Thursday, September 29, 2011

dressed to impress

Overheard on a parenting board:

Do you pick out their clothes or let them choose? Is it ever a HUGE battle?

This was my answer: 

I used to have this problem. When my oldest daughter started preschool, she would choose all sorts of random things she wanted to wear! Most of the time it turned into a big struggle for me to get her ready in the mornings, because she would throw tantrums. I had to think of something! I came up with a plan and now that she's 7, it works great. What I do is that I only keep appropriate clothes in her drawers. This means, only seasonal, school approved clothes, etc. She has a pajama drawer which she knows is only for bed or relaxing on weekends. She does have one drawer for dress up clothes but she is "trained" enough by now to know she can't wear those everywhere. Otherwise, all her clothes fit and she could virtually pick any shirt from her shirt drawer that she chooses, the same goes for shorts or pants. I don't keep hot pants or shorts in her drawers out of season. It does mean more organizational work for me but I find that because she grows so fast, it is really in my best interest to keep her clothes CURRENT, all the time. As far as organizational work for me, I dedicate a weekend to sort out the small clothes, the off-season clothes like pants or jackets that might still fit next season, legwarmers, gloves (she will wear these in Summer if she can! She loooves to accessorize) and anything else that I find only takes up space because she never chooses to wear it. It means that I have to force myself to be more organized, but it pays off big time. That is the best advice I can give. Also, make them pick clothes for school the night before! Saves time!! And if they need "help", you will have more time as well.

Anyone else have any advice, horror/success stories, or comments on the topic? 


 She has grown into quite the little fashionista. With some help from me, of course.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

raising readers

I don't have to start this post convincing everyone of how important reading is, right? We all know that reading and writing are two skills that should never be undervalued. For success in business, you need to be able to communicate, professionally, to all sorts of audiences. Boring, boring, boring, I know. But it is true! You know it is. Raising readers is not as hard as it seems. Sure, you might think some people are just born with a reading gene and others just aren't. I don't think that's the case, though. Yeah, you might get lucky and your child might find their own way into the world of reading, with or without your help, but there are some things you can do to raise your very own reader. You don't have to look far to research and find out why and how much better readers do in school. Which brings me to a cool story.

On Wednesday, it was $3 Admission Day into the Kern County Fair. Overpriced, I know.  Anyway, the event that day drew lots and lots of people. In the early evening hours, around 6 or 7pm, there was a 20 minute line just to buy your ticket! Felt like the ghetto Disneyland. Some people kept looking at the little girl sitting on the curb, quietly reading her book. A few even pointed. Every now and then she would pick up her little head from the book and ask her mother a question, then proceed to read again. At the fair? With all the commotion and tomfoolery? I think it was pretty cool. Especially, because it was my daughter! I wasn't surprised. She reads everywhere. In the car, in her room, during recess sometimes, in class (at the wrong time), outside and anywhere else she feels the desire. Kind of reminds me of me. I remember getting in trouble because I hid a book on my lap during teaching time in class, on more than one occasion. So, how did I raise such a fervent reader?

My ideas will probably sound like tried-and-true familiar methods but that is because they work! Trust me on this one. I have two girls who adore books and another, at the tender age of 1, who is already crawling in bed with big sister and taking part in story time. She is even starting to sit through her own stories for a little bit longer at a time.

