Monday, December 29, 2008

Au Revoir

I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed seeing some of those old posts Erin dug out for this month. She did a great job selecting favorites. It reminded me of how much time and love we have put into this little blog over the past several months. I for one can attest to the fact that researching and writing up these posts have helped me become a better mom, and for that I am so grateful. Anything I can do to make my mothering skills more effective and enjoyable ranks high on my priority list. Hopefully all you wonderful readers have also reaped some benefits as you checked in from time to time. That was our original goal after all--mothers strengthening each other in our role as the primary nurturer to our children.

We have come to a decision that admittedly was very difficult. Even after the changes we made in September, we feel Laugh, Learn, Love needs a little vacation. I know, I know, we had our break in December with the re-postings. The thing is, we have to consider what is best for our families and ourselves, and right now they need our full attention and energy. (Did I mention I'm half way through 7 different moves in a 9 month period this year, oh, and I'm presently 6 months pregnant?) Unfortunately, LLL temporarily gets the cold shoulder. Don't worry though, we look at it as a perfect time to test out new projects and activities on our own, grow our stockpile of great links, and prepare for a better blog in the future. We can't say exactly how long LLL will be on hiatus, but it will probably be several months at the least. We encourage you to add us to your Google Reader list if you haven't already. That way you will know if we are back in the posting business. Untill then, enjoy what we and other mothers have contributed to this blog over the past year and keep finding ways to lovingly nurture your children every day.

Thanks so much for all you have given us. We'll see you soon.

Deneal and Erin

Friday, December 26, 2008

Re-Post: The Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, is a perfect back to school book for all young readers. I know many teachers use it in their first day curriculum, but why not do some projects together right at home after reading the book. Here are two ideas.

1. Trading Hands. Trace and cut out your child's hand and your own hand onto some stiff card stock or cardboard. Give your hand to your child to decorate while you are busy decorating their hand. Use stickers, crayons, markers, etc.--anything that helps you to show how much you love that person. Then punch a hole in the palm part of the hand and loop some twine, yarn, or string through the hole. Tie your child's hand ( the one you decorated) onto their backpack and hang your hand somewhere in your home or office as a reminder of that love. You both have kissing hands to help you through the day.

2. Kissing Hand Cookies. Make sugar cookies and use a hand cookie cutter as your shape. You can either cut a small heart out of the center of the dough or just decorate with frosting and sprinkles once they are baked. Remember to send one in your child's lunch the next day with a special love note from you.

In case you are not yet familiar with this delightful book, here is a review from Publishers Weekly for The Kissing Hand:
In her foreword to Penn's sugary tale about Chester, a young raccoon who would rather stay at home than go to school, Jean Kennedy Smith notes that the story is "for any child who confronts a difficult situation, and for the child within each of us who sometimes needs reassurance." Its obvious message is delivered by Mrs. Raccoon, who tells her son that "I know a wonderful secret that will make your nights at school seem as warm and cozy as your days at home." She then kisses his palm, and Chester feels the kiss "rush from his hand, up his arm, and into his heart." Whenever he gets lonely, she advises, he is to press his hand to his cheek and "that very kiss will jump to your face and fill you with toasty warm thoughts." As it may for youngsters in comparable situations, this "secret" works for Chester, who in turn kisses his mother's palm so that she, too, will be reassured.

Midweek Pick Me Up
I realized over the last couple of weeks that I have been thinking things like this: "Wow, Deneal does such fun activities with her child. And he doesn't even watch any TV." "Staci always has such fun projects going on with her kids. They get so many opportunities to create neat things." "Deborah is such a fun person. I know she's a fun mom too." "Jenni has an infinite amount of patience as a mother." I noticed that all of these thoughts had an undercurrent of, "I'm just a big ball of stress right now with the upcoming move. I'm ignoring my children way too frequently. They are fighting more often and I'm sure it's my fault." Then I had a lightbulb moment:

When we compare ourselves with others, we're comparing the best they have to offer with the worst we have to offer.

It's useless to compare ourselves with others. If something must be done, evaluate yourself. And if you are going to evaluate yourself, recognize your strengths in addition to your weaknesses. Yes, we're moving, so it's okay to be stressed out. It will get better. And I read to my children, sometimes for an hour. And I make paper airplanes all of the time, even though I don't like to! Our kids love and appreciate us for the things we do for and with them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Re-Post: Dry Ice

This week, I went to the store to purchase dry ice to put in my new buckets of food storage flour (I've been told dry ice kills any bugs or anything that may be in flour - it may be an old wives' tale but I still do it), and on a lark I bought a couple of extra pieces. I told my 5 year old on the way home from the store that we were going to do something very fun with dry ice, and since he had never seen it at work before, his interest/excitement was piqued. I asked him what would happen when I put the dry ice in water, and he said, "I don't know." Trying to make this a teaching moment, I prodded and asked him to guess what he thought might happen. He said, "Will it change colors? Will it float? Will it melt?" What great hypotheses! So I put the first piece in cold water and both boys watched it with awe. Then I showed them how blowing on it makes the steam/fog move out of the way. While blowing on it, E said, "It smells like the humidifier water." So we talked about how it is releasing carbon dioxide, like when we breathe out, and what creates the bubbles in soda pop. Then when the first piece melted, I asked them what they thought would happen if we put the next piece in hot water instead of cold (it bubbles even more and makes more steam/fog). This was a fun opportunity to use the scientific method to teach my kids about the properties of dry ice.
Midweek Pick Me Up
I want to share a quote from the author Anna Quindlen.

