Category: featured

Assumptions Can Lead To Frustration

Do you ever have conflict with your children? I did. Know what I learned?

Often it was because they didn’t know what I wanted or what my expectations were. I assumed they knew. They should have known but the sad fact was that they didn’t.

My father used to say this all the time…When you assume it makes an a _ _ out of you and me. I hated that saying but unfortunately it’s true. When we make assumptions about what another person knows and understands we often find ourselves frustrated, angry, sad and the list of feelings goes on.

Today I want to share a poignant story with you that happened over the Christmas holiday. It could have happened to me or you but it happened to one of my sisters.

An Assumption Gone Wrong!

I have five sisters and we communicate with each other on a video phone app. In early December Rozanne made a video and we could all tell she was fit to be tied!! Mad as a wet hen!! She went on and on about the marvelous Christmas memory she had set up for her grandchildren by putting a wealth of wonderful games and books under her tree and how they had carelessly and thoughtlessly behaved.

She said that she had scolded them all, taken all the toys away and that the grandkids were so confused.

Now the children she was talking about are all fairly young. The behavior she spoke of seemed age appropriate to me. I mean, if there are unwrapped toys under the tree they are to play with, right. I was confused. What had she expected they would do with those toys? If I, as an adult, was confused about how they should have behaved how in the world could they not be confused?

Here is the story in Rozanne’s own words.

“I decided to put activities under the Christmas tree for the grandkids to enjoy. I did this instead of gifts because 23 grandchildren can be expensive and frustrating to shop for. I preferred to instill in their hearts a memory of Christmas fun at Grandma’s house.

I lovingly placed several coloring books, cardboard pop up books, activity books, etc. under the tree. I added several items from years past, such as a wooden puzzle my son made when he was in school and card games like Crazy Eights, Go Fish and Rummy. There was a pouch of finger puppets, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, etc. There were several Christmas storybooks including my favorite ‘The Gift of The Magi’ which is older than any of my 23 grandchildren. I anticipated all the children would create meaningful memories with one another.

To my chagrin, I was continually frustrated with the careless handling of the treasures I had thoughtfully placed under my beautiful Christmas tree. What was wrong with these kids!!!! Books were scattered on the floor or left in another room. Finger puppets were tossed under the tree and where was the Pouch?!? My youngest granddaughter proceeded to scribble on every single page of the coloring books. I began using the irritated mommy voice with my precious little angels. I’m sure I yelled a few times too.

Finally, I realized I hadn’t given my grandchildren any instructions or explained my expectations. I came to this realization after I had frantically removed every last item from under the Christmas tree to SAVE THEM from the horrible, no good, very bad grandchildren. That was a hard pill to swallow after feeling justified in my indignation.

After thinking about it for a few hours I felt sad. I put every item back under the tree and explained to the children why all that stuff was under there in the first place and the rules for using them:
• Put them under the tree when you’re done
• Only use them in the living room
• Play gently
• Share
Things went much better after that.

Over the years, I have weeded many things out of my holiday planning. I was always hoping to envelop everyone involved in my bubble of expectations but it became overwhelming and took away from the joy of the holiday.

I thought this simpler plan would accomplish the same as all my over the top projects of the past but my kids and grandkids simply were not on the same page as I was. I hadn’t let them in on what my expectations were. All they knew was that there was a pile of cool stuff to play with under the tree. Taking the time to give a simple explanation and a few instructions made all the difference in the outcome for the rest of the month. Memories were made, joy was felt and I am still Rozanne, the fun Grandma!”

Often when I’m mentoring an angry or resentful mom or dad, as we dig into what is actually the problem, this is what comes up – they just hadn’t made sure that the child or children in question knew what was required or expected.

It’s wise to understand that your kids don’t always know what you want. Even if you think they do or that they should know it’s wise to reiterate and make sure. If you take the time to do this you’ll have less frustration, feel less resentment and you will, as a family, have more joy.

Has this kind of thing happened to you? Please share your experience and what you have learned.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

I WILL BE SPEAKING at the Winter Homeschool Conference on January 27, 2018, in Layton, Utah. This conference is designed to support and rejuvenate home educating parents who want to thrive, not just survive the homeschooling experience. You don’t have to be currently homeschooling to attend! I will be speaking about Process vs Outcome. Knowing the Difference Can Change Your Family. If the topic resonates with you I would love to have you join me.

You can learn more about monitoring your expectations in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less.  You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

A New Way of Being in 2018

A few years ago I came home and on the counter was my blender…filled with flowers. I loved the flowers but I couldn’t understand why they were in the blender!!

When we moved last time I really downsized. I kept only two vases. One was filled with plants I am rooting. That left just the red one under the sink…too narrow of a neck for the flowers I found on my counter, in the blender.

I took a minute and stood in the middle of my living room and thought about what I might have that I could put this big, beautiful bouquet of flowers in. I mean, I couldn’t leave them in the blender. Right? Only a man would put flowers in the blender! Right?

I have a curio cupboard filled with stuff. In the cupboard, I discovered a beautiful clear, glass cookie jar. It was perfect for the flowers and the arrangement looked so nice.

Here is the thought that I had when the flowers were arranged in that beautiful, glass jar:
“What’s wrong with Don? He could have found this jar just as easily as I did. Why in the heck did he put those flowers in the blender? Men!”

Now in my past life, this is what would have happened when Don got home:
Hi Don. Thanks for the flowers. They’re beautiful but why did you put them in the blender?”

“Well, I couldn’t find a big enough vase.”

“Honey, there was a glass jar right in the curio cupboard. You can see it as well as I can. You just have to look. Anyway, thank you for the flowers. I love them.”

Ladies, does this scenario sound familiar to you? I am sure it does. Here my man brought home flowers but he would have gone away feeling unappreciated for his efforts and me, well, I would think that despite the fact that he brought home flowers, he was kind of lame for not putting them in something pretty, instead of the blender. In fact, I would have thought he was sort of lazy for not taking the time to find anything else.

