Friday, June 22, 2012

A Favorite and Healthy Snack

I do not for the life of me remember when I discovered this magical combination that I am about to reveal to you, but it has been a decade or two and it is to this day still one of my favorite and fastest snacks. It is simply this:

1) Cracker of choice (Ry Krisp, Kashi Crackers, a 'Brittany Approved' Ritz cracker wanna-be)

2) Small curd lowfat cottage cheese (that's just how I like my cottage cheese)

3) McCormick's Salad Supreme Seasoning

Spoon cottage cheese onto small plateful of crackers and sprinkle with Salad Supreme. SO tasty and you can put it together in less than two minutes. Sometimes when I'm pickier with my carbo choices or just looking for the protein, I spoon the cottage cheese into a bowl and sprinkle. Either way it's fantastic.

I also had to share my latest food find - Frontera salsa. All I can say is WOW. No naughty ingredients and the taste is phenomenal. I even tried calling them the other day just to tell them how much I love them for making this delicious salsa. Their Fire Roasted Tomatoe is to die for. I marinated and grilled some chicken in my grill pan, sliced, and layed it atop a bed of lettuce with some mozzarella and a touch of cheddar cheese. I mixed the frontera salsa with some plain Fage yogurt (on its own this stuff tastes like sour cream) and spread on my salad. The second night of having this I went with just straight salsa and it was perfect. Salsa is so great because it is vegetables and nothing more so you don't have to be worried about smothering your salad with it like you would any other regular and usually highly caloric salad dressing. Love it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Relaxing Happier-Preston Days of Summer

One week down and I am amazed at how different Preston is. When he gets all worked up doing homework and starts to cry and moan about how stressed he is I have a difficult time swallowing it. No one likes homework but it isn't that stressful - especially not in third grade. Not to mention the fact that this kid has a major tendency for dramatic over interpretetation (he woke up with a slightly stuffy nose yesterday and through weeping and wailing he cried out, "I'm dying! I'm not going to live! I can't breathe! I'll never breathe again!" Although my favorite is when he fell at school and had to get stitches and called my Mom and told her he was going to lose his leg and have to have it replaced with it a robot leg. Oh, and the time he slipped on wet cement at a friend's pool and said first that he was going to die, then that he was paralyzed - but still wanted to swim. He got in the water and put his face down and floated like he was dead for a good 30 seconds. Yes, VERY dramatic).

However, in talking with his psychologist who validates his stress completely and for me in seeing how much lighter this kid is without schoolwork or homework, I'm starting to think that homework really might be a super stressor for him. And the fact that his brain doesn't grasp onto most concepts the ways others would - the invisible disability. I would say the stress that comes from daily interactions with kids and having to sit through a day of teacher-lecturing and work - I can see why he comes home at the end of his rope. And then I get at the end of mine trying to get him to do his work. I'll have to put some thought into how to ease that baby; I'll worry about that tomorrow. Or in a month. Needless to say, Preston has been almost a normal nine-year-old this last week. Compliant, pleasant, communicative, even polite. It amazes me! And this year it is exciting to say that he is like this with no meds! WOW. It's an eye-opener to see how much this kid flourishes when stressful demands are low. This is good information to take into the next IEP meeting.

I've stuck to my own advice and written out his daily schedule that includes chores and mind time and love and logic them simply with 'you are welcome to play with friends as soon as your chores are done.' I also put on his chart that in the morning he has to 1. Make his bed 2. Get dressed 3. Brush his teeth, which I simply refer to now as the '1,2, 3's.' It is sticking with him and he is following through. Friend-time has also been a great motivator which makes me seem less mean and I don't have to be on his case incessantly to get him to act. He did get frustrated the other day but worked through it with surprising speed; one minute he was saying he wasn't in the mood to mop and angry that he couldn't be with friends and literally one minute later he decided he was ready to mop. Here's to schedules, love and logic, 1-2-3 Magic and some free time!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