“The biggest mistake I made [as a parent] is the one that most of us make. … I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of [my three children] sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less” (Loud and Clear [2004], 10–11).

Ok mothers of young children, how many times have you heard this advice? Ten, twenty, a hundred times. Me too. And yet, I still forget it many days. I'm too busy squeezing in another craft project just to check it off the list, rather than viewing it as a chance to bond. I'm snapping photos like mad to preserve the moment for me rather than imprinting it in my own memory. I'm longing for the silence that accompanies nap and school hours rather than delighting in the cheerful noise that tells me someone who loves me is by my side. It's so easy to yearn for the past or future, no wonder we need reminders to live in the moment. Try to get a little less done today, and enjoy the present. After all, the dishes can always be done tomorrow. :-)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Re-Post: Sun Prints

Sun prints are so much fun for the kids to do. This needs to be done once it is sunny in your yard so fairly early in the morning. What you need is simple a piece of dark construction paper and items you want the sun to make a print of. Place these items randomly all over your paper and forget about them till late afternoon! Now after you're done you can take the items off and the sun has bleached out the paper around the items but the color is still bold where the items were! My 2 girls, 7 and 2, love to do this they make lots of sun prints and we save some to make into cards and some I use for matching games for my little 2 yr old! Try making sun prints today you can make all kinds from items around your house, nature items or cut out shapes and such! A word of caution if it's windy and your items are light weight they might blow off so you can use some tape or repostional glue. I hope you enjoy making this with your kids as much as I have with mine!

Midweek Pick Me Up
It's a simple little quote from a great man, M. Russell Ballard:
There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children.
Do you realize that you can do things for your children that no other mother could do for them? Regardless of their age, your children need what you alone have to offer them. (At 30 I'm seeing how much I need my mom, and not someone else's, to help me figure out life!) Don't waste time doubting your abilities or comparing your qualifications against someone else's; just jump right in and create those moments every day when you can laugh and learn and love together. You'll never regret it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Re-Post: Rice Box

This is a fantastically fun activity for anyone who doesn't have the space or luxury of having a sandbox (i.e. apartment living, deathly allergic to sand, whatever). Get a large, shallow box and fill it halfway full with rice. I bought the big store brand bag of rice on the bottom shelf at the local grocery story. Then buy a small bag of "jewels" from the craft section at Wal-Mart.

Then add sandbox toys and a large tablecloth and voilĂ ! A rice box. I used to put it either outside on the patio or in the kitchen. When the kids are finished, you just move the rice box, pick up the four corners of the tablecloth and let the rogue pieces of rice fall to the center of it, and then dump it back into the rice box. Put the top back on and you're done! Well, okay, unless your kids threw rice around and then you may need to do a little sweeping. But my kids used to spend hours picking every jewel out of the rice, putting them in the bucket, and pouring them back into the rice. Over and over. This is a great winter-time activity when they can't get outside much, or a great summertime activity when it is too hot to be running around outside!

Midweek Pick Me Up

My next few pick me ups may come from a book written by Jane Clayson Johnson, called I Am A Mother. It's honest, uplifting, and well-written. It's written from an LDS perspective, so it includes Christlike principles to help you realize the importance of motherhood. This paragraph in the book struck me when I read it; I'll tell you why afterward.
"I'm willing to bet (no pun intended) that most of us don't remember what horse
won the Kentucky Derby three years ago, or who owned the horse. On the
other hand, I'm also willing to bet that your children can remember a trip to
the park, a favorite family story, a late-night talk after a first date, and
dozens of other things you have done each and every day as a mother."

When I was first married, I worked with a woman who told me that Santa didn't come to their house. Instead, they used all of the money they would have spent on gifts to take the family on a Christmas vacation every year. One year they went to Disneyland, one year they went to Hawaii, one year they went to a ski resort. She told me that her kids (who were married with kids of their own) loved the memories created from these vacations, and that they still talked about things that happened many years earlier. Besides some extra-special gift you may have pined for, can you remember what you got for Christmas every year? Now think: are there special memories or traditions that you remember and treasure from your childhood?

