Monday, April 30, 2012

A Little Help With Homework

Homework has become the bain of my existence. Literally. If ever there was child adverse to doing homework, it would be Preston. If he could, I’m sure he would claim that he is allergic to it. He does actually rub his head and start complaining about being stressed which I have unfortunately not given enough weight to in the past. It does stress him out and he’s already had a long day of having to sit still, focus and do classwork assignments. It has taken me from the time he gets home to the time he goes to bed and chasing him around the house to get him to sit down and do his homework at times. He also flat out tells me that he just isn't going to do it. Oooo, that one makes my blood boil. Let me tell you, by the end of the night I’m done!

I asked the psychologist about what to do as duct-taping or tying him to the chair didn’t seem like the greatest option (although I really did consider it one night!). He suggested that I continue to re-direct his focus. I stated that Preston oftentimes has entered another realm, running through the house pretending his fingers are airplanes and he’s shaking his head and screaming for the people on board his fingers who are dying a horrible fiery death. How do you get that ‘re-directed?’ He stuck with it and said just keep pushing him in that direction. And to stay calm. I also take advantage of the fact that Preston makes requests of me throughout the night and I can answer, “I’d love to do that for you as soon as your homework is done.” Amazingly, both work. He may not get his homework done right when he gets home from school, but he does eventually settle down to do it. Last night it was around 7:00, but he did it. The other night I told him he could outside and play if he did his spelling. He did indeed go outside and I thought for sure he had ditched his homework but on the table, there it sat done. There are some nights that it doesn't happen and hell would have to freeze over before it would get done. I try not to get all bent out of shape on this and try again the next day. What else do you do?

Give up the chase, re-direct and leverage their requests and sometimes let it go. Employ and enjoy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Some Thoughts

Life Truth #1: There will be moments of good and moments of bad. Moments of absolute bliss and moments that I will wonder how I will survive. As frustrating a process as it is, it is the only way to grow. If we were never challenged or tested, how would we know what we are truly capable of? Hence the most likely reason that when it rains it pours because it is when everything happens at once that we are forced to dig deep and keep moving forward or give up and stay where we are if not fall backwards. I am grateful for the newly acquired knowledge that I have gained after the storms despite the despair I felt in the midst of it, but it is strength and knowledge I will pull on when challenged again.

Life Truth #2: As humans, we are pre-wired for struggle and with imperfections. We make mistakes over and over again, even after you'd think we'd learned our lesson. Even as adults. Yet I find myself all too often thinking or saying to my kids, "When are you going to learn?" or "How many times do we have to go through this?" None of us live without consequences to our actions and neither will they, but it is a good reminder to stop lecturing and let the consequences speak for themselves and remember how imperfect as parents we are also; which is a good reason why to give an increase of love after the wrong has been done.

Life Truth #3: We are all worthy of love. As hard as it can be to give our naughtiest kids love at various moments, they probably need it more than most. I know for me in all my roles as wife, mother, step-mother, friend, daughter, neighbor and so forth, I need to work hardest on loving myself and allowing myself to accept the love that people have to offer me as a person in all of these roles. We can't really offer all of ourselves and the love we have to give without being able to love who we are in spite of all of our pre-wiring for weakness, struggle and imperfection.

I wrote down some thoughts on my 'Life Truth's' today because these are what I remind myself of multiple times a day as I raise this child and my step-son. It helps me keep a clear perspective, helps me stay persistent, and helps me remember to use the tools I have learned for parenting when what I really want to do is lecture, yell, guilt-trip or whatever it may be in a heated moment. It happens. And I am grateful to read other parent's blogs that struggle just like I do. It is human; it is an imperfection and all we are expected to do and can do is our best. And our best changes from day to day. Some days we are capable of handling and doing more than others. Other days it takes every last ounce of energy and willpower to just slip by. This is okay. Give yourself credit for getting by - it takes alot. And then we have to forget about it, let go of any extra anger or grudges and wake up the next day and give it our next best shot. It's a 'new day, new jet' for everybody - especially ourselves. I read in a book recently that a half hour is the maximum amount of time to feel angry. I don't know if there is science behind it but I thought that sounded like a good time frame to me. All things I have to keep in my mind every hour of every day. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Simple Recipes for Greens Before Dinner

A quick salad I can throw together is key for my evening meals. I have one, myabe two store-bought dressings, but I use them minimally as my favorite, tastiest and easiest salads are ones I make from ingredients on hand. Here are a few simple salad recipes that your whole family will be excited to add to the dinner table.

