Saturday, September 28, 2013

There Was A Middle Age Woman Who Went to the Store

Feeding a family of seven takes effort. I collect recipes, cut coupons, shop sales, consider our calendar, plan a two week menu and stay within budget. It's a modern day version of  hunting and gathering.

With grocery list in hand my first stop is always the discount store.  Economically speaking it is a good way to stock the pantry. Up and down every aisle I go filling my cart. I check out, spend more than I would like, bag it up myself, haul it to the van and load it up.

Next I head across town for more shopping. There are some items where generic just won't do for my tribe (although don't tell the kids but there has occasionally been a time or two when I've switched packaging and they've never even noticed).

At store number two, I repeat the process again wandering up and down each aisle filling my cart to near capacity.

Some days I think it would be easier to kill the food myself and tie it to the hood of my car.
I've heard tales of stores that have shelves stocked with everything you need. They carry a wide variety of items, bag your food for you and expect you to drive right up to the door where a young lad will place your purchases in your car. I've never experienced this luxury and sometimes wonder if they only exist in fairy tales.
Yesterday however, the cupboards were bare and the Indians were beginning to get hostile. I needed to go shopping.
Now easy going, flexible individuals would have only shopped for what they needed just that night but not me. My type-A personality, combined with my hatred of the grocery store, caused me to believe I could get 14 days of food in record time. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Words Are Tools

 This article originally appeard in 2009 in The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series:
As an adult, what do you do when you are angry, sad, frustrated or stressed to the max? You may have a variety of responses to any of these feelings but chances are you probably will not kick, hit or bite somebody. Neither will it cross your mind to throw yourself down on the floor and wail and scream until someone comes over to make you feel better.

I mean you could, but we’d be moving you to a room with rubber walls for sure.

Naturally we don’t behave this way but there are children everywhere, kicking and screaming and throwing temper tantrum because they have no other outlet to communicate their feelings of stress and frustration.
Even simple, pent up energy, exhaustion or overstimulation can sometimes cause children to behave more aggressively.

The first and most important thing parents and caregivers can do is to understand this is normal behavior. The key is to curbing this type of acting out is to begin to identify the cause of the aggression.

Is it stress? Fatigue? Frustration? On many occasions quick thinking parents can often head off confrontations and eliminate many problems all together.

For example, hunger and sleep deprivation are huge stressors when it comes to children’s behavior. A hungry toddler is not going to behave for you in the store. It’s practically impossible. If we understand this then it makes no sense to be angry at a naughty child. I cringe when I see parents hitting or yelling at children when there is a chance the entire event could have been avoided.

(I’m not saying our entire lives should be rearranged at the whimsy schedule of a little kid. I’m simply suggesting that we consider if some errands can be rearranged to better suit the family – and mom’s sanity.)

An invaluable tool parents can give their children is the use of words. Often times, children are experiencing emotions that are either foreign to them or they are unable to verbalize. A two year old cannot say to your, “Gee Mom, when you took my toy away without warning me it was bedtime made me feel really mad. I wish you wouldn’t do that again!”

No, that’s silly, right? Instead they kick, scream and yell, “No!” In this scenario it would have been very helpful for the child to have an opportunity to transition. I mean, how difficult is it for you when you are in the middle of an activity to be abruptly interrupted? Imagine if your coworker walked up to you and took a paper right out of your hand and said, “It’s time to turn this in.” You’d be furious. It’s the same with our children.

Encourage your child to use their words . Very young children might need your help. You can say, “I see you are sad that it is bedtime, let’s clean up the toys together and then we can read stories in bed.”

Notice this is not a bribe as reading before bed would be an example of something you would normally do anyway.

Of course, there is the chance it will take some time in order for your child to understand that their acting out isn’t getting them any extra time or attention but I am certain that once your kiddo realizes you’re not being mean but willing to work with them they can come to compliance.

With respect and consistency over time it will effectively communicate to your child what behaviors are acceptable and what are not. Also offer children lots of love, hugs and kisses when they are having difficulty with their feelings and emotions.

There is no way to avoid aggression in kids. We all feel aggressive at different times. The difference is we know not to act on it. Let’s begin to teach our kids what to do with these feelings as well.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Menu Monday

What does this working mom do for dinner?

  • She organizes menus ahead of time,
  • Shops with a strict budget in mind,
  • And does the best she can.

If you love the thought of bringing your family around the table and are up for the challenge of doing it despite hectic schedules ... enjoy! Cuz here's what's up this week on Menu Monday.

