Friday, April 29, 2011

Freckles Crafts Giveaway WINNER!!! (Was it you?!)

First, I'd like to thank Rebecca of Freckles Crafts for this great giveaway. Not only did she award me with a year's supply of crafts from her own blog giveaway, but she also offered a giveaway to you my readers. I hope that some of you liked what you saw in her store and plan on stocking up on some kits for those summer "I'm Bored!" days. They've got some really great kits, including one of my favorites (if you're my husband and you're reading this, then hint, hint, nudge!) :
Felted Owl - ONLY $4.50!!!

 And, without further ado....

Out of 141 entries (you guys are great, by the way!), the winning comment was #99, belonging to angieb:

angieb said... 99 I liked Freckles on FB #1 Angie Best-Boss
Congratulations to Angie! I'll be emailing you tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fun Outside! {Wordless Wednesday 4/27}

Howdy! I just want to remind you that my Freckles Crafts Giveaway is ending on Thursday. There are only 71 entries as I write this post, so head on over - you have a great chance!

Also, I have a new Green Parenting Giveaway Linky! It is an ongoing linky, so you only need to enter your giveaways once. Don't shy away because of the name - if your giveaway is related to parenting in any way or is eco-friendly in any way, please go link up. It can't hurt, right? And, if you're looking to win some cool stuff, go check it out and enter some giveaways. There are already quite a few really good ones listed.

And, finally, go check out the Natural Parenting Blog Party. There are a ton of really great blogs linked up. I've found more new blogs than I know what to do with. If you have a blog that fits into the "natural parenting" category, link yourself up! I've written a few posts specifically for this blog party. You can find the list of them HERE. The party is going on until April 30, so there is plenty of time!

Hmm.. I had a bunch of "Server Rejected" photos. They were just downloaded from my camera. Anyone know what's up with that?

Well, I guess I'll have to call this weeks' WW: "Little Guy Having Fun Outside"


Actually, our catnip just came up. Our little kitty found it!

Look what I found!!!

Well, I guess that's it until next week. Maybe I'll figure out how to fix these rejected pics by then.

Thanks for stopping by and please let me know you've done so. I will return the favor!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Re-Post: Where Has All of the Nature Gone??? {Natural parenting Blog Party}

The Peaceful Housewife

This was one of my first posts. Now that spring is coming again, it's been weighing heavily on me. I wish my children could explore the magic of nature the same way I did as a child. Can we fix this problem???

Courtesy of Rosemary Ratcliff

I remember loving nature when I was a kid. Not in the sense that, when people asked me what I liked, I'd say, "Nature!" Summers were the best. I'd wake up, eat breakfast, and run outside. I'd hear, "Make sure you come back when I call you for lunch!" Sometimes I never did make it back. I had things to do. The first was to stir up all of the Mayflies that had settled on our house overnight.

Courtesy Lisa McDonald

When that mission was accomplished, I'd sit watching the robins pull fat worms from the lawn and try to figure out how they did it so easily. I once spent an entire afternoon digging up the flowerbeds and never came across one single wiggly prize. Oh, but if it was raining, that wan a different story. Our suburban sidewalks came alive with earthworms, snails, and slugs. I marvelled at them. All of the kids in the neighborhood took the time to help our slimy friends safely cross that huge concrete "street" by scooping them up and setting them in the grass.

This photo's mine! (His name is Chester, by the way!)
When the sun beat down on us, we'd find ladybugs and grasshoppers. If you could keep a ladybug on you the longest, you would be lucky that day. We had grasshopper contests to see whose insect could jump the highest. I can't recall anyone actually winning - the green jumpers wouldn't follow directions and usually escaped before we could even see which direction they were headed.

Courtesy Dr. Joseph Valks
 We often would find toads and turtles travelling through the neighborhood, on a visit from the creek that ran through the park down the street. Finding a toad made you the most popular kid in the neighborhood for the day. A turtle turned you into a legend for at least a week! I recall always naming my finds "Herkemer." Not sure why. I think I may have had the idea that each toad and turtle I found was a repeat visitor, just dropping by to say "Hi" to me over and over.

Courtesy of Arvind Balaraman
 The evenings were the best! Crickets chirped loudly as we played freeze tag in someones yard. The lightning bugs would come out in droves. There were so many that, after it got completely dark, we could see each other's silhouettes blocking out the swarm of green lights. Who needed a light out there?! And, though we lived in an area surrounded by wetlands, no one had more than four or five mosquito bites at any one time.

Why am I writing about these memories? The recent news about the sudden deaths of thousands of birds and fish around the world got me thinking. My kids will never experience nature the way I did. I live in the same area - the westernmost point of Lake Erie. Now, I get all excited when a Mayfly lands on out house and get the kids to come over to marvel at it. The robins are just passing through now, rarely do my kids have the pleasure of pondering these birds' ability to pluck a worm from the earth. When it rains, a few sorry-looking worms peek out and they don't bring their friends the snails and slugs. They've never seen a toad in the wild and turtles are just pictures in books to them. They rarely spend time outside after dusk because the mosquitoes outnumber the lightning bugs a zillion-to-one.

