Are You Confusing Reasons With Excuses?

When my husband and I first got married, one of the areas we had conflict in was with excuses. My husband was raised to never make excuses, so it drove him up the wall when I did. However, from my perspective I often just wanted to share my thought process. I didn’t think I was giving excuses, I thought I was giving reasons.

Have you ever thought or said that? “I’m not giving an excuse, I’m giving a reason!” I sure have. Problem was, I didn’t really have the slightest clue what the difference between the two was.

Well, fast forward a couple years and I think I’ve finally got it figured out. In this current season of life, I’ve tried to do a better job about being intentional in my thoughts and a while back it occurred to me what the difference between an excuse and a reason is.

It’s responsibility.

When I make an excuse, I am trying to shift the blame (even if its just a small portion) off of myself. For example, something I might find myself saying is “I didn’t wash the dishes last night because I was frazzled from a long day.” In this scenario, my long day was an excuse for my inability to complete one of my responsibilities. In my mind I might be thinking, “but I really did have a long day! I just wanted to relax. I’m not trying to make excuses.” However, no matter how big my pouty face may be, I am still making an excuse.

Now, if I took that same scenario and changed it into a reason it might look a little more like this: “I decided not to do the dishes last night because I had a really hectic day and I felt like I needed some time to unwind. I will do the dishes this morning after breakfast.” In this statement, I am providing the same information about doing the dishes and my hectic day, however, the difference is that I am taking responsibility for my choices. I gave a reasonable explanation for why I did what I did. I also took responsibility for the consequences of my decision (having to do the dishes in the morning).

I have found that realizing this distinction greatly aids in communication. It’s not just my husband who doesn’t like to hear an excuse. For a lot of people, as soon as they think you are giving an excuse, communication starts to break down. However, if you give a reason and take responsibility, the other party is able to better hear your reasoning and come to an understanding of what you are trying to say.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to give reasons instead of excuses. I often find myself squirming inside as I take responsibilities for my choices. If I’m honest, it’s so much easier to just make an excuse! However, I am trying to be better in this area, and I have noticed a difference.

What do you think? Will you give it a try in your communication? If you do, please share in the comments how it went down!

Great Picture Books For Toddlers Volume 1

toddlerbooks

My son loves to read. I’ve never met a young child with such a long attention span for listening to picture books! Because of this we go through a lot of library books each week. Some are great, but a lot are duds. The purpose of this series is so we can pass on our tried and true favorites to you and your budding reader. You can read more about how I select a picture book here.

Here’s the first ten. I hope you enjoy some of these books as much as we did. Don’t forget to leave your favorites in the comments!


UnknownThe Very Hungry Caterpillar – by Eric Carle  This book is very well known, but I had to include it because it is one of K’s absolute favorites right now! We’ve read it so many times he’s practically got it memorized!

 

Unknown-1Where Is The Green Sheep? – by Mem Fox   A fun story about all kinds of sheep. Great for practicing colors, opposites, and vocabulary. The continued question “Where is the green sheep?” keeps my little guy engaged to the last page.

 

Unknown-2Karate Hour – by Carol Nevius   I picked this book up when K started his “hiyah!” phase. He loves it. It is a fun, rhymed book taking you through a karate class. K loves to try to do what the kids in the book are doing. A great introduction to karate.

 

Unknown-3This Little Chick – by John Lawrence  Like many toddlers, K loves anything to do with animals. He loves this book about a little chick so much that one time I read it to him five times in a row! This cute, sing-song story about the adventures of a little chick is great for learning rhythm, animal names, and animal sounds.

 

Unknown-4Hey, Pancakes! – by Tamson Weston   A fun and silly rhyming story about making and eating pancakes. Great to read and couple with whipping up your own batch of pancakes!

 

Unknown-5Noah’s Ark – by Jerry Pikney   By far my favorite children’s rendition of the Noah’s Ark story. Well written, but the real shining start is the gorgeous pictures.

 

Unknown-6The Thingamabob – by Il Sung Na   A cute story about an elephant who doesn’t know what to do with an umbrella. Reading this book taught K the word umbrella.

 

Unknown-7I Love Bugs – by Emma Dodd  My little boy loves bugs, so we bring home a lot of bug books. This one has definitely been one of our favorites. But watch out for the spider at the end!

 

Unknown-8Jamberry – by Bruce Degen  Reminicent of Dr. Seuss, this silly story is all about berries. The pictures are as fun as the story, with all sorts of silly stuff hidden in them. An added bonus was that it only took a couple readings of this book for K to remember the names of the different types of berries and it’s just darn cute to hear him try and say “clickity-clack berry.”

