Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New Family Tradition: Campfire Night

I decided to start a new family tradition in celebration of our son's last day of school... a campfire family night. What better way could you end your school year than a fun night of being together over toasted foods!

We have had this fire pit for years, but have not attempted any cooking on it until now. Sitting by this little fire pit is one of my favorite things about the summer though and it gets a lot of use in the evenings at our house!

I had been holding onto a gift card for Target from one of their prescription gift card deals. This gave us the money to put towards our supplies for our fun night together.

We did not have any roasting forks, but found them in the camping supplies at Walmart along with a log that would burn for three hours. If you have these things though, no investment is needed other than food!



This family night, of course, requires a lot of supervision. The kids had a wonderful time though roasting their hot dogs over the fire. Some of our hot dogs were toastier than others, but the kids thought it still tasted great.



No meal on the campfire would be complete though without the s'mores. They couldn't wait to get through the first portion of the meal so that we could snack on these. Perfectly toasted marshmallows sandwiched between graham crackers & chocolate, made for the best gooey snack ever.

It was such a fantastic night for all of us and a fun night off of cooking for me. We have decided to make this a yearly tradition because it was such a wonderful way to start our summer together.

Do you have any end-of-school traditions with your children? I would love hear what you do to celebrate this kick-off to summer!

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Graduation Day

Ethan,

We are so proud of you, Ethan! You did it! You graduated kindergarten with flying colors and wowed us all this year. I can't believe you are reading, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and doing it all with that boundless energy that we so admire!

I was sad to see you on that big yellow school bus on your first day of school. I clung to the side of the bus as you assured me that it was all going to be okay. You were so right. You did great and I could not be more proud.

This is just the beginning, son! You are going to do so many great things, meet so many great people, and touch people's lives in great ways. God has a purpose for you and I can't wait to see that all unfold.

xoxo,
Mom

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Play It Again, Momma: Lots of Chores for the Clark Kids

Chores are an important task in the Clark household and one of the benefits about our children getting older is that they can pitch in more. Since most chores seem to fall in the lap of mommy, I am thrilled that chores haven't lost their novelty yet and that my son loves to help mommy get things done around here.

Do I know that the novelty will wear off soon? Of course! I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Here are some reasons why chores are important in my house:

- I am grooming my child to someday be a self-sufficient adult. I don't want my kid going to college and not knowing how to make himself/herself a sandwich, do a load of laundry, or have to be dependent on the people around them.

- I want my kids to know that we are a family unit and in a family unit, it is important for everyone to pitch in. Occasionally, I will hear my son say that he is "bored" with chores or "too tired" to help me out. That is tough luck in this house because everyone has to put forth an effort so that we can ALL enjoy having a clean and organized home.

- Chores are a great teaching opportunity. Sorting clothing by colors teaches your child to group colors together, folding clothing helps them build fine-motor skills, working at a fast pace (setting a timer for completing certain tasks) can be a fun way to exercise.

- I want my son to be a catch someday. Yeah, I am looking waaaaayyyy down the road, but that is sometimes in the back of my mind. What girl would not want to marry someone who knew how to wash his own laundry, could whip up a lovely dinner for her, or who picked up after himself? Those are attributes that would have been on my list when choosing a mate and I want my son to have those kind of attributes too...not only for himself, but for whoever he might end up with someday.

Here are what chores we do in our house:

- My son ( 5 yr old) has to get himself dressed in the morning, put his pajamas in his hamper, and make his bed before coming downstairs.

- He helps me prepare the evening meal and helps set the table for our dinner.

- Emily (2 yr old) & Ethan both have to help pick up their toys before they go to bed in the evening. We put on fast and crazy dance music, set the timer for ten minutes, and the whole family pitches in to pick up the playroom.

- On house cleaning day, Ethan is responsible for picking up his room for me to vacuum and dust it and he has to make sure the playroom is in order. We typically clean while my daughter lays down for her nap so this is a solo operation. I have moved my cleaning day to coincide with our Friday night family night. Basically, it is total bribery and we have to get the playroom picked up so that they can have a pizza and a movie with mommy and daddy. It works out really well.

- Ethan sorts our laundry. I line the hampers up and the baskets and he sorts the laundry for me. He also helps fold the laundry when I wash it.

Here is what I had to overcome in order for this to work in our house:

- Teaching chores is a tedious process, but it is worth the time and effort spent. It took him awhile to get the hang of sorting the loads so we would start with a "question" pile which saved us all time. If he didn't know where something went, he would put that in a separate pile and we would talk about each item as we threw it in the correct basket.

- Things will not be done perfectly and I needed to get over that. When my son helps fold the laundry, it is not going to look like I folded the laundry, or like when I set the table, or have all the toys exactly where I would have put them. This is when you take your "mommy dearest" issues down a notch and enjoy being a mom and having someone to help you.

