Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Some Alternatives to Punishment

I love this article from SW Parents.

It has helped me rethink how I approach my two-year-old's behavior.  We have been struggling with independence and stubbornness lately, and so my natural reaction is to put my foot down and say "No!  I'm the mom so I get to make all the decisions!"  In essence, I'm giving her the perfect example of a stubborn, independence driven temper tantrum.  I didn't stop to realize that my child's "misbehavior" is also a form of communication.  I should have seen her tantrums as a way of saying "Mom, I'm growing up.  I can handle this."  And you know what, she can.  And you know what else?  The "punishments" we have used in the past really don't work very well.  It just creates negativity and hurt feelings.

I learned a valuable trick from my sister recently.  Instead of nagging her kids to eat their dinner, she cheers them on by saying "Go, Eva, go!  You can do it!"  Talk about an uplifting dinner routine!  Since then, my two-year-old has started cheering us on when we eat all our food.  It's pretty much the cutest thing ever!  That never would have happened if I had continued threatening my daughter instead of encouraging her.

As a final note, I'm not saying that we should let our kids walk all over us parents.  I'm just saying there is a better way than letting yourself get worked up about misbehavior, a lesson I have had to learn over and over again.  (I will probably have to learn it many more times before I get the hang of it!) So try encouragement instead of threats.  These tricks might work for you:

From SW Parents:

  1. Show kids what you DO want them to do, and support them, encourage them, catch them doing it, praise them.  Give them positive options!
  2. Change the child’s environment so that it supports positive behaviors.  Simple example: don’t keep the jar of cookies where your 3 year old can reach them.  More complex example: figure out how long of a playdate your kid can handle before falling apart.  Keep playdates within that time frame until you’re both ready to experiment with incremental increases.
  3. Figure out what’s behind the unwanted/negative behaviors.  Behavior is a communication, I like to say… what is your child’s behavior saying to you?  Hint: it’s usually something along the lines of: “I’m tired and over stimulated” or “I can’t handle this much freedom,” or “I really need more time with you/attention from you,” or “Something’s not right with me,” or  “I am not getting enough opportunities to feel powerful and in charge of my life.”  When parents understand what the child’s behavior is communicating, they can better meet the underlying need… which generally has a positive effect on the unwanted behavior!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Teaching Kids How To ARGUE?

Yes, you read the title correctly!  I just came across a very interesting article about teaching your kids the right way to argue.  I never realized that the process of arguing is a way for kids to learn reason and use logic.  Like learning to share, you can't avoid this important milestone.  So we need to make the most of it.  The goal as a parent is to TEACH your child the RIGHT way to argue and to set a standard of agreeable disagreement.  :)  Taking advantage of this developmental stage could really pay off when your child becomes a teenager.

I also learned that it is futile to argue with a child under the age of 3.  Looks like I'll need to remember this article in a few years...

Read the article HERE.

Monday, 8 October 2012

FHE - made easy

This comes from my friend Heather -

"Something I've been using lately with Kailey for personal scripture reading time is the Gospel Art kit book. We take one picture each day and read some of the scriptures that go with each one (for us we've only read the Book of Mormon scriptures and we're reading them out of Kailey's Book of Mormon to make it more personal). Kailey will repeat the words of a scripture after me so she feels like she is reading them too. Then we talk about the scripture and picture. I've only done it for a week, but I've actually enjoyed doing it and look forward to the time to read scriptures with her and talk about the pictures. I like that the scriptures and pictures are already chosen (no prep work for less thing to worry about and just go with the flow). It's nice that there is something to look at to keep her focused and the thought/discussion is short. We also sing a song first, pray, read/discuss, sing, and pray. It gives us a chance to also practice our children's songs. I'm in the process of trying out some activities I want to do if I decide to homeschool. This is one of those things I want to continue and as she gets older, the lessons will be longer. I call it her "seminary" time. And as I homeschool, I do want her to have "seminary" time each day where she is focusing on learning about the gospel besides other educational pursuits. I think it helps me and it helps her. I just wanted to post how helpful the Gospel Art kit book can be for personal scripture reading with a child or maybe even for a family home evening lesson."

I thought this was such a good idea that I started doing some of my own research.  I went to and found some great links, like this one that lets you browse pictures by topic, and this one that has the pictures labeled in chronological order.  

You can buy the Gospel Art Kit at a distribution center for $3.50.

There is also a Gospel Art Kit app for your smart phone or tablet!  $1.99 buys you access to 600 pages of gospel related pictures.  What a great way to provide uplifting spiritual nourishment for your family!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Choosing to Indulge in the Everyday - Marie

This is a post from my friend, Marie.  What I admire so much about her is that she is smart and capable and dedicated.  She is the kind of person that can simply stick to a decision no matter the difficulty (well, at least it seems that way to me).  With her strength of character, she has the ability to be powerful in the world.  And yet she chooses to be powerful in her family instead.  I have no doubt that Proverbs 31:28 will be her description:  "Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her".   Her kids will be so grateful for her skills and for making the sacrifice to be their special mom instead of being a "powerful woman" in the eyes of the world.  She is unselfish and Christlike and very admirable.  I want to be more like Marie.  

Here are her words about choosing to "indulge" in the greatest joy we can find as mothers, our kids -- 

Carpet lines. If you're wondering what the first picture is supposed to be of that is your answer. I love carpet lines--the lines created in certain types of carpet after you vacuum. When I was younger and as I grew older, I realized that I wanted carpet lines. 

The carpet in my house growing up was not conducive to carpet lines. It was bumpy and green. If you've seen Toy Story, you've seen the carpet I grew up with. You might not have realized you saw it, but you did. Now go think back and remember Sid's room. Remember when Buzz and Woody are coming out of the backpack and there are all the reconstructed toys. Can't remember? Just google search "toy story sid's room" and you can see images. Well, Sid's carpet was our carpet.

