Thursday, September 28, 2017

10 Learning Crafts to Do With Kids

     I've been a stay at home parent for 3 and a half years. Over time, from time to time,  I tried to do my awesome mommy thing and do projects and crafts with my kids to help them learn. My brother-in-law has recently become a stay-at-home dad for his family and was asking about different learning craft ideas to do with his kids. As an expert, keep my kids out of trouble, mom, I've had experience with Pinterest and looking things up. I've compiled a list of my top 10 favorites crafts. Most of these I've tried and the others look promising. I hope you're able to enjoy. (Click the links for instructions on how to make some of these crafts.)


1.  Paper Chains  This was my favorite thing to do around Christmas time. It was super easy to make and it helped you count down the days until Christmas.

Kickin it ol school party decorations, Rainbow paper chains!

2. Bake cupcakes! Grab your favorite box of Betty Crocker or use a family recipe. Have the kids help you measure out the ingredients to learn measurements or just how to help. When the cup cakes are done baking and are ready to be topped, make some vanilla frosting, divide it into bowls, and add food color to each bowl for different color. You can teach your child colors in a fun edible way and if you want to add sprinkles or other toppings, you can also teach your child to count along.


3. ABC Magnets! What's nice about magnets is that they can stick to your refrigerator or dishwasher. Have your child play with them and try to spell them out. They can play with them while you cook dinner or you can use them on some metal sheet pans. Encourage them to remember the letters and try to sound out goofy word concoctions, they'll get a laugh out of you trying.


4. Paint in a bag- I wasn't sure how my kids would like this, especially my older kids, but they really enjoyed moving the paint around and mixing the colors. On the plus side, it's also mess free!

5. Peanut Butter Play Dough - Kids can learn all sorts of things when they play with play dough. It's even better when it's peanut butter! You can add chocolate chips or other edible ingredients to count with or to help sculpt. If your child is allergic to peanut butter, try this one. You can color this, so that's a plus, but I'm not sure on the taste. 


6. Make a bird feeder! I've made my bird feeders with pinecones, peanut butter, and bird seed, but you can make them this way too and the look adorable! Teach your child how to take care of other creatures and sit and watch the different kind of animals that come by to eat from it. 


7. Colored pasta- I haven't done this one yet, but I definitely want to try. This is such a great idea! you can teach your kids about colors, teach them math by adding and subtracting, and when you're finished, you can teach them motor skills by making jewelry. 

8. Sensory Bags- Help your child learn texture and color with sensory bags. They can play with this for a long time, or, if they decide they are bored, it's easy to store these. 




9. Ornaments! I'm not an artist, but I try to do something creative each year with my kids to hand out to grandparents or to keep for myself. My favorite one to do is the salt dough hand print ornaments which is in the link above. This doesn't really teach your kids anything, but it's a nice keep sake to have.

10. Go outside and explore! This isn't a craft, but it is a great learning experience. Watch bugs and look at the clouds. Discuss the color and texture of the leaves and talk about the temperature. The outdoors has a never ending supply of learning tools.


   Tell me which crafts are your favorites or which ones that you like to do with your kids that aren't on this list. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