- I try to use our chore opportunities, not as a time to direct, but to talk with my kids. As we work on putting dinner together and setting the table, we talk about our day at school. It isn't always this way, but I try to reserve this special time with them.

What chores do your children do and what are their ages?

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day




Happy Earth Day, everyone! I hope that you can do something fun and green with your children today. Not sure what to do? Perhaps, a little Earth Day reflecting might be a fun activity for celebrating all that this earth means to us.

I wanted to share with you some of our pictures from our family night activity celebrating Earth Hour on March 28th. The Earth Hour was officially after the kids went to bed so we celebrated our Earth Hour an hour earlier so that they could participate in all of the fun before their normal bed time.

I got out their sleeping bags and made a little camp out area in our living room. We played with my favorite little vintage domino set, they sang songs, they got lots of fun roughhousing in with daddy and tickles from mommy, and we finished the hour with a special little snack by candlelight.

My favorite moment was when Emily began making her own lyrics up to songs and began singing, "I can't see where I'm going, I can't see where I'm going." as she & her brother marched and sang in the dark.

These are those little moments that I will always treasure in my heart!


Ideas for Celebrating Earth Day With Kids:

Celebrating Earth Day

Family Night: Earth Hour

Craft Green: Eco-Friendly Tutorials (@ the long thread)

Earth Day Crafts & Activities (@ Kaboose)

Earth Day Coloring Pages & Printables (@ DLTK's)


How will you be spending Earth Day with your family?

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Writing Love Notes To Your Child

Ethan is doing really well with his reading in school and I am so pleased to see the delight in his face as he sounds out the words and puts sentences together. Is there anything more exciting than the newness of discovering how cool reading is?

He was sent home a worksheet of words that we needed to work on as a family with him. They are words that he needs to know and be able to read by the end of the school year. I was sitting down with him and pointing to words and he would say them. We did this for a couple of days and he looked up at me and told me, "Mom, this is so boring!" You know what? He was right! I was bored too and the task seemed like a chore.

The next day that he came home, I told him that I wrote him a note just for him. In it, were words from the list that he needed to recognize. He came back downstairs and told me "Mom, I don't know those words." I gave him a pat on the back and told him, "Just read my note and you can sound it out while you eat lunch."

I went down to fold a load of laundry and he came running down the stairs, grinning from ear to ear. "Mom, I know what it says!" He then recited my note word for word.

We have made a pact to do this each day and I will write him a new note just for him.

As teachers, we sometimes have to be more creative than pointing and reciting. It has now become our fun little game that I hope he will remember for years to come!

Do you have any fun ways you have taught your children about reading or writing?


Related Links:

Making Our Grocery Lists

We Need to Work On Our Letters

Cheap Dry Erase Board

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Family Night Activity: Earth Hour

Earth Hour 2009 is upon us and I wanted to encourage you all to enjoy a family night celebrating Earth Hour. Earth Hour is March 28th from 8:30 PM-9:30 PM this Saturday.

Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness.

In 2009, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote.

Our family celebrated Earth Hour last year and my son still talks about it. It was definitely one of our favorite family nights ever and a great way to share about caring for the earth.




I had been looking forward to Earth Hour all week and sharing this experience with my family. We talked to Ethan about why we were celebrating Earth Hour and how much fun we were going to have. Since Earth Hour was between 8-9 PM last year, it was a special treat for the kids to stay up late and spend the hour with us.


The kids took a bath by candlelight, which they thought was a super fun treat! We filled the tub with lots of bubbles and threw in a couple of whisks and spoons from the kitchen. They whisked up bubbles to their hearts delight and sang fun songs by candlelight.

Ethan thought he looked pretty cool in front of the candles so he took some time out of his busy schedule to pose!

After our baths, we enjoyed a yummy snack while Ryan & I made shadow puppets on the wall for the kids. They thought these were hilarious and super cool!


Ethan had so much fun, he asked if we could celebrate Earth Hour every day! This gave me an opportunity to share with him easy ways he could celebrate AND save the earth. We talked about doing our recycling, turning the lights off when we aren't in a room, and not being wasteful. Since this family night was such a hit, I hope we can do it with the kids again. Not only did the kids have a blast, but it was super frugal, while being extremely memorable for all of us!


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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Play It Again, Momma: Rainy Day Survival Kit

Spring is almost here in Indiana and with it comes those rainy days! I will be working on restocking our little suitcase for those days ahead and I hope this offers a fun idea for keeping your children entertained when the bad weather strikes!

I have been wanting to work on this project for some time, and since it was miserable weather all weekend, it seemed like the perfect time to tackle this project. I went to Goodwill and found a plain leather suitcase for $5. I gave it a good scrubbing, when I got it home, and proceeded to decorate it with some knick knacks from my craft supplies. I tied a big bow on the handle and made it look super cool for the kids. If you have older, children, you could invite them to help you! I applied the buttons and ribbon with my trusty hot glue gun.

Hmm... I wonder what could be inside? Let's take a peek, shall we?

