The Parenting Buffet

The Parenting Buffet: Yes, you can babywear and sleep trainOnce upon a time, when Dominic was first born and I thought I knew everything (hahahahahahaha, oh how I laugh at my younger self. I hope everyone that I was a total jerk to forgives me), I held fast to a certain parenting philosophy (more on that in another post).

What this philosophy was wasn’t important, but I now regret it. I held on so tight to this parenting philosophy as if it was a holy grail. And while I don’t want to get too much into that today as I’m working on another post that will talk more about that, what I do want to talk about today is the philosophy I embrace now.

You probably won’t find any parenting books or blogs about this, because if they exist I haven’t found them. But I embrace what I’ve come to call the parenting buffet or if you prefer, Smorg parenting. Though I don’t use the word smorg as often as I do buffet, so I thought for clarity’s sake, I would call it the parenting buffet.

Simply put, I no longer believe there is one overarching parenting philosophy that will raise the best kids (this will also be another post later) but that there are many good ideas from all walks of life and most parenting books and philosophies.

Now, I still like to read and take in information.  Then I can make a decision for myself about what I think will work for my kids.

I am sure that to some of you this may sound like a ‘No duh!’ realization, but for me, I really feel best when I have instructions to follow. I don’t think admitting this about myself is a bad thing. Sometimes this is a strength and sometimes this is a weakness. In parenting, this is definitely a weakness because there are no instructions out there for parenting. Of course, the vast number of books out there would try to convince you otherwise.

Realizing that I could take parenting advice and pick and choose from it like it was a buffet was a huge shift for me. Don’t like green olives? That’s fine, in the buffet you don’t have to take them. Don’t like some parenting advice? That’s fine, in the buffet of parenting advice, you don’t have to take it. But vice versa, you can pull separate parts of different schools of thoughts and bring them to work together. Like french fries and cream cheese frosting, not all combinations that work well together seem obvious from the get go.

Yes, you can babywear and sleep train. You can feed your kids organic and also go to McDonald’s sometimes. You can give your kids choices and also give them things they have to do sometimes. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing. This isn’t a restaurant where they serve you one thing and one thing only and you have to eat it for the rest of your life. No, you can make the combinations you want because it’s a buffet.

I hope that you stuck with me to the end and that this post made sense to you. This was a freeing concept for me and I hope that it might be for you too.

How would you describe your parenting philosophy? What do you think of my buffet approach? 

Tiny Polka Dot

Disclaimer: I received Tiny Polka Dot for free as I am a part of Timberdoodle’s review team for the 2017-2018 school year. I’m excited about the opportunities this brings me to my blog and very excited to showcase some neat products for you. I hope that you’ll find these reviews enjoyable and helpful as well! As always, this blog will only ever be my 100 percent honest opinions. 

Tiny Polka Dot size reference pictureAs you may know, in our house, we play a lot of games. For as long as I can remember, I have loved board games and card games of all kinds. My family even has our own card game. So, it has been my great delight to be able to pass that love onto my children. We play together frequently.

But we don’t just play for fun – we also play because games are a great way to build so many skills. There are skills that they teach that can’t be measured. These are things like taking turns and learning how to be a gracious winner and loser. Then, there are other skills that can be quantified more easily, like math, which is the main skill focus on Tiny Polka Dot.

I assumed from the name Tiny Polka Dot that it would be small. However, it was a lot smaller than I expected. Which is great! I love small games because they travel so well. This game is a great size to toss in a bag. We frequently bring games places we might have some downtime. You can see from the picture that it’s easily held in one hand. Allen playing Tiny Polka Dot

Don’t let its small size fool you. With 66 cards in six suits, it also includes 8 rule cards which have instructions for 16 different games. Plus, that doesn’t even touch the number of games you could invent with the cards on your own. Dominic loves to invent games. After we had played a few of the games, he was already wanting to make his own.

For me as the mom, one of the things that I most appreciated about the game besides its small size was the durability of the cards. They will hold up well, though they will bend if you are being too rough with them. I also appreciated that the cards weren’t just numerals. Actually, the six suits have different visual representations of numbers. There is the traditional dice representation, but also a grid representation, a circle representation, and more. The dots are great for one on one correspondence, which I am working on with my youngest Allen, who is 2. But this game is incredibly versatile and can really grow with your kids as they grow up. With the same set of cards, we could play games that were easy enough for Allen, but also challenging enough for Dominic, who is 5. Tiny Polka Dot CollageMy kids definitely enjoyed this game. It helped Allen to slow down and really count the dots. Frequently when counting he just rattles off numbers rapidly. But this game is definitely helping to teach him to actually count. Dominic was having so much fun I don’t even think he was learning different ways that you can add up to 10 or 15. He found the blue dot cards which have the numbers in a grid of 10 especially helpful. These cards allowed him to easily see how many were left that he needed in order to be able to add up to ten. When I asked him about Tiny Polka Dot, he told me it was cool. He also said he liked how many different ways you could play it.

