Archive for January, 2011

Family Dinner

How many times per week does your family have dinner together?  With busy work and activity schedules, it can be difficult to sit face-to-face with everyone each night of the week.  However, having dinner with your family creates memories that can last a lifetime. 

I’m the super silly one in my house, so antics like kicking my husband (gently) under the table, making funny faces, and saying long prayers while everyone eagerly waits to dive into dinner lightens the mood for an event that could sometimes seem too formal for children.

I love having dinner with my family, because it allows us to spend undivided time together to discuss what’s on our minds, and pray together.  Speaking of praying, one tradition that we established is for one person at the table to give thanks, offer praises, and pray for the needs of our family as well as those of others.  We work our way around the table until we begin the rotation again six days later (we’re a family of six).  Another tradition that we tried was to for each person present to compliment someone else at the table.  Initially, we tried to do that for every person every night.  Needless to say with six people having to compliment five other people each night, dinner was cold by the time we were done.

How to Make Meals Enjoyable

  • Ask about each other’s day
  • Get input from each member of the family for meal plans
  • Ignore the telephone and turn off the television
  • Keep your meals simple and save the multi-course meals for the holidays
  • Save serious topics of discussion for family meetings
  • Set mood music; in our house, it’s Christian music

Family meals are believed to positively impact your children’s grades, bring about lower levels of stress, instill better table manners, and encouraghealthy eating habits.  So why not begin the tradition of family meals in your household today?

Let’s chat!

Love to all!

CC

Do Your Children Have Chores?

I often hear parents grumble about the abundance of chores around the house, but am astounded at how many families don’t require children to do chores. 

Now, I didn’t have children, so that I could have little maids and chefs running around.  I had them, because my maternal instinct told me that it was my primary purpose in life.  Nothing else I accomplish will ever rate higher than being a mom.  That said, children a part of a family unit and where I’m from, each family member chips in to keep the household running.

The children’s television show Barney made cleaning up popular for the young crowd with the annoying, yet highly effective, Clean Up song.  This song inspired the preschool and elementary crowd to “do your share” of cleaning up after themselves. 

Teaching children to clean up after themselves shouldn’t be considered punishment.  It’s simply instilling responsibility and providing skills that will follow them for a lifetime.

When I was in grade school, teachers rewarded students who had clean workspaces.  The same held true for summer camp where we earned “golden nuggets” (spray painted rocks) for working with our fellow campers to ensure that our cabins were clean.  In college, we had weekly room inspections.  Failure to regularly pass room inspection was punishable by eviction from the dorms.  Ouch!  In places of employment, clean workspaces help keep us organized and productive.

Helpful strategies for achieving chore success:

  • Post a chore chart in the heart of the house (family room, kitchen, etc.) and meet with your chidren often to discuss their roles in completing household chores.  Put your chores on the schedule as well, so that they can see that you, too, play a vital role in keeping the house clean. 
  • Do not complete your child’s chores if they decide to throw a tantrum.  Doing so will send the wrong message.  Instead, remind them that their help benefits the entire family; remember to praise them along the way and immediately after.
  • Give your children age-appropriate chores.  Don’t expect a 5 year-old to make a perfect and neat bed.  Instead, praise them for doing their best.  In time, they will perfect the art of making a bed to your liking.  Maybe.

Need help determining age-appropriate chores?  Annie Stewart of WebMD suggests the following:

Chores for children ages 2 to 3

  • Put toys away.
  • Put clothes in hamper.

Chores for children ages 4 to 5

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Make own bed.
  • Fix bowl of cereal.

Chores for children ages 6 to 7

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Sort laundry.
  • Help make and pack lunch.
  • Keep bedroom tidy.
  • Pour own drinks.

Chores for children ages 8 to 9

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Put away groceries.
  • Vacuum.
  • Make own snacks.
  • Wash table after meals.
  • Put away own laundry.
  • Make own breakfast.
  • Cook simple foods, such as toast.

Chores for children ages 10 and older.