Now, I'm not saying I was deprived as a child. I remember liking our bumpy, green carpet because it made nice "bushes" for my toy animals to eat. But what I am saying is that that carpet couldn't have carpet lines and that when I finished vacuuming I wanted those perfect lines to appear. Those lines that say, "Look at this lovely freshly-vacuumed floor." I don't know why, but I just knew that if I could have carpet lines vacuuming would be better. And you know what? I was right. For me, creating vacuum lines makes me feel happy and in some weird way accomplished. Vacuum lines are one of those simple pleasures that make doing those "have-to-do" things enjoyable.

You may also notice in that top picture that those carpet lines are just not right. There are itty bitty footprints in those carpet lines! If those footprints made me angry, I would say that they mar those perfect lines. Thankfully, for my sanity would surely be lost, those footprints make me happy. They are another simple pleasure (and complicated pleasure certainly). 

Look at the cute little feet and pudgy legs that made those footprints!

Aren't they just the cutest?!? These feet and legs belong to the smallest love of my life and he is constantly leaving marks all over. Special touches and dashes of light. Messes I will miss because he no longer wants to spend his time near me or he is "too big" to make them anymore. I'll enjoy the piles of books he asks me to read while he still asks me to read them. I'll make towers for him to topple while he still needs me to help build them. I'll do my best to enjoy each question and answer it as best as I can. I'll cherish every cuddle even those that are a bit clingy.

Those beautiful feet make perfect footprints that adorn my carpet lines. Those carpet lines accent those footprints, making it so they are noticed, highlighted, showcased. Reminding me of how lucky and blessed I am. Reminding me to appreciate all the moments because I get to experience them. Those footprints are most definitely a simple pleasure--and a huge blessing.

I'll let Owen continue to show you some of the other simple pleasures I enjoy. I absolutely love hearing Owen say and call for "Mommy" and "Mom."

I sure hope he knows that Mommy loves him!

I wondered for awhile whether he knew the word mom. He would say dad so easily and often. All I had to do was say, "Let's go see Dad," and he'd start looking around for and repeating "Da. Da. Da." Every time we come home whether it is from a friend's house or from the store, Owen starts repeating "Dad" as we get out of the car, walk up the stairs and get inside the house. He's asking if Dad is home; no matter what I respond, he will keep asking and look expectantly for Dad when we enter.

The first time I remember him really saying "Mom" was when he called me from the other room. I'd left him in his highchair with food I knew he wouldn't choke on, so I could go to the bathroom. Moments after I left, I heard him calling, "Mom! Mom! Mom!" I was so excited! There was proof that he knew the word mom and that he knew mom was me. I need to remember how wonderful it felt to be called as he gets older. I still love it now when he calls for me in our little apartment.

Another simple pleasure of mine is watching Owen read.

Obviously, he isn't reading words yet (though he does a pretty adorable job of it), but he does look at pictures and flip through pages as I've shown before. He loves to be read to and read by himself. I just love watching him pick out a book and read it. When I realize that all those books off the shelf came off because he was reading them, I don't mind so much picking them up again. 

The last simple pleasure I'm going to share today is watching Owen discover the humidifier (and just about any new discovery makes the list). 

Perhaps you noticed my croaky voice in the "mommy loves me" video. Well, I got a minor case of bronchitis which came with a nasty cough. To try and get some sleep, I followed the doctor's suggestion to try a cool mist humidifier at night. When Owen came to wake me up in the morning with his daddy, he discovered it. It became an instant favorite.

I definitely feel like I can't let these moments slip away. It's so easy to feel busy and to be busy. When I try to do too much and take things too fast, I miss these simple pleasures. It's the little things that make life meaningful and fun. The little things forge relationships and bring happiness. I've noticed that on those days when all I want is for nap time to come or Tyler to come home or Owen's bed time to arrive, I'm letting all the moments pass and I'm not happy. I'm waiting for the next day. And then I realize that there isn't anything coming up. All I'm doing is missing everything huge and special because I'm taking it for granted! I'm missing my baby being a toddler. I'm missing this amazing amount of free time, couple time, and family time with Tyler. I'm letting it all go by and not enjoying any of it. I know that later, I'll miss this time and I don't want to have regrets about not taking advantage of this time with Tyler and Owen. I feel like I just have realize it anew every day. If I keep remembering then I can be the wife and mother and woman I want to be. I choose to remember. I choose to indulge in my everyday.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

School Lunch - Made Easy

It's October and school is in full swing.  Getting bored of making school lunches yet?  My friend Ashlee submitted this awesome link about making school lunches more fun and more convenient:

I love it!  Even though I don't have school-aged kids yet, I still use this cheat sheet from time to time.  I included the list here...

lunch box cheat sheet


  • Place a frozen juice box in your kids’ lunchbox. – it’ll keep the food chilled and will be thawed by lunchtime.
  • Go for variety. Make sandwiches using whole grain tortillas, bagels or pitas.
  • Pack antibacterial wet wipes so your kids can clean their hands before and after eating.
  • Add grated veggies to sandwiches and wraps for crunch – your kids won’t notice they’re eating something that’s good for them!
  • Use small resealable bags to pack dressings. Kids can open one corner and simply squeeze onto salad, then discard.
  • Get dipping! Pack salsa, hummus, yogurt or salad dressing for your little ones to dunk their sandwich, veggies or fruit into.
  • Make bite-sized and mini versions of regular foods like sandwiches. They work well for small appetites and are more likely to be eaten.
  • Add a quick note to say good luck on a test or “I love you” – it will brighten your child’s day.

This is a great list.  Looking back, now I know why mom my mom used to put a frozen juice box and ranch dressing in my lunch.  I loved how my drink turned into a slushy, and dipping my carrots in ranch dressing made me feel pretty cool.

Did you know that kids LIKE hummus?  It's so healthy!  I can get my toddler to eat so many vegetables as longs as I have hummus around (and if we run out of veggies, we eat the hummus with a spoon).  My favorite hummus recipe is this:

Easy Blender Hummus

1 can garbanzo beans (save liquid)
1 clove garlic
2 tsp cumin
1-2 Tbs peanut butter
splash of lemon juice (optional)

Put all ingredients in a blender and turn it on low.  While blending, slowly add saved liquid into the blender until you reach the desired consistency (I use about 2/3 of the liquid).  Serve with bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, pita chips, cauliflower etc.  