So, these are the tips:
  • Early exposure - Keep books around from day 1. Even tiny babies respond to the sound of your voice. Your baby is never too young to be engaged in hearing you read something, even if it is just for a few moments. You are exposing them to language, the basis of all reading.
  • Consistency - Read to your child every single day. Or at least almost every day. In our house, we can't get away with a day without reading unless there is some special circumstance that prohibits it, such as vacation, kids fall asleep before bedtime routine, or they fall asleep on the way home from somewhere late and night in the car. Even with the last circumstance, Emme often wakes up and asks for some kind of story. If it is just really too late, we hand her one of her picture books and tell her she can "read" to herself while she falls asleep. Other than those things, we read to our kids (or they read to themselves) every day. Emme is "spoiled" by also getting a story at EVERY nap, and she takes a nap every day.
  • Keep it fresh - Always try to offer new books or reading materials. Books can be found extremely cheap at second-hand stores, Wal Mart, on clearance shelves, yard sales, online, or even those scholastic book sales through your child's school. Not to mention, the library is FREE. Unless, you are like me and always end up paying late fees. Also, for older kids who can read solo, try subscribing to National Geographic or another interesting magazine that will hold their attention. I remember my dad subscribing me to Nickelodeon and Disney magazine and I loved getting new issues in the mail. Oh, and let's not forget my obsession with MAD magazine when I got a little older for the other two. Let them explore the various genres. If they like Art, buy them a book with lots of pictures about Art. If they like video games and are more visual, try graphic novels, I love those myself!
  • Make it Accessible -  Keep books down on the ground for everyone to reach. We keep the floor level stash limited to contain messes, but we switch them out every now and then.
  • Model it - Try to let your kids see you reading (even if it is just your trashy gossip magazine), or create a family reading time. My girls have witnessed me reading on a regular basis since birth. If you don't have time to read by yourself, still try to read with them so they get the message that it is important.
  • Internalize it - Help them understand that books contain ideas that we can talk about and relate to. Ask them questions about what they read and test their comprehension with simple conversation. It will make them think about what they are reading. 
I am sure there are many more details we can get into, but I think these are good basics for raising a reader and getting kids interested in books. 

On an even more personal note, I have to give my mom a huge shout-out for doing these things for my brother and I growing up. I have a terrible memory, but the few I do have from childhood are about crawling into her warm bed and reading Steinbeck and Hemingway at a very young age. I remember library trips and the excitement I always felt getting new books. Also, to my dad, who never denied me the opportunity on a bookstore mini shopping spree in my older childhood years and would even let me buy books by Stephen King and Clive Barker. (He didn't know how scary they were! All he knew is that they kept me reading). Thanks parents!

If anyone has any experiences with getting their kids to love reading, or cool stories to share- COMMENT AWAY! I'd love to hear from you!

 Look at all these books I bought this week for 30 cents each!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

get your chore on

Rather, have them get their chore on. Yes, I'm talking about the kids. "They're too little", "They can't do it right", "They just make more of a mess for me to clean"... NONSENSE I TELL YA! I mean, I wouldn't ask my 2nd grader to wash the good china. If I owned any. She has already broken enough cheap Target bowls for me to take up the hobby of Mosaic making in my spare time. If I had any. But I digress, these kids are more than capable of doing something, anything to contribute to keeping this house somewhat tidy at all times. I am not a perfectionist, trust me, my mother-in-law can vouch for that. But, I cannot simply sit back and relax, too much, if my house isn't at least presentable at all times. Sure, there may be 4 out of 2,324 sippy cups we own in the sink. Yeah, that pile of ever-replenishing laundry is taking up half the couch. (Hey, at least it is clean.) And there might even be some dried rice stuck to the carpet under Emme's booster chair in the dining area. Who consciously chooses to carpet a dining area? I mean, come on! In any event, we always have people, mostly family, stopping by unannounced (which is fine, mom, I promise!) and I just want my stress levels to not get too elevated over something so controllable.

In comes the family chore manifesto to save the day! Okay, my day. I say family, because even though Erik works full-time and super hard, he still manages to keep our yards looking better than the abandoned-house look we were going for the first full year of our residence here. He religiously takes the trash cans down to the street for us every Wednesday morning. And sometimes, if its a leap year, he will even hang up his own shirts if he gets tired of perusing through the pile of clean couch-warming laundry I tend to overlook. (The stars have to be perfectly aligned for me to get any folding, sorting and stashing done. I blame the baby who loves wrecking my piles!) I do try not to ask him to do anything more. He knows the dishes shouldn't be his concern, he knows I'll vacuum often so our daughter doesn't aspirate on that dried rice I mentioned earlier. But this is a family home, we mess it up as a family, and we all have some sort of responsibility to keep it not just habitable, but comfortable and enjoyable.