My Easisest and Tastiest Dinner Salad

Pour about 2 T olive oil in a bowl.
Add some balsamic vinegar.
Add about 2 tsp-ish seedy Dijon Mustard.
Sprinkle some garlic salt into the bowl.
Mix together with a fork.

Throw in some lettuce, grape tomatoes, and 1 T feta cheese. Toss/stir to coat the salad. Grate some fresh parmesan cheese and freshly cracked pepper over the top. Sometimes I add avacado slices to this and it is fast, fresh, easy and good!

Salsa Salad

Mix about 1 T of Marzetti Ranch Dressing (most natural ranch I've found) and 1 1/2 T Chipotle Sauce.
Add to lettuce along with desired amount of salsa and mozzarella and/or cheddar cheese.
You can crush some tortilla chips on top as well. Compliments any mexican dishes.

Sesame Dressing
This dressing I simply eyeball and I make mostly for myself prior to lunch meals.
Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar
Bragg's Amino Acids
Sesame Oil
Sesame Seeds
Chopped Red Bell Pepper
Chopped Cucumber
Both the cider vinegar and amino acids tend to be strong so you don't want to overdo it but talk about healthy and tasty! Mmm!
Bean and Cheese Salad
1/2 can rinsed pinto beans
1/2 can rinsed black beans
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Desired amount of Thousand Island Dressing
Crushed tortilla chips
Double this for larger gatherings. This is a crowd pleaser.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Precision Requests for 'Start Behavior'

I recently learned the art of the ‘precision request’ to get your kiddos moving when you are asking something of them (also referred to in 1-2-3 Magic as 'start behavior'). I don't get it - I really don't - but labeling my request as a 'precision request' to Preston not only gets his attention but also gets him moving. I have to play a stellar poker face when I whip this tool out and it actually works (kids sense parental victory and kick against it when they know what is going down). The way this works is that you have a chat with your kiddo and mention that when you ask something of them, you will only ask twice, third strike they are out to time-out. The format is that on request number one you use the word 'please.' Keeping mind in the proactive ways to improve compliance (two posts ago), you use a clear directive such as, “Preston, please set the table.” *Note, don't leave wiggle room and throw the word 'can' or something similar in there. This makes it 'optional.' Clear directive.
The second request removes the word please and becomes more directive. “Preston, I need you to set the table for dinner.” If there is non-compliance within five seconds of the second request, they go to time-out. Now, honestly, do you think your child with ADHD is going to hear the please in the first request and think, “Ooh! There is precision request number one!” When I first tried this out on Preston he didn't hear the difference in the requests either so I started labeling them, "Okay Preston, precision request number one. Please set the table for dinner." Just adding that label made the difference between compliance and non-compliance. I have been shocked that with labeling request one and two and waiting the five seconds in between each, actually gets him to do what I am asking and for the most part without a bunch of fuss! Sometimes he gripes and I'll offer him a choice: “You are welcome to set the table or do the dishes; which do you prefer?” All I can say is WOW! And WOO HOO!

Employ and Enjoy.

And regarding the pic above, some day I'll teach and actually get Preston to set the table as I did in the picture (it was the only picture I have at the moment that semi-works with the post). That will have to be the extra-mile precision request. Until then, I'm just happy if he gets off his duff and puts placemats on the table.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Good-For-You Cookie Dough Truffles

I'm feeling pretty mighty in the kitchen right now with how swirly-pretty I made my truffles! And they are good for you! My inspiration you ask? Well... I made the 'No Bake Vanilla Cake Batter Truffles' (from for the Easter holiday and they were a huge success. I added a touch of almond extract to the chocolate and that was just the little umphh it needed (for me) to be fabulous. I realized that throughout the week as I was craving these truffles, it wasn't the truffle per say that I wanted, more that crunch factor of the chocolate shell (I stored them in the fridge and oh how I love that slightly hard chocolate shell). As I'm sure we would all agree, craving cake-batter truffles will do nothing for our waist lines and fitting in our skinny jeans so I decided to come up with a healthy truffle alternative. The shell will be the naughtiest part of these, but they will satisfy my texture-craving and be good for my body at the same time. Dark chocolate is approved anyway right? It's chocolate, it's got to be. :)

Now, as I am not an inventor in the kitchen, I used Angela's (of cookie dough recipe as a base for these bad boys. I also doubled the recipe (I might triple or quadruple it next time) because on its own, it just plain wasn't enough. I also did not put any cane sugar in my last batch and I think they are great without it. If I make them more for the purpose of being sweet, I'll probably throw in 1.5 T. So here is the doubled, and enhanced recipe. Enjoy!

