Thursday, December 13, 2007

Jumpstart World

I love when a game comes out that combines both education and fun for my kids! One such game recently caught my attention, JumpStart World. It is such a great program; I wanted to share it with you. This innovative downloadable software provides my kids with the bright graphics and games that keep them interested in an educational format that parents love. Instead of cringing when my kids start asking me to play on the computer, I can have piece of mind knowing they are learning along with the game.

One of the things my children like the most, collecting the “super gems” over the levels. Parents can reward their children for their progression with virtual gems, that keep both the child and parent involved in the learning process. Studies actually show that children learn better when their parents are involved. Using JumpStart World’s simple tool, you can create your own rewards, such as “a trip to the part” or “going ice skating,” to congratulate your children on their achievements. Parents are also provided with progress reports and frequent e-mails to stay plugged in to their children’s movement through the game.

Finally, a game that my kids keep asking to play and one I feel good saying “yes” to.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Video Game Ratings--Smart Shopping Tip

As many other moms, video games are one of the top requested items on my kids' Christmas list (of course, they are only allowed to ask for one item, so it better be good). Fortunately, I'm glad I don't have to go into the gaming world blind. All video games have an ESRB rating (Entertainment Software Rating Board), so make sure you check it out before making that purchase. Here's the rundown:

EC: Early Childhood (ages 3 and older), contains nothing questionable so it's a good buy.

E: Everyone (usually ages 6 and up), this is the stuff my kids use. It may contain very minimal cartoon violence but all in all, pretty safe.

E 10+: Everyone 10 and up (usually ages 10 and up), this may contain mild cartoon or fantasty violence, mild language, or suggestive themes. You want to be careful here if you are buying these games. Make sure they are appropriate for your child's age and (just on a personal note here) if they are not allowed to play these games, make sure you tell them that before they go to a friend's house and play them and end up grounded for two weeks.

T: Teen (ages 13 and up), this may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, gambling, strong language. This is where I draw the line, so check it out carefully and read plenty of reviews.

M: Mature (ages 17 and up), intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and strong language. Yuck! This is where you give those shoppers picking these items up the "evil mommy eye" and walk away.

AO: Adults Only (ages 18 and up), these contain prolonged scense of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity. You could buy these, but why not save money and just lick the inside of the dumpster outside the porn shop?

RP: Rating Pending. This hasn't been rated yet, so read lots of reviews and talk to like-minded parents.

Personally, I am so glad to have a rating system like this. It helps me be a smart shopper around the holidays. Also, there are some great ways to set the parental controls on your gaming system (just in case Billy from down the street decides to come over for a visit and bring along Grand Theft Auto). For more on this, check out this link:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I'm going as a tightwad for Halloween

I've never been one to spend a lot of money on Halloween. Actually, no matter what the occasion, I'm always looking for ways to cut costs and save moolah. I'm the mom who cut holes in a sheet for her child to be a ghost, and then patched them up with pieces from an old pillowcase after Halloween.

Here are some more ways that I save money:

* buy discounted white sweatsuits and then dye them to match their costume choice.
* Use lots and lots of cardboard--cover it with foil and it's a sword, cut it out and paint it and it's a shield.
* Save odds and ends in a dress-up box. They can always pull something out of that.
* Go to Target or Wal-Mart the day after Halloween and stock up on 1/2 price costumes.
* Always ask myself, "How can I make this?"

But now that Halloween is tomorrow, I would love to hear how some of you genius moms are saving money this year. I'm planning on compiling a list of your awesome ideas and use them next year to help other moms...So, bring thm on!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween Costume Chaos

I tell my kids well in advance to let me know what they want to be for Halloween so that I will have time to make the costumes. But does that change the fact that they ALWAYS change their mind at the last minute? No sirree! There are always a few that go back and forth. Just this past week here's how the rundown went for one of my sons:

Wednesday: He was going to be Sora from the video game, "Kingdom Hearts."
Friday: Chris Angel, the magician. Definitely!
Saturday morning: Trip to Wal-Mart to pick up some cheap bling and a black buttoned shirt that I could tear up to look ratty.
Saturday afternoon: A bodygaurd (Did I mention my son weighs 67 lbs?).
Sunday morning: A fairy (the transition from bodygaurd still has me perplexed)
Sunday (today): Now he wants to be the main character's assistant on the sequel to "National Treasure."

