Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Parable of a Three Year Old

G at a birthday party this weekend.

I mentioned last post that Gideon had told our next-door-neighbor babysitter a bit of a tale during a thunder storm, which she asked him about and wrote down.  I think it deserves its own post, so here she is, complete with illustrations G requested be done:

Once upon a time there was Mr. Thunder and he was flying.  Mr. Thunder was friends with Mr. Dragon up high.  He was awake! It is day!  Time to play! [Gideon is into rhyming these days.)

Mr. Drago woke up and started flying around the village, waking up Mr. Thunder!  Mr. Thunder was angry at Mr. Dragon for waking him up! A humongous noise!

"Perch-Boom!" came out of Mr. Thunder! [I can just hear Gideon saying this.]

Everybody in the village was scared so Mr. Dragon blew fire at Mr. Thunder! The village folk raced out of their houses and told them to stop fighting!

They said if wanted to solve a problem, they should take about it, not argue.  Mr. Thunder's pet lion came down off the mountain and hugged everybody.  They thanked each other for saving the village and Mr. Firetruck blew out the fire.  All the trucks were there. [of course]

Friday, September 16, 2016

Ways to Lower Your Child's Sugar Intake and Increase Your Happiness

Sugar makes my kids go crazy.  Tantrums, obedience issues, whining, the works. Sound familiar?

Sugar also causes a reaction in my system, especially when pregnant.

Then there is the Katie Couric "Fed Up" documentary (get it on Netflix, or watch a 20 min. Australian version here). The research she and others did shows that we addressed obesity issue in the 1980s by cutting out the fat in everything, but then to make the food still taste good, we replaced the fat with sugar, actually making the problem worse, and correlating to an increase in fatty liver disease and type II diabetes in younger and younger children, even people who otherwise look normal and exercise a lot.  Scary.

Sugar is present, often in large quantities, in just about everything now.  For instance, there is as much sugar in a handful of candy as there is in low-fat yoghurt.  True story.  Sugar is present in canned tomatoes, ketchup, mayonnaise, almost all processed meats (try buying bacon without sugar!), and of course, almost any quick carb that comes in a bag, pouch, or box.  Replacements, such as honey or high fructose corn syrup, have the same impact. do you cut sugar down or out completely?  It's actually a daunting task.

I'd recommend starting simply.  Here's how I've tackled the issue:

1) Cut out the obvious sugar fiends.  Candy, fruit snacks, chocolate, etc.

2) Start reading labels.  Once you have eliminated sugar with a capital "S", ease into label-checking. Some things are obvious - apple sauce with no sugar added, all natural peanut butter (the kind with one ingredient!), unsweetened milk replacements (we also don't do cow's milk, so this is a big one). Others, like pickles, Cheerios, bacon, sausage, even rotisserie chicken or boulion/stock, are trickier.  Give yourself several grocery shops to identify everything.  Ease into it.

3) Think outside of the box. Literally.  Kids often need to eat on-the-go and their little bodies need frequent refueling.  The easiest thing to do is reach for that box of Cheezits or Cheerios or crackers. Don't.  Other things can be just as quick and so much healthier.  Bunny carrots, sugar snap peas, salted roasted nuts, a can of olives, beans, or corn in a pop-top are all kid pleasers and super-fast food.

4) Replace sugary foods with fruit.  Your child's palate will quickly adapt and they will be asking for applesauce, bananas, apples, and blueberries where they used to ask for fruit snacks or a treat. Be careful, though, as some fruits are more high on the glycemic index than others and where the naturally-found fructose in fruits is always more healthy than processed sucrose, fruits, especially alone or in big quantities, can have the same impact as sugar.  A few slices of watermelon unaccompanied by any protein or fat will send my kids into a tizzy.

5) Always start with protein or veggies.  I haven't read it, but I am an ardent adherent to the principles of Bringing Up Bebe: space meals out, if you can, four hours with no snacks in-between (my kids are so active in the morning, they can't make it!), serve in courses, and start with the veggie or the protein - I usually opt for the protein.  My kids eat far more protein and vegetables this way, and the fat and protein helps to anchor my children's tummies before they eat a high GI carb or fruit so that the naturally-occurring sugar is digested over time.

We aren't perfect about no sugar- I'll still buy G the occasional ice cream cone or provide a bribe involving a treat if I'm super desperate. And though other things can cause the same behavior (like two-year-old molars!) as sugar, I've definitely seen an improvement in behavior AND eating habits. My kids are happier, and so am I.

