Sunday, October 30, 2011

The 3 Card Parenting Solution

There was a time a couple of years ago when emotions were running high in our home with our daughter. I needed a way to communicate consequences to her, without getting drawn in to the heat of the moment. I developed this little 1, 2, 3 card system that worked like a dream. When I started to get some "attitude" about something, I would hand her the card, "Turn that frown upside down." Because we had gone over the cards ahead of time, she knew this was step one. If it continued, she was handed card #2 , and so on. The beauty of this little system is that it takes the emotion completely out of dynamic. It is almost as if the cards are doing the disciplining. Plus, there isn't an opportunity for the all-popular "power struggle" to occur. The frustration is against the cards. :)
This can be created for any child, and the cards can relate directly to an issue, or can be general consequences. The ideas are endless. Have fun with this and try it! I did find that both my daughter and I would smile when I handed her a card. We hardly ever had to get to #2.

Words of Life for Kids

Have you ever had the sinking feeling that you just said or did something, as a parent, that has hurt the heart or spirit of one of your children? I had that happen the other day. It wasn't that I meant to hurt her, or that it was intentional... it just happened. The product of carelessness. I didn't say anything directly, but I asked an off-hand question jokingly that communicated a message to her. We can brush these off, but I really don't believe that brings any kind of true peace -- for the parent or child. I have found the only way to navigate those not-so-shining parenting moments is through humility. I told my daughter before bed that I had been careless with my words -- it was a bad joke, and I asked her if she would forgive me. She said she would. I'm always amazed at how quickly my kids forgive. They respond to a humble spirit, and it allows me to point to Christ as the One who gives grace, who authors forgiveness, and who reconciles. My children see that I am not perfect, that I need forgiveness, and that I am continually on a journey. I want them to know the "real," not the "fake,"the authentic, even if it means we have to sit in the mud for a while.
It hurts my heart when I make a mistake with one of my children. I work hard to build them up, to encourage who they are, to make sure they know that God directs their path and has a plan for their life. Then I somehow tear that down in a moment through a spoken word. OUCH. It is no wonder the Bible says in Proverbs 18:21 that the tongue can bring "life or death," or that is says in Proverbs 21:23, "Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble."
We have a choice as parents, we can bring life to our children through our words, or death. Do we take the time to even think about what we are saying? Do we weigh our words carefully, often choosing to remain silent instead of saying how we feel in the moment? Do we fully comprehend the impact our words have on these little hearts in our care? I know for a fact that I could be doing so much more to breathe life. Sometimes it takes a concrete reminder. I know people who put 5 rocks in their pocket. By the end of the day, the goal is to give 5 encouragements and have all of the rocks in the other pocket. Whatever it takes, let us do what we need to be moms and dads who are speak life-giving words. Here are some specific ideas below taken from an article by Karen Stephens.

• Your skills are really improving; you’ve outdone your- self today!
• How kind of you to share toys with your friend. That’s very generous.
• You are taking such good care of your pet. He’s so lucky to have you!
• Now THAT’S what I call a thorough job! Thanks for picking up your toys.
• That’s a great effort; don’t worry about that small mistake.
• Keep at it; I know you’ll figure it out. How can I help?
• I love the sound of your voice.
• You are such a good learner! I’m impressed by your
• I remember when you were first learning that. You’ve
come a long way.
• You’re so fun around the house; life would be boring
without you!
• What would I have done without you today? Thanks
for cleaning the house with me.
• Our car looks spic and span, you’re a real professional!
• Great job!
• I’m so proud to tell people I’m your mom (dad).
• You’ve really improved! That’s great!
• It’s wonderful to see you so happy with your
• I appreciate your attention to detail. You are one
sharp cookie.
• Your patience is commendable. Keep at it; I know
you’ll get it yet.
• I’ve never thought of it that way. How creative!
• You’re doing a great job of controlling your anger.
• You’re on the right track! That’s using your brain.
• You’ve put a lot of careful thought into that.
• Way to go! Excellent! Superb! Amazing! Fantastic!
• Hey, you’re getting the hang of it! Your practice is really paying off.
• Now THAT’S an interesting point.Thanks for sharing it.
• Your attitude is a very respectful attitude. I appreciate that.
• You solved your problem; how clever!
• That is wonderful! Your confidence is really showing!
• How sensitive you are to your brother’s feelings.
• Your dependability makes life so much easier for me.
• I love your sense of humor. How do you think up
those jokes?
• You hang in there when the going gets tough. You’re a
strong person.
• Look how much progress you’ve made.You should be
• Hey, relax for a while; you deserve a break.
• What a good memory you have. That effort deserves a
high five!
• I really enjoyed your performance. No one could have
done it better.
• Keep trying; I know you can work this frustrating
problem out.
• How calm you were when you got that bad news.
You are really maturing.
• It’s a real gift to me when you do your chores without
being reminded.
• I have to hand it to you; you did exactly what you set
out to do.
• Congratulations, you can be proud of your achieve-
• I LOVE watching you grow up. You never cease to
amaze me.
• You are such an interesting person. I can’t imagine life
without you.

