Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ten Ways To Raise A Reader

Ten Ways to Raise A Reader
by Gladys Hunt

1. Restrict television watching drastically.

2. Keep the computer under control and where it can be monitored. Don't allow too many hours on the pointless computer games or in chat rooms.

3. Have books and other good reading material within easy reach, an enticement to read.

4. Let your children see you reading.

5. Read books aloud together regardless of age.

6. Talk about books together, play games together.

7. Have well-lit rooms with comfortable chairs that invite reading.

8. Balance activity schedules with reading time. Let your kids know the library is as important as the gymnasium.

9. Encourage reading in bed with good lights to do so.

10.  Visit the library often, and listen to books on tape when traveling. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

It is impossible to win the great prizes of life without running risks,
and the greatest of all prizes are those connected with the home.

Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Our Favorite Pumpkin Cookies

1 cup butter, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

3 TBS butter
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2-2 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and the sugar together still fluffy.
Blend in pumpkin, egg and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and powder, cinnamon and salt.
Mix flour mixture into the butter/sugar mixture.
Drop tablespoonfulls 3 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheets.
Bake the cookie for 10-12 minutes until golden around the edges.
Remove warm cookies and transfer to racks.
Let cool completely for at least one half hour, then frost with glaze.

For glaze:
In a medium sauce pan, heat butter and brown sugar over medium heat until bubbly.
Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute or until slightly thickened.
Beat in the milk.
Blend in confectioner's sugar until the glaze is smooth and spreadable.
Keep the sauce pan over the stove on the lowest possible heat to keep from hardening.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Favorite Autumn Children's Book

Janey and I read this book almost every evening.  I love the message behind it, written in form of a poem,  and the illustrations are beautiful.  (Thanks Mom, the world's best book-picker-outer.:)  It's a message of gratitude, appreciation, prayer, and duty.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

Second reading in Mass this weekend-love this verse and so powerful, especially when it comes to mothering.  Noticing the beautiful, the good, the Godly, the things worthy of praise, goes so much farther than doing the opposite.  And when worry about any little thing turns to prayer, it is so much easier to let our hearts be open to notice and praise all the good, from the little tiny things to the big ones.  I think it makes our children glow inside when we do this-truly allows their light to shine.
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, 
whatever is true, 
whatever is honorable, 
whatever is just, 
whatever is pure, 
whatever is lovely, 
whatever is gracious, 
if there is any excellence, 
if there is anything worthy of praise, 
think about these things.
Philippians 4:6-8

Monday, September 25, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

“Here is a rule for everyday life: 
Do not do anything which you cannot offer to God.”  

St. Jean Marie Vianney, Cure d’Ars

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Review Of the Book "The Miracle Morning"

I promised at the bottom of this post a review of the book  The Miracle Morning-The Not So Obvious Secret Guaranteed To Transform Your Life (Before 8 a.m.).

It's a super quick easy read-it took me one night and I read it fast and maybe skimmed some parts.

First off, I love the idea, and felt a difference in my days since I have started. I do think though it IS rather obvious in spite of the title, it's just more difficult to create a habit of it, especially through life transitions.  I'll get to that later.

Second, although I love the idea, it comes across as a really sales-pitchy type of book and maybe more for executives and sales people or those with huge aspirations that way.  Hal's story at the beginning is incredible-he came back from huge injuries after a terrible car accident.  He has a motivating voice, (again maybe for my old ears, a bit too motivating), and many, many good reminders, but I really had to get to the guts of the book and adapt the book's basic message to my life.

SO back to the idea in my own words-

S.A.V.E.R.S is the acronym Hal uses.
Wake up early.  Don't hit snooze (never have in my life, I HATE snooze, it just makes you more tired! I tell this to my older kids all the time and they don't listen.  I also don't ever need an alarm clock because I have one in my head, so who am I to talk.)  We need to carve out time to do this and it needs to be in the morning or something else will suck the time away.  This whole process starts the day out right, in a positive, calm, purposeful, grateful note. (Also if you have a baby that wakes up at the crack of dawn, or all night, just forget about it all until a tiny bit more of sleep is not the most essential thing in your life.)

S-Silence. Take some quiet time by yourself to pray and meditate and breathe or just to be grateful for all that you have.

A-Affirmations.  Remind yourself of who you want to be today to those around you.

V-Visualization. What does it look like to be that person you just affirmed?  It's a mental dress rehearsal.


R-Reading.  The Bible, an inspirational book, a self-help book that gives a new perspective. (I think listening can be substituted-a podcast, sermon, book...)

S-Scribing. Journaling-a gratitude journal.

That is super brief, but essentially what the message is.  He talks about the process ideally being an hour in length.

I kill all birds with one stone because I am a mom and that is what we train ourselves to do-be efficient and take what we can get. :)  I can walk in the morning and go through the steps at the same time I'm getting that exercise in.

