Make Reading Cuddly Again

In the push to get kids reading as soon as humanly possible, I think our sweet kids are really missing out in the long run.

We purchase ten pounds of books, guaranteeing to teach a three year old to read.  We plug them into iPads loaded full of “learning apps”.  We ship them off to school as soon as they’re out of diapers.  We’ve bought into the idea that early reading means they’re smarter.  It means you’re a better parent.  It means they’ll be more successful.

But is this true?  I highly doubt it.  I’ve heard that, by middle school, the early reader and the late reader are pretty much on the same page.

What is lost by this mad dash, this ridiculous race, to get our children to read?  I’d posit to say it’s a great deal.

Once a child can read to himself, read aloud time tends to come to a halt.  No more snuggling up with a beautiful picture book.  No more eager anticipation of the next chapter at bed time.  Reading stops being a fun time of bonding and relaxation and quickly becomes a solitary activity.

I’m not saying that solitary reading is a bad thing.  I love nothing more than a warm blanket and a good book.  But that’s because, at a young age, a love of reading was instilled.

Reading isn’t a merit to achieve, it is a love affair to cultivate.

Take it slowly.  Nurture it.  Show your children that a good book is something to be savored and shared.  Curl up together and rejoice over Polly’s new stove or drool over the idea of Mrs. Wilder’s homemade donuts.  Take your time through the pages of Heggedy Peg and really take in the artwork.

If you teach your children to love reading, the mechanics will come in their own time.

Let’s focus our efforts on instilling that passion for a good book, cultivating that sweet love affair with the written word.  That is what takes a person from being someone who can read and makes him a reader.

Instantly Beef Stock

I seriously heart stock.  Learning to make stock has really upped the nutritional ante in my kitchen.  Now that I can make my own, for pennies, it has become a daily staple in our diets.  The other day, I made a beef stock that was unbelievable.  Thanks to some grassfed beef bone and my beloved Instant Pot, it was easy peasy.

We had Mexican Beef with potatoes for dinner.  This recipe is amazinly delish and super easy to toss together.  I used a cut of boiling beef, becasue that’s what I had, and it had two nice bones, so I decided to use them for stock.

The Mexican Beef left a bit of delicious gravy behind, so I didn’t even bother to rinse out the pot.  Why waste all that goodness??  I put the bones back into the pot and filled it to the “MAX” line.  In the sized Instant Pot that I have, this gives my about a gallon of rich stock.

Since the gravy from the beef was still in the pot, I opted to not add anything besides the water.  Nonetheless, it would have benefited from a healthy dash of salt.

I set the IP on Manual Mode to 120 minutes and go about my life.  Two hours later, rich stock is waiting for me!

I tried my hand at pressure canning (NOT in an Instant Pot, but in a pressure canner) a while back and not I can’t look back!  After the stock is finished and ready to be stored, I fire up the pressure canner.

I fill the canner with the manufacturer recommended amount of water and let the water come to a simmer, with the lid on loosely.

While the canner warms up, I sterilize and warm clean jars in a 170* oven, along with the lids and rings.  When they’re warm, I quickly fill them, clean the rim, place a lid, and twist on a ring.  I load the pressure canner and let it come up to 10# pressure.  Then I can turn the heat down a bit and hold it at pressure from 20-25 minutes.

After the time is up, I turn off the heat and let the pressure in the canner come down naturally.  This can take a loooong time, so be patient.  I generally leave it to the next morning.  Then I can open it, rinse the jars, and put them away in the cupboard.

And now we have plenty of stock set aside for when ever the meal or the fancy strikes.  Meal time is so much simpler when a few small preparations are made in advance!

Spread Your Wings…With Adult Supervision

There is an article floating around the parenting corner of the internets lately, about the dangers of leaving children unattended.  It’s not actual danger, like injury or abduction, but the danger of busy bodies do gooders waiting to turn in well meaning mamas.

I wonder if perhaps the bigger danger here is that we are churning out an entire generation of young adults who, having never been trusted to survive alone for a minute or two, cannot or will not function in the big wide world.

Yesterday, Andrew and I took seven kids to a nearby living history museum.  These kids are sweet and well behaved, but if you’ve ever taken seven kids anywhere, you know that they can’t ever agree on which way to go first.  Actually, if you’ve ever taken two kids anywhere, you know that they can’t agree on which way to go first!  In this particular case, we had three direction desired all at one time.

Three boys, 15, 14, and 10 aren’t overly interested in calves or basket weaving and I can’t say I blame them.  They were polite and perfectly willing to wait, but I could tell that they were chomping at the bit to check out the newly built tree house.  With my permission, they headed off to the tree house, which is just a short walk down the path.  It was out of site of where we were, but the kids all knew where they were heading and the park was not overly crowded that day.  Andrew followed about five minutes later.

In that five minutes, they were asked to leave the area, because they weren’t accompanied by an adult.  These boys are 15 and 14 year old.  In the era of said living history museum, they’d have been fighting in wars, working to support the family, or riding the pony express.  But today, they can’t respectfully walk over to the next area of an outdoor, interactive museum without an adult.

What are we teaching them kids responsibility when, today, they aren’t allowed to walk five minutes ahead of an adult?  How is this generation of children supposed to learn to handle themselves in the real world if they aren’t allowed a moment outside of the parental watchful eye?

It is our responsibility to teach and form these children into responsible, functioning adults.  This isn’t even a possibility if we never give them a bit of room to spread their proverbial wings.

On date nights and kids and too much bloggy advice

My husband and I popped out for a quick date the other night.  Nothing fancy, just a run to the hardware store and a quick margarita on the way home.  These days, with two kids old enough to baby sit, a run-to-the-store date is nothing out of the ordinary.

This certainly wasn’t always the case.  We had nary a date for many long years when all our kids were littles.  At that time, I was reading tons of mommy blogs, searching for answers on my quest for sanity.  Everywhere I clicked, I read the same advice “weekly date nights!” “the answer to a happy marriage is weekly time away, with your spouse!” To a young couple, tending a house full of kids and flying on a single income, this advice was disheartening, at best.  Who could get away once a week?  Who could afford a sitter once a month, let alone once a week!  It seemed crazy.  And out of reach.  My marriage must have been doomed.

Looking back, advice like this rials me more now than it did then!  Your time with only littles is relatively brief.  Take that time to laugh together over baby giggle or steal a kiss over the head of a feverish toddler.  If you step back and enjoy this brief season, instead of pining for the elusive weekly date night, you marriage will be fine.  More than fine!  It will thrive!  God made you and your spouse to be here, now, surrounded by these sweet babies.

Soon enough, you’ll look around and realize you have raised yourself a homegrown babysitter!  Oh happy day!  Hello, weekly date night!  Or, maybe, you’ll just let that babysitter stay up late so you can all watch Leverage together as big people.  Because, really, home with these guys is the best place to be.  You didn’t just raise up a fleet of babysitters, but whole host of really fantastic friends.