Apple Day!

Apple Day has been a long standing tradition in our house. This picture makes me want to cry because it is from a couple of years ago, and I just cannot stand how fast they are growing up! It makes me realize how special this day is in creating all of the warm feelings of fall -- the smell of apples cooking, a pumpkin spice candle burning, Vivaldi playing in the background (my favorite canning music for some reason), happy noises coming from the kids working together, and the familiar "pop" of canning lids sealing. It truly is a day that makes me HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY. It's all that good in life!
Apple Day begins here:
We are fortunate enough to live close to one of the most beautiful orchard areas in the Northwest: Greenbluff. Hansen's Orchard is owned by family friends, and we think they have the absolute BEST apples & cider on the Bluff!

We try to time it so that we process the apples in the same week they are picked. I learned this the hard way some years back. The apples are much harder to work with after they have softened up even a little bit.
Here's why. This fantastic gadget peels, cores, and slices the apples. If they are hard, it is a snap. If they are soft.... it turns to a mushy, mashy mess.

We make chunky applesauce.
Dried Apples.

And the very favorite: APPLESAUCE

OK -- this is a close favorite runner-up: APPLE CRISP.

I couldn't resist putting in this picture from Apple Day last year. So much love going around -- warms a mama's heart it does!!
Ohhhh ya -- this one too: APPLE PIES

It's a lot, I know, and make no mistake -- we are exhausted by the end of the day, but it's that good kind of exhausted. The kind that lets the heart and body know that it has been a day well spent. Those are the best kind!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Families who camp together, stay together (I've done the work for you)!

Gary smalley, a guru from the Smalley Relationship Center, found that close-knit families have an interesting thing in common: CAMPING. Families who camp value shared experiences and spending time together. They are willing to make the necessary sacrifices for the greater good. TRUST ME. I fully understand this concept. It is a lot of work to camp. I spend days planning, shopping, cooking, organizing, loading, and packing. Then there is the laundry, laundry, and more laundry on return! However, smart families know that almost anything worth doing has some form of a challenge to it, and camping is no different.

Below is our camping menu, recipes, and a shopping list for this year's outdoor expedition. ENJOY!


Lunch: sandwiches (made at home)

Dinner: Pesto chicken pasta

Dirt Dessert


Breakfast: Breakfast Scramble

Lunch: Cold Cuts, Crackers, Cheese, Apple Slices

Dinner: Pork Barbacoa Tortilla wraps


Breakfast: Peach & Apple Pancakes

Lunch: Pitas with hummus, cucumbers, kalmatas

Dinner: Campfire Mac N Cheese



Breakfast: French Toast Kabobs

Lunch: Tuna Salad Sandwiches

Dinner: Hawaiian Camp Chicken, Campfire Corn on the Cob


Breakfast: Apricot Granola

Lunch: Pizza Crackers

Dinner: Cowboy Supper

Campfire banana splits


Breakfast scramble

Mix together scrambled eggs, chopped bacon, cheddar cheese, chopped onion, a splash of milk, & diced potatoes or a bag of hash browns. Cook thoroughly. Eat alone or in a tortilla wrap.