 

Unknown-9How To Speak Moo – by Deborah Fajerman  Get ready for some super silliness in this book! If you thought cows had just one kind of “moo” you were wrong – but now you can learn to speak “moo” too!

 


 

Be sure to share your favorites in the comments! We’d love to check them out!

Finding Good Picture Books For Two Year Olds


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K is at a fun age for reading. He is finally growing out of his baby board books and in the last few months his desire to listen to stories has boomed. All the reading we’ve done with him since his was a baby is paying off! However, I have discovered that it’s been difficult to find pictures books appropriate for his level of understanding. Especially now that we’ve moved from the small shelf of board books to the rows and rows of picture books at the library.

When I’m looking for a good picture book for a toddler or young preschooler, I’m looking for one or more of the following six qualities:

  1. Concise. I want a short book (1-3 sentences a page max) that also has a good story.
  2. Simple. 2 year olds are concrete thinkers. Books that are abstract or use flowery language go right over his head. He wants to learn about things that make sense in his world.
  3. Teaching. Every book teaches a two year old something. Whether it’s teaching about something funny, a new kind of animal, a word he’s never heard, a moral lesson, or something else, I’m looking for books that continue to open my child’s mind to the world around him.
  4. Active. Books that encourage motion are a huge plus because they are both very well liked by the wiggly crowd and they also serve to further cement an idea in a little mind through kinesthetic learning.
  5. Engaging. Nothing’s worse than reading through a monotone book. We like books with emotion! Something that you can read with passion and drama. Books that ask questions also help to engage the reader.
  6. Beautiful. Books with beautiful, well made illustrations are a must since so much of the story is conveyed through pictures.

I like to have a mix of fun, easy books, coupled with some books that are right on the edge of his comprehension level. This challenges him enough to keep him moving forward in his ability to understand (and sit still!), without being too frustrating as to make reading time unenjoyable. Finding books that fit these qualifications without having to read the same ones a million times over is hard.

So what has my solution been? Quantity. 

Every Saturday morning for the last few months we’ve headed to the library to load up our stash for the week. While K plays, I pick out 25-30 picture books. My method is haphazard: search a little here, a little there, pull a book out, open it up to a couple pages, if it looks promising, throw it in the pile. Out of these 25-30 books, although we end up reading them all, I usually only find 3-5 “keepers.” Books that we both loved and I wouldn’t mind adding to our collection.

While I don’t mind taking a half hour to pour through shelves and shelves of children’s literature, I realize that this may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is also likely that when you go to the library you might prefer a higher success rate of “keeper” books as well.

With that in mind, I want to begin sharing with you the books that we have found and loved, with the hope that you will enjoy them as much as we have. As soon as I have a list of ten favorites, I will pass them on to you. That way, when you go to the library, you can get in, get out, and get to reading! Tune in tomorrow for the first installment!

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What are some of your qualifications for a good book? 

You Don’t Know What It’s Like Until You Do It

“I could write a book” he said to me with a smile, letting me know he was half teasing, half serious. My husband is a lot like me and thinks he can do pretty much anything without too many problems. It’s a serious condition I like to call “how-hard-could-it-be?-itis.” However, this time I knew the truth. Writing a book is hard.

Finished First Draft

I had just recently finished the first draft of my first fiction book and it had stretched me like crazy. Not only did it teach me a whole lot about writing, it also taught me this important lesson:

“You don’t know what it’s like until you actually do it.” 

It’s easy enough to criticize the last book you read, noting all its flaws and feeling quite confident that you could do much better. It’s a whole other story to put the pen to the paper (the fingers to the keyboard?) and actually do it. The same thing occurred to me when I started to learn the basics of photography, and again when I started teaching myself the introduction to photoshop and graphic design. Oftentimes, things that look easy from the outside looking in, turn out to be the effort of years and years of hard work and practice in that field.

Actually doing it has also helped me to do two more things:

#1 Have a lot more grace for others who are doing it. Whether its an author or some other profession, I know it’s hard work and I know what it feels like now to stare at that blank screen with nothing to say.

#2 Have a lot more respect for others who are doing it. Whether you’re an author, graphic designer, business owner, or something else, your job is hard and I respect that. I respect the knowledge you’ve learned and the hours and hours of practice you’ve put into your career.

These days, I’m trying to be better about assuming I can do everything (although I must admit, I’m always up for a challenge!). Trying new things definitely keeps me humble and reminds me that not everything is as easy as it seems.

