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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ways to Alleviate Stress During Special Events

Christmas really is a magical time of year. I love the twinkling lights, the pretty decorations and the lovely gifts. Oh, and I really love the Christmas cookies! It can be stressful though, rushing around town buying presents, wrapping, decorating, baking and taking your kids to visit Santa, not to mention the Christmas parties and gift swaps at work or school. Visiting family and friends can also be a stressful event, particularly if the home you’re visiting does not have children living there. Yikes! 

My kids are very active and very rough so I’m always concerned they will break something or get hurt when visiting or during a family function. Here are some ways I try to combat that:

Outdoor Playtime
Yes, I know it’s really cold right now but I do try to make sure the kiddos go out to play for a little bit before we leave. We’ll take a little walk or clear the snow off the porch.  Maybe hunt for a special rock or a pretty leaf to give to our host. Anything to get a tad bit of exercise!

Take Alongs
My son has a small backpack that we usually bring along that we fill with books and other smaller toys. It helps my children be less tempted to play with knick knacks or other household decorations at the gathering. We always bring 10 things so that I know how many items we’ll have to hunt for at the end of the event. I also put their blankets in the car, just in case they need a break time mid-event.

I’ve been visiting different family or friends and instead of sitting and enjoying the company, I’m chasing my children to make sure they don’t break anything. As I’ve matured in my parenting role, I’ve learned to ask the host if he or she could put certain items out of reach of my children. I’ll say something like “I’m sorry but my child really is enjoying playing with this beautiful bowl of potpourri but I’m afraid she’s going to break it. Is there any chance we could move it for a bit and maybe she’ll forget about it?” A gracious host should understand and move the object for you. 

We always discuss rules on our way to the event. We talk about items to play with (toys and books), running outside (not inside) and any other things that may bring about negative behavior. As soon as we arrive at the event, I pull my child aside and say, “See that corner right there? That will be your timeout spot, if I see you breaking our rules.” It’s important for children to know that they can still be disciplined even though they are at a special event. 

Decide on a reward beforehand and discuss it with your child. Reward them with something special if they have good behavior. Our rewards are typically fake tattoos, a piece of candy or extra story before bed. They serve as good reminders if you see that twinkle of mischief in your child’s eye.

Check in with your child periodically during the event. Don’t just turn them loose on another person’s home. This brings out bad behavior because your child will be curious and want to explore as well as test who is the actual authority (you or the host). Checking on your child will assure them you know what’s going on and they won’t act out to try to get your attention. A quick hug works wonders for us!

Saying Goodbye 
Know when your child is maxed out. Don’t stay out past their normal bedtime and try to make sure they’re eating on their regular schedule. A hungry, sleepy child is the perfect combination for a meltdown.

I hope these tricks will help you and your child enjoy the Christmas parties a little more this year. Of course, nothing is fail proof and we all have bad days. I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Reason for the Season

Baking Christmas Cookies.  Hanging Ornaments on the Christmas Tree.  Shopping for that special gift.  Winter break from school.  All of these things bring back warm memories of Christmas spent with family and friends.  As we approach this holiday season, it is so easy to get caught up in all the “Holiday Hype” and forget the true meaning of this season.  It is not about the gift giving (although it is a fun tradition); it is not about the family getting together and enjoying a meal together.  The real meaning of Christmas is about God’s Love …. That God so loved us that He sent Jesus so that we could have eternal life with Him.  Jesus is the Reason for this season.  So while retail stores and corporations are saying “Happy Holidays”, I insist on saying “Merry Christmas”.   This holiday, take time to be grateful for the Ultimate Gift … the gift of Jesus. 

Moms, read the Christmas story to your children on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning (Read Luke 2:1-20).  Remind them what this season is really about.

From our home to yours, from Village Moms and Crossroads: May you know the Peace that comes from a personal relationship with our Savior, Jesus.  Have a blessed Christmas.

