Wednesday, April 28, 2010

*Train*ing a child

Thanks to all who offered encouragement on my post from Monday. On a practical note of what we've been dealing with with Nathan, I wanted to share about the train chart we've been using since November.

As part of our daily weekday routine, Nathan watches this classic show. He knows that when it is over, it's time for him to get ready for his nap. For a long time, I dreaded the first notes of the show's closing song, because Nathan would immediately start fussing about it being naptime. He would hide, run away from me, etc. He hadn't been responding to negative consequences, so I decided to try switching to positive reinforcement. I looked on-line for a chart where he could put stickers to track the days he made a wise choice in his attitude about naptime. I was thrilled to find this cute train chart. When he fills a train with stickers, I take him to the bakery to pick out a donut or cookie. (After a month of filling single trains, we moved on to filling two trains before doling out the reward.)

This system has worked like a charm--until recently, that is. I've been meaning to share about it for months, so naturally, I'm getting around to it just as it's becoming less effective for us. I'm not sure yet of how we're going to switch things up. If others of you use charts for reinforcing positive actions and behavior, I'd be interested to hear what works for you!

Monday, April 26, 2010

A prayer for Nathan

"My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad; my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right." Proverbs 23:15-16
You probably wouldn't guess it seeing the smiley boy above, but Nathan's attitude lately has left much room for improvement. I've been praying specifically for God to be at work in Nathan's heart (as well as my own!), and I'm using the above proverb as one of my prayers. May it be so, Lord!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Linkadoos: the Earth Day edition

I've come across several inspiring green blog posts lately, and wanted to share them with you in honor of Earth Day:

*Appreciated this post from Mer with her own "green linkadoos"--she inspired me to sign up for this cool program.

*If you'd like to receive a free reusable grocery bag, click here to take a brief (and easy!) quiz and your bag will be on its way!

*Over the past year, I've saved quite a few of Stephanie's posts in my "star" file, including these thoughtful and challenging posts on 29 ways to reduce waste in your home, why and how to conserve water, and creatively repurpose items in your home.

*If you're still in the mood to keep reading about this topic, I've written quite a few posts on going green. Happy Earth Day, everyone!

photo credit: Flickr

Monday, April 19, 2010

Even more good reads

We check out a handful of new books every week at the library, so I plan to continue posting the "winners" as I compile a dozen or so. Enjoy!

Do You Have a Hat? by Eileen Spinelli

Move Over, Rover! by Karen Beaumont

Kiss Good Night by Amy Hest

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae

Where Is Bear? by Leslea Newman

Prayer for a Child by Rachel Field

Who Will Tuck Me In Tonight? by Carol Roth

So Many Bunnies: A Bedtime ABC and Counting Book by Rick Walton

Jamberry by Bruce Degen

Sakes Alive! A Cattle Drive by Karma Wilson

The Clock Struck One: A Time-telling Tale by Trudy Harris

Duck series by Jez Alborough

I also just discovered this site where you can search for recommended kids' books on a variety of topics. If you have any titles to suggest for my 3-year-old son, I'd love to hear them!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cavities, bruxism and flossing, oh my!

Since this is a blog about stewardship, I feel that I need to confess an area in which I've become quite remiss in taking care of my resources: dental hygiene. (Probably not what you were expecting, right?!)

I somehow inherited good genes when it comes to teeth. While my poor older sister had a retainer, braces, and oral surgery, I waltzed through my school years with nary a cavity. (I got 2 while in college, and blame the soft serve machine. Ha!) In addition, only two of my wisdom teeth ever came in, so I only had to have two removed.

So what, you may ask, is the problem? There are two main ones:

1. I rarely floss (by rarely, I mean a few times a year!)--I find it awkward and uncomfortable, and I just never seem to get in the habit even when I renew good intentions.

2. I grind my teeth at night. At Eric's urging, I finally tried a mouth guard (ironically, a drugstore freebie scored by my dentally-unfortunate sister!) I could hardly stand it the first night, but after that, I have to admit it's not so bad. I've been wearing it every night for a couple weeks now. Eric said he's really noticed a difference, and hopefully, my dentist will, too.

I also used to faithfully have twice-a-year check-ups. Now it's been almost three years since I've seen a dentist. (For the record, Eric hasn't been in an even longer time!) In writing this post, I'm giving myself a nudge to call and make an appointment. Our insurance doesn't cover dental expenses, so that's the main reason I haven't gone, but I know I need to make this area more of a priority!

I'm curious--what's your "dental status"?

Photo credit: Flickr

Monday, April 12, 2010

Offering Hospitality on a Budget, part 2

Thanks to all who left comments (both here and there) on my first guest post at Offering Hospitality last week. My second post, on simple suppers, can be found here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

10 on the 10th: kitchen gadgets

I've had so much fun participating in Mer's 10 on the 10th each month. This time around, I wanted to share a list of my most-used kitchen tools and gadgets. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. mini whisk--I prefer this style for mixing sauces, and think it's easier to clean than a regular whisk.

2. mini spatula--This was a gift from my Noel swap partner. I would never have thought to buy one of these, but it sure does come in handy for small containers!

3. silicone pastry brush--So much nicer than the old-school ones whose bristles cling together

4. pineapple slicer--Definitely has a learning curve, but nice for a quick slicing job

5. immersion blender--Recommended by my sister-in-law, this is my go-to for baby food, smoothies and other purees. It's easy to use and amazingly powerful!

6. metal skewers--No need to soak before making kebabs. Plus, there's no waste!

7. apple corer--So handy. Love it.

8. nut grinder--I know most people probably buy already-chopped nuts, but this is how I grew up doing it.

9. stainless steel scoop--I love this scoop for measuring sticky ingredients like shortening and peanut butter.