We have a really nice state park two miles away from us with a beach on the lake. We don't go there. The entire length of the beach is an Area of Concern (AOC), according to the EPA - one of thirty in the entire country the last time I looked. This is due to PCBs and other toxic substances in the water. The insects and animals that I once was in awe of are being killed in alarming numbers. We are warned not to eat the fish from the river that is the center of that AOC. Conveniently, the line for that AOC stops 100 yards before it hits the water treatment plant for our area. (I try not to think about what is coming out of our faucet. I can tell you that 1" of bathwater is a beautiful blue and smells strongly of chlorine bleach.)

Courtesy of Evgeni Dinev

For many years, I have dreamt of moving far away from everything. North Dakota? Alaska? My arthritis won't take the cold. We're looking, though. I've read every book you can think of about homesteading, building your own house, living self-sufficiently and off the grid. My oldest is twelve. I don't think my dreams will be fulfilled by the time he's ready to leave for college. But my toddler, hopefully, will get to experience the wonder of seeing nature in it's natural habitat. We may have to work for years to bring our 5-10 acres back to the way it should be, environmentally, but I'm willing to work hard just so he can feel that awe. And, hopefully, my incredibly creative and imaginative older son will be able to experience it, too, even though he'll be on the cusp of adulthood.

Photo Credits:
Image: Rosemary Ratcliff /
Image: Lisa McDonald /
Image: Dr Joseph Valks /
Image: Arvind Balaraman /
Image: Evgeni Dinev /

Monday, April 25, 2011

I Have a NEW Page!

Hi! I went ahead and added a giveaway linky last night. See that link at the top of this page that says: Green Parenting Giveaway Linky? That's it! I'm sorry that those links up there are so hard to see. I have absolutely no idea how to change it into a darker color, so until I can afford a blog makeover it's going to stay that way. (I'm hoping to get a cool button for this linky, eventually, too!)

So, what kind of stuff will you find at the Green Parenting Giveaway Linky???? Just about any giveaways that have to do with eco-friendly products, anything that would appeal to children, educational products, stuff for moms and dads, healthy/natural foods, etc.It is an ongoing linky, meaning that you only have to link up one time and it will stay until the end date has passed.

So, whether you're looking for a place to link your giveaway, or you want to win some fantastic prizes, the Green Parenting Giveaway Linky is the place to go!

Pop on over - there are already some great giveaways linked up!!!

Potty Training Means Noticing Differences!

***WARNING: This post contains the word "winkie" frequently! Proceed at your own risk...

So, since Little Guy is being introduced to potty training, one of his favorite "hobbies" has become sitting on his stool in the bathroom and watching everyone go potty. Yeah, not something I'd be too awfully fascinated with. But, to a little one who is trying to be like the grown-ups around him, this is just one more way he can become a "big boy". Whenever anyone announces that they have to use the restroom, or even when he hears the door to the bathroom opening, he wants to "help" whoever needs to go.

Now, I am the only female that he is around on a regular basis. He has a Daddy, a big brother, and two male cats here. Even his toys are all boys - his pretty baby doll who is all dressed in pink has been dubbed "Steve" by Little Guy! So, when he "helps" me go potty, he's just simply amazed that "Mommy doesn't have a winkie." I know, should be teaching him proper names and all, but that's what Daddy calls it, so that's what he calls it. I don't think it will damage him all that much! Anyway, he's very concerned about my lack of body parts. We've explained that that's just how it is - boys and girls are just different in that area. I've assured him that I'm OK with this turn of events. But he still can't seem to shake the feeling that I'm missing out on something so very important.

Lately, whenever he goes potty or gets his diaper changed, we end up having some form of conversation about his winkie and how he can go pee with it. Last night, though, the fact that I don't have one was heavily on his mind. He came up with a wonderful solution for me - it was really a moment of genius to him. Here's how it went (and I'm not making this up!):

L.G.: I have winkie!
ME: Yes, you do!
L.G.: Daddy have winkie, Brubber have winkie, kitties have winkies... (he went on with a huge list, including such famous names as Mr. Rogers and Elmo.)
ME: Yep, they all have winkies (trying to shake the image of Mr. Rogers having a "winkie" out of my mind's eye - shudder!)
L.G.: Mommy don't have winkie. Poor Mommy.
ME: Oh, that's OK. I don't need a winkie. I'm a girl and we don't have them.
L.G.: (He's had an epiphany!) I know! You go buy a winkie at the store!
ME: Oh, no, you can't buy a winkie at the store!
L.G.: You have to pay with money. Then get winkie!
ME: Umm....

Now, just how should I have handled THAT?! On the one hand, he needs to know you can't just go out and buy that kind of thing. But he was so excited about this wonderful solution for my "problem" that I didn't want him to think his idea was silly. So, I just kinda changed the subject. I think I was more taken with the fact that he managed to come up with this solution on his own, you know?
Hoping to be diaper-free soon!

