Friday, May 16, 2008

Manners Teaching Master ... not!

What parent does not like to hear how well mannered their children are? I see it all the time parents (including myself) reminding, coaxing and down-right demanding children to say please, thank you and other common manners that even a lot of adults forget to use these days!

When my oldest daughter, Caitlyn was learning her manners, I thought I was a great parent … she was more than willing to use manners and very quickly learned just how cute she was and how she was able to get whatever she wanted just by adding a please to it and heck if she threw a thank you onto the end she received even more attention, which she just gobbled up! When Allyson came along this was also a smooth ride … she would do anything her older sister did. Wow, I was good at this parenting stuff … I had two very polite little girls. Then came Jacob, it is not that he was/is not polite but he is very shy, to the point where it is impossible for him to talk to people that he does not feel comfortable with (and this can take a long time). At first I would really push him, “how hard is it to just say please or thank you” but soon realized that for him it was beyond hard to almost impossible. His breathing would change and he would become very flustered. I realized I was not helping… with a little research and communication with Jacob, I stopped pushing and we arrived on common ground where he could tell me what he wanted to say and I would ‘interpret’. Giving me a polite child and avoided him going into full fledged anxiety attack!

Well, now we have Rick, who I frequently refer to as ‘my perfect two year old’. Rick has been my challenge … Rick is the sweetest and naughtiest little guy that there is. He wants to push every limit just a little more and challenge every boundary, one more time. But then he wants to throw his arms around you and snuggle in your lap. He can frustrate me to tears and melt my heart in the same two seconds!

So, Rick is just learning his manners. He is learning the power of please … as he demands “I need a cookie, right now, please.” When he first said this I was thrilled and praised him and said “oh, it is so nice to say please.” What I forgot to say was that his very demanding tone of voice, his stomping foot and pointing finger really took away from the actual good manners he was using. Apparently I had taught him is that he can have whatever he wants as long as he says please. And now we all know, old habits are hard to break, even when they are only a few days old. I will say that his pleases have transformed from the meek little please to a great big loud PPPLLLEEEAAASSSEEE but if the answer is still “no more cookies” his demanding stomps and pointing finger comes right back out! These manners lessons have also carried over to the “I’m sorry” … apparently it is okay to hit your siblings as long as it is followed with an “I’m sorry.”

I know that this is a normal progression of children but hey, I thought I had mastered the lessons of teaching manners long ago and here I am at square one. But then my perfect two year old surprises me, this morning when I handed him his orange juice he looked at me with his big blue eyes and replied so sweetly, “Thank you, mommy.” So maybe I am not the Manners Teaching Master yet but at least they are learning. And hey, I have one more try with Sam (my littlest one).

Baking Bread

There is nothing like the smell of hot bread coming out of the oven. The kids are always looking for a piece even before it has cooled enough to cut it. Last year I started making bread almost daily. With the cost of organic bread over $3. per loaf and our daily usage over a loaf a day, I decided that I could just as easily make bread for a lot less. I found a great recipe to throw into my bread machine and off I went. But this recipe called for all white flour and I really wanted to use wheat flour, so I started experimenting. Finally I perfected a recipe that I could get up in the morning, throw everything in and four hours later (just in time for lunch) have a loaf of fresh bread.

But what if I missed a day? Then we would have no bread. What should I do? Running the electric bread machine all day was going to cost me more than buying bread, so I had gained nothing! Besides the annoying hole in the bottom of each loaf from the machine paddles was driving the kids crazy. So I decided to start making bread the old fashioned way … again experimenting with recipes, I found a great recipe that I could use whole wheat flour, only a tablespoon of sugar, and mixed well and baked well and the kids liked it! I also could do two loaves … one to eat and one to put in the freezer and if I knew it was going to be a busy week I could easily double it without adding to the electric bill.

