Family Fun – Fall Is Here

Well,  now that I can get pictures off my camera, I figured it was time to add some posts that are just for fun about my family.

Actually, this is a lure to keep you reading – I know if I post cute pictures of my sweet little babes that you are more likely to keep scrolling and read some of the other posts!! Just wanted you to know what I was up to from the get go.

And, let’s be honest, who can actually read 400 words about parenting without a little break for fun in between. I mean, the personal stuff is what we all like to know – right?!  So I will begin frequent posts about the many facets of my fam.  I hope you enjoy getting to know us!

Last week, as  I mentioned before, my two little girls were at Nana’s house and while they were gone, Mason said he really wanted to go to a pumpkin patch. Sadly, we have never done the pumpkin patch thing before – I know, what kind of parent am I – so we decided we would load up in our Saturn because we tried to avoid the Mommy-wagon van while we were down to just two kids, thinking that we could up our cool-points for 1 week, and went to the pumpkin patch.

Sadly, I only ended up with 2 pictures; turns out you are supposed to turn your camera off the play mode before you take pictures – duly noted.

Mason and Daddy – note the foxy husband!

 

Jocelin and Mommy

the final display

Thank you Lord for bright colors, cooler weather, and pretty ornamental food!

 

and just to wet your appetite for all the sweetness to come:

Emerson + cowboy hat + blankie = one cutie pie

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A Scheduled To-Do List

This following comment comes from my friend Nicole who is quite like me in that she thrives in structure.  I think this concept is good for any personality-type though.  Learning to juggle all the tasks that have to be done in addition to caring for babies can really help bring the stress-level down a notch. So I thought this topic deserved its own post.

From Nicole: Something else I have done at home that has totally changed my workload… I schedule it! I ONLY do laundry on Mondays and Thursdays. Period. I have found that it is much easier for me to get it done if I have a timetable for it. I also use Thursdays as my cleaning day. Even my 2-year-old helps me with this day. We are usually done with all the tasks by lunch and we play in the afternoon. (although, I’m sure that the “cleaning time” also sort of qualifies as playtime because he loves the broom, mop, and vacuum so much!) Obviously there are tasks that are done every day – dishes, picking up toys, etc. – but the BIG cleaning is only once a week. This helps me so much because then, while my husband is home for the weekend, we can both be “off” and I don’t have to feel responsible to do chores. I think I spent the first couple of years of mommyhood stressed because I felt like it never all got done at home. Scheduling it has helped me to let it go on the days it’s not scheduled, and be committed to getting it done on the days it is scheduled (I love this). Ah, a schedule-lover’s delightful solution to housework!!

Use the schedule to your benefit. Think of your weekly scheduled events (Wed. night church, lessons/sports for kids, Mother’s Day Out days, etc.) and consider the goals or desires you have that allow you to relax more or enjoy your evenings and weekends or just make you feel less stress.

For me, I love the reward of having everything done by Friday so I can have a “day off.” So I schedule all my tasks so they are done by then – or course there a plenty a Friday when I am still finishing up things, but I try to meet my goal if I can.

I have discovered about myself that I am full of energy on Mondays. So I use that to my benefit and schedule chores for that day. I am usually tuckered-out by Thursday night, which is also Bradley’s practice night and I am going-it-alone at home on those evenings, so I make my Thursday load light. I also schedule nothing else on the day I am going to the grocery store (especially if I am taking children with me) because I am spent after the whole process.

I even plan my cooking according to this method.  We are all home together on Monday and Tuesdays so those are usually my, cook-a-whole-meal nights. Thursday is always easy-cook-night which involves something kid-friendly and slightly nutritional like fish sticks or frozen dinners.

So take some time to evaluate yourself and your families needs when it comes to housework.  If you are blowing a gasket time and again because of a messy home, undone laundry, or exhaustion after the grocery-run, consider rearranging your schedule or simply beginning a schedule.  The other benefit I find is that I am more likely to push myself to get the day’s chores fully completed when I approach house work in this method.  So I am not trying to finish two loads of laundry for 4 days (hypothetically, of course).