Have any good stories about little ones realizing that we're all not the same? I'd love to hear them!
Have any ideas on how I could handle this situation (or others) should it come up again? PLEASE share!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

One of My Posts Was Featured on Mama Eve

Mama Eve Badge

I had a pleasant surprise this morning - Mama Eve featured one of my posts today! Go find out which one and check out the other great posts she found this week HERE. I especially loved "Toddlers and the Right to Self-Determination" that she found on Simple Childhood. These are all great posts and I feel so honored that Suchada thought my post belonged grouped with them. So, head on over and check them out. You won't disappointed!!

Consistently Amazing Homemade White Bread {Recipe}

So many people are afraid to make yeast breads because, somewhere, they got the idea that it's nearly impossible to do so without ending up with a rock-hard loaf or they think they need a bread machine. I've only ended up with a bad loaf once - when I forgot it was baking! And I have never, ever had a bread machine. I think that if I had the space and the money for one, I'd still skip it. There's something about kneading a warm lump of dough while the faint yeasty smell wafts up toward me that gives me a nice sense of peacefulness. That and, if I have any tensions, pummeling the dough for a minute or two really helps! Oh, and don't get me started on the wonderful smell that begins to fill my home about 15 minutes after I put it into the oven... Why don't they make candles that smell like that? Oh, I know! Because that's not a scent that you can replicate - you MUST have the real thing!

I describe this recipe as being "consistently amazing" because we've made it four times in the past month and it's always come out perfectly. The bread has a wonderful flavor. It has a nice, soft texture. You can slice it thinly enough that it makes a great sandwich loaf. And, finally, it doesn't have giant holes from air pockets, so you can spread on some butter, jam, or (my favorite!) Nutella without getting a huge gob of it in your palm.

Now, I am going to give you the instructions for making this bread the way I do them. It's different than the way you'd usually make bread, but I hate doing dishes and this is how I get around it. If you're a stickler for doing it the "right" way, or this is the first time you've made yeast bread, please go HERE for the original recipe and follow their directions!

Milk & Honey Bread (2 loaves)
(adapted from Elizabeth Yetter's Recipe)
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 pkg. active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter (melted) + 2 Tbsp. butter (melted)
3 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. sugar (optional)
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt (can cut to 1/2 Tbsp., but it won't be as flavorful)
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 tsp. cider vinegar
6 c. all-purpose flour (bread flour is even better, but not necessary)

 Pour warm water into a bowl and add yeast. Allow to sit for five minutes. Add 3 Tbsp. butter, honey, sugar, and salt. Stir well. Measure buttermilk and add cider vinegar to it, stir. If you'd like to reduce the rising time by 15 minutes or so, heat the milk to lukewarm. Just don't heat it too much - it could kill the yeast.

Pour milk/vinegar mixture into yeast mixture and stir well. Add 5 c. of the flour, one cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Turn onto counter and knead the final cup of flour into the dough. You may need more flour, depending on the humidity that day. You should knead the dough until it's stretchy and no longer really sticky - about 10 minutes.

Cleaning the counter while the dough rises. Cleaning up your mess is an important part of cooking!

If you have a helper, let them deal with the dough while you wash out the bowl and dry it. Pour around 1-2 Tbsp. oil in the bowl (any type is fine as long as it doesn't have a strong flavor.) Using your hand, make sure the oil is coating the entire inside of the bowl. Put kneaded dough into the bowl and turn, so the dough is also coated in oil. Cover bowl and set in a warm place for about an hour, until it has doubled in size.

When dough has risen, punch it down and divide into two equal parts. Knead just enough to get any large bubbles out. Form into loaf shapes and set into buttered loaf pans. Now, there are a ton of different methods you can use to form the loaves. I just squish it around in my hands until it's cylindrical. It just depends on whether you really care how pretty that loaf of bread is. My family eats the stuff so fast and doesn't take time to even notice what it looks like. I just don't put the effort into gorgeous bread anymore! Now you're going to use the other 2 Tbsp. of butter! Coat the tops of your loaves with it, then set them in a warm place to rise. This time, it should only take 30 - 45 minutes for them to double in size.

Meanwhile, do those dishes!
About 10 minutes before the dough is risen, heat up your oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the loaves on the center rack for 30 to 45 minutes. You'll know they're done when you can tap them and they sound hollow. Now, if you're not going to cut it into thin sandwich-bread slices, you might want to brush the tops with butter once more. Let the loaves sit in the pans for about five minutes, then turn them out and onto a rack to completely cool. The first loaf doesn't usually make it past the first fifteen minutes out of the oven around here. So, the second is the one I slice up. You have to make sure that the bread is completely cool before slicing, or it will smoosh when you're cutting.

That's it for the bread. I hope you try it out! Please let me know if you did. I'd love to hear your opinions and anything you may have done different. Baking is always a science experiment and I love hearing about people's variations.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I was Featured! {Natural Parenting Blog Party}

The Peaceful Housewife

Thanks to The Peaceful Housewife for inviting me to be a guest poster! This is one of my favorite posts - so far. Head on over and check it out. Join the Natural Parenting Blog Party if you haven't already - it runs until April 30th, so there's plenty of time. And, if you're looking for some new natural parenting blogs, check out the linky, I've found tons of new favorite blogs!

