Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pick Your Switch

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Pick your switch. My siblings and I heard this line quite a few times when we were growing up. "Pick your switch" meant that we were in serious trouble. We were to head straight out to the back yard and choose which switch (stick of appropriate size) we were to be spanked with. We were to bring it to our parent right away and they would methodically remove the stems and leaves while we watched and waited for our inevitable punishment. Other times it was a belt, a wooden spoon or a ping pong paddle. It wasn't just our parents, it was many kids' parents. It was the daycare provider. A school teacher might even have tried similar at times. That was just the way it was. We're talking late seventies, early eighties and maybe a little longer.

Not all parents chose to discipline in this way back then but I do believe it was a little more of the norm at that time. And before that, when my parents were children, it was a whole lot worse. The discipline that my siblings and I received as children was a toned down version of the discipline that our parents received at the hands of our grandparents and their communities. I believe my parents held back a bit. Trying not to hurt us in the same ways that their parents may have hurt them because they loved us and were making an effort to parent differently. A conscious effort. I believe that our generation is trying to do the same.

I do not spank my kids. I never break out the belt or the spoon or anything like that. I hold no ill will towards my parents for spanking me any which way when I was a child. That being said, I also do not feel that my parents ever crossed a dangerous invisible line. There was no blood or broken skin. They spanked hard enough to sting, to make us cry and be sore for a little while. All in the hopes that we would think hard about what we had done wrong and hopefully get the point and never do the same action again. In my humble opinion, it didn't really work in that way. We very much disliked being spanked but we didn't think about being spanked the next time we were tempted by something naughty. Spanking was futile.

When my oldest two children were very young I attempted to spank a couple of times. It did not work.  I was only using my hand and their cute little butts were covered in clothes or a pull up or whatever. My heart wasn't in it and they probably felt close to nothing. I  actually think they found it more interesting than deterring. It also dawned on me that what I was attempting to accomplish was silly. Just plain silly in a common sensical kind of way. I spend my days teaching my children to be kind and thoughtful, that hitting someone is never the solution and that hurting someone is wrong. And yet I tried to show them right from wrong by hitting them? So stupid when I really got to thinking about it.

When I need to discipline any of my five children now, and for the last maybe fourteen years or so after I wised up, I use different forms of punishment depending on age and the severity of their infraction. We use timeouts, redirection, grounding from different things and for different lengths of time, strongly worded conversations in a very firm tone, reflection on situations and every once in a while a slap to the back of the hand. The hand slap is saved only for those times in which they are about to cause serious harm to themselves or others. If one tries to stick a fork in the electrical socket, they are probably going to get a slap to the hand, one time and not hard enough to do any physical damage. Our choices of discipline seem to be working and I have pretty well behaved children. I understand that not all children, and parents for that matter, are alike. We need to choose what is right for our own family dynamic. At the same time we need to take into consideration the standards of the society in which we choose to live too.

The world is so different now. I am not just talking about how parents discipline their children. We can look at all kinds of things that used to be done differently back in the day. Car seats and seat belt safety. Work place safety regulations. Equal opportunity employment. Government operations. Prescription drug studies and distribution. The list literally goes on and on. What am I getting at? The blatant truth here is that we as people and as a society are constantly evolving and learning from our mistakes. Just because something was done a certain way say fifty years ago does not mean that it was the right way. We learn and we change and we move forward more educated and most times safer.

That being said, I am also aware that we are not all born with common sense. We are not all born with a self awareness and will power or even the ability to see things within ourselves that we would like to change and then to follow through with it. If we could all do that then the world would be a much different place. And this right here is why we have ever changing rules, regulations and laws. Someone needs to step in at times to help those who do not see the damage that they do. Kind of like the whole somebody-ruined-it-for-everybody thing. Silly example but long ago I worked for a popular restaurant chain and we, the employees, were allowed to stay after work and have a couple cocktails if we wished. That is until somewhere, in some other state, an employee had his couple cocktails, went home, decided climbing a ladder for whatever reason was a good idea and then fell off said ladder causing serious injury to himself. After that, nation wide, we were no longer allowed to stay and have a drink after work. The restaurants way of protecting us from ourselves and probably themselves from a big lawsuit. Right or wrong, this is just how the world works.