What about you? Have you tried anything new lately? Let’s talk about your experience in the comments!

Six Easy Ways To Tamper Your Sweet Tooth

photo by joyosity @ flickr.com

photo by joyosity @ flickr.com

We all know one…you know who I’m talking about… the non-sweet lover. The “I’m not really a dessert person” person.

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Not only do I know one, I happen to be married to him.

Is there any way to guarantee this gene is passed down to my children? It obviously didn’t happen with K because the little dude loves chocolate. I’m pleading the fifth on who he got that gene from.

Okay, okay, there’s no denying it. It’s true! I have a sweet tooth. Majorly. However, I know that not only is sugar horrible for me (and my waistline), if I eat too much (and by too much I mean more than a very small amount) it really makes my stomach queasy. So, over the years I’ve come up with some tricks to lessen the draw of the sweet stuff.

Here’s my top six tips to tamper that sweet tooth!

  1. Knowledge. It doesn’t take much digging around to learn about the harmful effects of sugar on your body, especially when it’s consumed in excess. Having these facts in your mind helps when you’re temped to whip up a double batch of chocolate chip cookies. If you need somewhere to start try here or here.
  2. Cut it in half. Start by gradually lowering the amount of sugar in the recipes you already love. I can often cut the sugar in a recipe in half with no major difference in taste. In fact, in a lot of things I’ve found that it tastes better with less sugar because you can actually taste the food and not just the sugar.
  3. Don’t buy it. For me, the temptation to spend my money on something is far less than the temptation to eat something that is right in front of me. I try to make it a habit to not keep my cupboards stocked with things I don’t want to be eating.
  4. Use a replacement. Sugar cravings are going to come, so outsmart them! Have a healthier swap that is easily accessible. For me a couple squares of dark chocolate or fruit and yogurt (plain with a little honey) can do the trick to quell the desire to eat a whole pan of brownies. Note: I am not advocating artificial sugar replacements – but that is a whole other topic.
  5. Not Worth It” list. If I’m going to eat something that’s not particularly good for me, my theory is that I had better at least really enjoy it. Gooey fudge brownie? Check, yum. Haagen Das Ice Cream? Hand it over! Cookies that taste like cardboard? Not so much. Sugary cereal that made me sick but didn’t even taste that great? Keep it away! Whenever I eat something that I regret, I immediately place it on my mental “not worth it” list and try to remember that the next time it’s attempting to seduce me.
  6. Savor your treats. For me, it is easy to feel guilty when I am having a treat. However, I’ve found that doing giving in to the temptation to feel that way is actually counter productive and often leads to binging (because if I’m going to fail, might as well fail big!). So instead, I try to eat my treat slow and really savor it. That way I end up eating less and enjoying it more!

While I definitely still have a sweet tooth, using these tips has helped a lot. Which is good, because I’ve still got some leftover baby fat that’s gotta go!

What about you? Do you have a sweet tooth? I’d love to hear some more tips!

How I Won The Green Bean Battle

photo by OliBac / edited by me

photo by OliBac / edited by me

It was no secret. My son hated vegetables.

I had done everything “right.” I did everything that was supposed to help you avoid ending up with a picky eater: ate a varied diet while pregnant, exclusively breastfed, transitioned to solids with baby-led weaning. When he started on solids, he ate everything. He loved vegetables. “Sweet,” I thought, “it worked!” However, our vegetable heaven didn’t last long. As soon as he got a taste for the rest of the world of flavor, there was no turning back. He wanted meat, dairy, fruit – anything but vegetables.

At one point I took an inventory of the vegetables he would eat. It looked a little like this…

Things he would pretty much always eat:

  1. Sweet potatoes (duh, they’re sweet!)
  2. Tomatoes (might technically be a fruit, but I’m counting it!)
  3. Corn (grain – I know, I know, but I’m desperate here!)

Things that he would sometimes, not usually, eat:

  1. Cucumbers
  2. Peas
  3. Carrots

Obviously we had a little nutrition problem here. I mean, come on, he didn’t even like mashed potatoes! What kind of kid doesn’t like mashed potatoes?

Another thing that I would like to mention is that it wasn’t that he didn’t have an adventurous palate or like bold flavors. He would routinely eat spicy Mexican food, sour plain yogurt and sauerkraut, and bitter grapefruits. The only thing he was waging war against was the veggies.