It might not look like much to you and me, but to my kids...well, this is a good couple of hours of enjoyment. Inside here I have coloring books, crayons, a deck of cards, pipe cleaners (yes, I told you it wouldn't look like much to us), a 100 piece puzzle, little spinning princess tops, yo-yos, dinosaurs, a little jewelry set with a crown, board games, quiet instruments, and books. Some of the items were "new" and purchased from the thrift store, some were items that I had been rotating and storing because no one was playing with them, and some of them were purchased from the dollar store. I would say even with the cost of the suitcase, there is probably about $15 of stuff invested here, but it is OH SO WORTH IT!

You could pick activities based upon how involved you really want to be with this. If you are looking for a little sanity break, I would suggest putting things in there that they could enjoy playing with by themselves or with their siblings. If you are looking for a good time to bond with your kids, put things in there that you can do with them like board games or stuff for art projects. If you are super smart, you will have a case of each- momma needs a break suitcase and momma wants to be your awesome friend suitcase.

This is such a hit in our house! Ethan keeps asking if it is wet on the ground because he wants to play with this special stuff. Pretty sad when your kids are begging for rainy days, but it makes me feel like this was a great idea and a great way to keep them occupied! Being a Midwest girl, I am sure I will have plenty of days to really use this. If I lived in Seattle, I might have to have a few hundred of these so they wouldn't get tired of the same old stuff.

Might I just add that this would be a great birthday gift for a child and would be a wonderful addition to a grandparent's house too! I am thinking this would be something fun that I could put together for my nephews or would be a great way to store a little girl's dress-up clothes. The possibilities really are endless.

Related Links:

Spring Break '08 Cost Breakdown

A Drizzly Saturday

Fruity Play Dough

Summertime Planning

Is anyone else looking forward to the spring weather? Do you have any big Spring Break plans this year? Please share!

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Halloween Fun







This was a fun year for us as parents because both of our kids finally "got" all the trick-or-treating fun. We kept our costumes fun & frugal this year. Emily was a bumblebee, which was a costume hand-me-down from her big brother. Ethan also kept changing his mind until the very last minute so I waited until Target marked the Halloween costumes down to 30% off and got his super cool ninja costume at a little lower price than I would have gotten it normally.

We tried to keep Emily out of the candy, but she managed to get into and suck on a purple sucker while we went door to door. The evening ended with a sucker stuck to her hair & bumblebee costume so that will require a good washing this week.

We loved going around and seeing all of our great neighbors and showing off how big our children were. We have plans to put the costumes on again this week to go see all of the grandparents since we weren't able to squeeze that in with me heading out of town in the morning. Any excuse to wear the costume again and get more of our money's worth out of it seems like a smart plan to me!

I hope you enjoyed the festivities, whatever they may have been, with your families!

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Our Autumn Book Basket

I hit the library this past week and picked up some books for the kids with some really great autumn themes in them. Our library conveniently pulls all of the holiday books for us when the holidays come around so it makes it easy to put a seasonal basket together.

Ethan made a sign for our basket that said, "Happy Fall." I wrote this out on a piece of paper for him and he practiced writing it for the basket. He drew a cute little jack-o-lantern on it because it was something that represented fall to him.

In our fall basket you will find the following books for the season:



Happy Haunting, Amelia Bedelia



Luther's Halloween




Beauty & the Beaks



Minnie and Moo & the Thanksgiving Tree




Richard Scarry's The First Thanksgiving of Low Leaf Worm



The Thanksgiving Door



Thanksgiving is Here

I look forward to switching out the books with the holiday season and getting a chance to read all of these great stories with the kids. I picked some beginning readers so we can work on Ethan's reading skills, but I also picked books that I could read to them. Our favorite so far has definitely been, "Thanksgiving is Here" because it reminds us so much of our own crazy Thanksgiving dinners with family!


What are some of your favorite autumn reads? Do you have any books to recommend for our seasonal basket?

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Piggy Pancakes

I made piggy pancakes for the kids and they were a huge hit! I wasn't sure if they would be able to figure out what they were so I let them guess. They decided these were cow pancakes instead so who knows what animal your own kids might pick?

I made a batch of this pancake batter. It is my absolute favorite because it doesn't require any fancy ingredients and can be made out of everything in your pantry. The pancakes remind me of the McDonald's pancakes and I absolutely could devour a few stacks of those in one sitting.

To save a little bit more money, I make a batch of powdered milk to mix into the pancakes. It isn't a huge savings, but it saves me from making multiple trips for milk throughout the week.

You will want to make one large pancake and two silver dollar sized pancakes. When you see the bubbles bubbling up on top, give them a flip and cook until they are cooked through.

I used kitchen scissors and cut one of the small pancakes in half and slipped it under the large pancake, to make the ears. Plop a small pancake on top for the snout and use blueberries or chocolate chips for the eyes.

For preschoolers, you could tie in any good barnyard book or my personal favorite..."If You Give a Pig a Pancake."