If 30 Year Old Me Could Give 18 Year Old Me Advice

     I was talking with my husband, the other day, about the possibility of going back to school to get a degree in writing or English. I had been searching for work from home jobs a few days earlier and the jobs that I thought sounded like fun and something that I might like to do required a degree in one of those two fields. So I thought about school, wondering if I would be dedicated enough to go back. I was getting kind of excited about it and decided to talk with him about starting over.
      He listened to what I had to say and then dashed my hopes with just a few sentences. I didn't know that if I already had a degree that I wouldn't be able to get financial aid and getting any other type of assistance would be extremely difficult. If I went back to school, I would have to take out more loans and our lives are already stalled because of the small mountain of loans that we have already taken out.
     I started college when I was 18 years old. I didn't know what I wanted to major in until the end of my Sophomore year. I had changed my major from Psychology to Housing and Environmental design to Marketing and then to Business Administration. I was lucky enough to graduate with a degree within 4 years. I was 22 when I graduated. At 30, I'm still figuring out what I want to do. Some days I think I'd like to open up a bakery and other days I just want to live off of my creative mind. I do know that I enjoy writing and now that I have a better idea of jobs and what different careers look for in a potential employee, I feel saddened that I'm not offered the same help that I was offered when I was 18 and hadn't a clue.
     Now that I'm 30, I know how much of a negative impact school loans have. I know that I'm not going to magically have job opportunities and will be able to pay them off as soon as I can because I'm not going to graduate and get a job that pays me $100,000 a year or more until I've had experience and have worked my way up.

     Being 30 sucks. I'm wiser than my 18 year old self. If I could tell my 18 year old self something without it taking away my kids, I would have told her to research her options. I would have told her that it is possible to get jobs doing things that she loves. I would have told her that when she worked at a university who paid their employees tuition, to get her masters degree before she had to leave that job.
 
     30 year old self is disappointed in 18 year old self. She's also disappointed in the finance industry for taking advantage of other 18 year old selves who have no idea that their choices affect so much of their future. Shame on financial aid for not helping those who got a clue. 

     My husband didn't want to crush my hopes. He worked in financial aid for several years and has an idea of how financial aid works. He knows that I want bigger things in life right now and adding more loans would make it more difficult to achieve those other dreams. So, for now, I will continue to write this blog. I will continue to write my books with hopes that one day I will be published. I'm going to keep on dreaming and keep on doing and I guess I'll do that without a second degree. There used to be this valuable thing called experience that employers loved to see and valued on its own and a degree in a certain field wasn't always needed. I will keep getting experience and keep on keeping on.

     Are there things that you wish you could tell your younger self?

Update:**** I understand now that my husband misunderstood me when I asked him about going back to school. He thought that I was asking about getting another BS. I can't get financial aid for something that I already have. If I wanted to go for my MA, financing would be easier.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Problem Child


      I don't know if having problematic children has become more prevalent in more recent years or if the world has always seen its share of problem children, but they weren't discussed about or shown all over social media an the news.

     I hope that the clip above is working correctly and that you get to see a few minutes of one of my favorite movies as a kid. In the movie Problem Child, a couple adopt a young boy who has a history of being naughty. I remember watching the movie as a child and thinking everything was hilarious. Now, as an adult of a child who seems to get themselves in trouble, I find myself in John Ritter's shoes.

     There is a sense of hopelessness sometimes when you have a child who misbehaves. You get embarrassed, angry, and sad. You're always wondering what you could do better. As a problem child myself, I empathize and sympathize with both the child and the parent.

     In the last two weeks, I have had two small children come up to me and tell me that my child is bad or naughty. I've had secretaries and principals call me to tell me about my child's behavior and have asked me to come talk with my child or to bring my child home.  It feels overwhelming and confusing. What did I do wrong?

     I know the answer to that question. I did nothing wrong. I have another child in school and that child is doing wonderfully. They listen, they behave well, and don't talk out of turn. When you see the comparison, you know that I did something right. When you see my third child, you see how much that child loves me as they plant kisses and give me awesome hugs. When you see each one with me, there's no mistake that they are comfortable with me, that they know that they can be themselves and that they are in a safe home and environment. You see, at home, my naughty child is a normal child. They act and behave like any normal child, but at school, things change.

     If you don't see the clip, the clip shows the boy Junior. He's dressed as the devil at a children's costume birthday party. He walks into the room that holds all the presents that were brought by guests. He pick up a present and looks at it. The birthday girl walks in on him and starts to scold him. A bunch of girls follow her and stand around her, each saying that Junior has cooties and that he can't play with him and tease him for being adopted. When it's time for the magician to start, the birthday girl tells him that he's not allowed to come out and watch and since she's the birthday girl, she gets what she wants. From there, Junior exacts his revenge with several pranks and is labeled, once again, a problem child.