The only downside that I could see to this game is that I felt like a few of the instruction cards weren’t clear. However, with so many ways to use it, you are still having a fun time with your house rules. You don’t need to play it 100 percent the right way to have fun or to learn. Overall, I’d highly recommend Tiny Polka Dot, it’s a really great bunch of games in a tiny package and a reasonable price point! It would definitely be a great addition to any home or classroom.It’s also a new addition to the PreK kit from Timberdoodle, which we used last year and loved. I think this is a solid addition to that kit in the math department.  This is especially true since it will definitely grow with your kids. You will be able to use it in PreK and well beyond as well.

Have you ever played Tiny Polka Dot? What are your math struggles? What are your favorite math games? 

Weird but True: The Kentucky Meat Shower

The Kentucky Meat Shower happened on an ordinary farm, just like this one

The Kentucky Meat Shower happened on an ordinary farm, just like this one

Today, I’d like to take you back in time to a weird but true part of American history that I recently heard about. The Kentucky Meat Shower.

Now, you may be asking yourself. What in the world is a meat shower?

Well, it is, in some ways, exactly what it sounds like. Meat, raining from the sky, like a rain shower. It happened in March of 1876 in Kentucky, when flakes of meat fell from the sky. Some pieces were big, other pieces were merely like snowflakes. It was witnessed by a woman making soap in her front yard and her husband.

And I know what you’re thinking, it’s a hoax! But actually, it was reported on as being serious by several major sources, including the New York Times, so it’s unlikely that it was a hoax. (The New York Times article, by the way, is delightful in only the way that old style reporting can you. You have to read it.)

Nobody is quite sure what kind of meat it is, though some people who tasted it said it was either mutton or venison. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t think I would have been brave enough to try mystery meat that fell from the sky with no apparent explanation. Some also said that it was beef or even bear meat.

Scientists even came to collect samples and they thought it might have been lung tissue either from a horse or a human infant. Now, it sounds like those two things would be hard to mix up, but you have to remember that this was 1876 and things were not the same for science as they were now. For context, the meat shower happened about a week before Alexander Graham Bell made his first successful telephone call. So for it to spread as far as it did and for as many people to hear about it as they did is kind of remarkable. Imagine if there was a meat shower today and how fast that would be all over Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

However, they were able to further back up that these samples were muscle, cartilage, and lung tissue, even though they didn’t know what kind of animal they came from.

For a while, they thought it was Nostoc. Which apparently you can eat, but look at that, who would want to? There was also, briefly, a theory that like the asteroid belt, there was a meat belt in space. I mean, we know this to be completely impossible, but I find it highly amusing to imagine.

Now, do you want to know what caused it? The most likely theory?

Vultures. Yup, those carnivorous scavenger birds. Apparently, they will vomit when they are scared or need to take altitude quickly. Definitely reason number two not to eat strange falling meat from the sky because it could be vulture vomit. But, then you ask, how come no one saw the vultures? Well, apparently, some species of vultures can fly at 40,000 feet.  That’s taller than Mt. Everest, so I understand that that might not be visible to the human eye.

Have you ever heard of the Kentucky Meat Shower before? What’s your reaction to this strange but true history? Do you have any great alternate theories about what caused it? 


Bible Reflection Sheet for Kids

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Last week or so, I turned to Facebook looking for a Bible reflection sheet for kids in Dominic’s age range (Kindergarten/lower elementary). We are reading through the Bible one chapter at a time. This will probably take us forever, but I think it’s good for both of us. However, I wanted a way for him to not just hear, but also think about what we were reading. I asked my friends and in a Facebook group, but I wasn’t finding quite what I was looking for, so I decided to make my own. I also googled, but there are about a billion things on google when you are looking for Bible stuff and when I couldn’t easily find it, I figured it would be faster just to make my own. And then, I figured, if I was looking for this, other people probably were too. So, I thought I’d share it here for you.

I asked my friends and in a Facebook group, but I wasn’t finding quite what I was looking for, so I decided to make my own. I also googled, but there are about a billion things on google when you are looking for Bible stuff and when I couldn’t easily find it, I figured it would be faster just to make my own. And then, I figured, if I was looking for a Bible reflection sheet for kids, other people probably were too. So, I thought I’d share it here for you.

do have to tell you that it is not pretty or fancy. It is very basic, but it gets the job done. I wanted a space where Dominic could draw a picture as well as write what happened. While he can write, at this point getting his thoughts down in long sentence form can be frustrating for him. His brain often moves faster than his fingers. So, usually, I let him dictate that part to me and I write it down for him.