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And My Heart Breaks...



I woke up this morning to red eyes and a tear-stained pillow because I had been anticipating the big event in our house. I still can hardly believe that he went to school today.

Last night we went to his back-to-school night and met his teacher. Ethan spent the evening working on a card to bring her and we got apples at the supermarket so he could give her one. When he walked in with his apple and card, he was so excited to hand it to her. "Will she put it on the corner of her desk, mommy?" I think he saw this on a show or in a book somewhere because the apple placement was almost more important than the apple itself. When she thanked him for the apple and centered it on her desk, he pointed to the corner of her desk. "Could you put the apple here instead?" She grinned, but obliged. I tried to make quiet small talk with the teacher and signed my name on the volunteer sheet. It took everything in me to not say things like, "My son is so amazing- you have no idea how amazing he is! He is so incredibly gifted and smart! Will you love having him around as much as I have?" I didn't want to be that mom though so we said our goodbyes and held hands as we walked out the door.

It's funny, when my daughter looks at a picture of our family she points at each person and says their name. "That's my mommy. That's my daddy. That's my Ethan." The inflection and the possessiveness of that phrase let's you know just how special he is. He is hers and only hers. He is her big brother, her hero, and her best friend.

As I watch him climb the bus, that possessiveness rings in my heart. That's my boy. That's my colicky baby. That's my stoic toddler. That's my bubbly preschooler. That's my gentle & kind son. That's my Ethan. My. My. My.

Bittersweet.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

At the Car Wash: Part II

This summer, the kids really loved getting to wash their own cars, but my neglected car was in need of a car wash too. Isn't that why we have kids though? Might as well put these able-bodied children to work, that's what I say!

Emily worked on the car with an old baby washcloth and Ethan used daddy's official car scrubber.

I loved their looks of total concentration. They took their task very seriously and Emily kept wanting to show us how yucky the water was. I am the same way though when I scrub our floors. I just have to have other people witness the gross factor- you just can't experience that alone.

I don't know if I should mention this every single time, but I do feed this kid. These shorts are 3T and falling off of him still. I see pictures like these and feel like I should make a disclaimer- this kid eats me under the table. Oh, to have that metabolism!


Where in the world is their supervisor though? Oh, I think I found him sitting on the step watching the kids work. I don't think we should ever claim to be parenting experts!

He had to break out the big guns though and show the kids how to clean the roof of the car. They thought this part was hilarious.

What's a car wash though without a little water play afterwards? Ethan thought this part was definitely the best. Best of all, I have a clean car AND two exhausted workers to prove that this was a family event worth repeating!

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Mom's Date Night: Back To School Shopping



My little supermodel wanted to show off his cool new t-shirt. We wore this out last week to go pick up Ethan's school supplies and got stopped by tons of people in the store who wanted to pump Ethan up about how great kindergarten was going to be.

I took him for a special date night and we went to go get everything from his list of school supplies, a new backpack, and picked up some of his uniforms. I wish we could have taken advantage of end-of-year clearance on the uniforms, but we weren't sure if he was going to get in this school or not. The real dilemma was finding enough clothes in his size and that would fit his narrow frame. We had virtually no luck at Wal-Mart and very little luck at Target. It is difficult to find a boy's size 4 in the appropriate color scheme so I will have to do some additional hunting online for his fall/winter clothes.

$150 in supplies later and we headed over to Wendy's for a special dinner complete with a Vanilla Frosty.

We couldn't end our date there though because we had to head to a very special place to get something very special. Yes, Ethan is now a card-carrying adult because he got his very own library card. It was quite exciting to sign his own name, in his very careful script, and then pick out books and check them out in self-check ALL BY HIMSELF! He kept telling the librarian, "Excuse me, ma'am. Excuse me. I am down here." The librarian laughed and told him that she could see him perfectly, but he kept saying, "Um, ma'am. I'm down here! I need a library card"

The joy in his eyes as we headed out with that little piece of plastic... May that feeling of joy only be replicated with free cards and not a credit card! Isn't that every parent's prayer?


What are you doing to get ready for school and when do your kids start? Where have you found the best deals on school supplies?

**********
New Entries For Reading & Watching:

Fruit Roll-Ups Giveaway Results
Playskool Products
Crayola Doodlebags
Veri Meri T-Shirts
WSBT: Getting Kids to Do Chores
Frugal Hacks: Another Summer Gone By

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dad's Day Out & Mom's Day In



We have been trying to accomplish all of the great things off of our summertime list this summer and we had a major event to accomplish... a trip to Chicago's Field Museum. Last week, they offered a free admission day so we made plans to make our trip that day.

When I say we though, I mean my husband & Ethan. The guys wanted to do this trip alone without any girls ruining all their fun so they headed their together for a full day of fun in the prehistoric world. They took the South Shore train to their destination and enjoyed a guy's day together.

