Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Best Parenting Tips (for now)

So I am currently enjoying time off from work, and more time with my children. By God's grace, there are things that we've done well as parents; although I don't claim that ANY of these tips or ideas originated with me, but since others might find them useful, I wanted to share them.

Here are my favorite things we're doing with our kids at their current age level:

Alex is 8 years old. This stage of parenting is challenging because it's about character development. Since he's reading well, we've started having him read a children's Bible every morning before he does anything else. We're praying that the habit continues throughout his life.

Jason and Alex share a love for games. We only allow our kids to play video games once they're 7 years old; we want to make sure a love for reading is established first. Alex is allowed to play video games on Saturdays and Mondays (Jason's day off). So far, this has worked very well for our family.

Sunday afternoons Jason plays board games with the kids. We've already seen the benefits in Alex's reasoning skills and math skills. If you don't like the idea of competing against your kids, check out cooperative games like Castle Panic, Forbidden Island, and Escape: The Curse of the Temple.

Lauren is 5 years old. Her main parenting challenge at the moment is dealing appropriately with emotions. She has not responded to discipline in the same ways as Alex so we've had to change up our routine. We've begun a habit of praying with her when she faces temptation, and she feels free to come tell us because she knows we're on her team. Praise the LORD! We're still working on developing her communication so that she can control her anger without lashing out verbally. And yes, all of this is a very convicting and sanctifying process in our hearts as well. Check out this video for more teaching on parenting. We love Paul Tripp!

I'll echo the board game comment here as well. Lauren is motivated to learn to read so that she can play more games! Her addition skills have improved dramatically along the way as well. Games also allow kids (and adults) to practice patience, grace, and love as they win or lose. King of Tokyo is a great game for this age.

One more quick note about Lauren. Her interests and giftedness appear to be more artistic, and so to love her is to provide opportunities for her to enjoy those interests and gifts. She is happiest in a world of music, dance, cooking, painting, drawing, coloring, and just creating. 

Olivia is two years old. At this stage, our main goal is to keep her busy, fed, and rested. :) So my main idea for two year olds is to invite them to participate in life with you. We let Liv sit on the counter or stand on a stool while I cook. She throws clothes in the washer that I hand to her. She sorts clean cloth diapers into piles and puts them away in the drawer. I ask her to entertain the baby for a minute while I finish a task. She can find and bring to me most things in the house. 

Of course toddlers also throw tantrums and have bad attitudes. Our main way of dealing with fussing and whining is to send her to her bed until she can control her emotions and speak normally. Of course sometimes further discipline is needed, but most times teaching her to handle her frustration and disappointments is the main goal. Also if the underlying issue is exhaustion, sending your toddler to bed could  lead to an early nap, as Liv has done many times.

You may think that two is too young for games, but I spent a long time this morning playing Memory with Liv. We play it with the cards face up, and she makes matches. The experience is teaching her to find things, discriminate visually, use her dexterity (picking cards off table requires fine motor skills), increase patience, and build confidence. If you are looking for another game for this age range, I'd recommend Chicken Cha Cha Cha. 

Emily is 9 months old. My favorite parenting tips for her age is to begin room time with siblings. Room time is when the kids go and play in their room together in the afternoon after lunch. It's a part of our daily routine. For a baby like Em, just place an exersaucer or pack n' play into the room where the older kids are playing. Please note: I don't recommend leaving a baby in a room with zero supervision. The room in which the kids play has french doors, and I can hear perfectly if not see everything. I think she lasted 5 minutes the first day. Now she spends 15-20 minutes with them. It's a great break for me, and a wonderful way to build her ability to play and be happy with her siblings.

The other tips are for moms. As babies get older, a common issue for nursing moms is that the baby might stop nursing and prefer baby food. The tip is to establish a routine of nursing first. When the baby is hungry, nurse. Then, only if the baby still seems hungry, offer baby food. Along with feeding the baby, this is a great age to start using baby signs. We stick with the basics, more and all done. Here's a great resource if you want to expand your baby sign vocabulary. Babies can definitely sign earlier, but I always forget to use it until around this age. 