I'd love to hear what you've seen and what you've done to address sugar intake. Tips?  Tricks? Threats? :-)

Small Wonders
* G has become really creative in his story-telling and even told a full tale to our babysitter, who asked him questions about different parts and wrote it down.  Will need to include here once I get a copy.  He'll often wake up as a different animal or motorized vehicle and only "talk" in the sounds they make.  Lance was feeding him a snack the other day while taken up in one of these roles, and G responded quite matter-of factly, "Dad, dogs don't eat apples; they eat bones!"
* I will have G calm down from crying by taking deep breaths.  He can barely get through one without bursting into fits of laughter.  I have caught him often trying to calm himself down in this method, only to end up in giggles.
* G opened the front door after Lance's first ride on his new motorcycle (!) and said, "Cool ride, dad!"
* I have now worn holes in my slippers.  Whenever she sees them, Esther will come up and say, "tickle, tickle".
* Esther has now joined the rostrum of family prayers, and will often say discernible things.  It's darling.  While singing songs, she will often call out "father, father!" demanding to pray.  Took me off guard till I finally figured it out.  She will often requests songs I have never song to her, like "prophet" for "Follow the Prophet" and "Beam" for "sunbeam" - figuring out those songs was a challenge!

fav new politicians, Kelly Ayote.  Will be fundraising for her.

Almost you convinceth me to become a Trump supporter.  Almost. 

first day of soccer camp.

Slide static!

First day of pre-school

Pedicure cage!

original stenciled walls in a Broomfield, MA home

Beautiful 19th C stenciling in a Brimfiled home.

Lance's "mission" style leather office set from Brimfield Antiques market - sleeper sofa and chairs.  Took two trips to retrieve them!

The blue lamp shade was another Broomfield purchase, along with the last stand I purchased last go-round.

morning games with daddy, who returned from 9 days in California

Our Naturebabes hiking class has begun again.  This time, I'm not carrying anyone...

Daddy's new toy/our second car.

E's a little less camera shy than her boyfriend, Ollie!

First date on the new bike.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Misadventures in Auctioneering, or 4 Reasons to Take Your Children to Antique Auctions

So I, I mean we, went to our first antique auction today. It was a big Labor Day sale at a large auction house near the Vermont border.  Meaning, people came in from all over - even heard two English accents - to bid, including a very high brow collector class and personal buyers.

And then there were my babies plus bump. I was possibly the youngest adult in the room, and my children were the only children I saw there besides those selling the lemonade outside, and certainly the only south of five.

There are good reasons for this - auctions are a day-long, sit-down affair where furniture hundreds of years old (some were from the "Pilgrim Century" -1620-1720) is accessible to the touch.  And a few attendees, like the grumpy old woman and her coffee my stroller blockaded for 30 seconds before I moved it, believe us mothers should "get a babysitter!"

But I enjoyed going-with - my kids immensely.  Yes, they only lasted in their stroller and chair, respectively, sitting peacefully for 30 minutes, there was a whole lot of musical chairs/floor/aisle action going on, and after observing other attendees for a time, Gideon kept trying to bid and even took my placard for one terrifying moment (I saw the death of our family's net worth flash before my eyes!) to make good his attempt.  Then there was the time when I took my lot to the restroom and Esther pulled on my necklace, popping the string and creating a cascade of beads while I, a bit flustered and hastening our escape, assured concerned onlookers that no, don't bother hunting them off the floor, they're plastic (granted, a plastic I really liked!).  Or the time when we came back from the restroom and I, seeing it as an exercise in appropriately talking to and interacting with non-scary strangers, asked Gideon to please collect my beads from other people only to find him a few moments later slithered underneath three chairs in the row behind, reaching through the legs of startled auction-goers to retrieve the beads.  Once all of us realized what was happening, at least a radius three-rows deep were quietly in stitches.  

Through all the hilarium, I discovered a few good reasons to actually take children to these types of events. 

1) Their tastes are cultivated at a young age. Gideon will now often comment on furniture, as he did on the bench above, "Oooh, this is a very nice bench!" with appropriate inflection.  Not quite my style, but it can work for you, bud. 

2) It delights most to see little people in such an unexpected venue. So many complimented G and E on their style, and Gideon had his picture taken by a writer for Antiques & the Arts Weekly.  We'll see if it runs!

3) My children are learning manners and increasing their attention spans.  I did get 30 minutes of quiet, attentive interest and active learning from the proceedings.  Possibly because they are required to sit quietly at church for 70 minutes each week and I take them to non-kid-friendly venues often, I feel like their attention span for adult activities is perhaps longer than it is for other children.  Eventually, through a lot of snacks, musical chairs, and a final 40 minutes of an iPhone learning game, I got a total of two hours out of them where I could pay a reasonable amount of attention to the auction.

