My 2017 Goals

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I apologize for being scarce lately. I’ve been trying to keep my priorities in order, and in all honesty, this is the first time I’ve sat at my computer in weeks. Life has been flying by, and at the end of the day, there is always so much that needs to get done, that I haven’t had much time for anything else.

2016 was a pretty good year on this end. We traveled quite a bit as a family, Junior made modest improvements in speech and language, I wrote my own social studies curriculum, Tater lost her last non-molar baby tooth, and we’re all alive and well to see another year.

I know everyone makes resolutions, and by February we all know those resolutions don’t stick. So this year, I’m making goals to achieve for 2017. The biggest goal this year is to be more present and more intentional with my time. Time has seemed to speed up ridiculously since I hit 30, and I know it’s only going to go quicker. I want to spend every second I can enjoying my family instead of letting the minutes, hours, and months pass by indifferently.

2017 Goals

-Spend more time being available to “mommy, will you play with us” and “let’s read”. The dishes can wait, the laundry can wait, but childhood can’t wait.

-Be the wife who is a joy to come home to. Sometimes I get exhausted by the end of the day and instead of being excited that my husband is home, I’m excited he’s there so I get a break. I want to show him daily what a top priority he is to me.

-Get Junior closer to age level in speech. He has gotten better, but is still a year or two behind where he should be. It would make his life a lot easier in a lot of ways if he were able to interact with people as a 4 year old, and not as a 2.5 or 3 year old.

-Get involved in a Bible study or mom’s church group. This one is a long time coming. I need a good network of like minded moms to encourage me in faith and life.

-Have more of a daily routine. Sometimes I don’t get everything done because I need a better schedule. I like freedom, so I don’t like rigid schedules, but it would be nice to have a better routine so I don’t feel like I’m constantly trying to play catch up.

-Make more lunches at home. We eat dinner at home most every night, but gosh I struggle with eating lunch at home. It’s so much easier to grab something while we’re out and about. This year, for health and budget sakes, I want to eat lunch at home.

What are your goals for this year?

Clutter Free Christmas Gifts for Kids

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If you’ve been a parent for longer than say, a week, you’ve realized just how much stuff little people can bring into the world with them. Newborn gear turns into infant toys which turns into toddler everything which then multiplies and multiplies as the kids get older until your entire house implodes under the weight of so much junk many treasures.

With each Christmas and birthday, many parents I know dread the influx of more stuff, and are looking for more creative things that take up less space.

I would rather my kids have fewer high quality toys and playthings than a lot of little toys. The reasons are two-fold. First, because I can’t stand clutter, and secondly because they appreciate things more than when there are just a lot of little things lying around.

Of course, kids are kids, and they will always be bringing little “treasures” into the house, but I try to do my part in being intentional about the things we purchase for them, and don’t fall into the “buying for the sake of buying” trap that many parents fall into around December.

Here are some of my favorite gifts for kids:

1. Outdoor Toys
I love outdoor toys because they don’t clutter up my house, and they get the kids out of the house to exercise or use their imaginations. Win-win!

-Sandboxes
-Water Tables
-Scooters (Such as this one)
-Wagons
-Bikes
-Outdoor playhouses
-Sports equipment

2. Books
Books have this horrible reputation for being “boring”, but there are SO many types of books out there, that you can find something for everyone.

-Favorite character books
-Coloring Books
-How-to Books (Like this sewing book I purchased for my daughter for Christmas this year).
-Other great “How-to” books include Drawing books, Lego design books, and Coding books.
-Activity Books
-FUN Reference Books. I say fun, because I’m not talking about Dictionaries and Thesauruses, haha. But, you can find some really neat coffee table quality reference books for any and all interests. Costco has beautifully photographed and fun-to-read reference books that cover Legos, American Girl Dolls, Movies, Animals, the Human Body, and Space that my kids really enjoy looking at.
-Magazine subscriptions…this is the gift that keeps giving all year long. And since kids adore getting mail, it’s like opening a new gift every month.

