Before the Crazy Starts

Happy Thanksgiving Y’All!

I hope your Thanksgiving Holiday was full of joy and relaxation. I am so thankful for the blessings of a somewhat normal year thus far (or at least what I imagine a normal year to be) that I’m actually a bit overwhelmed by it all and having a really hard time expressing myself adequately. So I’ll just get into it then. Ok? Good, here we go.

before-the-crazy-starts

Below are five thoughts that I’ve had over and over since this school year began. Nothing novel, but they have been so important to me this year that I thought I would start by listing them before the busy holiday season really gets going. I hope you find them as comforting as I have, just little reminders (to myself) of the top five most important things to remember for a smoother homeschool life.

  1. EAT! Food is delicious. Your children are fun to be around when they are well fed and their table conversations are hilarious! So don’t forget or minimize just how important meal times are. They form the backbone of our rhythm. Our whole day runs the most smoothly when it is scheduled around food breaks. These monkeys will actually keep still long enough to listen if there is food in front of them, and it is the one time of day when I don’t feel like ripping my hair out. Also, mealtimes around here happen as often as a Hobbits! Every two hours food is involved whether I am ready for it or not…so to be easier on me, just be ready for it. Oh yeah and don’t ignore the alarm on your phone that reminds you that a mealtime is coming up. Using the Snooze button also gives the kids an instant five minute warning, use it as a transition more often.
  2. PUT THE PHONE DOWN! My phone is my best friend and worst enemy…we are frenimes. On great days my phone is our booklist, audiobook player, random question answerer, or library. My phone is also my camera, and darn it these kids are just too cute, but seriously that quick photo can easily turn into my biggest distraction. On most days it distracts me from my greatest work and I know it. I am too easily swayed by those pesky red notifications. I am far too sensitive and my mood is instantly killed by the confrontational nature of so many social media responses or bad news. Each quick look can feel like a romp with lotus eaters. I miss too much, I get agitated too easily, and I waste too much time. Let the phone die at night. Leave it upstairs charging during the mornings. Out of sight out of mind works, remember…that’s why you own three glue guns!
  3. LET IT GO! No not the Frozen song…stop singing it- ugh, now I’ll have that song stuck in my head all day. I’m my own worst enemy. Back to the point- Relationships are stronger than any curriculum. Usually when things aren’t going well or when emotions are running high and everyone is feeling overwhelmed it is because the focus has somehow returned to a to do list mentality. Stop that. Just stop with the to do lists that you write down, forget about, find and then get angry about not finishing. Squirrels happen. When I am trying to check things off and I feel like we have somehow fallen behind I get crabby and a crabby mom ends up with crabby kids and nothing gets learned. Doesn’t matter if assignments are read or work is completed, there is no comprehension and anything we may have learned will be forgotten by tomorrow. When I try to buckle down and push through things get worse. But if I let go we naturally find our way back. This isn’t some magic spell, it is just the result of years worth of habit training. When we let go and just let loose we tend to gravitate towards learning activities, just not the ones we had planned and thats where the magic does happen. When I stop trying to force them into my plan I see the forrest instead of just trees. The learning is there, it is always happening I just have to remind myself how to see it and then I have to focus on what is not working and fix that.
  4. EDUCATION IS A DISCIPLINE. I don’t do discipline well but I am learning just how important that is for me. Especially self discipline, but also helping the kids build their own stamina and confidence. Gifted doesn’t mean easy and hard doesn’t mean impossible. My dad used to always say “hard work beats talent” and now I find myself telling my children this as well. For the first time in his five years of schooling your little boy is actually being challenged. Do you know what this means…let me remind you… it means a cycle of crying followed by silence when asked why, because things are hard and he doesn’t know how to break down hard. He doesn’t know how to work hard and it is kicking his rear! He is fully capable of doing the work. He gets crazy excited once it actually clicks but for the first time in his life he cannot just skim the reading and tell me what it is about. He is learning how to do close readings. He is learning how to look up word definitions. He hates it, and I hate seeing him feel like that but I know that feeling. Don’t you remember feeling that in college…just before changing majors because “I’m just not good at it”. Remember, he is not being lazy. He is building discipline. Just don’t make him do it for too long at any one interval, endurance is built over time.
  5. JOURNAL! Don’t forget. Make it a priority. Keeping Track of our days is worth the effort. Journalling what we do everyday (I use a bullet journal) really helps keep us on track, so just do it! Whether I am trying to accomplish something specific or it is a break week, knowing that I am writing everything down helps me to be intentional with our time. Whether that means doing a little something on Saturday because we needed a full stop on Tuesday or just remembering which books we actually read at the library, having every thing written down daily will help down the line. Don’t forget.

