Our Mindful Life

Our Mindful Life: July 2012

Our Mindful Life

Our Mindful Life is about paying attention to what it is that we do on a day to day basis and how we impact each other and the planet. We will talk about all of the things that we do here at home to make ourselves and the world a better place.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Falling Down...

As a parent, I truly work and strive to be the best person I can, and to give my kids my absolute best every day.

 And some days I fail miserably.

 So, I go for a quick walk.  I remind myself of the good in my children.  I remind myself that there is no where I would rather be.  I hug my kids.  I apologize.  And I get back on the horse.

And usually, we have a better day the next day.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Things We Love

I am a declutterer.  When the tension is high, I start moving things out.  I really try to keep my life and my home filled with things that are useful, beautiful and that I love

Now that we are in the midst of a cross country move (again), I've gone through every item in our home again and moved on everything we can live without.  Yet, we had to rent two trailers and a moving truck to move all of our things here.

This is such a stark contrast to living in a camper!  And yet, we are not the least bit sorry about it.  On the contrary, our entire family has come to realize how much we love the possessions we have collected, because each item is carefully selected.

We have enjoyed our time in the camper, and we are grateful that we have been able to stay together during this phase of our move.  But we are happily searching out our own little farm now!

 While Walter is looking forward to having ALL of his things back, I am most excited about my favorite rocking chair again.

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mom Hacks Monday - How to Properly Hang Laundry

Hanging laundry seems like it would be fairly intuitive, and it is!  However, there are some simple tricks to make life easier for the person in charge of the laundry.  Conserving line space and pins is a priority, while minimizing wrinkles is a great bonus.

The first trick is to overlap the edges of clothing slightly so as to use one pin for two garments.  This works best for like garments - two shirts, for example.

Also, you may notice these shirts are hung upside down.  Hanging upside down uses the weight of the clothing to pull any wrinkles straight.  Also, when it comes to shirts, the straight bottom edge hangs more easily than the shaped shoulders.  Which brings us to button front shirts.  They should always be hung by the tail, even when the tail is not straight.  Ensure that the sleeves and collar are smooth and straight.  This saves ironing time later.

Even pants should be hung upside down, by the legs, which decreases wrinkling and makes hanging easier.  However, it is difficult to hang pants overlapping because of their thickness.

Also, longer items, like pants, should be hung at the end of the line, as the center of the line may sag and drag the item in the grass or dirt under the line.  Another trick for particularly long items is to use two lines for them, as I did with this sheet.

Conversely, smaller items can be hung with only one pin.  These are best hung in a row to maximize line space.

These overalls were also hung with one pin.  I used the straps of the overalls to hang and the pin to keep them from sliding.

You may have noticed by now that I have tall clotheslines and short clotheslines.  The kids love to help hang laundry and giving them their own line and stack to hang really boosts their self-confidence.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Punishment Perspective

One thing that I have come to realize since having children is that, while many - if not most - people view punishment as a teaching tool, it actually rarely teaches the desired lessons.  Behavior modification techniques, like Time Out, do modify behaviors, but do not actually teach the desired "lesson".  And some punishments, like spanking, may stop one behavior in the moment, but lead to more problem behaviors down the road.

Yet, it is important to address the behaviors that are problematic, and often age appropriate.  In the long term, the only way children truly learn appropriate behavior is through modelling.  And that means that those of us who surround children must act the way we want our children to act.

This is an easy enough goal when everyone is happy; but what about at 5:00, when the preschooler is trying to  grab a snack out of the fridge while the baby cries and you are trying to make dinner?  The behaviors that were modelled for many of us as children (Time Out, yelling, spanking) bubble up and the parent we want to be often goes up in smoke.

There are some good "baby steps" we can reach for in the rough spots.  I'd like to share a few of my secret weapons with you here.  They are simple tweaks on some standard "punishments" that take them from power struggles to teachable moments.

1.  I Need - We are often met with the urge to tell children what they need.  But often (if not most of the time), we are using a misnomer.  And really, when someone tells you what you "need" to do, how do you tend to react?  Instead, stating what WE need ourselves actually gets a much better response.

Example:  Child climbs up on counter to get a cup.
Instead of: You need to get down from there!
Try: I need you to get down before you get hurt or something gets broken.  Can I help you get a cup?