As with any schedule, it should help be a stress-relief, not an added stress. Life with children is far from predictable and getting your schedule completed is not likely every week.  Give yourself some grace, cut yourself some slack, and be okay if it is not all done. You can start anew on Monday! Honestly, I probably get my full schedule completed just like I want to 1 out of every 5-6 weeks.  But I get the majority of it done regularly, shake off what I don’t get done and keep moving.

The Great Toy Change Over

This week my two little girls were at my Mom and Dad’s house – which as we all know is an amazing blessing. With the free time I had, I did what I have come to call the “Great Toy Change Over” or “Switch-out” or “Flip-Flop” … well I guess I don’t really have one specific name for it, but you get the idea of what the job entails.

The “Great Toy Change Over/Switch-out/Flip-Flop” consists of me going in to my kids rooms (usually twice a year), pulling everything out from under all the beds, dumping out all the boxes of toys, looking under all those places in which various Barbie apparel, pretend food items, writing utensils, and the like, seem drawn to, and sorting through the mountain.

As I sort every item goes in one of five categories:

  • Trash
  • Garage sale
  • Give to school teachers for treasure box toys (which mainly means I am just returning all the kid’s meal toys my children brought home in the past year from their class treasure boxes) Side note: I always give these items to a teacher other than my child’s because I don’t want them back. I’d much rather have someone else’s 25¢ toys.
  • Toys to keep in the room
  • Toys to put away for a few months

The last category is the one I want to expound on. I’d read and heard from friends that cycling toys is a great idea. Not until it became a necessity (4 kids in 2 small rooms), did I really put this into practice, but let me tell you: It is a BRILLIANT concept.  You take toys that your kids are not interested in and haven’t played with in quite sometime, then you put them away for a while, and then voila – you are like the toy fairy bringing in new plunder from an enchanted land (a.k.a. – the garage).

So for us, because our volume of people and things continue to increase, I rotate out just about everything in their rooms. So my kids get all “new” books, babies/accessories, blocks, cars, dress-up clothes, etc.  I even rotate out similar things or sets.  For example, I will replace a box filled with horses and horse items, during the “Great Toy blah blah blah,” with a varied assortment of dogs and dog items; all Legos are replaced by Lincoln Logs, …

I also do this, within my house, for baby/toddler toys.  I move toddler toys to a new location/shelf or into the toy box for a time.

So I encourage you to experiment with this concept.  You may want to start small or go big from the get go, but I think you will love how much you and your kids enjoy new items of interest.  This is also a great idea to do after Christmas, when they have so many new toys that you can sneak a few away and they don’t even realize it or you just want to put old toys away for a bit to make room for the new.

So after many hours of hard work, sorting, and trashing I wanted to share some of my favorite moments with you (I figured out how to put pictures on my computer!!!!)

The beginning – It got way messier than this

 

 

Boring picture – but proof that there was actually not one thing under Mason’ bed – a reason for me to celebrate

 

My favorite find (beside discovering Emerson’s back-up blanket). I always can’t believe these survive the vacuum cleaner. Each time I find a teeny weapon, I’m compelled to make tiny shoot noises! I’m so thankful to enjoy a boy and his GI Joes.

The dice is for reference

 

The aftermath of a teeny-tiny war

 

A glorious reward for my labor. Nothing more appealing to a book-lover than an organized book-shelf.

Happy Organizing!

“Use Your Words”

This post is in response to the following comment:

Okay, so Eva came to me this morning with a good question: what should she do when she is playing with something and another kid takes it away. I don’t want to teach her to be a tattle-tail but I also don’t want to teach her to just let people walk all over her either. What should I tell her to do in a situation like this?

These are my ideas on this comment in general. Most of these concepts can be used with a child 18 months (or even younger), but some of them are for children a bit older: 3-4 years and up.