Speaking from personal experience, I love the convenience of disposable resealable bags.  For $2, you can get 100 tidy sandwich bags that can be used for so many things!  I like to put partially used food items (like onions, bananas, avocados etc) in the bags and stick them in the fridge.  Then I re-use the bag if it's still good later.  I'm all about cheap convenience.

Another tip I recently started using (and I'm probably the last mom in the world to try this one) is frozen Go-Gurt.  It turns into a delicious push-up popsicle!  Yeah, it's not the most healthy snack, but it's a perfect treat for a toddler who doesn't know the difference between ice cream and frozen yogurt :)

Be sure to browse the rest of the website!  There are lots of ideas about healthy and easy lunch ideas.  Another little gem is this page:

Some days you just want your kids out of the kitchen.  But other times it can be enriching to let your kids "help out" a little bit.  And I bet that your kids will remember those special moments when you let them have the extra freedom, even if it means a bit more work for you.  In fact, here is a list of easy recipes your kids will enjoy making and eating:

One last tip.  We recently had to clear out one of our cabinets for a new dishwasher.  Well, the dishwasher didn't happen as punctually as we thought it would, so the empty cabinet naturally became a secret hideout for my 2-year-old.  And it's hilarious.  And it's convenient.  So when I need some space, I can send her to the secret hideout with a little snack and her favorite toy.  Works almost every time.  It has been so fun that I'm almost sad to install the dishwasher.  (Almost.  After all, it's a DISHWASHER.)  I think I'll just empty out a different cabinet so we don't lose the secret hideout when the dishwasher comes in next week :)

What are your favorite lunch time tricks?

It's been awhile...

Please forgive me for being gone for so long.  I think you would understand if you were in my shoes.  One reason for taking such a long break was because I was in the middle of making a huge life-changing decision and simply didn't have the free time to write much (I didn't update my family blog during this time, either, which is a big deal for me).  In the past month and a half, I have gone from thinking I would be a stay-at-home-mom forever to being full-time graduate student.  Yes, I'm going back to school!  Ah!  But more on that decision later.  

The more important reason for my absence is the fact that I feel more content in my job as a mother, so I'm not as driven to seek answers as I was before (you can read my reasons for starting this blog in the tabs above).  This blog has fulfilled a desperate need for me, and for that I am extremely grateful.  It is a beautiful feeling and I want all mothers to feel this way.  That is why I am going to keep going with French Braids & Freezer Meals.  I know that our lives as mothers are constantly changing, and so it is very possible that I will be desperate for answers again next month, or even next week.  It's all about the journey and adjusting our attitudes, perspectives, and practices to help us and our families find that happy medium no matter what situation we're in at the moment.  

Just because I haven't been posting doesn't mean I haven't been collecting valuable information from my vast pool of super-moms, though :)  So stay tuned...

Monday, 20 August 2012

Heather's Words of Wisdom

Meet my friend, Heather.  I'm so glad I met her, and I bet you will be too.  I still remember how excited I was 2 years ago when she knocked on my door and invited me to a little playdate at the park.  My baby was only 2.5 months old, and certainly didn't care if we were playing with other kids or not, but it meant a lot to me!  I was new to the area and new to my role as a mom.  I was so tickled that a more experienced mom thought I was cool enough to come to her playdate.  But that's Heather, for you: finding that person who needs a pick-me-up and being a true friend to them in her gentle, soft-spoken way.  She is the mother of 2 cute kids who we instantly fell in love with.  She is a gifted crochet-er.  She's the kind of mom that makes her childrens' interests her own interests as well.  She goes to great lengths to provide her children the tender love and understanding they need.  Like many moms on this blog, she is a shining example to me of the kind of mom I want to be.  I was very reluctant to say goodbye to my dear friend when they moved to Delaware last summer, but I'm determined to always keep in touch.  True friends like Heather are very hard to come by.  

Heather's words of advice bring up a very important point that I want to keep at the forefront of this blog:  we moms need to SUPPORT each other, and never COMPARE each other.  

The purpose of this blog is not to make anyone feel bad about themselves as a mom.  That's the very last thing I want!  Rather, the purpose of this blog is to help moms find ways to be there best selves and feel good about the things they are already doing.  Maybe that message doesn't come across well enough, but I feel very strongly that that is my goal.  Anyway, Heather expresses herself beautifully, so I'll let you read it yourself:  

I finally got around to reading your blog. I have to admit, I felt discouraged the first time I read it. Maybe it doesn’t help that I know most of the women contributors and I think they are stellar mothers and would love to follow all their advices and have the great outlooks they have and be perfect just like them.  Anyway, after initially reading, I had to step back and tell myself, “I’m a good mother too and these women aren’t perfect”. I don’t have the strengths, backgrounds, experiences, knowledge and interests as some of these other fabulous mothers, but I’m still a good mother and they are too. God has given my children to me for a reason. I know them best and have experiences, backgrounds, knowledge, interests, strengths, (and weaknesses), and interests that they need." Often I find that I compare myself to other moms and often ask myself “Why can’t I be like …… She’s great at this…. Or be like ……..Her home (or family) looks like this (or always does that)……” These thoughts can be debilitating and devastating to my emotional health. I don’t know if other mothers feel like this or have similar thoughts, but I wanted to stress the importance of always improving. There is no one perfect mother. There are zillions of ways to be a great mother. And every mother has the potential to be a great mother. It’s important that we’re always improving ourselves as mothers to be the mothers that God would want us to be. When we first become mothers, we come packaged differently (different family and cultural backgrounds, experiences, mother examples, interests, strengths, etc.). Sometimes some come better fit for the job than others. But I know the importance of taking one step at a time, finding one thing at a time to change and become better at. For example, as a kid, my parents both worked. They were tired. We ate out often. We weren’t a healthy family. But since I’ve been married and have had kids, I’m a much much much healthier eater and so is my family. I take each day at a time. Try a new meal. Try something from scratch. Try out a new vegetable or fruit. Grow some vegetables and fruit and find ways to use them. Use less meat and more beans. Try out a new grain. Try out foods known to be healthier for our bodies.  Drink more water. Eat packaged foods with less sugar or salt. Eat more whole grains.  I’m not near to having the perfect food and diet for my family, but I know I’m working on it and it is blessing my family. I know eating healthy is a strength to some women (maybe given to them from their mothers or interests), but it’s not a strength for me and I can’t compare myself with others in this area. Is isn’t fair to myself. And so I write these comments to remind myself, and maybe other mothers that it’s important to take the good we already do and make it better and to take the not so good and improve it and make it better. AND THIS ALL HAPPENS ONE STEP AT A TIME! One day at a time, one week at a time, one month at a time, one year at a time. I know I’m a better mother today than I was a year ago or even a month ago. This improvement is what counts… not what this mother can do better than me or what I can do better than that mother. The improvements we make as mothers bless our families immensely.