     As a parent, I see what I didn't see when I watched the movie as a child. Those things that those girls were saying were hurtful. When I'm hurt, I want someone to pay for it. I wasn't a child who held things in when I was hurt. I often times fought back and that labeled me as a problem child. It's easier to see a child who fights back vs the child who name calls or says other hurtful things. That child hardly ever got in trouble when the teacher didn't see what had happened. Maybe back in my day, the teacher gave the child the benefit of the doubt, but today, it seems that the mentality is, "If I didn't see it, it didn't happen."


     Where we live, my children are actually the minority race. I don't think that they are being picked on because of the color of their skin, though. I think that in my problem child's case, they are just a bunch of kids all struggling for the same attention and  they take it upon themselves to bring it to them no matter the cost. At home, my problem child only has to compete for attention with two other kids. At school, it's much more.

    Because of the new curriculum that is forced down many teachers' throats, school isn't fun or engaging. They took away nap times and longer recesses. Kids are forced to learn and listen with no relief to move around or do something in sight. Not all schools are like this, but many are, especially those in the Chicago area. One of my children also told me that when you are at lunch, you're expected to be silent so if someone is choking, they can be heard. How are we to expect kids to not go stir crazy when they can't even socialize during the day or at least at lunch time? It's no wonder that when they are face to face with another problem child that they hash it out and there are consequences for doing so. I mean, they just sit there and brood all day. When they try to talk in class, they are asked to be quiet and that can be hurtful.

     I didn't give much argument to my point, or really even a point. However, maybe next time you see a child having a meltdown or at school, don't look to the parent for blame, unless that parent absolutely refuses to handle it. Don't blame the child either. There are so many circumstances in that child's life that could lead up to their behavior. Maybe they had a crappy day, maybe someone hit them, or maybe their home life isn't the greatest. It's even possible that the child has a condition that causes behavioral issues. It's ok mamas and daddies to feel like maybe that you've done something wrong. Chances are, unless you're a really crappy parent, you haven't done anything wrong at all and we, the parents of other problem children sympathize with you.

     Continue to be a John Ritter and speak kindness to your child. It makes a world of difference to have someone be on your side.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Prepared Ahead of Time Meals

     At the beginning of the summer, my mother-in-law broke her foot. Having to use crutches the first week, it was difficult for her to be able to move around and hold things. Since I had been wanting to try prepared meals, I used her handicap as a reason to try. That week, I prepared several different meals and froze them for both of our households.

     It was pretty easy to do and only took about 2, maybe 3 hours to prepare. If you have the freezer space and a few hours to spare, these meals are awesome to have on hand on days where you know you will be too busy to cook a meal or are too lazy to put anything together for that day.

     None of these recipes are my own and I found most of them from Pinterest. As a favor to you, I will talk about how easy or difficult it was to put them together and which ones were favorites and which weren't.

    1. The very first recipe that I made was Kung Pao Chicken . You can click the link for the recipe.

      I loved this recipe. It was very easy to put together, with the exception of cutting the chicken, but that's because my knives aren't top of the line. I did not make this recipe completely as it asked. It asked for a whole bottle of Kung Pao sauce, but I only used half of one because I was making it twice and only had one bottle. It didn't seem to matter, though because it was still super delicious. My husband, however, did not like this one, but he doesn't like Chinese food- or whatever nationality this is.

     2. Beef Stroganoff  is usually a meal that my husband and I enjoy. This recipe was easy to put together, but it's difficult to fit all into a freezer bag. It will fit, but getting it out of the bag and into the crockpot when it's frozen is a difficult feat. You'll want to defrost it before you cook it.
         As far as taste goes, this was not our favorite. It was alright, but I think I'll stick to Hamburger Helper for now. Don't discredit it though, because even though we didn't like it, you might.

