Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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Dinner Woes

dinner-woes

Welcome to our special guest-blogger: Fequita Simmons! Fequita and her daughter attend 4C Play & Learn groups. Thank you to Fequita for sharing this story with us!

I have a confession to make: I do not enjoy cooking. I know it’s one of the basic acts of love for many people, however to me spending hours in a hot kitchen is torture. Needless to say, preparing meals for my family of six is a daily struggle. I never take meat out in time to thaw. I can never find a day to meal prep for the week. The meals I do make taste good to the family but because I loathe cooking I invest as little energy into it as possible. But I am a solutions-oriented person and I have come across a website that has become the holy grail of cooking in my home: theseasonedmom.com.

On this website, I found easy delicious meals that don’t have weird ingredients and do not take a lot of time to make. According to the site creator Blair, “I developed simple strategies in the kitchen to create easy weeknight dinners that all of my kids would actually eat.” I’ve been using her website for a few months now and I have become the Queen of Dinner! My favorite recipes are the Dump and Bake recipes. I’ve signed up for her weekly email where she easily details meal ideas for the week.

Through using recipes from The Seasoned Mom I learned I was not efficient in the kitchen before and it was the time I was spending in the kitchen to prepare meals that I disliked, not that act of cooking itself. Now when I sit down at the dinner table with my family I’m not exhausted from the cooking process. I am I serving a meal I am proud of and sitting down at the dinner table with positive energy.

Sometimes it helps to take a step back and consider a new perspective on something that you dread doing. What are your go-to websites that help make your day-to-day family life a little easier?


Vacationing With Young Children

morgan-and-marcella-at-beach

I only remember having one family vacation as a child growing up and that memory has stuck with me my entire life. We went on a camping trip all over Ohio. As a family, we want to give our children the same experiences and memories. We had reservations at first of how our children would react to sitting, traveling, restlessness, and a tight environment. We wondered what to do or where to go. We worried about all the stuff that we would have to pack, carry, and repack. We set all this aside and focused on the experience rather than the barriers.

We recently traveled by car to Florida for a 10-day family vacation. I had prepared for a “National Lampoons Vacation” to Walley World in my mind, but honestly, it was a great experience that brought our family closer together. We simply wanted to get away and get to the beach. Our two children enjoy playing in the sandbox at home, so the beach seemed like a perfect destination. The look on my son’s face was priceless when he saw more sand than he could have ever imagined or move with his little dump truck. I thought they would enjoy the ocean, but surprisingly they both were not interested. We went on a boat ride and my son pointed out and saw the “fishes” (dolphins). My son did not want to leave the Daytona International Speedway with all of the cars. The gift shop was positioned well near the exit and was difficult to leave. We tried different foods, especially fresh seafood, which is difficult to find in Ohio. While at dinner, we experienced a bird “pirate” some fresh french fries from a neighboring table.

In the beginning, I saw the difficulties. The drive, how the family with two children would all sleep in one room, what we would do and where we would go and eat were all problems in my mind. In reality, I was surprised about how our children were up to the challenge and so much more. I am so blessed to have children who love to “do.” They will do anything, try anything, and seem to enjoy so many things. They are sponges and I love watching them soak up as much experience as we can share as a family. It will be these memories that will last their lifetime.


Summer Fun on a Budget

family-summer-funWelcome to our special guest-blogger: Fequita Simmons! Fequita and her daughter attend 4C Play & Learn groups. Thank you to Fequita for sharing this story with us!

The end of the school year is always an exciting time. My children are bubbling with joy at the prospects of not having to be in school all day and the possibilities of going to bed late at night, sleeping in in the mornings, and endless hours of video games. All the while I’m filling my head with deep cleaning the house, getting rid of old toys and clothes, summer reading programs and hours of play outside. Needless to say, my children and I are not on the same page with our summer goals.

I manage these different expectations by letting my children be part of the process. So I generally tell them the agenda for the day over breakfast. I always start with the things they must do like chores, followed by the reward or fun stuff they want to do. They will give their input on what they want to do and we come up with a plan for the day together. They get really excited and are actually eager to do the things they need to do so they can quickly get to the things they want to do.