2.  Counting - We've all seen it or done it; the parent tells the child that if the child doesn't comply by "the time I count to 3..."  The child either ignores the request, glowers at the parent as the counting ensues and the tension mounts, or the child launches into tears and the power struggle continues.  Here is a simple twist.  Instead of the punitive mentality, try approaching the counting with a more indulgent mentality.

Example: While at the store, the child is drawn in by an end cap and wants to stop and look.
Instead of: You better get over here by the time I count to three!  1!  2!  3!
Try: Ok, we can stop and look while I count to 3, but then I really need to go back to shopping.  1, 2, 3!  Ok, let's go!

3.  Time Out - In behavior modification theory, Time Out is a necessary tool.  However, many psychologists feel that sending a child away as punishment and forcing them to be alone for a set amount of time can lead to anxiety problems.  At the very minimum, the fight to keep a child in his or her Time Out spot can escalate a simple transgression into a very dark place.

At our house, we use Time Out as a tool instead of a punishment.  When the kids (or the hubs) and I are having a rough moment, and I am losing my cool, I take a time out.  I go to my room, or I go for a walk, or I go sit outside.  I do not go to my room for 32 minutes (per the 1 minute for every year of age rule).  I go until I am calm enough to be around other people again.  Likewise, when my children have hit their limit, and they just can't handle being around people, and nothing I can offer is helping - we take a time out.

I know many families who prefer a time in, where a parent accompanies a struggling child to a quiet place and holds the child, or just sits near the child, until the child is calm.  Personally, however, I have a very low tolerance for screaming.  And I have also found that odds are about 99:1 that I will be involved in something that I actually need to be attending to - like not burning dinner - when someone is screaming at our house.  So, I do not use time ins myself.  However, if they work for your family, go for it!

I do a different version of Time Out.  The key to this twist is not to use it as a punishment, but a boundary.  Because it is a boundary, the child still has choices.  Giving the child choices and control in the Time Out takes the struggle away and allows the child to take responsibility.

Example: Mom is at a time sensitive part of cooking dinner and a child is following mom around screaming.  Mom is growing frazzled and the kitchen is not a safe place for this exchange.
Instead of: If you don't stop screaming right now, you are going to Time Out for 3 minutes!
Try: I feel like one of us is going to get hurt if this keeps up.  I have done what I can to help you right now.  But I cannot have you underfoot screaming at me right now.  I need you to either calm down or go (outside, to your room, etc) until you are ready to calm down.  Now, what would you like to do?

Even if you have to (as lovingly as possible) carry a child to his or her room at this point, try to leave the exit up to the child.  Tell them you will be happy to see them when they can be calm in the kitchen.  Exit gracefully and receive them kindly when they re-emerge.  Sometimes just a minute break can swing the direction of a rough patch.

*As a side note, often when I ask Walter which choice he is going to make - calm down or go somewhere else - he will blubber out that he needs a hug.  Unless the house really is about to catch fire if I stop, I always give it to him.  Showing our children while they are young that we really do love them, even when they are struggling, is the only way that they will know they can really come to us down the road, when the stakes are really high.

4.  Spanking - As far as parenting tools go, spanking is like the rusty old sickle in the garage.  Sure, the sickle may hack down some weeds, still.  but it doesn't usually take long to find that the sickle is a lot of hard work and that it doesn't yield great results.  Also, when using that tool, it is all too easy for injuries to occur.

Likewise, spanking works in the short term.  Spanking a child typically halts the behavior they are engaged in at that moment.  However, it rarely causes a child to refrain from that behavior again in the future.  It does teach a child to hit and to be more aggressive - as that is what we are modelling for them.

So, if you tend to spank when things get rough, how can you change that behavior?  If you spank as a premeditated punishment - whoever doesn't do their chores gets a spanking - simply change your consequence.  Better yet, encourage cooperation instead of threatening punishments.  If you spank because you lose your temper, it is vital that you work on not doing this and that you develop new tools.  One of the biggest obstacles with this type of punishment is that if you are using spanking this way - you were most likely spanked this way.  That means that when the adrenaline spikes and that fuse in your brain is tripped, your immediate response is, "SPANK!"  And negotiating with that primitive part of your brain is tough!  So, in order to get ahead of the curve, it is really vital to have a plan in place before that fuse is tripped.  Knowing that your adrenaline will be up, it may be best to plan a physical activity to partake of instead.