Fortunately, I had time to think this through before Don got home and I am old enough to have been down this road many times in the past. I was looking for a new road! Here is what I realized. He wouldn’t have been free to use that glass jar even if he had seen it. Why? Because he wouldn’t have known if it was an antique or just stuff. If he had used it I might have come home and said, “Gee Don, why did you use that. It was Great Aunt May’s and it’s worth a lot of money. Why do you think it was in the curio in the first place?” I’ll bet this sounds familiar to many men. They just can’t do it right.

I was telling this story to a friend the other day. She nodded her head and said, “My husband is always saying, “Can I do anything right for you? Anything?” Gee, Don has said that to me! It isn’t that they really can’t do anything right. It’s really about complaining because it isn’t done the way we think it should be done.

This is the bind that our husbands and our children find themselves in quite often. They do the best they can but it just doesn’t make the grade and we let them know it. I propose that it’s better, more often than not, to just accept what is offered without complaint or criticism.

For example:

•Your husband brings flowers home, can’t find a vase, and so he puts them in the blender. Kiss him soundly and say, “Thank you so much, sweetheart!”
•Your 12-year-old son does the dishes without complaint. When he is done you notice that he hasn’t swept the floor so you point it out. “Sigh”, this comes from the son. It would be better to give a quick hug, say thanks and acknowledge that the job was done without complaint. Then, if you must, at a much later time mention that when he does the dishes next time would he please sweep the floor.
•Your husband helps the kids with their baths. There is a lot of laughing and good times going on. When they are done and in PJ’s and sitting on the couch you huff out of the bathroom because there is water all over the place and the towels are on the bedroom floor. You do one of two things – march into the living room, angry that you are again stuck with cleaning up, and loudly ask everyone to go clean up the floor and hang up their towels or you stay quiet and just put on your martyr face so that HE knows that you are upset. It would be better to join everyone in the living room, even if for only a few minutes. Give some quick hugs, thank your spouse for a job well done and then quietly wipe up the floor and hang up the towels. Later, in a day or two, if you must, you then ask him to wipe up the floor and have the kids hang up the towels next time, please, with a smile.
•Your five year old sets the table for dinner. He forgets the napkins and two plates don’t have forks. He comes to you beaming from ear to ear and lets you know he has done the job. You point out that there are no napkins and forks are missing. The job gets finished, the smile is gone. It might be better to give the five-year-old a big hug and ask him if he wants to learn how to fold napkins in a really cool, new way. Sure he does. You show him how, help him do it and now there are napkins on the table. You quietly put on the two missing forks. Later you have a Family Learning Time and everyone practices setting the table.

There are three things I am pointing out:
•Sometimes it’s wise to just accept the job as is and be grateful. No complaining!
•Timing in teaching is everything. We all want to feel valued for what we do even if it isn’t perfect.
•Even though we want our family to do their best, their best isn’t always going to be our idea of “best”. That’s OK.

Let’s all practice a new way of being in 2018. Let’s all complain less and be kinder. I think we will like the results. I know our families will!

What do you think? True or not? Doable? Leave a comment.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

I WILL BE SPEAKING at the Winter Homeschool Conference on January 27, 2018, in Layton, Utah. This conference is designed to support and rejuvenate home educating parents who want to thrive, not just survive the homeschooling experience. You don’t have to be currently homeschooling to attend! I will be speaking on Process vs Outcome. Knowing the Difference Can Change Your Family. If the topic resonates with you I would love to have you join me. ​​​​​​​

 

P.S. You can learn more about parenting with gratitude in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

A New Years Gift for You

In the fall of 2014, I decided that I wanted to focus on a spiritual goal for the year 2015. I wanted something that would increase my personal relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ and that would give me courage and direction for what I needed to do in 2015. I gave it a great deal of thought. I did some serious ‘knee time.”

Then in late September I read a short article, meant for youth, about how to have more effective prayers. I have been praying for over 67 years but there was a new idea in the article. It said to make a list before you pray. Yup, think about your prayer and actually write stuff down before you pray.

This idea sunk deep into my heart and I determined that I would do this every morning. I have prayers at night too but I am usually tired so I save this for my morning prayer.

I think about what I want to pray about and I make a list. When I am praying I open my eyes occasionally and look at the list so I don’t forget anything important. This is what the list looks like:

• What I am grateful for
• Thoughts and actions that I need to repent from
• People I want to pray for
• My own concerns and desires, both spiritual and temporal

What Has CHANGED

• The first thing I noticed was that it took some time to ponder and get input from the Spirit as I made my list each morning or sometimes weekly.
• The second thing I noticed was that the depth of my prayer and the time it took changed. The Spirit is much stronger, I am moved more often and my prayers have gone from a few minutes to…well sometimes, pretty lengthy. I have gone from talking “to” God to talking “with” God. It has become more of a conversation. I talk, I listen, I feel and then He talks to me.
• What I mean by He talks to me, is the third thing I have noticed. I get impressions about things that I need to do during the day. Sometimes it’s for me, concerning the desires or problems that I have. Sometimes it’s something that I need to do or say to someone I prayed for. Now I always have a notebook and pen when I pray so that I can capture my thoughts and then follow through as quickly as possible. The minute the impression comes I write it down, yes, right in the middle of the prayer. : )

The RESULTS

The whole process takes more time. I have had to get up a bit earlier. But the results have been quite remarkable. Here is what I have experienced:

• I have more peace even when a day gets out of my control
• I have many more impressions for my own life that make the day flow well. Turn here, don’t do that, why not do this, try this….and on and on. I think what has actually changed is my ability to hear the Spirit. I have probably always had this many impressions to help me in my day but I haven’t heard them. Now the time I spend in reflection and prayer in the morning seems to have opened my “spiritual” ears.
• As I follow these impressions my day goes better. My positive results are increased. I feel supported and, frankly, deeply loved.