Brunch - Cresent Apple Roll Ups, Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Toast, scrambled eggs & sausage links

Mexican Monday - Homemade Alan's Special
(a fav Mexican restaurant serves this up and while mine is NOT as good it does the trick.. make your favorite rice, I use minute white rice and add a tablespoon of taco seasoning, with grilled chicken pieces smothered in queso cheese)

'Talian Tuesday - Italian Casserole

Whatever Mom Wants Wednesday - Roasted Chicken, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole & corn muffins

Chicken Thursday - Chicken Patty Sandwiches & French Fries

Pizza Friday - we digress from Pizza night for a crock pot meal we can tailgate with as we travel for high school football. Pioneer Woman Dr. Pepper Pork, chips and Sm'ores Bake

Soup & Sandwich Saturday - Buffalo Chicken Tender Sandwiches, potato skins, pumpkin bars

And if you love the idea of getting new recipes or menu planning be sure to check out the link up at

As always thanks for reading! Happy cooking!
p.s. big shout out to the friends who shared tomatoes with us! used it to make salsa!!

p.s.s. be sure to follow me on Pinterest - I keep all my recipes there too!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

My Referee Free Zone

I do a lot of things for my kids. I mean a lot. There aren't enough bullet points on every resume in the world to highlight all I do for my darlings. But I'm not looking for a pat on the back as I'm not the only one. Mothers everywhere know what it's like to carry the heavy burden of parenthood. 
Sometimes, we moms miraculously find pleasure in serving our family. Other days we have to dig deep just to make it through the day and even then we've been known to crack under pressure. But most of the time we set our personal feelings aside and do what needs to be done.
At least, that's why I do when I attend my son's sporting events. No one told me when I gave birth to my bouncy, baby boy fifteen years ago that I would have to lug lawn chairs all over western Illinois, wear school pride colors and eat cold hot dogs out of concession shacks. There's like, a gazillion other things I'd rather be doing but I do it because I'm a mom and I love him. 
In hindsight, perhaps I should have steered my little fella towards the arts or music. At least those venues have air conditioning and proper seating. 
But I digress.
I'm a cook, a taxi cab driver, a Laundromat and personal cheer leader but of all the things that I do for my kids there is one job I will not under any circumstance fulfill. I will not be a referee to their shenanigans. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Menu Monday

I'm Stephanie. I work.
I'm married to Aaron. He goes to school all day and coaches varsity soccer all night. Well, not allllll night.
Together we have 5 kids. The first moved out 3 weeks ago and the other 4? Well they soccer, and football, and practice, and need rides, and contact solution, and allergy medicine and new shoes already and ....


This Tribe of mine keeps me running. Like last week -we didn't eat at home but one night. So Menu Monday had to go out the window and instead we packed lunches and ate cereal.

It wasn't glamorous by any means but we made it work.

This week, while we are busy, we're not too busy to at least grab a bite to eat at home. That's exactly why having a menu works for me. Planning ahead means no matter who has practice, a game or, in my case -has to work at night, something healthy, quick and real will be available.
That's how I love my family.
I keep them nourished.
Here's what my Tribe is eating this week...


Brunch - (enjoyed having company for our family meal this week!) Easy Casserole, Biscuits and Gravy, Fresh Fruit Salad & Pumpkin Doughnuts
Mexican Monday - ground beef Burritos
Italian Tuesday - Lasagna
Whatever Wednesday- Crockpot Roast and veggies
Thursday Momma's Choice (Homemade, Oven Fried) Chicken Fingers & Fries
Soup & Sandwich Saturday - Texas Toast Turkey Melts


Bonus: I made this Chocolate Chip Cake & it was yummy!

orgjunkie likes Menu Monday's too! Check out her linkup here for waaaaay more recipe and menu ideas than one human being can ever use!

All my tried and true recipes are on my Pinterest Board Check it Out!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Parent Educator's Role

Someone once asked my daughter what my job was. Without skipping a beat, and with a hint of disdain, my kid said, "She gets paid to play with other people's kids!"

She was only partly correct.

A parent educator's role is unique. Carrying a background in early childhood development, I am to educate and inspire families to understand how important their role is in the lives of their children.

From the very moment a baby is born, his or her brain is ready to learn. Some things like eating and crying, are learned easily, but other things like sharing or potty training are much more challenging to learn.

How does a child learn these all these things? Honestly? These concepts, and essentially everything are learned through experiences. Who's in charge of creating experiences? Parents are. They design the child's world.

That's why I believe that parents are their child's first and most important teacher.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Little Elbow Room in my Nest

My first bird has left the nest. That's one down, four to go. Apparently I’ve only just begun to say goodbye. 

I've been stopped more than once by the concerned friend asking how I'm doing. And while I honestly admit I shed my fair share of tears leaving my oldest at a college over 250 miles away - here is some good news mothers of younger children - it was less heart wrenching than I had imagined.

It helps that I feel confident she is in a safe place where she is known and happy. That combined with her self-confidence, common sense and maturity means I can look forward to the life she will build from the foundation we've given her. Nonetheless, I’m not going to lie; giving her wings was an act sheer will.