While it may not seem like it, I am a person who deals with "passion", as Papa calls it when he is being nice.  ;)  When my anger hits me, it HITS me.  I have found that I really need a physical outlet for my anger to go away if I am with the kids - especially when there are no other adults around to play interference if I get to that point.  Picking up a heavy child - if I can do it without hurting them in that moment - helps to dispel some of that energy.  If I am too angry to trust myself touching a child right that moment, I walk away and go "break sticks".  This was Papa's idea.  I can what sticks against a tree, the ground, whatever, until I am calm.  And I'm teaching my children - especially the one with the similar "passion" in life - an appropriate way to get that frustration out without hurting anyone.

It is important to guide our children through life.  It is important to teach them boundaries, and that other people have needs and desires that we need to be aware of too.  We do not need to punish them to do these things.  We just need to show them how to do them.

What tools do you reach for when you are feeling the frustration rise with your kids?


Friday, July 13, 2012

Foodie Friday - Salmon Croquets

We eat Salmon Croquets at least once a week.  We also love to have leftovers for lunches!  They are a great way to get some great nutrition into your family's diet.  According to livestrong.com:
Pink salmon is a sufficient source of several nutrients your body needs to function well and maintain health. It is rich in calcium, with 79 mg in a 1-oz. serving. It is a solid protein source, with 20 g of protein in a 3-oz. serving. A 1-oz. serving has 10 mg of magnesium and 88 mg of potassium. Pink salmon also has iron, niacin and vitamins A, B-12, C and E. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a 100-g serving of pink salmon has 44.6 mcg of selenium, which the body uses to make antioxidants.
And it is oh so tasty!  Also, it is one of the faster meals that we can whip up on a night with a lot going on otherwise. My recipe is basically the one that my family has eaten my entire life, while the name "Croquets" is a nod to my dad.  I hope your family enjoys these as much as my family does!

2 Cans Pink Salmon - 14.75 oz
2 Eggs or Egg Replacer Equivalent
1/4 Cup Onion, diced
2 Celery Ribs, diced
1/4 tsp Sage
Salt, Pepper to taste
Vegetable Oil

Sort through salmon, discarding oil, larger bones and skin.  Mix in egg or replacer, onion, celery and spices.  Form patties approximately 2" diameter.  Add your vegetable oil to a skillet and heat for a moment.  Add salmon patties and cook over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes per side, until heated through and golden brown on both sides.

Baby Elliott and I prefer to eat ours with lots of mayonnaise.  Some people in our family prefer ketchup or "pink sauce".  What do you like on yours?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Who Would Bully a Baby?

Check out my guest post today at http://theyareallofme.blogspot.com/!  Destany is doing a great segment on bullying; engaging readers in a conversation about this pervasive phenomenon.

While I have always been aware that children are more than just tiny adults, I have always valued my children and respected them as much as I respect other adults.  But I have often noticed that many adults do not treat children in a way that they would treat other adults.  Many adults bully children - usually without even thinking about it - simply because the adults feel that they have a right to say what they please to children.

This tendency is one of the core types of bullying that I see happen to my children.

See the rest at http://theyareallofme.blogspot.com/2012/07/submitted-by-kellie-while-i-have-always.html!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


One thing that many parents struggle with is getting our precious, tired children to bed at night - and then to sleep!  I know that this is something that our family struggled with for a long time.  In fact, I've been known to say that I wasn't sure that I could make it through another bedtime.  But, after much research, contemplation, and trial and error, we have hit on a bedtime routine that has worked for us for nearly the past four years now.  So, in the spirit of keeping others from struggling if I can help it, I thought I'd share what worked for us!

1. CONSISTENCY: The biggest key to good sleep, and not having sleep issues - for people of any age - is consistency.  Go to bed and get up at approximately the same time every day - even if you have no other reason to get up at the same time.  With consistency, your body will simply start to wake up and be tired at these same times every day without any outside prompting.  Also, especially for children or those learning to break bad sleep habits, the actual routine of getting ready for bed time is important.  So, as you read the steps to our bedtime routine that follow, remember that the VERY FIRST STEP is to be consistent!