I hope that there is something here that will sink into your heart and that in the New Year will change your life. If there is it is a gift to you from me. I am still using this tool for more effective prayer three years later and it is still working.

If you have a terrific plan for the new year, if you have a spiritual goal or a kindness goal, or any goal for that matter, why not share it with us so that we can all be edified and grow together.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

I WILL BE SPEAKING at the Winter Homeschool Conference on January 27, 2018 in Layton, Utah. This conference is designed to support and rejuvenate home educating parents who want to thrive, not just survive the homeschooling experience. You don’t have to be currently homeschooling to attend! I will be speaking on Process vs Outcome. Knowing the Difference Can Change Your Family. If the topic resonates with you I would love to have you join me. ​​​​​​​

A True Short Story of Christmas and Personal Growth

“Whose is this one mom?” Seth held up a porcelain joker dressed in purple and red satin. “Oh, its one of mine, but you can have it.” He seemed pleased that I would let it go so easily; I was giving it to him along with 25 or 30 other beautiful ornaments gathered over the years.

As I watched him gleefully pack them up to take to his new home, my mind drifted back many years, to another home and another Christmas memory. The ornaments were scratched and old and many made by children’s small hands. I thought they were ugly and wondered why our tree couldn’t look like my friend’s trees with beautiful balls and ribbons so artfully hung.

The lights were in a box, a huge tangled mess. I could hear the tension between my mom and dad over those lights; she thinking, “It’s not a big deal”, and him promoting more organization and care in packing them away.

I vowed that my tree would never be like this. I would have beautiful ornaments. No little children would put them up, all clumped in one spot. The things they made would go on low branches or in the back or better yet on the refrigerator. My tree would be beautiful!

The presents under our family tree were ugly too. You could tell that kids had wrapped them using masking tape and very little skill. My friends had beautifully wrapped packages from large department stores under their trees. Ours were well worn, with the gifts inside poking through the corners where little hands had rearranged them too much. Never mind that I myself had moved them about over and over again, it wasn’t going to happen when I had a family. The packages would be beautifully wrapped and artfully placed under the tree and then left alone!

It looks far better at 67 than it did when I was 15.

I kept those vows to myself. I began to gather Christmas, beautiful ornaments purchased for half price the day after Christmas. The lights were always perfectly wrapped at the end of each season. Nothing was bent, broken or mutilated! As the years passed the decorations increased and were more beautifully arranged than ever until we had a ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ house (well, as much as that is possible with seven children). It was truly beautiful and admired by many.

Little hands were pushed away and little faces scolded for touching the packages and rattling them close to little ears. Sometimes, those same little hands were allowed to put ornaments on the tree but they were later rearranged so they looked better. All the packages had pretty ribbons and straight edges where little hands had been helped too much to do the job, and more years passed.

Lights on, music on, finally allowed downstairs.

Little by little I found my heart softening as I began to love my children’s hands more and the things of Christmas less. But now they were bigger hands and into them, I put the job of decorating. Perhaps things weren’t done just as I would have done them but it just didn’t seem to matter. All was a little less artfully arranged and the packages weren’t as fancy. Gone was the Better Homes and Gardens house. In today’s world, it would be a Pinterest house. I just wanted to please my children and not the world.

As the last ornaments were packed up and Seth and his little family left, I was brought back to the present. It had cost me nothing to give those trappings away to him. My heart was not attached to the things of Christmas as it had once been, but only to the grown child going out the door.

I realized that I had been gathering a new kind of Christmas, the kind from many years earlier in the home of my youth, where busy little hands had been allowed to touch Christmas and shake it and squeeze out every exciting moment of it.

Oh, the beautiful chaos!

I understood what I had missed as a youth, that Christmas has always been about little hands; the little hands of the Christ-child reaching towards his mother’s sweet face that first Christmas night. His little hands were lovingly guided and allowed to learn until they were grown and reached out to the whole world in love as he gave his life on the cross.

As I thought about where I had been and where I had come to I saw that now I was able to offer Christ a special gift; a heart full of love for little hands and a knowledge of the need to nurture them; a heart free of the worldly trappings of Christmas; a more Present heart.

2014 – A few of the newest ‘little hands’ in our growing family.

Addendum

I originally wrote this piece for a magazine over 30 years ago. Then it was published online In December of 2011. This year I asked my children to read this article and comment. I did this because I have been coming face to face with the reality that no matter how we feel we did or are doing as parents, in our children’s eyes it is far better than we think.

Here are a few of my children’s responses:

“I LOVE Christmas. I love everything about it. I loved our traditions and all the wonderful things that we did. It was a beautiful time and I have only fond memories.”

“Well, I didn’t know how much it meant then, but as an adult, I realize that my deepest childhood joys are wrapped up with Christmas. I do not even care if there are things under the tree, it is just vital to my happiness that there IS a tree, full of ornaments. This year, I have my elaborate decor about and there are three lovely Christam bags with tissue paper hanging out under the tree. The bags are empty, but it doesn’t matter because the look of Abundance is there and it makes me feel so full! I think as kids that is what it did for us. It was the time of the year where our house felt abundant and luxurious. It still brings me such joy.”

“Although you felt like you were controlling the decorating aspect you filled  with so many other things. You made time to include all our school classes, gingerbread houses you spent countless hours preparing so we could make one for our childhood enjoyment, the cookie plates we took to neighbors and friends, Christmas parties for the ward and our friends, and so many other things. You even saved the shuffle ball ornament for 20 years, that my friend Brooke Powell made me in 1st grade… It went on the tree every year and so many other things. Even though you rearranged them after we put the decorations [on the tree], the tree is the memory I hold, because it was a tradition for us. We knew you rearranged them but I don’t think any of us cared. We had an awesome Christmas house. I remember my friends loving it so much…”

You won’t and, frankly, can’t do everything right. You are after all, still working on becoming the best person and parent that you can be. But if you consistently do the small and simple things that really matter, if you never give up then trust me, it will be enough!

