Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Shoes for Two-Year Olds: Reboot (Pun, intended!)

First posted on July 8, 2013

This post was written for our now 5 year-old. It's funny to read this and see how his personality has remained. And now we have another almost 2-year old who loves to clomp around in everyone's shoes. And just like his brother's before him, we want him to try everything out and find what's just right for him...

Life is good: we all have our own shoes to wear and they fit just right!

My dear child,
I know that over the past several weeks, you have developed a great love for wearing the shoes of everyone in our family. And I enjoy watching you clomp around the house, smiling and giggling. It must feel very strange and silly to have those very big shoes hanging off of your tiny, little feet.

As I was watching you stomp, clomp, and boom around the living room today--in sheer delight, mind you--a thought came to my mind and I felt compelled to share it with you.

It is perfectly okay with me if you want to keep trying on daddy's, mommy's, and big brother's shoes. Trying on is just fine. But it is my ardent goal that as you grow, you will only try to fill the shoes of one person--you.

Daddy loves sports and I love art. Our house is filled with music. I hope you, at least, develop an appreciation for these things and the other things that interest us--books and travel and nature. And I pray that you are influenced by your parents' belief that education and preparation are important, that faith gets you through the tough times and makes the good times even better, that loyalty, honesty, and generosity are building blocks for a happy life.

It appears that you have inherited my enthusiasm and your daddy's persistence. I pray that both of these things will serve you as a strength. We will do our best to help you prevent them from being weaknesses. You are like your brother in many ways. And why wouldn't you be? You have the same DNA. I hope that your similarities will bond you further and make you enjoy time spent with each other. That you two will be good friends, not just siblings. That you will like each other as well as love each other. With all of this said, I don't want you to ever try to "fill our shoes", replicate, or copy us or anyone, for that matter. I want you to be you. I believe that God created you in a very intentional way. I believe he has a great plan and purpose for you--for each of us-- and I often pray that God will grant me what I need as your parent to encourage, emphasize, and empower you to be the person He intended you to be.

This means that while I would love for you to beg for art classes and daddy would be thrilled if you asked to practice shooting hoops and I am sure that your brother would like for you to do all of the things that he loves to do, I want for you to pursue what interests you. And I will do my best to be your head cheerleader, biggest fan, and ardent supporter. Karate, karaoke, juggling or judo. Piano or tuba, knitting or hackysack. (Oh, please not hockey or football or race car driving and other things that make for easy concussions!) Horseback riding, lacrosse, soccer, toothpick model making or cup stacking. French, Spanish, Portugese, or Chinese. World record breaking, basket weaving, geocaching, scuba diving, book making (as in notebooks not betting, please!). If it is your passion or you think it might be your passion, your daddy, brother and I will be there yelling the loudest (or whispering if it is chess club).

Ever since I even guessed that I might be pregnant with you, I have been wondering and dreaming and guessing about what you would be like. It has been a great joy to watch you grow and your character develop. The past six months have been especially wonderful as you have shown yourself to be so full of personality, spunk, and humor. I will never get tired of hearing you sing songs or giggle what could quite possibly be one of the two greatest sounds in the world (the other being your big brother's laugh). I love that you are the first to say, "Hi!" to any little person within ear shot and most other people, too. Your observation skills baffle me. You are joy-filled even when in need of a nap.

So I continue to salivate at the idea of your personality unfolding more. It is such a pedestrian phrase..."there is no one in this world exactly like you". And yet, it is such a profound statement if you truly ponder it. You are the only you in this entire world and I want for you to embrace that. Let it empower you. Let it guide you. Your family will be alongside to help you navigate. But we'll each wear our own pair of shoes. Just right for each one of us.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Parenting with Gratitude

Life is Good: when you recognize your gifts

Here's a silly idea. Repost week! (If I can remember) I will publish my most read posts this week. Let me know what you think!

Reposted from January 13, 2014
I try to keep my eyes and ears open all of the time. I feel there is so much that I can learn--about parenting and life--from others. But the best parenting advice I ever received wasn't even told to me as advice.

As many of you know or have read on this blog, my older sister passed away when I was a little girl. My parents were always open to talking about her and I so very appreciate that. They did their very best to keep our life and our family as "normal" as possible after her death. When I think about it, I am absolutely amazed that they kept their marriage in tact through their grief. And I am so grateful for that. It is crippling to imagine what it feels like for a parent to have their child pass away.