So there you have it. Five thoughts that remind me of the things that help to make life easier before this season runs off with my brain.

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What are your personal thoughts? You don’t have to write them here, although I am always curious about what other mamas do to keep the peace. I just know that reminding myself in writing helps me to act so I want to also challenge you to take a moment to jot down your top five as well. As the holiday season approaches I hope that you can find the time to remember to find grace, peace and quiet as often as it is needed because hidden blessings are everywhere.

-Tabitha

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Eat your Food!!

It’s the plight of parents everywhere, how many times do you have to tell your toddler or preschooler to stop playing and just “Eat your food!” I can’t even begin to count how many blogs I have seen that focus on feeding these little picky eaters healthy food in fun ways. However, in a society filled with concerns over childhood obesity I have an entirely different issue, my kids are too small. So for me it’s not just an issue of getting them to eat healthy food but eating it in larger amounts and with higher calories. Also unlike most parents who have no medical needs to fulfill, I cannot fight the picky attitudes by withholding meals until they are ready to eat what I offer.

Not all of my kids are so small that this is an impossibility, but as anyone who has multiple little ones knows if one kid gets something all of them had better get it or mutiny is close at hand. Even though my girls are healthy they are on the low ends of the charts and my son has had to see a specialist after the pediatrician showed concern over his lack of growth. So here I am with one more issue on my plate. Struggling with feeding my kids in a manner that is healthy but also high enough in calories to make a difference in their weight. The problem that I run up against the most is that the minute I make an ordinary dish, like a bowl of oatmeal, high calorie, by using half and half or instant dry milk, it fills up that tiny stomach so much that they than refuse to eat any snacks and instead push-off all meals until lunch!

So instead of eating more they are eating less and it is beyond frustrating. Add to this their complete lack of interest in vegetables, including root veggies like potatoes, and meal planning becomes a huge pain in the neck! Luckily after seeing a Pediatric Endocrinologist (who ruled out any serious medical reasons and chalked it up to genetics passed through their father’s side) we have been given a few tips that seem to work.

1. Feed them what they want when they are hungry within reason. I know this sounds like a no brainer but when my four-year old comes out of his bedroom at 1130 pm asking for Oatmeal and the kitchen is finally clean and we are heading to bed does not always end with an automatic “sure”. Or when Lunch or dinner is only 15-20 minutes away…these usually lead to a “wait just a few more minutes” because a snack that close to a meal means there will be little eaten. However, I draw the line when my son comes asking for Oreos at 715 am, sorry Charlie but that’s not going to fly as a breakfast option…ever. Ask me for Pancakes and eggs for dinner…no problem as long as they asked before I started cooking, the chicken can wait in the fridge.

2. Carnation Instant Breakfast mixed with whole milk. For about three years we gave each kid a Pediasure once per day with their breakfasts and it broke our bank! My parents often helped out and would come over for visits bearing 2-3 bunches of what my kids call pink milk (strawberry and berry were their favorites) but it was still far more than a family of five can afford on one military income. I had heard from some friends that our insurance might cover the drinks if we asked our pediatrician since it was recommended to us…they didn’t. However, what they did do was give us a much more affordable alternative. Now my son drinks three glasses of the milkshake a day and my daughters share a packet. Surprisingly, these shakes do not limit their appetites but instead strengthen them and leave them asking for a snack when complete.

3. Add high calorie/ high fat substitutes for recipe bases. For example if a recipe calls for milk I substitute whole milk for half and half or if possible I will add avocados to a recipe. I have read other sites that recommend giving smaller kids extra butter, or mounds of cheese on things like oatmeal but I cannot in good conscience create eating habits in my children that can cause heart disease or high cholesterol, both of which already run in our family. Instead I have increased the calories and fats according to the pediatricians recommendations. (Do you have any idea how hard it is to try to lose baby weight when more than half of your family needs to eat calorie rich foods?)