I don’t know if this any good advice. When you invited me to try to add something to your blog, I tried hard to think of something. I couldn’t come up with anything. I finally took the time to read what others have posted. I do like their advice and tips. Hope to try a few, one at a time until it actually becomes natural so it’s not overwhelming. Anyway, this is finally my attempt to add. It’s not really a tip, maybe more of a reminder. I did try to start out writing about something I specifically know I try to focus on as a mother, but instead this is what you have. Work with it as you want. If it helps. 

Friday, 17 August 2012

Teaching Kids to Work

Submitted by Ashlee --

This is a chore chart we instituted several weeks ago in response to a truly horrible day.
I had reached a breaking point with uncooperative and lazy attitudes.

The chore chart works thusly: First thing in the morning I write down what chores need to be done. After breakfast the boys must accomplish their list of chores before any play. You will notice there are 3 boxes to check off. This is to address the particular problems we had been experiencing.
The first is to indicate that the chore just plain old got done... I always inspect their work to make sure that things were done properly.
The second is for staying on task (ie. I shouldn't have to tell you to "keep cleaning!" 20,000 times before the job is actually finished. I don't actually enjoy being a nag!)
The third box is for having a good attitude. Any whining, fighting, complaining, eye rolling, huffing or other like behavior is not permitted. You are part of a family. We all contribute to the cleanliness and happiness of this home.
If they get an "O," in any of their boxes I assign an additional chore so that they may try again.

Things have vastly improved since we started doing chores this way.
The boys are great little workers and their help has genuinely helped me keep the house cleaner. I give them chores that actually need to be done!
It's given me the chance to teach them loads of new and necessary skills and I have been surprised by what they are actually capable of accomplishing. They can sort laundry, clean all the different parts of a bathroom, pick up entire rooms, put dishes away, dust, wipe, organize... all kinds of things!
We genuinely have a good time working together each morning, and I am hopeful that they are learning good lessons like: Work before play, etc.

The system has been in place long enough now that it is simply an expectation. We have much, much less push-back when I tell them what they are doing, and they even seem to be proud of the job well done!


*** Listen to Music While you Clean.  It's the "Whistle While You Work," principle.  Everything is easier when you have a song to work to!  It makes the whole house feel different and happier.  I have a Pandora Station with Disney music that they like, CD's with Children's Music, or sometimes I just put on "Mom," Music - making sure I choose something uplifting and peppy.***

***Properly Teach your Children What you Expect.  Showing them how to properly get something done by modeling the chore first, and then staying with them as they do it themselves for the first few times alone is key.  They need to know exactly what is expected of them and how the job is to be done.  This helps prevent future arguing or having to go back and do something again.  It also shows that you care enough to spend time teaching them and helping them succeed.***

***Do Your Own Chores at the Same Time.  I like to be working in other areas of the house when my kids are doing a chore that they have mastered.  I think this shows them a few things.  First, that I trust them in their abilities to accomplish what I assigned.  Second, that I am not asking them to do something that I am not doing myself.  Third, it gives me the opportunity to show them that I enjoy working and getting things done.  I hope my example of working without complaining, enjoying the work, and enjoying my finished product will rub off on them.  How can I expect them to not complain if they see me complaining?***

***Think About What You Hope To Teach Before Setting the System.  You have seen how me and my husband set up our chore system... this may or may not be a good way for YOU to do it.  We had specific problems that we were trying to address and specific things we were trying to teach.  What YOUR goals are should determine how you do it in your home.  IE- Do you pay your children for their chores or not?  Do you set a specific time each day to clean or not?  Do you work all together as a team on one job or do you divide and conquer?... There are no "right," answers to these questions, it's all about what you are hoping to teach.***

***Praise Your Children and Thank Them for a Job Well Done.  Give a hug.  Say "Thank You."  Do a high five.  Admire and praise their work.  Play a game together afterwards.  Do SOMETHING to show them that you appreciate their efforts.  Children have the same needs as adults to feel accepted and appreciated!***

***Split up Bickering/Easily Distracted Kids.  This may sound simple but it took me a minute to figure out!  I have learned that for my 2 boys we are doomed from the get go if they are working together on a task.  They inevitably do one of 2 things: Fight about who is doing the work and who is slacking off.  OR... Forget the job altogether and play.  Having them work on separate tasks in different areas of our home sure helps!