Back at home we're all going through the withdrawals of losing a member of our household. I miss her when we eat her favorite dinner or sometimes I forget and look out the window wondering what time she'll be home. I even hollered up the stairs yesterday when I thought she had overslept only to remember she doesn’t live here anymore. 

Clearly it is taking this mamma bear time to readjust how many cubs are in our pack.

That being said, some things about moving her out have been delightful. 

For starters we have a little more elbowroom. The boys, who have bunked their entire lives, are now living separately. In fact, I think her brother moved into her room before she even had all her stuff unpacked on campus. And, bonus! Now the brothers are getting along wonderfully. It's as if the breathing room made each other a bit more tolerable.

And not only do the two boys get along better with each other, the older of the two has taken a newfound, big brotherly interest in his little sisters. I've caught him helping, encouraging and talking kindly to his siblings. 

Ladies and gentleman this is miraculous. 

Turns out Mr. I'm-Too-Cool-For-You has a warm, nurturing spirit apparently born out of the depths of his new room.

Which is still pink by the way. I told him he could move into her room but only until big sister returns. Then she gets her room back. I mean I wouldn't want to give her the impression she’s not welcomed here anymore. 

Secondly, and I'm sort of embarrassed to admit this, but there are some other surprising perks to moving my daughter to college. You see I had no idea how much I was sharing with her until she was gone. Now, my stuff is right where I left it. My razor doesn't turn up missing. The shampoo bottle lasts three times as long. My concealer is in my makeup bag, not mysteriously appearing in hers. No one drinks the last cup of coffee and not one single wet towel has been left on the floor since she’s been gone. In addition, her hair isn't clogging up the drains or the vacuum and most impressively, our water bill has gone down. 

Listen I love my kid. I prefer her company to any other teenager. I think she's cool and gorgeous and I'm quite proud of the amazing young woman she is shaping into but each and every morning that I go into the bathroom or grab a cup of coffee, I feel a newfound surge of gratitude.

A part of my heart may have moved to Indiana but my stuff is staying put in my little house in Illinois. And after eighteen years of solid sacrifice and putting her needs before mine I can hardly explain to you how that little, bitty change brings me joy.

Well, that is until my youngest daughters – twins - become teenagers. Then I'll be right back where I started, except times two. Perhaps I should start stocking up on razors now. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!

This article appears in the 9/7/13 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series. (read some back articles on their site or I've got them all organized here). Stephanie is a parent educator for Monmouth-Roseville school district. Her only dream in life is to have a master bath. With a lock. She can be reached at for comments or early education services.

Q. Am I the only one? Have you moved a kid out? What did you find were the benefits?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Daddy's Role

It is Throwback Thursday here at To Write a Better Story. This article, about the importance of dads in the lives of their children, was first written and published in the Review Atlas in 2001.

The Role of Father is Increasing

Of all the societal changes and family dynamic shifts over the last decade, the most beneficial to our children is the ever increasing roles of fathers.

They are changing more diapers, giving baths, playing with their children and getting more and more involved with the hands-on day-to-day responsibility of parenting.

Our children not only need and enjoy that interaction but research also indicates that they thrive on it!

According to the Parents As Teachers Born to Learn curriculum, there are specific benefits to children who have fathers that are actively involved in children's lives.

For example, infants may cope better with strangers when they have formed a strong attachment to both fathers and mothers directly affecting their future ability to form meaningful and successful adult relationships.

Also, infants learn better to deal with a variety of people and personalities when they have experienced the different touch, vocal and play patten of father as well as mother.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Menu Monday

I hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day. Here is what my Tribe is eating this week. Thankfully a lot of it is make ahead - at the very least I will spend my Labor Day prepping ahead. We have 2 soccer games, 1 football game, practice every night! and the best part ... the fair is in town so I imagine I'll be able to sneak in a funnel cake (or two, who am I kidding?!?)

A little planning goes a long way.

Here's what's on our table this week!

Mexican Monday - Deviating today to get the grill out one more time before summer comes to a close. Rib eyes, hamburgers, hot dogs, baked potatoes, corn off the cob, deviled eggs, coleslaw & homemade nutter butter cookies. (we always grill too much because we enjoy having the leftovers for lunch)

'Talian Tuesday - Spaghetti and Meatballs with Garlic Bread

Chicken Wednesday - Chicken Supreme, creamy corn, mashed potatoes and biscuits

Mom's Choice Thursday - HayStacks (this isn't the exact recipe I use - I kinda just go with whatever I have on hand. Mostly, it's a pile on meal that my kids love because they can arrange it however they want!)

Pizza Friday - Pioneer Woman's Pizza Bread

Sandwich & Soup Saturday - Quesadilla with chips and cheese

Brunch Sunday - Buttermilk Pancakes and sausage links

be sure to check out she has the biggest Menu Plan Monday linkup I've seen yet!

all these recipes can be found on my Pinterest board too so check it out!

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