Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wearing Shoes is Always A Good Idea

Do you notice any similarities between these two young ladies?

They're my daughters, obviously. They have dark brown hair, dark brown skin, and dark brown eyes.

Yes, those are the obvious things. But there is one more similarity that you may not be aware of: both of these girls love to be barefoot.

Which has led to another similarity.

In the past two weeks, we've had to go into the Center clinic to have large foreign objects removed from the soles of their feet. I don't think they planned to imbed splinters in their feet within such a short time, but it seems a little ironic.

This girl had a thorn that festered in her foot and despite her father's best digging efforts he was unable to get it out.

So she got to go to the clinic and have a fun little shot of anesthesia followed by digging and cutting which made her mother nearly lose it.

Thankfully, I'm good at putting on that fake mother's grin and pleasantly say, "Oh, yes!" multiple times during the minor surgery . . . and cause my teenage daughter to say, "Next time, Dad is coming with me instead."

Yesterday was my 10 year old daughter's turn to imbed something in her foot.

We're doing our best to help the Center clinic reach their budget for the year. Grr.

You can tell she was in a lot of pain at this point --

Ha! She's actually one of my toughest, most pain tolerant kids. So even when they stuck the needle in to deaden it and dug out the largest splinter the doctor (or my splinter-prone husband) had ever seen -- she barely flinched.

It was also a great opportunity to get caught up on her tetanus shots.

With that said, we are IMMENSELY blessed to have the Linguistics Center clinic. Would you like to guess what the combined cost was for both girls to have local anesthesia, foreign object extraction, and a tetanus shot? Less than $150 - total. Just imagine what the cost would have been if we had gone in to a regular doctor. Thank God for our Center doctors who volunteer their time.

Now if I can just convince the blue-eyed two-year-old in backwards pajamas to keep HER shoes on!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Happy Kids Songs: TOS Review

Happy Kids Songs is a product designed to "boost kids' character, social and emotional skills".

For my review, I received the download for:

Friends and Sharing (Set 1)
Happiness and Attitude (Set 5)
Manners and Character (Set 6)

The composer, Dr. Mac, was also the composer and music director for "Jay Jay the Jet Plane". I also received the (physical book) Happy Kids Songs Workbook: Hands-On Activities to Build Character, Social, and Emotional Skills.


I had a bit of difficulty in downloading the music, but once I did I had the option of burning it on to a CD (via Dropbox) or to download it on to a mobile device or MP3 player.

We downloaded them and played them directly off of my computer.

Overall Thoughts on the Music: The tunes are very catchy and they have a way of sticking in your head all day. And the next day. And the day after that. This was especially true with "Sailing on the Seven Cs"! By the way, the seven Cs are caring, consideration, commitment, communication, concern, curiosity, and cooperation.

These are good character traits to talk about with your children and we discussed how these different traits mentioned in the song contribute to being a good friend.

Not all of the songs are silly, catchy, and repetitive. Songs like "Everybody Wants to Find a Friend" tell little stories that apply to the child for situations they may encounter.

The songs are well done and professionally recorded. I did appreciate that part of it. We all know that music is a very powerful medium and highly effective in teaching children.

Overall Thoughts on the Workbook: For each song on the CDs, the workbook has an accompanying two page spread. One page has the lyrics, the other page has an activity for the child. These vary widely though for age-appropriateness. For one song, you may have a preschool level matching game or coloring page. For another song, you may have a fill-in-the-blank worksheet with "Something that makes me happy is . . . " or "I get angry when . . . "

So that kind of contradicts the ages 3-8 range that is suggested because I know my eight year old would be the absolute youngest that would be able to read, comprehend, and write in answers for that; at the same time, she'd be very bored with a "match the dog to the doghouse" activity on another page.

The back part of the book has activities that the parent/teacher can do with the child to reinforce the concepts taught with the songs. Honestly, I can see this working better in a classroom setting. Most of these are things that we just wouldn't use at home.

One Final Note: I need to say this just because I know many of you are Christians. While I didn't find anything objectionable in any of the lyrics, I want you to know that these songs are written from a highly moral but definitely secular viewpoint. In our house, we teach about these good character traits like mentioned in the Happy Kids Songs but we do try to back it up or explain it through the lens of Scripture.