This arrangement works pretty good. Chores are age-appropriate, and always reasonable. I even took the practice my mom used to do for my brother and I, and decided I would allow a rewards system if things went smoothly. For ours, I just thought of special, but realistic, rewards that I know my kids would respond to. Here is the sample of the chore chart and reward system I created for them.

Simple right? I only print up two weeks at a time so nothing seems overwhelming. They are asked to keep their rooms straightened up every day, so that task is pretty easy. Emme's "Diaper and Toy Duty" simply means that she collects the dirty diapers in a plastic bag for easy removal from the house and she is responsible for taking her toys and the baby's toys to her room each day. So far, so good. Oh, I forgot to mention I also added something to the Chore List Rules section, the one on our refrigerator has the words "No excuses, no bargaining!!!" penciled in. Just do it!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

easy fall craft for kids

This weekend I wanted to do a Fall craft with the kids. We spent most of our day indoors on Saturday because Erik was outside building our new backyard play set! Ready on Sunday and worth the wait!
 Gift from Papa, Built by Daddy

Warning: Attracts Neighborhood Kids! 

In the morning, I sent Luciana outside looking for leaves of assorted shapes and sizes. With this activity, color didn't really matter but it was a good topic of conversation when Luciana was explaining to me the life cycle of trees and leaves.  My nephew Ezekiel came over while my mom went out to run errands, so it was good to have the three older kids sitting down at the table and not running around making messes at will. This craft is super easy and they had a lot of fun doing it. So, what was it? Remember the ol' shading over leaves trick? You know, where you put a piece of paper over a leaf, grab a crayon or pencil and shade to your heart's content? Yeah, that one. I used the following materials:
  • plain white printer paper
  • "Fall" colored crayons (orange, brown, red, yellow, etc)
  • scissors
  • glue
  • "Fall" colored construction paper
  • 3 eager kids + 1 crayon eating baby
So, they sat down, picked their favorite leaf and got busy. I helped my nephew and Emme but they did most by picking the leaves, their favorite colored crayon, and holding the paper. I just moved their arms back and forth "helping" them shade. Even the baby made one! Luciana was able to get the hang of it after a few tries. She quickly learned the harder you shade, the more your leaf stands out. We did this many times and got many leaves. Then I cut them out while they colored other pictures and lost 12 or so marker lids from my craft box. After I cut out plenty of leaves, the kids helped me glue them to a piece of construction paper. We labeled it "FALL" and added their names because they are all so very possessive. Mine! Of course, my nephew accidentally left his after making sure we all knew that particular one was his about 8 or 9 times. Little cutie pie. All in all, the kids had a great time, it was easy to clean up, I didn't lose my mind, and now I have some cute Fall artwork to frame for my seasonal home decor. Score!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

what they ate

On some of the parenting boards I belong to, we often share ideas about new foods or recipes we make for our kids. I thought I'd share a few meals each week that my kids really enjoyed and that I didn't find too time consuming. These happened to be two lunch meals:
Meal 1
"Butterflies and Peas"
Emme responded more enthusiastically to the "Butterfly" rather than the "Bows" naming attempt. Probably explains why the little rascal will never leave the pretty bows in her hair that I've spent millions on. Well, not for more than 20 minutes, anyway.

To Make Pasta: Cook farfalle pasta according to package directions. After draining, toss with a little butter and parmesan cheese. Shouldn't need extra salt if you salted your boiling water right before you tossed in your pasta. It adds enough flavor to the pasta.

To Make Peas: Walk to freezer, pull out bag of frozen steamable peas. Walk to microwave, follow directions on package and come back when its ready. What could be easier? Hey, if you feel like shucking fresh peas from your glorious vegetable garden, have at it!