     3.   Beef Broccoli  I made this with Chicken and I liked it. It was super easy and delicious.



     4. Tuscan Pasta  -  This is was my husband's favorite. I've made it two different ways. The first way is how the site makes it, but instead of cooking and shredding my own chicken, I added chicken from a can. It tastes just as good.  If you make it the way that is on the site, you literally cook the whole meal. I suggest doubling the recipe because after going through all of the trouble making the sauce and cooking the pasta, you're going to want to eat it that night. If you double it, at least you can freeze the second pan and eat it a different day. 
      Because it did take so long, I tried making this with the crockpot. I'm glad I did. It was so much easier and it's creamier when you eat it right away vs. when you bake it after it was frozen. 
      For the crock pot version, I added all of the ingredients in the crock pot except, instead of chopping the chicken, I added chicken tenderloins to the crockpot and cooked it on high for 4 hours. I left the pasta to cook later and then added them together when both were cooked. I also recommend strips of sun-dried tomatoes vs. whole.


     5. Sweet Garlic Chicken  I don't know why this was named the way that it was. It doesn't taste garlicy at all, which made me sad because I like garlic. It tasted more like a spicy barbeque chicken. It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't my favorite. You can make your own opinion if you try it. This was very easy to make.



6. General Tso's Chicken- I don't have a link with a recipe for this one because I made it from a recipe on the back of a seasoning packet that I found at Walmart. This is another recipe that I liked- sort of- that was pretty easy to make.
     The recipe asks you to bread and fry your chicken. It doesn't take long, but I'm not sure that I did it right. I prepared everything ahead of time and put it in a freezer bag to make another day. I cooked it in the crockpot for 4 hours on high. The only thing that I didn't like was the texture. The fried flower coating kind of disintegrated so the sauce was thick and grainy/doughy- it's difficult to explain. If the texture was different, this would be an A+.

7. Meatloaf   I'm a person who likes meatloaf, but I did not like this one. It took forever to bake in the oven. I think it was like an hour and a half. It may have been better if I had thawed it overnight or something, but I probably won't make this one again. My husband thought it was ok. However, it is up to you to make your own decision. I usually like a sweeter meatloaf and this one was meaty. Imagine that- a meaty meatloaf!


     Most of these were very simple to make and I found many of them tasty and some not so tasty. Usually if I like it, my husband didn't and vice versa so don't let my reviews decide for you whether or not you'd like to try them.

      If you do make any of these, let me know which ones you like and if you made any changes on how you prepared them. I'm interested to know. Also, feel free to comment a favorite of yours that I might not have listed. I'm always up for trying something new. I'd love to find something that my kids will even eat!


Friday, September 8, 2017

I Think the World Wants to Be Modest

     I have no actual facts to back me up on this topic. Most of what I write today is my own conclusion, but I think, or rather hope that all of you wonderful people will agree with me on this. In a world where sex is everywhere, I still think that the world really wants to be modest. However, it's  the media and social outlets that tells us that being modest is not the norm.

    Growing up, we're not sexual beings. If we were, we wouldn't laugh at words like butt, boobs, penis... and so on and so forth. We laughed because those words made us feel uncomfortable and they were bad words to say when we would talk about another person. When I was younger, I didn't know what sex even was until I was a little older and a cousin found a naughty channel on their parent's television. That was my first educational learning experience and one that I wish I never encountered. Even years later, there are certain things that I see that remind me of a scene that I saw when I was younger just because it was on television when the adults were gone. You know what? I didn't feel sexually charged or empowered as a kid, possibly a teenager, by then, I felt ashamed and embarrassed.