2.  Pick a Bed Time:  Picking a bedtime is not an arbitrary thing.  All children are not tired and ready for bed at 7:00 PM.  Likewise, a bedtime of 11:00 PM doesn't work for every family.  Picking the time for bed is something that has to be individually considered for each family so that it meets the needs of all of the family members.  For our family, we have 2 early risers - Sofi and Papa.  It takes quite a bit of work to keep them sleeping past 7 am.  The boys and I are very flexible about what time we wake up in the morning.  We are happy to be up early, or happy to sleep late.  We also have to be mindful of Papa's school schedule and work commitment.  So, it works best for our family to have kids sleeping early and for all of us to be up early in the morning so that we are ready to go to bed again at bedtime.  We typically start our bedtime routine at 7:15 PM, knowing that it takes about an hour to make the transition from awake to asleep.

3.  Have a Marker for Bedtime:  Something should signal to the kids that it is time to start getting ready for bed.  Dinner ending, the dishes being washed, or some other event that they can predict will happen nightly.  We usually use an alarm set on our cell phones.  When the alarm goes off, they know that it is time to have snacks.  Or lately, we have been walking the dog after dinner, and we know that when we get home from this, it is time for bed.

4.  Snacks:  The first step in our routine is snack time.  Every night we have some type of snack.  The kids are allowed to pick, mostly, what they'd like.  We limit sugar late in the day, so they know that sugary snacks will be vetoed.  They typically pick fruit or a peanut butter sandwich.

5.  Go Upstairs:  This seems trivial, but it is a HUGE step in the bedtime routine.  Going upstairs is the signal that the play for the day is over and the time for sleeping is nigh.  Once the children go upstairs, they do not go back downstairs unless there are some pretty special circumstances.  This is more important if you have a child who pops back up out of bed over and over again.  If you don't have an upstairs, going to the bedroom could be the same step.  Whatever the physical location, the children should understand that this is a point of no return.  **As a side note, we do not have an upstairs at the camper, but this was a HUGE step for us when we were living in a house.  So, I included it because it really did make all of the difference for us.

6.  Pick out and put on Jammies:  I keep appropriate pajamas clean and stocked in the drawer.  The kids get to pick out which ones they want to wear each night.  Then, we work together to put them on.

7.  Go Potty, Have a Drink, Brush Teeth, Brush Hair: We always go potty right after jammies because we have found that even if the kids say they don't need to go potty, a half full bladder will keep them from being able to fall asleep, and getting up to go potty after they have laid down leads to the wigglies starting all over again.

8.  Hugs and Kisses and then LAY DOWN!:  We typically have 2 different variations of our bedtime routine, and the camper has brought on a third.  In the first variation, we are all ready for bed and we have hugs and kisses and the kids get in their beds.  Daddy or I sit in the chair in the room with them.  In the second variation, we all get into "the big bed" and snuggle to sleep.  Daddy comes and carries the kids to their own beds later.  At the camper, we have begun by snuggling in my bed and then the kids go get in their bed after the next step, and fall asleep while Daddy does his school work at the table behind their bunks.  At any rate, the laying down NOW really helps the transition to sleep and is another big key to the success that we've finally met with.

9.  Story time:  With the children laying down in bed, we read stories.  The kids and I typically have a chapter book that we are working on, while Daddy typically prefers to let them pick out a book each from their shorter books, if he is doing bedtime.  Either way, there are a few keys to this step that make bedtime easier.  First, the laying down for the books.  When laying down for the story, the child is already relaxing his or her body while they listen to the story.  This means that they are already on the way to sleep.  The second key is that the book should have a story line that their mind can follow, instead of short choppy lines full of facts and figures.  The story allows the mind to focus and follow along, eventually drifting off into imagination.  This helps the mind to release the other "chatter" of the day, and relax.  Think of it as a guided mediation for children.