***Stick with it Because IT MATTERS!  Some days no matter what tricks you pull out of your hat it just doesn't go well.  I know sometimes I think "This would be so much easier to just DO MYSELF!!!" But we can't stop.  I want my children to someday be responsible men and contributing fathers.  The only way they will learn is by consistency and love.  When I get tempted to quit I remember this quote by Julie B. Beck from her General Conference Talk "Mother's Who Know.":

"Mothers who know are nurturers. This is their special assignment and role under the plan of happiness.5 To nurture means to cultivate, care for, and make grow. Therefore, mothers who know create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes. Another word for nurturing is homemaking. Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly home. Home is where women have the most power and influence; therefore, Latter-day Saint women should be the best homemakers in the world. Working beside children in homemaking tasks creates opportunities to teach and model qualities children should emulate. Nurturing mothers are knowledgeable, but all the education women attain will avail them nothing if they do not have the skill to make a home that creates a climate for spiritual growth. Growth happens best in a “house of order,” and women should pattern their homes after the Lord’s house (see D&C 109). Nurturing requires organization, patience, love, and work. Helping growth occur through nurturing is truly a powerful and influential role bestowed on women."

That's what it's all about!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

A Story Before Bed.

This experience comes from my sister Jane:

I just put Halle to bed. It is 10:00pm and she is very tired. She asks me so sweetly if I will snuggle her. I consent. She is asleep within minutes.

I leave the room and go back to my desk to fill out a consensus booklet. My private self hates filling out all of this information and sending it to the government, even though they probably already have this information on file. Suddenly, my concentration is broken by Halle shouting, "Mother! Mother! (pause) Mother!"

I return to her room with a smile on my face. I get such a kick out of her grown-up words. She's in her bed. She says, "I was scared. And when I'm scared, I just need some milk." 

I leave, and return again with a small, blue, plastic IKEA cup full of milk. After 2 sips, she hands it back, smiles, and quietly says, "Thank you. That was deli-suss. I love you so much," followed by a big hug around the neck. She is so sweet and sleepy that I can hardly contain my grin. I feel so much love for this little grown-up child.

I ask if I can snuggle some more. She settles in to bed and embraces her Nemo fish (a gift from exactly one year ago). Then her imagination kicks into gear. She says, "My nemo was on my swimsuit, and now he's HERE! in my arms! He was swimming, but now he came back to me. (insert quiet smooch)." It's completely dark in her room, but I can just imagine her eyes shut so tight as she kisses the stuffed Nemo fish in her arms. She lives each moment so genuinely.

Then she POPS up in bed and says, "I forgot the food! My tummy isn't happy. It's still sad and mad. I need pickles and meat and cheese. Then my tummy will be happy."

I guess it's been too long since dinner and she's hungry again. Oh well. She's now sitting next to her father at the kitchen table as he finishes up homework and reading assignments from the first day of the new semester. It's mid-August and unbelievably humid outside. So humid that our windows fog up in the mornings and I'm soaked after a short early morning jog. But despite the heat and the late nights, life is good.

Life is so good.

After a few minutes of snacking and chatting with her father about "land use and planning" (boring!) it is officially time for bed. I climb in next to her one more time and say goodnight. Then she perks up again and says, "No wait! My tummy is still mad. and sad. and crying. forever and ever! And I am crying for you and I will say Mother! Mother! because my tummy is sick.

All the while, she is stroking my cheek and tucking a stray hair behind my ear. Then she pauses and says, "I love you so much." with a kiss on my forehead. 

I ask, "Really?"


I lay there without moving. Her hand on my wrist. Her breath like a gentle wind on my forehead. And within moments, she is again asleep. 

Heaven is close to my heart tonight.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Rachel's Tips: Part 1

I have been excited to share this post for a long time.  Rachel is one of my dear friends.  When I first met her, I had a newborn baby and was struggling with my identity as a mom.  Rachel was pregnant with her 2nd boy, had big responsibilities at church, and still managed to serve people around her.  You could tell by looking at her that she is sweet, humble and confident.  I admit that I was intimidated by her goodness.  I wanted to be a mom like her, but I thought "A girl like Rachel would never be friends with a girl like me".  How quickly she resolved that problem!  She now has 2 boys and is expecting a baby girl in December.  What a cute family! 

When I asked her to participate in FB&FM, she took her time to ponder what advice she could offer as a mom.  This is part 1 of what will be several posts, which I am very excited about :).  I have been thinking about this advice for some time now, and it has helped me realize the way I am portraying myself to my kids on a daily basis.  I want my kids to believe that it is my greatest joy to take care of them -- not my greatest burden.  What an important way to establish confidence and emotional stability in their young lives!  I especially like the last few lines: "they hopefully get the message that I am the mom and there isn't anything they can throw at me that I can't calmly deal with." Anyway, enough from me.  Here is what Rachel has to say:

Make my children believe that they are easy to be taken care of

I am the mom who is always seeking advice, or mommy tricks, from other moms so I've had a hard time coming up with something of my own to share. However, after a little thought, I remembered something that helps me keep it together--mentally--when I'm about. To pull. My hair. Out. Because sometimes I am despite how much I love my kids and my job (mothering).

So, on to one of my "french braids and freezer meals".

I try to make my children believe that they are EASY to take care of by believing, myself, that they are easy to take care of. It sounds kind of manipulative but I don't like to think of it that way. It's a frame of mind for me that keeps me sane, and it's a message, I can show through my example, that transfers to my kids and magically--or so it seems--they ARE EASY(er) to take care of. (Whether they are easier or whether it's just my frame of mind, if it makes my life easier and happier, I'll take it.)

Believing and showing my kids that they are easy to take care of can be very hard to do when I've heard the ump-teenth "why?" of the day (my son is 4). Or when I'm trying to make dinner and my boys are under my legs, screaming and crying, and asking for snacks and treats. Or when my son has colored outside of the lines and wants me to print out another Bob the Builder coloring page--the 5th in 10 minutes--because it has to be perfect.

These are examples of times (and they all happened today) that my children do things that frankly annoy me (can I say that?). They're not hurting anyone, and they're not necessarily being disrespectful. They're just being kids. But, at those times I don't feel like responding in the most loving way. I want to respond in a desperate way. I want to roll my eyes, use a frustrated tone, tell them to "Be quiet!" or even beg, "Just give me ten (boo-hoo) minutes!"

