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Mary Claire Got Her Ears Pierced. Almost.

2011 May 15
by Pamela

Mary Claire has been wanting her ears pierced for awhile now, but has been too scared about the pain involved.  This is the kid who hid underneath the examining table at the pediatrician’s office for her immunization, screaming the entire time while the nurse had to get on all fours to reach her.  And why yes, she is five-years-old.  Even her two-year-old sister, who is never short on drama, thought that display was over-the-top.

So she was intent on getting them done for awhile, but then there was that little misunderstanding about Brittney’s piercing and I didn’t hear anymore about it until recently.  Somewhere she got a burst of bravery though and decided now was the time.  We settled on a Saturday when Bob could meet us at the mall after teaching.  I dropped Elizabeth off at my parent’s house and off we went. 

But before you can get your ear’s pierced, you need a gumball.  It’s the five-year-old version of a tequila shot before getting tattooed.

Mary Claire picked out her perspective earrings, pink Hello Kitty ones.  She was quite confident until it was actually her turn to get in the chair.  Then she waffled a bit.  Daddy gave her a little pep talk, but the reality of PAIN was setting in.

This picture cracks me up because she literally would not take her hand off her ear, even though no one had even touched it yet.

She decided a bite to eat would bring her courage back, so off to Olga’s and $25 later, we were back at the jewelry store.  But she couldn’t do it.  She cried the whole way home, sad because she wasn’t a “big girl” and was mad at herself for being so scared.  It was really so pitiful and I felt sorry for her.  We’ve all been in situations when we wanted to do something but felt paralyzed by the fear. 

It was a tough situation to be in as a parent as well.  We tried to give her some “You can do this!”  speeches, but I also felt like it was important for her to learn to listen to the hesitation.  Although it wasn’t a dangerous situation, unfortunately she is going to be in them someday and I want her to trust herself in those cases.  All this was swirling through my head, plus the fact that we just spent two hours at the mall for nothing.  But hey, I snapped photos the whole time and knew if nothing else it could be a blog post. 

In the end, I hope we underscored the most important lesson:  Daddy and Mommy love you no matter and will always, always be there for you.

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Seasoned Pork Tenderloin

2011 May 12
by Pamela

I promise this isn’t turning into a cooking blog.  I don’t cook enough interesting things to warrant one.  Unless you want to hear about spaghetti and tacos.  But this is another great ww recipe.  And since I’m still trying to lose my last bit (ha, 21 pounds worth of “bit”) weight, these recipes are coming in handy.

This is another super fast recipe, as long as you remember to prep it out the day before. 

4 pp/ per serving

1/2 c reduced calorie pancake syrup

1 t dry mustard

1 t ground cloves

1 t ground ginger (I HATE ginger, so used only 1/2 t)

1 t salt

1/2 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t pepper

1.5 lbs. lean pork tenderloin

Combine all the ingredients in a large ziploc bag.  Trim fat from tenderloin and cut width-wise.

Add tenderloins to bag, turn to coat, and marinate at least two hours or overnight.

Preheat broiler.  Place tenderloins in roasting pan and pour marinade over them, broil 5 inches from heat or until pork reaches 160 degrees (approximately 6 minutes per side ***Note:  mine took less time than this).  4 oz. = one serving. 

Thanks to Theresa for passing this recipe on to me after I lost it the first time.  These are slightly sweet, so something savory as a side dish would be perfect.

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Balsamic Thyme Chicken with Sweet Onions

2011 May 12
by Pamela

Weight Watchers has been knocking it out lately with excellent recipes in their weekly pamphlets.  Here’s a super quick one we loved.  Well except for the girls who think “nunyuns” are disgusting.  I just fished out the chicken breasts and they ate them with a little sauce.

5 pp.  prep 10 minutes, ready in 20 = win!

3 T flour (I didn’t bother with the dredging step so I skipped this)

3/4 t salt, divided

1/2 t pepper, divided

1 lb. 4, 4 oz. pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts  (I used tenders which made this even faster.  Oh tenders, how I love thee).

2 t olive oil

1 small vidalia onion, thinly sliced (2 cups)

1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth

2 T balsamic vinegar

1 T fresh chopped thyme (I used 1 t ground thyme)

2 t butter (in a ww recipe?!  Be still my heart)

Combine flour, salt, pepper.  Dredge chicken to coat. 

Heat pan medium high, cook the chicken.  Move to a serving plate to keep warm.

