Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ask Auntie Fi: Please read this.......




Dear friends,

I have no words today......my family is right in the throes of some major things - good things - but brain stealing things......

So instead of bumbling through a brainless post, can I point you in the direction of some good words, some meaningful words......

Please read this, and then go and squeeze a kid or two, and know the Lord our God hears us, and sees our every need, struggle and victory.

    ' The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing' - Zephaniah 3:17

(Please feel free to email in your questions for future 'Ask Auntie Fi' posts to: fionacharisbrown@gmail.com)






I am a legal alien in this amazing country (USA). I desire to be the best wife, mother and friend I can be. I love life and I want above all else, to be used by God. I write to encourage you – to be honest with you – to prove that we are not to ‘do this life’ alone. We have much to learn from each other.

You can read more about Fiona and her journey into the light on her blog: A Little Bit Of Honesty.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ask Auntie Fi: Tips for Summer Thriving





Summer Lovin'.  That's what this blog post is all about.  I refuse to call it summer survival skills....I know it can be a bit of a lark for some.....the whole 'getting through the long days of summer' and 'how will we survive without killing an offspring?'.  But just between you and me I do feel that if we start out with that mindset...then, well....things can only go downhill from there.

I'm convinced that even in the midst of snot, pus, fountains of wee, exploding diapers, kids who destroy, kids who are klingons, kids who cause bodily injury and harm and the constant opening and shutting of the fridge and emptying of the pantry.....time with our children is precious.  As corny as it sounds - those little people who fill our swagger wagons - they are a delight and are not supposed to be a drain.  An honor and not a hindrance.  A blessing and not a bother.

So.  Let's get practical.  What are some things we can do to help our summers go well?  I asked my always reliable and totally inspirational list of facebook friends for their best summer thriving tips.  Here goes - hopefully there's something in here for everyone, something that can just help you for where you're at.....

*  Put together a list of things that are being put on by the community - these are likely to be free too!  Make the most of free movie nights in the parks, the library summer reading programme and other activities the library puts on etc etc.  Check your local city council website for more. (Make the most of what other people will organize for you!)

*  Speaking of other people doing the work for you, and of 'free' - don't be hesitant to use the free lunch offerings if they have them in your school district.....I've been told that if the free lunch services aren't used (even by people who could easily afford to make their own lunches) then those services will loose their funding and that would mean that the people who really do struggle over summer to feed their kids would miss out.  So..it is a win win situation if we use the service.

*  Create a bucket list of ideas of activities to do with your children and have plenty of free and low cost options...pinterest is full of these ideas....

*  Ice-blocks.  Make it a summer full of cool and sweet treats.  Home-made/ bought - whatever.  Not only do they cool the kids down, but they provide a welcome chance to just sit down and enjoy something together.

*  Make sure you talk in the language of 'let's......' when planning things with friends....avoid the 'we shoulds'.  If you actually make a plan and get things on the calendar - then things actually happen.

*  Buy a pool/ borrow a pool/ become best friends with people who own a pool.

*  Don't spend all day cleaning - work on a 30 min plan.

*  Plan easy meals using the crock-pot so you have more time for outings, or plan to grill/ bbq. Or plan to use the bbqs at parks/ beaches/ playgrounds so you can have a longer outing.

*  Have a backyard campout.

*  Go media/ technology free for a time.

*  Organize a street party/ bbq.

*  Build forts - inside and outside

*  Redesign and redecorate bedrooms.

*  Take family walks/ bike rides in the evenings.

*  Take care not to over-plan and over-schedule your time......vacations and even staycations can get very tiring, especially when you factor in how draining hot weather can be.


So these are just a few thoughts that my friends came up with....what can you add to the list?  Please comment below, we'd love your input.......

I'd love to see more people actually thriving over summer - not just surviving.


