Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When Gift-Giving is Not Your Love Language

Have you heard about the 5 Love Languages from Gary Chapman.  You probably have, right?  The idea is that different people have different love languages...different ways they give and receive love. 

The 5 Love Languages are: 
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time 
  • Receiving Gifts 
  • Physical Touch  
  • Acts of Service  
You can take a quiz that tells you what your love language is...and it's probably not too hard to guess the love language of your loved ones.

Well, I score ZERO on the receiving gifts parts.  ZERO. My love languages are quality time and acts of service.  Gifts...not even close. 

Which makes this time of year especially challenging. It's funny...because I keep reading all these articles and blog posts about how to have a minimalist Christmas and how not to overdo it on presents, and I'm all, no problemo..I got this. 

There is NO danger of me overdoing it on gifts.  None, nada, zilch.  Well, besides the fact that we can't afford anything,  I don't enjoy giving gifts and I don't enjoy receiving gifts (unless it's something I specifically want/need/pick out and can't afford..and then I appreciate it, a lot). I don't like surprise gifts though. 

If it was up to me, I would just as soon skip the whole gift thing...birthdays, holidays...just skip it.   

But, it's not up to me.  

So, here are a few tips I've learned to make gift giving and gift receiving a bit easier and less stressful.

1) First of all, if you are having trouble deciding what to give someone here's a secret.  Most people enjoying receiving the types of gifts they give.   So, if someone oftentimes gives gift cards or books or food gifts...those are probably the types of gifts they would enjoy receiving. 

Just a little secret for any fellow gift-hating grinches.  

2)It's okay to procrastinate.  Really it is.  Sometimes we have the best ideas under pressure.  Or sometimes being under pressure can take the stress off...because you just gotta pick something.  So you do.  And, it's fine.  

3)And, if you have a gift-hating person in your life...consider acts of service or quality time. Offer to do something for them or spend time with them.  Most people like that...and bonus..you get to brag about how non-materialistic and minimalist you are.   Plus you can really never go wrong with gift cards or cash.   

4)If you receive an awful gift...an ugly sweater or an electronic robo-guard dog..well consider it a chance to practice charity and love...and re-gifting.

5) When it comes to kids...stick with what you know they like. You can't really go wrong if you get art suppplies for the art-loving kid or legos for the lego-loving crowd. 

6) Keep in mind the real reason we give gifts...to remember the great gift that Christ gave us.  Somehow that makes it a bit easier.  Since Christ already gave the ultimate gift, nothing we will ever give will ever compare so no need to worry about it.  And it gives a bit more purpose to the gift-giving thing.

Whether you love gifts or hate them, I hope you have a happy and stress-free rest of Advent!

Do you like gifts? Have you taken the love languages quiz?  What's your love language? Do you enjoy holiday gift giving or do you find it stressful? Inquiring minds and all that. 
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Greta Asks the Unanswerable Question and Other Greta Sayings

Little kids don't hold the corner market on funny/clever/smart sayings. Here are some real gems from a 10-year old!

1. John, let me read you your saint story for school.  Mom looks like she could use a few minutes vacation. 

Yes, yes she could.  Or a few days vacation. Or weeks. 

2.  Mom, do you think you'll ever be mentioned in a history book..like 300 years from now?

Probably not.  

3.  Do people in a history book know that they are going to be famous and be mentioned in a history book.

Probably some do, some don't.  

4.  Mom, would you rather live in a beautiful tiny house that's only one room, or a big ugly house with cobwebs and ugly paint and bugs everywhere and holes in the walls and a ghost that haunts it?

I'll take the big house.  We can always kill the bugs and clean it up..and call an

5. Mom, these new pens you bought are great. Elsa can't take the top off, and I'm having a hard time too.  They are Elsa-proof!

The amazing Elsa-proof pens!

6. When I'm President of the United States I'm going to make it so no one ever has to brush their hair.

She'll rule a nation of messy-haired kids.

7. When challenged to come up with a stumper question for her Uncle/Godfather she came up with the following.

What is the answer to the question I am asking you right now? 

You try to figure it out.  Philosophers? The best we can come up with is, it's either "the unquestionable answer" or the "the unanswerable question."

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Five Stages of Potty-Training

Well...I'm going to hesitantly just go ahead and say it.  I may have successfully potty-trained my fourth child.  Maybe. Potty-training is one of the few mothering tasks that doesn't phase me. Probably because I have spent plenty of time mucking stalls and ultrasounding cow ovaries (an endeavour that involves long gloves and is as gross as it sounds).  So..pee and poop do not bother me in the least. Toddler poop is nothing compared to dairy cow poop...or horse poop. Or worst of all...turkey poop. 