4) I save an enormous amount of time and money finding and then paying a babysitter.  Although the morning was rushed, they had to sit quietly for much of the morning, and they napped in the car ride home, I am still better at taking care of my kids than anyone else.  And I didn't want to pay anything more than gas if the auction was to be only a learning experience - I'm too cheap to be super competitive in a large bidding crowd - I will fare better at smaller auctions. 

What are your thoughts on taking children to such events and venues?  Do you do it?  Do you just stay home or get a sitter?  

Small Wonders:
* Esther has become quite bossy.  She believes that she understands all that needs to be done (she often does), when, and how, and is determined to get it done that way - without your help or getting in the way.  Today at the auction house, Esther became quite insistent in her baby voice that I "no, no, leave alone and go away!" when I attempted to pry her away from the iPhone so I could place a left bid.  She was so serious and had the gesticulation and expression just right (palm out, fingers splayed, pursed lips and browed forehead) that all I could do was laugh (and figure out a way to keep G happy while I gave E the iPhone and took her with me on my little errand).
* Gideon very kindly will try to care for Esther when in distress - hugging her, trying to figure out what she wants and then doing it.
* My favorite Gideon-isms of late: arriving at the State Fair-which he remembered from last year- with only trailers in sight saying, "Wow!  There's so much to see."  Gideon has started calling Esther "little lady."  Not sure where he got that from.  He'll often say, "Um, sure!"
* Esther can now sing all of "Tickle tickle little star" and almost all of "I am a Child of God."

Hopkinton State Fair 2016

Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial.  Was deeply peaceful, despite all efforts of my munchkins to make it otherwise.

Still can't get enough of them pigtails.

Esther is the biggest rock hoarder.  She often clings to objects and carries them around, but has a special affinity for rocks, and will carry as many as she possibly can.

Little boy on the prairie. I swear he's starting to pose for the camera.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Making Media Choices for Children

They might not consume much media, but they sure know how to operate a touch screen (and expect all screens to be touch)! Here they are at the National Constitution Center learning about farmer riots in the eighteenth century.  I'm sure they understood all of it. :-)
There was a moment at the doctor's after immunizations this week when Disney Princesses, Spiderman and Star Wars stickers were offered with near-zero response from my babes-who have never been exposed to any programming that coordinated with these child-culture pleasers-and I wondered if I had failed them a little bit as a parent.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children get an average of seven hours (!) of screen time a day, where they recommend 1-2 hours of quality programming, and none for children under two.

We have no TV and therefore no DVD player, which means that all of the movies or videos we watch come from Netflix, Youtube, or Apple downloads.  We own a few DVDs, including two children's educational DVDs, but having no DVD player, these never get watched.  Gideon's total screen time for a typical week is usually not more than 2-3 hours, and Esther more like 1-2, almost all on the iPad watching home videos, Youtube and Instagram feeds, a British children's learning show, Umizoomi, the ZooTrain learning app, or something church-related.  (No wonder they enjoy watching talking heads for General Conference!)

With so little media consumption, this week's experience made me pause to reflect whether I have been conscientious about the children's media consumption.  I concluded it had not been very thoughtful.

Much of my children's media consumption has been by default - we have no TV and therefore DVDs, to save time, or to limit behavioral issues that typical accompany Gideon's gloobie ways (he watched far more while potty training, and we halted training because his behavior, not his potty skills, became so problematic).

Yet even if the low media consumption is admirable, shouldn't I still be more diligent and thoughtful about the little they are taking in? We take great pains (especially Lance) in developing a thoughtful library of children's classics - shouldn't I expend some small percentage of that effort on developing something similar for multi-media consumption?

Netflix doesn't often offer classics (like Disney Princesses, Spiderman, or Star Wars), so, not having a TV, how do I cull a library or at least a list of Apple rent-ables for my children?

