Present(s)

I’m not going to pretend I haven’t been a bit lackadaisical about posting over here, but I have an excuse.  Every time I get on the computer, I feel the need to shop…but not just any kind of shopping.  Christmas shopping!  Yes, I’ve already started and I love every single second of it, although it’s become a bit of a distraction.  I need to regulate myself (for financial and blogging reasons)!  So I will try to be better and stop taking every discounted email as an excuse to meander through my favorite websites for hours on end.  Christmas is coming, but I can’t miss out on presents–oops, I mean the present.

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After all, I don’t want to miss any of what’s going on in my every day life.  The company is too sweet to miss.

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With all the hustle of the holidays, it’s easy to forget what’s really important in this life, and that being home with them, in our home, with our family, these kids, is really the gift!  All the gift I need, really.

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Counting my blessings (and maybe some presents!) this holiday season and always.

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Being Brave

Some days require kids and parents alike to take a deep breath and put on a brave face, ready to take on a world full of changes or first steps in a new direction.  Days like the first day of school, big doctor’s appointments, and making new friends require an extra squeeze or hand hold, and can be difficult for everyone involved.  But some days only require bravery for Mom or Dad, as their little ones embark on new adventures courageously and enthusiastically and we’re the ones left needing our hands held.

For example, any day that requires taking three children near a body of water alone, even if the water is only knee-deep.  While the kids luxuriate in literally exploring new territory–territory that was below much deeper water earlier in the summer but thanks to sunny days is now basically a wading pool–Mom stands on the sidelines, reminding herself that such exploration is good for them, and that a giant sinkhole will not in fact open up beneath them and swallow them whole before her eyes.  On high alert, while letting the distance of their orbit increase beyond normal boundaries for the sake of autonomy, Moms and Dads sometimes just have to sit back and watch, and to some degree, be brave.

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In some ways, being a helicopter parent is so much easier; your adrenaline isn’t nearly as high due to the fact that you are confident you are secretly a ninja and could use your body as a human shield should crisis arise.  Although it is mentally exhausting to be on duty 24 hours a day, it may be less frightening than watching your kids walk across the river for the first time to THE OTHER SIDE, MOM!  LOOK!  WE DID IT!  But if you take that route, how will they ever know the thrill of adventure, the pride in accomplishing something they were literally never capable of doing before?

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While being a mom is so much about keeping kids healthy and safe, there’s also something even healthier about teaching them how to make safe choices and to let them take a risk.  Of course, calculated risks with safeguards to ensure their safety, but the kids don’t need to know that.  They won’t feel quite so accomplished if we point out that their accomplishment wasn’t that big a deal in the first place.  To them, that wading pool is a rushing river, and to courageously reach the other side, where only Daddy’s skipping rocks could reach before, is an enormous achievement, and should be applauded as such.

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Sometimes being a mom means being a cheerleader on the sidelines of an ever-increasingly scary world, but we all have to be brave sometimes.

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Raising kids who savor life and all its challenges is worth it the stress, but it’s not always easy for us to be the brave ones!  Baby steps aren’t just for little ones–sometimes Mommy and Daddy need them, too.

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Daddy’s Girl

As I said when I described our trip to Maine last week, Little H was not very fond of the water.  While she was dipping her toes in for the very first time, Jax came running toward her full force shrieking his head off, and after that she has held true to her constant explanation, “I don’t like waves.”  Even to cool down a little or during low tide, she wanted nothing to do with the ocean and preferred a bird’s eye view to her feet in the sand.  I think it had something to do with the company.

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Half the magic of vacation was Little H’s refrain, “Dada no go work today?” with a big old smile on her face.  No work, more time to spend on his big strong shoulders, her favorite place to be.

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I’d like to say she warmed up to the water over the course of the week, but that didn’t happen of course!  When Daddy sets a precedent like this, why would she?

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One of my favorite duos to photograph, at home or away: Daddy and his kiddos, but especially his baby girl.  These two melt my heart, but mostly because I can tell she has him wrapped around her little finger.

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Love those big strong shoulders and sandy toes!

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Raising Good Humans

Truth: Summer is coming, and with it three little humans who will be home with me all day, every day.  I am excited to have nowhere to rush off to, no lunches to pack, no gym shoes to remember and no schedule to adhere to.  But at the same time…nowhere to be?  No schedule to adhere to?  Suddenly the weeks of uninterrupted time alone with my children sounds a little more…daunting.

Truth:  I need a schedule.  In fact, I thrive on it and I believe children do, too.  Add to that equation that both Jax and I are a little Type A and the need for a bit of structure to our summer is real.  Jax has already asked me if we can make a daily routine chart like they have at school (you know, breakfast play snack play lunch play read play dinner bed).  But he wants it on a posterboard written in permanent marker so that he knows what is coming next.  I guess we both need a bit of a plan.

Truth:  I get a lot of stuff done when the big kids are at school and Little H is napping, and I’m not going to give that up just because it’s summer.  I can either give the kids lots of time to play independently (sign me up) or I can include them in the getting-stuff-done process (sounds good).  I decided I would do both, and so the internet/Pinterest/Etsy search for a chore chart was on.