(Please feel free to email in your questions for future 'Ask Auntie Fi' posts to: fionacharisbrown@gmail.com)






I am a legal alien in this amazing country (USA). I desire to be the best wife, mother and friend I can be. I love life and I want above all else, to be used by God. I write to encourage you – to be honest with you – to prove that we are not to ‘do this life’ alone. We have much to learn from each other.

You can read more about Fiona and her journey into the light on her blog: A Little Bit Of Honesty.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Demanding Little Poppets





This cry for help was in my inbox recently:


Any advice on how to teach a demanding 3 year old to not be SO demanding of others?  She's demanding of me (her momma), her sisters & her friends.  She regularly yells, "No!" and stomps her sweet little feet when she doesn't get her way :/

I have tried time-outs, spanking with instruction & a prayer afterward, ignoring, I have even yelled back at her so she see can hear what she sounds like, but all to no avail :(   - Mrs A


Now I realize I am taking a bit of chance here.  Answering this here question.  I mean its not like many other parents can relate to this dilemma.

NOT.

I am yet to meet a child who is not demanding at some stage of their life.  I am yet to meet a parent who has not had this issue to deal with at some stage of their parenting life.  

So, Mrs A, we're feeling ya.  We're all in this together and we're feeling ya.

I have no answers - just a suggestion.  

I'm drawn to this suggestion because it is so radically different to what as we parents are normally inclined to do.  

Normally when children are being demanding we:
  Blame
  Criticise
  Distract
  Explain
  Mini - lecture
  Problem - solve

However, what Diane Levy recommends (and yes, I have mentioned her before, and yes, it is a little different to what you may want to naturally do...) in the midst of hearing all the demands coming out of your tiny tyrant, give them some empathy (a simple phrase such as 'oh you poor thing') and a boring cuddle.  

Yep. Yes our little poppets need to learn what is acceptable and appropriate behavior, but when you're in the midst of flying emotions and hurling words and demands - that is not the time for teachable moments.  

Levy says 'If we give unconditional support to upset children, they rapidly become self-sufficient and resourceful.  If we withhold our support they whine for more, becoming more demanding and may even take to tantrums to get the support they need.'  

I guess sometimes our little ones just need to know we're on their side, and their little emotional tanks need filling. I can see the boring cuddle and the phrase full of empathy working like a 'restart' button, on their little emotional tanks.  

So this is what I'm going to try next time one of my lovelies tries to be all demanding to me.  How about you?  What words of advice and strategies have worked for you?  How can you help Mrs A?  


(Please feel free to email in your questions for future 'Ask Auntie Fi' posts to: fionacharisbrown@gmail.com)






I am a legal alien in this amazing country (USA). I desire to be the best wife, mother and friend I can be. I love life and I want above all else, to be used by God. I write to encourage you – to be honest with you – to prove that we are not to ‘do this life’ alone. We have much to learn from each other.

You can read more about Fiona and her journey into the light on her blog: A Little Bit Of Honesty.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On Being a Mama.....



I never pictured myself as a boy Mom. Mostly because I had a little sister who was almost 9 years younger than me aka my very own baby doll. From the moment she was born I doted on her. She didn't get to choose her own outfits until she was like 8 and I often dolled her up and posed her for pictures. I mean, wouldn't you?





We were a house of Barbies and dolls and pretend classrooms. Things were pink and smelled yummy and our Mom was our best friend. Naturally, since this is all I had known I pictured myself with several girls and a boy thrown in there to protect his sisters.

The only thing I mourned when we found out Jack was a boy was the clothes. I mean, yes boy clothes are better than they were but still….girls are just way more fun to dress. I was excited about this boy thing and the challenge and mystery that lie ahead.

I fell hard. Jack slayed me from the moment I held him. I was totally gone. Two years later and we found out we were expecting two more boys. I was not surprised, I expected it. I recognized that I would forever be the Queen of the house and the first woman they loved. I reveled in the thought.

Plus, I knew that while the early years would be busy and dirty and require several ER visits…when Jr. High hit and my friends with girls were pulling their hair out for the next several years, dealing with drama and hormones and "friend issues" I would just be dealing with stinky feet and peach fuzz.  Yes…that sounded like a good tradeoff.