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

I WILL BE SPEAKING at the Winter Homeschool Conference on January 27, 2018 in Layton, Utah. This conference is designed to support and rejuvenate home educating parents who want to thrive, not just survive the homeschooling experience. You don’t have to be currently homeschooling to attend! I will be speaking on Process vs Outcome. Knowing the Difference Can Change Your Family. If the topic resonates with you I would love to have you join me. ​​​​​​​

P.S. You can learn more about nurturing little hands, doing the simple things that really matter and how to keep working on becoming a better parent and person in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

Say NO to New Years Resolutions!! Tools to Make 2018 Better

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Many of you have been with me for some time now. We’re friends in learning.  We’re seekers together. I want to thank you for the past few years of association by giving you some real tools to make 2018 better.

Start by saying NO to ineffective New Years Resolutions!!

2017 is almost gone! I’ve been thinking about the last year and I’m satisfied. No, I didn’t get everything done I wanted to do. No, my life isn’t always peaceful and put together. But, I have learned a great many things. I have made some significant changes in my own way of being this year. I have done some work that matters. I’m content.

My One Action Step to Make 2018 Better!

Now I’m facing 2018 and I have determined that I want to flow into the New Year gracefully and move through the year making needed changes, learning and again, ending 2018 with a sense of satisfaction. So for the past few months, I’ve been taking that desire to the Lord and asking him for some guidance. I have phrased it this way, “What is the one action step I could take this year that would make the most significant change for good in my life?

You will notice I asked for an “action” step and only one of them. I have learned from 60 plus years of New Years Resolutions that there is a tendency at the end of the year to take note of all the weakness, imperfection and losses and then create a huge list of to-dos for the next year, to fix all that stuff. I’ve also learned that this is a recipe for failure.

I have come to believe in and act upon the 1% principle; that when you make the correct 1% change it exponentially expands that change for good in your life – it affects not only the 1% you were focusing on but all the rest of your life as well. I have also come to understand, through experience, that focusing on my strengths and successes and then seeking divine guidance helps me clearly see the correct 1%. No more New Years Resolutions for me based on what hasn’t gone well during the past year.

I went through this process of discovering the correct 1% in 2013 and here is what I came up with – Stop complaining! I didn’t realize I was complaining so much.

This year, as I pondered my work in the area of complaining I realized that I have made some progress but I’m still not where I would like to be. So I again went through the process of discovering the 1% for 2018 – Be more grateful. Hmmm, I thought I was grateful. Back to the drawing board. : )

Three Steps to  Change

There are some steps that are helpful to know in order to really make change stick and not feel discouraged in the process.

  1. Awareness of what to change. Now that I am aware of what my work is for 2018, be more grateful, I can see when I mess up. Wahoo, progress. It looks like this. You mess up, recognize the mess up after the fact and then decide how to do it differently next time. When I find myself feeling ungrateful I will remind myself what steps I have decided to take to be more grateful and then I will commit to doing that next time.
  2. The second step looks like this. You mess up and in the middle of the mess up you recognize it and stop and redo right then. So eventually, when I have an ungrateful thought or am beginning to complain, I will be able to stop and rephrase in a more grateful way.
  3. The third step is that you think about messing up and you don’t! The time will come when more often than not when I feel ungrateful and want to complain I won’t. I will change my thoughts and focus on what I am grateful for.

Each step takes time – weeks, months, sometimes years. We have to give it what it takes.

Because I know the steps I can see that I am already making progress and it isn’t even 2018 yet. I am on my way to success!!

The Tools in a Nutshell

Here is a summary of the tools for a better 2018 in a nutshell:

• Stop focusing on what you didn’t get done in 2017. Stop looking at all the problems that still need to be resolved. STOP!
• Look at all the successes you have had this year no matter how small. Make a list of at least 10.
• Ask your Higher Power for ONE action step for 2018, a step that can make a big difference in your personal life.
• Hold that thought no matter how insignificant the change may feel to you.
• Make a commitment to work on that one thing all year long.
• Understand that the first step in change is awareness. When you mess up and then recognize the mess up, rejoice. You are in the first step. Don’t stress about how long you stay on step one. Don’t quit!
• Know that when you can stop in the middle of a mess up and redo right then, you are in the second step.
• Change has happened when you can stop the impulse to do the thing you want to change and instead do something better!
• Repeat the process at the end of 2018

May each of you have a remarkable 2018 filled with movement toward personal happiness.

Your friend and mentor,
Mary Ann

I WILL BE SPEAKING at the Winter Homeschool Conference on January 27, 2018, in Layton, Utah. This conference is designed to support and rejuvenate home educating parents who want to thrive, not just survive the homeschooling experience. You don’t have to be currently homeschooling to attend! I will be speaking on Process vs Outcome. Knowing the Difference Can Change Your Family. If the topic resonates with you I would love to have you join me. ​​​​​​​

P.S. You can learn more about seven ways to get better self-care in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

My Second Christmas Gift to You

In my time I have made some award-winning gingerbread homes. I’ve made whole villages. I’ve made Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds that actually move. I LOVE making gingerbread creations.

But even more than making fancy gingerbread creations, I LOVE helping kids make their own. In our family, we have a gingerbread tradition. Each year I help my grandkids make houses. Then I go to their school and help their friends make them. Most years I help over 100 children make a gingerbread house.

This is a project that any family can do. When you add popcorn, hot cocoa, a good Christmas story and lots of hugs at the end of the project you have a perfect family activity. This is my gift to you – An afternoon or evening of holiday family fun.