Is Anyone Interested?

I was wondering if anyone would be interested if I were to create an Eco-Friendly and Natural Parenting Giveaway Linky on my blog. I see a lot of the blogs I follow have some amazing giveaways and they're just not getting the amount of entries they deserve. Sometimes, I'm not even aware of these great giveaways until the last minute or when it's too late. If you're a green blogger who has giveaways, would you consider linking up if I offered a linky like this?

When I was searching for the above picture, I came across this photo and just had to share it. How cool is THAT?! They have all kinds of really cool trees!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day {Post I}

So, today is Earth Day. Here's my problem: Our community doesn't celebrate until next Saturday. With the holiday weekend, it's hard to get people to participate in this kind of thing. To get more participation, they decided to wait a week and do it then. Good idea. Just think about it: 1) It will be held on a Saturday, when more people will not be working, 2) There won't be bunnies, eggs, and candy on most people's minds, 3) It will be held at the end of our area's Spring Break, when most kids are "bored" and parents are willing to do anything to get them busy!

I will write a second post that pertains to what we did in the community next week! As for today, we really don't go all out and celebrate Earth Day. We try to live with the earth in mind every day. I tend to feel that the big to-do of Earth Day is more aimed at those who just don't think about becoming more green. I feel having this single day per year as a way to educate others about the need to think about the planet and to give them easy-to-do ideas that they could actually use in their daily lives. So, here is a brief list of some of the (easy) questions you can ask yourself in your every day decisions:

How can I use this again?
I save nearly everything. My kitchen looks ridiculous. But, I reuse nearly everything at least once. Jars, bowls, bags, spice jars, paper bags... I use them for food storage, to wrap gifts, to keep things organized, and to keep the kids busy. For instance, those spaghetti sauce jars are great for freezing soups, sauces, and even produce that looks like it's going to go bad soon. I just sent my sister a bunch of seeds that I saved from last year's garden in spice jars and prescription pill bottles that I washed out. I put a nice bows on them and used a little paint to add a picture of the plant that would grow from the seeds inside. And, finally, my kids love messing around with my pile of "junk". I give them markers or crayons and some glue and off they go! They've made robots, cars, and many abstract pieces of art from all of the boxes, bags, and toilet paper rolls I have laying around. The best part? They're being creative, not using any energy (i.e. TV), and they can spend hours screwing around with little help from me!

Can I use the packaging for something else when the product is gone?
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the above. Yes, I have been known to buy a new brand just so I can get my hands on the package it comes in! I think that it's important to consider the packaging a product comes in before buying it. There have been times when I've passed up a good sale on something I wanted (not needed) because the amount of packaging that would go directly into the trash can was staggering. I've even written to these companies, telling them why I opted to buy a different brand or not buy at all. When enough consumers don't but these things, companies will have no choice but to rethink their packaging. In the end, it'll save us from tons of trash making its way to landfills!

Is it worth the drive?
Now, many of you know that we don't have a car anymore, but we once did. I remember looking in the fridge and seeing that we were low on milk. I'd jump into the car and drive a mile to Kroger to get milk and maybe pick up a few other items. I didn't need those other things, just the milk, but while I was there... Anyway, before the car was only a memory, I began to question myself: What else do we really need? Can I walk to the little store on the corner (a block away) to get what we need? The answer was most often - Yes, go walk down there. It may have been snowing or raining, but when I considered how much time I'd be outside when I had to go from the house to the car, the car (usually waaayyyy out in the parking lot) to the store, and back again, the walk to the store was a better deal.

Is there a different form of entertainment?
We used to go to the movies a lot. Then we realized that it was just a wasteful way to spend the afternoon. I mean, we might have arrived to the theater together, but movie-watching is kind of an individual experience, you know? We'd but treats there. The packaging is nuts - a small box of candy wrapped in a piece pf plastic. A cardboard tray with a handful of nachos and a couple of squirts of "cheese food" in plastic cups. It all gets tossed into a trash can when you're through with them. Theaters have managed to turn their audio systems up to full-tilt, causing any conversation after the movie to be pointless - WHAT???

Can I make this from scratch?
Yeah, cooking from scratch has such a bad rap. My theory is that a bunch of women got together and decided to scare the pants off of younger women. "Oh, wait until you have to cook dinner every night!" and "You'll be slaving over a hot stove, just like me, one day soon!" It's kind of the same mentality that has every young pregnant woman in complete fear of labor and delivery to where they just say they're not going to try natural, "I'm asking for an epidural the minute I walk into that hospital!" seems to be the mantra of those who listened a little too closely to Aunt Maude's horrific story of childbirth their entire lives. 