Accidents on the floor..no problem.  Having to wash tons of clothes..doesn't bother me (it's either that or washing tons of diapers).  

And, one thing I've noticed is that kids seem to go through these five stages of potty-training.  Maybe they go through them all in 3 days or 3 weeks or 3 months..but they go through them. Or at least...all my kids did.  

Knowing these stages can help parents prepare and know what to expect. Because no matter what the books promise, I really don't think that it happens all at once, all that often.

1. Potty...what's that?  I think I'll sit on this thing...or maybe stick it on my head, like a hat.

You show them a potty and they have no idea what to do.  Sure they can sit on it, but nothing comes out. 

2. Potty...I can sit on this thing.  When I sit on it, pee pee come out...most of the time. But, sometimes I refuse to sit on it, because that's fun too.

This is the second stage.  Once a child learns to pee on the potty, they can easily be "conditioned" to pee every time they are sat on it (assuming they didn't just go on the floor 30 seconds ago).  It becomes instinctive.  YOU try sitting on the toilet and not going.  I bet you can't do it. 

In my experience...this is also the LONGEST stage.  It can last weeks...or months.  With Elsa, I'd say that this stage lasted about 6 months.  But then I started her SUPER early (before 18 months even).   With my other kids (that I started a bit later) it was shorter...probably about 1-2 months. 

3. It's kinda nicer to go in the potty than in my diaper.  I think I'll hold it until mommy sticks me on the potty.   But if she waits too long...all bets are off.  I'll go in my diaper or on the floor or in my pants or anywhere.

This the stage at which I take away diapers and put my kids in underwear full-time (or at least daytime). Why?  In my experience..it doesn't take that long to go from this stage to the next stage.  Maybe just a week or two.   Plus, if they aren't wearing a diaper, I'm much more diligent about reminding them to go potty. 

4. Potty...when I gotta go...I'll let you (and everyone else around you) know.

This is when they initiate pottying on their own..and when I consider my kids to be fully potty-trained.

The younger three of my four children all reached this stage with poop before they reached it with pee.  It's easier to hold poop.  The first one (who I wanted until she was closer to 3 to train) went through a stage of poop-refusal on the potty. I don't even remember how we got past that, but somehow we did.  

And that is really the predominant reason why I decided to start potty-training much younger with the other ones. 

This is an ongoing stage.  As time goes on...the child gets better and better at recognizing cues and holding it until they reach the toilet. 

My kids all went through a stage where they would sorta pee a tiny bit on their clothes..and then hold it and finish peeing on the potty.   So, we always had spare clothes with us...but thankfully this stage tended to be short-lived.

5. I can stay dry all night long...no more diapers for me!

Two/four of my kids reached this stage very early..and were totally out of diapers by age 2.5.  The other two still needed diapers at night well into their childhood years. I'm not gonna say who is who.  So don't despair if your child still needs diapers at night for a LONG time, and don't be surprised if your child becomes dry at night very early.

Have you noticed these five stages with your kids?`Or was your experience totally different?

And, since potty-training is a favorite of nobody, I'm linking up with Jenna for Five Favorites. It's a stretch.  Feel free to kick me out, Jenna.  
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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Santa Claus, Traditions and St. Nick



The holidays are all about traditions, right?  We MUST have traditions in order for our children to have a stable, happy childhood.  And part of those traditions include things like everyone sitting around in matching, ugly sweaters drinking hot chocolate while decorating a perfect tree. 

Right?  Right?

Bah Humbug!!  Holiday traditions are overrated.  Don't get me wrong...it's important to do things together as a family. But, everything doesn't have to be A Tradition.  It doesn't have to be that we do the EXACT SAME THING every year so that it becomes A TRADITION.  

Trying to create traditions is stressful. It's a lot of pressure to keep up traditions.  To do the same things year after year.  

We don't have the same resources or time or energy every year...so we can't always do the same things.  So, I'm just saying "no" to that pressure.  

Which leads me to the big Tradition we DON'T do.

What We Teach Our Kids about Santa Clause:  We teach our kids that Santa Claus is real only in the sense that St. Nicholas is real. In that St. Nicholas was a real person who existed many years ago on earth and still exists in heaven.

However, we don't teach our kids that he lives at the North Pole, that he has flying reindeer or elves and that he brings presents on Christmas Eve.  Because none of that is true. 

Why We Don't Do Santa the American Way:  Years ago when Heidi was just a baby, I decided that we weren't going to do Santa Claus.  

At that time, I was more concerned with not lying. At that time, I (thankfully) had no clue what life had in store for us.