The cost of entertaining a family of six can get expensive really quick. During the summer I like to take advantage of as many free and reduced-price options as possible. Here is a list of the ones we’ve used over the last few summers:

  1. Kids Bowl Free: This is a program where children can play two free games of bowling all summer long. There is a cost for bowling shoes. kidsbowlfree.com
  2. Visit Parks: Take advantage of parks in your area. Often times you can find hiking trails, bike paths, or basketball courts to use free of charge. Also, kids love just being outside playing. On a really creative day, we do nature walk scavenger hunts where the kids have a list of things to look for while we are at the park.
  3. Movies: Check theaters in your area for discount movie tickets. The movie normally is not a new release but kids just love theater experience. Also, check with area parks or community centers. Sometimes there is a “Movie in the Park” schedule where they show movies outside on the big screen.
  4. Visiting the Library: there is always something going on at the library. Puppet shows, story time, kids crafts, etc.


Oh, the Holidays! Be Merry Be Bright!

holiday-family

I think every family has one, a few, or several holiday traditions! I know I have many. My childhood was full of holiday traditions. I remember going to my grandparent’s house on Christmas Eve and playing with all my cousins, (all 15 of us). We would eat, open gifts, then play with our new gifts. We laugh now as adults that it was not Christmas until someone threw up their dinner. No joke—every year! My family has grown so much over the years we no longer have Christmas at my grandparent’s house. We are way too big and grandmother can no longer cook for 50 people. So we all chip in now.

My traditions have changed over the years. I still have fond memories of my parents’ annual Christmas party with our friends, putting up the tree and singing Christmas songs when it was done, driving around looking at Christmas lights, making cookies, drinking eggnog, and of course our trip to the outlet malls for our Christmas gifts.

The biggest, funniest and craziest tradition that I have a love/hate relationship with was how my parents wrapped mine and my sister’s gifts from them to us. They would wrap our gifts and put them under the tree with our friend’s names on them. Yes! Our friend’s names! So we had “gifts” for Jaime, Mandy, Anne, Heather, Keisha, Abbie, Kathy, Andrea, Holly and so on. My sister and I hated it, but looking back on it now, I think its hilarious!

This holiday season, I hope that you are able to take time to appreciate how precious it is to see how fascinated kids are with all the events of the season. The lights, the fun things to do, seeing all the people that they love, and creating memories and traditions that stick with them through adulthood. I recently watched a new show on TV that I have fallen in love with called “This is Us,” that is about the ups and downs of a family. I laugh and cry every week. One of their holiday traditions is to watch Police Academy 4.

Even though my adult traditions have changed through the years, I still think back on the great traditions that my family has left me with. To this day I have great relationships with my now adult cousins and my extended family. We value our traditions and the family memories that we have created. I hope you and your family create memories that last a lifetime.

Happy Holidays!


Cutting Through the Noise

holidays-together

The holiday catalog from a popular retailer arrived in the mail recently, and our two sons had a great time looking through the pages and finding countless items they wanted to play with. With every page turn came exclamations of “That’s my favorite!” and “That is just like, so awesome!” They tore, cut, and glued their “most favorite” photos to paper as we talked about what they’d like to do with these new toys. When the excitement died down, my mom brain took over.

“These prices are crazy! Where is all of this stuff supposed to go? Don’t we already have something like this?”

This time of year can be overwhelming! One of my roles as a parent is to make the most of the fun by managing expectations and what is realistically possible. While it would be exciting in the moment to buy everything their hearts desire and watch the joy on their faces as they open everything, it is not at all realistic. And really, where is all of this stuff supposed to go?

Our children are inundated with so much information on a daily basis, through TV commercials, catalogs, and/or peers. Honestly, we as adults are flooded too! It can be challenging to cut through all of the noise. As parents, my husband and I look for strategies for our family to focus on each other instead of focusing on things.

A few years ago, I came across the Something you want, Something you need, Something you wear, and Something you read strategy for gift giving. We’ve done this for the past two holiday seasons, and it has really helped to focus us on being thoughtful and specific with gift giving. We’re also able to talk about wants versus needs, and the boys aren’t nearly as overwhelmed by stuff and can fully enjoy discovering their gifts. This allows us to all enjoy each other a bit more, and is much easier to organize! How will you and your family cut through the noise?