One of my mantras is, “use your words.” (I begin saying this when my child starts grunting at something or screaming at someone.) At our house, we have plenty of occurrences of someone taking another person’s item.  What I teach my kidos is to “use your words.”

This means:

  • First they should try to work it out themselves with words. I help them learn what to say for a while: “May I have my toy back please?” “I was playing with that, may I have it back?” Of course the tone of the words is a key in this process too.  I say, “You have to use kind-sounding words.” In my world, the tendency is to say, in a whining/mean voice, “Give it back!” So my reply is, “How could you say that in a better way?”
  • Also, if they just try to pull the toy away, I say, “Instead of taking the toy, what should you do if you want to play with that toy?” Teach them to say, “May I have a turn please?”

(Applicable for around 3+ years) If my kids try to work it out, on their own, and still can’t find a solution, then they may come and ask me for help.  To help with the tattling issue, a good idea is to have the child needing help to come and say, “I need your help getting my toy back,” instead of “He took my toy!”

Sometimes one of my children will come to me saying sibling-A did this or that.  The first thing I say is, “Did you try to work it out?” If the answer is no, they have to go back and try to work it out themselves.

And if you hear them doing it the right way, you run in with praise-galore.  “Great job. I like how you worked that out. That is excellent!” Always, always, always praise good behavior.  Praising good behavior is a huge key to keeping the bad behaviors at bay.

A side-note on tattling:

  • If two of my kids come in tattling on each other, I stop them and then they are only allowed to say what they did, not what the other person did.  I usually have to remind them of this a few times as they are recounting the details.  So this is what it might be like: “Mom, he hit me.” Then I say, “Ok, tell me what happened, what were you doing when he hit you?”

The reality is, you will not be able to help them solve every problem so you have to teach them how to deal with the situations on their own. So, to keep your child from telling on every wrong that happens to them, you can teach them to try to work it out themselves and if a kid/sibling is still being unkind, then your child should just walk away and go find another toy or someone else to play with.

If after trying all of the tools they know of, a child still is causing them trouble, they may go and ask for help (again not tattling on what the other person did, but asking for help).

Remember, this is a process that will take time to teach your child(ren) and my kids still need reminders about the correct way the majority time.  They do get it right on their own sometimes though!!!!

Now, I am no expert on tattling and still feel like my family needs much work in this area, so for those of you who have some good no-tattling techniques, please share!

Sibling Play/ Siblings vs. Friends

Here is a comment from my friend Amy:
I have two boys who are two years apart. The youngest adores his brother and wants to be right on his heels. The oldest gets annoyed by the youngest and shows it by yelling, pushing, or saying mean things. Or he refuses to play with him at all. He also joins up with his neighbor buddies (who are older than both my boys) and tells his younger brother that he’s a baby. So, the youngest comes in crying because he’s not being treated fairly. ONGOING CYCLE!!!

Okay, so I have a few random ideas on this subject, but no example of like, “oh, my kids do this same thing; here is what worked for me.”

1. We have a rule around our house that sibling treatment is most important.  I feel like some kids can be tough enough to get along with; a brother or sister should not be a part of that group.  At our house, we talk about not joining up with a friend to gang up on a brother or sister.  If we see that action, it is instant removal from the friend/situation.

2.  I also do not think it is fair for a sibling to be required to play with his/her siblings all the time.  So Amy, in your example, maybe Isaac gets to play with the boys down the street for 15 minutes, or so, alone, while Josiah gets some quality time with you or something fun to do during that time.  Here’s my hypothetical example, “You (Isaac) can go play with the boys down the street for 15 minutes.  When that time is up, Josiah will be coming to play too.  You can treat him with kindness and let him be a part, or you will be done playing and come home.”

3. I think this same concept of independent time can also be so great at home too. Allow each child time for alone-play.  This can be scheduled into each day – or maybe weekends since that is when school kids are all home together.  We like to have room-time (I’ll make another post for a full explanation of room-time soon), or sometimes, if I just see the need arise, I’ll just tell everyone to go to their room and play by themselves for a certain amount of time.  I usually set a timer for 15-25 minutes.