School's Out Forever! Or At Least it Feels That Way

Did you see that old Staple's commercial where Alice Cooper is back-to-school-shopping with his kids and they're singing the wrong lyrics to the song? Awesome. And awesome that he was wearing his stage make-up at Staples. Nice. So, day one of 'school's out' my no-longer-a-spazzy-sevie was wandering the house with a catatonic expression having no clue what to do with himself. All of his friends were MIA and he knew (in his mind) that there was absolutely nothing else in this world to do but hang with the bro's. Preston on the other hand was actually out and about (and already I have no clue where he is - I'm telling you there is money to be made in child honing devices!) which rarely happens because it puts him in such a foul mood when it is time to return to home base. I figure without any homework or major pressures ("Yes Preston you are absolutely welcome to go play once your bed is made and your chores are done") a time-out for attitude will be enough to get him back on track. And actually, there is something to be said for the no-pressures part because he has been amazingly more relaxed and compliant in the last week (and I remember the first three weeks of last summer being like that as well - it only changed when his step-sister came out and something out of the ordinary always upsets the apple cart).

The question still remains - how to have a pleasant summer and keep your sanity (mom). I remember my mom being SO excited for school to start after the summer and I never understood it - like having me around 24 hours a day was the best thing that could happen in her drab life. Ahhh, now I get it as do most mother's across the globe. Here's the key: well-planned and predictable days. I've read several articles discussing the importance of keepin kid's minds active through the summer; our brain is just like our muscles in that if it isn't being exercised it does indeed atrophy. I also learned about 'entropy' the other day which summed up is essentially that everything left unchecked goes to chaos. You don't weed your garden, it goes to chaos. Atrophy and entropy are huge summer and back-to-school spoilers. Here are a few thoughts and what I have done for the last couple of summers that have actually made those three months almost enjoyable.

1. Sit down with the kids and devise a general daily schedule of chores, meal times, 'mind time' (reading or a couple pages in a workbook) free time and planned activities. Post this on the fridge for quick and easy reference. Predictability is immensely stabilizing for kids and will help alleviate the 'schock factor' of jumping back into a daily grind when school starts up again.
2. One bigger activity a week (hike, library, zoo, aviary, scavenger hunts, movie night, amusement park, water park, etc.)
3. Mind-time - I like to do this right after lunch while their food digests a minute and things can be quiet for a spell. I break it up into 20 minutes of working in a workbook and 20 minutes of personal reading. I love the summer reading programs that the local libraries do. My mom used to have me make a list of X amount of books that I was going to read that summer. She had a reward in place for when I reached my goal.
4. Planned meal times when everyone comes home to check-in and have some family time.
5. Set bed-times. Summer can be a little more easy going but I still need some time at night for myself and with my hubby. So we set a specific time and tell the kids they are welcome to be awake in their rooms but don't want to hear or see them after X as that is mine and husbandito's private time.
6. Summer groups/activities. The sevie has football and scout camps and I sign Preston up for a couple different summer programs through our local rec center. We are also working on weekly neighborhood play groups where the mom's get to chat and the kids can run and play and be crazy. Oi. And they are definitely so crazy.
7. Kids night out (they get to hang with their friends later in the evening).
8. Date night (for the parents - I've decided that this has to be mandatory every Friday night. I've let it slide in the past but no more!) Get a pizza and movie for the kids while you go out.
9. Game night. Play some active games on the Wii, play some board games and have a tasty dessert, take a walk, play in the yard, whatever. This is generally good bonding time with the family unless someone is really set on winning a game and they don't.
10. If possible, one family trip. This year we are going somewhere VERY close by but doing multiple activities and actually researching the history of the area and seeing some older sites. It can be fun to pretend you have never been there before and really learn about it and pretend to be a tourist. We'll actually be doing that in the area we live in right now too.

I'd love to hear what you other parents have done to keep summer fun, healthy, affordable and very doable!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

My Little Louie Zamperini

So, why are 5K's and what not referred to as 'fun runs?' For me, running isn't fun. I used to like it but I'd rather put burning sticks in my eyeballs as opposed to run now. Maybe it's just because I can't get very far running anymore because I have a tight IT band that causes a problem for my knee. Dang. At any rate, it was the annual 'fun run' at Preston's school on Friday and Bus and I came out to walk it with him. As the kids all took off in a mass of confusion, Preston decided last minute that he wanted to run it with his friends. I told him to go for it and I'd see him at the end; he took off like he had rockets attached to his ankles. I took a short-cut as I walked the route thinking I'd catch him at some point but a friend told me that he had come racing through ahead of me awhile ago. I've been looking for his talents as of late - something that he excels at (and this is critical for him because of his 'natural' depressive/pessimistic tendency) and I think I found it - this kid is going to be a star running back and field and track star. He's a fast little bugger.