Doing those things sends my kids the message that they are HARD to take care of and maybe that I don't really enjoy taking care of them, which is far from the truth, and a message I do not want to send them. At those frustrating times, what I try to do is:

  • Catch myself getting annoyed (before I blow up or behave like a child myself).
  • Remember that they are just kids and I'm the "mature adult".
  • Take a deep breath, smile at them, and calmly offer my help, "What do you need?" 

*At this point my child is usually still frustrated or throwing a tantrum and makes the request in a childish way. Surprise, surprise. Despite my frazzled nerves I stay calm.

  • I smile at my child or show empathy (hold, hug, kiss). Do you think they're getting the message that they are easy to take care of/I know what I'm doing?
  • I tell myself, "this is easy; I can be the responsible adult".
  • My mentality is: I can show him by my example that I can deal calmly with frustrating situations (even if he's the one making this a frustrating situation). 

At this point my response to the request, or the consequence of my child's behavior is determined by the situation and the rules of our house (e.g. I normally wouldn't let my kids have treats or snacks while I'm preparing dinner, even if they do calm down and ask kindly). I use my parental discretion--and you can, too.

But, whatever I do choose to do, I show confidence and love in my decision. That way, even if my kids aren't happy with what I've decided they hopefully get the message that I am the mom and there isn't anything they can throw at me that I can't calmly deal with.

Taking care of them is--becomes--EASY.

Thursday, 9 August 2012


I have been thinking a lot about parenting and what I hope people get out of this blog.  I want this to be a place for moms to come to find ideas and feel appreciated.  I want this to be uplifting and never discouraging.  I want this to be a source of clarity and stress-relief.  Because of these goals, I think I'll re-focus my structure.  Originally I wanted to have a theme for every month and focus every post on that theme.  Now that this blog is up and running, I find that I would rather go with the flow because I so enjoy learning about everyone's individual approaches to parenting.

So let's scrap the "theme" idea and just have a good old-fashioned discussion!

On that note, let's talk about schedules.  If I were to describe myself and my approach to parenting/homemaking, I would say I'm pretty relaxed.  Some things are just not worth stressing over (especially when you have little kids).  In fact, the idea of giving myself deadlines in parenting/homemaking stresses me out!  It frustrates me when I don't get something done that I had every intention of accomplishing... just because life got in the way.

So instead of giving myself a schedule, I decided to give myself a general daily routine and to-do list.  It includes things like exercising, going to the store, putting kids down for naps, taking a shower, making dinner, etc.  It seems to work pretty well for me.  But the routine is basically the same for every day.  And because I try to hit all the big things on my to-do list, all the little things that need to get done start stressing me out.  Things like sweeping the floor, folding the laundry, doing the dishes, playing with my kids etc.  I try to fit them in whenever I have a moment of downtime... which sometimes NEVER happens.  And since it's impossible to do everything during nap time which sometimes doesn't happen, I start getting stressed.

Then I decided to set a day for doing laundry -- Wednesday -- so that every time I start stressing out over laundry I can tell myself "It's OK, I'll do it on Wednesday.  I can worry about something else right now."  And so far, it's working pretty darn well.  Who knew that making a schedule and setting a deadline could actually reduce stress instead of increase it?  (probably everyone but me, but I finally figured it out for myself).

So I'm trying a new approach.  I think I need a schedule, even though that word scares me a little bit.   But I can't make it too detailed or else I'll start getting frustrated when my kids don't let ME get the things I WANT to get done (see how silly and selfish it sounds?  My goal in making a schedule is to take care of my kids in an organized manner... this should reduce stress to I can be a better parent... not give me another excuse to be stressed and selfish!)

I want a few days a week when I don't have to worry about cleaning and/or cooking.  I want a day when I can completely ignore house work to read a book or play with my kids.  I don't want to go grocery shopping more than once a week.  Some things you just have to do every day (dishes) but it doesn't mean you have to stress out about it.  I'm slowly learning to ignore certain things so I can do more important things (yes, I think it is a skill to know when and how to ignore things, even if it's house work!)  For example, I am learning to ignore the dishes in the sink until after the girls are in bed.  No big deal!

So here it is (tentatively).  I did not include my personal daily routine things (like nap time), just my "to-do-at-home" things:

Monday -- grocery shop. cook and freeze left overs
Tuesday -- kitchen. sweep/mop.  vacuum.  Eat freezer meal.
Wednesday -- laundry.  organize.  playgroups.  cook?  baths.  
Thursday -- kitchen.  bathrooms.  Eat freezer meal.  Mom/Dad night out (for visiting/home teaching, girl's night, church meetings etc)
Friday -- sweep. mop. organize. Free time for reading.  Date night?
Saturday -- play with dad day.  take out trash.  vacuum.  baths.
Sunday -- rest.

I have a feeling this will change a lot over the next few weeks, but it's such a relief to have a starting point.

What is your approach to house work and play time?  How do you prioritize what needs to get done and when?  How do you get your kids to help out?

Friday, 3 August 2012

Summertime with Kids

It's time for a new month and a new topic!  Originally I wanted advice about "vacations with kids", but I think we should expand the topic to include the whole summer.  I want to know what other moms do to keep their kids busy and happy during the long school-less summer days!  

Here are some questions to get your juices flowing:
  • Do you keep a summer school schedule with art projects and reading assignments?  
  • Do you go to the pool every day?  What about the library?
  • What are some of your favorite vacations/staycations? 
  • How do you keep your kids happy on the airplane or in the car?  
  • How do you handle all the STUFF that you have to bring on a vacation?  How do you stay organized and avoid losing toys/luggage/purses etc?
  • What if your child is potty training and you're taking a long road trip?  
  • Do you stay indoors to avoid the heat or go outside to avoid boredom?  
  • What is your go-to summertime outfit?  For yourself and for your kids?
  • What are your favorite (easy) summertime meals/snacks?  
  • How do you keep up with the yard and/or garden without going crazy?
  • How do you keep TV/computer/video games to a minimum? 
And remember, I'm always looking for ways to uplift, inspire, and encourage us moms.  

