Tuesday, December 27, 2011


"On this occasion, and as the year is coming to an end, it is time to look back on the year and reflect on our activities one more time; reflect on why we are doing what we are doing, whether our activities are appropriate and whether they have the impact we hoped for."
Simone Kloss: ADIDAS Group Blog "A Review of an Adidas Volunteering Year - A Self Reflection." December 5  2011.

This is the last post for 2011, so I thought as some people at the end of this week will be partying into the New Year, while many others in the world are oblivious that a 'New Year' is happening, that I would reflect a little about THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS, this past year.
One way to look back at the year is to look at which posts have been the most popular ~
This post clearly IS the winner by a long shot. My dear, gentle, wonderful friend wrote this exquisite post for me and I have asked her for more next year.
This post was the most popular post in 2010.
4th - "WHAT SONS NEED FROM THEIR FATHERS" PART 3 - Learning About Independence, Masculinity. WEEK 20 QUOTE 20 
This was the second most popular post in 2010.
One post that I enjoyed writing this year was "THE HABIT OF SELF-PITY" WEEK 47 QUOTE 47. It was so funny because I really wrote it on my plane trip home from visiting my Mum. Once in the air I realized I had a ticket with no movie and no food, so I decided to get working on the scraps of paper with ideas on self-pity scribbled all over them, rather than indulging in self-pity myself. I actually found that deadline feeling very productive - realizing that after touchdown I would arrive home to family and overseas visitor who were staying. This would most likely mean little time to think blog. So with the thing now written, the day after getting home, I 'rudely disappeared' for a while and stuck the post up.
The 6 post series of "PARENTS LIVING UNDER DIFFICULTIES" WEEKS 40 - 45,  was obviously enjoyed by many, probably because each of the people who wrote for me, opened the door so we could look in on what was normal and natural living for them, and as we read, we admired them.
This year I reluctantly got into blogging recipes through the two posts on parents not being responsible in how they feed their children - "RESPONSIBILITY - WHOSE IS IT? Feeding Your Children" WEEK 49 Quote 49  and  "RESPONSIBILITY - WHOSE IS IT? Feeding Your Children - Obesity" WEEK 50 QUOTE 50 . I was left searching and searching for clear help on what is a normal diet for a family, hence "I'M CONFUSED! WHAT IS HEALTHY EATING? WEEK 51 QUOTE 51 
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning a lot of new things and meeting so many amazing people both living and of the past who have given me so much 'food to chew on'. Living IS exciting and I am keen for what will come my way next year.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ here's another quote for you which was also on the Adidas Volunteering Year Blog page - 
"Another important aspect is to prepare the volunteers properly for what awaits them."  - This quote is relevant for us as parents with our children and gives us lots to ponder during New Years.
But back to the three points in the quote I began with.
 ~ Why are you doing what you are doing as a parent?
 ~ Are your activities appropriate as a parent?
 ~ Is the way you are functioning as a parent, having the impact you hoped for?
Now you are going to need more than New Years to think those three through - but they ARE excellent questions to reflect on and finish your year on, then head into a new year with some fresh determination or excitement as you put your resolutions into place.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


"While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby, and she gave birth to her first son. Because there were no rooms left in the inn, she wrapped the baby with pieces of cloth and laid him in a feeding trough."
Luke 2 : 6 - 7  The Bible - New Century Version.
Parenting in the raw, pure and simple. I can boast that my last 3 children were home birthed in simple circumstances, but really and truly my situation was nothing in comparison to the one in Bethlehem. If the movie, "The Nativity Story", is authentic to the Bible's sketchy comments about Jesus' birth, it seems Joseph and Mary were 'uneducated' people who were of an ethnic group that were completely socially and politically oppressed - could say victimized, with unequal rights and no 'voice' in comparison to the race that ruled them. On arrival in Bethlehem with their sparse worldly goods, their vulnerability really became obvious, with them finding nothing but a poor-man's animal area to be the delivery suite for their first child. They were not seasoned parents and had no doctor, midwife or helper. Health departments of the twenty-first century would medically condemn the site as having sub-standard conditions for humans to live in, let alone to deliver a baby in.
But apart from all the difficulties and negatives, something far more powerful and effectual was going on. These two inexperienced people were committed to each other, their baby and what was ahead. They loved each other.
Does this describe you and your family - LOVE?
Love in the difficult times
Love in the lacks
Love in the misunderstandings
Love in the rush
Love when hard pressed
Love in the let downs
Love in ___________________
Giving and receiving love can happen whilst in the most horrifying or simple situation. It is the most essential need of every human, parent and child.
This year ~ if you are upset because your Christmas is going to be less 
                     grand than usual
                 ~ if financially your struggling 
                 ~ if friends or family have failed and rejected you
                 ~ if your living under oppression
                 ~ if you are simply in a 'bad place'
Matthew 11 : 28 - 30 is for you, " Are you tired? Worn out? ..... Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. .... I won't lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you 'll learn to live freely and lightly." (the Message Bible version)
This is an offer from God, not a person, so you can trust that it is valid. The offer is that he will love you with true affection and teach you how to love others around you in this way. Not a limited human love, rather a supernatural, God love. 
Jesus' birth at Christmas is an historical record of love.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ why not read the true account of why we celebrate Christmas, to your family?  Luke 2 : 1 - 20