What you need are a few disposable bags and the right frosting recipe! Trust me; the recipe makes all the difference.

How to help kids make Gingerbread Houses:

Take it step by step
  • Call your local school and get some empty milk cartons
  • Buy graham crackers and lots of small candies, raisins, and mini-marshmallows
  • Snip off the top of the carton (where it is sealed) and tape it shut. Now it looks like a house
  • Lay carton on its side on a sheet of paper or cardboard and trace; cut out pattern
  • Lay carton on its front on a sheet of paper or cardboard and trace; cut out pattern
  • Lay the pattern on a graham cracker and using a serrated knife (plain will not do!) cut 2 sides, a front, and back. Usually, the cracker is just a bit narrower than the pattern. It won’t matter. (If you need to trim a cracker use scissors)
  • Half a cracker should make a fine roof. If the overhang is too large just trim to the size you want.
  • Cut a door and three windows from the scraps
  • Make the frosting and put into disposable decorating bags or the corner part of a sturdy Ziploc. Cut off the tip of disposable decorating bag or corner of Ziploc bag. Don’t make the opening overly large.
  • If using a disposable decorating bag rubber band the back end shut so the frosting stays inside
  • Using frosting, glue carton to a Styrofoam plate or square of cardboard covered with foil.
  • Using the frosting glue the sides, front and back to the carton. Add roof pieces. Use plenty of frosting. Jiggle the cracker up and down on the carton to stick it well. Don’t press on the cracker or you may break it.
  • Put the door and windows in place.
  • Cover the seams one at a time with the frosting and add candy. Royal frosting dries quickly so do only a small section at a time so that it doesn’t crust over making candy adhere poorly.
  • Finish decorating the house any way you want
Anyone can make a gingerbread house!
Mentally prepare for the mess.

Tips to help parents have fun while their make their houses:

 

 

  • Mentally prepare for a messy table, floor, fingers and shirt fronts.
  • Kids will suck on the decorating bag. Get over it!
  • Some kids will put NO candy on their house; it will all go inside them. Just accept it. : )
  • Some children will put the door or windows on the roof. It’s OK.
  • Not all children will cover all of the seams. They don’t see the carton and a successful house to them isn’t dependent on all the seams being covered. Let it go!
  • Many children will put no candy anywhere but the roof. It is the part they see and the rest doesn’t matter to them.
  • Children under 2 need help. Squeezing the bag can be too hard. Putting the candy on the frosting is enough for them.
  • Children between 2 and 3 want to squeeze the bag even if it is hard. Holding their little hands in yours helps them just enough.
  • Children over 3-4 can usually manage this project with only a few instructions. When I work with large groups of children or even just my grandkids, we work at the same pace, one piece at a time, until the house is assembled. Then I turn them loose.
  • Children over 5-6 need very little help and if they are over 8-9 will resent any help. : )
  • I have been helping children make gingerbread houses for over 40 years and in all that time I have never seen a child who didn’t like their finished house no matter what it looked like, even the house with NO candy on it, unless an adult pointed out the flaws. Resist the temptation to ‘do it your way.” Don’t spoil it!!
  • If you fix their house so that all the seams are covered or so it looks “good” it’s no longer their house. It’s yours. Don’t be selfish.

I hope you have a wonderful time making a village for your home and just plain enjoying one another’s company. Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas,
Mary Ann

Frosting for Gingerbread Houses:

Royal Frosting (Meringue Powder)

This frosting is much easier to make and handle. Grease does not break it down and it can be re-beaten for later use. It can be stored in covered container for up to 6 months. Meringue powder can be purchased at some craft stores and any store that sells cake decorating supplies. Worth the extra cost!

¼ cup meringue powder ½ cup water
4 cups or 1 pound powdered sugar

Mix the meringue powder and water…beat until it peaks. Add the sugar (1/2 cup more for stiffer frosting) ½ cup at a time on low and then beat on high to desired consistency. This will beat up a bit more quickly than the egg white version.

Royal frosting dries quickly and as hard as cement so keep it covered at all times with a damp cloth or in a tightly covered bowl until you put it into the bags. As you use it on the houses encourage and remind kids to do small sections at a time because if it “crusts up” things don’t stick as well.

The BRAG Corner

A 2-year-old who is doing it herself.

 

The rubber band keeps the frosting ‘in’ the bag.

 

 

 

 

 

Award winning village made by a youth group.

 

 

 

 

 

My oldest, for a school project. The periscope really went up and down.
My youngest and her ‘first’ real gingerbread house.

 

 

Even a family of boys likes making houses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a project that kids LOVE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

!!!!!THERE IS STILL TIME!! On December 21st I will be giving away 5 copies of Becoming a Present Parent via a Goodreads Give Away. There are no strings attached. You won’t be added to any lists. So head on over and enter. You just may be a WINNER.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Becoming a Present Parent by Mary Ann Johnson

Becoming a Present Parent

by Mary Ann Johnson

Giveaway ends December 21, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

I WILL BE SPEAKING at the Winter Homeschool Conference on January 27, 2018, in Layton, Utah. This conference is designed to support and rejuvenate home educating parents who want to thrive, not just survive the homeschooling experience. You don’t have to be currently homeschooling to attend! I will be speaking on Process vs Outcome. Knowing the Difference Can Change Your Family. If the topic resonates with you I would love to have you join me.

 

P.S. You can learn more about connecting with your children even in busy times in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

My First Christmas Gift to You

Ready for Christmas Giving

There are many families that would love to make a gingerbread house but, well, it can be intimidating. The few I have known to actually do it usually have mediocre results. I have also seen families use the kits and I haven’t seen one work out yet. That is because the recipes for gingerbread and the frosting count!!