3. Learning Toys
So, when I said “clutter free”, you probably thought I was gonna go all anti-toy. Not at all. Like I said before, I would prefer my kids have fewer high-quality toys. Good quality learning toys fit that bill perfectly. But learning toys don’t have to be boring. Some of my all-time favorite toys are:

-Magformers
-LEGOs
-Wooden Blocks
-Puzzles
-Logic games
-Pattern Blocks

4. Experience Gifts
This is pretty self-explanatory, but here are some ideas:

-Movie tickets
-Gift cards to the ice cream store
-Museum passes
-Zoo tickets
-Tickets to see a special performance (one year we took my daughter to see Disney on Ice as one of her presents)
-Amusement park passes
-A coupon for an outing to go bowling/trampoline park/rock climbing/mini golf/laser tag, etc.
-Lessons for something they want to do…such as horseback riding lessons, ice skating lessons, karate, etc.

5. Consumables
Consumables are considered anything that stays in my house for a limited amount of time. Examples of this include:
-Art Supplies
-Favorite snacks
-Science Experiment Kits (my sister is putting together an awesome box for Tater this year with a bunch of printed out science experiments, all the directions, and all the supplies needed to complete it. She’s going to love it!)

6. Fun Clothes
Clothes don’t have to be boring. My kids love getting shirts or pajamas with a favorite character on them. This year, I purchased new warm pajamas and slippers for my kids because we’re going on a trip to the snow next month.

Hopefully these are some ideas to help you keep your Christmas stress and clutter free!

*this post contains affiliate links, but all suggestions are my own based on items I have purchased myself that we just really love! I have no affiliation with any of the brands mentioned.

Making a Screen Time Fast Work for Your Family

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A couple weeks ago, I had posted about our family’s journey to eliminating screen time. We are now two months without screen time, and the change in Junior’s attitude and speech quality has been nothing short of exceptional. We just returned from a road trip in which we spent 24 hours in the car over 4 days, and the kids did not use any electronic games or toys. Junior played with Play-Doh for four hours. Four hours. A couple months ago, I wouldn’t have thought he were capable of 4 minutes on any one activity. Ask Junior if he wants the iPad now, and he says  “no, it’s bad for my brain.” He is SO much more regulated and able to cope with life better. The several times I have turned a show on since we completed the fast has ended in a major meltdown within a couple of hours.

Several people have mentioned that they would like to try the screen time elimination, but don’t know where to start, because the thought of removing screen time from their child’s world is overwhelming. Here are some tips on making the transition a little easier:

1. I highly recommend the book, “Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time” as it gives all the reasons behind the why and how of screen time influence on children’s brains and it also outlines the entire screen time fast.

2. For the first few days, I suggest coming up with activities to keep the kids out of the house. The first few days are the hardest part of the withdrawal period, and if kids are out being active, they won’t be as tempted to ask for a show or the iPad. Go to the playground, take the kids bowling, go for a hike…just make sure you have a few days of being out of the house for the most part.

3. Have fun activities scheduled for a while. For the most part, I’m not a fan of scheduling out activities, but for the first week of the fast (after a couple days of being out of the house), it helps to have some activities scheduled. I had several craft projects set up, as well as some science experiments, board game time, and recipes to make together.

My Favorite Screen Free Games and Toys

Believe it or not, there are more ways to entertain kids out there than just video games, iPads, and movies. Here are some of my kid’s favorite things to do:

  • Legos
    • If your kids prefer less open-ended activities, there are many “Lego Building Challenge” ideas on Pinterest.
  • Wooden Blocks
  • Magnetic Blocks
    • These magnetic blocks are one of my all-time favorite toys. The kids learn a lot about 3-D shapes, can build impressive structures, and Junior even sticks them to his cochlear implant magnets :)
  • Art Supplies
    • Keeping a good stock of paper, paints, crayons, markers, watercolors, stickers, glitter glue, and scissors make for hours of creative fun.
  • Car Races
    • Even my 8 year old daughter loves building Hot Wheels tracks!
  • Outdoor Toys
    • Inexpensive things like sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and little shovels are outdoor staples to have on hand.
    • Sandboxes, ride-ons, and water tables also keep kids having fun outside.

Even if you’re overwhelmed with the thought of starting a screentime fast, I promise it will be worth it. I didn’t know how I was going to do it–after all, I needed the break and I thought that the iPad was the only thing that would calm Junior down in a meltdown (which were happening multiple times a day). Now that the screens are gone, the meltdowns have ceased as well and I realized that the devices I thought were helping the problem were actually making it worse.