So...I need your help.  What are your recommendations for a classic children's video library?  (And I need to do the same for music!) What programming should I choose to expose my kiddos to with the precious little they get in?  Should I up their consumption? Based on response and research, I'll do a later post on what I develop.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Small Wonders
* Esther and Gideon officially weigh the exact same - 30.4 lbs. E may just surpass G soon, as she has taken to eating five pancakes in the morning and two pieces of bacon, plus whatever veggies and fruit I make in the morning.  Feeding my kiddos is one of the toughest things I do all day - keeping up with Esther's bottomless pit and not feeding her junk v. getting G to eat anything, especially the healthy stuff.  Esther is off the bottle, but she has begun requesting very specific foods upon waking or going to sleep - a banana, bread and peanut butter, a pouch, even bacon delivered to her sleep tent! (And no, I don't comply with all of it, but I certainly don't let her go hungry.)
* Until this week, G has not felt comfortable praying by himself.  For his personal prayers, we usually go over things that he is grateful for, and then ask what he would like help with before saying a prayer for him.  We've started to go to bed so late, however, that this process has reverted to him saying "just pray" and not wanting to be helpful at all.  I've made it a matter of prayer to figure out how to get him to pray and open his mouth, even just helping me know his heart and needs.  I've started to get them to bed earlier, and low and behold, Gideon has offered to pray all on his own this week.  I see it as a direct answer to my prayer!  He says beautiful little prayers, and can often differentiate between family-appropriate things and personal things to pray over.  They are heavy on the gratitude side of the equation, but we are only providing encouragement now and will work on developing the request side soon.  There is nothing more gratifying than hearing your child pray I've learned.  Must be how God feels.

E found this hat in the play things and insisted on wearing it all day. Love my little cowgirl.

It has been a heavy work week, but we did manage to join friends in our congregation on an amazing fire station tour

G has gotten really good at helping me clean out Chloe's cage, and can do several of the tasks by himself, like turning the hose off and on, putting sawdust in the litter tray, and cleaning out the muck with the hose.  He actually carried the big metal litter tray for a few seconds, saying "I'm such a big, strong boy!" Indeed.

Flea market tire-out this morning so we could do naps pre-church.  Kids both insisted on holding Lance's hand almost the entire time.

Main house project for the week.  Pretty pleased with how this yellow detailing turned out! Now I just need some blue and white knobs to tie it into the rest of the room, and it's done!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Eight Places to Find Vintage & Antiques Pieces for Cheap

I have started to get asked where I source all of my homes' antiques, so I thought I'd blog about it.  Now that we are finally done with one room in our little farmlette - well, the furniture part (we still have window treatments and wall hangings to go), I can also visually demonstrate the various places I get the vintage and antique items I place in my home. 

From cheapest to most expensive, here's where I find them:

1.  The Dump.  That's right.  I pick up other people's garbage.  Our dump (as you can read in this post) has several areas where people set aside unused items they would otherwise donate to a charity shop.  Except at the dump, it's free!  

See the little blue vintage hat box to the left of the dresser, and (partially hidden) the antique pail used as a garbage can?  Dump. I've gotten painted antique chairs, an antique drum table, a blue-painted folding hospital bed from the '50s, and, this last week, a whole box of antique bottles now on display in Lance's office.

2.  Goodwill pay-by-the pound.  Thrift stores (below) are great, but Goodwill's pay-by-the-pound is crazy cheap.  As in, I got this chair for $.50. That's right, $.50.

It's super comfortable and solid, likely mid-century.  I kept the dings and recovered it's lime-green upholstery with antique French grain sacks for $100.  Chair $.50, fabric $30, recovery $100, for a $135.50 chair I absolutely love.  Not bad!

3. Yard Sales.  If I possibly can, I stop by a yard sale.  Antiques and vintage items always have a story, but when you buy at a yard sale, you get to hear it.  Like the two antique dining chairs I got recently (currently being reupholstered) for $15 a piece - they were someone's grandmothers from French Canada.  The top bit had been hacked off - they told me when and why - and when I tore up the fabric, I found straw stuffing!  

I recently got the antique orange lantern (above) and yellow lamp with straw shade (below) from a yard sale in the Berkshires (Western Mass) for free - I only had ten Canadian dollars and a New Hampshire check, so they asked me to please take the items!

4. Thrift Stores.  The cobbler bench pictured above?  Goodwill in Manchester, NH for $5 (plus a chalk paint and sand job for another $30).  I also stop by thrift stores as I pass whenever I can and check out the furniture and home goods section.  It helps that my kids love playing with the unwrapped toys - Gideon's favorite thing.  I purchased the turquoise ironing board/chair/step ladder - already painted- from the Savers in Manchester for $13.  Favorite piece that finally found the right spot in our home.  I have gotten vintage baskets ($5), antique chairs for the living room ($5 a piece), Gideon's vintage Radio Flyer tricycle, an antique oil lamp, and the silver tray pictured atop the blue dresser ($10) and square antique mirror (10GBP), both pictured, all in mint conditions from various thrift stores.  The blue dresser?  120 years old with original paint from Goodwill in Concord for $60 - all I had to do was remove the wheels.