ANYWAY, I'm here to say that the torture of cooking from scratch is all a myth. It takes a little longer than popping something frozen into a microwave for five to seven minutes, but not an all-day project unless you want it to be. I make homemade pizza about two times a week. The dough is easy - mix five ingredients in a bowl, cover it up for an hour or so, roll it out, and you're done. Slap on some spaghetti sauce and shred cheese over it all and you merely need to bake for 15 minutes! You can add meat, veggies, etc. but it's not required. Crock pots make it even easier. Cut a bunch of stuff up, cover, turn a little knob, and in a few hours you have a delicious dinner! What I'm saying is that cooking from scratch is simple. It saves you money, It keeps packaging out of the trash. It keeps companies from creating waste and pollution when they make your frozen dinner... Get the idea?

How did they do this in the Depression Era/times of war/before _____ was invented?
Really. It works! What did people do when they didn't have Zip-Loc bags? How did anyone live before TV? What did kids play with before video games and electronic toys? When you think of all the things you do nowadays, take a moment to think about what it was like before the things you use all of the time were around. I often show my kids the typical toys that kids in the 1920's played with. My oldest has always been interested in having his own go-kart/scooter thingy. I've told him over and over again where he could find wood, wheels, nails, and a hammer. He wants instructions. I don't believe that kids way back then had books or the Internet to look this stuff up. They just tries and tried again. This summer, that's his project - to make one by using his own wits and some scraps I've been saving (for whatever) in the basement! Hopefully I'll be able to have him help me write a post of his trials and errors in August. But, back to the point - People had to use their own imaginations to figure out how to do things for themselves. They didn't pop over to WalMart to stock up on Rubbermaid containers, Fry Daddies, and Gorilla Glue, you know? See if you can find a way to replace some of your everyday items with something else that is cheaper and friendlier to the earth!
Is it really that much more convenient?
I often think that people spend more time and energy trying to figure out how to get out of doing things than just rolling up their sleeves and doing the stupid task. leaning, for instance. It is great to just grab a paper towel to clean up that puddle of ???? that your kid just left on the kitchen floor. But, why not use a cloth? "Oh, if I use a cloth, I'll have to rinse it out, throw it in the washer, dry it, find a place to keep it... Think about those paper towels, though. You had to go to a store and buy them. Where did the money come from? If you work a minimum wage job, those paper towels probably cost you nearly a half hour of work. Are they worth it? Think of all the half-hours you spend each year working just so you can clean up a little puddle in the kitchen. Puts a new perspective on things, doesn't it? And then there's the environmental impact. Many paper towel manufacturers use a little polyester in their formulas to give you a stronger towel. This stuff is essentially plastic, and we all know by now that plastic doesn't break down in landfills. An old shirt turned into a rag is certainly strong and it takes just a second to rinse out. When the rag has outlived it's usefulness, it WILL break down, too! There are a lot of things that seem convenient (fast food!) that really end up NOT being all that great when you really analyze them.

Do I really need it?
Oh! I think I just hit a nerve with a few of you. "Do I really need it?" is a tough one. I have tons of things I say I need: shoes, make up, new vacuum cleaner, new rugs for the kitchen... I don't really need any of them. I think that American culture has us in the mind-set that we "need" everything. My oldest "needs" the newest video game. My husband "needs" new headphones. Even Little Guy has gotten in on the game by recently telling me he "needs" donuts. I have old shoes that are not worn out anywhere, I don't wear make up often enough to warrant any kind of need, my vacuum hose is broken and fixed with tape - it works, do I really have to have rugs in the kitchen?, oldest has enough games, hubby's headphones work just fine (they're not as loud as he likes, but I think his ears would disagree!), and Little Guy does NOT need donuts! By merely thinking of those in third world countries that go without all of the time but still survive and even in more advanced countries, people live much simpler, happy lives without having houses filled with junk. It's all in your mentality. You only feel the need for the unnecessary when you have envy or want to keep up with the Jonses! 

That's it for my little lecture. LOL  


I'll have a great post next week after we hit the Earth Day Fair on Saturday and participate in some of the community activities in our town next weekend! 

Oh, and if you have a second, check out my post about a great Earth Day giveaway going on at Environmental Booty. There is a prize package worth $1350 that will be given away - ends tonight at midnight!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Had to Share This: WIN $1350 in Eco-Friendly Prizes Blog Giveaway!