4. Serve more meals per day. This one has to be the hardest of all of the changes we have tried to make and I have to admit that we still haven’t made it a full part of our routine. It is so hard to try to fit extra snacks/meals in between the main ones because most time I offer and the kids refuse or because we are out and about or my son is in preschool. There are a few snacks that they will take anytime I offer: Fresh and Easy’s Organic Cheddar Pirate’s Treasure (it taste like White Cheddar popcorn but its a rice/corn hybrid so even my youngest can munch without the choking hazard), Mott’s Fruit snacks/Mott’s Medleys (made with fruit juice) are used as a special treat in our house due to the high sugar content, pretzels and whole grain goldfish. Each Snack is accompanied by fresh fruit (its the most healthy thing they eat in large quantities) and I try to add in cheese or yogurt but after a bite or two it is usually pushed away (except with our youngest who is a yogurt eating machine). Most days I am lucky if I can fit in one snack in a day.

Its a daily issue in my house, we have tried eating without the tv and that doesn’t make a difference. Lately I have combined our afternoon story time with the eating of lunch. They ask questions about the stories, add anecdotes while I read, try to jump ahead of me and read the words coming up but it is so much easier to close a book and remind them to keep eating with real results if there is some kind of incentive. If we are just sitting at the table than every movement becomes a joke, every word a distraction and there is nothing to help them get excited about eating when there is so much more to do away from the table. and so we trudge on in this fight that will hopefully one day fade, maybe one day my kids will tell me “mom we need to eat our food”…a girl can dream, right?

Comfort Food in Blueberry Pound Cake with Lemon Cream

Make more of what I use, that is the mantra that is pushing me to become self motivated and get stuff done.

It’s not that I am lazy or that my family eats purely junk food or prepackaged food but I will admit that we eat whatever is easiest because the majority of the time I am just plain exhausted. Especially over these last two years (2010-2012) which have been filled with work-ups (that time spent between deployments where my husband is at far off war exercises and stints in the elusive “field”), back to back pregnancies (youngest was 9 months old when we found out we were expecting again) and 7 months full of worry, loneliness and postpartum depression while my husband served in Afghanistan. During that time my family often ate in front of the tv (we still do on occasion but it is not nearly as often), we often had fast food, dinner out (which is so expensive!) or quick, ten minutes of prep or less, meals and most of it was packaged and processed. The worst thing about all of this is that I love to cook and bake but my disorganization and lack of motivation prevented any attempt I may have had.

With that being said and 2012 just beginning I am working towards making more of what my family consumes. Starting with breakfast! Well we ate this Blueberry Pound Cake as a part of our breakfast but it is just as good for a snack or a soft dessert. I have to say that I love pound cake, I especially like lemon pound cake with lemon glaze but baby Eleanor has me craving blueberries a lot lately so I made this one instead. It’s a comfort food for me, the kind of food that makes me feel like I am sitting on a couch in front of a window on a rainy day curled up under a blanket with a really good book, even if I’m really dealing with a house filled with sick people! So go ahead and try it out when you just want something yummy to eat!

Blueberry Pound Cake with Lemon Cream

Yummy Blueberry Pound Cake with a zesty Lemon Cream

Blueberry Pound Cake-adapted from www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Blueberry-Pound-Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Lemon Zest
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 Bag frozen Blueberries (about 3 cups)
Directions:
  • In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in extract, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl combine flour and baking soda; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Fold in blueberries (do not thaw to prevent discoloration of batter).
  • Spoon into two greased and waxed paper-lined (it makes removal easier) 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.
  • Yield: 2 loaf cakes.

Lemon Cream- adapted from http://www.marthastewart.com/356083/blueberry-sour-cream-pound-cake-lemon-cream?center=276954&gallery=274319&slide=256186

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer and whip until soft peaks form(or it looks like whipped cream). Serve on top of a slice of bread.

Enjoy! We found it to be better than any pound cake I have ever picked up at a grocery store and it was not hard to make at all!