When Ethan walked in and saw Sue the amazing T-Rex he said, "I have been waiting my whole life for this moment." Ryan sent me updates via text message about all the fun they were having and he took tons of pictures of all of Ethan's favorite moments from the museum.

Meanwhile, Emily & I had a wonderful girl's day. We played outside, I sat at her mini-picnic bench and shared a peanut butter & jelly sandwich with her, we snuggled, we laughed, and we went to my mom's birthday dinner celebration. We sent dad messages about what we were up to and...well, we couldn't stop smiling. Every once in awhile, Emily would look at me and say, "Where did Ethan go?" and I would remind her that he & daddy had a special day together.

When my husband got home we both remarked that we need to do that more often. We both felt a bond with each child deepen during that day and it was great to be able to devote our undivided attention to each of them.

Do you do dates with your children? How do you manage to make quality time for each child individually? I would love to get some ideas for things we could do with the kids in the future!

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Summertime List & Summertime Games

We are enjoying a summer full of fun activities, thanks to our summertime list!

Here is what we have accomplished so far:

Made homemade slushies
Ran through the sprinklers
Went to the zoo (Ft Wayne and/or Potowatomi Zoo)
Went to playgroup(s)
Went to VBS
Made homemade play dough
Made Magic Milkshakes
Went to Grandma's house to play
Watched the Car's movie and ate Jimmy John's
Went to Krispy Kreme and watched them make donuts
Had a picnic in the backyard

We still have some more things to do, but we have really been enjoying checking things off of our list. It has been a real family event with everyone pitching in to make sure that we do all of these special things.

With the completion of our patio, we have been enjoying lots of time in our own backyard. I did make a little investment in some family games for us to play outside.

We bought this Franklin 5 Game Set at Target for $14.99, which was about the price you would pay for a nice new board game. This set came in a carrying case and it has a net that you can put up and play games like badminton (our favorite), volleyball, frisbee, horseshoes, and lawn tennis (plastic rackets with a foamy ball to bounce over the net).

This has been such a fun investment because my husband and I can play this on our own or we can toss the Frisbee with the kids. The net is height adjustable and so you can lower it for the wee people in the family. We have also included the kids in the games by parking little lawn chairs for them and making them the judges (which they LOVE).

It isn't the best quality set I have owned, but I am sure we can get $14.99 of games out of it. It has been a great way to spend our evenings and it keeps us active this summer.

The other game we bought was the Eddie Bauer Bean Bag Toss set, available at Target for $49.99 (it is on sale this week, but not available on their website). Yes, this was A LOT to pay for a game, but it is just beautiful and we plan to use it for many years. We both couldn't believe how well it was made and it comes with a case so you can take it with you places. We plan to take this to the grandparent's houses (that don't have a lot of kid toys) or for get togethers with friends who don't have children yet. The kids love playing with it and dropping the bean bags into the nets. We can get pretty competitive with it, but it is a complete blast and will be fun to get out when we are entertaining in the summer.

If you wanted to be more thrifty with a bean bag toss, you could make your own too. Polliwog's Cakewalk has a wonderful tutorial for making some monster bean bags that you could craft up with the kids. I think these would be fun to do with the pails in a row (a la Bozo the Clown Show for my friends who grew up on that kind of entertainment) and do a bean bag toss with them like that too!

Do you have any games that you play with your family in the warmer weather? How do you keep the kids entertained?

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Monday, June 30, 2008

A Struggle to Be Faithful

I adore my Emily. She is her very own little person with her own sweet little personality. I prayed very hard that we would someday have a little girl of our very own and here she is in all of her glory. She is the sweetest little girl with the best personality and she makes me laugh with her sweet quirkiness.

Emily has also challenged me in ways that I never dreamed as a parent. While Ethan slept through the night at three months, my Emily still cries for me at night (she is two and a half). Since she has been born, I have had rarely a full night of sleep. I can't figure out why this is because we have done everything for her exactly the same as Ethan, but Emily doesn't seem to really need sleep.

Ethan was (and still is) an extremely outgoing child. I could leave him anywhere and he would have a zillion best friends by the time I got back. I remember that my feelings were a little hurt the first day I dropped him off for school and he barely acknowledged my departure. He was just that kind of kid.

Emily is not that kind of kid. She is very shy and takes time to warm up to anyone. She really hates to be left anywhere and clings to my leg if she thinks I will leave her. She wails uncontrollably if she thinks we will leave her. It has been extremely hard.

Working out is difficult because I can hear her crying when I leave her in the babysitting area for my workout. I am constantly listening and my stomach feels like a little tight ball because I am on edge if she is making it difficult for the babysitter in charge. I feel selfish when I leave her there. Working out is optional and I feel like I am inflicting trauma on my child for no reason.

Worshiping is difficult because the children go to Sunday school while we attend the service and she really hates going. When we walk into church, she starts crying and when we leave her she is uncontrollable and inconsolable. This Sunday she screamed the entire time we were in service, and her screaming was worse if anyone looked or talked to her. When we got done with worship and the tears were rolling down her face, I felt like the worst parent in the world.