10. angled measuring cup--Certainly not a necessity, but I appreciate the convenience.

One item not on my list that I know a lot of other people love is this. It always makes my hand hurt when I use it. Maybe I press it too hard?!

What are some of your favorite kitchen tools?

For more lists of 10, click here.

Note: I provided links to the exact items I own and use, except for the skewers and the pastry brush, which are close substitutes.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

La familia

I wanted to share a few family updates.

*First, I have a couple cute Nathan stories to share. Nathan (aka Mr. Observant) recently learned what litter is. And as he is prone to do when he's learning about something, he points it out everywhere. I knew it was only a matter of time before he yelled "litter!" in front of an unsuspecting neighbor. Last week, he was riding his bike, and I was pushing Natalie in the stroller behind him. Sure enough, he saw a piece of newspaper on a lawn, and instantly announced its presence in front of the homeowner! Thankfully, the woman had a good laugh over it, rather than being offended. =)

After a recent sneeze, Nathan ran up to me asking for a tissue, saying he had just "bless you'd". He thought a sneeze was called a "bless you!" Funny.

*As for Natalie, we had her one-year portraits taken when we were in Kansas City. This is the one we ordered:
And this was a close second:

I love her sweet expressions, and this outfit makes me smile. The darling dress and shoes belonged to my nieces, and Emily even wore the white sandals to our wedding!

*Several of you have written to ask about my dad. We are so grateful for your continued prayers for our family! My dad had a recent appointment, and learned that the treatment is still being effective. We praise the Lord for this! There are of course still concerns and challenges, but we are thankful for some good news in the midst of them. My dad is still training for a June marathon, and continues to have an amazing attitude!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Offering Hospitality . . . on a Budget

I was so excited when my blog friend Carrie wrote that she and her sister-in-law had started a new blog called Offering Hospitality. I immediately subscribed, and have been appreciating the ideas and challenges for reaching out to others.

When Carrie asked me to write a guest post on the subjects of hospitality and frugality, I knew I wanted to participate. My ramblings actually turned into two separate posts, and the first one can now be found here. I hope you'll check it out!

Friday, April 2, 2010

A trio of book reviews

In the past couple of months, I've read and enjoyed three books written by "mom bloggers." I want to recommend these titles to you, as well as share some of what I learned from each one.

*The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule I'd heard of this book on a couple other blogs, but when I saw a copy at our local library, I thought it would offer welcome inspiration. The author is definitely more crafty and ambitious than I am, but I enjoyed reading about the activities and projects she does with her family. One of the things this book motivated me to do was to give "new life" to some tattered clothes. Natalie's not quite walking yet, and several pairs of her pants have holes in the knee area. Inspired by Soule's ideas for clothing reconstruction, my mom and I added cute patches to Tali's jeans:

Though not a book I would refer to often, TCF is a fun read and well-named, as it offers lots of creative ideas for families!

*Steady Days by Jamie C. Martin

After reading a review on Small Notebook, I made an unusually impulsive purchase and ordered this book on-line. The tagline of the book (and accompanying blog, Steady Mom) is "A journey toward intentional, professional motherhood." I love that!

One of Martin's encouragements to stay-at-home moms is to have a blueprint for your day and your children's day. As she says, "A successful teacher wouldn't show up to her classroom without a lesson plan. We wouldn't arrive for a busy day in the office without an idea of what we wanted to accomplish. Our lives at home are no different." She continues by writing that her motive in having a plan is not to control, but to give what's best to her children. "I care enough to plan ahead; I also know myself well enough to realize that without a plan I drift along, guided only by my feelings in the moment. That's not the most efficient or powerful way to live." I've been thinking about all of that a lot lately, and will likely share additional thoughts in a future post.

When Martin talks about being intentional, she means it. I am amazed at all the routines she has in place for recording special moments/memories, such as Learning Scrapbooks (lists of what is being learned and subjects to learn more about, education souvenirs and notes, etc.) and Look at Me Binders (containing special artwork, photos and handprints). She also keeps a file of index cards with encouraging quotes and verses (she calls them Steady Thoughts) to flip through during her busy days--what a great idea!

This book is divided into four compelling sections: getting organized, retaining enthusiasm, learning together and making memories. I'm glad I own this book and will continue to refer to it for inspiration!

*Family Feasts for $75 a Week by Mary Ostyn

I happened onto this book during a rare trip to B&N, and after flipping through part of it, I dropped a (Christmas) hint to my mom that I was interested in reading more. =) This book is a wonderful resource! Eric teased me because I put flags on nearly 30 pages, highlighting lots of strategies to implement and recipes to try.

The first several chapters of the book offer great tips on meal planning and grocery shopping. These chapters end with lists of action points, which are baby steps for improving your budget and efficiency. Here are a few of the action point ideas listed in the grocery shopping chapter: refilling spices from the bulk food department*, making biscuits and cookies instead of buying them, buying and consuming less soda and chips, and stocking your freezer when getting meat on a good sale.

We have already tried quite a few of the recipes from this book, including the two entrees I posted here. One of the ideas I was most excited to discover: homemade coconut milk. I often use this ingredient in Thai recipes, and it never occurred to me that I could make a similar product at home! It's super easy, but I will say I preferred the end result when the milk was part of a peanut sauce, rather than a main ingredient. To make 2 cups, just combine 2 cups of boiling water with 1 cup of sweetened coconut. Let stand for 10 minutes, then combine with a blender. Can use as is or strain to remove coconut flakes.

*We don't have this option in our rural area, but I'm curious if any of you buy spices in bulk, and if you've found it to be a significant savings?

If you're looking for some meal planning inspiration, I would encourage you to look into this book!
Have you read any of these books? Which one most interests you?