We do talk about what happened, but I try very hard not to guide him in what he says in the dictation part, though sometimes I do give him prompts about what is happening if he tells me he can’t think of anything, like “What did Moses do?” (We’re in Exodus).

I also included a section to circle what part of the Bible it’s from. This is because we’ve been having a lot of discussions lately about Old Testament and New Testament and what the difference is.

You can see an example here of one we did last week. In case you can’t tell, the picture is a tent and the little circles around it are Manna.

Bible Reflection Sheet for Lower Elementary Students

BibleReflection.pdf (105 downloads)

Let me know if you download the Bible reflection sheet for kids what you think of it! 

Ella Builds a Wall by Ruth McKeague Book Review

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free, but as always, this is my honest and truthful opinion. If you buy the book through my link, part of the money will come back to me. Just through reading this review you are supporting me, so thanks! 

I am very excited today to bring to you a review of a new book, Ella Builds a Wall by Ruth McKeague. As you might know, we are big readers in this house. I read a lot. My kids read a lot. We own over 1,000 books, 800 or so of those alone being children’s books. Needless to say, including library books, my children and I have read a lot of books. However, just because we have read a lot of books, it does not stop us from the Ella Builds a Wall by Ruth McKeague continued search for children’s books. Reading has so many benefits. And our continued search for children’s books helps to broaden my children’s view of the world. You can learn about so many people and places and parts of the world through books.

But enough about reading – let’s talk specifically about Ella Builds a Wall. 

Name of book: Ella Builds a Wall

Author: Ruth McKeague

Summary: I think that these videos do a great job of the summary, so instead of reading my summary of the book, I’d encourage you to watch the summaries below instead! You can also read about Ruth’s journey of writing this book. 

Rating:  5 stars

Reason for Rating  

In Ella Builds a Wall, Ella learns from her Sensei about the walls that we build around people. She learns about the walls that make us stronger and help us defend ourselves. She also learns the walls that make us weaker by shutting people out. As a kid, I was bullied and I was often told to Dominic Reading Ella Builds a Wall by Ruth McKeagueignore the bullies, which, to be honest, I don’t think is exceedingly helpful advice. Even if I didn’t ignore them, it didn’t change how I felt on the inside after hearing mean things. I feel like this book provides an excellent framework, as a parent, to be able to discuss with our kids what is in their control – which is their emotions and their reactions. I want to use this with my kids to be able to talk to them about how we are the master of our feelings. That’s something that I still struggle with as an adult. However, I hope that I will be able to give them the tools so they don’t have to struggle when they are my age. I loved that it wasn’t just about Ella fighting bullies. It was also about how to be a good friend to people that you think are strange and not at all like you. In the book that’s Sarah, who is not the bully, but who Ella thinks she has nothing in common with. The book shows them able to become friends. The book made me think about all the times that we build walls and shut people out. We think that their actions are directed at us. Really, they are just trying to live their lives and get through the things we are all trying to get through. Dominic told me the book was “very cool” and “great!” I’d recommend this book for kids who are struggling with bullies or with big emotions. I think that you could even use this in sibling relationships. I think it is a good read with Dominic now. However, I’m excited to see how he can grow with this book and how we can talk about it more as he grows and changes.

Thank you again to Ruth for providing me with a copy of this book! It was an excellent read and I hope that you enjoy it as well! If you’d like to purchase it, purchasing through the link is the best way to go as a part of the proceeds will come to me if you do! What are your favorite books that deal with feelings and bullying? Will you pick up a copy of Ella Builds a Wall

Child Marriage in America

Child Marriage in America is a thing, but it definitely shouldn't be

A lot of you know I studied political science in college, so paying attention to the going on in the world around me is important to me. Of course, since the kids, I can’t pay as close attention as I used to/as I’d like to, but I still like to think that I am aware of things. So when I read in the New York Times that child marriages are happening in America, I thought no way. This is America – we have laws against such things, right? And even if child marriage in America is happening, it can’t possibly be legal, can it?

Imagine my surprise and shock when I learned that no, these marriages are legal. And over half of states have no legal minimum age for marriage. I always just assumed this was one of those things you couldn’t do until you were an adult or at the very least, 16 with your parent’s consent. At least that’s what I’ve always heard and it does turn out that Wisconsin has a minimum legal age of 16. So perhaps that’s where some of my thinking that everywhere in the United States has a law like that comes from.

But I mean, it’s absurd. I don’t want to say that I think it’s always a bad idea for people to marry young. While I was not a teenager, I was only 20 when I married. So obviously, I feel that marrying young can be fine. But there is a big difference between a 20-year-old and a 13-year-old. Most teenagers can not even go to the bathroom at school without permission. They can’t vote or do other things that we consider to be adult things, so why should we be allowing them to get married? In one case, it talks about an 11-year-old being married. You can not tell me that the 11-year-olds you know are prepared to be married. At the very least, the 11-year-olds I know aren’t. I don’t want to rehash the article, but I think that you should definitely read it.