As for my opinion on the whole Adrian Peterson Fiasco? What he did was probably wrong. I say "probably" only because I do not know the whole story. I only know the bits and pieces that I have read about here and there in the media. And of course the swarms of comments by regular folk with their ten cents. Honestly, I do believe in the whole innocent-until-proven-guilty thing. So, I am going to sit back and let the authorities do what they need to do to solve this situation. I have to have faith in them because I choose to be an American and live in this country. If we ever feel they are doing wrong by us, venting on Facebook and the like is no way to make a change. Just sayin'.

While we are on the subject of Adrian Peterson and his lapse of judgement when spanking his young son with a stick and causing physical harm, allow me to add some perspective of my own. The only reason this is such a big deal is because he is famous. He is famous and got caught. Therefore, huge shit storm amongst the masses. Seriously? Take a moment and sit back from your screen. Think about your family, your coworkers, your neighbors, your fellow church goers. Adrian is not alone here. This kind of discipline still happens all of the time, all around us every day and usually behind closed doors. Not always closed. I have come across my fair share of parents out in public who seem not to have a care about who sees them doing this that and the other to their children for the whole world to see. But most of the time they don't talk about it. They don't sit at their desk at work and announce to their fellow office workers that they gave it to their kid real good the previous evening. They tone their story down or they keep the nitty gritty details to themselves and don't share at all. Why? Because deep down inside they know that many of us don't want to hear that and would probably disagree with their choice of discipline. Yet, like so many, they don't have it in themselves to change their ways. Sad but true.

So, yes, what Adrian supposedly did, like so many others still do all around us every single day, is wrong. We can sit at our screens and judge them until the cows come home and our faces turn blue. It won't solve anything. We need to leave the judging up to the judges. That is their job to define where the dangerous invisible line is drawn. And if we do not agree with how he/they are judged than we, as people and as a society, can get up off of our collective asses and make a difference where it really counts. We can lead by example. We can write letters to our government agencies. We can find or create support networks where citizens could get the education and the resources they may need to make a change in themselves. We can do all sorts of things. But judging ain't one.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My Insignificant 9/11 Story

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September 11, 2001: It was a regular ol' morning during my former life. I had recently decided to go back to college starting in late August 2001. I was a young mother with two sons ages three and one. I was still with their father at this time, living in a tiny two bedroom apartment in a not so great part of town. I considered myself an average American and still do. Just living life, day by day, hoping for the American Dream someday.

My long time boyfriend was already gone for the day, either at school or at work, I really don't remember. My boyfriend's brother's on again off again girlfriend came over in the morning to watch our sons while I went over to the local community college for my morning Biology class. I was, of course, too busy to turn on the television in the mornings. I drove to school listening to a CD in my car instead of the radio. Arriving at school just before class began, I cut straight through the courtyard and into the Science building without stopping in the cafeteria for my usual morning cup of cheap coffee. Class began at 9:00 AM. I remember my professor was just a couple minutes late. Hindsight has me guessing he had just found out about the attacks in New York and kept his poker face on for us, the students, keeping us in the dark for almost two whole hours so we would concentrate. Class was done right around 11:00 AM and I swung by the cafeteria before I headed home.

It was not even lunch time yet but the room was completely packed...and nearly silent. The chairs were full and all pulled up near the televisions. Students and staff sitting completely still and staring open mouthed up at the screens. I stepped closer, tentatively, to see what the big deal was. I remember feeling nervous in my stomach. It didn't take long to catch on. The news channel just kept playing the footage over and over from different angles. I only stood there for a couple of minutes and each time they showed the planes hit the buildings all I could think was that they were showing us people dying, over and over. Those buildings had been full of life. Everyone had already shown up for work that morning. I was instantly nauseous. Usually, in a situation like that I would change the channel, wait to read the news story or forget about it all together. I prefer not to watch people or children or animals being hurt in any way if I can avoid it. I do not condone it's excessive coverage and try not to support these kinds of stories in any way. But this day...this day was different.

I didn't stick around to eat and study in the cafeteria that day. I got in my car and drove home to my babies as fast as I legally could. I turned on my own television and was slowly educated on the tragic events of the morning. I hugged my babies more than usual. I was consumed by the news for the rest of the day, into the evening and then the wee hours of the next morning. I cried off and on. I didn't know anyone involved. I was crying for the strangers lost, the families left behind and the new world we were sure to be heading into. Far away news stories don't usually effect me like that. Still, I cried for my own children and for the unpredictable world I raise them in.