When I was about 27 or 28 or even 29 (so a couple of years ago...ha!), I went to visit my parents. One night, my mom and I sat on the couch and she rubbed my feet for me. Yes, this is just one reason why she is the greatest mama ever! We began to talk about my sister. My guess is that we probably were talking about her spunk or her mischievousness. She was sassy! ; ) Then, we began to talk about her death. And our faith. And I asked my mom how ever was she able to make it through that? I wasn't yet a parent and I still couldn't imagine how she didn't throw herself out of a window or tear all of her hair out or need a padded room. It was unimaginable. And what she said to me was equally mind-blowing.

She said, "I had to keep it together for you and your brother. I owed it to you both. And I clung on to the fact that she was God's child first. She was His. And He had shared her with me. With us. I had to be grateful for the time we were allowed together." She explained that she didn't think it was in God's plan for her to die, but that when she became ill, God showed mercy on her and our family and took her pain away. She had to accept that she had gone Home. She clung to her faith, which sustained her.

I am not a person who is often at a loss for words, but this left me speechless.

When I returned from my trip, I remember telling Grant what she had said. He was equally impacted. We both spoke of our admiration for my mom's strength and faith. We made a pact, then and there, that if we were blessed with children, that we would always remember my mom's words. That this is how we would parent. These would be the words that would guide us as a family.

And so this is how I start each day. I remember that these children are a gift. They are a gift shared with us. They are sent from heaven on loan. And that they are God's children first. When I remember this, I remember that they are people, not objects. That they are treasures. Gems more valuable than jewels. And when I remember this, I don't try to control them or use conditions for love. When I remember this, I accept them for who they are and not who I think they should be. When I remember this, I feel grateful for each teeny tiny little spec of a moment with them---even the sleep deprived ones, even the trying ones, every single one.

No, we're not perfect. Oh, let me say that again. No, we. are. not. perfect! Yes, we have an occasional bad moment and even fewer rough days, but I believe that because we start from the right place, from the place of intention and gratitude, those valleys are less often and the peaks more predominant.

I believe we have darkness to appreciate the light and getting through rough times makes us appreciate the good ones. And I always try to find a lesson in a challenge so that something positive comes out of it all. My sister's life and death have taught me a lot. And I am still learning from her. And I am still learning from my parents, too. 

"Thank you" seems so insignificant, but it is true. Thank you, mom and dad. From the deepest part of my heart. Thank you for the words of faith and love and strength that guide me as a mother and guide us as a family. And thank you, heavenly father, for the gift of these children, these precious little people, whom you have entrusted with us. Guide us, keep us, protect us so that we might have all the time we want together.

                                                                From Jalipeno on Etsy

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Parenting Advice

Life is Good: we have words of wisdom

I'm a sucker for a good quote. Ever since I can remember, I have always found such inspiration in the wise words of others. I love this quote. As I read it, I felt it was speaking to me as a person, but by the end, I felt it was speaking to me as a parent. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes with No Eggs

Life is Good: we're making special breakfasts together!

Oh, my. 
SO much has been going on around here. It's hard to believe that Fall is upon us when it feels like summer was just a blink away from today.
Back to school has been wonderful for the big kids at our house. They wake up happily and skip off to school. They come home with smiles on their faces and stories about the day's fun. My biggest complaint is that they don't eat their lunches. The Big Kid looks at me with big eyes and a smirk, "But, mommy, I have lots of talking to do at lunchtime!" The Little Kid's reasoning is similar--"I didn't eat all of my lunch because I was showing (classmate's name) a magic trick!"

While he has enjoyed full reign of their bedrooms & their toys while they aren't home, our Littlest One has really been been missing his brothers. And frankly, I have, too.
But we had a blast this summer. "It was full, but not busy," I say when people ask. We had tons of fun, went lots of places, vacationed, enjoyed a couple of camps, played with tons of friends, ran through the sprinkler no less than fourteen thousand times, swam & swam & swam & swam, but all at a very enjoyable pace. I declared it a 1980s summer the day ours began. I wanted it to be innocent and low-tech like that of my childhood---lots of imagination and feel good-ness screens! And besides watching The Twins play and some episodes of Chopped Junior here and there plus the Peanuts movie (I think?), it was screen-free for the kiddos and that was just fine with them!