So today I want to share a wonderful story of family and tradition with you and a recipe that is over 100 years old. It ‘s my favorite cookie recipe of all time. For those who are not gingerbread fans, this cookie is for you. Mild and delicious. I have used it for both gingerbread men and gingerbread houses. It works perfectly.

The Christmas Gingerbread Story

Over ninety years ago Ann Gardner, my grandmother on my mother’s side, taught first grade in Star Valley, Wyoming. In fact, she taught all of the grades over a 40 year period of time. She was known as a tough, but fair teacher. My dad, Verl Cazier, was in one of her first-grade classes!

One of her holiday classroom traditions was making gingerbread men with her students. Each child would get a large ball of dough. They would break that into smaller balls, for the body, head, legs, and arms. They would also get a square of cardboard. Each child would flatten the largest ball of dough in the middle of the cardboard square. They would then add the head, arms, and legs by doing the same with the smaller balls of dough. The ‘man’ had to fit in the square of cardboard with nothing hanging over. Then red-hot eyes, mouth, nose, and buttons were pressed into the dough. Each child would then carefully carry their piece of cardboard, with their gingerbread man, to the cafeteria to be baked.

When I was a young mom, making gingerbread houses and villages to pay for our families Christmas, I asked her for her recipe. She gladly shared it with me and the story of what she had done all those years before in her first-grade classes. Since then her gingerbread has graced many Thanksgiving tables, been given as countless Christmas presents and been shaped into numberless gingerbread houses and cookie people.

I hope that you will enjoy this recipe and pass it down to your own families. It is now well over a hundred years old and you won’t find a better recipe out there. : )

Ann Gardner’s Gingerbread Man Recipe
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ – 1 tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • (if you like a little bite, add 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper – this is my own addition to the mix)

Cream sugar and shortening. Add molasses and beat until fluffy. Add eggs and mix. Add dry ingredients. When it gets too stiff to mix with a spoon turn it out onto the counter and knead until all the flour is mixed in. Chill one hour.

Roll out ¼ inch thick on tin foil, parchment paper or waxed paper. (If I am making a house I roll it out 1/8 inch thick because I want to cut down on the weight and bulk.) Lift foil onto the pan. Cut out shapes. Remove excess. Make sure to leave at least 1/2′ between each gingerbread piece. Bake at 350* for 8-10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a flat surface. Enjoy!

If you want to try your hand at making a gingerbread house these patterns will get you started. The frosting recipe for holding gingerbread house pieces together makes a huge difference too. Here is one that works every time. Be sure that you beat it until it is thick and stands up in peaks and then your house will hold together just right.

This frosting is easy to make and handle. Unlike royal frosting that is made with egg whites, grease does not break it down and it can be re-beaten for later use. It can be stored in a covered container for up to 6 months. Meringue powder can be purchased at some craft stores and any store that sells cake decorating supplies.

Royal Frosting (Meringue Powder)

¼ cup meringue powder      ½ cup water      4 cups or 1 pound powdered sugar

Mix the meringue powder and water…beat until it peaks. Add the sugar (1/2 cup more for stiffer frosting) ½ cup at a time on low and then beat on high to desired consistency. This will beat up a bit more quickly than the egg white version. Royal frosting dries quickly and as hard as cement so keep it covered at all times with a damp cloth or in a tightly covered bowl. Keep any utensils, tip, bags etc. covered also.

I experimented with transferring the pattern to a printed page. Right-click and save the photo. Paste it into Word, Publisher or a similar program. Size it to fit on an 8×10 sheet of paper and print. Cut out pattern pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you that want to make a gingerbread house with your children, I will be giving you all of the details and directions in my next article. It requires no baking!

SERVICE FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON

During December I want to do some form of service each day. I want to increase my sense of joy and happiness during the holiday season as a gift to myself and to the Savior, and serving others does just that. “In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25: 40

I found a link that gives you a calendar to download with one act of service to do each day leading up to Christmas day. It is family and time friendly. You too might want to check it out.

GREAT NEWS!!!!!! Just in time for the holiday season. On December 21st I will be giving away 5 copies of Becoming a Present Parent via a Goodreads Give Away. There are no strings attached. You won’t be added to any lists. So head on over and enter. You just may be a WINNER!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Becoming a Present Parent by Mary Ann Johnson

Becoming a Present Parent

by Mary Ann Johnson

Giveaway ends December 21, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

I WILL BE SPEAKING at the Winter Homeschool Conference on January 27, 2018 in Layton, Utah. This conference is designed to support and rejuvenate home educating parents who want to thrive, not just survive the homeschooling experience. You don’t have to be currently homeschooling to attend! I will be speaking on Process vs Outcome. Knowing the Difference Can Change Your Family. If the topic resonates with you I would love to have you join me. ​​​​​​​

P.S. You can learn more about how to connect with your children, even when times are busy, in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

A Book Review to Celebrate National Non-Fiction Month

November was National Non-fiction month. As an author of a non-fiction book, I decided to celebrate by reading and reviewing Cherri Brooks Teaching Children About Sex.

Last week I gave a presentation to a group of mothers called BEING ALL IN. I shared ways that help parents be ‘all in’ despite the difficulty of the job of parenting. The number one tip was to parent with intention. I know that when we have a concrete plan for what we want our families to feel like and the values we want to instill we get better results.

Cherri Brooks book can help you teach your children about sex with greater intention. When it comes to teaching about sex I know from experience and talking with others that we usually fly by the seat of our pants. Not a very comfortable way to navigate a difficult subject. Usually, we have the ‘big talk’ breathe a sigh of relief and think we are done. But if that is our approach then the results for our children might not be as successful as we hope.

Brooks has written her book from a Latter Day Saint (LDS) perspective. She has shared how looking at the LDS temple as a sacred house of worship and then comparing that to our bodies can give us some wonderful guidelines as we teach our children about the sacred nature of their bodies and sexuality.

