Monday, May 28, 2012

Things in the making...

At the 2:1 conference this April, an important topic that was discussed was the importance of an online community.  I am so excited to announce that I will be participating with 21 other bloggers from June 4th through June 8th for the first ever 5 days of Mothering and Homemaking series!  If you do the math that is 105 different blog posts from various authors!

I'll be posting on our favorite thing to learn in our family...VIRTUES!  You'll find out why deliberately teaching our children virtues has changed the way we treat each other and how we run our home.  Hint: it's not only the children that changed when we started teaching virtues.

My friend Sarah from Sidetracked Sarah has put this series together.  Check out her landing page HERE to find out what 5-day series topics will be covered.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

How I got my kids to eat (almost) everything!

When my firstborn was 15 months old...I was still feeding her baby food.  Not homemade baby food either...jar baby food meant for 6 month old infants.  To make it worse, there were only 3-4 "flavors" she would eat.  OK, to make it even worse...she would only eat if we put on YouTube and let her watch The Wiggles.


And this is how we fed her day in and day out.  Some days she would literally only eat a french fry and a banana.  I was SO frustrated and had no clue what to do besides feed her while she was spaced out watching The Wiggles.  Eating out somewhere or at someones home was SO embarrassing because she would not eat one single thing.  I did not know how to change things, but I knew that this was not the way I wanted meal time to go in our family (and The Wiggles version of Hot Potato was getting on my last nerve!)

Fast forward five years and now my girls eat (almost) everything I put out for them!  Here are some of the things we have changed in our home to get us where are now:

1.  We stopped buying processed convenience foods.
      This was hard for me because it used to be so easy for me pull out a bag of chicken nuggets and fries and serve them as a meal that the kids would be guaranteed to eat.  The problem was that this was the only kind of food they wanted.  So, when dinner did not look good to them they would try to default to the processed foods instead of trying the new foods.  We also extended this to breakfast cereal.  Completely getting rid of the sugary cereals changed the girls' palate and now they like homemade oatmeal and organic sugar free cereals.

Preparing the sweet potatoes she helped mash herself

2.  The kids get involved in buying and cooking food
     In the summer we have a local farmers market we visit.  When we go there we give the girls money to purchase any vegetable they want!  Last year, Sofia chose an eggplant and when it was served for dinner, she ate it excitedly!  In the kitchen, I make it a big deal to help out.  I let the girls sit on the high bar stools and I really let them do most of the work they can safely do.  Some of their favorite big girl jobs include cutting basil into small pieces with scissors, cracking and peeling hard boiled eggs, mashing potatoes and buttering bread before mom puts it under the broiler.

Maya with her completed Sweet Potato Pie

3.  On the kids' dinner plates, there are a variety of foods
     Whenever I try a new recipe, I always add a couple other things to their plate.  I usually include some fruit and some other protein like cheese.  This way, if they absolutely do not like their meal then they have other options to eat without having to go hungry to ask me for something else to eat.

4.  No complaining!
    Now, sometimes this is a tough one...but it is a rule we really enforce!  It's such an important one because all it takes is for one child to say "I don't like this, this is gross..." to make every single child at the table refuse to eat that food.  So, in our house, if you don't like something, you just move on to the next food on your plate and mom will get the hint ;)

5.   Don't assume the kids won't eat it!
      I used to always shy away from foods that contained any strong spices, strange vegetables or cuts of meat.  I assumed my kids would NOT like it.  At one point, my kids would not eat anything with "green things floating in it" things being parsley, basil, spinach...anything!  I read somewhere that you may have to introduce a new food 12 times before your child will try it.  This is something I do regularly.  Let me tell you that my perseverance has paid off because lo and behold my kids now eat those green floating things!  It also turned out that the more variety I included in my cooking, the more my kids would try new things.  I have really committed to cooking from scratch for most, if not all, meals during the week.  I credit my favorite cookbook for making that a possibility for me when time is a precious commodity.

A pediatrician once told me to never make eating an argument with your kids because it is one you will always lose.  Offer healthy foods, get rid of the junk and give your children the benefit of trying new foods.

Linked at: raising olives button

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Whirley POP!