Ages: 3 - 8
Price: $12.56 (workbook); $4.95 (EP of the songs)

To find out more:

Twitter: @howsyourfam

Samples are available on the website.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Potty Training, Essential Oils, Birthdays, and Other Randomness

You know that you've run out of creative titles when you're forced to create a word like "randomness", and then you look it up because you're a word person who has to know these things, and you find out that "randomness" is actually a word.

"Randomness" is defined, by me at least, as posting pictures that have nothing to do with the actual text of the blog post.

1. Late Summer and Early Fall - Well, it's birthday season at the Toliver house. It starts off with this boy's birthday in July,

Which we celebrated with friends in the midst of our July travels.

And then this sweet little blonde girl had a birthday earlier this week. She's nine, which doesn't seem even remotely possible.

This was extra-special because of having grandparents who live close enough to celebrate with us.

And grandmas are always conscious of keeping long hair away from flaming birthday candles.

Not to mention the fact, it's nice to have my mom around who makes beautiful birthday dessert pizzas for my daughter! (you didn't think that I would have made a dessert that pretty, did you?!)

2. How Many Teenagers?! Speaking of birthdays, these two are currently my only teenagers . . . (ignore the photo-bombing 7 year old)

But later this fall, this twelve year old will become a teenager.

So here's a crazy Toliver statistic for you: Like I said, I "only" have 2 teenagers right now. It will be THIRTEEN YEARS before I "only" have 2 teenagers again. Apparently, that's what happens when you have eight children in fairly rapid succession - you get a lot of teen years.

3. Earth Shattering Announcement - Are you sitting down? Okay, seriously, make sure you're sitting down, because this will be a shock to some of you.

I'm trying essential oils from doTERRA.

It's kind of a long, involved story but I'm about to embark on "The Skeptic's Journey with Essential Oils". I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, tell me your experiences with essential oils. I'm all ears.

Oh, and don't bother with the jokes about "Pennzoil" or "snake oil". My husband has already completely covered that.

4. Potty Training Progress . . . or lack thereof. This adorable little smarty-pants can stay dry for hours and hours and hours. She often wakes up from naps dry and even has overnight a couple of times. But she isn't too impressed with going in the toilet, so we've had very few "scores".

(If you've never potty trained a toddler, this will all seem nonsensical to you. But for those of you who have actually labored in the trenches - hypothetically speaking - to potty train a two-year-old, you understand.)

This morning we actually had a big success, which I won't detail for you, but chocolate chips were the reward. Which would explain the brown marks on her face.

In general, I believe that bribery has no place in child training. However, that does not apply to potty training - and I bribe judiciously and unapologetically. It's worked for the first seven kids and I'm hoping it works with this one too.

5. My Biggest Potty Training Success Story -- Okay, I realize I've probably lost some readers with points #4 and now #5; however, if you're still with me I have to tell you about child #7.

Please ignore the pained expression on her face. Her face looks like that because she was in the middle of complaining about some perceived offense committed by her seven year old brother. Since it usually takes two people, I was completely unsympathetic.

Anyway, so child #7, as pictured above, is now five years old but shortly after she turned two I decided to try to potty training her. Within a couple of hours of starting the PT process, she decided she absolutely hated being wet and would SHRIEK if she started to have an accident. As a result, within ONE DAY she started staying for the entire day and night with nary an accident.

What did I do different to make this one child miraculously potty train herself in less than 24 hours? Absolutely nothing. Children #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 have ranged from average to immensely difficult in potty training.

So when people ask me if I have any potty training advice I just say, "Yes! Have 7 kids!"

Because that's apparently what does it.

And with that incredibly profound advice, I'm going to close for today. (I may have already lost all of you)

But actually this is a much better way to end this post --

"But let all who take refuge in You be glad,
Let them ever sing for joy;
And may You shelter them,
That those who love Your name may exult in You."
Psalm 5:11

Have a great Thursday!