Thursday, December 15, 2011


"Having been held sacred by the Egyptians (and beloved of Spanish beauties as a matchless aid to fine complexion), the ONION seems to have a great start in the great vegetable race to command royal billing. And it does, too, have staunch advocates who would make it king of everything. I would gladly debate that finding on behalf of the potato..but isn't it an interesting event that two of the most common and most economical of vegetables should be the front-runners in that race?
The onion was believed to have originated in Central Asia and its spread was rapid...
The red onion... has a milder flavour for salads and sandwiches or chopped into mashed potato. Much of the onion's pungency is due to its volatile oil, which contains much sulphur. The pungency may be eased in the preparation by keeping the onion under water for a few minutes and, for those who weep uncontrollably out of love for the onion, it may be peeled under running water. 
There is an exciting new potential for the common onion as scientists research its content for an ingredient to fight coronary thrombosis. A team of doctors at Newcastle University discovered that boiled and fried onions raise the blood's capacity to dissolve internal clotting...Tests on people produced what appeared to be a previously unsuspected medical property in the onion and work is proceeding to isolate it."
For years we have used onions to help our children when they have earache. This is what we did ~ 
Cut an un-peeled onion in half and heat in an microwave or oven - the onion must be HOT. Remove from the oven and hold in a small towel or face cloth. Hold the cut onion edge about 2 cm away from the achy ear and hold in this position till the onion cools down - 5 minutes or so. The heated onion oil vapor, travels into the ear canal soothing and giving immediate relief. Our experience has been that often the one 'dose' solved the problem, but in more severe cases we would be up a few times through the night repeating the onion treatment.
Onions are a natural health food, great vitamin C and fibre properties, free of salt, fat, cholesterol and low in calories.
This is an absolutely fantastic dish (we have just eaten it tonight). Even if you don't eat onions, you will love it! This recipe is a version of Jamie Oliver's 'The Best Onion Gratin'.
4 Red Onions peeled
Olive oil
Black Pepper
8 Sprigs of Thyme or Marjoram 
2 Garlic Cloves peeled and sliced/crushed
100 mls white vinegar
50g Edam or Gruyere cheese grated
50g Parmesan cheese grated
Preheat oven 200*C cut onion into fourths then pull segments a part into 'petals'. Lightly oil an baking dish and scatter onion petals in. Drizzle oil over the top, salt and pepper, thyme and garlic. Stir and mix. 
Add vinegar then cover with foil tightly. Bake in oven 45mins. Remove foil and bake 15mins so it begins to caramelizing. Once onion is golden top with Edam and Parmesan cheeses. Return to oven reducing temperature to 180* for 15mins till gorgeous. It can be eaten hot or chilled. Great with a BBQ.
In New Zealand we privileged to have a variety of spinach which is not found in other parts of the world. It grows all year round here, is highly nutrious with good sources of Vitamin A, B, C, E and K, good fibre, potassium, calcium and iron. Meanwhile it is low in fat, calories and is cholesterol free. 
1 Bunch New Zealand fresh Spinach - can use fresh young  Silverbeet
1 Red Onion, if you wish, peeled chunky diced
100g cream cheese/or feta cheese cut into small cubes
3 Hard Boiled or Poached Eggs, shelled and chopped
Wash spinach and tear into pieces, use the stems as well as they are tender. Put into a salad bowl along with onion, cheese and eggs.
Combine ~
1/2 cup mayonaise
2 Tablespoon Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 X pinches of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon mustard
Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving and toss through the salad. We ate this tonight too and I should have made a larger quantity of the dressing to have in a jug for people to pour on more. The verdict on the salad was AMAZZZZING!!

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS~ Both of these dishes may not be Christmas Day 'material' but they certainly are appropriate dishes for the Christmas season, being red and green in colour. Possibly too our common fare regard which we have for onions and spinach, connects with what we ARE celebrating at Christmas time - a baby called Jesus, being born and laid in a manger or straw filled animal feeding box, a plain ordinary place for the one who would bring total change to the history of all people.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


