Friday, January 23, 2015

Searching for Peace: Using the Slippery Slope to Teach my Kids about Conflict Resolution

If you have a family like mine...  Hmmm, how do I say this nicely?  You probably have plenty of opportunities to help your children practice conflict resolution.   Or, as the case may be, you have plenty of opportunities to yell at them and send them to separate rooms...   Maybe you are like me and sometimes when your children are engaged in conflict you do a good job helping them get to the root of the issue and decide on a fair resolution, and sometimes you just don't have the time or patience for it.   I'm the Children's Ministry Director at my church and right now I'm teaching the 2-5th grade students the Young Peacemaker's curriculum.  It starts off with the Slippery Slope of conflict, and I think this is a really useful thing for all families to understand!

From the Young Peacemaker curriculum on

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Date Nut Brownie Footballs

The Superbowl is almost here! Now, I have to admit that I'm not a football enthusiast, but I did participate in a marching band in high school, so I watched a lot of football, and I can get into it. But even though I don't watch football regularly anymore, I still take time to watch the Superbowl. I mean, it's the Superbowl after all!

And if you're going to watch football, you've got to have something to eat. So I whipped up these little treats as a test run for the big day. And they are yummy.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Organizing Your Life in 2015: Using Your Planner

So you have your planner.

Now what do you do with it?

There's a million ways to use your planner, none of them being "the right way." But, no matter which way you slice it, there are a couple necessary components:

1. Keep it with you. 

You should always know where your planner is, so figuring out a routine to help you keep track of it is essential. For me, when I am at home, I keep it open on the kitchen counter. I pass by that counter nothing short of a gazillion times a day, so a quick glance at the planner ensures that the planner is doing its job. So, when I wake up, my planner is open, right there. When I go to bed, my planner is open, right there. Easy.

2. Develop a system that allows you to "sync" your paper planner with your digital calendar. 

Even when we have a paper planner, most of us also have some sort of online calendar (gmail, ical, etc.). While that may be a source of confusion for you, it doesn't have to be. Here's what I do:

I use google calendar as my master calendar. Why? Because it is set up to do that perfectly. I add my mom's birthday and set it to repeat for forever and always. Same thing with others' birthdays, anniversaries, yearly events, so-and-so's wedding 6 months from now, treats I need to bring to class in  May, whatever. My husband also uses his google calendar and shares it with me so that I can also easily plan whatever needs to be planned with his schedule in mind too (and vice versa). You can't do that on a day planner.

BUT, the day planner plays a totally essential role to life organization. While the Google calendar lets me major on the majors, the planner lets me perfect the details. My planner is for my daily breakdown of what needs to happen- chores, exercise, Scripture reading, a last minute Target run, a reminder that it's a field trip day and I need to make a lunch, chess club, renew library books online, a specific blog post I need to write that evening, even what I want to do each evening. As the details unfold for the week, I write them down on a specific day... and then cross them off (YES!).

Something that may be unique to me is that I don't have a to-do list in my weekly planner. Each item that I need to do is assigned to a specific day, so, I just make sure that those things are done on that day. And if I finish the 3 "to-do" items on that day, I can just hang back and relax for the rest of the afternoon. I am "done" for the day. It feels better to me than having a giant to-do list looming over the beginning of my week.

So how do you sync the digital and physical in a simple way? Again, I'm sure there are a lot of ways, but here's what works best for me:
  1. On Sunday evenings, I sit at my computer and look at my master calendar for the week. I then write down everything on my planner that I need to remember that week. Each day right then and there. 
  2. I then add in "What's for Dinner?" in the bottom corner of each day.
  3. Next, I add in "What am I doing after the kids go to bed?" This helps me to use that oh-so-precious-time wisely. One night is writing a couple posts, another is reading, Friday night is always date night, Thursday is always Parenthood, etc. 
  4. I then look at my current project list and 2015 goals and see what parts I can fit into open spaces...but just a couple (knowing that I have all year to accomplish these goals and that burnout in the beginning is not cool). So, I see that I want to catch up on scrapbooking this year, so this Wednesday is scrapbooking day. When kids nap, I scrapbook. When the kids go to bed, I scrapbook. I get a 30 minute chunk of kids playing independently by themselves, I immediately scrapbook because it's already planned. I don't waste the 30 minutes thinking, "hmmm...i have this time, what should I do? oh, i guess I'll just Facebook..." :). 
  5. I suppose people would add chores in there too. And if that's you, go for it. I don't have a daily chore schedule-- I kinda do what needs to be done at the time and if the floors aren't really dirty, well you better believe I'm not going to spend my precious time mopping a pretty much clean floor just because it's on the schedule. That's just me. If you like the schedule, add those chores in on the days you want :). Sometimes I'll add them in as I see the need arise, more as a reminder to do it by bedtime. 
3. Use colors if that's what you like.

It's not my thing, but there are some cool ways you can use various colors of pen, washi tape, stickers, etc. I'm linking to a couple blogs that have some fun ideas:

4. Transfer undone items to the next week

Don't let things get lost. At the end of each week, whatever isn't crossed off, transfer to the next week and make it a priority!

5. Each week could have a small section for a continual grocery list.

I put mine on the top of the page-- when someone needs something at the store or I run out of a grocery item, I jot it in that section and add it to the grocery list when it's time to make it. Or, if you are more into keeping that on your phone, of course there's a great app for that. But, I'm a paper person in that regard, so this works well for me.

I always like hearing how other people organize, so share your best planner tips in the comments! 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fudgy Homemade Brownies

I admit. I love me some box brownies. They are easy and delicious. But these are even better. They are still pretty easy to make, messing up a minimal number of dishes, and they are according to my hubby "one of the best brownies" he's ever had. And this man is a fan of desserts. So yeah, they are pretty good.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Indoor Snow = Fun for Preschoolers!

Technically there is snow on the ground here.  Very wet snow, since it also pouring down freezing cold rain at the moment.  So clearly, going out to play in the snow is not going to happen today...  I guess that makes it the perfect day for indoor snow!

I got my recipe here and was inspired by my son's first grade teacher who made this with 21
six-year-olds. Let's call her one VERY brave woman!   It was super easy to make - we just mixed together 3 cups of baking soda and 1/2 cup of conditioner.  Obviously we went with white conditioner since we were making snow, and I have to say it smelled quite nice!

Friday, January 9, 2015

"Virtuous" Preschooler Books

When I'm having trouble with a particular behavior in my kids, I often look to books as one way to help them see their unwanted behavior from an outside perspective, in hopes of something "clicking".

We've been reading through a set of 4 books that do just that, in a way that is very preschooler friendly- good pictures, diverse characters, and developmentally appropriate settings.

The first one is called The Friendliest Ballerina, and it's about a girl who is a really good ballerina, but is not very nice to her fellow dancers. She figures out that while it's fun to be the star of the show, it doesn't really matter if you don't have friends!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pesto Pork Chops - a simple weeknight dinner!

Who doesn't love a meal that made with "real food" and only takes a few moments to prepare?  It's perfect for weeknight dinner and my whole family loves it!