Many of my readers are of the Latter Day Saint faith and many more are not. However, the bulk of my readership has a faith they participate in and many, if not all, revere a temple or other place of worship. I am sure that anyone of faith can and will relate to Cherri’s ideas, despite any doctrinal differences (they will be few) and that making the effort can really help you become more intentional as you teach your children about this important and beautiful part of human relationships.

The focus of the book is to teach appropriate sexual behavior with the correct attitude. Brooks reminds us that sexual behavior is personal conduct and that sexuality is an attitude. This little book will help you study the topic of sexuality so that when your child has a question or you need to address the topic, you will have the knowledge you need to answer in the best way possible for you and your child.

Section 1 covers building a sexual educational foundation at home. Many parents leave that to the public school system but most would do more at home if they knew how. We are, after all, the voice that we hope our children will hear and follow. In section 1 Brooks reminds us that our bodies and those of our children are temples and deserve the same respect and care. She discusses how our attitudes can color how our children feel about sexuality despite the words that we say. Many times children see and feel more than hear what we tell them. Finally, she gives some compelling reasons to begin teaching our children about sexuality early and how this can pay dividends as our children enter puberty. She gives clear directions for preparing ahead and planning effectively.

Section 2 concerns age-by-age sexual education. It is broken into 3 phases:
Phase 1 – Curious Learners (0-5)
Phase 2 – Concrete Learners (Ages 6-8 and 9-11)
Phase 3 – Conduct Learners (Ages 12+ and Premarital)

This section, besides great information on each age group and their needs, contains sample questions and answers that would be age appropriate, as well as value statements for each question. They may not reflect your personal values but will help you identify and then teach yours. There is also a list of conversation starters that are age appropriate. A real help for parents!

Section 3 covers special topics that children are hearing about as they navigate their world and which parents may not know how to effectively address:
Homosexuality
Sexual Abuse
Harassment
Rape

What I really liked about this book was that it was easy to read and understand. It was simple in its approach. It was written in a manner that was clear and easy to follow. The information about children and how to approach conversations about sex at each age level was so helpful! Brooks has wonderful real-life examples that most of us will relate to.

Cherri Brooks has done her homework and her book will help you do yours.

 

Cherri is giving away 5 copies of her book this month. Be sure and enter because you could be a winner.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Teaching Children About Sex by Cherri Brooks

Teaching Children About Sex

by Cherri Brooks

Giveaway ends December 21, 2017

Enter Giveaway

You can read some thoughtful and informative articles on teaching your children about sexuality and sex on her blog.

You can connect with Cherri Brooks on her Facebook page.

Why not check out her author’s page on Amazon where you can purchase her book in both paperback and Kindle.

Cherri Brooks grew up with an aspiration to be an author. As a child, she practiced typing on an old, clunky DOS computer. She found her passion for parenting and healthy sexuality through her education at Utah State University, where she earned her BS and MS in Family and Human Development. She also taught courses at South Dakota State University in Marriage and Family Relations and Parenting. She loves talking with parents about raising sexually healthy children. She currently lives in Clarksville, Tennessee with her husband and three children.

Another way that I am celebrating National Non-Fiction Month (November) is to give away five copies of my own book. You still have plenty of time to enter and win. The drawing happens on December 21st. No strings. No list. Just the chance to win and become a more Present parent.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Becoming a Present Parent by Mary Ann Johnson

Becoming a Present Parent

by Mary Ann Johnson

Giveaway ends December 21, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Is self-care and having children mutually exclusive?

We often think of taking care of ourselves as being child-free, away from home, in quiet. But if that’s the definition of self-care, most moms and dads are going to get precious little of it.

When we’re looking for alone time, we need to get creative. How can it be managed right where we are, without expending too much money or time? How can it be made doable even with small children? There’s always a way to care for yourself right where you are.

Here are three examples of how parents got creative in order to take better care of themselves. They’re about moms but this applies equally well to dads.

Experiment 1

Deon was feeling burnt out and needed a way to have space away from her family when she felt over the top. In one of our conversations, she told me about her bedroom. It had a lovely window seat that looked out onto a green field. The problem was it was the messiest room in her home. So together we came up with a list of things that she could easily do to make it an inviting space.

She cleared all the stuff off of the window seat and got a basket for her husband to put his stuff in—so it would stay cleaned off. She made changes in how they managed the laundry, so it wasn’t always piled on her bed. She painted a wall. She added her favorite books to the window seat.

Deon talked with her family. She told them that when it became difficult to react the way she wanted, she was going to her room to regroup for 5 minutes. She would take a personal time out. She asked for their support in allowing her to do this when she needed to. They all agreed to help her out. (Yes, she does have a couple of small children.)

When Deon is on the verge of exploding or ceasing to be the adult, she retreats to her bedroom. She sits in the window seat and looks out on the field. She breathes deeply; she may read one or two paragraphs in her book. Then she heads back out into the fray. She’s managing better, her kids are happier, and her husband is relieved. This experiment has had a positive impact on all of them.

Experiment 2

Amy has multiple health issues that tax her strength and resources for parenting. She expressed her desire for alone time each week so she could paint and write, feel better, and get a handle on her health.

Finding time wasn’t her only issue. She also has a child with serious health problems. Amy worried that if she took time away from her family, something might come up with her ill child and her husband wouldn’t be able to handle it
.
Nevertheless, she was willing to try an experiment. She asked her husband if he would take over for two hours a week, in the evening, so she could write or paint. He was open to the idea.

Amy chose a room at the other end of the house, away from the family room where her husband and children would spend their time. That way she could have her quiet time and be close at hand in case of an emergency.

The first week was a grand success. Amy was frankly impressed with her husband and was surprised that he managed so well without her. She was equally surprised that her kids managed without her. She’s been doing this for a while now. It’s given her husband an opportunity to be with the kids, and she’s been able to fulfill her need to write, paint, and have time to herself. The whole family is happier.