Add onion to the skillet; saute until lightly browned, about 4 minutes.  Add broth, vinegar, thyme and 1/4 each salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, cook and stir often until onions are tender, about five minutes.  (The sauce reduces easily and quickly so keep an eye on it, which is what I did not do).

Remove skillet from heat, add butter to melt, and spoon sauce over chicken.  1 breast and 1/4 cup onion sauce = one serving.

This chicken would be so amazing on a sour dough panini the next day.  Oh my gosh, with some provolone and arugula.  If you aren’t on ww, do it and tell me about every last bite.

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Chores, Part 3

2011 May 12
by Pamela

Hopefully this is the grand finale of my posts on chores, ending with “And then we all lived happily ever after and Mama didn’t have to do housework ever again”.

A girl can dream.

I already wrote about how the American Girl doll obsession became the impetus for starting formal chores in Part 1.  In Part 2 I wrote about how we decided what chores Mary Claire could do.  After we picked the chores and typed them up, I assumed my work was over.

On the first day she began doing chores for money, she eagerly went to her chart and asked “What does it say?”  I gave her a job, she went and did it, then came back and said “What does it say I’m supposed to do next?”  This went on for several days before I realized, duh, she’s still learning to read.  Not only that, but unless I was willing to stand next to the fridge all the live-long day, there had to be some designated times in our house when she did her chores.

So I went online looking for a pictorial chore chart but I couldn’t find a thing.  Then I looked in our homeschool resource catalog.  There were a million charts, one of which had pictures.  But I didn’t like the layout and the pictures were beyond cheesy.

Streamlining the chore process and making her chart readable were imperative if we were going to stick with this, so I started brainstorming and decided I was going to have to create my own.  Although I am a person who values beauty and creativity, I am not exactly a crafty person.  I was lamenting the chore chart issue to a fellow homeschool co-op mom Liz who suggested I use a Cricut which allows you to diecut images and letters to create designs.  Since her daughter needed to raise money for camp and a mission trip this summer, we agreed that I would pay her to make a chart for us.

And this is it!   The Most Gorgeous and Helpful Chore Chart Ever! 

Didn’t she do a great job?

Most charts are designed with a Monday-Sunday system, but that didn’t make sense for me since a lot of her things needed to be done on a daily basis.  For that reason I asked Abbi to lay out the chart based on time of day.  The first two rows are for “morning”, items that need to be done before school.  The next group is for the afternoon, and the final two rows are our evening routine. 

Then there are some chores that are done whenever Mrs. Mom says so, like dusting.  When I feel like cleaning the house, it’s dusting day.  When I decide to go grocery shopping, Mary Claire needs to help me put the food away.  I liked the idea of being able to move items as needed.  Plus Mary Claire is motivated by being able to cross things off a list, so having the designs movable would be helpful.  Each laminated box has velcro (genius!!!) on the back, so after she completes the work she can take the design off for the day.  Seriously, how brilliant are Liz and Abbi? 

Even though I said I wasn’t paying any kid of mine to brush her own teeth, I included personal hygiene things of the chart anyway.  To me this is an important part of streamlining the day.  In the evening, for example, I ask her to go to her chore chart and do what she needs to do in order.  So she can see that she needs to put toys away, put all the shoes back in the bin (why oh why is it so hard to put your shoes right in the cubby?) , feed the cats, and clear the table after snack time.  Using this method for organizing the chart also organizes the day.  It allows Mary Claire to fluidly run through her routine at distinct times of the day without feeling overwhelmed by a huge list. 

Mrs. Holt, Mary Claire’s Math and Literature teacher at co-op, suggested I write the chore on each box so she starts recognizing the words, which I am going to do as well. 

We’ve only been using this for a few days, but so far it has proven to be very helpful and enjoyable for all of us.  Thanks again to Liz and Abbi for working with me to create something so fun and useful.   Mary Claire’s dream of going to the American Girl store in Chicago seems more attainable to all of us.  And I can get back to Important Matters, like figuring out where to eat while we are there.

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Mary Claire Pens Her First Story

2011 May 5
by Pamela

I knew this day was coming.  Mary Claire is constantly talking to herself, creating elaborate tales.  It was just a matter of time before she felt the need to write them down. 

Recently she came to me with a pen and paper, asking me to be her scribe.  First she had to create a book and get art supplies out to illustrate it, then she began her dictation.  I now present Mary Claire’s first story:

The Flower and the Dandelion

By Mary Claire Wright

A pink butterfly flew by.

The wind started to blow hard.  The leaves on the dandelion and the flower almost blew off!

The wind stopped blowing.  The dandelion and the flower stood straight for a minute.

