Monthly Archives: November 2007

Toddler coloring on walls and furniture

>> How do you keep young children who have access to crayons and markers from decorating your house?<<

Keep the coloring supplies where he can’t reach them so that you need to give them to him when he wants them, and supervise him carefully when he uses them.  Immediately intercept him and matter of factly remove whatever he’s using as soon as you see him about to use the crayons or markers inappropriately.  He’ll realize very quickly without you saying much that if he wants to use them, they will have to be used in the right way. 

Isn’t it nice to have an issue that’s so easy to resolve?


Egg substitutes

For many years, I thought that being a vegetarian was a healthier way of eating, and that being a vegan was an ideal.  Fortunately, I never quite managed complete veganism (except for a two month period), but we usually used animal products only once a week.  I was easily able to go for weeks with no eggs in the house since I virtually never used eggs, just substitutes for eggs.

 Well, I’ve continued to learn about nutrition and no longer believe that removing animal products from the diet is beneficial.  Actually, I now think it’s harmful.  But I’ve watched the price of eggs go so drastically high that I decided it’s time to dig out my old egg replacer recipes.

You can buy egg replacers, but they’re usually pretty expensive.  Whether you are a vegan, looking to cut down on cholesterol, or just looking to cut your baking costs, here  are some egg substitute recipes that you may find useful. 

My favorite is the first, which my 7 yod whipped up a large batch of today- this is a substitute for what is sold in the stores as Ener-G Egg Replacer, and you can use it for any kind of baked goods.  We were able to make quadruple the recipe for under $4, which should last us for months:

1 c. potato starch

3/4 c. tapioca flour (sold in health food stores)

2 t. baking powder

Mix it all together, store in an airtight container.  Lasts for ages!  (With this in the pantry, I always appreciate that’s it not a problem to realize in the middle of a recipe that I don’t have enough eggs.  :))  To use, mix 1 1/2 t. of the mix with 2 T. water – this replaces one egg in a recipe.  1 1/2 t. mix and 1 T. water = 1 yolk.

Some more substitutes:

1 T. cornstarch + 2 T water = 1 egg (good for quick breads, but not cakes)

1 T soy flour + 2 T water = 1 egg

1T. oil, 1 T. water, 1 t. baking powder = 1 egg (good for quick breads, but not cakes)

2 t. flax meal + 2 T warm water = 1 egg (beat until consistency of an egg)


Chiropractics, muscle pain, and parenting

Yesterday dh’s back was feeling sore from having been in one position for too long, and since his regular chiropractor couldn’t see him until Monday, he got an appointment with a chiropractor we know in the neighborhood.  After his appointment, he was describing to me the differences between the approach of the two chiropractors.  His regular chiropractor said that when there’s pain in the muscles, it’s because there’s something underneath it which is the problem, and the muscles are protecting the joints below.  So  he deals with the underlying joints and once the deeper physical issue is resolved, the muscle pain will clear up on its own.

This is exactly how I feel about parenting.  There are often the external symptoms that something is wrong in the relationship – the child is disrespectful, won’t listen, doesn’t help, etc.  Most parents, when asking for help, want specific suggestions how to improve a particular issue.  But my approach is to look at what is at the heart of the matter, what is really causing the problem.  If we try to fix just the symptom, the problem will recur because the underlying cause of the symptom is still there. 

What it always seems to boil down to is: relationship and connectedness.  I know this seems simplistic, but my experience is that when I deal with my child’s deepest need (which is for attachment) by spending time with them and actively building our relationship, the topical problems often just melt away on their own.  The child doesn’t need to misbehave anymore because the underlying need has been met.  

(That doesn’t mean that just love alone is the answer.  Part of loving our children is having the courage to appropriately guide them.  But disciplining children before addressing the heart doesn’t work.)


Arboretum outing

It’s been cold and wintery around here, but today was one of those perfect autumn days that are so beautiful that it almost takes your breath away.  Well, mine anyway.  I had to take dh to the train at noon, and as I got into my van, I happened to look up the street and see the incredibly striking yellow and scarlet leaves on the trees against the clear blue sky – it’s one of those sights that could be made into a picture.   I love the autumn.  As soon as I got back home, I told the kids to stop what they were doing so we could head to the arboretum to enjoy the day.