     Now this was over 15 years ago, at least. Facebook wasn't available and the internet was still a pretty new thing. It wasn't quite as easy to find pornographic images as it is today. Texting wasn't unlimited and if you sent a text, it was going to cost you. Picture texts were twice as much as a worded text. Back then, sites were password protected. The school had firewalls to prevent students from looking that type of stuff up. I bet, that if I were to type in one word that described a body part, hundreds of images would pop up. As a parent, I can childproof my computer and when the time comes, I can childproof my kid's phones and other devices, but I won't be able to childproof their friends. As parents, we are going to have to rely on our children to keep themselves modest and that starts with us as parents. It's our job to model modesty and good behavior. With luck, and high expectations, we can hope that our children will take responsibility of their bodies and be modest.

     I was very lucky to have a wonderful grandmother who modeled what it was like to b a child of Christ. Long before I truly became a Christian, I knew that God wanted us to wait for marriage. I knew that if I was to give myself to someone, that it should be my husband. When you read historical romances, it was very taboo for women to be sexual. They were to be modest and never alone with a man because it would soil their reputation and a woman with no virtue was a woman not worth marrying. Those women became mistresses or prostitutes. They were blown off and humiliated unless they had parents who were willing to take care of them. Yes, there was a whole feminist movement that made certain things ok, but that is a different story for a different day.
     I trailed off, sorry. I didn't really give my life to Christ until I was about to become a junior in high school. Before then, however, I never felt comfortable wearing short shorts or low cut tops. I had a cute body for it, so I could have pulled it off, but I had a dad in my house. I had grandparents. I just never felt comfortable showing off my goods. My sexuality was for me to control and not for boys or the "norms" to tell me otherwise. Even as a married woman who has nursed three children, I feel most comfortable when I'm covered up.

     I don't think that I'm the only one who could agree with that. Dads, think about your daughters. Would you be ok with them walking around the house or school with cleavage and their boobs bursting out of their shirts? Are you comfortable seeing your little girls walking around with the bottom of their butt cheeks just about to show through their shorts? My guess is probably not. So why in the world do we let designers keep designing skimpy clothes for our daughters? I would like to know why my 5 year old needs a swim suit designed with little triangles to outline her flat chest like she was a 20 year old super model? My daughter is 5, going on 6- not 5, going on 21.

    I've seen it so many times on Facebook or on my newsfeed- 20 hilarious shut downs. You've probably seen them. Some of them are pretty funny, but then you see some like this:




     We need to teach our children that it's not ok to be sending others pictures of them naked. Tell the them that it's ok to say no. No one owes anyone anything of that nature. If you catch them sending naked photos of themselves to someone, take away their texting privileges. Take away their phones. We are the parents, not them and we can do that! 


 
    If you are a teenager think about how you want to be represented to your children. Do you want to tell them that you had many conquests? Do you want an old photo of you that you sent to a girlfriend or boyfriend resurfaced? It is so easy for anyone to get a photo, these days. Do you want everyone to see what was only meant for one other person to see?

    I wasn't completely sure, so I looked it up. Prostitution is illegal.  Trafficking is illegal.  So why isn't striping? Why isn't pornography illegal? Have you ever heard someone say, "I wish I was a stripper!" or "I wonder how many people I can sleep with tonight to help pay for rent?" If you have, it was probably in jest. There is generally a negative connotation about it and when you hear about these professions, when you've heard about how someone got into that line of work, they don't get into it because that was what they've always wanted to be. Some people might have gotten into that line of work for the money, but others get into because they didn't know any other way to get around it. There's a reason that they call anything else, "honest work"

      How much of our world's problems are because of sex? Do you think that it's possible that all of the anxiety, depression, confusion is because of all of the sexual resources out there? When boys or girls believe that it's ok to show someone else something just because everyone is doing it, do you really think that it doesn't affect them? Look at kids who were sexually assaulted. Many of them have issues in their adult years. If kids, teens, adult really believed or were ok with premature sexuality before they even know a person, do you think there would be so many mental issues? I'm not a scientist or researcher. I don't have statistics to show or any proof whatsoever. I believe what I believe and what I believe is that if we brought back modesty and virtue, that the world would be a better place. People would stop feeling like  the world owed them something because it absolutely doesn't.

