Thursday, March 15, 2012

Keeping Kids Organized

It's ironic that this post comes late in the day on a week I've only blogged once. Apparently I need to take my own advice!

Do you have one of those kids who seems to never be able to find what they need? Missing assignments, missing clothes, missing shoes, chronic lateness . . .

I have one of those kids, and as she gets older, the stakes keep get higher. So here is what I've learned about keeping kids organized as I've struggled through the early school years with her:

1) Teach kids to make lists. When my daughter was younger I made lists for her, but now she makes them for herself. Those post-it notes and dry erase boards in lockers are helpful if you remind them to write it down. I was amused a few weeks back when I noticed my daughter had written on both sides of her hand. I asked her what it said, and she listed off something she needed to remember. Then I asked what was written on the top of her hand, and she read off, "look on other side."

2) Make sure they clean out their backpacks and folders regularly. Disorganized kids won't think to do this without being reminded, and every bit of clutter only serves to make their minds more cluttered.

3) Try to identify what the issue is. Is it that they don't know how to organize things? Work together on some organization projects and tell your child each step of what you're doing: First we take everything out, then we make piles of stuff to keep, toss, or give away. Then we find a storage solution for whatever we're keeping.

Is it that they are a perfectionist, and the moment something is out of order they give up and leave it a mess? Try to work with them on getting things good enough to be functional.

Is it that they get distracted easily? This one is definitely the hardest nut to crack. It helps to make their environment (room, desk, etc.) less cluttered. Beyond that, just keep praising them every time they stick with a task and reminding them every time they forget what they are doing.

4) Make notes to yourself about what you need to remind the child about. Yes, it would be nice if they remembered to bring their instrument to school on orchestra days by themselves. But maybe it's easier to just remind them in the morning as they're walking out the door. I find this means I need to be on top of things myself by getting up on time and making notes for myself.

5) Consequences, consequences. At some point disorganized kids need to learn to manage their own world. Pick some reasonable, age-appropriate level of things they need to do on their own and then give some painful consequences if they fail to follow through. Missing assignments equals missing playdates. Forgotten stuff equals no screen time. That kind of thing.

6) Chill out. This is the one I need to work on. As a goal-oriented, organized type of person, it's really hard for me to relax and let my daughter muddle through in her disorganized way. Being disorganized is part of her makeup. It's what makes her a people person, tuned into the feelings of others. It's what makes her musical and creative. Unfortunately, since I like an orderly world, I tend to overreact about her slip-ups.

The trick is to find a balance over time between teaching your child the skills they need to succeed in life and understanding that they are a person who is supposed to be a little disorganized because that's what goes along with their personality and gifting. There are lots of amazing people in the world who are disorganized, and somehow they make it through life. Don't stop trying to help your child learn better organization (for their good and your sanity), but don't make them and yourself miserable trying to change who they are.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mondays with Martha: Crock-pot Recipes

I can tell this is going to be one of those days of non-stop activity around here, so the post I plan to do on travel tips will have to wait. If you're having one of those Monday kind of Mondays, here are a couple of very simple Crock-pot recipes to help you out:

This first one is courtesy of a facebook friend of a facebook friend. We had it last week, and it was very good!

BBQ Pork Sandwiches

pork loin
jar of bbq sauce
bottle of beer

Put ingredients in Crock-pot and cook on high for about 5 hours, or low for about 6-8. Shred and serve on sandwiches, or just plain next to some potatoes.

Mexican Slop

Chicken, uncooked (fresh, frozen, bone in or out, whatever is fine)
1 can of beans, drained
1 jar of salsa
1 can of corn, drained

Cook on high for 3 hours or low for about 5. Shred chicken and serve on rice or tortillas. Top with cheese.