*Post contains affiliate links

No Matter What Anyone Else Says…

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Like many children, I was bullied and teased throughout my school years. I was profoundly deaf in one ear, my legs twisted in instead of out so I walked funny, I had severe permanent skin depigmentation on my neck, chest, and stomach, and I had to wear very strong glasses. Looking back, I also had sensory issues that would have been labeled if I were a child today. Apparently, I was different from all the other kids, and they made sure to tell me about it.

But, my parents worked hard to make sure I never felt different. The things that could have been considered impediments were just a part of who I was. My parents constantly encouraged me that I will always have something worthwhile to offer, no matter what anyone else says. That everyone has a special gift or talent to share with the world. They inspired me to find the things I could do, instead of focusing on the things I couldn’t do.

My parents always encouraged me in whatever activities I wanted to undertake. I had a hard time running for any distance, but baseball became my passion from a young age. I would spend hours poring over statistic books and sports magazines and watching my favorite Major League Baseball team play. I struggled with handwriting and anything that required fine motor skills, but exceled in spelling, eventually reaching the State Spelling Bee twice. My single sided deafness made it hard to play group games on the school playground because it was too noisy to hear, but in carving out a quiet place, I was able to have meaningful conversations with kids who would later become lifelong friends.

My parents told me I was enough, over and over, day after day, even when I didn’t feel like it. They made me feel like I was enough by always encouraging me to find my strengths and offering praise when I improved in any area I struggled in, however insignificant a gain.

Fast forward, I’m all grown up and now the mommy of a precious little boy who is profoundly deaf in both ears and also has severe sensory processing disorder that impacts our everyday life. I desperately want to give him the same gift that my parents gave me. The gift of enough. I want him to feel loved, talented, confident, and full of worth. Even–no, especially–when he realizes that he may be a little different than other kids.

I want to help him find the things that he will excel in, the things that will bring him a sense of accomplishment, and help him focus on those, while instilling in him the courage and tenacity to try to improve in the areas where he is challenged. His limitations can be turned into assets if he has the right frame of mind. He has so very much to offer this world, and I never want him to forget it just because his talents look different than someone else’s.

Despite any limitations that seem to stand in our way, each one of us has some unique and special gift or talent to offer, no matter what anyone else says.

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Cookbook Review: The Mexican Slow Cooker

The Mexican Slow Cooker: Recipes for Mole, Enchiladas, Carnitas, Chile Verde Pork, and More Favorites

One of my goals for the new year is to spend less time prepping meals while still serving healthy, high quality foods to my family. The answer, I believe, lies in planning ahead and using the slow cooker as much as possible. Since our family loves Mexican food (we do live in San Diego, after all), I was very excited to check out The Mexican Slow Cooker from local chef Deborah Schneider.

This cookbook is fairly short, only 137 pages. The first few pages serve as an introduction to the recipes that will be presented, and includes tips and techniques for using the slow cooker, as well as a handy guide to dried chilies-types of chilies, how to roast them, and how to utilize them in your dishes.

The Mexican Slow Cooker has five recipe chapters:
Soups
Mains and Guisados
Street Food Favorites
Basics, Rice, Beans, and Other Sides
Desserts

The recipes are all pretty straightforward and don’t require too many authentic (read: can only be found in a Mexican grocery store) ingredients, but there are a few ingredients I had never heard of such as mayocoba beans, nopales, and epazote, and some hard-to-find things such as pig’s feet, calves’ feet, and tripe.

Throughout the book there are little sections of tips that I found helpful, such as the definition of various Mexican Street Foods, and an informative spread on making tamales.

The recipes run the gamut on skill level, so you could spice up taco night with a simple shredded beef burrito and refried beans, or you could wow your foodie friends by creating authentic menudo and dulce de leche.

The Mexican Slow Cooker also includes non-slow cooker recipes, such as a wide variety of homemade salsas, and different types of tortillas.

As a criticism, I would have enjoyed seeing more photos of the completed recipes. There aren’t a ton of photos, although the photos that are included look very appetizing. The other thing I would like to see from this cookbook is a definition of some of the more unique ingredients within the recipe at hand, instead of in the glossary at the back of the book.

Also, many of the recipes only cook in the slow cooker for about 4 hours and require a bit of prep work on the stove, so you can’t really throw stuff in the slow cooker in the morning, and have it ready for dinner. It is more hands-on than your typical slow cooker fare.

Otherwise, this is a nice option for the home cook looking for some straightforward upgrades to taco night.

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.