     I've strayed again. I don't have very much evidence, if any that really prove a point and my thoughts are all over the place, but I hope that this title is correct. I hope that the world wants to be modest. We need to stop making sex the norm. There is no reason for kids to be getting pregnant. There is no reason for teenagers to be sending or requesting naked photos of another person. We need to teach our sons and daughters abstinence. Even if you don't practice it yourself, think about whether or not you want your child to live the same life that you've been living. Stop chipping away our children's innocence. Start practicing modesty!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Good Family is Important

     Every Labor Day, my side of the family has a family reunion. There were times when we only got to see a few of the family twice a year; once at the family reunion, the other time at Christmas. I remember that on Christmas, many of us kids would gather around in my great-grandparents basement to play. We would usually play our own version of charades and it was a good time. At some point in the day, we would sneak upstairs to grab a dessert and then head up to the second floor or attic to watch our dads play poker. There was a card table that got set up where we (the kids) could go to play our own card games

     Whenever we went to the family reunion, we would all eat and then play. Before there was a park at our reunion site, we used our imaginations to play or we would climb the chin-up bars that were taller than all of us. (We used to be flexible and strong) At some point, someone would score $5 from their parent and we would venture out on a canoe or paddleboat and if you rode with one cousin, we were inevitably dumped into the water because the canoe would be tipped over. Even though I would only get to see some of these cousins twice a year, we were friends and always comfortable with each other.

    This last weekend, labor day came and went. It was my turn to bring my own kids to the family reunion. This is what I noticed: Many of the kids were already paired off with other cousins. My kids didn't really have anyone to play with except for their siblings. It was kind of sad. Many of the kids there, though grew up together. Their parents were siblings or close cousins. Over time, it seems that my cousins and I have drifted apart, and that's kind of sad. We might not have drifted apart, so much as we live different lives. I have kids and they don't. I follow my kids around to make sure that they don't fall from the ridiculous openings on the playground equipment 10 feet or more off the ground while they trust their kids are well with what they do. However, after the end of the day, I know that I still love my cousins and we still have a bond that is special and unique. What's the saying? A cousin is your first friend? Other than your siblings it's absolutely true.

     I'm not worried about my children, though. My sister has two kids. They are younger than mine, but once they get older, they are going to be best friends. They even have a cousin on my husband's side of the family that is their age, now. When they get together, they are going to have so much fun. They are going to experience the same bond that I got to experience with my cousins. Next year and the year after, my kids will be paired off and that is exciting.

     Unfortunately, not everyone gets to experience this bond. They don't always know what they are missing until they experience it first hand. My husband is visiting family that he hasn't seen for probably more than 20 years because of the distance between them. I hope that when he sees them again, that things will click. It might be awkward at first, but I hope that things just fall into place. When you're with family, you should feel cared about. You get to see history and resemblances- likeness. I hope that he feels this.
    
     There is a pull, when you are with good family. When you look around, you feel like you're home, like you belong. You should feel that no matter what, they have your back. Each family has their quirks, but your family makes it work. You can have crazy uncle Ed, but he's your crazy uncle Ed. He may embarrass you, but he embarrasses everyone and hey, they are related to him too. You may have sweet, caring, pushover Aunt Mavis, but you and everyone love her so you stay kind and don't take advantage of her. Then, always in the bunch, there is cousin Edwin, Uncle Ed's son who is always getting themselves in a mess. You don't condone it, but you have his back when he needs it. You do this because you are family and family doesn't leave family behind. (I think that's from Lilo and Stitch)

     Do you have special family events? What do you do with your family?

Cousins, siblings, and friends!





   

How to Have an EASY Thanksgiving With 7 Easy-to-Make Side Dishes

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