A little girl came and picked the dandelion and the flower.  And the pink butterfly flew by.

*******

I will cherish this book forever.

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Chores, Part 2

2011 May 4
by Pamela

In my last installment about the birth of chores or “How Daddy Got Played”, I wrote about how we decided it was time for Mary Claire to start earning money of her own.

The biggest problem for me was deciding what should be considered a chore.  She is getting what I think is big money for a five-year-old, so things like “brushing your teeth” shouldn’t count.  God gave you teeth so you brush them.  The end.  But at the same time, there are only so many jobs she is strong and tall enough to be able to do.  I wasn’t willing to give her the money for her glittering personality alone, but I had to figure out what she was capable of doing.

And that’s where the good ole’ world wide web came in.  I scoured blogs and web sites in the name of research and got some ideas of things kids her age were doing and how other families differentiated between “you live here so you help” and extra things worthy of pay.

After I read this post it helped me know I was on the right track.  Our kids aren’t just going to get money for being “in existence”.  As the author concluded, being “in existence” starts to cost quite a bit when they are teenagers. 

In the end I did two things that helped:  First, I kept a small notepad and pen with me for a whole day and wrote down every single thing that I asked or expected her to do, things like passing out the morning vitamins to putting her dirty clothes in the hamper.  It made me realize just how much she does everyday.  The second thing I did was walk around the house and yard, thinking about what needed to happen in each space and what she could be expected to contribute. 

In the end, everything got broken into three categories:

1.  You have a body, clothes, and toys, therefore you take care of them (and I’m not paying you to do it).

2.  You live in a house with a family, therefore you do some things each day to show you appreciate both (and I’m not paying you for that either).

3.  You can do extra things that don’t fall into either of the above categories and we will pay you to do them,  provided you do them well and without complaint. 

So that’s what we did.  I made a list of things we wanted her to do on a daily or weekly basis that were age-appropriate and truly helpful.  I figured my end of this deal was over.  Next I was going to think about what I should wear in Chicago as I cried in front of Harpo Productions, knowing I was never going to see an Oprah taping.

But of course writing up her jobs and posting them on the fridge was not the end of this story.   So next time  I’ll write about how to help an early reader actually understand what her chores are and how to streamline the chore system.  AND!! I will reveal the Most Gorgeous And Helpful Chore Chart You’ve Ever Seen in Your Entire Life!!!!!!(trademark pending).

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How Daddy Got Played: Chores, Part 1

2011 May 2
by Pamela

Up until recently, Mary Claire didn’t do chores around the house.  That’s not to say she’s been lounging around eating bon bons.  To have her tell it, all she does is slave away while I sit and watch Oprah.  But basically we’ve been teaching her to pick up after herself.  You know, pick up the slew of toys, books, and clothing she leaves everywhere like a snail leaves its slime. 

I went from occasionally thinking about giving her some formal chores to thinking about it 16 hours a day. 

And it’s all Bob’s fault:  he got suckered.

Mary Claire has been OBSESSED with getting an American Girl doll.  I’ve been putting her off for over a year now, buying her copy cats from Meijer.  But she’s been asking with increasing frequency since the ONE TIME I asked her to go to the mailbox, there was an American Girl catalog waiting inside (and that folks, is the definition of “irony”).  There is no gift-giving holiday in sight, so I told her no.  No, I’m not buying you a $100 doll that doesn’t even come dressed.

Of course she has common sense, so she did the right thing:  went and asked  Daddy.

Poor Bob.  He walked right into a finely- laid web.  I watched the whole thing unfold, but couldn’t save him because I was too busy taking notes.  My skills of cunning and charm are getting rusty. 

But Mary Claire’s are not.  After she sat on his lap, showered him with butterfly kisses and told him he was the bestest Daddy in the whole world, she asked him to buy her an American Girl doll.  And Bob, not knowing that it was even possible for a doll to cost that much, said “Sure honey, let’s go buy one next week”. 

Later I informed him just how much this doll would cost and how we would have to buy her at least one $25 outfit.   Plus I’m always thinking precedent and fairness, so I multiplied three dolls by 1,500 outfits and could see that Mama wasn’t getting her push present anytime soon.  Or ever.

As I’ve written before, Bob is quite responsible with money and saw this as an awesome opportunity for Mary Claire to learn the value of it as well.  They had at-length discussions (and I mean at-length) to hammer out details, then literally shook hands on a deal:

If she worked every week to do chores between April 1- August 30, Bob would pay her $6.60 a week.  She was to give 10% to our church, have 10% to spend, and then had to save the rest in a bank account.  If she did all of her chores faithfully and without complaint, in September he would take her to the American Girl store in Chicago.  She could use her money to buy a doll and he would pay for transportation, hotel, and eating out for a weekend.