Thrift stores are great for antique linens.  I got the white hand-tatted lace-trimmed pillows from a local thrift store in Concord for $1/piece and the hand-made quilted pillow from a church flea market for $.50.

5. Craigslist.  Not to be used in other countries - it's Gumtree in the UK, where Craigslist is almost completely spammed out.  I purchased both our couches on Craigslist (currently at the reupholstered and not pictured), one for $100 (antique French settee), the other for $700 (Empire couch from the 1930's, recently recovered with down pillows) - the best place to look for large antique items, as shops have a hard time finding the floor space for them.  The bed pictured here likely would have been listed on Craigslist, but I got it from a new neighbor (now a dear friend!) for $300 - 18th century rope bed with custom-made mattress.  

6. Antique and Flea Markets

I loved Kempton Antique Market (technically Sudbury's) and Covent Garden's Piccadilly Market Antique Flea Market Mondays in London, and was amazed by Brimfield in Western Mass this summer.  You can find many antiques at bargain prices. I recently got a rare blue Persian rug for our living room at Brimfield and will be headed back in two weeks to try to find other treasures.

I also found the wash bin toile lamp pictured above atop the dresser at an Antique Market for $30. 

Flea markets are another treasure trove.  Here in New Hampshire, I can go to a flea market almost every day of the week during the summer, and have loved our local Davisville flea market, though it's only open Sundays; I can't recall having purchased anything there for the home yet, but am planning on going to New London soon, where many of the same vendors sell.

I found the following piece at the Brooklyn Flea Market recently for $90, down from $150.  A bit pricey for what I normally get, but that's Brooklyn I guess.

The antique chest came from a yard sale for $10.

7. Auctions

If you can find them, I hear they are great.  I am headed to my first on Labor Day - hoping to find a bed for Lance and myself - where I hear they are very cheap.

8. Antique Consignment Stores

I have had some luck with Consignment stores, mostly for dishes and small items, but also scored a few primitive (possibly 18th century) pieces, including a set of antique chairs on our deck and a stool by the fireplace (not pictured).  

With all of these places, the more you can hunt, keep an open mind (but also know what you are looking for), know value when you see it - both in terms of material and price, and know color schemes for various rooms, the more success you will find.  

Small Wonders 
* Gideon somehow picked up "meanwhile," and uses it appropriately.  We are all in stitches.
* Overheard this afternoon when I asked G to go get Esther out of her tent post-naps: Knock-knock.  E"sther, it's me, Gideon.  I'm your good friend, remember?  Can I get you up now?"
* Overheard the other day: "Did you have a busy day, Esther?"  "Guess what?  We have a problem in here [proceeds to describe the problem accurately - will spare you the potty-related details.]"
* E at the bottom of a slide: "Wow- fun!!"
* G& E will hold hands now when they are out and about - spontaneously, and without me asking them to do it.
* I am often asked if G& E are twins - I need to weigh them to see if G still beats Esther by a pound or two or not.

Three-D of our little girl.  See the note the doc put at the bottom?

Kids loved the National Constitution Center in Philly

They got to meet several of mommy's friends in Philly.

Dear friend Peggy Ducket showed us around the NCC, where she is a member.

Absolutely had to show them Independence Hall, despite the heat.
booties to visit the Temple Open House in Philly!
They made it!

Guess who is six months pregnant?!

Was thrilled to take my Penn supervisor and ConSource Board Member through the Philadelphia Temple Open House

Visiting New York was an adventure.  Stayed in Manhattan and spent our days in Westchester County and Brooklyn seeing friends.

G got a few hours with some of his best friends, Liam and Coco Clayton, and I got the same with my best friend, Sarah Jensen Clayton

This boy has become awesome at 1) dressing himself, and 2) picking blackberries
Now all we need is a motorcycle

Temple visiting teaching trip

This darling little 5 year old held Esther's hand almost the whole morning on temple grounds

Birthday tea party for dear friends

Eating her spaghetti on the beach (of the lake in town)

Farmers market - can you see the tiny performers?

Morning breaks in the blackberry patch 

Blessing of the animals - treats, candlelight vigil for deceased pets, and Sunday lunch in a pouch

Chloe got blessed!

Sometimes, you ride home naked because you've soiled your clothes, your brother's shorts, and the slide--sorry Hopkinton Rec Department - my preggo body couldn't fit up the twisty tube to clean this all, but I'll give you a call tomorrow!