The search brought me to Fisher Kids, a company you can check out here that has a philosophy on parenting I can get behind.  They are called Fisher Kids because they want to teach kids to fish, to provide for themselves, and thus become functioning humans in society who don’t need their Mommy or Daddy to hold their hands at every problem.  Fisher Kids also believes that kids need not be rewarded or receive accolades for every little thing they do in life. “There is a need for children to have intrinsic motivation to succeed. Our stations are designed to teach children that there are some things we do simply because we want to help the family team. These are not “paid for” chores, simply deeds we all do around the house to keep a healthy, happy, high-functioning home.”  You don’t get a trophy for just showing up here, kids.  You’d better work.

Fisher Kids has a whole responsibility station you can purchase and it looks great and comes completely set up for you.  My only problem was we don’t have a ton of wall space so I wanted a chore/responsibility system that was more three-dimensional.  Plus I love jars.  But I did buy the responsibility magnets from Fisher Kids, one for Jax and one for Em.  I put them on our refrigerator and assigned them each two “deeds”–jobs that they have to do just because they are functioning members of our family who help out.  They get those chores for a week.

Responsibility & Chore Chart @ Rub Some Dirt On It Responsibility & Chore Chart @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Then I bought a $3 jar at TJ Maxx with a chalkboard label on the front to hold a colorful array of “chores”–things the kids can do to make money if they are feeling particularly industrious–and “deeds.”  The brown/plain sticks are the “deeds” — Dishwasher Duty, Set the Table, Sweep the Kitchen, etc.  They have a deed on one side and “Thank you” written on that back  That’s all they get for participating, but being polite and thankful are important things to learn, too.

The colorful sticks are “chores” and are more specific–Wipe Down the Counters, Tidy and Clean the Coffee Table–and have a monetary value written on the back.  These range from 10-50 cents, depending on how labor intensive the chore is.  Just making them colorful made them appealing to the kids, and the fact that they are learning how to add money (so they can write down the commission earned each day and the total for the week) is an added bonus.  If you need a place to start for your chores, I love the list provided here.

Responsibility & Chore Chart @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Basically, the kids don’t make any money if they just do their deeds and don’t do any chores.  They get a hearty “Thank You” for your help and we’ll see you next week.  BUT the chore jar is going to be the first place I send them this summer if they give me the dreaded, “I’m booooooored…” at which point they will be bored no longer because I will be having them do chores for free.  I can’t wait.

The other element of Fisher Kids I like is to teach them not only to be helpful members of our family, but also contributing members to our community.  The kids are going to give a percentage of their wages to a “Give” jar, which we will let build up and use for some kind of contribution, donation, or random act of kindness.  Having the money be earned instead of given to them will really help them build some sense of ownership in the process, and I look forward to brainstorming ideas about how we can help our community over the course of the year.

Responsibility & Chore Chart @ Rub Some Dirt On It

The last thing I am going to do is start rewarding the kids for good behavior and exhibiting qualities I try to encourage in them.  For example, yesterday Em dropped her cup of graham crackers and without me having to say anything Jax came over and gave her some of his.  That sort of kindness should be acknowledged and rewarded; so once they reach a certain number of beads for their Caring Jar, we will have some kind of family reward, like going to get ice cream or making s’mores.  Something fun that celebrates the kids being well-rounded, kind people.  That’s my goal in life, anyway: to foster that in them.  And to have as many uses for jars and beads as possible.

Responsibility & Chore Chart @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Lastly I got two small swingtop jars at Walmart for Jax and Em to put the money they make into–we’ll separate it into money to spend and money to save, and hopefully we can make a decent amount to open a savings account at the end of the summer.  I put it all in a pretty crate that is now my Command Center and smiled like crazy about how happy being organized makes me.

Responsibility & Chore Chart @ Rub Some Dirt On It

 And raising good humans.  That’s pretty important, too.

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6:15 Stream Of Consciousness

6:15 on a school night and Mommy and Daddy really just want you kids in bed but oh crap they are really filthy okay let’s just put them in the tub together we won’t even wash Em’s hair here are your toothbrushes no don’t spit on each other that’s it you’re out

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just sit quietly while we get your brother and sister dressed please don’t pee on the floor yes you can wear the purple ones have you seen her binkie yes I know we have to get rid of it soon but not tonight let’s just get out of here

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nope sorry just one story tonight okay yes I will leave the bathroom light on no you may not get another book lights out in ten minutes yes ten okay sweet dreams I love you goodnight

…lights out!…

goodnight.  yes we love you, too.  goodnight.

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Taken For Granted

When your child is sick, you take for granted that with a little rest, TLC, and maybe some Tylenol, they’ll be back to their old selves again in no time.

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Even when they’re really sick, and they have to sleep in bed with you and you are changing sheets and holding hair back at three in the morning for the third hour in a row, you take for granted that you are the one who is capable of making them better.  Especially after three kids.  You got this.

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But after three days of honest-to-goodness sickness, you and your husband look at each other and acknowledge, we can’t fix this.  So you grab a bucket and her Blankie and head to the hospital where, you take for granted, they can fix everything.

And they do.  One IV, two bags of saline, some medicine and several hours later, you have her back home again, where she is tired and snuggly but healing.  When you put her to bed that night, in her own bed (granted, with a puke bucket beside her), you get a good night’s sleep, too, because of all the wonderful advances in our world that can heal the sick and return your little girl back to her old self again.

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And when she wakes up in the morning and declares, “I’m hungry!” you are thankful and grateful and happy to give her anything in the world at your fingertips, which is a lot.  And you vow never to take anything, not matter how small, for granted again.

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Bouncing Around The Room

Sometimes you just have to let them be crazy.

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Because they’re going to do it anyway.  You may as well join in!

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Parenting Survival 101.

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