I just couldn't know about this giveaway an not pass it on to others. Environmental Booty is having it's 2011 Great Green Earth Day Giveaway right now. There are just under 500 entries and it ends Earth Day (Friday, April 22) at midnight EDT! With all of the options for entering, the odds are great. Plus, with random number choosers, even one little entry could win you all of these amazing prizes:
  • "The Sister" style of Sandals from Naya - $120
  • Amazon Herb Co. Lluvia Basics skincare products - $190
  • Pro Energy Consultants Home Energy Audit - $500
  • Brightly Green All-Natural Aromatherapy Household Cleaners package - $51.43
  • Shaklee 'Get Clean Water' pitcher filtration starter kit - $67.70
  • two leaves and a bud Bamboo Tea Chest Sampler - $89.95
  • Coco-Zen Organic Truffles Gift Certificate - $25
  • BabyBearShop Organic Baby Wash + Shampoo - $20
  • Baby Harmony Pure Household Cleaners Spring Cleaning Package - $54.40
  • Rosie Emery CD for Children - $10
  • Oh Plah! Bracelet for Mom/Teether for Baby - $14.99
  • Sweet P's Organic Romance Gift Set - $20
  • NYR Organics Lip Gloss - $16
  • Outdoor Technology Inked Recycled Speakers - $7.95
  • EcoStrip Power Strip + $25 Gift Card - $64.95
  • Mia ella's Eco-Friendly Gourmet Jar Candle - $20
  • Reflex Safety Gear "Hot Lips" Pepper Spray - $8.99
  • Green Garnmeto 4-in-1 Garment Bag - $9.99
  • Geogenex Probiotic Hand Sanitizing Gel - $14.95
  • Book: Whole Earth Discipline by Stewart Brand - $20
  • Book: Signed Copy of Celebrate Green by Corey Colwell-Lipson and Lynn Colwell - $24.95
  • Book: Signed Copy of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story by Susan Freinkel - $27
OK, that's it! I'd LOVE to win this amazing package, wouldn't you???  Hurry on over an enter - you have until Friday night to do so!!!

**The only thing I'm getting out of posting about this giveaway is 10 extra entries. Hopefully, it'll be the difference between my winning or not. If YOU enter the giveaway ecause you read about it here, please let me know. I'd be so happy!!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Do Rewards Equate to Bribery? {Natural Parenting Blog Party}

The Peaceful Housewife

I am currently in my final year of earning my Bachelor of Science in Education and Sociology. Throughout my education, I have repeatedly come across "ways to get students to do what they want" portions of nearly every class. Nearly every one of these lists starts with bribery - "To motivate your students to do well on a test, give a piece of candy to each student that gets an 'A'. As other students observe this reward system, they will also try harder on tests so they may also receive a reward." It makes me sick. Really, I'm not kidding. I think that children should learn based on internal motivations and that motivation gets squashed almost as soon as they step into a classroom that offers candy or other treats for learning. I've literally received lower grades in classes for going against this line of thought. I could have just written papers full of hypocrisy that follow what was being taught, but I think that this is wrong and I want my voice to be heard by my classmates on this matter - especially when these student teachers are still forming their own opinions.

As a parent, I have made the mistake of playing the "If-Then" rewards game many times over. In fact, I'm going through it right now. It's so easy to get your kids to do things you want or need them to do when you can say, "If you pick up all of your toys, then I will let you have a cookie!" Those blocks generally get cleaned up immediately! It was working amazingly well. That is, until recently.

My kids had started to weigh whether the reward was worth their efforts. I usually send my oldest down to the store on the corner to pick up milk or eggs. When he went, I was giving him an extra dollar to get himself a snack. Last week, when I asked him to run down there for me, he said no. WHAT?! He told me he wasn't hungry and, anyway, we already had some peanut butter crackers if he did get hungry. And Little Guy refused to pick up his blocks - over and over. I was getting desperate to the point that I was escalating the prize without even realizing what I was doing. He finally picked them up when I offered a brownie (he rarely gets anything chocolate.) Reality set in. I was doing the one thing that I was so out-spoken against in my classes. I needed to change my tactics right away.

With my oldest, it's much easier to just explain the situation and have him understand. He's a pretty rational guy. I simply told him that we needed milk and I couldn't take Little Guy out because it was too windy and chilly to walk with him. He is old enough to be responsible for getting an item I needed to make dinner and so he could go get it - without the extra dollar. He stomped out the door. But, when he came back, he apologized and told me he understood. He even suggested that I stop giving him the extra money and just buy him surprise snacks once in a while. Um... OK!

Now, the little guy is not that easily placated. He is used to getting special treats for doing what I want. As I was writing the Crafting with Toddlers post, it occurred to me that his "reward" for following the directions is the sense of pride he gets when the project is finished. So, I am very slowly working on getting him to do other things and then trying to instill that same pride in a job well done. For instance, when he cleaned up his blocks this morning, he received no treats (much to his dismay at first.) Instead, I brought out a special medal that I won from One Busy Moma. It is from Tatutina and it says "Super Hero" on it. I ceremoniously put it over his head and told him that he could wear it for a little while because he did a great job cleaning up his mess. I showed him how clean the floor was and how I could walk on it without stepping on blocks. I told him that he must be growing up because he was taking good care of his toys so they wouldn't get broken. You get the picture... Anyway, he had pride in his work. He told Daddy about his clean floor and showed him the medal. He did the same for his brother. And both of the cats. And his Juno doll. And just about all of his other toys.
He even wore it outside to show off to the neighbors!

At dinnertime, we took the medal off and I put it away. Later, before bed, it was time to clean up the toys again. This time he just did it. No begging or reminding him to stay on task. And, when he was done, he proudly announced to anyone who would listen that HE made the floor all clean. I have periodically used the medal to show him some extra appreciation when he's told me he needed to go potty, after he's helped me cook dinner, when we've finished vacuuming, etc. I don't put it on him every time he does something helpful. It's more of an extra way for me to show my appreciation than it is a reward.