I've given up.

I guess I'll just make his costume before we head out the door. Hopefully, I have everything I need because I am not going to make another trip to Wal-Mart!

What about your kids? What are they going to be for Halloween? Did any of them have a hard time deciding?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

hyper kids!!

A mom wrote in recently about her five-year-old boy who simply cannot sit still! She has tried to get him involved in activities to burn off the energy, but the instructors end up getting frustrated with him.

I'm just wondering how she happened upon a five-year-old boy who is exactly like my five-year-old boy. Today at lunch, I walked in and he is running in place on the bench seat while eating his veggie burger!! Korben never sits still. Sometimes, I'm envious of him, especially on those days when I can't pry my butt off the sofa.

My advice to her is to give him room to run! All children have a different way of approaching the world, and our boys happen to be a bit more "gung ho" than "gandhi." It gets frustrating, especially when it comes to learning. I am very fortunate that we homeschool because I can adapt the curriculum to fit his learning style. Instead of sitting and matching letters in workbooks, he would much rather jump from letter to letter!

Another piece of advice to to carefully watch his diet. Chemicals, such as artificial colors and flavors, that may not normally affect children can have adverse effects on our little dynamos. Excessive sugar also needs to be avoided (duh!). When I do cook with sugar, I use sucanat (natural sugar cane--it still contains the minerals and nutrients in the sugar cane that help it digest properly).

Last piece of advice is to NEVER label your child. When you say your child is "hyperactive" or a "problem," then that is exactly what he will be. Use affirming and encouraging words and phrases. And don't ever allow anyone else to do otherwise.

Do any of you have hyper kids? How do you handle it? How do they handle organized activities? Let me know!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Moms Crank That Soulja Boy

I have never quite grown up when it comes to pop culture. I remember riding in the car with my parents as a teenager. They always had (as we referred to it) "old fart" music playing and I abhorred it!

I always expected to one day find myself in the driver's seat of the sedan, reminiscing about the good old days to my own tunes while my kids griped in the backseat. But, for some reason, I still love today's music. Okay, I realize that it may be pretty embarrassing for my kids that their mom knows every lyric to every song in High School Musical (1 and 2), and sings "Umbrella, ella, ella" at the top of her lungs, and especially when I crank that Soulja Boy (Check the vid...

Some parents may think this is a bit odd, but I love it. We sing together, dance together, and as an added benefit, if a explicit song comes on, I know it and I censor it! That's one thing my parents definitely didn't do when I was a teenager. I just listened to whatever I wanted in my room...and, trust me, Prince left little to the imagination.

I want to be a very real, very active part of my children's lives. And if their faces turn red when I scream along with them at the Jonas Brothers concert, who cares? At least I know what they're screaming about.

What do you think? Can you be too integrated in your children's lives? When do you need to act like a grownup in pop culture? And, do any other moms out there crank that soulja boy? And, come on, admit many of you know HSM by heart?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

TV Deprived Kids

I'm pretty strict about television viewing in my home. The kids are usually allowed about 30 minutes to an hour a day (yes, collectively). And they only get that about three times a week. On most days, we don't watch TV at all. I do, however, slack up on the weekends and let the kids watch the Disney channel or cartoons in the morning. However, this past weekend it was such nice weather that I sent them all outside to play.

To my utter amazement, my two youngest girls had found a box and pulled it up to the front steps. They sat on the bottom step and were "pretending" to watch TV. They were laughing about all of Spongebob's funny antics when I stepped outside to check their foreheads for a temperature. I couldn't believe it! A beautiful day, woods full of adventure, and my girls were watching a cardboard box!!

But I decided--heck, they're using their imagination. I may as well pop some popcorn!!