I am continually fascinated by these three boys. Since I am not a boy and had no brother’s, I am in awe watching them grow and develop. Boys and girls are very different. Even from the earliest days.
My three boys jumping off tables and playing in the sink at the nursery, while the girls sit quietly at the table eating snack. Running in opposite directions and the park and finding dirt like they have a radar for it while the girls quietly swing and slowly walk down the stairs to safety 

(now, I recognize this is not always the case, but it’s mostly always the case)

They think differently, they process differently, they need differently.
Every day is a new adventure.
For them and for me.

I think about how I have this incredible responsibility, to show them what a woman really is. I get to show them what respecting their Daddy looks like, with my actions and my words. I get to show them what walking in faith and not fear looks like and what it means to be a woman of God.

I love when Jack walks into the kitchen as I have my Bible out and am journaling my prayers. I pray one day he will remember that Mommy was in the word and that she lived out what she taught.


The days now are long and full of stinky diapers, messy toilet seats, dirty fingers, sticky floors and exhaustion.
But I am no fool, and I know that in the blink of an eye they will be young men who are learning what this world is about, and who to listen to. Right now, Jack asks an insane amount of questions, but in a few short years he may not care for my opinion. He may look elsewhere for answers and I’ll be darned if I turn him away now.

As much as my head can spin with the questions,
I tell him to always ask and I will always listen.

The three of them crawl up into my lap and whisper “I love yous” because they hear me say it often.
I kiss the owies and learn to not hover. Boys need space and freedom and adventure. They need to jump off from high places and run wild and fall and get up again. They need air and mystery and a challenge. 
I don’t want to be the Mom that put a lid on their boyhood because I was afraid and didn't understand.  I don’t want to be the helicopter Mom who doesn't let them venture far out of my selfish fear.  As much as my Mama heart wants to protect and keep them safe, I know I cannot protect them from all that is out there. I get on my knees and pray to the only One who can really protect them. Trusting Him with their lives and recognizing that they are not mine. They are His.


Whether or not you are a boy Mama, we all can be aware that soon these little babes will leave our nests, and while the days are long the years are short and to hold each moment close. In a blink their world will be filled with voices and opinions that may be opposite of what you have taught them. They will begin to choose for themselves who to listen to and who to seek advice from.

Your availability to listen now will directly impact their desire to come to you in the future. 



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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Meal Planning 101






  


This question came into my in box recently, and I know that Mrs A is not alone in her quandary:

This momma has recently been making just about every excuse in the book so that I will not have to make dinner each night ("it's too late to start something", "the kids' activities went too late", "I'm not feeling very well," etc, etc). So we've, unfortunately, gotten into a bit of a habit where most weeknights we opt for the the quick, easy & fast meals... which typically means fast food, processed food & not so good for you food about 4-5 nights a week :/
I KNOW that I need to just kick my booty into gear & start meal-planning, but I'm just not finding the time & motivation to do it. Do you have any ideas? Or some good resources out there that provide motivation AND wholesome, family-friendly recipes & meal planning ideas?

To help me with this one I asked a friend I've connected with over the interwebby. EA Stewart is a Registered Dietitian who lives in San Diego. She has a lovely website and blog, and has amazing recipes, tips and ideas. She offers private nutrition counselling and coaching and does group nutrition presentations and parties. You can find her here

While EA is certainly an expert in her field with a wealth of knowledge gained from her higher education, what really makes her so approachable and straight-shooting, is the fact that she is a Mom. She is a busy working Mom. She knows the challenges facing parents today - she's living it too, she's in the trenches with the rest of us....so this is what she has to say to Mrs A, and to you......

My first recommendation is for this Momma to take a deep breath and give herself a big pat on the back for wanting to feed her family a nutritious diet-that’s the first step :-) After that, I recommend a gradual, “small” steps approach in order to work towards creating lasting changes.  Have the mama write down her goal(s), along with action steps for achieving these goals, then pick 1 or 2 action steps to focus on each week. Keep these goal(s) and actions posted somewhere for the whole family to see.