Meanwhile, my oldest has been doing the extra things I ask him to do without asking what he'll get in return.Yeah, REALLY!!! I think that my speaking to him as an adult rather than a kid has helped. He understands that, as he gets older, I am depending on him to do more to help our family function. He's even been asking me if I need anything from the store lately! And, when I ask him to take out the trash, he just does it - no stomping or slamming doors. And - GUESS WHAT - last Sunday morning, I slept in until 10 AM! He came into my room when he heard Little Guy wake up, changed his diaper, made him instant oatmeal, and played with him until I woke up in a panic, "OMG! Where's the baby?! He escaped!!!" - LOL!! He told me he figured it was my turn to sleep in.

While this turn of events is wonderful, I can't help but wonder how long it will last. Will I find myself playing the "If-Then" game again? I hope not but, if memory serves me right, I just may.
How do you get your kids to do things?  
What have you tried that doesn't work?  
What are your thoughts on the rewards system in schools and at home?  

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


If you're interested in Tatutina, you can check out their medals HERE. They're only $5 each and cover a variety of subjects (we also have the Awesome Artist medal, won from a second giveaway at Hanging Off the Wire!) In addition to the medals, they carry a variety of other products including wooden take-out menu boxes, dog treat boxes, foot stools, and bookends - just to name a few. All of their products are made with non-toxic materials, so don't worry if you find your little one chewing on the leg of her foot stool! LOL

***I did not receive any compensation for this post. I received two Tatutina Medals from two separate blog giveaways. I think they're pretty cool, along with Tatutina's other stuff, and wanted to share this great site with my readers.

I am also linking this post to the Alexa Hops on Real Mom Reviews. Please, read the rules below (as posted on Real Mom Reviews!) if you would like to join in:

Welcome to Week Six of the "Lower Your Alexa Hop"!
This is a COMMENT hop!
Don't read the rules, I will delete your link!

 This hop works a bit differently than most!
IMPORTANT Please make sure you have the
ALEXA TOOLBAR installed.
Information on why you need the toolbar HERE 

Think this hop is awesome!? Grab the button and help spread the word!

Leave a link to a post on your site you would like comments on.
Links to your main page, will be deleted.
Hop to the links above yours and leave a comment!
During the weekend come back and hop around to the links under yours and leave comments

Last time I change the day of this post I swear.. Since it takes so much time to hop to each site, I'm moving this to a weekend hop. I will post it weekly from now on Fridays at 7pm. I promise I won't change it again 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Baking Bread {Wordless Wednesday 4/20}

Last Saturday, Little Guy and I made the best dinner - Split Pea Soup and Buttermilk Honey Bread. YUMMO! Keep an eye out and I'll have the recipes posted soon - even my picky stepson loved them both!

Guess how I cleaned him up... Vacuum cleaner hose!

How do you explain kneading dough to a toddler? Easy: "Push it, then pull it!"

LOL - Forgot to take photos of the actual loaves. By the time I remembered, I only had 6 slices left and they were busy becoming grilled cheese sandwiches!

Don't forget to check out my GIVEAWAY for a Freckles Crafts Gift Certificate while you're here!

I WON! {Versatile Blogger Award}

I really was surprised that Sasha from One Rich Mother thought of me when she was choosing who to pass the Versatile Blogger Award to. Really, I was having a hard time trying to figure out just what type of blog I am writing here. Whenever I enter my blog into PR sites or blogger sites, I have to really think about what to put down in the little box that asks to describe your blog in 200 characters or less. "You've got to be kidding me!" is my first thought. So, I end up just writing a string of tags that I think might give the reader a good description... maybe.
Woo Hoo!!!
 You should really check out One Rich Mother. She is a relatively new blogger, like me, and has a lot to say about just about everything. I love her natural parenting posts and she always has something that is meaningful to me in every one of her posts. I look forward to reading her blog everyday!

Now, I must share seven things about me. Gee - this is going to be tough. I already did this a couple of weeks ago with the Cherry On Top and Stylish Blogger awards I received! Let's see...

