addition, homemade baby food has no preservatives, additives, or chemicals - it is pure and natural goodness.

If you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint making organic baby food is a great way to go. Plus homemade baby food tastes great. Who knows? Your baby may grow up to love brussels sprouts and mangoes! "
For bigger kids::
Pureed food are an excellent way to sneak extra fruits and veggies into your meals for older kids, they'll have no idea!  Oh and I pop a few frozen apple cubes into a bowl, thaw and they have applesauce.  Easy as pie! That has me thinking of my next food post...easy pie...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Time Out

Lately my house has been mad chaos. My husband went back to work after being laid off for two months. My babies have been teething and are on the move, learning to explore things they shouldn't.  All my kids have colds.  The weather is cool and rainy and we've been couped up in the house. I feel someone is either crying, screaming, laughing, whining, talking or wanting something every moment from 5:07am - 6:55pm.  {I guess that's what I get with having 4 kids} Not to mention this is the busiest time for me workwise.

So, I've been wanting to give myself time outs just to find a few minutes of peace.  Time outs for me, not my kids. (Of course, they always find me before my time is up.) 

What are your thoughts on time outs for kids that is? Do you use them? Do they work for you?

It seems in the last week I've heard a few times about time outs on 1 year olds.  Really? Whatever happened to redirection?  My babies will be approaching one this summer and like now, its easy to continue to redirect them. I did the same with my first two and started time outs when they turned 2. 

I followed the Super Nanny approach to time outs which if executed correctly and consitently, worked wonders in my house.  For the last couple years time outs are a rarity, all it takes is a warning. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

in the blink of an eye

it seems like just yesterday i had 2 babies, okay so it was just yesterday and today i still have 2 babies, but i also have 2 big kids. okay now that we've cleared that up, i'm talking about my 2 big kids.

it seems like just yesterday they were two babies in my womb waiting to be born. i blinked and now they are 5.
yesterday i was holding them swaddled tightly in my arm so thankful i was finally a mom. i blinked and now i'm holding them tightly on my lap with their legs hanging downs and so thankful i'm their mom.
yesterday, i was watching them sleep safely in their crib, then i blinked and now they sleep in their single beds without guard rails.

yesterday i was pureeing their baby food, i blinked and now they are helping me make dinner. yesterday, i was singing them songs and telling them stories, i blinked and now they sing me songs and tell me stories.

yesterday i was watching them learn to sit and crawl then i blinked and now i'm watching them ride their bikes, run, jump, dance, bowl, write, draw.
while i wouldn't trade these last 5 years for anything, i wish i could slow down time because i'm afraid to blink and find they are 18 and off to college.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Fridays are for food - recipes and sharing of delectable and often diabolical foods. Being the only guy, surrounded by these talented and chef-like co-writers has stretched my ability to keep up. In fact, I am pretty sure I have posted the recipes of all 3-5 things I can cook without screwing them up, calling 911 or setting off the sprinklers. So... I am choosing to not post a recipe this week.

Instead, I will close out the week with some food thoughts...

  • There is nothing closer to sin than dark chocolate and red wine. Don't believe me - try 70% dark chocolate with a glass of red zin... (yeah, you will thank me...)
  • Want to calm the soul and make everyone in the house take a deep breath... bake a loaf of bread or throw a roast in a crock pot. Comfort food at it's best...
  • Somedays, nothing beats a good pub burger and fries.
  • Tuesdays were meant for tacos...
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
  • Blueberry pancakes, ice cold milk, maple syrup.
  • Eat your vegetables...
  • Next time you pick up that can of soda, read the label. What the heck is sodium hexametaphosphate anyway?
  • Always pay at the pump. Nice times out of ten, if you walk into a convenience store to pay for gas, you or your kids will walk out with foods that are bad for you. Seriously, when was the last time you grabbed a banana. It was either a Milky Way, M&M's, or some other form of processed chocolate.
  • Never, ever go grocery shopping when hungry.
  • Did I mention dark chocolate and wine?
Let me know your food thoughts....

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Higher Higher

Our normal Thursday post has been to recommend a book or two that we have read that captured our attention and our kids. Instead of recommending book, I want to recommend an author.