I honestly don't know what to do. She doesn't like to be alone at night, she wants me to be by her side all day, and I feel very badly for the people who are caring for her in my absence. At the same time, I know that there are times where we need that separation so that I can be a better mom to her. Things like working out and going to worship are important to me, but I feel very badly doing these things when I know how hard it is for the people who care for her.

It is bad enough that I don't know if my husband and I should go to worship together. Maybe we should alternate services so Emily doesn't have to go to Sunday School? Maybe I should quit the gym in favor of working out at home? I really am struggling with what is the best way to handle this. Do I keep doing this in hopes that she will figure out that we will always come back to her or do I wait until she outgrows it on her own?

I would love to hear from parents who are dealing with this or have watched their children outgrow it! Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Summertime Planning

I was really inspired by Whatever's summer list and vowed that we were going to do that this summer for our family. We headed over to the Dollar Tree and picked up a piece of poster board for $.50 and a fresh new Sharpie marker for $1. On the way home, we talked about all of the things that we wanted to do this summer and we both got really excited about all of our fun plans.

Ethan made the list with us and this is what we came up with:

Go to the beach (St Joe and/or New Buffalo)
Go to the dinosaur museum (the Field Museum)
Play Mario Kart with mommy
Make homemade slushies
Run through the sprinklers
Go to the zoo (Ft Wayne and/or Potowatomi Zoo)
Go to playgroup(s)
Go to VBS
Go to the dollar movie
Sleepover with our cousin
Have an Earth Hour family night
Make homemade pizza
Eat at the food court at the mall
Make homemade play dough
Go to St Louis
Go to Granny's house to play
Make Magic Milkshakes
Go to Grandma's house to play
Go to the park
Get our first library card
Go to the water park
Make banana pops
Wash the cars with daddy
Get out the rainy day suitcase
Watch the Car's movie and eat Jimmy John's
Have an ice cream sundae night
Buy presents for the homeless shelter and deliver them
Go to Krispy Kreme and watch them make donuts
Have a picnic in the backyard
Go to the AirZoo Museum

Ethan drew a picture of his family in the summertime to go along with our list and we hung it in our kitchen for the summer.

I love that the majority of the activities he picked didn't cost money and that the ones that he did pick that cost something could be special things that we could look forward to together. Since we have no big vacation plans, this looks like a really great round-up of activities to keep us busy this summer.

It is kind of funny though... I think my husband & I are just as excited as he is!

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Old School Baking Day

My sweet little bread machine kicked the can last week after two years of hard work in our family. I used my bread machine two to three times a week so it does a lot of work for us and I am missing it terribly. I got mine at a garage sale and I just can't see paying for it retail, but my husband is insisting that we just buy one new this time. I don't know though... I think I might check the thrift store a few times before buying one.

In the meantime, we are using our trusty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook to do the bread. It has been so long since I have made bread this way that I feared that my attempt might fail miserably.

Ethan happened to watch Sesame Street though and they showed the process of making bread so he asked me if we could do this together. Since we were having sandwiches that night, I told him he could help me make the hamburger buns for our dinner.

We let the stand mixer do the mixing for us and then we pulled the dough out to do the kneading. This dough reminds me of play dough so it is the perfect dough to use with kids. It is not sticky and doesn't even require a floured surface. Ethan mastered the art of kneading and enjoyed working his frustrations out on the dough. Pound, pound, pound, knead, knead, knead...

I cut the dough into nine pieces and then Ethan shaped them and put them on the stone. We talked about how the bread needs to rise and rest while we tidied the house up before dinner. After a little rising, I slid the stone into the oven for fifteen minutes of cooking.


Despite being really out of practice, the rolls turned out beautifully. Ethan pronounced the dinner, "The best dinner in the entire world."

A successful mission completed!

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Something Exciting Is Happening

We are trying to complete our homework for starting kindergarten and this week Ethan got his teeth cleaned. Ethan's teeth looked beautiful, but we discovered a special secret that his mouth had been keeping... Ethan has his first loose tooth. He was so excited to tell me that his tooth was loose and I told him that I had a special book that I had been saving just for this occasion. Hidden in the depths of my closet, I have had a special tooth fairy set that we could get out when this momentous occasion happened.

As we sat down to read the book, Ethan admitted that he didn't know which tooth felt loose. He showed me that he couldn't wiggle it (wiggling side to side) and I showed him that you wiggle your tooth from front to back. The look of amazement on his face was priceless, "OH!!!!!!" he said, and a look of excitement and fear passed over his eyes. While Ethan sat by me and wiggled, I read to him from this wonderful book that explains the entire process of loose teeth. It covers all of the bases like why we lose our teeth, a pillow with a pocket for the tooth fairy, a special chart that you can fill out for each of your children and save for their baby books, and what to do if you (gasp) lose your tooth.

And then we practiced.