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What Does This Season Mean for Your Family?

holiday-magic

Every family has their own idea of what traditions the holiday season should hold. After having children, my wife and I have discussed traditions and the societal influence of the holiday season. Imagine if the only thing that you knew about Christmas was what you saw on television or in the movies. You might imagine a snowman, elves, and jolly man in a red suit with white beard racing on a polar express train to get to Kevin who is home alone before a green grumpy Grinch steals all of this year’s most popular toys, only to be saved by a red-nosed reindeer.

My wife and I come from different backgrounds. She grew up with a vision of a commercial Christmas with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, presents and special foods. I have a Christian connection to Christmas with a baby being born, along with fitting in some of those same traditions of a tree and presents. How do we as a family unit celebrate and teach our children about the holidays? How do we learn about the holidays, specifically Christmas, for our family?

Working together and having open communication has been extremely important. We have chosen a traditional approach that focuses on our religious beliefs while embracing some of the popular cultural practices. We put up a tree together as a family and have pictures taken with Santa Claus. We spend time visiting a live nativity depicting the birth of Jesus. We will attend our church for a night of music and performance that is very family-friendly. We will be making Christmas cookies of all shapes and sizes with grandma. We will exchange presents with family and friends, but we focus on the people and not the gifts. (Although the box was the largest, best toy last year and I’m sure it will be again this year.) We have begun to do random acts of kindness for some people we know and others that we don’t. We will read the story of the first Christmas in the Bible and talk about the blessings we have to be thankful for. We have also begun to plan a trip to have a new experience and memory to celebrate.

We don’t have everything figured out as parents, but we are doing our best to provide as many positive experiences that our children will remember. That is what a tradition for the holiday has become for our family. My son already says Merry Christmas and we greet others with a smile.

We realize that everyone has their traditions, including not celebrating the holidays at all. We want our children to grow up and respect that this season is different for different families, and when they have their own families they can even make their own traditions! I hope that you and your family have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday season, or Delightful December.


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Honoring the Memory of My Grandparents

grandparentThere are so many things that remind me of the past. Music, food, people, sounds, smells and experiences often have a connection to our ancestors. As a child I was blessed to know three of my great-grandmothers and both sides of grandparents.

  • My grandfather (mom’s dad) was a very charismatic, outgoing, jovial man. From an early age, he taught me how to cook and shared his love of food through traveling during summers, cooking at festivals all over Ohio. He also helped me through many stages of my Eagle Scout project which is still an important accomplishment for me.
  • One great-grandmother (dad’s grandmother) was the wife of a preacher, keeper of the family bible, and was very instrumental in the faith and belief of God throughout our large family tree.
  • My granny (mom’s grandmother) was a selfless volunteer who loved the outdoors and had a creative mind. We would often go out to the Masonic Home to help and visit with people. She taught my mom to sew, who in turn taught me.

I have many fond memories of doing things with my grandparents; they were so supportive in whatever I attempted. All showed me love beyond measure, respect and empathy for others, and made a huge impact on the man that I became. They spoiled me in the best of ways—especially with time.

I want my children to have similar memories and experiences with grandparents, family and close friends. Experiences lead to adventures and real life learning. We have some worry however, because our family is very spread out. My father passed long ago and our children’s other grandfather lives halfway around the world. It is very difficult to travel with two young children—especially when it’s far away. My mom visits her grandchildren regularly. They explore the outdoors, listen, talk and read together. Their aunt Deb (very close friend) dotes on both of our children, especially our son. She has made so much effort to be part of their lives. My son’s first sleep over was at her house. She sends cards, surprises and visits when she can. We realize that our children are young, but these early memories in their childhood last a lifetime.

There are many different perspectives of raising children, but we feel it takes a village to raise a child. We look for surrogate relationships that will make those memories and experiences for our children. As we look back to our past, we want to plant the seeds for our children’s past in the present. “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.” We are our children’s first teachers and will have to fill their lives with memories of our parents and grandparents. I can think of nothing better to honor my late family members than to pass down the lessons that I learned from them.