QuickTip Tuesday: Giving Children Choices

Sometimes in parenting, we can start to feel like drill sergeants- always giving out orders. My own kids rarely follow my commands on the very first delivery. BUT when I give them choices, they are much more receptive. Letting our children have some decision making power helps them to feel engaged and involved in the process and it teaches them decision making skills. The key to doing this successfully is to give choices that are age appropriate, only a few options available, and only options you are okay with. Do not have a trick-option in there that will make you unhappy as a parent. Murphy’s Law dictates that your children will choose the one you do not want every single time!

Here are some examples of choices you could give your children:

  • We do not drink pop at dinner. You can have milk or juice. Which do you prefer?
  • Bedtime is at 8:00. Do you want the unicorn or princess pajamas?
  • Curfew is 11:00. You may go out as long as you are back home by that time.

Foodie Friday: Hawaiian Sweet Potato Burger

Sweet potato burger with avocado, onion and pineapple rings on green plate.

If you are looking for ideas for meatless meals, this is a good one.

  • 1 large sweet potato, baked
  • 1/2 C rolled or quick oats
  • 1/2 C panko bread crumbs
  • 2 pineapple rings, chopped
  • 1 C chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/6 C teriyaki sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • avocado, sliced
  • 4 pineapple rings
  • 2 hamburger buns

Start by baking your sweet potato, either in the oven or microwave. We are removing the skin, so it really doesn’t matter which method you use.

While your potato is cooking, throw your oats in the blender or food processer and pulse until it becomes a fine powder.

Once the potato is cooked, split it open and let it cool down a little until you can handle it without burning your fingers. Place flesh of potato, oat powder, panko bread crumbs, chickpeas, and chopped pineapple in a mixing bowl and use your hands to mash and mix. You want the potato mashed completely and some of the chickpeas mashed, some left in tact. Mix the ingredients all together and shape into two patties.

Heat a little olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Cook the patties for about 4 minutes on each side. When you are just about finished cooking the second side, pour in your teriyaki sauce and let it cook down for a minute or two.

Build your burger with the bun, sweet potato patty, avocado, onion, pineapple rings and whatever Hawaiian inspired toppings you like!

Helping Children Cope with Stress and Traumatic Events

A Different Perspective 

Did you know children’s brains still developing until they are about 25 years old? That’s why children think differently than adults.  It is also why they often become scared and confused when they hear and see their parents fighting.  In fact, it is common for kids to wonder if their parents stop loving each other, does that mean their parents will stop loving them, too, or conclude that if their parents are fighting about them, it must be their fault. These types of thoughts are very difficult for children to process and are often at the root of many behavior problems.  Read below to learn more about recognizing the signs of stress in your child and what you can do to help.

The following are common stages children experience when working through a traumatic experience such as divorce.

Shock and Denial  Children experience a great amount of shock or confusion during divorce because their two primary attachment figures, those who provide and care for them, are no longer going to be together. This is overwhelming for children and they may be concerned that if their parents no longer love each other, then they could stop loving them, too. As a result of this confusion, children may become perfectionist or entertain fantasies that their parents will get back together at some point. This denial or unwillingness to accept the divorce can lead some children to believe that if they are perfect mom and dad will get back together.     Anger As children begin to come to terms with their parents’ divorce, they often feel hurt by their parents’ divorce. Children often experience hurt as anger because they are unable to understand their feelings and feel powerless about what happened. The feelings of hopelessness or powerlessness in the family lead children to behave in many different ways. Younger children may regress in their developmental tasks such as potty training. School aged children may experience difficulty concentrating in school or sustaining friendships. Older children may engage in self destructive behaviors such as cutting, joining gangs, or acting out sexually. Although children may appear to move out of this state with time, the feelings often simply go “underground” instead and the angers is still there. This suppressed anger will continue to crop up from time to time in different situations.    Parents can help support their children’s emotions by asking them how they feel, listening to their feelings, and assuring them that they will still continue to love them.  Bargaining Children may feel like they caused the divorce; and therefore, they mistakenly feel a responsibility to get their parents back together. Many children attempt to become perfect angels during this stage by getting perfect grades, becoming more involved in religion, or other positive activities. They believe that if they are good enough, their parents won’t have a reason to separate. The children reason that “if I do X or Y, maybe my parents will get back together.” During this state parents need to continually assure their children that they are not going to get back together and continually assure their children that the divorce was not their fault. Depression Children can be overwhelmed with feelings of helplessness and sadness and bottle up the stress they are experiencing inside. This can be very debilitating for children and they may experience a range of symptoms including: decreased ability to concentrate, problems sleeping, nightmares, bed wetting, become irritable, loss of interest in social relationships, loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed. It is important for parents to talk with their child about their feelings, actively listen to their feelings, and verbally assure them their children that they love them.       Acceptance During this stage children come to terms with their parents’ divorce and accept the changed relationships they have with their parents. Children become accustomed to the routines, transitions, and different rules in each of their parents homes. Child’s energy gradually returns, and they pursue neglected interests. Although, children are able to bounce back and accept their parents’ divorce, different things or events can push children back into the grief cycleNewer research shows that children do not go through the grief cycle as if they were different stages, but rather cycle back and forth, or in and out of the different stages for several years. For example, a child may be responding well, but when they begin school they may wonder why their family is different from their friends and may experience anger or depression. Or, when their parent begins to date again they could experience anger or depression. Thus, it is important for parents to continually talk with and listen to their children’s concerns about the divorce. The stress a child experiences also influences their ability to experience the grief cycle in a healthy way.