Good-For-You Cookie Dough Truffles
1 cup cashews
1/2 cup rolled oats
1.5 scoops Vanilla Sun Warrior protein powder
1 tsp chia seeds
1 tsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used brown rice, almond, coconut and whole wheat flours)
1 T natural cane sugar (I think this is optional)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond
4-6 T pure maple syrup (I did half syrup and half Xagave)
2 tsp Coconut butter
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Truffle Shell
Necessary amount of chocolate chips, melted

In a food processor, add the cashews and oats and process until it forms a fine crumble. Add protein powder, chia, flax, coconut, flour and sugar and process for a few more seconds. Add in maple syrup, vanilla and almond. Batter will be just sticky enough to roll into balls. Line 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper and fill with cookie dough balls. Chill about 15 minutes. Dip into melted chocolate chips and place in baking dish to chill in fridge. *As mentioned, I added a touch of almond extract to the melted chips about half way through melting process. It makes the consistency firmer and is not as easy to coat, but still doable. Just gives it that extra umphh. For those of you who have never used melted chocolate chips to dip, put in a glass dish and microwave for 30 seconds at a time (I usually have to do my three times). If you overheat the chips, they become clumpy and you can't fun dip.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Improve Compliance

After our last visit to the psychologist (where I was feeling totally exasperated and confused and hopeless) and I expressed my frustration, he had the thought that one major breakdown in what I was doing was that I was giving Preston twelve chances. In that time I get worked up, Preston gets worked up and then we both become explosive. The Dr. gave me a print out from a book called “The TOUGH Kid Parent Book” (56) in which it lists out proactive ways to improve compliance. They have actually been incredibly helpful and surprisingly they do get Preston to work and be more compliant. Enjoy and employ!

  1. Say “Start” instead of “Stop.” Tell your child to start an appropriate behavior such as “Please start your homework” and make fewer stop demands, such as “Don’t argue with me!” Decide what you want to see and build on that! Encourage an appropriate substitute.  
  2. Use a clear directive, not a question. Asking, “Would you stop teasing? or “Will you take out the trash?” reduces compliance. When you won’t allow a choice, take care not to offer one.  General statements, such as “Its bedtime,” should be changed to direct requests. Good examples: “Please hang up your coat,” or “You need to brush your teeth now.”
  3. Make eye contact. Look directly at your child as you give an instruction. Say you child’s name. When your eyes meet, contact has been made, and the chance for compliance increases.
  4. Shorten the distance. Move close to your child. Asking while an arm’s length away works better than directing from across the room.
  5. Use a soft, but firm, voice. If shouting at your children tells them you really mean it, you are training them to not listen until you raise your voice. (This was like a lightning bolt because so often I ask myself, “Why in the world won’t this kid listen until I’m yelling. And so I do yell to get his attention which only reinforces him to listen at that point. Dang, so simple yet just didn’t occur to me). CAUTION: Yelling moves you further along the coercive behavior chain.
  6. Build behavior momentum! Give your child a few fun or easy directions before asking for the big one. Compliance momentum may carry them through!
  7. Give descriptive directions. When the request is definite, the child is more likely to succeed. Some directions are confusing or ambiguous. Your child may truly not understand your expectations when you say, “Clean your room.” Make your standards clear.
  8. Demand the possible! Be certain the request is something your child is able to accomplish. You may want to divide a large job into “baby steps” so that it does not seem impossible to your child. Plan for success! (I’ve also read that at times if you are present and help the first time or use a timer to make it a game, they are more ready to work. I have to do this with Preston and picking up our apples every summer).
  9. Time: Wait five seconds. Allow your child a bit of time to comply after making a request. During this short interval, just wait. Do not converse with the child, do not argue or respond to excuses. (1-2-3 Magic anyone?) Simply wait the five seconds (I find this an excellent time to breathe and bridge if I’m becoming agitated). This brief, watchful pause may prompt your child to action.
  10. Only Twice! Tell your child what you require only two times. Force yourself to simply wait the five seconds between and after each request. DO NOT NAG! Avoid interrupting the child with further instructions. It is surprising how often parents will unintentionally distract their own children from following through.
  11. Remain calm. (Ha!) An emotional response from the parent will actually reduce compliance. Exercise self-control. Remember to “breathe easy.”
  12. Reinforce compliance! Recognize your child’s efforts! It is too easy to request a behavior from a child, then ignore the positive result. If you want more cooperation, genuinely reinforce it.
Side Note: Since employing the 'Bunny Bowl' (which is the treat bowl that I started to improve compliance on avoiding naughty colors - see earlier post), Preston has been on fire (in a good way!) about not eating candy. He comes home and it is the first thing that he is excited to tell me; "It was Sammy's birthday today and they handed out big bags of Skittles (argh! why?) and I turned my in! Can I pick a treat from the bunny bowl?" So absolutely thrilling to me. It may or may not be coincidence but since the bunny bowl was introduced and color consumption has gone down, he has been a much happier, less hyper, more manageable boy. Thanks Liz for the simple yet amazing suggestion.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Prepping and Managing