Fast forward thirteen years. Does that event still effect me? Yes. Yes it does. Today is the anniversary. If I had my way today, my family and I would be hiding. I would have asked my husband to take the day off of work. I would have kept all of the children home from school. We would have stayed home and had a nice day together, hiding away from the world and it's hideousness at times. But that is no way to live. I can't live that way. I would never make my family live that way. I do not feel like this every year but the world is still not at ease. Especially in recent months. ISIS claims that they will be here soon. They may or they may not. They may be here already. Any which way, I must go on with everyday life. I will not project unhealthy fear onto my family. I will not allow the bad guys of the world to have that power over me. It is truly out of my control. But, I am a mom and surely not the only one who has crazy thoughts now and again, however out of our control the situations may be. We lay awake at night and think of everything. Everything.

So, why bother sharing my insignificant 9/11 story? Because I am convinced that I am not alone. I am not the only American mom or parent that has thoughts like these. Not the only one who lays awake at night hoping and praying that my children never have to experience a day in the world like 9/11. I am not the only one who on a day like today almost doesn't let go of the child they are about to send away on the school bus, off into this crazy world that keeps us on our toes. And definitely not the only one who counts down the minutes until their children and their significant other makes it home at the end of the day, unscathed and unchanged. I just choose to write about mine as it helps me get through days like these.

So, in remembrance of those lost and those effected, here's to you and to us and to them. I will never forget.

(Note: The photo I chose for this post was not from that day but still represented what I wanted it to.)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Me Soup!

I make stuff up. As a parent, I mean. Always looking for creative ways to keep the day on track and the kids as content as possible. All in the name of parental sanity. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the only one.

When my teenagers were little there was a time where they both decided they no longer liked bath time. Ugh. I am not exactly sure why. They take many more baths in the summer time when they are outside getting good and dirty more often. It wasn't like baths were a new thing around here. They didn't seem scared really. Maybe it was a control thing. Maybe they were just testing me out. But, I was getting so tired of the battle most nights. One night a light bulb came on in my head and that is when I started playing 'Me Soup'.

There is an old Shel Silverstein poem called Me Stew.

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My kids knew the word soup better than stew so I went with that. I remember saying something along the lines of, "That's it, enough, up to the bathroom, I have an idea." Trying to get them all excited for their bath. I gathered up a pile of toy vegetables and such from their toy kitchen area and made a quick stop by the kitchen for a couple of wooden spoons from my utensil drawer. To the bathroom we went. To play 'Me Soup' in the tub. And it worked!

Now, they already had a bazillion bath toys. Kids get bored, though. I have found that it is better if I rotate the toys in and out of their worlds every so often so that they find them exciting and like new again, each time I bring them back out. This game was just what they needed to adjust their kid-skewed outlook on bath time.

Today, fast forwarding quite a few years, my twin toddlers were cranky as all get out and I decided 'Me Soup' was the answer. They got to play it for the first time today. It was great!

They both had a very good time and cheered up significantly. Whew! My morning has been saved.

I do not have pictures of the other thing I used to do for my second son. Back when he was younger, and 'Me Soup' was old news to him, we had Disco Bath Night. He had one of those plastic disco balls in his bedroom. I brought it into the bathroom with us and plugged it in on the opposite side of the bathroom, far from the tub for safety purposes, along with his radio. We turned out the lights and he took his bath while we listened to some tunes and fun colored lights glowed all over the bathroom. That one was a big hit, too. Like I said, whatever gets us through the day sometimes.

I would love to hear any of your fun bath time ideas. Feel free to comment and share how you stay sane at bath time. Bye for now!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bulk Breakfasts for Your Back-to-School Kids

School is back in session, full swing. We, as parents, are crazy busy and anything that makes the mornings run smoothly is a win-win situation. I would like to share with you something I tried out last year that went very well. Today I decided to do it again.

Now, in my home I will admit that most mornings we do cold cereal and milk. You know, the good ones, the sugary ones, the ones in the bright colored boxes and bags. My kids love them. I know I aspire to be a super mom so please don't judge. Ha! I cook for my kids all of the time. Healthy balanced meals and all that jazz. I can be quite strict about it actually. But for breakfast, most of the time, I let them have a little fun. Sometimes they want a little something more, though. With five kids all getting up and eating at different times throughout the morning, dragging my tired butt outta bed to make a big fat breakfast for the whole fam damily just isn't in the cards for me. So, here we are.

A couple hours tops and you can make home cooked breakfast foods that are super fast and very easy. You can serve your little ones within minutes or the bigger kids can get it for themselves. Who doesn't want that?!