The forms of stress children experience can be broken down into three types: ordinary, developmental, and unique stress. Ordinary stress involves tensions that are part of daily routines, such as waking up in the morning and getting ready for the day.  Developmental stress involves the stages a child experiences as they grow and learn to change their habits and views of themselves, such as learning to walk, talk, read, or write. Unique stress occurs in response to other factors, not necessarily part of normal life, such as changing schools, divorce, or the death of a family member. Although, the way children respond to stress varies, the most important buffer against stress is a healthy parent-child relationship.

The following are ways parents can show their child they care and strengthen the parent-child relationship: Build communication patterns with your child through talking with and listening to them Spend one on one time with each child daily Reassure your child emotionally through giving them a hug or a smile Provide your child with a sense of security through developing a comfortable daily schedule and setting guidelines for behavior Provide your child with opportunities to be successful Teach your child how to relax through play. Children are healthier when they are given time to play Teach your child how to make decisions through problem solving Parents are often able to help their children through stressful events; however, situations such as divorce can make it difficult for parents to cope with certain stressors as well. In situations where parents are having difficulty coping with stress, seeking outside help is a good idea.

Divorce is a stressful process. It is important to be aware of what your children are seeing and hearing. The intense moments that happen during divorce can hurt your child.  Dedicating time to build the parent-child relationship is very important. Be aware of what messages you are sending your child and make sure you are sending the messages you want your kids to hear!  

Check out these additional OSU Extension fact sheets to learn more about helping children cope with divorce: 

Helping Children of Divorce Understand their Feelings

Helping Children Deal with Stress after Divorce

Books for Children of Divorce
  Need more help? Co-parenting is hard. We’re here to help! Learn more about the Co-Parenting for Resilience Program, part of the Extension mission of Oklahoma State University’s College of Human Sciences.  

QuickTip Tuesday: Cast-Iron Tips

I saw a meme on Facebook last week that made me cringe. It said something about making southern cooks cry and it had a picture of a cast-iron skillet in the dishwasher! For the love. Do. Not. Put. Cast. Iron. In. The. Dishwasher.

To clean it, use a plastic scrubber or another type of non-abrasive, non-metal scrubber and scrub it out under hot water. You can use dish soap if you want to. Rinse it well. Dry it. Dry it. Dry it. I’ll say it again: Dry it. Once you’ve dried it using a towel, not letting it drip dry, put it back on the stove on medium heat to get it really dry. Don’t forget to turn off the stove when it’s dry. When the pan is cooled enough to touch, but still warm add 1/2 tsp canola or vegetable oil and use a paper towel to spread the oil evenly over the inside of the pan. Wipe, and wipe, and wipe.

No dishwashers. Please!