I'm excited to learn more about your parenting styles!  Email your tricks and ideas to  

It's time to start spreading the word about this blog.  If you know someone who you look up to, send them the link and ask them to participate.  Don't forget to click "like" on our new facebook fan page!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012


Welcome to French Braids & Freezer Meals!  To start things off, this month's theme is FAVORITES.  These are the tricks you come back to over and over again that always seem to save the day.  Here are some of our readers favorite tricks:

Ashlee's Stand for Healthy Food
Whit keeps crafting simple
Aubrey - consistency and whole foods
Alysa's 5 Musical Tips

A big thank you to everyone who has participated so far!  I am amazed by the beautifully simple responses I read every day, and am even more amazed by the beautiful women who wrote them.

This blog cannot survive without input from our readers.  So please take a moment to write a comment, think of your favorite tricks, and send them my way (  Don't forget to click the "Join this site" button on the right to stay updated.

When writing your list of tricks, remember to follow these guidelines:

(1)things that reduce/avoid stress.   We have to run a pretty tight ship as moms, and things can get stressful really fast.  For me, stress means I'm not as patient and playful as I want to be. Then I feel like a bad mom, and then I get even more stressed.  This is a bad cycle!  Since we don't always have the luxury to walk away and read a book or go for a jog when things get stressful, we need some tricks to help us get through the day in one piece.

(2) things that are easy.   We don't need more sewing projects.  We don't need lifestyle overhauls. We don't need more things to add to our to-do lists, especially if they take up a lot of time and take us away from our kids.  Our ultimate goal is to spend more quality time with our family, not get bogged down on the latest "time saving" pinterest trending craft.

Next month's theme is VACATIONS WITH KIDS.  

Monday, 30 July 2012

From the Editor

Hi friends!  You already know what my top two favorite tricks are (take a look at the title of the blog) but I have a few more up my sleeve.  Here it goes!

entertaining toddlers:
- Rescue Pack -- Before my second daughter was born, I made a "rescue pack" of fun activities for my toddler to play with to give me some time to focus on my new baby.  It has bubbles, playdough, markers, craft sticks, paints, stickers and paper.  It has been very helpful, especially when other kids come over.
- Sing & Dance movies and educational movies --  I know what experts say... no TV under the age of 2 and only half an hour a week after (or something like that).  But I have a hard time saying no to a movie if it helps my daughter learn the alphabet or if she's singing and dancing the whole time the TV is on.  Obviously she isn't just vegging in front of the TV.  She's learning something, and I'm getting something done, so it's worth it to me.  Our favorites are The Wiggles and Brainy Baby.  Now we have several songs and dances we like to do together!
- Cheap works-almost-every-time outdoor toys -- sand/water table with bubbles.  Spray bottle.  Pink broom/dust bin.  Sidewalk chalk.  Watering pail.  My mom used to tell me to go "paint the sidewalk" and it always did the trick!
- When (before) all else fails, play with your toddler! -- I have found that when I play with Eva for awhile, she loves it, then she gets tired of me, and then she wants to play by herself.  Cooking and cleaning can usually wait for awhile, and it's worth it when she finally decides to play by herself.  Plus, I always feel better about myself and my relationships when I spend some quality one-on-one time with my little girls, even if I'm in the middle of making dinner.

new baby:
-  portable bouncer -- best $12 we ever spent!  It's so nice to be able to put the baby down in a safe, comfortable seat at a moment's notice, especially when there is another baby running around the house who often needs immediate attention.  We use the bouncer all the time.  Ours has a vibrating option and some hanging toys that the baby loves.  Sometimes it's the only place I can put her down where she will actually stay asleep.
-  find a pacifier that works -- if at first you don't succeed, try try again.

mommy rejuvination:
-  If you can, make one room in the house completely off limits --  It's so nice to have a place that you don't have to worry about child proofing. Use a child proof door knob and a baby gate if necessary.  I use both.  My bedroom is my sanctuary because it actually stays as clean or as messy as I want it.
-  Give yourself some time at the start of the day -- Even if it's just 5 minutes.  I like to make the bed, put on clothes, brush my hair, and wash my face before I go get the kids out of bed.  I'm less likely to be impatient with my kids because I'm not preoccupied with getting away to take care of myself.

- French braids :)
- Knit tops that don't require an under shirt + a flowy, knee-length skirt -- It's always a cute combination!  This makes it easy to stay cool on a hot summer day, and that by itself makes me a nicer mom.  It's also easy to pick an outfit, nurse a baby, and change clothes in case of a mess.
- Long skirts for church --  Thankfully, they're back in style!  Long skirts means you don't have to shave your legs or wear pantyhose. Hallelujah!

what to do when you're at the end of you're rope:
- As a very wise person once told me (or rather, my very wise mother often tells me), "learn to fuzz your brain".  I think it's her way of saying be OK with letting go of control and stress for awhile.  Just ignore it. Honestly, I didn't understand "fuzz your brain" when she first told me many years ago.  But now that I'm a mom, it is some of the best advice she has ever given me.
- Remember that someday the kids will grow up, and you will look back on these days with fondness.  Here is what Thomas S. Monson has to say on this topic:

"If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly.
Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. Often we assume that they must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know. Wrote William Shakespeare, “They do not love that do not show their love.” 3 We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. Rather, our regrets will come if such things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us."  - Thomas S. Monson, Finding Joy in the Journey, October 2008 General Conference 

battling the blues:
- take a long bath
- eat a hamburger and a big side of vegetables (red meat has iron and veggies are great anti-inflamatory foods  --  great for an energy boost and feeling good about yourself) or a big green smoothie with spinach, orange juice and your favorite frozen fruits.
- take a nap in the sun, or go for a walk (alone) and sit on a sunny bench for awhile.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Alysa's 5 Musical Tips

My friend Alysa is pretty darn cool.  She is the mother of 2 sweet boys.  She's well read and blogs about her favorite books at  She hosts an interactive music class for kids every week called Kindermusik (and the kids love it!)  And she's the kind of person you love to hang out with on girl's night because brings out your silly side while holding a real conversation.  One of my favorite moments with Alysa was when we were in a playroom together watching our kids go crazy.  When her younger son started fussing, she took him on an elaborate and exciting tour of the tiny room (a 10'x10' square).  I was intrigued by it!  She was making everything up on the fly (her description of the slide was an old mansion built in the 1920's for wealthy cowboys... or something like that) and I loved how she took something so ordinary and made it exciting everyone, herself included.  I could definitely use some help making ordinary days a bit more exciting.  