And practiced. Then, just to make sure this all will really happen, Ethan wished on an imaginary star that he would lose his tooth so the tooth fairy would come to visit him.

I have a feeling that it won't be long! Maybe I should review the tooth fairy economics that we discussed earlier this year. Yes, something exciting is happening over here!

Sound Off: Did you do anything special to make this event even more special?

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Here We Come, Kindergarten!

My son is a genius and I have photographic proof now. He asked me to come downstairs, one morning before school, to show me something he had made. This is what I came downstairs to- can you believe it? I still have no idea how he stacked these nesting blocks in their complete reverse order.This is just the kind of kid I am raising- he is an out-of-the-box kind of kid. He is a creative thinker and a human sponge. I say he is a genius, very tongue-in-cheek, but he is one smart little cookie and is really looking forward to kindergarten.

We were in a tough dilemma about where we were going to send him to school. We wanted to support the efforts of the public school system, but we were not in a great district to do that. When magnet schools became available in our area, and after hearing so many great things about them, this seemed like the most viable option for us. We could not afford to put two children into private schools, but the magnet schools were part of the public schools with a great curriculum, uniforms, and an incredibly gifted staff. We applied and waited. And waited. And waited. We went to meetings and we prayed and prayed that our child would get to be a part of this program. Guess what? He's in!

We went to the kindergarten round-up and I was so impressed with everything at the school. I felt like I was on the verge of tears the entire time for a couple of different reasons. The first, was that we were sitting there and would get to be a part of this wonderful community and staff. The second, was the talk of them going off to school and what an important time in their lives this is. The image of my son. My little boy. My child. My sweet and precious little man going on a bus and leaving me for the day was almost too much. Part of me welcomes him going away to school and part of me just wants to hold on a few more years to our special time together. He is my best buddy and I love having him around!

He was so excited about his new school and wants to begin counting down the days until he can start going there. In the meantime, we need to schedule a physical, get his kindergarten shot, a dental exam, a vision exam and sign him up for his first library card as part of our homework before school starts. We also will continue working on our letters, mathematics, and beginning reading skills with Ethan.... and mark off the days for him until he goes off to kindergarten. Kindergarten, here we come!

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Water & Chalk

Two old margarine tubs filled with water and one package of paint brushes from the dollar store.

Mommy's yoga mat becomes a soft cushion for the kids to rest their bottoms on while playing on the pavement. Don't forget the sidewalk chalk so they can make even more cool pavement creations!

Ethan paints a rainbow with water and Emily just loves to paint around herself.

Emily's painting usually ends up looking like this.

Ethan layers chalk and water to make beautiful hearts for mommy.

Then we make our own little hopscotch game, but that is too boring for a boy.

Ethan calls this, "EXTREME hopscotch." He even says the word EXTREME in an EXTREME way. The rules are, you jump on number one and then hop 40,000 steps to get to number two and then you have to hop 40,000 more steps to get to the third number. These went all the way down our driveway to the very end. He wanted me to jump it, but that sounded too extreme for mommy, but perfect for an energetic little boy.

Water and chalk provide hours of enjoyment on sunny days. This is how a frugal family spends their day together and I wouldn't have it any other way!

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Earth Day Reflections

We had a great day together, celebrating Earth Day yesterday. To celebrate we spent the entire day outside and I made sure we had lots of stuff to do while we were out there. I gathered all of our supplies together and grabbed two water bottles for the kids to keep them hydrated while we were outside. Apparently, Ethan had been discussing Earth Day with his teachers because he looked at me and said, "That bottle is not a 7, right? 7's are BAD and I can't drink from them." For a moment, I felt a little bit of panic as I looked on the bottom to reveal our numbers. It appeared we had an acceptable number, but nothing like a kid to keep you on your toes.

We took our chalk outside and Ethan drew this beautiful picture of the earth. Emily helped by scribbling her own little pictures with him.



I picked up this little journal from the dollar store and told Ethan that he could fill the pages with whatever things he saw in nature. He put together some really beautiful pictures of all the things he saw. Then I wrote the alphabet for him and he filled in the book with pictures of things that started with those letters. This kept him busy for about an hour and he loved showing his book to his daddy.



While Ethan documented in his journal, I took some pictures of some of the beautiful things in our yard.

Then I plopped myself in a chair and started my new book from one of my favorite bloggers, Soule Mama. If you are looking for ways to be more creative with your kids, I would highly recommend this book.

We had a wonderful day and didn't turn the television on once! The evening was spent building forts, drawing pictures, playing in the bath, and special stories. It was a quiet and lovely Earth Day!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Celebrating Earth Day

Happy Earth Day, everyone! I hope that you all will be celebrating this special day. We are looking forward to celebrating Earth Day as a family, not just today, but every day. My son is still talking about Earth Hour and just asked me yesterday when we could do this again. He has even been learning about how special our planet is at school and I was so excited to hear him talking about the ways he could make the world better. These are proud moments for a parent as we talk about this often with Ethan.