Today I decided to make French Toast and Egg-A-Muffins. I will probably get to a couple batches of banana pancakes later today also. I did not invent these recipes, obviously, but I did name the egg one for myself because I have no idea which website my dear hubby got the original recipe from in the first place. He found it back when he was on a P90X kick a couple of years ago and I thought these were down right genius.

For the French Toast you will need eggs, bread, a splash of milk, a dash of salt and some cinnamon. You will need approximately one egg for every two slices of bread. Today I used a dozen eggs and was able to make twenty five slices of French Toast.

Beat together all of the ingredients, except for the slices of bread, in a shallow container. Dip each slice of bread, coating both sides of the slice with the egg mixture and place on a greased or non-stick pan (I prefer to use my electric skillet for these). Heat until cooked through flipping them each once.

Allow the slices to cool completely and place them in a freezer safe zip lock baggie or airtight container of your choice.

The kids can take out a couple slices in the mornings and put them right into the toaster. So easy. My kids like syrup on theirs. But, when my kids were little I didn't allow them to have syrup yet so I would spread a thin layer of applesauce or any of their fruit jarred baby foods. They all loved it.

I used white bread today because that is what I happened to have in the cabinet. If you are looking for a slightly healthier option, use wheat bread instead. If you want it to be an extra special savory treat, use cinnamon raisin bread. It is so tasty. I pick up a loaf whenever they are on sale at the bakery of my local grocery store.

And now the Egg-A-Muffins! Yummy! You have your protein and possibly dairy and vegetable groups covered with this one. I find it easiest to do at least a dozen at a time. For this you will need a dozen large eggs, a splash of milk, a little salt and pepper and then any meats, veggies and/or cheeses of your choosing. Today I used diced ham, onion and shredded mozzarella.

Beat together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Add the diced meat and vegetables if you are using any. Using a 1/2 cup measuring cup, scoop and pour the egg mixture into a greased muffin pan (do not use paper liners). Be sure to scoop some of the meats and vegetables into each one as they can sometimes sink to the bottom of the bowl.

Sprinkle one or two tablespoons of shredded cheese onto the top of each one. I highly recommend placing your muffin pan onto a cookie sheet just in case any egg batter dribbles over the edges. I really hate cleaning out my oven. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes. The tops will be nice and round and golden delicious.

When they are done, allow them to cool completely and then place them into a freezer safe zip lock baggie, same as the French Toast.

When you are ready to enjoy one (or two or ten), just microwave one for 45 - 90 seconds, depending on if they have been thawed out or are still frozen. Again, so easy!

What I especially love about this recipe is that the filling choices and combinations are endless. Sausage, crumbled bacon, ham, peppers, onions, all the different kinds of cheese. Have fun with this one and make what you like.

So, now I am off to do the same with banana pancakes. My kids can pop them right into the toaster too. I hope you found this helpful and that your kids enjoy some hearty home cooked breakfast foods every once in a while! Love all around!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Action for Ashlyne!

Custom artwork by: Jesse Varela

Reaching out for help here. A very good girlfriend of mine and her husband are going through a very tough time right now. I knew them both back in high school. Everyone went their separate ways and lived lives after graduation. They found each other again and were married last February. I am so very happy for them. They were truly meant to be. Between the two of them they have seven beautiful children. About a month ago they received some devastating news. Her husband's ten year old daughter from his first marriage has just been diagnosed with Stage 4 Ewing's Sarcoma (cancer). I don't even know what to say.

Our community is coming together in the most inspiring ways. So many are reaching out and doing what they can. I write for you all today to ask for your help too. No matter where you are or where you come from, maybe you can help us make a difference for this courageous girl and her family.

Here are the options:

There is a fund set up at TCF Banks. If you wish to donate towards medical bills and other related expenses, please send a check to The Ashlyne Thurber Benefit at TCF Bank 7155 E Point Douglas Drive,
Cottage Grove, MN 55016. 

There is also a GoFundMe site. If you would rather donate through this route, please visit and do so. Every single cent will help this family during the truly difficult journey they have ahead of them. I can not thank you enough.

If you are local (Minnesota/Twin Cities) I am hosting a fundraiser benefit this month in Brooklyn Park. Please feel free to e-mail me with questions or for details about the event. If you want to contribute to the event in some way, I would be willing to discuss that too. ginnylouden at gmail dot com

Custom artwork by: Jesse Varela

Thank you so much for your time. Keep Miss Ashlyne in your prayers. Love to you and yours. <3