However, fast forward about 1 1/2 years and the list of vegetables he will routinely eat has grown dramatically. Sure, vegetables still aren’t his favorite, but we have seen improvement. How you ask? Well, one of the first things that really helped was that I read the book French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon. In this book, Karen tells the story of how her two girls transformed from picky eaters to great eaters upon moving to France and following 10 “food rules.” I thought this book was full of great information and helpful tips, not to mention a interesting look at a different culture. I didn’t put into practice all her rules, but her book greatly influenced how I view the topic of picky eating.

So, using that book as a starting point, I put into practice the following “food guidelines” that would work with a toddler.

  1. Pickiness is most likely a phase. This was my favorite tidbit that I took away from Le Billon’s book. The majority of toddlers and preschool age kids go through a phase of pickiness. The solution is to expose them to as wide a variety of foods as possible before the phase and then stick it out once the phase hits. Many parents make the mistake of catering to their child’s pickiness, only feeding them “kid friendly” foods, thereby keeping them stuck in the pickiness phase. I have definitely been guilty of this, but I try to avoid it when I can!
  2. Keep the atmosphere around food positive. As much as possible I tried to keep meal time a happy time. There was a few times we “forced” him to try a bite of something. However, eating really is something you have to choose to do for yourself. We couldn’t chew and swallow the food for him. I usually just encouraged him to “just try one bite” and praise him when he did. We also modeled enjoying eating all our food. Oftentimes he was more likely to try something when he saw grandpa or daddy enjoying it.
  3. One bite of everything. I would put just one bite sized portion of the foods I knew he didn’t care for. Sometimes I would tell him he had to eat everything before he got second helpings of his favorites, sometimes not. The important thing was that the food was always there for him as an option. We never talked about it as a food he didn’t like, we just kept offering it under the assumption he would learn to like it eventually.
  4. Keep trying a wide variety of foods. I didn’t want “picky eater” to become a label, so I had him keep trying new foods, or foods cooked in different ways. This was how I came to find out he loved sauerkraut and grapefruits – both foods I thought he would refuse.
  5. Get him involved in the food preparation. This is a tip you see a lot, but I really think it makes a difference. Last year we even had a garden he could help with and he loved it. He helped plant, care for, harvest, and preserve many different types of vegetables. It even encouraged him to try one of his most detested foods – green beans. He would still spit them out, but you could tell after being so proud of helping grow them, he wanted to eat them too!
  6. Use choices when possible. Having a choice between two equally healthy options usually ensures that he will eat what he is served. For example, he is more likely to eat sweet peppers (and even get excited about it) if I give him a choice of colors. He also loves choosing vegetables at the grocery store. One time he ate over half of an English cucumber in one sitting because he picked it out himself.
  7. Make vegetables normal. So often, veggies get the “blech stigma.” They are seen as yucky foods that we only eat because they are healthy. To reinforce that veggies are just a normal part of the foods we eat I would include them in pretend play a lot. For example, pretending to work in the garden or pretending to eat salad in the play kitchen.

K not liking vegetables had become so normal that when out of nowhere, in the same week, he ate salad, broccoli, and even the hated green beans. I was astonished! I really believe that a lot of it had to do with the tip number one. I had accepted his pickiness as a phase, but I kept him in a vegetable rich environment. He is still eating green beans like they have always been his favorite and I can proudly say that I emerged the champion in the battle over the green beans. Sure, he’ll probably always have some foods he doesn’t like, but so do I! However, his continuing acceptance of vegetables gives me confidence that he is well on his way to being a great eater.

Do you have any tips for picky eaters? I’d love to hear them. I’m always looking for more tips to add to my bag of tricks!

 

*Note: for the purposes of this post I am referring only to kids who are truly “picky” and just need to expand their palates. I acknowledge that there are also kids who have sensory issues or other difficulties that can sometimes look like just “pickiness” but are completely different than the topic I’m addressing here.

Five Tips For Being More Efficient At Anything

efficientI didn’t even realize that I was an efficient person until I got married. Needless to say, my husband was (is) not. I don’t like spending more time than is needed on most tasks, so It never occurred to me that some people were naturally slow moving and non-efficient. When I took some time to think through what I do to be efficient, I came up with five tips:

  1. Remove distractions. We might realize that stopping to check our Facebook or email is a distraction, but seemingly “productive” things can be distractions too. For example, if I’m trying to efficiently clean the kitchen, doing the laundry or picking up the toys in the living room are both distractions that keep me from my goal of efficiently cleaning the kitchen.
  2. Have a plan of action. Whether detailed or simple, having a plan keeps you from wandering around aimlessly, losing time in the process. Returning to the example of cleaning the kitchen, I follow the same plan every time. First I clear the table, putting dishes on the counter by the sink and food on the island. I then wipe the table and I am done with that area. Then, I gather any other dishes from around the kitchen and place them by the sink. I put away everything else on the counters, the food, spices that are laying out, random papers, etc and wipe the counters. At this point I’ve usually only been cleaning up for 10 minutes but the kitchen is mostly clean! Next I load the dishwasher and then wash whatever’s left by hand. Done!
  3. Eliminate unneeded movement. Wasted movement is wasted time! This may take some thought at first, but eventually it will become second nature. For example, the reason I put all the food together in the same area before putting it in the fridge is because it is wasted motion to carry one or two items from the table to the fridge at a time. This way I’m only making one trip to and from the fridge.
  4. Move quickly, but not in haste. Do not confuse efficiency with haste. As the old saying goes: “haste makes waste!” If you are moving so fast that you are not thinking and are actually making more work for yourself, slow down a bit and focus more on eliminating wasted movement. The goal of efficiency is to do something as quickly as you can while still doing it well. (My favorite way to get moving is to put on some upbeat music!)
  5. Practice repeated tasks. For tasks that you do often, keep practicing your plan for doing them efficiently until you get to the point you can do them almost automatically. I’ve been cleaning the kitchen the same way for years. By doing it the same way every time I don’t even have to think about it anymore, I just do it quickly and be done with it!

 

As a final word, I think it is important to remember that efficiency isn’t a be all end all. Its not necessarily better to be efficient, its just more..well, efficient! There are plenty of times where is it more appropriate to not be efficient and just live in the moment.

Do you have any tips for being efficient? Any examples of ways you are efficient in your home or work? I would love to hear them!

Overcoming the Need to Rescue

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There’s no denying it, my son is an explorer. He is fearless. Nothing deters him when he has his eyes set on a goal. Because of this, he has been getting himself into sticky situations since he learned how to scoot his chubby little baby self around the room.

As soon as he realizes he’s met his match he calls out to me. “Help!”

My first instinct is always the same. Rescue. Get him down from the ledge. Unstick his foot from the crack. Pull him out from under the couch. Fix his problems.

However, from the beginning I’ve also realized that coming to the rescue might be a short term fix, but it’s not a long term solution. Whether it’s figuring out how to get down from the ladder at the park or learning how to put on his pants, knowing how to problem solve is an important life skill. I want him to grow up knowing how to keep his cool in tricky situations, having the confidence to solve his problems and clean up his messes. This isn’t to say that he will never need help, or that I expect him to do everything on his own, but it is important that he think through his actions and learn from his mistakes.

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So then, what’s a rescuing mama to do? Lately, I’ve been trying to do these three things:

  1. Calm. When you are stuck in a tricky situation, your brain starts to panic and logic flies out the window. My first step is to get him to take a breath, letting him know I am here to help, but first he needs to calm down.
  2. Coach. Now that he’s calm (hopefully!), I guide him through the process of solving his problem. Sometimes this means asking questions to get him to think of a solution and sometimes it means teaching the steps to solve the problem.
  3. Congratulate. After the situation is over, I make sure to tell him that he did a good job and encourage him to do it again next time.

My first instinct may still be to rescue, but with these three steps in mind I am able to slow down and use these moments to teach, rather than just solving the problems for him.

Are you a rescuer? Give these three steps a try and let me know if you have any luck! 

Hey There!

*Ahem*
Hi there.

I never have been very good at meeting new people. Always been a little shy. Introvert if you will.

I suppose the polite thing to do would be to start off by telling you a little bit about myself.

Well, my name is Liz. I’m a twenty something wife and mother. I’m a little bit of a jack-of-all-trades and if you tell me I can’t do something, I’ll probably try to find a way to prove you wrong. I’m kinda stubborn like that.

I’ve been married to my husband for 5 years this May and those five years have been quite an adventure for us. But that’s a topic for another day! We have one son. A crazy, lovable, smart, adorable little 2 1/2 year old. My family is my favorite.

I graduated from Cornerstone University with a bachelor’s degree in Youth Ministry and Biblical Studies. I worked as a preschool teacher for 2 1/2 years and have volunteered with all ages of youth since I was a teenager. I spent the last year working as a nanny for twin 2 year old girls.

The purpose of this blog is to share the lessons I’m learning in this adventure called life. I’m not looking for a monologue though! I want to spark a discussion and learn from what YOU have to offer. Consider yourself invited into my living room to have a conversation between friends. We’ll talk about all kinds of topics, so to pull up a chair and join in!

I look forward to seeing what the future holds!

-Liz