What about you? Am I just an odd bird? (Actually, I already know that answer). How much is too much? And can there be too little? Do you sometimes use TV as a babysitter? I'll be the first one to profess that I do. Those few days during the week that they get to watch TV are always when things are a whirlwind around the house and I'm trying to get a meal on the table. So, share your thoughts. I'd love to hear.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hubby's Crackberry

If there were ever two polar opposites, it's me and my husband, Blair.

When our twelve-year-old television broke down and died last month, I jumped for joy because we were rid of the television. He jumped for joy because he was finally going to get an updated version (after a few weeks, I finally gave in. There were six boys at the house and no video games--what a horror!)

I still have to be shown how to save a file on the computer. He does video and audio editing, and can talk "geek speak" like nobody's business.

I love nature. He loves technology.

It's like the country mouse and the city mouse fell in love and had seven little mice!!

So, maybe it's just me, but I find his strange addiction to his blackberry (or as it is more commonly refered to as "crackberry") strange and disturbing. He's always receiving messages, delivering messages, texting, or chatting. Is it just me or is it necessary to constantly remain connected? I think the more connection we have with the outside world, the more disconnect we have within. The more we stress the need to constantly communicate with others, the fewer opportunities we have to communicate with ourselves. But, like I said, maybe it's just me. That's why I wanted to post this. What do you think? Are people today too "connected?"

Of course, in his defense, he does keep up with my schedule and get me where I need to be when I need to be there. If it were up to me, I would still be happily writing in my legal pads with my black and white television with the rabbit ear antennae collecting dust in the corner.

Let me know what you think!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Who knows best??

My daughter, Klara, has been begging me to take dance lesson. She will be turning four in a couple of weeks, so I finally gave in. She started taking dance lessons last week, and is in hog heaven!! However, I can't help but get a bit irked as a mom sitting out in the lobby.

There are always some moms who try to get their kids involved in activities before they are emotionally ready, and, of course, some of those kids are in Klara's dance class. I've seen them games, story time, art class. Our society constantly drives it into our heads that the sooner our kids get out of our arms and into organized activities, the better. Not true. After going down this road several times with several of my kids, I have finally learned that our children will let us know when they are ready. Before then, we are just making our children and ourselves miserable for nothing. Who needs to add more stress to their lives??

I was talking with one of the moms at Klara's dance class. Her child was crying and beating on the door trying to get to her mom. Her mom, obviously frustrated, finally got her daughter and mumbled, "I don't know why I let my sister guilt me into doing this!"
I commented, "Guilt? You listened to guilt? Nothing good can come out of that!" Meanwhile, my 14-year-old daughter, Kelsey, was trying hard to shrink into the chair and disappear (she knows me very well).
She explained that her sister made her feel guilty that her 3-yr-old daughter was not involved in anything. I asked her who knew her daughter better, her or her sister? Motherhood is one of those jobs in which it can be very tempting to listen to the "experts" instead of your gut. I don't consider myself an expert, even though I have been labeled that on several occasion. I am always learning. Every day holds a new lesson. But I know who the best teacher is--the spirit within me.

Listen up to that "ancient mother" voice inside. She knows best. After you listen to her, then listen to your children. They have a lot to teach us as well. But when it all comes down to it, the soccer gear is stashed away, and the tutus are stuffed in the dress-up clothes bin, remember this--you are your own expert.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Kids and Coffee...what do you think?

As most of you know, I'm pretty much a health nut. Fortunately for me, there has been a lot of good news recently about coffee--antioxidants galore! I love coffee, and I've always had the philosophy that enjoying coffee every now and then is fine. The problem with coffee is that if you need it more than you want it, then you're looking at an addiction.

But what about kids and coffee? I started thinking about this topic is today when we enjoyed a family outing at the park. My 11-year-old son, Kyler, came up to me and said, "Mom, could you hold my white chocolate mocha so I could go down the slide?'