Assemble on the plate, and serve to happy children. :)

 Meal 2

"Pinwheels, Grapes and Mice"

I wonder if a mouse would still eat Mickey Mouse shaped cheese. Hmm. This meal took me back to the days of Luci's first eating experiences. She loved all the tricks and fancy things I tried to do with her food. Not that I had to trick that girl into eating anything, but I had a lot of time on my hands with one child. These are super easy to make and fun if you find entertainment in these sorts of things.

To Make Pinwheels: (Sorry, should have taken a picture but it is not that difficult, I promise.) Get 3 pieces of white or wheat bread (I used Iron kids bread enriched with calcium and a few other goodies) and remove crust. Lay pieces next to each other and slightly overlap one edge with the next to create one long piece of bread. It helps if you flatten the bread with your palm. Apply condiment of choice, I chose mayo. Lay sandwich fixings inside such as turkey, extremely thinly sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced or shredded cheese or whatever else you desire. *You can probably get away with small spinach leaves or rip the raw spinach leaves into tiny flecks (looks more decorative for them that way). You might be able to get away with that if your kids do not have chlorophobia. Then, take one end and slowly roll up toward the other end. You might have to kind of push down and compact the roll as you go, bc the bread doesn't always stick. (They won't care if they aren't perfect). Then, get an extremely sharp knife and slice pinwheels to desired size. You can even do this with peanut butter and jelly. Awesome go-to lunch. I find this discourages Emme from just eating the meat and leaving all her bread!

That's it. I just threw some fresh grapes and pre-cut cheese shapes on the plate and it transformed into something magical for them. You could use string cheese, any fruit or anything else your kids like. Also, except the cutting part, your kids might be able to help with the assembly and maybe even the rolling part if you are feeling extra fun that day.

Voila! Two meals, the first could easily be a dinner if you added something a little extra like chicken or something. Hope you try 'em!

See how happy they were? 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

you are my sunshine

"Where is the sun?" Emme asks this question on a daily per-car-ride basis. Her newly found curiosity with the sun must be taken seriously, or so she insists by her repetitive inquiries. I'm all for it, baby girl. I remember Luciana had a similar fascination with the moon at her age. I decided to let Emme create something special to hallmark her fascination with the most powerful energy in our environment. I mean, when you really stop to think about the sun's magnificence, omnipresence (in one form or another), and its sheer power, how could you not be captivated? It's an even cuter fascination because its trans-generational. My father has always had a marked interest in astronomy which he passed on to me, and now my children are finding they have an interest as well. Actually, Erik does too. So, Emme's affection for the sun coupled with her desire to attend school like her big sissy warranted some extra special activity. We made our very own sun. She just about died with glee as she danced to "You are My Sunshine" and dangled her sun on a string. Ahh, the simple delights of childhood.

You'll never know dear, how much I love you.
This is serious business, mama.
Finished Product. Created with her own hands.
RaRa, don't eat the markers please!

I know my day has been successful if I can bring any amount of sunshine to the lives of the ones I love. <3

P.S. This activity also helped Emme to focus on the color yellow. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

i'm back!

So, I have let far too much time go by without writing about anything. I know it is time to start writing about something, so I am just going to have at it. I imagine this blog will start off about the kids, because they are the most important thing in my life, but I suspect other interests of mine will make their way because they pretty much all seem to tie in some way or another. I have been feeling extremely sentimental lately always, and I feel anxious about the loss of time over the past 7 years. Luciana is 7 now, and it seems that, at least to my brain, my life started 7 years ago and has just flown by so quickly. There were so many things I wanted to do with her that I will never get to now. I guess I feel that by blogging about the things I want to do and plan to do, that I am creating a visual to-do list for myself, and maybe increasing my virtual accountability somehow. She is still young though, and Emme and Roslyn are even younger, so I am going to do everything I want with them, at whatever cost, from this point forward. I want to limit the regrets I have concerning my children as much as possible! So, here I am. Ready to write, ready to share, and ready to grow.