I think what makes this really work is the time to myself, exercise to get energized and feel good (it's so much about those chemicals in the brain and body and that boost mood), and then being purposeful (reminding myself daily of my purpose!) before the day starts and the house is up and running 100 miles an hour.  It is calming, a ritual, and I feel like when I get that head start, I am more like who I want to be as a person and to my family. This is what I mean when I say it's all obvious, just so obvious we forget how important it can be when we are serving everyone else's needs-spending time being quiet, praying, reminding ourselves of our bigger purpose, exercising our bodies and our minds and being grateful.

As I wrote earlier, I think in the different season of our lives this whole process could look different. Maybe we can't leave the house so we just find a quiet place, and do some stretching.  Maybe we can take the whole hour, maybe we wait until the kid's are at school, and maybe it's a quick read of an inspiring quote and affirmation, or Bible verse, and a little list of gratitude.

Here is a more extensive review if anyone is interested.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Apple Fritter Bread

This is so delicious! I doubled the recipe because it looked so tasty and was glad I did so since it went fast.  Matthew requested his own loaf and then topped the slices with vanilla ice cream.  He knows how to do dessert.

Apple Fritter Bread

Heat oven to 350.  Coat a loaf pan with non-stick spray.

Mix together in a bowl:
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Set aside.

In a different bowl combine:
Two apples, peeled, cored, chopped.
2 TBS white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Set aside.

In a mixer bowl combine:
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
2 eggs
2/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp of baking powder
1/2 cup milk

Pour half of the batter into loaf pan.  Add half of the apple mixture, and then half of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.  Repeat.  Lightly press apples into the cinnamon mixture and swirl through batter gently with a knife (I just made a figure 8 with the knife through the whole loaf pan once).

Bake 55-60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

To make glaze mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk.  Wait for 15 minutes after bread comes out of oven and drizzle on top.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

"Like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. 

These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. 

They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children, by siblings. 

They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. 

Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. 

Homely gestures. 

Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. "

-Pope Francis-

Friday, September 15, 2017

Reader Question-Our Tempers

I've been a long time reader of yours. I remember reading you when I had just one very young baby, and now I have four beautiful children! 

I love my family dearly. I am so very grateful to be with my children day in and day out. I am constantly praying, reading, planning and pondering how to be the best mother I can be to them. I want to serve them well and do right by them. But man, oh man, do I struggle with my temper. 

I resolve over and over again not to lose my cool, but then one little thing pushes my buttons and oops! there I go again. This is not the mother I want to be. I want my children to only have positive associations when the think of their mother. I long to be calm, gentle, and patient. Always a safe place for my children to land.

How have you dealt with not losing your temper when tempted to do so? Do you have any thoughts? Maybe this has never been a hard struggle for you, and if that is the case, can I just ask you to pray that I would consistently be the mother I hope to be?

Dear Fellow Mother-
My first thoughts after reading your letter is that you are being too hard on yourself!  Four little children to raise and you are trying so hard to be calm and gentle and patient, but you are also human and you are doing BIG WORK every day and all night.

So let's clear this up-heck yes I lose my temper.  I have in the past and I won't guarantee that I'll never do it again-in fact I know I will-although with age and experience and prayer and some hard-earned wisdom and a wider lens on what really matters I do less.  

I sent my teenage daughter a quote the other day that I read in a book-"The only happy people I know are people I don't know very well."  I think this applies in this case because I "know of" mothers-legends-who have never raised their voice or lost their temper.  The funny thing is just that-they are legends-and I bet they would all say "Oh yes I have!" if asked personally about it.  

So every mother of many raises her voice, or gets angry, or slams a door-in fact I would say I think it's healthier than being in a calm cool controlled factory-like environment where any of our children's behaviors just warrant unemotional reactions.  That's not the real world.  It's good for them to know they might make someone who loves them deeply very emotional when they do things that aren't respectful or are just plain wrong, annoying, or dangerous to them or others. And it's good to know that their mother is human-she has feelings and headaches and good days and bad days, and makes mistakes, and sometimes even has to apologize.  We are living together and growing together just as we should be.

But it's never a good feeling when we lay in bed at night to feel guilty about something we know we could have done better that day.  And it's a better example to lose your temper very few times, but most other times to learn how to channel the frustration into something more productive-behavior changing-as we are the adults in the relationships.  As we are the model of behavior in our home, we create the environment-if it is one of short tempers, yelling and angry frustration or worse* we will see more of that behavior between our children.  

*I am an opponent of spanking or any other physical punishment. I've given a quick reactive spank three times in the 23 years of my mothering career when "losing it", and regretted it immediately as I know in my heart that it does NOT change their hearts or attitudes or behavior but has a tendency to make things worse and is the opposite of the example I want to set in my house.

So let's get to the good stuff-a little list of considerations and questions to ask:

-We can figure out our triggers-those "buttons"-maybe keep a little journal as the week goes on or maybe we can figure it out instantly: 

What time of day am I more prone to yell or be short-tempered or react angrily?  What is happening when I lose my patience? Rushing is a trigger for me-being too busy, doing too much in or out of the house, having too many places to be.  What can I take off my plate if this is the case?  What can I whittle down that's unnecessary at this season of our life? (Hint: Almost everything!)