One thing that we did a lot of this summer was cook and bake. We adjusted my eggless pancake recipe to create Cinnamon Roll Pancakes. And let me tell you that, accompanied by the glaze, these pancakes smell and taste like cinnamon rolls! Oh. My. Gosh. They are good! I've had to go gluten free in response to some postpartum physical health issues that just haven't quite gone away but the one pancake I allowed myself was worth the inflammation! (Well, maybe not? It's hard to say!) (Next up...gluten free pancakes?)

Here is our recipe:
Susie's Eggless Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
(adapted from this recipe)
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted (you don't have to, but it makes them fluffier)
7 teaspoons baking powder, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I like Pink Himalayan)
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 cups milk (I use organic whole)
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup (heaping over) applesauce (I use organic, no sugar added)
1 Tablespoon vanilla (I prefer Madagascar)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1. In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of baking powder into the applesauce and set aside. This will mimic 2 beaten eggs in the recipe.
2. In a large bowl, sift together flour (or at least distribute evenly), SIX teaspoons of baking powder, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.
3. Pour milk, vanilla, and melted butter into dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Add applesauce mixture and mix well.
5. Oil (or butter) a griddle or fry pan. When heated, use a Tablespoon to measure out your pancakes. These are fluffy pancakes, so they need a lower heat and longer on the griddle to cook all the way through. Use the first couple of pancakes to experiment how long it takes on each side to cook all the way through without scorching the outside of the pancake. For me, it takes a couple of minutes on each side with a medium heat on my gas stove.
6. Serve with my simple glaze and enjoy!

Susie's Simple Pancake Glaze:
1. Pour 1 1/2 cups powdered (confectioner's) sugar into a small mixing bowl.
2. Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla (I like Madagascar)
3. Add 1/8 cup of water
4. Mix well until there are no lumps
5. If you still have some dry parts, add another 1/8 cup of water and mix well
6. Look at the glaze, taste the glaze. If you want something the consistency of syrup, keep the glaze as is. If you want a thicker glaze, add another 1/4 cup of powdered sugar
7. Using a whisk, pastry brush, or fork, drizzle over your pancakes

This recipe makes between 24-30 half dollar-sized pancakes. It depends on what you use to measure out your pancakes.
IMPORTANT: if you have small children, I would decrease the cinnamon amount to 1/2 teaspoon. Cinnamon can be "spicy" to small children and they might not enjoy this full-throttle. You might not either! My 8-year old said we should INCREASE the cinnamon. Herbs and spices are really a matter of taste (pun intended!) so adjust this to your own palette's preference. 


Sunday, September 4, 2016

How to take great photos of kids

Life is Good: six kids looked at the camera and smiled!

This happened! 
Six kids, all looking at the camera and smiling! 
For real! They all stood still. They all looked forward. They all seemed happy. 
How? No idea! 
But I can tell you that, as it happened, Mariah Carey appeared on stage left and began to sing, "There can be miracles...when you believe." Followed by an angel choir singing the "Hallelujah Chorus".  The sun shown brighter, unicorns pranced by, and glitter sprinkled down, ever so gently, from white, fluffy clouds while leprechauns tossed golden coins in the air. Both moms sprouted jeweled crowns and super hero capes and had a perfectly-lit glow about them.

Okay, not really. But it should have happened this way. 
People, this just doesn't happen at our house! 
IF I can get the older two to look at the camera at the same time, the Littlest One has run off out of camera shot. 
Or he's looking at the other two. 
Add three other kids, and, typically, mayhem ensues. 
But not on this day. 
And for that, it deserves this little, celebratory rant! 
Success! ; )

Saturday, September 3, 2016

How to make easy finger puppets

Life is Good: my kids love crafts 

Well, we decided to head to the playground yesterday morning at 9 AM. But somehow, we made finger puppets instead!

While we were waiting for SOMEONE, some SLOW TO START-it's the end of the summer and he's finally slow in the mornings just in time for school to start-SOMEONE to finish their breakfast, I suggested we make some *quick* finger puppets. I traced circles onto cardstock and got out the scissors. (I'm always looking for an opportunity for our 5-year old to work on his cutting skills.)

I made a few, but the Little Kid wanted to do his own thing. (Per the usual!) And then, the Big Kid decided it looked like fun.

They made bears and turtles and aliens...oh my! And then they FINALLY changed out of their jammies and we were off to the playground...2 1/2 hours later!