I did not have a good experience with Santa growing up. I basically never got what I REALLY wanted for Christmas. I was pretty much always disappointed on Christmas morning. I was left wondering why other kids' presents were wrapped or why they got more.  It never made sense to me that someone who knew if we were naughty or nice, wasn't able to get me a Cabbage Patch Kid until they became less expensive and went down in price. (Did I just date myself? Yes, I was a child of the Cabbage Patch Era). 

Making Christmas lists, but not getting what's on it was not a particularly positive experience.  Yet, if I had known who REALLY put the presents there, I would not have been nearly as disappointed. I would have appreciated them more knowing they came from my parents, rather than from Santa Claus. After all, there is no logical reason why someone who can make toys and can fly around the world in a sled would give more/bigger/better toys to certain families.

And now, as a mom, the thought of my kids making Christmas lists and me trying to find everything on it gives me hives.  I don't want my kids wishing and hoping for stuff because they're probably not going to get it. Every gift is a gift..something to be appreciated but not something to be expected. 

Better that they know that what they do get comes from us, that we give them presents because we love them, but that we can't give them everything they want.  Because it's much easier to understand why your parents can't give you a pony or a Cabbage Patch Kid or a Kindle than it is to understand why Santa can't. 

Plus the whole naughty/nice thing does not sit well with me.  I don't like tying presents to behavior. I'm not a theologian but I'm pretty sure that the Catholic Church does not hold to the teaching that in this life the nice are rewarded while the naughty just get coal. Might be nice if it worked that way....that if all you needed to do to get good things happen is to be good. Unfortunately it doesn't...the rain falls on the just and unjust alike. 

So, yes our kids do get presents on Christmas..from us. Not a lot of presents...just a few. I wish I could say that was because we are trying to mindfully be minimalist.  But really, it's just out of necessity because we can't afford much.
And yes, they still get these presents as "surprise" on Christmas morning.  So they still have that excitement of walking downstairs out of the bedroom to find presents in the living room.
A lot of people say they don't do Santa because they want to keep the focus on Christ.  That is not a main motivator for me.  I mean, of course we want to keep the focus on Christ, but I don't think that celebrating Santa/St. Nicholas necessarily takes the focus off Christ.  Although it can.

The Whole Lying/Deception Issue: I know, I know...people are all what's the big deal...kids need to have their fantasies, make-believe is important.  And, it IS.  I totally agree with that.  Our kids read fairy tales and fantasy stories.  They love Narnia and Tolkien.  They've read/seen Harry Potter. 

They play make-believe/fantasy stories on their own...they make up plays, they play house.

But (there's always a but) there is a difference between reading a make-believe story or watching a make-believe movie/TV show and parents orchestrating reality to make the fantasy real. Kids are smart enough to figure out what is real and what isn't....except when adults muddy the waters for them. While we have read and enjoyed The Elves and the Shoemaker, I don't tell my kids that their new shoes were put there by elves.  My daughter used to enjoy dressing up as Cinderella but I never told her that her dress was made by her Fairy Godmother.

We may read stories about Santa Claus or unicorns or mermaids or fairies or leprechauns but I don't orchestrate things in real life and say that Santa Claus or a unicorn or a leprechaun did it. Or if I do, it's a wink, wink, nod, nod thing.   

However, in my experience, when most parents do Santa, it's not wink,wink,nod,nod.  It's that they REALLY want their kids to believe it was Santa.  

Plus, our family has been on the receiving end of gifts from REAL "Santas".  People who have been kind and generous to us and sent us gifts when times were tough.  And saying that those gifts were from Santa Claus takes away the chance for us to pray for and feel gratitude towards those real people. So yes, Santa is real in the sense that there are real people who play Santa.  And those individuals deserve our prayers and gratitude, and I'm not going to take that away from them.

A Note on St. Nicholas
Unlike when I was growing up, we do celebrate St. Nicholas Day.  The kids put out their shoes on the night of Dec. 5th and they find candy in them on December 6th.  Just candy...sometimes it's chocolate coins and sometimes it's Snickers bars...but it's always just candy.   But we don't tell the kids that it's actually St. Nicholas who brings the candy...they know it's us and  we do it as a way to celebrate the life of St. Nicholas and how he helped other people.   

I do think the Santa Claus thing is a very personal decision.  But for our family...I'm so very glad that years ago we decided not to do it.  Because I can't even imagine trying to keep up the Santa thing while being in law school or dealing with unemployment/underemployment or other financial burdens. Those things are stressful enough without the added pressure of having to be Santa and keep up Christmas traditions. 