Pork Barbacoa wraps

Place pre-made pulled pork, black beans, cheese, avocado, tomato, & lettuce in a wrap. Heat wrapped up in tin foil.

Pesto Chicken:

Re-heat the chicken/pesto mixture (which was made ahead by roasting the chicken, shredding it, and mixing with pesto). Add to cooked penne pasta.

Cowboy Supper

Mix together 2 cans bush’s original beans, 1 can northern beans, 1 bottle sweet baby ray’s bbq sauce, ½ c. ketchup, ½ c. brown sugar, 1 lb. cooked and crumbled hamburger. Let simmer together.

Campire banana splits

Cut a banana stem to stem. Leaving the peel on, carefully place chocolate chips, mini marshmallow, or a candy bar inside. Wrap with aluminum foil and let melt in the campfire. You can also do this with butter, cinnamon, & Sugar (and a splash of rum for adults for Bananas foster)

Campire Mac N Cheese

Combine in individual tin pans ½ elbow mac. (cooked), ¼ cheddar cheese, 1 tbsp. parmesan, 1 tbsp. milk, ½ tbsp. butter, salt and pepper. Seal the top in foil. Place it over the campfire to melt the cheese, let cool a bit, then open the foil top and enjoy

Melted Chocolate Trail Mix

Mix together 3 cups nuts (any variety), ½ c. sunflower seeds, ½ c. coconut flakes (optional), 1 cups raisins, ½ c. dried cranberry, & whatever else you want to add! Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Roast at 375 for up to 25 min. (if desired). Let cool. Melt chocolate in the microwave. Pour over the nut mixture in ribbons. Stir to coat everything. Let the chocolate cool and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container. Makes 12 servings.

Campfire Corn on the Cob

Place husked ears of corn in a foil packet and season with butter, salt & Pepper, and whatever other seasoning desired (Cajun, etc.). Place over the fire and roast for 10 min. Unwrap and enjoy.

Go Eat Worms Dirt Dessert

Mix together cool whip, smashed oreos, gummy worms, and gummy critter. You can add pudding if you want & have milk. Serve in bowls. You can make this ahead of time and keep in a container until ready to serve.

Another way to serve this is to layer. Place the oreos on the bottom as “dirt.” Top with whipped topping mixed with pudding. Add some gummy worms to this layer. Top with more oreos and a few worms sticking out of the top.

Peach or Apple Pancakes

Mix pre-packaged pancake mix according to directions.Place a peach or apple slice on the griddle. Sprinkle with pre-mixed cinnamon & sugar. Pour pancake batter over the fruit. Flip as usual. Serve with syrup.

Sausage on a Stick

Unroll 1 package of refrigerated breadsticks. Coil one breadstick dough around a fully cooked sausage link.Repeat with several. Rotate slowly in a pan or over the campfire until the bread is cooked through and the sausages are heated.

Hawaiian Camp Chicken

Mix together 1/3 c. ketchup, 1/3 c. soy sauce, ½ c. brown sugar, 3 tbsp. sherry, 1 piece chopped fresh ginger, & 2 minced garlic cloves. Place all ingredients in a ziplock bag. Add 4-5 lb. chicken breasts. Marinate until ready to grill over the fire.

French Toast Kabobs

Wisk together 8 large eggs, 2/3 c. buttermilk, a pinch of salt & ½ tsp. vanilla extract (this can be done ahead and placed in a container). Cut a loaf of bread into 1 inch cubes (also can be done ahead and placed in a ziplock bag). When ready to cook, mix cubes of bread into the egg mixture to coat evenly. Melt butter in a sauté pan over heat. Add bread pieces in a single layer and cook. Turn over until all sides are cooked through. Thread cubes onto skewers alternating with banana slices, blueberries, and raspberries. Or forget the skewers, and mix it all together on a plate. Drizzle with syrup.