 I’ve only once taken my  kids to the arboretum and that was two years ago, despite a really nice one very close by.  My kids loved it and at that time, I wanted to make it a weekly outing and have the kids bring their nature notebooks to sketch the changes in the trees and plants they saw, ala Charlotte Mason.  Well, it never happened – it was a nice idea but somehow having to go out to see the trees and flowers was unappealing to me every time the kids reminded me of my idea.

Until today.  No, we didn’t bring notebooks, just ourselves.  There’s something powerful about taking kids into nature – different from playing in the typical backyard.  It awakens the senses in a way that’s hard to explain, and everyone becomes so relaxed and happy.  Even the baby stopped fussing and just looked around with wide eyes up into the sky and at the trees above.  

As I was watching them run all over, I thought about how lucky we are that we can take advantage of a day like this on the spur of the moment.  By the time most kids are home, the day is almost gone.  By tomorrow or the weekend, who’s to say the weather will still be like this?

Except for us it was almost empty, which is something I’ve always found a hidden benefit of homeschooling.  We regularly get to go to places when it’s off season, quiet and no crowds to battle!  It’s so much more relaxing for me to be out with the kids when I don’t have to be hyperalert every minute about who is where.  It’s not only a big bonus to me, it’s a big bonus to my kids since it means they get to go on lots more trips than they would if they had to go during the hours everyone else is there. :)  


Organizing recipes

It seems that no matter how busy I stay, there’s always some kind of organizing project waiting around my house to be done!  No sooner did I reorganize all the kids clothes in storage than it was time to reorganize all the coats.  Finished that, and then had a pile of sewing repairs to do.  Did all of those repairs (which is disproportionately rewarding since my kids think I’m the best seamstress in the world even though I just do basic stuff – they say things like, “Wow, this is so perfect, your stitches are so even/tiny!”) and then realized it’s been a while since I organized my recipes.  That’s what I did a bit today, so I thought I’d share the system I use that works well for me. 

 I used to often cut out or copy recipes, stick them aside somewhere and then never think about them again.  Or if I did think about them, could never find them when I wanted them.  I have a recipe box that I regularly added recipes to for years but never used; it just wasn’t efficient.  A couple of years ago I finally thought of a solution, inspired by my son’s baseball card collection, which he impeccably kept in order. 

I bought a couple of packs of baseball card protectors – they’re clear plastic sheets with nine pockets on each page with prepunched holes for a three ring looseleaf.  Then I bought some unlined index cards and cut them down to fit the pockets. 

Each plastic sheet is two sided, and I can fit nine recipes on each side of a page.  I copy the recipes onto the index cards, and just slip them into a pocket.  Each page (or more) represents a different category – breakfast foods, quick breads, yeast breads, ground beef, chicken, beans, hot dogs, dairy, etc.  With this system, when I’m planning my weekly menus, I can easily take in a page at a glance using whatever kind of food I want to include, and all of the recipes are ones I’d be happy to use.  If I want to change the order of anything, add a new recipe or get rid of one that no longer works for us, then it’s super easy.

I use this looseleaf now more regularly than any of my cookbooks, even my most favorite ones.  What I’ve been thinking of doing is going through some cookbooks that I’ve used for years (one is especially in awful shape) and copying the recipes I like into my recipe looseleaf, then getting rid of the cookbook.   That’s a long term project, though, one which I’m not rushing to put onto my list of things to do! 


Are older parents more confident?

When it’s been debated if it’s better for women to begin having children when they are younger or older, I’ve often heard that the advantage of younger mothers is more energy, but that older mothers have more wisdom.  Is this true?  Well, in some ways, yes.  An older mother has more life experience, and ideally, by the time she becomes a parent, she has a strong sense of who she is.  However, if an older mother has more perspective and maturity doesn’t mean that they will be more confident in their parenting.  After all, it’s their first time being a mother, and every new stage brings up new issues.  All new mothers are facing the same challenges. 