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Unload dishwasher.
  • Fold laundry.
  • Clean bathroom.
  • Wash windows.
  • Cook simple meal with supervision.
  • Iron clothes.
  • Do laundry.
  • Mow lawn.
  • Change bed.

Click here for a full list.

Remember to balance the amount and difficulty of chores with other obligations, such as homework, extracurricular activities, work (for teens), social needs, and family activities.  Revisit the chore schedule periodically to determine whether or not it is effective.  Talk to your children to get their input, tweak the schedule, when necessary, and be sure to announce any changes during your family meeting. 

Do your children have chores?  If so, are tantrums, tears, and headaches part of the routine?  How do you overcome those challenges?

Let’s chat! 

Love to all!

CC

Proverbs 16:9

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. – Proverbs 16:9

What does this verse mean to you?  Are you open to allowing the Lord to determine your path in life?  Or, are you insistent upon giving your plan its all?

I’ve lived life both ways, and let me tell you, walking with our Holy Father as the guide for my steps is the best way to live!  In the past, my heart knew the Lord, but I didn’t follow Him.  Does that make sense?

I’m much more obedient these days, even when I don’t know what the outcome may be.  He is faithful and that is more than enough for me.

Let’s chat.

Love to all!

CC

Positive News Reports

“If it bleeds it leads.”  I get it, some people thrive on death, drama, and crime, but not all of us.  I’d love to be able to watch news reports without having to switch to another channel, because one of my children walks into the room.  Besides, I want to hear good news…a lot of good news!

So, I hunted for web sites that deliver just what I crave – good news.  The people behind Happy News find good news stories, from their own sources as well as others, and put them into one convenient place.  One of yesterday’s headlines was “School Finds 340-Year Old Bible“.  Credit to CNN for this story; now if only they could seek more feel-good news and report it, report it, report it.  Enough of the Nancy Grace doom and gloom!

How about another great story where University of Pennsylvania students distributed coats to needy children?  Operation Warm is an organization that reaches out to children in 26 states in conjunction with a wide range of organizations that have the ability to reach deep into some of the country’s neediest communities.  Good news stories aren’t just for entertainment purposes, they serve to inform.  Maybe this story will help if you have (or know of) a child in need of a warm coat.  Or, maybe it will incite you to make good on your promise to do more for your neighbors.

It’s true, good news happens around the globe every day.  Unfortunately, most news outlets don’t report it often and at length.  If I were to sponsor a news broadcast, I don’t think I’d want my product advertisement to follow a report of the lastest bloodbath.  Imagine it: “This gory, bloody message was brought to you by Random Mom!”.  I don’t think so…

Maybe the lack of good and wholesome programming is the reason why I watch a ton of home improvement shows.  The content is great, the commercials are relevant, and the programming is kid-friendly without being Nick Jr News-ish.

If Happy News begins televising their reports, I am SO there!

Chime in with your thoughts.

Love to all!

CC

Are Day Jobs a Thing of the Past?

So much for working 9-5 each day.  Advances in technology make it easier than ever to work outside of the office.  But is that a good thing?

My corporate job comes with many great perks, such as the ability to work from home.  However, along with the perk of being able to work at home comes the expectation that I am available to work days, evenings, weekends, vacations, and holidays.  Sadly, I don’t feel singled out, because these same expectations hold true for those who commute to the office each day.

Since when is it OK for companies to expect  workers to be available around the clock 365 days of the year?  Sure, my company offers paid time off (PTO), holidays, and other kinds of paid leave, but what about their policy regarding allowing employees to take uninterrupted time off work to refresh our minds, souls, and bodies?  Not much relaxation and rejuvination can happen when someone shoots off an email at an ungodly hour and expects an expedient response.

What about “leave” is so hard to understand?  Children get the concept, but unfortunately for them, that trend is going away, thus their definition of time off will inevitably evolve.  Christmas and spring breaks bring about required reading and packets of seemingly endless homework.  In addition, school districts are begining to allow teachers to conduct class remotely when schools are closed.  So much for good ol’ snow days filled with enjoying movies and cocoa, shoveling, sledding, snowball fights, making snow angels and snowmen.  Children are learning that time off for relaxation and rejuvination is a bad thing, a lazy thing.  And that, to me, is a bad idea.