My Jocelin (the oldest) likes to play by herself the most (maybe it’s a 1st child thing). So sometimes I tell her that I’ll set a timer and she can play alone for that time. After the timer goes off, she needs to be ready to play with her brother and sisters.

4. General comments on sibling relationships:

  • Specifically in my home, we have to work a lot on not delighting in the pain or irritation of a sibling.  I am frequently saying, “You may not be a bothersome (or pesky) brother.” We also talk about the heart issue if you are glad someone is hurting at your expense.

How could this sweet boy be pesky?!

  • I believe that siblings can be loving and kind to one another – in general of course. Relationships with siblings are such good practice for so many other relationships.
  • And, of course, the golden rule is so appropriate here too.  I say often, “How would you feel if you were the one being made fun of or the one being left out?”, etc.
  • I try to think how I feel about my relationships: I like to have quality time, one-on-one with my friends from time to time and I most definitely need time to retreat and refresh all by myself.  Now, finding that time with 4 sweet kidos is a whole different issue, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t need it!

Okay-so hopefully this will give you some ideas.  Let us know what you try and what works.

Also, for the other moms who have found some good ways to encourage sibling play, please give us your suggestions.

Let Me Hear From You

Okay, I’m gearing up to discuss specific topics, some that are geared for certain age groups.  Is there something you already know you want to hear about?

From time to time, I have moms call or email about a particular subject, i.e. potty training, starting a baby on a bottle, what to do with a kido prone to running from you in the parking lot, etc.  So I thought I would see if you have any areas that you are interested in.

You can communicate these to me in a few ways:

  • submit a comment to this post and I’ll approve it for everyone to see.
  • if you would rather remain anonymous, you can submit a comment to this post and let me know that you don’t want me to post your comment and I will keep it private.
  • email me.

Thanks for your input, your ideas will be a great starting point.  Happy Thursday to you all!

Hate It? Time It.

A  huge part of parenting is balancing the house work that is included in the raising-kids-package. (I looked for the parenting combo on the menu that did not come with house work, they said they were all out!)

This tip is one I’ve been reminding myself of all week.  It is compliments of Jeanne Thompson: if you have a reoccurring household task that you don’t love to do, time it.  See how long it actually takes. I bet you will find it takes way less time than you think. What I’ve found is that I’m quicker in getting the task done once I realize how little time the it actually takes.

My problem is that I avoid these tasks over and over (I think they call that procrastination).  Then the snowball effect has begun. 

For me, one of these chores is unloading the dishwasher.  I will put it off and put it off until the sink is full, supper dishes are being added to the pile, bedtimes are looming, I’m worn out and I’m losing it because my kitchen is a wreck!

Now, this minor melt-down (or not so minor sometimes – eek) could have been prevented if I would have done this small task earlier.  So, I timed myself the other day.  To unload, put in breakfast dishes and return the kitchen to “clean” status, was a whopping 9 minutes and 35 seconds.  Seriously, in my mind, I thought it was easily 20 minutes.  Well, there goes my excuse –  it’s asking his friend, Procrasitnation, to leave my house for a bit;  oh, they decided to put it off for a while!

So now it’s your turn.  What is a household task that you don’t love doing and how long does it actually take to do it?

Why a Parenting Blog? Part 2

Another reason I want to do this parenting-focused blog is because I truly see the relevance in the saying: “It takes a village.”  As women, we have so much to offer one another (of course men to do, I’m just not sure how many men are reading this!).  I love how, often, when groups of women are together, the conversations drift to ways we do things around the home or with children, things we would change if we could go back, where to find the cheapest whatever – you know – tips for living life.

My life has been revolutionized by learning these things, things I would not have known had it not been for my “village.”

So my hope for this blog is to offer a candid conglomerate of all the tricks, methods, and ideas that I have used, not used, learned from, or just allowed to influence my parenting or the parenting of others that I value.

