Monday, February 23, 2009

Mama Rika's Random Tips & Tricks

People are frequently asking me "how do you manage to...fill-in-the-blank". So, I thought I would share some things I do. Some of the things might sound completely silly, but sometimes I come up with some simple but effective strategies. I'll keep throwing out ideas via posts like this on how I do different things and perhaps you will find one or two things that will be of use to you. :)

1. Turn of the day. When my oldest three children were small, there got to be regular squabbles about whose turn it was to pick a video, help with dishes, sit by Mom, etc. I resolved this issue completely by beginning turn of the day. Each child gets a turn of the day. If it is that child's turn of the day, anytime there is any question about whose turn it is to do something, we just ask whose turn of the day it is and that child gets to choose.

For example, on Monday it would be Patchy's turn of the day, Tuesday it would be Nan and Wednesday it would be Bub. When Thursday comes around, we start back at the beginning. So, on Monday, if the kids were going to play a game together and couldn't decide on the game to play, they would have to play what Patchy wanted because it was his turn of the day.

This system cut down on tons of problems. Often, the kids were very happy that it was their turn of the day, but occasionally they had to do something they didn't want to do because it was their turn. It works both directions.

2. Finely grated zucchini. You can put finely grated zucchini, apples, onions and other random fruits and veggies in just about anything you cook and the kids never notice. It is a great trick for getting extra nutrients in the kids without fuss. My kids are pretty good eaters anyway, but it never hurts to throw in more good stuff. Make sure to use finely grated or pureed and not coarsely grated. They WILL spot those! Zucchini is great because it has such a mild flavor. You can put quite a bit of it in without flavoring the sauce a distinct flavor.

3. Leave bags in the freezer. Yeah, I know that sounds just plain weird. And it is. But it works for me. I like to freeze things for later. Usually the things I freeze (like Featherlight Wholegrain Wheat Waffles that you can find the recipe for in this post) don't last all that long. I label the bag with the contents, put the bag in the freezer and hope for it to last for months. When we polish off the remains a week later, I just put the labeled bag back in the freezer on the appropriate shelf. Then, when I make more, I just grab that empty bag and refill it. Bags don't take up much room in the freezer and this way I get lots of uses out of that one gallon size zippy bag rather than just one. As an added bonus, I don't have to try to find a permanent marker to relabel another bag!

4. Buy first, plan later. This one I suppose sounds like I have taken leave of my senses. But it, too, works well for me. Here's the way I do this. Each member of my large family has an unusually incredible ability to pack away more food than their size would indicate. In addition to this, they all have very fast metabolisms. This means that I have to maximize the amount of food I buy while trying to minimize the amount of dollars I spend. I always buy what's on sale first and then plan out daily/weekly/monthly menus.

Most people try to figure out their menu plans for the week first and then go buy just what is on their list. The trouble for me with this method is that I might feel like making a homemade lasagna and get to the store and find that the price for the pasta, cheeses and sauce that I need to make it are at an all time high price wise. If I go ahead and purchase those items to stick with my grocery list, then I might have less money to spend stocking up on the really good deal the store was offering on peanut butter and canned green beans.

5. Read or sleep rule. When it is bedtime at our house, we have always had the read or sleep rule once you have been told it is bedtime. This makes it so that if little ones really aren't tired, they have something to do quietly until they are ready for sleep, rather than demanding that they sleep. It also has helped instill a love of reading in my children. The drawbacks are that sometimes they keep reading and reading and reading and reading...

6. Your taste buds haven't grown up yet. I never say a child doesn't like this food or that food. Our rules always require tasting an item presented to you. When the child has tasted the item, I thank them for tasting. If they were less than impressed with it, I just remind them that it is okay, it is simply that "your taste buds haven't grown up yet." You'll like it as you get older. Sometimes it takes 2 tries before they like the food, sometimes it will take 100. But I always emphasize the fact that it isn't that they don't like the item, it is young taste buds. This method has worked over and over and over again. But, it isn't fool proof. Everyone has different preferences. Because of this, we also have trick #9.

A funny story to go along with this happened with Peanut. All my kids have really loved pickles. Peanut is my 5th child and he really, really wanted to like pickles because everyone else did. Each time we brought the pickle jar out, he would try one. He would put it in his mouth, his eyes would water and he would have a tortured expression on his face. I would ask him what he thought and he would tell me, "It's good." He did this so many times and every time, the expression on his face would be the same. I finally took pity on him and just told him that it was okay not to like pickles. He could choose to not like pickles. I think he was 4 or 5 at the time. He has been a non-pickle eater ever since. He is 11 now.