Taco Soup

1 can/bottle of tomato juice
1 lb. ground beef, cooked and crumbled
1 pkg. taco seasoning
1 can beans, drained
1 can corn, drained

Cook on low for 4 hours. Top with tortilla chips and grated cheese.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Funnies: Men and Women

From an email that's going around...attributed to the Roman Newswire Forum, which does exist but which I was unable to search, so I couldn't link the original source.

I'M GOING TO BED: Men vs Women

Mom and Dad were watching TV when Mom said, "I'm tired, and it's getting late. I think I'll go to bed."

She went to the kitchen to make sandwiches for the next day's lunches, rinsed out the popcorn bowls, took meat out of the freezer for supper the following evening, checked the cereal box levels, filled the sugar container, put spoons and bowls on the table, and started the coffee pot for brewing the next morning.

She then put some wet clothes in the dryer, put a load of clothes into the washer, ironed a shirt, and secured a loose button.

She picked up the game pieces left on the table, put the phone back on the charger, and put the telephone book into the drawer.

She watered the plants, emptied a wastebasket, and hung up a towel to dry.

She yawned and stretched and headed for the bedroom. She stopped by the desk, wrote a note to the teacher, counted out some cash for the field trip, and pulled a text book out that was hiding under the chair

She signed a birthday card for a friend, addressed and stamped the envelope, and wrote a quick grocery list. She put both near her purse.

Mom then washed her face with 3 in 1 cleanser, put on her night solution & age fighting moisturizer, brushed and flossed her teeth, and filed her nails..

Dad called out, "I thought you were going to bed."

"I'm on my way," she said.

She put some water into the dog's dish and then made sure the doors were locked and the patio light was on.

She looked in on each of the kids and turned out their bedside lamps and TVs, hung up a shirt, threw some dirty socks into the hamper, and had a brief conversation with the one who was still up doing homework.

In her own room, she set the alarm, laid out clothing for the next day, and straightened up the shoe rack. She added three things to her "six most important things to do" list. She said her prayers and visualized the accomplishment of her goals.

About that time, Dad turned off the TV and announced to no one in particular, "I'm going to bed."

And he did . . . without another thought.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Picky-Eater Cure

You know how you have a bunch of parenting theories before you have kids, and then you're excited to test them and see if you're right? Well, I had a few about eating. And with children one through four they held true. I figured that picky eaters were made more than born, and that if you just don't put up with pickiness, the kid gets over it.

Like I said, this worked four out of five times. That's an 80 percent success rate, which is really pretty good. But not perfect.

I mostly followed the rules about what to feed them and when. I breastfed. I started cereal between five and six months, when they started getting up more at night, signaling that they weren't getting enough calories during the day. I gave them rice first, then the more interesting grains. I gave them vegetables before fruit. I was a good girl.

And those first four kids ate. And ate. They were pretty chubby babies and didn't refuse much of anything. By age three they were eating salad and liking it. They amazed their grandparents and great-grandparents with the way they genuinely appreciated things like asparagus and pork tenderloin. One of them even ate food he found in the garbage on occasion. Parenting theory proved. All was well. Well, all was well once we put a stop to that garbage-eating.

And then came number five. She ate okay, but not great. She was on the skinny side, still wearing 12 month clothes at 18 months. And now she's two, and although she's healthy, she really doesn't eat much. If you give her a cookie to eat and decorate, she'll eat the M&Ms and frosting and then leave the rest. If you give her what the rest of the family is eating for dinner she loudly refuses. If you give her what she asks for she eats a few bites and then is finished. The only things she eats in any quantity are peanuts (I know, she's too young. What can I say? This is child number five, and the rules no longer apply), fruit snacks (which I made the mistake of buying a large box of from Costco, but will never buy again), and spaghetti and french fries if she's in the mood.

So, parenting theory disproved. Some picky eaters are born that way. What to do now?