Let me also say, I am no expert. I do not have a degree in parenting, and no my children do not make good choices all the time, sometimes they don’t make good choices most of the time. 

What I do have is a desire to raise my children to the best of my ability and for passing along any knowledge I have gained in hopes to make your adventure in parenting a smidge easier.

 I want to make it perfectly clear that I am, in no way, indicating that the tips, opinions, and comments that will follow on this blog are to be considered the “right” or “best” way.  I am merely finding a place to pen (or type) all the things that have helped or not helped me and other moms along the way. 

  • Please take any of these ideas and make them your own. 
  • Pick and choose from things you like and tweak them to fit your home and your family.
  • You may also completely disregard any ideas that do not line up with your parenting philosophy – that’s the beauty of this format: you can do, with this information, as you please.

 I also think this will expand the realms of my “village” as you input your ideas and we all learn from one another. 

Ok- so enough of this philosophy/explanation stuff (I really have a reason behind just about all the things I do. I will make great efforts to keep a balance between my thoughts on why I do things and actually getting to the things). Lets get to some practical tips already!

Why a Parenting Blog? Part 1

I realize writing a blog on parenting is a little presumptuous seeing as my oldest is not yet 8, so let me explain a bit about my heart behind all of this. 

As a first time mother, I so often remember thinking, “Why didn’t anyone tell me this was going to be this hard?” and “Why does everyone talk to me like mommying is only cheerful and wonderful but they fail to mention the challenging part?”

I repeatedly wanted to say, “Yes, she is so sweet and chubby and kissable, but this is the hardest, most stressful, taxing thing I have ever attempted in my life,” along with, “I need a little help here!”

 I continually ponder this unspoken code among the general population of mothers that seems to skim right past ALL the hard work to, “Aren’t they so great?”.  As my babies get older, I am more able to identify with what these mothers are commenting on:

  •  for some reason, when we relive our experience as mothers, we reminisce on all the sweet, cute little things our children did. 

 I get that. Maybe we are built that way. Just like with delivery, we have a bit of amnesia when it comes to the challenging parts.  Even when I look back on times of big struggle, they don’t seem as bad as they felt at the time.  

  • Maybe we think we don’t want to scare a new mom off with how tough it might really be.

  – except for delivery of course when women think it is most appropriate to tell a pregnant gal all the horror stories of their 24+ hour labor with all kinds of detail.  Why is that?  Is it a badge of honor that we are proud to display? It seems that our deliveries become a bit like war stories that we relive.  Plus, honestly, we deserve a little credit for being super strong baby makers, and we are delighted to tell a captive audience (which can be easily mistaken for an expecting mother) just how strong we were.  Ok, I digress, where was I… 

  • Maybe we are a little less forthcoming with the actual truth because we think there is no need to rain on an expectant, new, or hoping-to-be mother’s parade.  She’ll learn of the challenges soon enough, why burden her now. 

 I understand that perspective too. The breakdown comes when, as a new mom of young children, you are trying to survive some pretty challenging moments, months, and years, and need to know how in the world to deal with the reality of it all.

Thank You Brooklyn

This category of “Keepin’ It Real” is intended to capture those parts of parenting that we aren’t necessarily proud of but show the actual reality of life at home with little ones.  I am certain many of the entries will qualify as “too much information,” including the following.  Read at your own risk!

My Sweet Brooklyn Danielle

My 3-year-old, Brooklyn-bear (as a friend calls her), will provide frequent material for this category. 

Two days ago, she called me into the bathroom and said, “Mom, look, a cross.”

“You see a cross? Where?” I said.

“My poo poo,” she said.

“Your, poo poo?”

“Yeah, look,” Brooklyn replied. 

Yep, there is was: a fecal resemblance of the cross.  

What do you say to that?  I guess God is honored that she is thinking of the cross?! I just had a sense that Jesus had to get a chuckle out of that.

For all those who find this offensive, my apologies, I’m just “keepin’ it real!”

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