Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Party

This past Sunday, we hosted our big Halloween bash. We had our first Halloween party when Lila was a little too young to go trick or treating. Since then it has become an annual tradition. It can be a lot of work, but knowing that Lila and her friends have a blast makes it all worth it. After 6 years of hosting, I think we got it down to a science. (Although this year the grilled cheese caught on fire, it was a minor hiccup that added to the chaotic excitement!) Here are a few highlights that may offer some "tricks and treats" for hosting a Halloween bash for kids.

Sarah, Clara, Elisa, and Lila-- ready to party!
If you really want those snacks, you have to get passed the giant spider.
Don't get caught in her web!
FOOD: The autumn season, for me, means hearty comfort food. Our lunch menu included chili, wings, rice, beans, grilled cheese, corn bread, and salad. We had a few Halloween-inspired snacks such as monster green guacamole and black tortilla chips, eyeball deviled eggs (use a sliced olive as the eye), and jack-o-lantern clementines with black grapes.

Decorate clementines with a marker to look like jack-o-lanterns.

PARTY GAMES & ACTIVITIES: Each table was stocked with Halloween crafts that included crayons, construction paper, stickers, coloring pages, activity books, and DIY Halloween decorations. The kids mostly enjoyed running around and playing with the balloons and hula hoops, but we also had a few organized games. 
  • Pin the heart on the skeleton: This is the same concept as pin the tail on the donkey. (Supplies needed: a large cut out skeleton, paper hearts, a blind fold.)
  • Donuts on a string: Children try to eat a donut on a string without using their hands. Whoever eats the entire donut without it falling on the floor wins. (Supplies needed: small donuts, string, a long pole or broom stick.)
  • Mummy wrap: The team that wraps their mummy the quickest wins! (Supplies needed: toilet paper or white streamers.)

Clara as a mummy.
Halloween crafts.
DESSERT: After the games, the kids settled down to watch a movie (It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown). This always gives us time to clean up lunch and put out the desserts. The spread included: pumpkin pie, sugar cookies, donuts, Halloween cupcakes, apples and caramel, and lots of Halloween candy, of course.

Apples and caramel are a classic Halloween treat.
Sugar cookies in Halloween shapes.
Worms in dirt and eyeball cupcakes.
The best part of Halloween is definitely enjoying the treats!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"What did you say?": The Selective Hearing of Children

Clara's selective hearing:

Nearly every morning, there are a series of seemingly simple tasks that I ask Clara to complete: get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your hair, put on a headband, brush your teeth, and put on your shoes. 

Yet, somehow, nearly every morning, despite multiple reminders, with just five minutes left before we are late for school, one or sometimes all of these six tasks have not been completed.

Those remaining five minutes often become increasingly stressful, and I feel like some monolithic mom barking out orders. With little time left, the earlier requests that began with pleases and thank you's instead turn into "HAIR! HEADBAND! SHOES!" and sometimes details like brushing her teeth get dropped along the way and breakfast becomes toast in the car instead of a sit-down breakfast.

I would love for these mornings to feel more relaxing, and I would love to feel that I could communicate effectively rather than giving a bazillion reminders escalating in cavewoman talk.

What the experts suggest:

I did some Internet searches to see what other parenting experts recommend about selective hearing and getting children to listen.

1. I found the "Never Ask Twice" method by Noël Janis-Norton. The recommendation here is to stop what you are doing as the parent and basically stand next to the child until what you ask is completed. This method seems promising on a lazy weekend day, but on a busy workday morning, I, too, am struggling to get ready in time, and the idea of standing next to Clara while she completes each of her morning tasks feels like it would be too frustrating.

2. Another parenting expert, Jane Nelson, author of "Positive Discipline, suggests that the issue is that parents don't listen enough to their children, that they talk too much and tell them what to do instead of teaching the child to understand what to do. Again, the recommendation here takes extra time, but it seems to get to the core issue in a better way. Nelsen suggests that instead of saying, "put on your shoes", you instead ask, "What else do you need to have on before you go outside?" This method empowers the child to be thoughtful and responsible for herself. I think I will give this one a try.

My selective hearing: 

I have to admit that this topic of selective hearing hits a chord very close to home. When I was exactly Clara's age I pretended to not be able to hear for several months-- literally.
A photo of me when I was about Clara's age... at the time of my "hearing loss."

“Ellyn, it’s time to set the table,”… my six-year-old self heard these words coming out of my mother’s mouth, but I chose to ignore them. I was playing outside, and I wanted to keep playing outside.
When I returned later to the kitchen, my mom asked with an exasperated tone why I had not come inside when she had called me more than five times.

I weighed my options internally. I could say that I didn’t want to come inside because I was playing and didn't want to come inside. That didn’t seem like a good option. Or, I thought, with a certain amount of pride at the brilliance of my idea, I could say I did not hear her.
I was typically an obsessively honest child. I apologized if I said even a white lie. Given my truthful track record, my mom took my statement at face value and immediately became concerned about my hearing.

After a week of exhibiting my hearing loss at home, there happened to be the once per year routine hearing tests given at my school. I failed the hearing test at school, and my parents took me to a professional audiologist for more tests.

I went to another doctor, and another doctor. The test results were all over the place, and they were having trouble isolating my problem. Eventually, one of the audiologists, who happened to be a member of my church, put together the pieces and recognized what was happening.

I remember the audiologist kneeling down to my level and saying, "Ellyn, I know you can hear."