Create a memory. Start a tradition. Your kids will love you even more for it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Re-Post: Pretend Play

Lately, Pretend Play has been once again gaining respect in the education department. I first read an NPR article titled Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills that I had seen referenced over on the Growinginpeace blog. It discusses how kids have become less self-regulated over the years--that essentially means they don't learn how to control themselves anymore--in part because they aren't engaging in pretend play. The study showed that pretend play allows children to act out social roles, and let them practice reacting in certain situations. (Those are my words; the conclusion I have come to after reading lots of information.) By the way, self-regulation is a huge predictor of how well the child will later do in school (and in life situations I might add). I'd like to write a nice long post with all my thoughts on it, but for now I'll cut to the Bright Idea part. I trust you will go read this short article to get a better idea of the importance of this activity.

To help our home engage in pretend play on a regular basis I decided to make two lists: a list of people (occupations), and a list of places. We then randomly choose one from each list and act it out. You can't imagine what fun it is to pretend you are a Zoo Keeper in a Library, or dentist on the moon, or a pirate at his birthday party. It keeps your child's interest and tests their ability to think through a new situation and what needs to change. And it's just plain fun.

If you would like to get a copy of my list, you can email me at (the L words are in alphabetical order if you forget). But be patient as I might not get around to sending it until next week.

Another pretend play option is to act out stories you read regularly; fairy tales are the perfect example. If you can get a few different versions of a story, that helps too. It teaches your child how to adapt to the changes in detail without altering the essential storyline.

Midweek Pick Me Up
My mother taught me to always do my best, and this has been one of the most important lessons learned in my life. Life was not a competition--I didn't have to prove I was better than anyone--but I was expected to give a full effort at anything I did. There were times (and probably years) that I chose to ignore that counsel, but the principle had been taught, and it wouldn't easily be forgotten.

Of course I'm not the only one who had a mother that pushed for excellence:
"When I was a child, my mother said to me, 'If you become a soldier, you'll be a general. If you become a monk you'll end up as the pope.' Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso."
-- Pablo Picasso

Can you imagine being mother to Picasso? Think of the enormous effect of those expressions of confidence which she gave him.

Coming across this quote and reflecting on my own experiences reminded me that as mothers, we have the enormous ability to instill confidence and encourage aspirations in these sweet little minds. We can't afford to underestimate the power of our words.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Re-Post: Meal of the Week

I think I am not alone in my dinner menu boredom, and I know I am not alone in my struggle to get small mouths to accept my kitchen creations. This idea is something to boost the excitement for you and your kiddos when it comes to family dinner. Each week we have a special meal (usually dinner, sometimes breakfast or lunch depending on my husband's schedule) based on a theme drawn out of our Meal of the Week jar. My son is involved in planning the menu, shopping and preparing the food. It helps him feel adventurous about trying the new foods and provides opportunities for learning moments along the way. At the end of our special dinner we choose another paper for the following week and the anticipation starts again.
Here's our jar. Nothing fancy at all.

The themes influence the food, or the decorations, or both. Here is our current list of themes to get you started on your own:
No utensils/silly utensils (ladles, spatulas, etc.)
Backwards (dessert first)
Taste Test
Progressive Meal (room to room)
Dinner and a movie
Eat out
Boys cook

You can also try using a favorite book, movie, or song as the basis for a theme. If you are familiar with another country, or know someone who is, definitely use it for a theme. Be creative and make it fun for everyone.

Midweek Pick Me Up
I've been sitting on this article for a few weeks, waiting for the right time. Since this week's theme is Smile, I figured my moment to share has arrived. It's a short CNN piece by Robert Barnett (a former Parenting health editor) titled: How to Be a Happier Mom: 8 Ways to Focus on the Positive

Barnett states that to be a happier mom first we must value what we do, and then we need to find ways to enjoy it more. He gives 8 suggestions to help parents do just that. You have to check it out to get the full story (which I highly encourage), but let me share a couple points I particularly appreciated.

(Re)consider your priorities
"It's how you spend your time, not your money, that counts."

Go with the Flow
"Bringing more of your best qualities -- your strengths -- to the often mundane tasks of child rearing can also help you feel more engaged."

Say thanks
"Feeling grateful is a mood booster."

And two more quotes I couldn't resist sharing:

"Of course, even if you do all of these things, you'll still have bad days. But at least you'll be less likely to think there's something wrong with you."

"Happiness is more than just that smiley feeling . . . It's also feeling a connection to something larger than yourself. When people are in service to something bigger, they describe their lives as filled with meaning. It's not the smiley face, but when it's all over, you realize you'd do it again."

I came aways from this little article yet again rediscovering (how many times will I have to "learn" this principle?) that I am in control of my happiness. By harnessing my thoughts I can guide my feelings with a decent degree of success. I love the empowering ring to that idea.

One more thought. I believe that as a parent masters these methods for thinking positively, a powerful example is set for those ever observant children. So, while keeping my smile during during motherhood is important to me (absolutely crucial to my sanity at times!), passing these skills on to my son is even more significant. What could make a mother happier than to see her child learn to love all of life's ups and downs because they have been prepared with the right tools?