  1. I do not have a car. In fact, we haven't has a car for three years now. My husband was in an accident (he was fine) that totaled our minivan. We could have replaced it with the timely tax return we just received but we decided, instead, that we could manage without one for a few months - at least until Little Guy was due in November. Well, Little Guy was born and we still didn't have a car and everyone lived! So, rather than worrying about emissions and gas prices, we walk nearly everywhere. There is bus service in our town, but it sucks. We also get a ride to the grocery store once a month from a friend. That's when we stock up, so if anything gets missed, we just do without!
  2. We are four people living in a tiny, one-bedroom apartment (my hubby calls it a "compartment".) I quit my crappy job soon after our van bit the dust and decided to focus on my schooling. The rent is very low here and we figured we could deal with the tiny place long enough for me to get a degree. 
  3. I'm in my fourth year on my Bachelor's of Science. I am working on a Sociology degree with a minor in Education. When I graduate, I will continue schooling for a Masters in Education and, hopefully, go on to become a Nationally Certified Teacher, allowing me to work anywhere in the US without having to take each state's certification test. 
  4. I do NOT want to be a regular teacher in a regular classroom in a regular public school!!! I love John Holt's view on compulsory education and would like to figure out how to unschool IN school. There HAS GOT to be a way. I'm thinking that the first step would be to have a one-room schoolhouse situation where children of all ages are in the classroom. Maybe I could open my own school for homeschoolers to meet once or twice a week to work on group projects or something... We'll see!
  5. I hate doctors. I have yet to meet one who is not offended or afraid of having a patient whose knowledge in a particular area exceeds his/her own. I am well-versed in the pros and cons of vaccinations and am able to ask well-thought out questions. The last doctor I had for myself literally kicked me out after he asked me if I wanted the flu shot. I politely declined, so he went into his "you're risking the lives of your children" speech. Then, I asked him tow questions: Does the shot have a live virus, and Does the shot come from a large vial or is it individual (the amounts of mercury vary greatly in these.) He didn't know and got really pissed at me. Told me to leave and find a new doctor, then stormed out of the exam room! O...M...G...!
  6. Another reason I hate doctors: My first husband died of cancer. It was Squamous Cell Cancer of the Skin. I did a LOT of research on this while he was ill. Turns out, the best cure (yes, I said CURE) for this is to literally cut the cancerous part of the skin off. Cancer is gone! He was a medicaid case at a large, posh hospital in Los Angeles. The doctor who was assigned to him was more than unhappy to be working on a patient who would not bring him glory. Now, I easily found a ton of research papers and studies that explained exactly how this type of operation should go - you cut the cancer out, then take a little piece of skin from the surrounding area that is left and check under a microscope to make sure that there are no cancer cells left. I asked about this and it turned out he skipped that part. (Guess his ego told him he could "eyeball" it.) My husband was FINE for six months after the surgery. Felt amazing, no problems whatsoever. Then he got sick again. He was told he still had some staples in his head (where the cancer was) and they needed to be removed. This went on for two years. We finally moved to Michigan and he was seen at U of M. He had the cancer back and it spread into his skull and was making its way to his brain stem - he had two months. See why I can't stand doctors???
  7. OK, last one (I'll make it short! LOL
Now I am going to pass this award on to some of the blogs I like. I have recently been introduces to some pretty amazing blogs recently, thanks to The Peaceful Housewife's hosting the Natural Parenting Blog Party. I'd like to pass this award on to some of these new blogs and on to a couple of my old favorites:

This is one of my favorite blogs. Right now, Surviving a Teacher's Salary is having "Bug Month" - a month filled with bug-related posts. Everything from great products, contests, interesting facts, and even a daily update on the Painted Lady butterflies she's raising. Every week she has a post with "Educational Giveaways Around the Blogosphere" where you can find good, quality giveaways to help your little ones learn. 

Sorry, no button so here's his profile pic!
OK, so I just "discovered" Jeff's blog, Just a Bald Man..., on the Natural Parenting Blog Party. I LOVE his parenting philosophy. The first post of his that had me hooked was "The Myth of the Lazy Unschooler." THEN, I read "I'm Still That Dad" and I knew I'd be anxiously awaiting his next post, and the next... Go check his blog out right now!

Zoie, from TouchstoneZ, has really been an inspiration to me. She writes about all things related to natural parenting. From breastfeeding to attachment parenting, all I need to do is head on over to her blog to get some information. If she hasn't written a post about it, I know that she'll have a link to someone who has. In addition to having a great blog, Zoie makes it her mission to get out there and read, comment on, and share others' blogs. How cool is that?! I know for certain, for instance, that she managed to go to every single blog post from the March of Kindness meme at Code Name: Mama and comment on them. There had to be over 200 posts! PLUS, she managed to compile a list, in order, of each post for this meme!

When I am sick of the same old projects with the kids, or I just can't come up with anything, I only have to click over to Modern Parents Messy Kids and I have more ideas than I thought possible. The projects featured on this blog run from super-simple to more complicated. This is great because, with 10-1/2 years between my guys, it can be tough finding things for both of them! Right now, there's a great post entitled "Anatomy of a 'Creative Play Easter Basket'" that is just wonderful. It describes all of the ingredients for a non-edible Easter basket filled with inexpensive (and sometimes free) items that will help your kids get creative!

This is another blog that I am just beginning to become acquainted. I am an unschooler at heart, but I really like reading about different homeschooling methods. The Mystical Kingdom has many posts based on Waldorf Homeschooling. I am learning a lot and believe that there are tons of ideas that I can incorporate into our everyday activities. In addition to homeschooling posts, you'll find natural recipes, great craft ideas that use very little supplies, and just some feel-good posts about family.

There are more blogs I'd like to feature, but I'm just running out of time! I'm trying to work on a post that has a little bit about each blog I like and why. I'm thinking of turning it into a page that I add to as time goes on. We'll see... I have so many ideas and not nearly enough time!