"Children wake up in excitement to open presents.....
For adults, Christmas is often a time to relax...and provide happy memories for their children.....
Then there's those in between both worlds : teenagers. They are the dreaded names in the Secret Santa bag, those mysterious creatures that no one knows what to buy for or what to think of.
What does Christmas mean to them?"
The author of this article questioned 21 teenagers on their views of Christmas ~
"Are teenagers truly as self-absorbed during this season as adults believe? Or is there some spark of remembrance and goodwill hidden deep in the crevices of their souls?
....while presents do seem to be one of the favorite parts of Christmas for most teens, it does not seem to be merely for the purpose of receiving....
The majority of teens questioned said they didn't care what they received for Christmas this year, followed closely by those who wished most for happiness. In fact, an equal amount of teens preferred bringing people together to anything else."
"ALL THEY WANT FOR CHRISTMAS" : Kristi Oakes. May 14 2008. Connect
What does Christmas look like at your house with your teenagers?
You may not have any problems, but if Christmas for your teenagers is a huge bore, hopefully this post will encourage you to launch into it again this year with fresh enthusiasm, armed with new ideas.
Most Christmas routines for the family with children , can continue on through teenage years. Success in this depends a lot on parents staying positive and happy about Christmas. If you couple this with listening to your  teens comments on why they don't want to do certain Christmas events anymore, or come with you to _______ Christmas function, you will keep happy Christmas memories growing for all. Don't 'close the door' on your teens thoughts at this time. Their views may be different to yours. On the other hand your view as their parent, is totally relevant also - so have the conversations, the discussions on why you do what you do at Christmas. These can not be confrontational debates or arguments - this only destroys family Christmas memories.
So far, our family seems to have entered and gone through and out the other end of teenage Christmases most happily. Our youngest child turns 13 early next year.
Here is a collection of things we do at Christmas + ideas from others. Happy reading and finding something new to try.
 1. Advent Calendars. 
In recent years I have stooped to buying commercial advent calendars, but our older kids used to make their own. It took ages but they loved doing this and opening them each morning. We also have a family advent set of tiny drawers which they take turns opening, reading a treasure hunt style clue, then finding a treat or recipe to cook a simple Christmas treat... Teenagers enjoy this as much as kids.
2. Christmas Music.
From December 1 the Christmas CD music starts to be played daily. We have a stack of Christmas music in various styles to go through, and I add to the collection at Christmas sales. I try to buy different genres so everyone is 'extended' in their musical tastes. Anyone can put on whatever CD they want. The music sets a mood. It is put it on at the start of the day, at meals, or when the Christmas tree arrives and is decorated - which happened this afternoon at our house. 
3. Christmas Tree.
These days our older kids go choose our Christmas tree and bring it home on the trailer, put it up, then together we decorate it, and the house. We all love doing this. If possible we eat together before or afterwards.
4. Our Family Christmas Shopping Night.
Because we are a large family each person gives one person in the family a present. It is drawn out of a hat before hand and a list is made - stuck in the pantry door. On one of the late pre-Christmas shopping nights, we all meet at our local shopping mall to buy our person's presents.  we meet for coffee half-way through the night, then those who are finished can go home, those who need more ideas are helped, and everyone has a high-spirited social time. When we still had little kids the teenagers would often take a little one and help them buy their gifts. We all spend the same moderate amount of money so everyone's gift ideas are controlled to stay within that amount.
5. Cooking for Christmas.
We share cooking for Christmas. This year one of my girls is organizing who cooks and brings what so that everyone contributes. My husband loves BBQed turkey so he prepares and cooks it - wonderfully. Teenagers as well as children can read recipes online and cook them. This way they contribute not only their ideas but also the making of memories for their family Christmas. 
6. Christmas Reading.
As a family we read the Christmas story leading up to Christmas, often having some craft activity we all contribute to, such as our Jesse Tree at our back door, this year. If this is not you, there is a lot of great reading online of other real events that happened at Christmas, which your teenager would benefit from. Follow these links~
  * THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE  1914. A great true story for teenagers, considering many of the soldiers were in their late teens.
  * THE WHANGAEHU RIVER DISASTER CHRISTMAS 1953 The worst train disaster in New Zealand's history.
  * CYCLONE TRACEY HIT DARWIN AUSTRALIA, CHRISTMAS 1974. Two stories -  MY EXPERIENCE WITH A CYCLONE     and     FOR THE MEMORY OF MY CHILDREN  Grammatically not fantastic but both stories fully communicate the situation.
  * NAIROBI, KENYA CHRISTMAS  This is short and thought provoking for teenagers.
  * EARTHQUAKE WHICH LED TO TSUNAMI CHRISTMAS 2004  This is very well written, is long, wonderfully gripping, emotionally revealing and moving. It gives teenagers a lot to think about in how they live and view life - especially considering what our experiences are at Christmas. I HIGHLY recommend this one.
7. Christmas Events.
If as a family you are involved in Christmas community or church events, encourage all the family to go along together. 
8. Christmas Games.
Some families love playing games together. Here are links to some suggestions~
  * FEAR FACTOR FACE-OFF  Great if you like dares and enjoy getting messy. 
  * TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE CHRISTMAS STYLE  2nd game on this page.
  * SPEED PRESENT WRAPPING  same link as above - 3rd game on this page.
  * THE CHRISTMAS CAROL GAME where everyone chooses their favorite Christmas carol and everyone sings their own carol at the same time. Whoever sings the longest, out singing the others, wins. Noisy teenagers are in high spirits after this one.
  * CHRISTMAS BALLOON BATTLE  Go to the 2nd last paragraph on the page which starts "Wanna get more active?" 
9. Giving to Others.
Here's a great example of how to teach your teens to give to others. Scroll down to the "CHRISTMAS TEENS" comment.
10. 10 Frugal Christmas Activities for Families with Teens. Terrific ideas from Grace on her blog  SENSE AND SIMPLICITY 

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ SURELY there is something here you want to trial in your family this week. Enjoy the week with your teenage kids. - I'd love to hear about your results!!