How’s your job?  Is there an expectation that you’ll to respond to messages late at night, thumb through text messages on your cell phone, and type reports as soon as you get home from your office while juggling kids homework and making dinner?

Is work-life balance even possible?  Susan Davis, author of five books, about health, well-being, education, and business doesn’t believe it is.  In her article, The Myth of Work-Life Balance, she writes, “researchers have found, American workers are spending more and more time on work, and less and less time on life — to an understandably detrimental effect”. 

Susan offers the following “Takeaway Tips” that help her strive for balance.

Figure out the foundation: In order to be inspired and productive in my work life, as well as clear and kind with my family, I need good exercise, deep sleep, and time for reflection. Other people might need massages, time with friends, six meals a day, protein drinks, regular knitting sessions, weekly poker games, or afternoon naps. What do you need to feel balanced, energized and productive?

Fine-tune the details: On some days I can’t get off first base without hearing Bill Withers’ version of Use Me. (Not a healthy emotional theme, I know, but the rhythm moves me.) Other days I can’t hit my stride unless I spend a few minutes outside, watching the clouds and listening to the hens. And there’s many a day when I can’t gather my thoughts without a cup of very strong, very hot coffee—in a the grey earthenware mug that was made by a potter in my hometown. The point? Identify what you need in the moment and try to provide it for yourself.

Go for what you need: I know some of you are reading this and thinking, “I have no time.” I have no time either — unless I understand that taking care of myself (that’s my body, my mind, and my spirit, by the way) allows me to work better, live better, and feel better. In other words, self care doesn’t take away from our work and life; it enhances it.

Do you have any self-care routines that help you survive the nearly seamless divide between work and life?  Let’s talk!

Love to all!

CC

Let’s Chat about Tea! Part 2

Now that you know a little more about the varieties of tea, let’s talk about flavors.

I love a hot cup of peppermint (or mint) tea when my tummy aches.  Some believe that the menthol in peppermint tea lends to its healing effects on nausea, vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, and headaches.  Peppermint tea also controls mild symptoms of asthma and helps fight the common cold.  This tea is naturally caffeine-free.

We all enjoy a glass of chilled sweet tea on hot summer days.  This treat with southern origins has taken on a new life recently and is so popular, you can now find it at your local fast food restaurant.

Fruit teas such as apple, blueberry, orange, peach, strawberry, and of course, lemon, can be found in the aisles of your local grocers in both store and national brands.  I shop for generic brands quite often, but my favorite fruity or minty tea happens to be Celestial Seasonings.  The store brand mint tea couldn’t hold a candle to the national brand in this case. 

Chai (or spiced tea) is made from black tea and comes in many flavors.  The smooth taste of vanilla softens the spiciness of ordinary chai tea.  Other popular spiced teas are cinnamon, ginger, and hazelnut.

What’s your favorite tea?

Let’s discuss (over a cup of tea, of course)!

Love to all!

CC

Let’s Chat about Tea!

Black, green, white, red,  herbal, oolong, Pu-erh (AKA Puer), blends, and flavored.  Who knew there were so many varieties of tea? I’m a tea connessuier, but Pu-erh is a new one for me.

Regardless of the variety or flavor, I’ll try just about everything. Since you can’t buy one bag at a time, I’ve collected a half dozen varieties, dozens of flavors, and hundreds of bags of tea.

What’s so special about each tea?

Black tea – the most popular globally; caffeinated, bold flavor

Green tea – healing qualities; second most popular variety

White tea – rarest on earth; slightly sweet and subtle flavor; great for complexion; higher concentration of antioxidants than all other teas, fights cancer 

Red (AKA Rooibos) – Slows the aging process, treats allergies, decaffeinated, great for people prone to kidney stones

 

 

Herbal – Encourages restful sleep; helps the digestive process; eases nausea and cold symptoms

Oolong – most expensive variety; commonly found in Chinese restaurants; speeds up weight loss and boosts metabolism; excellent source of flouride; aids in digestive process; reduces risk of hypertension

Pu-erh –  cleanses blood and removes toxins; improves eyesight

Blends – just as the name implies, tea blends contain a mixture of two or more varieties

Flavored – flowers, oils, herbs and spices are added to enhance the taste

Stay tuned for part 2 where we will discuss a myriad of flavors.