I got married young, so I had my first baby when I was young, too!  People are often surprised when they meet me to find out that I have eight kids – or if they know how many kids I have, are surprised to find out how old I am.  (Since I know it’s hard to read something like that without knowing the numbers, I just turned 34 several days ago. :)) Not that I look especially young for my age, just I guess they expect me to look much older.  And they always seem to end their series of exclamations with, “Eight kids!  (shake head) And you still look so happy!” – as if I should look like a miserable hag because I have a large family.

I’m a pretty confident parent, but my age doesn’t have anything to do with how confident I am or not.  The moms who are older than me who have asked me for feedback, have asked because my kids were older than theirs and I had dealt with things they were just getting to.  Whatever confidence I have in this area is a result of experience, of over fourteen years of being a parent, of thinking through issues, educating myself, and learning, learning, learning.  

 Every child comes with their own personality, and I’ve learned something from them all.  And I keep learning all the time – I think life is a process of striving to always learn more and be more, and parenting is certainly like that.  I don’t claim to have all the answers and I’m always open to finding a better way to approach issues that may arise.  Confidence about who you are (as a parent or anything else) is more a result of being clear in who you are and what your values are, of working towards your goals and seeing them actualized, than of an arbitrary number. 


Happy birthday to me!

Today I slept in late and ds8 came up to wake me up so I would eat breakfast with them.  I noticed a good smell in the air and commented on it to ds, and he said, “It’s just oatmeal.”  Right away I thought something must be going on since it sure didn’t smell like oatmeal to me, and when I got downstairs, I was immediately greeted by all of the kids standing together behind a large ‘Happy birthday’ sign, singing ‘Happy birthday to you.”  It was very sweet.  Then they guided me to the table, and there was a tray with a special breakfast prepared, and very artistically displayed, too! 

Today was also the last day to renew my driver’s license, and since dh wasn’t home to watch the kids and ds14 was in school, I took them all with me.  Sounds like fun, right, spending the afternoon at the Motor Vehicle Administration with a bunch of kids?  Before we left home, I suggested that they bring whatever academic work they were in the middle of  as well as something to read.  After I got there and received my number, I looked around the stuffy, crowded room, and knew I had to find somewhere better to wait.  So we went outside, looking for somewhere we could sit down together.  We were very fortunate to find a picnic table (which turned out to be the outdoor smoking area) where they were able to do their academics, and since it was slightly set back from the parking lot and sidewalk, there was a place for ds19 months to run around.  The kids enjoyed running back to the main building every 15 minutes or so to see what number they were up to.  After about 2 hours and fifteen minutes, I decided to go in and everyone trooped in with me. 

Bringing lots of children to a child-unfriendly place like the MVA is definitely a good strategy for getting lots of attention.  :)   The kids were very patient and we were called fairly soon after we came in.  The woman who was helping me had commented favorably on the kids, as did her coworkers.  They were impressed by how well behaved they all were.  But then I was informed that since my social security number was still in my maiden name (just never got around to changing it :)), I couldn’t renew my license and would have to come back another day (they said it was something new instituted about two years ago, which is why I’ve had a license without any problems until now).

Then the woman took another look at the kids, and told her coworker that she wasn’t willing to tell me to come in after all the kids waited patiently for so long, and they conferred to find a way to do the license today.  Then they called over some more people (I was wondering what the people in the waiting area were thinking as five people simultaneously left their cubicles to come to where I was), and finally a supervisor did an override and told me they would give me the license along with a strong suggestion that I take care of the name change right away.  So it ended up that it was only because the kids were with me that I didn’t need to come back! 

When we got home the kids right away went to do some arts and crafts for, I thought, the puppet show they’ve been preparing. When dinnertime came, I was surprised to see a pile of beautiful cards next to my plate, with sweet messages on each.  Here’s what my 8yos wrote:

“Dear Mommy,

 Happy birthday.  I think you are the best mother in the world so I made a poem about it. 

‘Most mothers are mean

and really junky

but our mother is nice

and really fun and funky.’ ” His first poem.  :)

Dh got home late and was disappointed to find that dinner was ready – he was planning to make a special birthday dinner and had come home late because he stopped at a store to buy the ingredients.   But I think that the thought is what counts! 

Despite the photo for my license being worse than any picture I’ve ever had taken in my life, it’s been a lovely day!    Who would have thought that a day spent at the MVA could be so pleasant? 