Does it occur during the witching hours (before dinner)?  Maybe changing the routine would help-quiet time or calm TV time (PBS is my go to-not hyper shows!) for 30 minutes or sibling separation at a certain time of day would give a breather. Preparing dinner in the morning was a big one for me-I felt so much less frazzled and pulled while helping with homework and holding fussy babies. 

Is there a behavior or two that really triggers me in a child or children?  Be firm in changing behaviors that are triggers. That is a whole other post but coming up with a plan for changing that specific behavior, noting it and hanging it on the fridge to remind myself to correct it was a little something that worked for me in the earlier years-it is so much easier to tackle one little thing at a time and know that there is a loving corrective but firm plan instead of just getting mad at the child. 

Firmness, clear expectations, and consistency but also hugs, positive reinforcement, lots of noticing and complimenting the good (let them hear you say nice things about them to Dad or Grandma or a friend) and time with mom or dad (we are talking playing blocks on the floor or playing catch, nothing elaborate) does wonders for kids to change behavior.  

-We must be really willing to make big changes in our homes, lifestyles and schedules and routines (which are SO SO important!).  A little example- I found myself really frustrated when it came to enforcing time limits with electronics a long time ago-I decided they weren't worth the confrontations in our home and were detracting from the parent I wanted to be (not to mention the kid's brain cells) and finally decided they weren't worth it-there was no benefit to any of us. I put them all in a bin up in the closet and they were rarely if at all saw the light of day again (they have been moved to the dark recesses of the attic).  You have a right as a mother to cut down or eliminate the things or activities or events that cause you stress-most likely the benefit of any of these things is not worth the angst and anger it causes. You have a right to make your life easier in this way if it makes you a more patient mother.  

Be careful of expectations-do we want the house to look perfect, are we attempting a hobby or obligation that will just not fit into our season of life right now?  Let it go and come back to it later when more time and your own energy opens up (I realize this is more difficult than ever today.)  This was so true for me-the times I felt frazzled and short-tempered were really the times I wasn't allowing myself to stay focused, settled and content with motherhood. This is the biggest disfavor to ourselves I believe.  Letting our souls just do the most important job on earth with our whole hearts and minds is the best feeling and really a wonderful gift.  Doing one thing and one thing well brings us so much more peace and satisfaction.  

-Tired or hungry or coming down with something?  That's what I would say about a toddler who is fussy or short-tempered.  That applies to us also.  Unfortunately, tired is part of lives as mothers.  But sleep has to be a priority and if it's just not happening because we have a newborn, or colicky baby we need to give ourselves a break and know our moods will get better as we either adjust or get a little more rest.  Also, certain times of the month can be really difficult.  Just an awareness of when that is going to be can be helpful.  (A magic elixir would also but so far I haven't heard it exists.:) 

-Exercise. I can't say enough about how just walking or any little exercise routine has magically made me calmer and more patient.  Also, I get how this seems impossible.  I've gone years without being able to find the time to do this.  A little alone time combined with exercise kills two birds with one stone and add fresh air it really hits the mark.  (Hauling everyone to a gym causes more stress and isn't worth it in my experience.)  A quiet fast walk outside is precious to me-it is actually what keeps me sane today with all these ages and stages and my own hormones.

-Channel someone.  Really!  My mom has this voice when speaking with students and young children-they fall under a spell and magically obey her every word.  Maybe someone you know personally is just one of those super patient calm people-probably a teacher, maybe a beloved aunt. Pretend you are them even if you are seething inside-on the outside you are calm, cool and collected looking at the situation from above.  On the same lines...

-...react the opposite of what you are feeling.  Get quieter, calmer, slower, deep breathe, step back.  Say nothing. That doesn't mean to constantly ignore bad behavior (no one should strive to be a parent that watches their children being naughty and does nothing especially when that is affecting others), but in your home sometimes no reaction is the best reaction you can give at the time-sometimes this helps break the habit and the negative attention cycle some children seek. 

-I read a quick excerpt of a book that sounds so interesting to me. It's called "The Miracle Morning".  It's about setting yourself up for the day by going through a few different steps.  Once I read it in it's entirety I will do a post on it-but the steps in the morning are quiet time, visualization, affirmation, reading, exercise, writing.  I know what you are thinking-YEAH RIGHT!  I did too.  Without having read the book, and with doing all those things in no way close to an hour (I think the amount of time you are supposed to spend) I have tried this and it is truly wonderful.  I really think one could condense all that into minutes. Visualization and affirmation are huge tools I think that could change our behaviors and remind us of the big picture-that mother that we want our children to remember. One little page of an encouraging mothering book (i.e. Sally Clarkson, Mac Blesdoe, or I am loving Meg Meeker podcasts on my walk or in car) and a quick journal note to self is inspirational. Again, I'll write more on this once I read the book and tell how I adapt it to fit into my life.  It's daily purposeful reminders in every way possible right when we wake up to set our day off straight that helps.

-Keep praying!  We are works in progress, doing the most important work on earth, and God gives us grace and forgiveness and love to start each new day fresh.

With Love and Understanding,