Foodie Friday: Chicken Noodle Soup

chicken noodle soup in a bowl

My family has a tradition of eating homemade soup after we go trick-or-treating on Halloween. I really love this tradition because I can do all the prep work before we go out and I can even cook most of the components ahead of time too. Then I can hold my soup warm in the slow-cooker, or simply reheat it when we get home. The only thing I do not cook ahead of time with this homemade chicken noodle soup is the pasta. When its overcooked, pasta starts to break down and the starches make the soup too thick and I don’t really care for the texture, so I add my noodles in at the last minute.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 stalks celery, cleaned and diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 2 cups water
  • fresh thyme
  • 6 oz wide egg white noodles
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a heavy soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and sear for 3-4 minutes on each side. The chicken will not be cooked all the way through at this point.
  2. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside
  3. Add the vegetables to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Saute, stirring occasionally until they start to soften and the onions are starting to get a little golden color.
  4. While the veggies are cooking, dice the chicken into bite-size pieces- it will still be raw on the inside and that’s okay.
  5. To the pot, add the chicken broth, bouillon cubes, diced chicken, and fresh thyme- whole on the stem. Let this simmer for 30 minutes. *at this point, you could transfer to a slow-cooker to hold warm, or turn off the heat and let it sit out for no longer than 1 hour while you go trick-or-treating.
  6. When you are back home and ready to eat, add in the noodles and water and fish out the thyme stems.
  7. Serve hot with a salad and toast.

Do I need life insurance?

How does a person know if life insurance is needed? And how much life insurance is enough? That all really depends on your own family and financial situation, but most adults with children do need life insurance. Life insurance is not for you, it’s for the people who depend on you and the money you make. If you died, that income would be gone. Life insurance replaces that for those who depend on it.

So, who really needs life insurance?

  • single parents with minor children
  • married parents with minor children (whether the parent works outside the home or not)
  • married couples without children

Of course wage earners with children have a need for life insurance because the point of it is to replace those wages and the payout from the life insurance should be used to care for those children. Parents who do not have a regular income may still want to have a life insurance policy. Why? Because the role that parent plays still has a monetary value if that parent were gone. A stay-at-home mom most likely does all of the shopping, cooking, and chauffeuring of the children to their activities. If she were to pass away, the dad may have to hire a housekeeper or nanny to help ease the burden. And married couples without children may want life insurance to help take care of the surviving spouse in the event one of them dies.

Young, single adults do not usually need life insurance in order to financial take care of a dependent, but they may want a small policy to cover funeral costs if something were to happen.

So, how much life insurance do you need? A good rule of thumb is to take your annual income and multiply that by 10. The idea here is that the life insurance payout, invested properly, should generate enough growth for the survivors to have an annual income (from the payout) that is equal to (or close to) what the deceased was making in a year. For example:

A parent making $60,000 per year would need a life insurance policy of $600,000. If that were invested well (with a financial advisor) it could potentially grown by 10% per year. That 10% could be taken back out of the investment account each year, giving the family $60,000 annually to live on and leaving the $600,000 in the account to continue to grow.

For a the stay-at-home parent, you would follow the same concept, but instead of multiplying the annual income by 10, you would want to estimate the cost the family might incur in a given year by hiring a housekeeper or nanny, and multiply that by 10.

Now, what kind of life insurance do you need? There are multiple types. Term life provides coverage for a specified number of years. Whole life combines the insurance with a savings plan, and covers the policy holder for life. Then there’s universal life, variable life and variable universal life. Without getting to far into the weeds, think about who your dependents are and how long they will be needing the income. Typically, the savings component of the whole-life policy does not pass on to the family upon death, so you’re really only getting the death benefit there. And the savings portion doesn’t have a lot of variety in the ways you can invest that money. The term life has an end date, so if you had a 20-year term, you would pay the premiums and your dependents would be covered for 20 years. If you die in that 20 years, your family gets the money. If you survive that 20 years, your policy will expire, but your kids should be grown and no longer dependent on your income by then. It’s really up to you which kind you want, but there’s no good reason to get more than your family needs.

So now what do you do with all this information?

  1. Examine your life insurance needs before making a purchase.
  1. Learn about the different types of life insurance.
  2. Shop around and compare cost of policies from several companies licensed in Oklahoma.
  1. Buy only the amount of life insurance you need and can
  2. When you have narrowed your choice to several policies,
    request a copy of each policy. Read the policy and ask
    about anything you do not understand before you buy.
  3. Provide accurate information on the policy application.
    Omitting health information can cause denial of your application or cancellation of the policy.
  4. Inform family members about the kind and amount of life
    insurance as well as location of policies.
  5. Review your life insurance coverage and beneficiaries
    whenever your family status changes. It is important to
    determine if the coverage meets your current needs.

QuickTip Tuesday: Slow Cooker Tips

It’s slow-cooker season! Here are some great tips for using your slow cooker to create safe and delicious meals:

1. Always use the slow cooker following manufacturer’s directions.

2. Never fill the crock and let food stand more than two hours before turning on the cooker.

3. Keep the lid on. It can take as long as 20 minutes to regain the heat lost from removing the lid. If the recipe calls for stirring or adding ingredients, replace the lid as soon as possible.