Choosing appropriate punishments

(continued from yesterday’s post) 

“How do you choose the appropriate punishment?”

I used to tie myself into mental knots trying to figure out just the right punishment.  Too often, I couldn’t think of the right response and I would delay responding (or not respond at all because of my unsureness) or would overreact out of my lack of confidence in my approach.  Now I don’t.  I’ve found the approach of using logical (not natural) consequences is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require too much creativity, usually.  For example, above, I tell the whining child no more talking.  The child who repeatedly leaves his things out wouldn’t be allowed to use those items for a certain amount of time, someone who kicked would have his shoes taken off, etc.  But if I can’t think of something logical fast enough, then I’ll choose something else whether the child can see a direct connection or not. Most commonly it would be, ‘come stay next to me for a while since it looks like it will help you if you have me nearby to remind you about how to __________ (restrain yourself, use nice words, whatever your issue is).”   It’s a nice way to say it but my kids know it means they’ve lost the privilege of playing out of my sight by their actions.

Something else I do often is have the child practice the appropriate behavior several times, to help them integrate it. If a child jumps on the couch, I would have him sit down and get up a number of times (not just once).  If a child told me ‘no’, I would tell them we’re going to replay the scene, and this time they would respond by pleasantly saying, Yes, mommy” (or something like that).  I would then repeat my request, and the child would respond (usually the first time they say the words with a bad attitude).  Then I would repeat my request, and remind them about the tone and the words.   Then I would do that several times. It’s not to make them crazy, it’s not to punish them – it’s to teach them proper behavior, and actively guide them in practicing it several times.

When a parent’s focus is on punishment, there’s a punitive and negative mindset.  I try to focus on discipline as correction for the sake of the child’s long term good.  By reframing how I look at the situation, even if it’s just changing the words that I speak or think, it helps me keep a positive perspective.


Dealing with defiance

>Today my oldest (4 1/2) started whining and acting not nicely. I told her she needed to go to her room and when she was ready, she could come out. She said, “no”.   I didn’t react well as I felt like she was being defiant to my face.  And, I felt like I didn’t have anything to punish her with.  I seriously did not know how to react properly. I reacted poorly and escalated the whole thing more than it needed to be – not b/c what she had initially done but b/c she continued to be defiant and wouldn’t listen. How do you choose the appropriate punishment?  How do you stay calm in situations like this one? I feel horrible for the way I acted/over re-acted and for the way the whole thing spiraled out of control. <<

Let’s start at the beginning, to when your daughter first started whining. At that point, I would have directly addressed the whining, since that’s the first thing she did that was upsetting to you – I would not send her to the room.   (I’m not a proponent of sending kids to their room since it doesn’t address the heart of the issue, which is their inner attitude.)  I would tell her as soon as she started whining that if there’s something that she wants to say, she can, but it needs to be with a pleasant voice. Then I would have her practice using a pleasant voice to say whatever she was trying to say.   If she whines in the future, do the same thing: immediately have her use her pleasant voice. If she refuses to speak nicely and escalates the situation, then tell her since she’s having a hard time speaking nicely, she can stay quiet until she can speak nicely.   And if she persisted in escalating the situation, I would tell her that since it’s hard for her to remember not to whine, she needs to put her hand over her mouth to help her remember.

While this is happening, though, it’s important that you stay warm and loving.  Keep her close to you during this entire time; don’t think that because she’s not whining that she should go play on her own.  Take some time to connect on a heart level with her, to keep the bonds between you strong. This is a big part of why I feel I can be pretty strong (people looking in on the outside who didn’t see the big picture might think it was overly strict) when I need to and my kids don’t usually perceive it as punitive – because I’ve made an effort to keep our relationships strong and they know they’re loved.

Responding right away to the first thing that she did that needed correction would have avoided the entire scenario above, and the it wouldn’t have turned into a power struggle.   I say that because lots of times parents overreact to situations because they feel helpless, so then they get more upset than they would if they felt they knew how to handle the situation. By interacting with her from a position of confidence and inner strength, you’ll feel loving and calm when you discipline her. To be continued tomorrow…. :)


PS – thank you, R, for your patience in waiting for this response!  :)