Here is the other thought I've been chewing on for awhile that my husband and I actually debated: are some people born to be more pessimistic while other's more optimistic? Is Preston 'naturally' or 'wired' more pessimistic and depressed? My opinion is yes and here is why: we were all created differently, pre-wired with specific gifts and talents and certain ailments and challenges. All of us are here to put to use the talents and skills we have and work to overcome our weaknesses and shortcomings. The mental arena gets a little tricky because sometimes it seems that there are some ailments that are almost impossible (if not totally impossible) to overcome. There are several personality disorders that even with weekly therapy rarely are overcome. However, I am of the opinion that if you decide to do something and put in the effort, there are no limits.

I'm reading 'Unbroken' by Laura Hillenbrand at the moment (it's driving me a little nuts because I find myself wide awake and reading furiously at one in the morning) and the author brings up the same question - are we pre-wired? Are our viewpoints a product of upbringing and environment? Is it a combination of the two? Louie Zamperini was a track star at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.That guy could run fast. He was also a tremendous troublemaker and extremely resourceful as a young boy; he was super naughty and drove his mother to her wits' end. He joined the army before the draft, became a bombadier and winds up in a two-man life raft with two other men for 46 days after his plane crashes (it's in the prologue so I'm not spoiling anything). Himself and the pilot spend their days talking about the future, talking about their families, plans for after the war - neither one actually considers that they might die in that raft although it seems practically impossible to survive. The third fellow, Mac, sat in silence; "he couldn't imagine a future. To him it seemed, the world was too far gone." (147)

The author continues with the following:

It remains a mystery why these three young men, veterans of the same training and the same crash, differed so radically in their perceptions of their plight. Maybe the difference was biological; some men may be wired for optimism, others for doubt. As a toddler, Louie had leapt from a train and watched it bear his family away, yet had remained cheerfully unconcerned about his safety, suggesting that he may have been born an optimist. Perhaps the men's histories had given them opposing convictions about their capacity to overcome adversity. Phil was a deeply religious man, carrying a faith instilled in him by his parents. "I had told Al several times before to always do his best as he knew how to do it," Phil's father once wrote, "and when things get beyond his skill and ability to ask the Lord to step in and help out."

The following is what I admire about Louie the most:

From earliest childhood, Louie had regarded every limitation placed on him as a challenge to his wits, his resourcefulness, and his determination to rebel. The result had been a mutinous youth. As maddening as his exploits had been for his parents and his town, Louie's success in carrything them off had given him the conviction that he could think his way around any boundary. Now, as he was cast into extremity, despair and death became the foucs of his defiance. The same attributes that had made him the boy terror of Torrance were keeping him alive in the greatest struggle of his life.

Though all three men faced the same hardship, their differing perceptions of it appeared to shaping their fates. Louie and Phil's hope displaced their fear and inspired them to work toward their survival. Mac's resignation seemed to paralyze him, and the less he participated in their efforts to survive, the more he slipped. Louie and Phil's optimism, and Mac's hopelessness, were becoming self-fulfilling. (148)

I do believe that what you think about, you bring about. I related this story to Preston the other night as he was going on a pessimistic and 'bleak future' tirade - and I pointed out that he does have the ability to change things. If he thinks he'll never have friends, he's probably right. If he thinks he will have friends, he's probably right. I've also heard from several parents lately (in casusal conversation but it must obviously be a message I need to hear) the importance of building kids up. There are two ways to go about everything, especially parenting, and that is to go from a place of positives or a place of negatives. My big goal this week is to put a positive spin on everything; rather than say 'no' say, 'yes, as soon as your chores are done.' "Yes, that sounds like fun sometime in the next week or two."  "Wow Preston! You're pretty resourceful and I'm impressed that you find ways of getting what you want. Now it's time to go in the dungeon for stealing my stash of dark chocolate. Just think of it as hide and go seek with no way of getting out! Fun huh?!" Ha! Just kidding. I guess when he is resourceful but naughty, I just pull my Love and Logic on him. I'm putting it out there that he will be my little Louie Zamperini and although he may lean more toward a born pessimist, there is still the chance of that environmental influence. Would you say it is pre-wiring or environmental?