4. Fill the crock at least half full when following recommended cooking times. Reduce cooking times when using smaller quantities.

5. Thaw frozen meats and vegetables before placing in the cooker. Using frozen foods can add an extra 2 or 3 hours to the cooking time.

6. Cut meats into specified sizes to ensure doneness.

7. Place vegetables in the crock first as they take longer than meats to cook.

8. Do not add dry beans to slow cook recipes. Beans can be successfully cooked in the cooker by following these simple guidelines: Presoak beans in the slow cooker overnight with just enough water to cover. In the morning drain the beans, add new water, the seasoning and continue cooking. Or, simmer the dry beans in un-salted water for 10 minutes on the stove, drain and place in the slow cooker with other ingredients, including fresh water.

9. Avoid recipes with dairy products, which tend to break down with extended cooking times. Skim milk has a tendency to curdle and natural cheese breaks down. Evaporated milk, condensed soups and processed cheeses work much better.

10. Change cooking times to meet your schedule. One hour on HIGH generally equals two hours on LOW. When cooking on LOW setting do not worry if the food cooks longer than intended.

11. Add whole herbs and spices sparingly as they usually become more intense when cooked in a slow cooker. It is best to add seasoning shortly before serving.

12. If a pasta recipe needs to cook longer than 3 or 4 hours, the pasta will fall apart or become “gummy”. It is best to add pasta during the last 2 or 3 hours. Pasta can also be cooked conventionally and then added just before serving.

13. To make clean up easier, spray the inside of the liner with a nonstick cooking spray before each use or use a slow-cooker liner.

Foodie Friday: October Menu

Just like everyone else, I am entering into the fall season and October with a tiny bit of apprehension. Let’s just say, I am cautiously optimistic. I have hope that my birth-month will be great this year, but I also feel tentative. What I am not worried about, though, is what we will be having for dinner each night at my house! I have a wonderfully comforting line-up for you! I have collected the recipes on my October 2020 Menu Pinterest Board, and I absolutely plan on having some short tutorials or demos on my favorite recipes this month. I know I have said this before, but it’s really going to happen this time! Let me know if there is anything on the October menu that you would like to see a demo for!

QuickTip Tuesday: Cleaning the Jetted Tub

Jetted bathtub that is running with dishwasher detergent in the water

We moved into a new house back in April. The new master bath has a jetted bathtub. This is not something I would have chosen for myself, and cleaning it was definitely a challenge to overcome. After some internet reading and the replacement of the motor, I think I’ve got it all figured out. The trick is dishwasher detergent. The easiest way to clean this type of tub is to run it full of hot water, add in some liquid dishwasher detergent (important you don’t use dish soap, but the stuff you would put into the dishwasher because it doesn’t make a lot of suds) and let the motor run for about 15 minutes. When that’s done, drain the water and give it a good rinse. Wipe the surrounding tile with your favorite tile cleaner and you are done!

Foodie Friday: The best things we ate this week

I had planned to have a new cooking demo for you today. I actually set one up and went through the whole demo only to find at the end that my phone quit recording about halfway through. It was sad. But the dish I made while making my ill-fated video was seriously the best thing our family ate this week.

I am not a recipe developer. However, I love taking recipes I find on the internet and testing them so that I can adjust for my own family’s schedule and preferences. This week I made these pressure-pot stuffed shells, and let me tell you- no adjustments needed! This recipe was easy to follow as long as you read the recipe notes and it was absolutely scrumptious! Cheesy, meaty, and just the right amount of salt. The noodles didn’t get overcooked, which is always a concern when I put pasta into a pressure cooker or a slow cooker. I already had beef on my menu for the week, so I opted to use pork (Italian sausage) in my filling. I also went with ricotta cheese (the recipe gives option for cottage cheese). I have to admit, my own shells did not turn out as pretty as they look in the picture (not my picture) but they tasted great!

stuffed pasta shells on a plate with red sauce and mozzarella cheese

A close runner-up in the best things we ate this week competition was for our dessert night. I have put Pots de Creme on my menu before, but I always end up making something else; something I think will be easier. This time, I was working from home and I went for it. I have made other custard desserts before, but for some reason I have been intimidated by pots de creme. That was silly! If you can scramble an egg, you can make this recipe. The most difficult thing about it was definitely whipping the egg yolks. I topped mine with some canned whipped creme and crushed graham crackers.

Chocolate Pots de Crème

If you have any recipes you have been too intimidated to try, I encourage- no challenge- you to try one this week! Let me know how it goes.