My ruse was up! She told my parents. We had just moved to a new house in a new state, and in retrospect, it seems that my actions were an attempt to get attention during a stressful time.

I guess I should be grateful that Clara has yet to make up any chronic health problems to get my attention. For now, I just have to work through the day-to-day stuff about how to communicate so that she will listen. 

Like Jane Nelsen suggests, I think every kid (and even every adult) wants to be listened to, and so I'm hopeful that one key to resolving Clara's selective hearing is for me to be more open to not just hearing Clara, but really listening to her. 


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Making time for Mama

Anyone who has been reading our blog for a while knows the gist: we are four moms who write about our "milestones, moments, and mishaps" as we raise our four vivacious daughters. Our entries tend to focus on the adventures of our fabulous four but behind all of the stories we share about them, there is US. We began our journey as new, inexperienced moms and over a short time we've developed a bond in supporting one another "as we go along." While our little girls have played, explored, giggled, and become BFFs, we have talked, vented, laughed, and developed our own sisterhood out of the shared experience of motherhood.

Being a mom is hard work. The hardest job I've had by far. Each time I think I've gotten over the learning curve, things switch up and I find myself trying to figure out the next stage and phase. It's exciting and I love experiencing each new development. However, at times it can be exhausting! When I think about what has kept me sane, it has mostly been the support of the wonderful women behind the blog: Ellyn, Annabelle, and Lisa.

Ellyn and I have supported each other's art and writing, by setting aside "artist dates." One of us will take the girls, while the other gets to have 2-3 hours of uninterrupted creative time for whatever project we are working on. Without this, my artistic interests would surely be neglected instead of nourished. It's a win-win-- the girls get to have a fun play date and we can totally indulge in "me" time without feeling guilty.

We celebrate each other's birthdays. Sometimes because of busy schedules it's a month after the fact, but we always eventually find a time to go out for a birthday dinner. We spend so much time and effort planning creatively themed birthday bashes for our little ones, why not set aside a night here and there to celebrate each other? Birthdays are the perfect excuse for a girls' night out. It's just the mamas while the little girls have daddy-daughter time at home.

We are each other's babysitters when needed. Days I've had to work when school is closed, both Lisa and Annabelle have been so generous to have Lila over for all day play dates. (I still owe you...You have childcare credits in the bank with me!) Ellyn and I have exchanged childcare so that we can have date nights with the hubbies. Clara and Lila are always thrilled with this arrangement because they get to have a sleepover!

Play dates are for the little girls and the big girls too. When we can, usually at the end of a busy week, we get together for dinner and a play date. Our girls play so nicely together that, while they run off, we get a moment to relax, eat, and chat.

I'm so thankful that our daughters' friendship has brought us together. Here's to more good times... as we go along. Cheers!


Friday, October 3, 2014

What's in Lila's Lunchbox? Healthy school lunches

Lila loves school. The school lunches, not so much. When a child has an aversion to cheese, you realize just how many "kids' meals" are made with cheese. At a glance, in a given week, the lunch menu consists of grilled cheese, mac and cheese, cheese burgers, cheese quesadillas, and cheese pizza. On the rare days that a non-cheese option is served, Lila still has difficulty stomaching items such as fried chicken fingers or corn dogs. But, it's not just school lunches. Most restaurant kids' meals consist of the same cheesy menu items. Lila, who since 3 years old has been wanting to be a chef when she grows up, has always rejected the kids' meal option. You can't take Lila out to dinner and expect she will be content with the $5.99 kids' burger, fries, and soft drink. She'll have what you're having. And why not?

My husband and I like to take credit for her healthy habits and wide-ranging palate, but we realize that we did luck out with Lila. We know parents who struggle with picky eaters despite their best efforts of exposing their children to a variety of healthy foods. However, a problem does exist in our country that the typical kids' food is fast food. We truly need a revolution to change the food that is being marketed and offered to our kids. Two moms started Revolution Foods "to transform the way America eats by providing access to healthy, affordable meals to schools." Fed up with lunch, children's food activists are popping up all over-- Mrs. Q, a teacher at an urban school, ate the school lunch with her students every day and documented it to show the reality of what makes up the majority of our kids' diets. I noticed a refreshing effort on our school's latest menu, highlighting that they are offering fresh, local fruit and veggies. YAY!

At a parent's night at school, a mom came up to me and said "I just love the lunches you pack for Lila." So, echoing Ellyn's school lunch post from 2012 (which gave great examples of colorful, healthy lunches), I thought I'd give a peak of what's in Lila's lunchbox. Perhaps it can provide some helpful examples of healthy options outside of the kids' meal norm.

As far as it being cheaper to order the kids' meal (which I often hear), each of the lunches below are made with mostly organic ingredients and are between $4.00-$8.00!

Happy eating! -Tara

Hard Boiled Egg Whites, Organic Peach,
Garden Salad made from Local Ingredients, Triscuit Crackers 

Organic Black Beans, Star Fruit, Stone Ground Corn Tortilla Chips,
Olives, Locally Grown Tomato and Green Peppers.
Organic Yogurt, Graham Crackers, Local Raw Veggies, Organic Blueberries
Brown Rice Cucumber Rolls, Local Raw Veggies, Roasted Seaweed Snack,
Unsweetened Pear Sauce, Miso Soup
Turkey Chili, Stone Ground Tortilla Chips, Oranges, and
Locally Grown Raw Cauliflower.