Tuna Salad Sandwiches

Mix together 2 cans tuna, 2 chopped celery sticks, 1-2 chopped dill pickes,, 2 tbsp. light mayo, 2 tbsp. fresh basil (optional), the juice of one lemon, salt and pepper. Add to hearty wheat bread.

Apricot Granola

Mix together 4 cups rolled oats, 1 c. sliced almonds, 1 c. chopped pecans, 2 c. chopped dried apricots, & 1 cup sunflower seeds. In another bowl, mix ½ c. oil, ½ c. molasses, 4 tbsp. brown sugar, ¼ tsp. salt, and ½ tsp. nutmeg. Mix well. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.Flatten onto greased baking sheets (or I use silpat liners underneath). Bake at 275 for 1 hour, stirring every 15 min.

Pizza Crackers

Start with a grain cracker, such as triskets. Place a dollop of pizza sauce as the base, add pepperoni, and a slice of mozzarella.

Grocery shopping List:


Shredded cheddar cheese ( a very large bag, or a large block shredded)

Hash browns or red potatoes

Pre-cooked bacon



Pulled pork

2 cans black beans

2 avocado

2 tomatoes

1 head lettuce

shredded chicken

4-6 chicken breasts


penne pasta

2 cans bush’s original beans

1 can northern beans

1 bottle sweet baby rays bbq sauce


1 c. brown sugar

1 lb. cooked hamburger

2 bushels bananas

Mini marshmallows (one baggie)

Aluminum foil

Individual tin pans

Elbow macaroni

Parmesan (a small bag)

2 sticks butter

salt and pepper


coconut flakes


dried cranberries or cherries

2 bags chocolate chips

Corn on the cob

2 cartons cool whip

2 pkgs chocolate pudding

gummy worms

1 pkg. oreos

pancake mix



maple syrup

2 pkgs. Refrigerated bread sticks

pre-cooked Breakfast sausages

1/3 c. soy sauce

sherry (3 tbsp.)

ginger (1 Piece)

2 garlic cloves


vanilla extract

1 or 2 loaves of French bread



2-4 cans tuna


dill pickles



1 lemon

wheat bread



pizza sauce

mozzarella cheese



kalmata olives


cold cuts

rolled oats

pecans (1 c.)

dried apricots

molasses (1/2 c.)


graham crackers

chocolate bars


capri suns

perrier water

Packing (& re-packing & re-packing) - How to make a grab & go bag

This summer we were ON THE MOVE! Whether we were camping in the woods, going to the lake for the weekend, visiting grandparents, or headed to summer camp, bags needed to be packed with essential supplies for each outing. In years past, I've been exhausted just trying to get everything packed and re-packed for each child for each separate event. Not this year! I finally came up with a system that has saved me tons of time, stress, and energy (yay)!
At the beginning of the summer I designated a different colored bag for each child. In it, I packed summer essentials: t-shirts, shorts, a long pair of pants, a sweatshirt, swimsuit, sunscreen, toothbrush, toothpaste, beach towel, socks, PJs, etc. Stores like Target, where cute clothes can be found at great prices are helpful with this system! When it was time to go, we picked up the bags and off we went. Here's the key -- they kids can't touch what is in the bag at home (there is no guarantee it will make it back in). At the end of each trip, I'd take the bags into the laundry room, and wash the contents of the bags one at a time. I then repack right from the laundry basket back into the bag. Now it's ready for the next outing!!
Maybe you have already thought of doing this, or something like it. Summer doesn't last very long around here, so anything I can do to spend less time packing and more time enjoying it is a good plan for me!

Reading Out-loud to Kids - A Don't Miss!