The incongruency of it all made me laugh. Here was my kid with one foot in the adult world sipping a mocha and the other foot in childhood wanting to play at the park. Every now and then, I will let my tweens and teens enjoy a cup of coffee. Like their mom, they LOVE the stuff! The rule is they can't have more than three cups in a week, so there is no danger of developing an addiction (and no matter how you want to put it, needing caffeine is an addiction).

But I want to hear what you think. Do you drink coffee? Do you let your kids enjoy coffee? What's the scoop? Let me know!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Kid Nation? Crazy Nation!

Sorry, but I won't stoop to watching "Kid Nation." The idea of it goes against every fiber in my being. You see, I'm still from the old school of thought that believes that kids are supposed to have a guide in life, a wise sage to help them navigate life's waters. But that's me, not Hollywood.

Kids are not meant to be entertainment. Just like it nauseates me to see a parent belittle a child to get people to laugh, it makes me sick thinking that our nation has stooped to putting children in a setting without supervision to get television ratings. Children are a gift to be cared for and nurtured. They are sweet spirits, meant to be protected and gaurded. What would make anyone believe that it was right or good, or for that fact, entertaining, to take away supervision? And who are these parents that would go along with it?? I won't even let my teenager go to the mall alone!

Actually, unsupervised kids is not a new concept. I see little kids alone at the bus stop when I go out in the morning to exercise. They come home to empty houses after school. Tweens and teens are constantly hanging out together without any adults in sight. Personally, I have had to be the "bad guy" on several occasions when I refused to let my older kids be dropped off someplace with friends. Why is this nation obsessed with pushing our kids out of the nest?

We are parents for a reason, and having children is a huge responsibility--not just when they are tiny babies, but through the whole childhood process, going into the tween and teen years. Actually, this is often a chapter of life when they need parental supervision the most. Just because we live in a society that condones a nation of unsupervised kids, doesn't mean that we need to go along with the deception.

Children need us. That's why we are the parents and they are the kids. And it's not always to keep them out of trouble. Think bigger and broader. Children need us to help them make wise choices. They need us to talk with them about everything, and about nothing. They need our voice and, even more importantly, our ears. And every now and then, a window will open in their hearts, just wide enough to let in a moral truth. We need to be there when this happens.

Forget about a television show. We're already becoming a nation without adult supervision! And if anything is ever going to change, it's going to start in the home.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cell Phones for Kids!!

Firstly, I consider myself a die-hard luddite. I don't like technology. I don't want technology. And, I am being dragged into the 21st century, kicking and screaming (you should have seen the fight I put up concerning blogging--but, I'm finding it's an awesome way to communicate, so here I am doing just that). If I could, I would spin my wool for blankets and communicate with smoke signals. So, you can imagine how I protested against my kids getting cell phones.

Now, I'm sure you know the next twist in the plot:
My two oldest kids have cell phones!

My soon-to-be teenager just got a Kajeet phone and was more excited than Aunt Bea at a state fair when she tore open the package! In less time than it takes for me to fold a load of clothes, she had already figured out how to text, download, get ringtones, send pictures, do special effects, and just about everything else that leaves me in a perpetual fog (I'm still trying to figure out speed dial). As she was testing out her new cell phone, I looked at my husband and asked, "Is this going to cost us an arm and a leg?"

His reply? "Check this out. It is SO cool!" He took me to the computer and showed me how we can control if she pays the bill or we pay the bill, how we get alerts if the "wallet" gets low, how we decide what calls she can receive, and also how we can choose when she is allowed to use it (I'm seeing school hours as off-limits). My final opinion? This is technology I can live with!

I would love to hear how other moms out there handle cell phone issues. Personally, I like knowing that I can always contact my kids, even when they are out with friends. I also believe that kids can get absorbed in computers and cell phones, so limits need to be set. But silly me, forever the luddite... I still write letters and can my own pickles (Aunt Bea would love me)!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

school anxiety

A mom wrote in recently to ask what to do about her daughter who is very anxious about starting kindergarten, even to the point of having anxiety attacks when she thinks about it. The mom did not send her daughter to preschool, and the two are very attached. What to do? Well, mama, I feel your pain and I'll try to help out as much as I can.