Example:

Goal: My family and I will eat a healthy, well balanced diet consisting of whole, minimally processed foods 85 % of the time.

Action Steps {Add 1-2 new action steps each week until goal is met}

1. At least 1 fruit and or vegetable will be offered with each meal and snack.

2. The kids will pick 1 meal to help cook 2 times/month. {See cookbook recommendations below.}

3. I will take one Saturday or Sunday to plan out my dinner menu for the week. {I love using Pinterest to plan out my meals, then I use Zip list for my shopping list on my I phone, but a simple pen/paper method works well too!}

4. I will put together a “healthy staples” list to pin to my pantry door, so the family can check off what freezer, fridge, pantry items need re-stocking each week.

5. As a family, we will come up with at least 5 healthy EASY dinner ideas we all like.  We will post this list in the kitchen and make sure we always keep the items stocked to make these meals. {My family easy favorites: GF pasta with marinara-jarred is fine~ and grass fed ground beef.  Served with salad, steamed broccoli-or other veggie~and fresh fruit.  Breakfast for dinner: Scrambled eggs, corn tortillas, grated cheese, avocado, and salsa, plus fresh fruit.}

6. I will pair a “fast food’ or “take out” entrĂ©e with fresh fruit and a salad or side of veggies.

7. I will cook a big batch of healthy food {soup, stew, casserole, etc} one weekend day and freeze extras for re-heating another night of the week.


For my families wanting to eat healthier, the number 1 thing I recommend is to focus on having a fruit and/or veggie with every meal and snack to work towards the overall goal of 5 ++++ servings per day, which most people are falling short on.  Some simple ways to incorporate more fruits and veggies in the diet include: 

Smoothies! {Frozen fruit is just as nutritious as fresh and can be stored in the freezer, for quick and easy smoothies}; Serve raw veggies {carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and sugar snap peas are all kid friendly} at the beginning of the meal when everyone is “starving” while the rest of the meal is prepared. This is a great way to get more veggies in the diet!


More Resources:

Cooking with Kids and Family Nutrition: http://www.eastewart.com/greatresources/cooking-with-kids-and-family-nutrition/  {I really love both the cookbooks by The Meal Makeover Moms for EASY, HEALTHY dishes with kid friendly appeal!}

Food, Nutrition, and Healthy Cooking: http://www.eastewart.com/great-resources/food-nutrition-and-healthy-cooking/

My own dime's worth:
  While a lot of people do meal plan as EA suggests:  by looking through recipe books and browsing the internet, and pinterest and then writing out a shopping list and buying according to that, I meal plan a little differently.  I do my grocery shopping on a Friday, my weekend chef cooks for us (yep, that would be my darling husband) and then on Sunday I sit down and look in my fridge, freezer and pantry and plan out the following week with what I have there.  I find this method is more cost effective as I can buy meat that is on special and work around that.
  If you are tempted to buy a meal via a drive through, or dine - in.....how's about this for a wee idea.....dash into your closest supermarket instead, and buy a loaf of fresh bread, a bagged salad and a rotisserie chicken.  Hot, fresh and all at the ready, it would cost you approximately a third of what take-out would cost, and it would be a whole lot healthier, plus you may get leftovers, depending on the size of your family.

For EA's amazing weekly meal plans and recipes, follow her on pinterest here.

Now - how about you?  What tips and ideas do you have to share?  What can you add to this discussion?


(Please feel free to email in your questions for future 'Ask Auntie Fi' posts to: fionacharisbrown@gmail.com)






I am a legal alien in this amazing country (USA). I desire to be the best wife, mother and friend I can be. I love life and I want above all else, to be used by God. I write to encourage you – to be honest with you – to prove that we are not to ‘do this life’ alone. We have much to learn from each other.

You can read more about Fiona and her journey into the light on her blog: A Little Bit Of Honesty.



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