For my birthday this year, my sister in law got me a Whirley Pop.  Trust me, if you've never heard of it before, you're not alone.  When she told me about it, she described it as the best popcorn popper and said it was better than any popcorn she's ever made.

I was skeptical.  Whenever I have made popcorn on the stove there were always kernels burning on the bottom, or a million un-popped kernels left over.  Yuck.

The way this ingenious little device works is that you turn the handle which makes a thin wire stir the kernels inside the pot.  You continue turning the handle until it gets tough to turn and then wait a few seconds until all the popping has stopped.

So fun even my husband wants to make popcorn!

Let me tell you, this has made the BEST popcorn ever.  Really.  Every kernel is popped.  I have yet to have ONE single burnt piece.

To make a full pot, you use 1/2 cup of kernels and 1-3 T of oil.  The kids love it plain, but I like to sprinkle a little of this cheddar powder on it!

My sister in law is on a roll with her AWESOME gift ideas for me!  She was the one who bought me the cookbook that changed the way my family eats.  So if you're looking for a great gift idea, I give this two thumbs up...and by the looks of it, the girls think it's pretty good too!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The mother I want to be.

Whenever I meet a teenager who really seems to get along with their mother, I am quick to ask the mother what her secret is.  It's easy for my kids to like me now and easy for them to want to spend time with me now...but what is it that will make them want to spend time with me when they are older.

Not surprisingly, the teenagers I know who actually enjoy spending time with their mothers are teenagers that I really enjoy spending time with as well!  Now who wouldn't want to raise children like that?

I want that.  I want to be that kind of mother.

Now the mothers who shared with me all had different pieces of advice, but a few themes were consistent.  Being a mom that your teenager wants to be around involves:

1.   Time
      Time was the #1 answer that mothers gave me when I asked about how they got to where they were with their children.  Time didn't mean time doing super high energy crafty fieldtrip super mom things.  It meant just being there.  It meant being around for the big stuff and for the small stuff.  One daughter said when she got on the school bus she felt better just knowing that if she needed her mother, she was there.

2.  Listening
     One of my most favorite mothers is a beautiful woman who used to be our nanny when I worked.  I asked how how she managed to keep the communication open with her teenaged daughter.  She told me that she has always made herself available to listen. She quickly added that listening did not always equate agreeing with what she was listening to!  Instead, listening meant that she would let her daughter speak without being dismissed or rushed.  Even if what she was hearing was difficult, she listened and offered support.

3.  Respect in the marriage
    When children see their parents being respectful of one another, they learn to talk respectfully to their parents.  Children will learn to argue like their parents argue.  How silly to expect our children to talk sweetly to us when we lash out at our spouses.  Dr. Ray Guarendi, a Catholic psychologist, commented in a talk once that parents were responsible for having children talk nicely to the other parent.  For instance, if he heard one of his children talking harshly to his wife he would always step up and say sternly "Please do not talk to my wife that way."  When I heard that I loved it!  Not only does it teach children the respect they should have for their parents, but it is also teaching them that their parents consider their marriage worth defending.

Children learn what they live.  This I know is true.  Mother's learn from each other.  This I'm learning is true as well.

Happy Mother's Day! May you be blessed today and every day!

Find me today at...

Saints and Scripture Sunday

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

For the love of birds!

A couple of years ago our family began setting up bird feeders in our yard.  When we started getting beautiful finches, cardinals and chickadees we were elated!  Even at young ages, the girls were able to name about a dozen different birds!

When we started hanging hummingbird feeders, however, our love for birds reached a new level!

At the top of my blog header, you'll find a hummingbird.  It is my favorite animal!  To this day, every time a hummingbird visits our feeders I still stop what I'm doing and stare.

I'll share today how EASY it is to set up these feeders.  It is a project the whole family enjoys!

We have a couple types of feeders.  Our first one was purchased at Walmart for less than $5, it is still going strong although it is harder to clean. Our second feeder was a little more expensive, but comes apart completely to clean.

Our recipe for hummingbird nectar is cheap and easy.  I've seen "syrups" being sold in stores but often times they are colored with dye and are actually harmful to the beautiful birds.

Hummingbird Nectar
1 part granulated white sugar
4 parts water

Heat water to boiling, add sugar and stir until dissolved.  Let cool and fill feeders!