My own experience is just the opposite. I sent my daughter to preschool, and then kept her home for kindergarten. It happened one day when I was bringing her home from preschool and I questioned why I was sending her to school in the first place. So many times we fall into this cultural belief system without a second thought. School is like that--not that it is right or wrong, but it is a cultural pattern that we continue without really questioning why. If we really get down to the heart of the issue, we will find that many of our thoughts, habits and patterns are just handed down to us from our culture and our society.

My suggestion would be to question why she must attend school. Are you worried about meeting her educational needs? Does she need to branch out and foster more friendships? Do you need her to go to school so that you can go to work? Spend some time and write down the reasons she must attend school (all cultural and societal pressures aside). School must be something that will enrich your child, as well as your relationship with her. It should never be heartache and anxiety. There will be enough reasons to have anxiety attacks throughout life--school should not be one of them.

Personally, I have both. One of my children attends school (my oldest is in high school) and the rest of them are homeschooled. We decided to take the school issue one year at a time, and every year we have decided that homeschooling was such a fulfilling and enriching option that we have continued with it. Now my oldest will be going into high school, and I look at her today and know that she is not only mentally prepared, but emotionally as well. She was that child that stayed home from kindergarten, and I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to share her school experience with her.

Take it one year at a time, and spend some time getting to the heart of the issue. School may not be the right option for her at this point. However, if you feel that it is, then try to soothe her anxiety by preparing her for the change. Visit the school with her, walk down the halls, get excited about the new opportunity, let her know that you will be very close while she is at school (perhaps even at a nearby coffee shop or shopping center for the first few days). I hope that helps and please let me know how she is coping (and you, too!).

Please, moms, if you have any advice to help a child make the transition into school, post it here and help this mom out. Thanks so much!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Question about Dairy

As many of you moms know, I am not into dairy. But I recently got a question from one mom who wants to know what to use in place of butter. Margarine is terribly unhealthy. I use light olive oil in my baking, and Smart Balance for everything else. That's the healthiest replacement I've found so far (non-hydrogenated, no trans-fat). But if you moms have some information to pass along, please share it.

Also, another mom asked about finding a replacement for milk. She and her daughter aren't too keen on the taste of soy milk. There are so many flavors of non-diary milk, that there has GOT to be one out there for you. You may want to get turned on to soy milk by buying some sweeter flavors, like Very Vanilla by Silk or some of the chocolate varieties. You can then cut back on the sweetness as you get adjusted. Also, try different brands and see if one suits your taste.

Another mom wrote in because she is worried about the estrogen in soy milk. Actually, soy contains a natural chemical that mimics estrogen. And the chemicals and hormones that you get from dairy is a LOT worse than anything you would find in soy milk. My entire family does soy milk, and personally, I have not noticed anything adverse (if only I could blame PMS on soy milk....). However, if it bothers you, try rice milk or almond milk. There are delicious varieties of both. I got some rice cheese tonight that was delicious in my lasagna.

So now it's your turn, mom. What do you think? Write your comments and let me know.

Learning is so much FUN!

If given the choice, my boys would play video games indefinitely, leaving only to make occasional bathroom visits or stick something edible in their mouths. Fortunately, they have a mom who keeps close tabs on the gaming situation. They are only allowed to play on the weekend, and then it's only for an hour (yes, I'm pretty harsh).

I would love to hear from some moms out there who struggle with this same situation--video game fanatics!

I have figured out a way for them to scratch that electronic itch without turning their brains into a thick gray soup. My 9-year-old son has a Leapster, and absolutely loves it. None of the kids own a handheld video game system, but honestly, they don't even miss it when they have this groovy gadget. He and his 5-year-old brother play on it constantly and have NO idea that they are actually learning something. Leapfrog also has all of the cool names that kids identify with--Disney princesses, Sonic, Ratatouille, Batman, you know the rundown.

Another option that we have found is to keep a lot of learning software available in the house. I give them about thirty minutes a day to do computer, and the kids always head for the Jumpstart programs. I purchased them for homeschooling, but the kids play it every chance they get. Knowledge Adventure has some great titles that all ages can enjoy.