Love to all!

CC

Man vs. Darkness

This just might be my most random thought this week. As I finished typing a blog last night, I turned off the light to my basement office and made the trek upstairs in the dark. Suddenly, I wondered, “Are men afraid of the dark?”

I have no idea why that question popped into my head, but it’s something that I’ve never wondered, discussed, read, or heard about before now. Surely, someone has to have pondered this question. Right?

Think about it? We all know that it’s normal for children to fear what may lurk in the dark? Authors of children’s books see fit to write about it and manufacturers of night lights aren’t going out of business anytime son. Movies address the issue of women being afraid of the dark as well. How many times have you seen an obviously frightful lady character in a movie jump at each shadow she sees while tiptoeing through a dark house and whispering, “Is anyone there?” when things go bump in the night?

Now think hard, really hard, about whether or not it’s common knowledge or common fodder when we relate men to darkness. I can’t think of any.

Do you have a story or example of a man’s fear of the darkness being exploited in the name of entertainment? Share it here!

Love to all!

CC

The Hot Food Blues

I am truly honored and blessed to be able to cook for my family, so please don’t take this post the wrong way. I struggle with finding the desire to cook a hot meal for my family each night. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t have the gift of culinary creativity or it’s because I am not confident about being able to appeal to the palates of six people with different tastes. If I hear, “Mom, I stopped eating that months ago” one more time, I may just quit my chef job!

Who knows? Maybe I have underlying issues that keep me from wanting to walk over to the stove each night. Whatever the reason, I seldom look forward to making dinner.

I’ve tried creating monthly meal plans, then I chopped those plans down to just two weeks. All the planning in the world won’t help me to whip up one key entree, the desire to actually cook what’s on the list. Sometimes, I procrastinate so much, I end up in a fast-food drive-thru or online submitting a to-go order at one of our favorite full-service restaurants. The lowest of low is when I tell everyone that tonight’s dinner will be a free-for-all. A FFA is pretty much how it sounds: everything is a possible meal, so grab a bowl, spoon, and milk. Don’t want that? It’s OK. Just open a can of something. Another handy dandy alternative, a couple slices of bread with whatever your heart desires.

Is there a secret to finding motivation to put a hot meal on the table each night? If so, please share!

Love to all!

CC

Hello, All! I’m A Thief!

Have you ever walked toward the exit of a store and had the low, groaning alarm with flashing red lights tell everyone there’s something in your bag that you didn’t buy?

Yep, it happened to me tonight. In my “I got some great deals while shopping” afterglow, I proudly walked toward the door with my daughters and a smile on my face, because we’d found tons of great deals on our shopping trip. The smile and afterglow were immediately wiped off my face when the store’s security traps began blinking bright red lights while impersonating a nuclear power plant red alert alarm. I sheepishly began the walk of shame over to the register, where the clerk who’d just scanned my items ordered me to let her take a second look at my bag. Well, she didn’t make me feel shameful, in fact, she tried to tell me that this kind of thing happened all the time. OK, but why? I am not a thief!

While I waited for the clerk to finish checking out the customer who was originally behind me in line, another customer joked that he, too, felt like a crook whenever the all-knowing electronic security guard did the same to him.

So how did it all end?  The clerk went through my bag and found a security device on a sweater that I’d just bought for 80% off.  Purchasing a sweater at 80% off made me feel like I’d just robbed the department store, but not literally! The bright side (there always is one if you take the time to look) – I’m glad that the clerk found the security device, because I’m not trendy enough to start new fads – let alone the bold fad of wearing security devices on new clothes.

Do you have a “Hello, all, I’m a thief” story? If so, let’s discuss it here.

Love to all!

CC