1) Do not become a short-order cook. I give my children choices for breakfast and lunch. Not a choice of every possible thing, but reasonable choices between cereals or a few main-dish options I'm willing and able to make. But at dinner, I will not make more than one meal. If my child does not want one of the two or three things served at that meal, she will survive until morning. Now, this is easy for me to say because she does not wake up hungry. If she was waking up, perhaps I would allow bread or cereal for dinner. But the basic concept is still sound, I think.

2) Start working on the concept of "three more bites of this or no dessert" and then consistently enforce it. At age two, she doesn't so much understand this yet. But I'm sure the light bulb will go on soon enough.

3) Continue the rule of the "no thank-you helping." Each child must take a bite of everything offered at a meal. Now, child number five is very, very good at clamping her mouth shut. But soon she will have to follow this rule or she won't be allowed down from the table. Certainly by age three. This rule is important because it teaches respect and gratitude for the person who prepared the meal and sooner or later kids often change their minds about whether or not they like a food, but they can't change their minds if they haven't been forced to eat the food a few times. In the interest of full disclosure, my husband does not follow this rule, but the kids have managed to make the mental adjustment that it is still required of them.

4) Cut down on desserts and sweets until the child is eating pretty healthily. By pretty healthy I mean that over the course of the week their diet gives them a reasonable amount of nutrients from all the food groups.

5) Cut down on snacks to see if they have a better appetite at mealtimes. Or at least make snacks healthier if they aren't going to eat at meals.

6) Slowly work at table manners, specifically sitting at the table. Our other kids did this because, you know, they were actually eating while the rest of us were eating. This child who doesn't eat also doesn't want to be confined. So we're talking baby steps at this point. A few minutes at the table without screaming or dumping food on the floor.

7) And one more for when she's older: children should never be allowed to say anything rude or unkind about the food that is served to them. If they don't have anything nice to say about the food that has been provided, they better not say anything at all. If any child of mine says something like "I hate brussels sprouts" when they sit down at the table, they will be sent to their room while the rest of us eat. And when we're all finished they will eat those brussels sprouts in solitude. Table manners and common courtesy can be taught even if you can't teach the pickiness out of a picky eater.

8) Eventually I do think it's smart to include children in menu-planning and meal preparation. I'm not going to stop making every meal that a child doesn't like, but I do try to make things that the children prefer and lots of meals where you put it together yourself at the table so they can choose what topping they want (taco salad or baked potatoes with various toppings, for instance)

So there you have my strategy for my picky eater. What's worked for you? Or maybe a better question is, what parenting theory have your children disproved?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Since I'm working on a dinosaur computer, I can't get my pictures from my camera to  my computer. These pictures from late January will have to do. I can't tell you how happy I am that the temperature is supposed to hit 65 today! Look how far we've come...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tips for a Happy Marriage--#6: Traditions

Does anyone but me have the Fiddler on the Roof theme song running through their head right now? What a great musical, but it is kind of heavy. As a teenager I found Tevye and Golde's marriage depressing. After 25 years of living and struggling together, Golde "supposes" she loves her husband. As a teenager I thought, "That's the best she can say after 25 years?" Now I find their marriage kind of sweet. There's something to be said for faithful, service-oriented love even if it doesn't begin with the excitement of romance. And I guess that's where I'm going with marriage tip #6. Day in and day out love like Tevye and Golde's, shown in those little traditions you build as a couple. Here is ours . . .

I'm not sure how the tradition started, but I'm pretty sure it was well ensconced by the end of our first year of marriage. Every Sunday night, rain or shine, we have homemade barbeque chicken pizza. Thirteen years of weekly pizza dates, just the two of us, after the kids are in bed, sitting side by side on the couch while we watch a funny TV show or a football game, depending on the season. One of our friends, upon viewing this tradition, said it was like a dance. I suppose it is. I make the dough, my husband grills some chicken, I make sure we have the barbeque sauce and cheese, and then my husband rolls out the dough and puts it all together and brings me a plate of piping hot pizza. The best in the world, not only because it tastes good, but also because it is made with love.