What are you thoughts on the whole Santa/St. Nicholas thing?  How do you do it? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

And, whatever you do, I hope you have a Blessed and Holy Advent!

Friday, December 5, 2014

7QTF - An Update of Sorts and Homeboy Jesus

1. A few weeks back my week in the life posts, I mentioned how John had a routine doctor appointment and the doctor found some hearing loss so they referred him to an audiologist.  Well...he had the full hearing screen and his hearing is normal.

I guess part of normal hearing is being able to hear do you want ice cream from across the house, but not being able to hear eat your vegetables from across the table.

2. Heidi is doing a bit better with her back pain.  She still has times when it's worse and better, but overall it is getting better and her SED rate (indicating inflammation) has been decreasing. Although she still has frequent headaches.  We were hoping the glasses she got from the doctor's office would help, but they appear to be too small so we're waiting on another pair and hoping that helps.  

3.  I cut Greta's hair in a spontaneous fit of inspiration during a daily battle over brushing it.  I must say..the difference is AMAZING.  Her hair went from always looking a mess 
(even 30 seconds after brushing it)  
to always looking good. 


Not sure why I didn't think of it before.  
Well..I do know why. It's because this was Greta at age 3.5.  No, she's never had a haircut, this was as long as her hair grew in those 3.5 years. 

So, I've been sorta loathe to ever take a scissors anywhere near her hair because it grows SUPER SLOWLY.

4.  Elsa has been talking a lot more. And she's been using the potty independently, which is great.  Except for the fact that she insists on using the big toilet and has been known to fall in on occasion. Thankfully a wet tushy has not deterred her from potty usage. 

5.  This picture is hanging on my parent's wall.  We call it Homeboy Jesus.  What do you think?  I think someone just put the pictures in crooked, but the result is hilarious. Ben wants to start a letter-writing campaign to convince my parents to remove this picture from their wall.  So...if you know my parents...write them a letter!  Or not. 

6.  Still no news on the job front for Ben. 

7.  I ran the St. Nicholas Party for our homeschool group today.  We had a swap table where people brought in stuff and the kids "bought" stuff to give as presents to their family. We also had a few others games and crafts.  It went surprisingly well considering how little effort I put into it.  But, I didn't take any pictures and I won't subject you to a play by play of what we did, because I'm sure that 90% of other people would have put more effort in and have something more exciting to show for it.  I think everyone had fun anyway...although we ran out of tape.  I way underestimated the amount of tape we would need for wrapping a bunch of little presents. Nonetheless, I consider the party to be a success. 

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Whom Do You Trust?

My lawyer husband tells me that "Whom Do You Trust" is grammatically correct.  So, if it really should be "Who Do You Trust?" blame him. 

So..the question.

Whom Do You Trust?

We seem to be bombarded with conflicting information everywhere we turn.  

Conflicting information about every parenting, health and lifestyle decision imaginable.  

Feeding Methods. Sleep Methods. Vaccinations. Circumcision. How to Treat a Fever. When to Start Solids. What to Feed Your Kids. What to Eat Yourself. Best Foods. Worst Foods. Natural Birth vs. Epidural vs. Cesarean.  Home birth. 

There are controversies for everything....with plenty of arguments and data on each side.

So..whom do you trust?  How do you decide? How do you decide which studies you should pay attention to...and which ones are total bunk?   For just about every study you can find an "expert" to refute it. 

So what do you do?

Well, I can't tell YOU what to do..but I can tell you what I do. 

Common Sense.  Does what this person/data/study claim MAKE SENSE? 

This is probably the biggest thing. 

Don't underestimate the power of common sense.

Everyone is all fond of saying that "correlation does not equal causation."  And that's true. 

From TwentyTwoWords.com we have this funny graph showing a rather shocking correlation between total revenue generated by skiing facilities and death from being tangled in bedsheets. 

Shut DOWN the skiing facilities...people are DYING in their sheets!!

Or maybe not. I think it's safe to say that this is just a weird thing. 

But what about when a correlation COULD make sense?

Like the correlation between c-sections and increased risk of allergies and asthma.

Well, that probably isn't really a fair example because with c-sections oftentimes there isn't a lot of choice.  Clearly if you need a c-section to save you or your baby's life or to save your baby from brain damage....well Thank God we have them. 

However, it *may* be something to consider if your choice isn't so clear-cut as that Maybe. That's up to you. I'm NOT judging those who have elective c-sections.

However, it makes sense to me, to only have a c-section WHEN NECESSARY.