Leslie Patricelli has written a bunch of board books that are a delight for your toddlers and pre-schoolers. She has great illustrations that leave me laughing and John engaged... his current favorites are Higher Higher and the Birthday Box. Pick them up at the local library (except you won't find them at MY local library - I keep renewing them!)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rocker babies wear jeans!

Beatles, Led Zepplin, JJ Cale, BB King - he is learning the greats...!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What are your kids doing online?

This past weekend, I took the kids to the park and witnessed the following conversation between a Dad and his son. My guess is the kid was around 10....

Dad - "So that video you made was really cool... I like it"
Kid - "Yeah, my friends on YouTube thought it was cool too - they commented".
Dad - "You have a YouTube account?"
Kid - "Yeah Dad, everyone my age has one"
Dad - "I need to know your account info so I can keep an eye on what you are doing?'
Kid - "Why do I have to give you that - it's my account?"
Dad - "I just want to see what you are doing?"
Kid - "I am not comfortable with that..."
Dad - "We can talk about it more at home".

My guess, the conversation and the issues were forgotten by the time Dad loaded up the four kids and headed home. My guess also is the kid is on Facebook, and many other sites, and his parents are oblivious and haven't taken the time to monitor the situation.

As parents, we all need to know what are kids are doing online and monitor it. We should know who they are connecting with, and accounts they have opened. Here is a pledge a family member passed on to me that I utilize with my tween daughter. Feel free to copy and use as you see fit... It is our duty to protect out kids...
Online Safety Pledge

Keep this pledge at your computer.

I will not give out personal information such as my address, telephone number, parents' work address/telephone number, or the name and location of my school without my parents' permission.

I will tell my parents right away if I come across any information that makes me feel uncomfortable.

I will never agree to get together with someone I "meet" online without first checking with my parents. If my parents agree to the meeting, I will be sure that it is in a public place and bring my mother or father along.

I will never send a person my picture or anything else without first checking with my parents.

I will not respond to any messages that are mean or in any way make me feel uncomfortable. It is not my fault if I get a message like that. If I do I will tell my parents right away so that they can contact the online service.

I will talk with my parents so that we can set up rules for going online. We will decide upon the time of day that I can be online, the length of time I can be online, and appropriate areas for me to visit. I will not access other areas or break these rules without their permission.

Here are the passwords, screen names and other login information that I use for each online service:

Service name: _____________________
Login: _____________________
Password: _____________________
Screen Name: _____________________
Other: _____________________

Service name: _____________________
Login: _____________________
Password: _____________________
Screen Name: _____________________
Other: _____________________

Service name: _____________________
Login: _____________________
Password: _____________________
Screen Name: _____________________
Other: _____________________
Here are some great resources.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lessons from Little Dude...

On April 9th, my position was eliminated, closing one chapter in my life and beginning another one. Since that time, I have been working hard at finding a new job, and starting our own business with my wife. And... I have been taking lessons.

As I have mentioned before, I have a little guy who is 20 months old... and with me being home more often during the day I have learned a lot from him. I thought I would share those lessons as it was a good reminder for me... so here are my lessons as learned from the Little Dude...

  • Splash in the puddles... they are sure to bring squeals of delight and reminders of simpler times when we could be carefree.
  • Stop and look at the bugs, poke your hands in the dirt and turn over leaves.
  • Explore the world with wide open curiosity and awe... saw a sunset last night that was beautiful, a rainbow on Friday and a gazillion cool things in between
  • Give hugs often... and kiss back with passion.
  • Roll on the floor with toys and make sounds that are funny, and laugh.
  • Show appreciation for food that is good - nothing like "yum" sung loudly while enjoying pancakes.
  • Sing - whether you know the words or not - just sing along and enjoy it.
  • Naps - ah naps. (Not that I have had a lot of time for these).
  • When walking in the woods - find a stick. It can be your magic wand, walking stick, noisemaker, and picture drawer. What a great tool....
  • If you don't like your clothes, get rid of them. There are more comfortable ones in the drawer.
  • Laugh like you mean it... from the belly.
This is the short list of the many things he has reminded me of. To have that child like innocence and ability to look at the world through his eyes has been engaging, delightful and relaxing. These times could be extremely stressful, instead I am finding peace and enjoyment in the process. What a blessing to have the family I have and the opportunity to learn again...