I'm totally digging it, and it really helps battle the video game monster. So what do you moms do? Let them game? Replace them with learning toys or software? Let me know because I'm always looking for some great ideas!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Laundry Lament

I got this question in last week, and thought to myself, "Now, here's a woman who's singing my tune!"

This mama writes, "I have 6 people in my house and no help from anyone-- my major problem is that the laundry is never ending I have stacks of it to do a week- how can i get more control???"

Now, take your six, add three more, and you're walking in my shoes. Laundry around my home is more like a scene from "Lion King." It's the circle of life, never ending, just going on and on and on...I've given up on trying to get "caught up." I would just enjoy those brief moments in life when there is more than one clean towel in the house and I have a pair of underwear to wear.

Here are some tips for you to stay on top of the laundry--

1. You say there are six people in your house? Put them to work! There have been PLENTY of times when my older kids had to begrudgingly wear dirty jeans or mismatched socks because they didn't launder their own clothes. My theory is when they are old enough to pick out their clothes and dress themselves, they are also old enough to participate in the laundry. Even little ones can sort clothes or help fold washcloths. And teens? Please! If you're still doing their laundry, then you really do have a problem! They are fully capable of doing the laundry, from start to finish. Enlist some help, mama. You deserve it.

2. Do less laundry. This one is easy. Clothes don't get dirty nearly as often as most people think they do. For example, I use one towel for several days. I wear my jeans two or three times. I wear the same pajamas for about four nights in a row. My theory is that if I can't see dirt and I can't smell stink, then I consider it wearable. I wasn't nearly so slack when I just had two or three kids, but I guess that's what happens when you have a house full of family and just one washer and dryer.

3. You can also make it easier on yourself by not letting the laundry stack up on you. Around here, I have to do at least one load a day just to stay on top of it. If it heaps on, then I'm in a heap of trouble. Doing one load, start to finish, is a great way to ease up on the workload.

Now it's time to hear from you. Do you have any laundry tips to share? I want to hear them!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Natural Insect Repellent

I've received two questions this week on alternatives to insect repellents that contain DEET, so I figure it would make a great blog. Before blogging, I turned to my sister, Regina (naturalist, camper extraordinaire) for advice. Here is the recipe that she uses:

Lemon Balm essential oil
Citronella essential oil
Tea Tree essential oil

She combines these oils, puts them in a spray bottle, and uses the mixture for camping and other outdoor activities. When we last visited her, the kids and I used it while we did some yard work and it worked exceptionally well! Also, she only uses the mixture on her clothes, not her skin, which is good advice no matter what insect repellent you choose to use. Of course, if you are visiting a nude beach, then I guess that won't do you a bit of good!

Repel also carries a DEET-free insect repellent that is worth a try. It contains lemon eucalyptus, and also works for deer ticks. I also want to add to remember to spray your animals if they stay outside. Those bugs can be ferocious! I hope this has helped out, and if any of you wonderful moms have more tips to add, please post them.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I believe in girls

We all grew up with Barbie. My favorite Christmas memory is the year that I got the Barbie townhouse. It was spectacular! I came running down on Christmas morning to find it there, in all of it's pink plastic glory! As a child, I played with my Barbies until their hair stood out in a big blonde ratty afro. Now, with four girls of my own, I get to relive my Barbie memories. A few Christmases ago, one of my daughters got the Barbie fashion mall. I think I got more joy out of putting that beauty together than she has ever received from playing with it. I guess to a very real extent, we never outgrow Barbies, and hopefully, we never outgrow our girlhood.

That's why I am so excited about Mattel's new campaign for Barbie. It's called, "We Believe in Girls." Basically, it's about celebrating girlhood, that precious innocence of being young and feminine. Check it out here: I think our culture encourages girls to grow up way too fast. Pigtails give way to highlights and pink jumpers yield to belly shirts. Girlhood is great, and it's time we let our little girls celebrate it. Join me in a girl revolution. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Day in the Life of Hannah

For some reason, people have this idea that I live off somewhere in fantasy land, where kids are always good, laundry is never neglected, and there is always a hot meal on the table. So, here it goes. This was an average day last week.