Moment upon moment upon moment. These make up what we call "time." Every day, I try to do something to connect with each of my children, either individually or as a group. These sometimes small, and sometimes big, moments make a difference. Reading together aloud has proven to be one the most consistent and best ways to do this in my parenting. From pre-schoolers to teenagers, everyone loves a good story.
Last summer, I wanted a fun way to connect with my older nephews and my daughter at our family lake cabin. I went to the bookstore and found Ted Dekker's The Lost Series. I got the first book and we began reading. The rule was that we all had to read together, and out-loud. They would beg me to sit down and read more.
My boys and I have been in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia all summer. We've worked our way from The Magician's Nephew to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where we are currently. Now that school has started, I read a chapter or two as they go to bed. We all love winding the day down with this ritual. Honestly, it is as fun for me to read them as it is for them to hear them. I am completely captivated by these stories! We watch the movies together after reading the story also, and the boys love filling in the gaps.
Reading aloud to our children accomplishes several things. Here is a list taken fromSonlight Curriculum's webite:

  • Introduce your children to great literature that is beyond their personal reading capacity.
  • Develop within your children a life-long love of reading.
  • Expand your children's vocabulary
  • Build listening skills - including the ability to visualize the meaning of spoken words.
  • Develop an "ear" for good oral reading
  • Develop oral reading skills.
  • Give you and your children a context for sharing mutually significant times together.

I like to use Sonlight's website to order books for read-alouds. Having a stack of quality material ready makes the legwork easy. The books they carry are often award winners, and they promote something worthwhile -- historical education, character building lessons, or just a fun story that is well crafted. There is so much out there, and it is hard to know what is quality and what isn't. I don't always have time to find out, so this resource is invaluable to me. You could also write the titles down and order them through the library.
I'll never forget the time when my boys and I sat on the couch and cried together as Little Ann and Old Dan faced their deaths in Where the Red Fern Grows. It was so moving that our hearts welled together with sadness and emotion. It bonded us and created a "moment." A moment I wouldn't trade for the world.....

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cousin Campin'

I once read that the only people who know you your whole life long are your siblings and your cousins. They are there from the beginning, knowing all of the childhood history that even a spouse likely doesn't know. Cousins are special -- no doubt about it. Nurturing those relationships strengthens family identity and gives kids a sense of where they belong and where they come from in this world.
My nephew, Gabe, is going to be a freshman in High School this year. Keeping Cousin Camp going is more important than ever as I realize how few years we really have left with him (Waaaahhhhhhhhhh)!!!! It's going to be as hard on me as his mother when he goes to college!!
We began Cousin Camp when the kids were young. It was a fun way for them to bond, and a good way for us to have a chunk of time to get projects done without a toddler at our feet -- a total WIN/WIN. As the kids have gotten older, we don't need the time as much anymore, but the mission of bonding the family together remains the same. Here is the basic format we've created:
  • The camp usually lasts 4 days -- 2 days at my house, and 2 at my sister's
  • We pick a theme verse and reinforce it throughout the time together.
  • Whenever we go places, each child is assigned a "buddy" (a younger and an older cousin are paired). They are to stick together no matter what.
  • We focus on activities and skills -- fun things they normally don't get to do, or skills they don't know or could improve upon. Here's a list of life-skills we planned to do at my house this year (we got to almost all of them):

How to change a bike tire

How to unclog a toilet

How to build a fire

How to make a dinner for someone special

How to tie various knots

How to calculate your heart rate

Simple technique for studying the bible

What to do in an emergency medical situation

How to compare prices

How to sew on a button

Execute a spin dribble

How to catch a football

How to answer a phone

How to engage adults in conversation

How to tie dye a shirt

Here is a visual snapshot:
Sometimes we do T-shirts

Backyard Movie Theatre
Lots of "Buddy Time" Bonding
We go on fun outings:
The Cherry Picker's Trot Kids' Race at Greenbluff
Silverwood Theme Park

New Skills are Learned:

I even got my nephews sewing camp laundry bags one year!

They spend time enjoying each other's houses..
Here we just finished the Cousin Camp Olympics
Cousin Camp Visits Great-Grandma!

Lots of Crafting
Daisy Chains
& Tie Dye!

We have even had them create a theme song some years

The memories we have made are priceless, and the relationships forged will hopefully last their whole lives long! Cousining is just THE BEST!