I was trilled when I read her tips on making music a part of everyday family life.  Speaking from personal experience with music, I would LOVE it if my children learned to appreciate music from the hearth at a young age.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  

Five Tips for Using Music to Make Life Easier
Hello, all! Emily asked me to post about how to get your little kids involved in music. Of course the first thing I thought of was that they could take a music class from me, but that is hardly practical advice for everyone who will see this. So, no matter where you live, here are my five tips (with bonus Pro tip and music recommendations)!

1. Signal Songs
In our house, we pray as a family at least four times a day. When we had only one child, we could just snatch him up and help him still his hands for the prayer. With two mobile now, we've resorted to a song for our signal. 
When you use a song as a signal, it gives your kids time to do what you're asking of them.  Instead of repeating, "Come to the table. Sit down. Fold your arms," we sing our song and it means all of those things. We don't have to repeat ourselves because we're saying all of that the whole time we sing. For the first few weeks, Jacob would invite someone to say the prayer immediately after our song ended, regardless of where the kids were. This showed them we were serious and the prayer was going to happen right after the song. Now, they're almost always ready by the time the song is done.
Another signal song I use (though not as frequently) is a folk song "Come, Follow" that I learned by teaching Kindermusik. It gets us out the door or all walking on our way somewhere. At a family reunion a few years ago I learned a signal song my great-grandmother had used for getting up in the morning. You could have a signal song for climbing into bed, buckling your seat belt, clearing your plate, or whatever you need. The possibilities are endless.

2. Extender Songs
There are times when my toddler has asked for a drink of water and as I stand to go get the cup, find the lid, make sure the water's not boiling out of the faucet and so forth, he is repeating at an increasing speed and pitch, "Drinkwater! DRINKwater!" It can be annoying, to say the least. 
This is when I sing The Patience Song. Jacob brought this song to our parenting from his own childhood experience. It tells my son "even though I'm turning my back, I still remember when you asked me to do. I'm going right now to do it. When I'm done singing, you will have your drink." I don't have to keep up a constant stream of chatter, or hear "drinkwater" incessantly. 
I also sing a song while changing diapers. When you're halfway through and you just need a few more seconds to finish up, it can be tempting to take a harsh tone. But everyone is so much happier when the shocking thing you do to make the baby look is not yelling but singing. We made up a diaper song with our older son and it has been great fun. It always starts the same way, but on the last line we just say whatever comes to mind. This makes it easy to make it just one second longer if need be. 
Pro tip: When you use a song as an extender, time your beginning so that when the song ends unpleasantness also ends. If your song is done and they are still waiting, the song will lose its power.  

3. Scaffolding with music
When kids are just learning all the noises they can make, sometimes they pick the most annoying ones to repeat. Over and over and over. Yes, a fire truck says wee-oh-wee-oh-wee-oh but it usually drives away as it does. Not the case for a toddler who wants to play in the same room as mom. I've found to say, "change that" is better than saying "stop that."
I like to find the musical principles in what the child is doing (such as high or low voice, loud or soft voice, steady beat and repetition) then ask him to change just slightly. "Ooh, fire trucks also honk now and then! Try that! Wee-oh-wee-oh baah baah!" or "You're making your voice is so high! Now can you say the same thing with your voice down lowwww?" It changes things just enough that my brain isn't about to explode anymore and it has the added bonus of teaching kids more about music. 
Teaching kids in this way -- stepping in briefly to suggest a small modification -- is called scaffolding and it is fantastic. 

4. Improving literacy with music 
I don't know about you, but I make up songs all the time. Especially when I'm tired. My brain just switches into song-mode. I've been known to sing entire conversations. It's like my brain is kaput and in order to do anything it has to have music to help it along. You've probably already heard that music is great for our brains.
Songs stand out and help us remember things. Try making up a song to teach your little one a new word, or to answer your child when he asks a question that he has asked before. 
Songs help us divide words into chunks. Typical songs have one note per syllable, and the ability to divide words into syllables is an indicator of reading readiness. Rhyming (common in song) is also helpful when learning to read and write. 

5. Mood enhancement through music 
Often, Jacob will come home from work and turn on music. It is like magic: we will all get a second wind and have energy to make dinner and clean up. (And why didn't I think of this earlier? I will say to myself.)  At night, we calm down with music, singing songs to the boys once they're tucked in -- and we've had to cap it at three otherwise we're in there all night. These nighttime songs are almost signal songs, since they tell the boys to settle in for the night, but they change nightly.
When my son started preschool, we carpooled with an adorable little boy. About halfway through our first ride he asked me to turn on some "kids' music." I love listening to music while I drive; and in our car the driver gets to choose the music. "This is kid music," I said. In my opinion, any wholesome music is kids music, and there is no bad language or thematically inappropriate content in any music I listen to. Ergo, my kids listen to what I like. I'm sure as they grow they'll introduce me to new things, but for now, we listen to the music mom and dad love. I don't buy low-quality, oversimplified, annoying "kids' music" that I don't want to listen to. 
That said, here are three albums marketed as kids albums that Jacob and I love: 
  • Laura Viers' Tumblebee
  • Medeski Martin & Wood's Let's Go Everywhere
  • The Barenaked Ladies' Snacktime

What do you think? Is there a tip you would add to this list? Which of these are you most likely to try? And seriously, if you're looking for a music class for a babe age 0-5, email me at