I hope you found this helpful, and of course, feel free to let me know what some of your favorite parenting ideas are!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Daltons

Note: It's been several years since we've sent out Christmas cards. We'd like to get back into the tradition, so if you'd like a card next year, let us know and we'll add your address to our 2013 Christmas card list. This year, we decided to do a blog post instead.

Merry Christmas! 2012 has been a year of blessing and change for our family. We're thankful for God's leading in our lives, and for His provision of jobs, house, family, and health.

In December 2011, Jason graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity degree. Just a few weeks later, we jetted off to Welches, OR to visit a small church to see if God would have us minister there. In May 2012, Jason was ordained and installed as a minister in the Presbyterian Church of America (picture above is from his installation service at Evergreen Presbyterian). The next weekend, he was able to officiate at the wedding of some very dear friends. Because of the generosity of our friends, family, and our church family at Pear Orchard Presbyterian, we were able to move in June to Oregon. Jason is now the pastor of Mt. Hood Community Church. We are so thankful for this opportunity and pray that God will bless His church through Jason's ministry.

Our family welcomed Emily Grace Dalton on March 17, 2012. After her maternity leave, Elizabeth transitioned to part-time work with Kaplan. She is now solely teaching online for work, though she instructs at Dalton Academy in person. :) Elizabeth is also helping the church by teaching children's church and organizing Women in the Church activities and ministries. 

Alex turned eight years old in December 2012. He is currently a yellow belt in taekwondo and a second grader at Dalton Academy. He is a voracious reader as well as an excellent older brother. His favorite books of 2012 were the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. He reports his favorite school subject is History; we use the Story of the World curriculum.

Lauren turned five years old in July 2012. She enjoys being old enough to play board games with Alex and Jason. This fall she played soccer, but she has just begun taking taekwondo classes and plans to continue those in the new year. Lauren is a kindergartner at Dalton Academy; she loves to paint, color, and draw.

Olivia turned two years old in February 2012. She loves books, especially Margaret Wise Brown and Sandra Boyton, and anything with bears. Olivia enjoys dancing and coloring as well as being a big helper around the house. 

Emily is excited to celebrate her first Christmas at the age of 9 months. She is crawling and pulling up to standing. She has only two bottom teeth, but she may receive her two front teeth in time for Christmas!

And that's the Dalton family update! Here are some more pictures for you to enjoy:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Drinking Coffee without Dairy

One of the tough changes to make if you do a Whole30 challenge or decide to go dairy-free for various reasons is what to do with your coffee. If you're like me, part of the pleasure of coffee is the creamy flavor of half and half or cream. If you decide to go dairy free, I have used a couple different approaches.

First there is the simplest: drink black coffee. I have done this in a pinch, but most of us will find this an unsatisfactory solution. It's hard to go cold turkey to plain coffee. If you don't enjoy black coffee, I have a couple other suggestions as well.

The easiest transition will be to use coconut cream. It's pricey but incredibly delicious. You want the good stuff from Aroy-D, a Thai company. Amazon sells it in large packs. I pour a carton into glass jars and shake well. You'll get a nice stiff cream from whipping this, and it's naturally sweet from the coconut flavor, but not cloyingly sweet. It's a nice treat.

What I've been doing recently is a third alternative. I've been adding a few tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa (full of great antioxidants) and some maple syrup to cut the bitterness, just a teaspoon or two. It's not that much sugar overall, and maple syrup is my favorite natural sweetener. It's a nice mocha flavor and a great treat for this time of year.

If you'd like more ideas for dairy free creamers, here's a list of recipes that call for coconut milk and use date paste for sweetener. Enjoy exploring the world of dairy-free coffee treats!