I want to first say that my goal has always been to post three times a week. With that being said, although my blog is a partial outlet for me, it does come last on my 'to do' list. Anyone with kids with ADHD knows that time and energy are quickly zapped in raising these unique spirits and if I'm not up to it blogging that day, I'm not up to it. There's also the matter of expecting the 'unexpected' with my little guy. The ability to be able to adapt is all I've got to say about that. We've got to do what is best for us which is the whole mantra of this blog - you can only take care of yourself. So know what that means for you!

I also want to say that my big lesson from last week is to ration your internal resources. We are all different with our own tolerance, stress, fatigue and emotional thresholds. I read up and research tools to help me be a more effective parent and person. I learn coping strategies, parenting technqiues, healthy eating habits, and time management skills (unfortunately, I'm not very good at the latter but I am improving by default). Last week was spring break; my step-daughter came to visit and my husband was available over the weekend as well. This means that I went into preparation and planning overload mode. I was planning down to the smallest detail so that the weekend would hopefully move smoothly and that we would be able to focus our attention on each other and not 'things to be done.'

I made several trips to the grocery store to ensure enough snackage, I went to the craft store to prepare for the big easter egg hunt, I racked my brain for fun activities to keep the kids engaged, I planned the meals, the desserts, the entertainment and I cleaned. I also tried to be calm and play it cool to hopefully avoid any 'Preston Eruptions.' Amazingly, it was pretty successful. The downfall was that I ended up in the ER on Saturday with a fever, nauseated, dizzy, exhausted and with the most intense abdominal cramping I've ever experienced. They gave me an IV to get some fluids in me, did a Cat Scan, blood work and urinalysis. Everything came back positively glowing. The doctor was at a loss. They sent me home with some painkillers and nausea meds and told me to go back in 12 hours if my symptoms didn't improve.

Long story short, the next day I was still cramping but it was manageable and I otherwise felt totally normally. Still a little tired but I expected that. The day after that, no symptoms - completely well. I have had two other bizarre instances where my body was acting up but they never found a cause (I lost my appetite completely for about two weeks. I could barely get myself to eat). In all instances I didn't feel stressed but there were stressors circling around me. And that is where my lesson of learning to ration my internal resources comes into play. Happiness isn't a destination. I realized that the reason I wake up every morning with anxiety is my mind starts rattling everything I HAVE to do and the reality is that I don't HAVE to do any of it (for the most part). I'm switching from 'have to do' mindset to 'get to' or 'want to do.' And then I make peace with what I didn't get accomplished that day.

There is also the daily prepping that saves me time and the other mantra of keeping it simple. I do need to and WANT to keep it simple - hello crockpot! The second part to this post is the prep. I realized today that I spend most of my day preparing for lunch and dinner, snacks for when the kids get home, homework, metally preparing for Preston and arranging the timing of everything so it can all be done. I can either be bugged that I don't have much time for me or enjoy what I'm doing. I made a fresh onion dressing today for a pear and gorgonzola salad that took me maybe 15 minutes but oh how I enjoyed it! And I enjoyed making it because I knew the result was going to be fabulous! I loved vacuming last week because I learned that my 14-month-old thinks the vaccum is like a second pet and he loved following me around while I vacumed. I love having dinner ready to eat at 5:30pm because then I'm not doing dishes into the night and I can have some time with my kids. I'm just learning to enjoy making dinner in the morning or early afternoon, despite it being the Bermuda Triangle of activity at 4:00 pm.

Ration your self. Know your breaking points. Prepare and enjoy it. And remember stress does a number on your body when you don't even know it! And can you believe you how cute that kid is at my feet under the desk as I work?

The pear and gorgonzola salad I made today was so exciting. I bought some Italian Gorgonzola among other cheeses to have an indoor picnic with my husband over the weekend. The gorgonzola on its own was extremely strong. Once paired with the pear, it was absolute bliss. So, I found a light onion dressing to add to the two along with some leafy greens and chopped pecans and I devoured it. Right before I devoured my french dip sandwich (which is going to become a crock pot staple in this household from this point hence!) I will throw both recipes on my 'recipes' tab. *Note, none of the recipes are 'Brittany Originals,' I'm just not that clever and my goal is to keep the day rolling smoothly not experiment in the kitchen. So thanks to all those ladies out there that do and I get to enjoy the fruits of their labors!