10.  Ending and Going to Sleep:  When the story is done, a consistent ending to the routine is good.  This helps the child to know that it is time to go to sleep.  Saying prayers, singing a specific bedtime song, blowing out a candle (some people like to light a candle around the "Going Upstairs" step in the routine), or just having a hug and a kiss and saying goodnight are all good endings.  Do not encourage the child to sit up or use their bodies as part of the ending, or you will undo all of the relaxing work that has been done so far.  The ending should be a low key affair that is very brief.  And then allow the child to simply fall asleep.  One thing that we have found that makes a huge difference for our family is supporting our children into sleep.  Sofi is old enough now that she is no longer concerned about going to sleep on her own, and will actually often leave the big bed at home for the comfort of her own, uncrowded bed.  Walter, on the other hand, is still young enough that he is afraid of being without a parent while he goes to sleep.  So, we either snuggle in the big bed or sit in the chair in the kids' room while the kids go to sleep.  Before we had a baby again, I would sit and knit while they went to sleep.  One key here is doing something quiet and rhythmic.  Papa likes to do his school work while the kids go to bed, and the kids were dragging bedtime out on him for a long time.  One night I was lying down in the next room while they were doing bedtime and realized that the sporadic clicking of the computer keys typing was keeping them awake.  Little things like this can make a huge difference!  I've often found that if I am knitting or reading next to them, they will be asleep before I can finish the first page of my reading or the first row of my knitting!  Now, with the baby, I tend to read, check email on my phone, or play games on my phone while I nurse him to sleep and the kids drift off nearby.

I hope this outline helps some of you out there struggling with your own bedtime issues!  I've said before that I would change every diaper ever created if I never had to do bedtime again.  This routine has made it nearly painless, though.

What do you do differently for bedtime?


Monday, July 9, 2012

Mom Hacks Monday - Easy Glass Jugs

I wrote a few weeks ago about our goal to have a 90% plastic free house, and how we accomplished that goal with very little money.  One of our early challenges was our dishes.  We didn't want to use plastic for the things that we ate.  I drink a glass of orange juice every day, and drink decaf tea all day long.  We had a few plastic pitchers that needed quick replacement.  But the price of glass pitchers can be a bit high.  Even at the thrift store, they can be expensive.

And at the same time, we were trying to feed our child and ourselves good foods.  We did our best to buy hormone and antibiotic free milk.  We discovered a few great companies at the grocery store who produced a great natural milk product, and packaged it in glass jars!  Win, win.  We loved the milk, and the fact that they came packaged in glass was a total bonus for us, since it helped us keep the plastic in the house down and kept it away from our food.  When we finished a jug, we took it back to the store and we got about $1 refund for it!  Perfect!

And then we realized that $1 was a pretty inexpensive glass pitcher for our tea and juice!  So, we saved the jugs and reused them.  They came with plastic caps, but that still made the container at least 90% plastic free.  At least, that is, until the lids broke.  Then Papa, in his infinite wisdom and hardware store knowledge came home one day with giant corks from the hardware store!  Ding, ding!  Winner, winner!!  Now, all of our jug that touched the beverage was plastic free!

We've been dairy free for almost 4 years now, and those jugs are STILL the perfect solution for glass beverage containers.  Best of all, they fit right in the pocket of the refrigerator door, even in the camper!

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chirp, chirp...

Ahh...  With the crickets chirping around here, it must seem as though the blog is camping.  Really, though, it's just been a particularly crazy couple of weeks here.  We've had a loss in my extended family, and now I'm a bit under the weather.  And, of course, we had to party like rock stars because it was Fourth of July and Sofi is the most patriotic kid I've ever met.  Ok, really, we hung out at my mom's and did laundry while I slept on the couch, and then we went to see some fireworks.

But, at any rate, I have not had the time or energy to put into the blog this past few weeks.  But, after this week, I'll have it back together and get some new info up for you!  I'll be talking about a great way to obtain glass containers for storing juice, tea or other beverages, our bedtime routine and how it ended our bedtime struggles, showing some more pictures from the campground and more of our camper shape up, sharing our recipe for salmon croquets.

So stay tuned and we'll see you next week!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Life at the Campground

My post about living in the camper was so popular last week that I thought I'd just share some images from around the campground this week.

Walter enjoying our favorite afternoon activity - splashing in the mini washtub.

Not that we mind swimming in the big pool, either!

Elliott doing some gardening.
And the fruits of our labors.
Walter, sporting his new haircut.  Yes, I said haircut.

Sofi has taken up photography!  A rare shot of me, enjoying a cuddle with my little man.
Walter hanging out in a play silk.

And this friendly toad that we found!

Labels: , , ,