But, as with anything, I did not stop at one source. When I learn about something, I want to dig in all the way deep. So I did some more searching about child marriage in America. I thought I would include some more of the things I turned up in my search for further reading.

Like this older New York Times article that explains that while the minimum is 18 in most places, there are exceptions and even if it appears that the kids don’t want to be married, judges have little they can do about it and there are few laws explicitly forbidding forced marriage. Girls in forced marriages often have little resources if things go wrong.

If you are a numbers person, Pew has compiled some data on this issue. If you want a global perspective, the Independent has an article comparing the US to the situation in Europe and worldwide.

Marriage is a beautiful, wonderful thing and forced child marriage is a terrible thing to do.  But lest you think all hope is lost, states are starting to pass bills restricting this practice. There is still a long way to go. However, I feel like child marriage in America is an issue we could learn to all come together on. The stories are hard to read, but I don’t think we should shy away from reading things just because they are hard. We can’t change things we don’t know about or we won’t admit are problems.

Were you aware of this problem? What do you think should be done to solve it?

Photo by Celia Michon on Unsplash

Stay at Home Mom Guilt

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I have touched on stay at home mom guilt briefly before, in my other posts, I think, though definitely on Facebook. But today, I want to touch on it more directly.

Because sometimes, honestly, I feel guilty being a stay at home mom.

Stay at home mom guilt

Honestly, sometimes it’s hard not to.

We live in a society where our value is frequently measured by what we can do. What job we hold. What promotions we gain. How much money we make.

So what then, does it mean, to spend my life with no job, with no promotions on the horizon, with no money to show for it?

Sometimes it can lead to this overwhelming sense of guilt, that I feel like I’m not contributing to the family.

But then, this gets back to the idea of money. The idea that my only value is the money I can provide. But this is not true. In fact, this runs counter to everything in my value system. I have never believed money is the most important thing, but yet, for some reason, I get caught up in this societal idea that without a paycheck attached to my name, my value to society is worthless.

I struggle with feeling like I’m contributing enough, which is where the stay at home mom guilt comes in. This is ridiculous though! I do not say this to brag on myself, but I do a lot and not all of what I do can be quantified with a price tag and that’s okay. It’s not all about the money.

But yet, someone I know once called me a freeloader. And despite knowing that I am not a freeloader, despite knowing that I work hard, it has always stuck with me. The negative words do always stick too easily to me. Is that what everyone thinks about me? Are the sometimes subtle or not so subtle hints from other people that I should get a job proof that they think I’m a freeloader too?

Even if I did nothing, wouldn’t I still have value? I believe yes, in the same way that I believe babies and the unborn and the elderly and so on have value because they are human beings. I believe our value as human beings comes from God and it’s not something that can be taken away just by your status or standing in life. All people are valuable.

But the struggle with stay at home mom guilt is real. The struggle to run counter to the messages all around me is real. There is no reason for me to feel this way and certainly, in the moment, when I’m with my children, I don’t feel this way. It’s only in the quiet moments alone that I start to wonder. Maybe the solution is to never leave my children 😉 Just kidding, like everyone, I need time and space for myself to exist as well.

Sometimes, I don’t have a good conclusion for these posts that are just thoughts, because sometimes, there is no neat bow to wrap it all up. There is no perfect solution to the guilt. I can’t tell you how to overcome this guilt because every time I think I have, I find it comes right back again. But I know Christ did not set me free to live in this guilt. So at the very least (or perhaps, very most), I can turn to him to free me from my guilt. He is enough. And He has made me enough.

It’s not about accomplishments. Or money. Or the job I work or anything else that might give status for a moment, but in the end all fades away. Most people do not become famous in their jobs – sure, a small percentage of people do something world changing that gets remembered forever – but most people, most average people, don’t become famous in their jobs. And you can’t take all the money and accomplishments in the world with you when you die. But we chase after these things sometimes as if they will give us meaning. But they are only temporary things. Money can be lost. Jobs can be lost. People forget your accomplishments. That’s why you have to rest secure in your identity apart from these things.

I am more. And you are too.

Do you struggle with this guilt? How do you combat it? Or is there another kind of guilt you struggle with? 

P. S. I am not even touching on the other kind of stay at home mom guilt I feel, because that’s too big for this post and I don’t even know where to begin. But the guilt of your kids not listening and then you not parenting the way you want to parent and the resulting guilt from that is also a struggle to deal with. But that’s a different post perhaps for a different day. 

P. P. S. If you are a young adult in SE Wisconsin, Awake and Alive is having Pastor Jeffrey Bonack speak on guilt and shame. This is an awesome event and they pick their speakers very well. If you struggle with guilt like I do, it’s definitely something to look into. 

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