7. Sign rotations. This is my way of trying to plug messages into my kid's brains that don't come from the sound of my voice. If I find a quote or a scripture that is applicable to something a child is going through, or that upholds a value I am trying to instill in my children, I will write it on a post-it, index card, or larger paper and tape it up. I put things on the fridge, bathroom mirrors, by light switches, in the hallway or anywhere that the kids might happen to read it. I change these out from time to time, always trying to vary the locations because after seeing something around for a while, one tends to forget it is even there! I just think this is a good way to enhance what you are trying to do in other ways.

8. Trades. I started this when my big kids were small. I have always tried to teach my kids to eat in a healthy manner. It was amazing to me how much junkfood they would bring home from church, birthday parties and other events and I needed some way to combat that a bit. My mother had done this somewhat with my younger siblings, so that is where I got the idea. Mom would have a supply of "healthy candy & snacks" that they could trade in their junk food and get better-for-you choices. I added to the idea by not only trying to have healthy things they could eat, but also offering things like stickers, small toys and trinkets. I have to admit that I was much better about keeping this up with my older kids than I have been with my younger kids. I could do better. The kids were really quite good about trading in their things.

9. It is on my list! Everyone in the family gets to have one thing on their "do not eat list". (See also rule 6 above.) Personally, I hate peas. Canned peas are the worst. If I feel I can not politely decline a serving of peas, I will swallow them whole rather than bite into them. Kevin can't stand asparagus. If I am serving something that is on someone's list, they are not required to try it. Everything else, either their taste buds haven't grown up enough yet, or we just haven't found the best way to serve it yet!

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golfndude said...

My favorite tip is "turn of the day". We actually still use it for family prayers and other stuff even with our older kids.

The read or sleep rule is great as well. What's really nice is that it gets the kids to settle down AND it gives us a chance to spend some time with each other without a lot of kids interupting. Our kids read a lot because of it. I wish I had done that growing up.

JUST ME, THE MOM said...

Wow! All great ideas! Wish I had all those great tips once upon a time. We always did the child of the week. For a week they got to be special, not enough cool things would happen on a daily basis I guess ;)


Anonymous said...

YES, all great ideas! We also have had Rules #6 and #9. I have found that families who do not have these rules often have to repeatedly say their children "won't eat this or won't eat that", which is such a shame. Such a travesty when a child has no idea what an avocado or crabmeat or risotto is since they have never been asked to even try it, and all they will eat is pizza, mac & cheese and chicken fingers! Not my kids.

Also, I do #3, 4 & 7 as well!!!!

Jennifer V.

Stacy said...

Those are some neat tips!

Laurie said...

It's a great feeling to know that I do about half of the things you - an AMAZING mom! - do!

And I'm definitely going to implement the other half of your ideas!!

CompleteLee Blogger said...

That made me LOL, Laurie. You've never even met me! Don't forget that I get to pick and choose what sides of me I share on my blog. Trust me, I have done some less than amazing things too. Perhaps I should post some stupid things I have done so that you can learn from those what not to do!

I am glad we found each other in the blogging world. I think it has been fun to get to know you a bit. I think you are pretty amazing yourself. :)

Richelle said...

I love this. These are all really great tips! I'll have to try #6 and #9 on my 3 year old.

CompleteLee Blogger said...

I hope you find it helpful, Richelle. Just be persistent. It is worth it!

mub said...

"Buy first, plan later." This is a good tip. I usually try to look through the ads on Sunday evening and plan my menus around it, which seems to be a similar to how you do it!

Pam said...

Those are good tips. Thanks for sharing them with us.

Jenn at the Back Porch said...

Great tips! I've used several of these myself. BTW-it's great to find someone else who buys 1st then plans their meals. I envy those who can menu plan for a week or month but, we don't have that kind of budget!

Mary @Raising 4 Godly Men said...

These are all so GOOD tips ! I like the bags in the freezer tip and the one food list. I will have to have this in our house. [0=

Blessings and ((HUGS)) my SSiC
In Him<><

Sarah said...

I love the Turn of the day tip. I am going to start this today!

Kelly the Kitchen Kop said...

Love love LOVE #6! I'm going to use that line forever now!

Thanks for joining in!


FoodRenegade said...

Turn of the day sounds quite handy, and I LOVE the idea of telling our kids their taste buds haven't grown up yet! Thanks for sharing!

Julie Bagamary said...

We had "day of the week" for our kids when they were home. On your day you got to answer the phone, get the mail, sit in the front seat of the car etc. Funny even now, when we all gather and get ready to pray, it comes down to whose day of the week it is.