For the two feeders shown above I use 1/2 cup sugar and 2 cups water.  If you have extra nectar you can store it in the fridge.  In hot summer months I change the water every 2 days.  Otherwise it is fine for a little longer.

The girls get the sugar and water ready to boil!

Bird watching can be a great unit study for your kids.  Around our house we have bird watching stations at each window where we have cut out pictures of birds they can spot.  We put pictures of the particular bird the feeder attracts (hummingbird, oriole, finch.)  Last year the girls made a bar graph of the types of birds that came to our "common feeder".

Hummingbird season has started in the Western New York area! We just spotted our first one this week!  Once hummingbirds start coming to your feeders they will return every year.  How sweet is that?

Posture 101

"Posture is a reflection of your attitude toward life" - Stanley Paris

It's not often that I can feature a post written by my husband on my blog.  He has two physical therapy related blogs, one for professionals and one for the public.  When he posted, however, about sitting posture I thought it was totally relevant for my fellow bloggers who sit at keyboards for extended periods of time! Actually, everyone can benefit from a quick lesson in posture.  The way you sit, stand and perform activities can have direct links to back pain, neck pain, headaches and other injuries.

Take a look at this article with great advice on sitting posture (it is the third part of a three part series on posture, so feel free to check the other posts out as well)

Here's a warning though: once you start sitting with correct posture, you will immediately be able to point out slouchers around you!  My husband used to tell me that correcting my posture was true love, so if I tell you to sit up straight, consider it a compliment!

Optimizing Sitting (part 3 of 3) - Dr. Erson Religioso III, DPT,

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How to make your kids eat Kale!

See that green leafy vegetable in the picture above.  Until recently, I had never heard of it.  Move over broccoli, because Kale is the green vegetable to be eating.

One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6, 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 600% of vitamin K.

It also boasts helping with DNA repair, antioxidant activity, bone health and decreasing the risk of cancer.

Here's how we have been incorporating Kale into our diets regularly.  Bonus is that the KIDS love it!  I'm not kidding here.  The bitter leafy taste of Kale is almost undetectable in....smoothies!

Getting the girls involved in making their own smoothies!

Here is my recipe for our Kale Smoothie:

2 cups of Kale (stems removed)
1 bananna
handful of strawberries (I use frozen)
handful of blueberries (I use frozen - the blueberries make the smoothie purple instead of a dark green)
1 apple
3/4 cup water

I blend this all well in our Vitamix blender for 90 seconds or so until it is smooth.

Get's a thumbs up in our house!

Linking up today with my friend Lisa at Home to 4 Kiddos!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I'm back from the 2:1 conference!

I almost chickened out you know.  I almost backed out (paid airfare and all!)  This was my first time traveling alone in gulp 12 years!  Never mind that I didn't know a single person there.

But I was wrong.

I knew a TON of people there. 

I may have never met them in person before, but I have shared their homeschooling journeys, their triumphs and struggles via their blogs. There were times that I read some of their blog posts and said to myself, "gosh, I wish I could just reach out and hug her." Well, this weekend, I did!

With Amy Roberts of Raising Arrows

This is a picture I wanted to get for a long time!  There have been so many times I have read Amy's blog Raising Arrows that I said to myself "I just HAVE to tell this woman how much her writing means to me and HOW much it has influenced the way I mother, the way I homeschool and the way I love God."  So, I did.  I had to tame my smile down in this picture or it would have been scary how happy I was!

Here I am with Angie from Many Little Blessings
That's me above with Angie from Many Little Blessings, The Homeschool Classroom and Catholic Mothers Online.  Phew, can you say busy?  I have to say that she is probably the funniest person I have ever met.  I tried to do her skit of describing how she thinks God talks to her to my husband, but you really need to see it in person!

My big take home message this weekend was to connect NOT collect.  I'll admit, I went into the conference feeling a little foolish that the total hits to my blog ever was as much as some of these moms get in a day.  Really.  But, I kept hearing over and over that if even ONE person reads what you have to say, or if you just feel good writing it, then that is what matters.

So, if you're reading this today then thank you for reading

I look forward to getting to know you better as you get to know me better.  I witnessed this weekend the power of a strong community, it should not be underestimated, no matter the size.