Monday, December 9, 2013

5 Great Crock Pot Recipes

Hey Mamas! It's freezing here today and we have a dusting of snow on the ground. We had story time at the library this morning followed by a mini-playdate afterwards. We hit up the grocery store and then headed home for lunch. I ate a slice of cold leftover pizza while putting groceries away. If that doesn't sound like a crock pot meal for dinner kind of day then I don't know what does!

Tonight I'm making Crock Pot Chicken Parm. It's one of our favorites! It smells so good right now. I can't wait until it's done.

Here are 4 of our other favorites. Sorry, no red meat. I don't like it so I don't cook it.

Slow-cooker Macaroni and Cheese. When I serve this I call it "Cheesey Noodles". I never tell my kids we're having macaroni and cheese unless it's from a box because they're so used to it that way, that's what they expect. This dish is much richer and not as sweet as the boxed version. I adore it.

Crock Pot Chicken Teriyaki. This is so good and makes a huge portion! I serve it with rice or noodles and steamed broccoli. Really good.

Creamy Slow Cooker Tortellini Soup. My mom gave me this recipe and I am so glad she did. Thanks Mom! :) I make my own white sauce a day or two ahead of time. You can make your own or use store bought. I typically use chicken broth in place of the vegetable broth because that's what I usually have on hand. Making your own chicken broth is so easy and inexpensive that I highly recommend you try it! I started out using a recipe but it's one of those things that doesn't really need one.

Here's what I do:

After I cook a whole chicken in my crock pot and we've eaten most of the meat off of it, I fill it almost completely to the top with water. I then add about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. You don't need to do this but it helps pull beneficial minerals from the chicken bones into the broth, which is a big health advantage. I let it sit, covered, for about an hour. Then I throw in some vegetables and a little salt. Then I cook it on low for about 12 hours. After it's done cooking, strain out the bones and vegetable peels and pour the broth into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate. Once the fat makes a thin layer on the top, then scoop it off. You can use your broth for different recipes throughout the week. You'll have plenty to freeze for later as well. I freeze my broth in 2 cup portions in clearly labeled plastic zip-top bags.

For the times when I have leftover chicken or bones but no time or need to make broth then I throw it in a plastic freezer bag in my freezer. That way I don't have to throw away valuable broth ingredients.

Crock Pot Italian Chicken. This is another really good yet simple recipe. I usually make my own dry Italian dressing mix but you can use store bought to save time. I also make large batches of Cream of Chicken soup and freeze them in can-sized portions. This can be time consuming but I feel so much better serving a healthier version to my family.

Let me know what you think of these recipes. If you have a favorite crock pot recipe please feel free to share it!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Distractions & December

I hope you all enjoyed Thanksgiving as much as I did. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There's so much less fuss than Christmas. We enjoyed a relaxed morning and then a wonderful afternoon and evening at my in-laws house. The meal was so tasty and having our family together was so nice. 

Christmas is approaching so fast! Last year at this time I was about 36 weeks pregnant. It wasn’t pretty. I was really overwhelmed at the thought of having two children as well as knowing I would be having my second caesarean. Needless to say, I did not enjoy Christmas last year. As a believer, I should have been elated to celebrate the birth of my Savior! I was so nervous about the task that God had put in front of me that I forgot my true joy. 

December can be a month full of distractions from what is truly important. Not only are we overloaded with images of gifts but we are pressured to spend, spend, spend our hard earned money on them! The glitter, the shiny ornaments, Santa, parties, etc are all just distractions to the fact that God gave us the best gift we will ever receive. His Son.

Whatever you are facing this holiday season, don’t forget that God is looking down on you in love. He is there holding your hand, wrapping you in His peace and light. Turn to Him and embrace Him.

“Answer me when I call to you,
O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
be merciful to me and hear my prayer.”
Psalm 4:1

Can you identify with the anguish of King David as he is crying out to God in this psalm? Approach God and give your burdens to Him. Cry out to Him. He longs to take you in His arms and give you joy. One of my favorite verses found in Jeremiah is proof. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

My prayer is that you’ll keep Jeremiah 29:11 as your anthem as you navigate the path God has laid before you. Let us embrace the coming weeks with excitement as we prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth. 

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”

Love this video from Hillsong United.