Experiment 3

Melanie has a large family, and her husband is often gone. She wants time to be by herself and read. She asked me how I find time to read because I raised a large family and now I live in the same home as my grandkids.

I mentioned to her that my bathroom was my retreat. I shared the simple things I’ve done to make it a sanctuary. A beautiful picture hangs on the wall. My favorite colors are in the shower curtain and rugs. A vase of flowers sits on the floor. Most importantly, there’s a basket of fabulous books and magazines next to the toilet.

When I go into the bathroom, which is at least three times a day, I read one to three paragraphs. Occasionally I’m lucky and get a whole page. You’d be amazed at how much you can read in a year, one to three paragraphs at a time.

Melanie decided to give it a try. One of her worries was that her bathroom was always so messy because of the kids. When she began putting it to rights, she discovered that almost all of the clutter was hers. She devised simple systems to keep her stuff corralled. She added flowers, a new rug, and a basket of books. At last report, she was enjoying her mini-moments of peace and reading. It has made her feel more taken care of, and she’s happier with her children.

You’re going to spend far more time with your children than you’re going to spend without them, so it’s imperative to learn how to self-care while you’re in the thick of parenting. It’s simple, it’s doable, and it takes small amounts of time and virtually no money; but it can and will pay huge dividends.

Self-care can be as simple and plain as having a cup of herbal tea while you read to your children. It might be taking a few deep breaths while soothing a screaming child. You could turn on your favorite music and dance in the living room with your kids. Add laughter!

Self-care can be taking a walk with your children to take the edge off the day. Sitting in the swing and watching your children play can give you fresh air and a breather from all that you’re feeling pressed to do. Go to the bathroom more often if that’s what will buy you a few moments alone.

When you’re on the edge of losing your temper, getting irritable, or feeling resentful, ask yourself what you need to stay in control. Pay attention to yourself.

What are the creative ways that you use to find some time to care for yourself? I would LOVE to hear about them.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

GREAT NEWS!!!!!!  Just in time for the holiday season. On December 21st I will be giving away 5 copies of Becoming a Present Parent via a Goodreads Give Away. There are no strings attached. You won’t be added to any lists. So head on over and enter. You just may be a WINNER!

Becoming a Present Parent by Mary Ann Johnson

Becoming a Present Parent

by Mary Ann Johnson

Giveaway ends December 21, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

What is Present Parenting?

P.S. You can learn more about seven ways to get better self-care in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

Self-Care in the Thick of Things

Self-care is crucial for parents because it helps them maintain calm for longer periods of time. Self-care facilitates patience and staves off taking our frustrations out on our children. Self-care helps us remain freer of resentment, exhaustion, or feeling depleted. It keeps us healthier. Self-care helps us tune into the joy and satisfaction of having children, even during overly busy or chaotic days. Self-care benefits not only us but also our whole family. It’s an investment in our family relationships, rather than a selfish indulgence.

Here are some tips to help you begin thinking about how you can do more self-care right where you are – in the thick of parenting.

1. Make it simple and doable – Self-care can be as simple and plain as having a cup of herb tea while you read to your children. It might be taking some deep breaths while soothing a screaming child. You could turn on your favorite music and dance in the living room with your kids. Add laughter!

2. Pay attention to yourself – When you feel like you are on the edge of losing your temper, getting irritable or feeling resentful ask yourself what you need to stay in control. I can still vividly recall what that moment felt like when I was going to stop being the adult. It was almost always when I had pushed myself for too long or was too tired. What I needed was to just STOP. In those younger years, I didn’t stop and the result was inevitable. If you find yourself in that place, STOP. Stop working. Sit down. Hug a child. Breathe deeply. Get a drink of water. Walk out to the yard. Do something that will feel nurturing to you.

3. Take care of your physical self – Get more sleep. Go to bed a bit earlier even if it means you don’t get that alone time you try to snatch after midnight! Don’t get on the computer after 10 pm. Really, this will absolutely help you get to bed earlier! Eat better. Don’t let lunch be the crusts off of your kid’s sandwiches. Don’t eat over the sink. Sit down for goodness sake and eat. It only takes five minutes! Exercise. Learn the difference between mom walks and kid walks and take a healthy measure of both weekly. Think and talk nicely to and about yourself. You would rarely speak to others, even those who are messing up, the way you talk to yourself. Pay attention to what you say and how you say it to yourself and then take the time to re-frame what you say into something more positive, supportive, and true.

4. Smell the roses – Stop rushing through the day in order to get your “list” taken care of. Join in your children’s laughter. Smell their hair and skin. Get good at random touches and mini-conversations. Sit on the lawn and listens to your children’s chatter. Take a moment off, even if it is only 5 minutes. It will be enough!

Taking care of yourself does not make you selfish. It shows that you care about yourself and your family relationships. Being kind to yourself in everyday life is one of the best things you can do. Life will become lighter and your relationships will most likely improve. You will feel happier overall. Your self-esteem will go up. You will be a better parent.

 

AN EMPTY LANTERN PROVIDES NO LIGHT.  SELF-CARE IS THE FUEL THAT ALLOWS YOUR LIGHT TO SHINE BRIGHTLY. PIPER LARSEN

 

How do you care for yourself in the midst of a busy and chaotic day at home? Please share.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

GREAT NEWS!!!!!!  Just in time for the holiday season. On November 21 I am giving away 5 copies of Becoming A Present Parent via a Goodreads Giveaway. So on November 21 hop on over and enter. You may just be a winner. : )

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Becoming a Present Parent by Mary Ann Johnson

Becoming a Present Parent

by Mary Ann Johnson

Giveaway ends December 21, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

What is Present Parenting?

P.S. You can learn more about the difference between the 1% principle and the 100% devil in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

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