However, on the flip side of the whole natural child birth debate, it makes sense to me that there is an increased risk of both maternal and baby death during homebirth because there are no life-saving procedures IMMEDIATELY available SHOULD they become necessary.  To me, that just makes sense. Maybe that doesn't make sense to you? Or maybe you decide that the increased risks are offset by the benefits of homebirth (of which there are many). That's okay..it's a personal choice.  You have to do what makes sense to you. 

Just like it makes sense to me that there might be a correlation between increased recovery time from the flu and the use of fever reducing medications.  Because fever is actually a good thing. So..I almost never give my kids my kids any fever reducing medicine. In fact, we currently don't have any children's versions of those medicines in the house. 

However, part of the reason that may make sense to me is because of...

My World View and My Experience.

My world view is probably different from yours.  And, that's okay.  My world view is that all medical procedures carry some level of risk along with their benefit and the risk/benefit analysis should be carefully analyzed.

For example, in the case of circumcision. We don't do it.  Why?  Because my world view is to avoid  unnecessary medical procedures and I found no compelling reason to remove a perfectly fine, non-diseased body part. So..no. Your world view may be different.  That's okay.

Experience also plays a huge role.  I have had a great deal of success treating various conditions at home using herbal remedies, essential oils, vitamins and other supplements.  Things like infected toes, mastitis, the flu, coughs, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, ear infections. You name it...I have a home remedy for it. 

My oldest daughter's back pain was significantly helped by chiropractic care...so yes...I'm a believer in that. 

However, I'm highly skeptical of homeopathic medicine (which is quite different from herbal medicine).  I've tried it and never had one iota of success.  The way it works doesn't make any sense to me (while herbal remedies make A TON of sense).

However, if it works for YOU...awesome!!! 

Have you ever noticed that you can tell someone's world view by the articles they post on Facebook?  That's because you can find an article to support just about any world view. Isn't it interesting how differently differnt people think?  And how rare it is for someone to actually CHANGE THEIR MIND because of something their friend posted on Facebook.  Doesn't happen.

Why? Because different people determine what makese sense to them based on their world view and their experience. And that is why when faced with the same questions...different people choose to believe different sources.   And for the most part..that is okay. 

Just be confident in YOUR decisions.  Then the "mommy wars" can't bother you. Who cares if someone says X when you do Y? You have YOUR common sense and YOUR world view and YOUR experience to help you make YOUR decisions. 

Be confident in them!

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Be a Miserable Person and Ruin Family Relationships This Thankgsiving in THREE Easy Steps

Thanksgiving is coming.  The time of year when families get together, gluttony is practiced and tempers flair.

Do you hate happy family gatherings?  

Do you WANT to have strained relationships with your relatives?

Does nothing infuriate you more than people that get along?

Well..I have the solution for YOU. 

Here is how YOU TOO can have strained family relations and make everyone else miserable this Thanksgiving and Christmas and the WHOLE COMING YEAR.

Step One: Take Offense At EVERYTHING. 

Step Two: Hold Grudges Like Forever.

Step Three: See Judgement Everywhere.

A Family Member Near or Far Didn't Wish You Happy Birthday 5 Months Ago.  Definitely take offense and hold that against them.

You aren't able to breastfeed, but your sister/cousin nurses her baby everywhere. Clearly she is just doing it AT you to show how superior she is.  Take offense and hold a grudge.

Uncle Lorenzo mentions how much he loves Politician Corrrupto.   Clearly he is just saying that because he knows how much you HATE Politician Corrupto.  Take offense and hold a grudge.

Five years ago your cousin said something that hurt your feelings.  DEFINITELY hold it against them..for at least the next five years.

You didn't get a Christmas card last year from your brother-in-law-in-law-in-law.  That is for sure a slight...hold it against them!

Three years ago your niece called you to wish you happy birthday but their spouse couldn't talk to you because they were on the way out the door to someplace that they should have left 10 minutes ago.  DEFINITELY take offense and hold it against them for the next three years...if not five. 

Your fifth cousin 27 times removed posted something on Facebook which you vehemently disagree with.  Clearly you should NEVER talk to them again.  Never, ever, ever, ever. 

You sister parents differently from you. Clearly that means you can NEVER get along Those wild hellions are allowed to NOT finish their plate..and every time that happens a butterfly in China dies.  So, just avoid them until she comes around to your way of thinking.   

And BE SURE to incite the mommy-wars by being POSITIVE that your natural-birthing, breastfeeding, organic-food eating, attachment-parenting sister is DEFINTIELY judging you for your different choices. Definitely!!

Oh...and if someone has a different religion than you.  They probably hate you....so just go ahead and hate them first. Totally!!


Or you can do none of these things and have a Happy Thanksgiving.  Your choice.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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