It really is genius on his part.  Can you imagine the great life lesson here?  You work super hard for something you really want and then you get to go all the way to Chicago for a fun little vacation?  It’s a memory I’m sure she’ll have forever (that’s what I keep telling myself anyway). 

But here’s the problem.  Someone had to make sure she did the working “super hard” part.  And someone had to decide what her five-year-old self could do effectively around the house.  Then the chores had to be organized and posted in some fashion so they would be understandable to her. 

Which, of course, if where I came in.   On the next installment of “How Daddy Got Played” I’ll share how we got some of the above figured out.

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We Want Your Stuff!

2011 May 2
by Pamela

We have some dear friends who we attend church with, Kevin and Dawnell Prescott.  Their daughter Abby is friends with our girls.

Kevin and Dawnell are raising money to adopt children from Ethiopia.  They are wonderful, godly people and we want to do all we can to aid them in this process. 

One thing we are working on is hosting some garage sales this summer with the proceeds going towards their adoption fund.

Our next sale is going to be on Saturday, May 14 in Wyandotte at the Ferrier’s house.

If you have any items you’d be willing to donate towards this sale, would you leave a comment on this post or shoot me an email at pamelagwrightAThotmail.com?

We would be so grateful for whatever you could contribute.  If transporting the items are an issue for you, please let me know that too.  I will do my best to arrange for pick-up.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Growing Up

2011 April 25
by Pamela

I walked into the family room and Mary Claire is watching the Food Network:

“Why are you watching a cooking show Mary Claire?”

“Anything is better than Dora.”

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Invested

2011 April 22
by Pamela

Yesterday after Bob’s birthday dinner, he was reading the girls their bedtime stories.  Mary Claire, who is normally enthralled with stories, couldn’t sit still.  She was meandering around the living room, clearly distracted.  I could see that something was up.

She eventually came into the kitchen where I was sitting and proved my suspicion correct.

“Do you think I’m a good reader Mama?  _________ (one of her friends) said that I’m not any good at reading”. 

She was absolutely devastated by her friend’s words.  And the fact is, she is a good reader.  But her friend is in 1st grade so of course she doesn’t measure up in that girl’s mind. 

One thing my parents did very well was build my confidence in reading.  I distinctly remember having to come in BEFORE the street lights came on while all the other kids were still outside playing.  My parents would make me read aloud from the Peanuts Gang Picture Dictionary every single night.  I HATED it.  I was surely missing the most amazing fun ever outside, someone had found buried treasure and was going to use it to buy the whole neighborhood ice cream while I was stuck in the house struggling over every word.

But the work they did on those nights made me a good reader.  And I felt like I was a good reader, which made me want to read more.  Soon enough I was ecstatic when my teacher would pass out those Scholastic catalogs that had books we could buy.  I would take home the catalog, read every book’s description carefully, and agonize over my decisions on what to purchase. 

Later I remember having a blue and white table lamp next to my bed.  The bottom of it could stay lit as a night light.  My parents would tell me it was time for bed and I would shut out my light and then use the night light to lay in bed reading.  To this day, reading and writing are my two favorite pursuits.

Reading (writing seems to be a natural progression, in my opinion) has served me well over the years.  For that reason I have been adament that if our girls can do anything, they will be able to read and write well.  If you can do those two things, you have access to the whole world. 

So that 1st grader’s words stung me almost as bad as Mary Claire.

I assured her the best I could with all I could:  Mrs. Holt (her Math and Literature teacher at co-op) said you knew 43 sight words when she tested you last week.  You have already finished one chapter book and are several chapters into your second which Miss Rhonda (her phonics tutor) said is great for your age. 

“Who are you going to believe Mary Claire?  Your Mama, Miss Rhonda, and Mrs. Holt or your friend?”

“I’ll believe you”. 

But I could see the struggle still in her eyes.  Words hurt.  We all know that a negative comment will stay with us far longer than praise.  But it was one of the first times that I saw my daughter affected in that way.

She asked me if she could take a flashlight into her room with a Dr. Seuss book called “Put me in the Zoo” (which she perceives as a “big kid” book as oppposed to her chapter books, which are “baby books”).  She wanted to practice reading it so she could prove to her friend that she is a good reader. 

I found it in her bed with the flashlight still on this morning.

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