(Miranda has more randomness over here!)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kids In the Kitchen

I'll just say it: having kids work with you in the kitchen is highly inconvenient, often counterproductive (at least short-term), and occasionally stress-inducing.

However, "kids in the kitchen" is one of my big goals for preparing my children for life. While they are learning valuable life skills, we are also enjoying working together.

One of my most reliable sources - a source who wishes to remain anonymous (see? I sound like a real journalist!) - has been a great example when it comes to kids working in the kitchen  from little on up. I remember her oldest daughter making pancakes, from scratch all by herself, at age eight - cooking them on the griddle too. What a great way to teach responsibility (including taking care around hot things!) and to give them a sense of accomplishment.

Here are some other goals this fellow mom has for her kids working in the kitchen:

  • At age 7.5 make breakfast oatmeal.
  • At 9 make yeast bread loaves.

Her goal was also to have her kids do all the bread baking by age 15, but when this mama started having allergies to wheat dust her oldest daughter took over the bread baking by age 13.

It takes effort to set these goals and to stick to them - but it's worth it!

While I'm not as diligent or ambitious as she is, I do have my kids working side-by-side with me in the kitchen on a regular basis by age four. Dirty fingers get dipped in batter, bigger messes are created - but you know what? They are having so much fun and they are learning great lifelong skills.

Here are some things that make the kitchen time happier for all involved:

1. Limit the number of kids working. This obviously doesn't apply if you have one child, or even two. However, when you have five young children under the age of eight begging to help (which I did for a period of time), well, limitations are nice. I usually limit it to two. This way if they come running into the kitchen asking if they can help, they know that it's a set rule, and I'm not saying "no" because I don't want them. With smaller numbers of workers, I can also focus on teaching specific skills which are hard to teach when there are lots of little, impatient bodies at one counter. Here are some basic things I teach very early on (all of these things can be taught at age 3-4): 

  • using the back of the butter knife to level flour in the measuring cup
  • the difference between whisking, stirring, and folding
  • fractions - cleverly disguised as measurements
  • wiping up the counters and cleaning up after yourself
  • kneading bread dough

Now just think what a tremendous help it will be a few years down the road to have a responsible seven year old who can do all the measuring for a cake you are racing to put together at the last minute!

2. Assign a day for older kids to cook a meal.  Ten years old is when I've started this with my kids. I'll be honest: my older boys don't do this regularly. But my almost eleven year old and fourteen year old daughters have a day assigned weekly that they have freedom to cook. Note points 3 and 4 below. This week my ten year old daughter has chicken and dumplings planned (actually turkey, but I consider them interchangeable!). It was her choice to do this recipe and one she'll be able to do with very little help from me.

3. Allow creativity. My oldest daughter - age 14 - is different than me in several ways. When it comes to cooking, I want to keep it basic and simple. She likes to do something new and different and while she's at it, she likes to decorate the table too. (I think that if there is salt, pepper, and napkins, that should be enough decoration!) However, I really try to encourage this creativity because it's really her artistic side coming through.

4. Encourage them to think frugally as well. I'm not doing my kids any favors if I don't teach them frugality in the kitchen. So when we consider recipes for their meal choice, we think of ways to make it more cheaply because we really do keep our grocery spending as minimal as possible. This is another great life skill to learn!

5. Don't sweat the small stuff. I remember having my children in a line at the counter (this was before I always limited the number of "helpers") - each child dropped a different part of the recipe into the pan for the beef potpie. Someone added the carrots, another added the potatoes, another added the gravy, my blonde son added the beef -- I looked down the line and saw that blonde son pre-chewing the beef and then spitting it in the pan.

No, we weren't having company that night . . .

Regardless, it's always good for me to remember to patiently teach them what is expected of them in the kitchen without freaking out about everything.

If you are one of those mothers who tends to be OCD, well, please relax and let your kids work with you anyway. What do you want your kids remembering some day? A mother who was so obsessively concerned about germs and messes that she never let the kids in the kitchen? Or a mother who worked with her children teaching them to cook and making great memories in the meantime?

Let me know what things your children enjoy cooking! I'm always open to new ideas!
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