6:00--Wake up to my wristwatch alarm and go walking (I'm as quiet as I can so the kids will stay asleep).

7:00--Kenna wakes up, so I bring her downstairs for our beverage of choice (soy milk for Kenna, strong coffee for mom). A little bit of Doodlebops always helps out as well.

8:00--Blair goes to work. I get the little ones dressed and fed. Breakfast is oatmeal! Kenna pitches a holy fit because she wants to feed herself, so I let her. Twenty minutes later, I'm still scrubbing oatmeal off the highchair and the floor underneath. Klara insists that she needs pink sprinkles for her oatmeal because she is a princess (she's wearing a cheerleading outfit with a pink Cinderella dress over it). Korben likes raisins on his, Karis prefers cranberries. Kyler wonders why he can't just have cereal. Katie sprinkles Nesquick on hers (which I didn't even know we had). Kelsey turns down the eggs because of cruelty to animals and then complains that her family eats oatmeal for breakfast way too often to be considered normal.

9:00--Summer is here, so we get ready to go to the pool. Kelsey and Katie make sandwiches and pop some corn. Kyler grabs two towels from upstairs (which are damp because he grabbed them from off of the floor of the bathroom). Karis can't find his goggles. Korben pulls his trunks down and moons his sister. Klara screams and runs out of the room. Kenna found the popcorn that the girls put by the front door and now it's all over the floor (and in her mouth).

1:00pm--We are back from the pool, and very tired. No, take that back. I am very tired. The kids sit down to read for an hour. I rock Kenna. Klara pretends to read, but she is actually bothering her brothers by sticking her feet in their faces. Kenna falls asleep. I write for about thirty minutes until I am informed by my kids that reading time is over. The afternoon progresses as I try to get some cleaning down and fold a load of clothes. I send the kids outside to play. Katie and Kyler soap down the trampoline with a bar of soap and the hose so that they can slide and jump all over it. Klara gets a new bottle of water and pours it into the bubble blower to try to make bubbles. Karis and Korben help her out by getting my dish detergent and adding it to the mix. Kelsey is content with her ipod and the swing set. I get two business calls. One was interrupted because I had to quiet Klara, who was upstairs singing to Kenna as she was sleeping in her crib. During the other one, I was in the pantry with the door closed so that it sounded quiet.

4:00pm--Kenna wakes up. Toys are dragged out. Klara finds the sharpie markers and put "blush" on her cheeks. I discover this right as she is heading toward Kenna with a pink marker. Her princess dress is covered in bubbles, mud, and sharpie markers. Kyler, Karis, and Korben are playing transformers and making a cartoon strip. Karis complains because Korben is copying him. Kyler decides to abandon the cartoon and go on a bike ride. Katie goes along. Kelsey begs to get on to check her "comments." Blair calls. He is on his way home, and I have no idea what's for dinner.

5:00pm--Blair's running late. Pasta is cooking on the stove. Klara has to go to the potty. Kenna follows us in. Klara passes gas quite loudly on the potty. Kenna laughs and tries to make the same sound by blowing spit bubbles between her lips. She realizes that she is spitting on the bathroom floor and begins playing in it as I am holding Klara on the potty so she can relieve herself. Klara starts laughing, now. I bride the kids to clean up. I tell them they can watch a show on the Disney channel if they pick up the house during commercials. If you ain't working, you ain't watching.

6:00pm--Dinner. Only one spilled cup of water (a record). However, this spill goes all over a Kelsey's plate so she needs to make another plate of spaghetti. Korben shows us a dance he invented by standing on his seat and rotating his hips in a circular manner (scary). Klara doesn't like the tomato chunks in the sauce. Kyler asks why we don't have dessert.

7:00--It starts raining. The little ones run outside to play in it. The trampoline is all sudsy because the kids never cleaned up their mess. Kyler clears the table. Katie loads the dishwasher. Kelsey wipes the table and sweeps the dining room.