In the final hot weeks of August last year I made more bread than ever. I was in my ninth month of pregnancy (with baby number five)and there was something about kneading the dough that I found very relaxing. This was the first thing that I did when I woke up every morning, sometimes I would lie in bed and just wait until a decent hour to get up to start my bread. Needless to say the freezer was full of bread when our little bundle of joy arrived … actually there was also two fresh loaves of wheat bread and two loaves of zucchini bread that I had made (with the help of my mom, my oldest daughter, and my mother-in-law) during the wee morning hours of labor.

Well, ever since Sam arrived our lives has been chaos … here is a quick glimpse: he arrived the last week of August, we sold our house in September, moved in October, moved again under not so great circumstances in November and spent the winter with our wonderful family … living out of boxes in their house! We recently moved to a new apartment and we are finally getting settled again!

So yesterday, for the first time since just before Sam was born, I decided to make bread. As I have not seemed to unpack my old recipes, I decided to try a new recipe that had been posted on a yahoo group. I already had plans to alter the recipe which indeed always gets me in trouble but for some reason I feel the need to perfect it! So I made five loaves of bread yesterday … two were just as the recipe says and they came out great! One I added maple syrup and oats and it looks good but we have not cut into it yet! The other two … well, I learned long ago that when bread does not work out, MAKE CROUTONS!

Just incase you would like to give it a try I am going to add a recipe section on my new blog. I would love to hear bread stories and share recipes! Happy bread baking!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Someday he will pay me for it …

I just had to take a picture of Jacob yesterday … we had promised the kids some fun so I announced we were going to go ride bikes and run around the Rec. field, one of their favorite activities these days! So I was scrambling around getting ready … shoes and socks for the two year old, diaper for the littlest guy, some water for everyone … Jacob announced he was ready and when I looked at him I was speechless … he had on his Ninja costume (full one-piece stretch jumper with a hood) from a couple years ago (so it is tight and now Capri length), his brown striped wool socks (knee high to cover the shortness of the costume), his lime green Shrek Hat (thanks Uncle Michael), and sandals.

My first thought is exactly what my mother would have said … “I am not taking you out of the house looking like that” but before I said anything out loud I stop to think … my next thought … “are you kidding me, it is the hottest day we have had this year and you are wearing an all black full body suit and wool socks.” Luckily I have become really good about not saying the first or even the second thing that comes into my head. Jacob is six years old and loves to explore ‘who he is’! This is exactly one of the biggest reasons why we have decided to home school and have one stay at home parent, so that our children can explore and be free to express themselves without the pressures and judgments!

So what I did say was … “hey, Jacob can I take a picture of you … you will pay me for it someday”, he looked at me like I was crazy and grab a sword to pose for a picture. We snapped a couple shots and headed to the Rec. field. He did have to trade the Shrek hat for his bicycle helmet but otherwise his outfit was perfect, for him. We had a great afternoon biking and running around the playground, I hope that he can continue to be himself!

PS. My two year old, Rick has been wearing his bicycle helmet for almost a week, all the time!! We take it off when he falls asleep at night and he puts it on as soon as he wakes up!

I'm not sure why I am doing this ...

I am really unsure of why I am doing this. Maybe because everyone else is ... that seems like a really lame reason to me but I guess because I think that it is fun to share stories and have been inspired by reading others blogs ... if I can inspire someone else in anyway then, that is why I am doing it! I will NOT claim to be a blogger or even to know the first thing about blogging ... I have read many (although compared to what is out there, probably only a small amount) and some are wonderful and some I just do not get.

So, here I am typing and I am not sure of what point I plan to make. I envision sharing stories and ideas of living with a big family. Sharing recipes and tricks of the trade when cooking, canning and storing food. Creative ideas for homeschooling children of many ages, abilities and interests. Living 'green' on a budget ... this is a 'project' for our family and sometimes it works and sometimes it does not! Oh and last but not least having fun -- I love being a mom and my children bring me much joy and many laughs I would love to share!

Come by often, as I am just getting started ... I would love to hear from you all and hope this is fun for everyone who stops by!