8:00--Bathtime. Blair bathes Korben, Klara, and Kenna. I return e-mails. I have no idea what the older kids are doing, but no one is screaming, so I consider that a good sign.

9:00--The older kids get ready for bed. I rock Kenna to sleep. Klara goes to bed in mommy and daddy's bed. After I get Kenna to bed, I fold laundry on my bed as I tell Klara stories. Korben and Karis hear me telling stories so they come in my room to listen. Finally, I get the laundry folded and give Klara some books to read. I send the boys to bed and come in to sing them their lullabies (yes, I still sing their lullabies to them...). I go to Kelsey and Katie's room and find them still in their clothes, listening to music and talking. I give them ten minutes to get in bed.

10:00pm--I tuck in Kelsey and Katie (who are still talking and laughing when I leave their room), put away the folded clothes, and get ready for bed. Blair puts Klara in bed with Kenna and kisses the boys. Toys are still on the floor, and the laundry that I started earlier has not been put in the dryer. I return some e-mails, do some writing, wash the few dishes that are leftover from dinner, stick the clothes in the dryer, tie up any loose strings, and head to bed.

12:00--Eventually, I make it to bed.

Okay, so that is a typical day for me. Now you know--we're all in this together.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hitting Problem

I received a question a few days ago that I'm sure many moms are dealing with. A mom wrote in and asked what she should do about her one-year-old son who was hitting. I have dealt with this situation plenty of times myself. As a matter of fact, my 18-month-old little girl, Kenna, has unfortunately found that hitting is a great way to express her frustration.

First of all, I am ruling out the fact that the mom is hitting or spanking the child. If that's the case, then the child is simply playing copycat. Spanking is usually done when you can't think of a better way to handle the situation, not for smart moms like us!! And a one-year-old never should be hit or spanked.

Usually infants and toddlers will hit as a means to get attention. They love to get a rise out of people, and hitting someone definitely works. The most important thing is to not react with a lot of emotion (if you do, then the child got what he wanted). Do NOT hit back. I always grab the hand that hit, hold it firmly, look straight into the child's eyes on their level, and say "No," Then, immediately redirect the child's attention. Show them a design on the wall, your clothes, their shoes. Pick up anything that's close by and show it to them and tell them something about it. Just do something immediately so that they won't continue with the hitting. I have found that this works like a charm. The trick is to not show a lot of emotion and immediately redirect their attention. If they don't get reinforced for the behavior, then it will not continue.

Remember, also, that children go through stages. This may just be a funky phase that he is going through. Handle it with patience and diligence and it will pass smoothly.

Now it's your turn, mamas. If you have some advice on handling this situation, please write in. We're all in this together, and I love hearing from all of you wonderful, blessed, luminous women!!!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Question on Clutter

Here's a question that I just got in:

How do you keep the kids' toys under control? I have four kids that all have their "stuff" that is geared for their age. Individually, they don't have tons of toys, but multiplied by four it all adds up and drives me crazy.

Well, mama, just take what you have and double it. That's what I've got going on around here. First of all, it helps to divide the toys into two categories--personal property and communal property. In a big family like the one I have, most toys are considered communal property. However, there are some special items that are thrown into the mix as well. Keep the personal items (like Klara's Barbie dolls or Karis's pirate ship) in a special place in their room. Now, take all of the communal property and do two things with it:

1. Give away what you don't need (you'll be surprised at how much junk there is thrown in with the toys...).

2. Pack up the toys that they like, but no longer play with.
This is a great tactic because you are not giving the toys away, but you are opening up space for them to play with the toys that they are currently "into." When the thrill wears off, just pack up the current toys and bring out the other ones that you packed away earlier. Even though they are "used," to the kids they will seem brand new! I do this all the time, it's like a swap meet every season. All of a sudden, "new" toys appear and the kids squeal with delight, "Wow! I remember this!" Now you have happy kids, open space, and money in your wallet. Sounds like a winner to me!

And MOMS--if you have something to add, please feel free to post it. We're all in this together. Thanks!