I never thought I was one of those kinds of parents, but here I am dumping all disposable items, cloth diapered my baby, making my own cleaners, line drying my clothes, carrying my reusable bags, gardening, and am wearing 80-90% of my clothing from the thrift store. Many of the choices I have made came from a financial standpoint, but have evolved into more of a commitment to going green than I ever imagined. Step aside, hippy moms, there is a new eco-chick in town!

Stumped for ideas? Here are a few to help you celebrate this day in a big way-

80+ Green Sites & Resources (@ Mashable)

Earth Day Crafts to Do With Your Children (@ Kaboose)

How to Celebrate Earth Day (@ WikiHow)

Earth Day Ideas for Kids & Classrooms (@ Amazing Moms)

Making Earth Day a Family Day (@ Crunchy Domestic Goddess)

Earth Day Every Day (@ Parents.com)

Celebrate Earth Day (@ EcoKids)

Let's Make This Earth Day a Real Earth Day (@ The Good Human)


Sound Off:
How do you plan to celebrate Earth Day with your kids?

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At the Car Wash

Two shallow containers of water with just a drop of dish soap.

Mommy's ah-ha moment! Two shower loofahs, instead of sponges, so my children don't completely soak themselves.


Two cars that have been sitting idle in the garage all winter.

Two little children assess the task at hand.

Working hard.

Hardly working.
Hours of enjoyment for all!

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Drizzly Saturday

Ethan's prayers were answered and we had a drizzly Saturday. The drizzles weren't so bad that they couldn't play outside, but Ryan had other plans for his Saturday that required total concentration.

We have just a few more rows to go and finally our patio will be complete. We had to rip the entire patio out last summer because a tree (which we removed) had uprooted the patio, making it a treacherous terrain to walk on and bumpy ground for our patio set. Ryan's parents redid their entire landscape in their backyard and let us take their old brick. Using our brick and mixing it with the new brick, we are making a cool design and the only cost to us has been time and sand to level and fill in the cracks. I think it will be really great when it is done, we just never expected it would take this long to complete.


The kids played in their rainy day suitcase for over two hours while Ryan was outside working. I sat on the couch and happily snapped pictures of them and worked some more on my little beginner knitting project.


This instrument that I picked up from the thrift store has been a hit with both of them. Emily was strumming a little tune for us. I love that this is a nice and quiet instrument, even if they try to play it loudly.

Quiet little Saturday at home- what could be better?

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rainy Day Survival Kit

I have been wanting to work on this project for some time, and since it was miserable weather all weekend, it seemed like the perfect time to tackle this project. I went to Goodwill and found a plain leather suitcase for $5. I gave it a good scrubbing, when I got it home, and proceeded to decorate it with some knick knacks from my craft supplies. I tied a big bow on the handle and made it look super cool for the kids. If you have older, children, you could invite them to help you! I applied the buttons and ribbon with my trusty hot glue gun.

Hmm... I wonder what could be inside? Let's take a peek, shall we?

It might not look like much to you and me, but to my kids...well, this is a good couple of hours of enjoyment. Inside here I have coloring books, crayons, a deck of cards, pipe cleaners (yes, I told you it wouldn't look like much to us), a 100 piece puzzle, little spinning princess tops, yo-yos, dinosaurs, a little jewelry set with a crown, board games, quiet instruments, and books. Some of the items were "new" and purchased from the thrift store, some were items that I had been rotating and storing because no one was playing with them, and some of them were purchased from the dollar store. I would say even with the cost of the suitcase, there is probably about $15 of stuff invested here, but it is OH SO WORTH IT!

You could pick activities based upon how involved you really want to be with this. If you are looking for a little sanity break, I would suggest putting things in there that they could enjoy playing with by themselves or with their siblings. If you are looking for a good time to bond with your kids, put things in there that you can do with them like board games or stuff for art projects. If you are super smart, you will have a case of each- momma needs a break suitcase and momma wants to be your awesome friend suitcase.

This is such a hit in our house! Ethan keeps asking if it is wet on the ground because he wants to play with this special stuff. Pretty sad when your kids are begging for rainy days, but it makes me feel like this was a great idea and a great way to keep them occupied! Being a Midwest girl, I am sure I will have plenty of days to really use this. If I lived in Seattle, I might have to have a few hundred of these so they wouldn't get tired of the same old stuff.

Might I just add that this would be a great birthday gift for a child and would be a wonderful addition to a grandparent's house too! I am thinking this would be something fun that I could put together for my nephews or would be a great way to store a little girl's dress-up clothes. The possibilities really are endless.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Great Sleeping Tips & a Book Giveaway

J&J's Camp Baby was such a great experience for me and I tried to take lots of notes to share with all of you. I do want to say what an honor it was to be included and to be among such amazing women. I made tons of new friends and enjoyed visiting with one my favorite blogging mommas, Jamie.

Our first speaker was Dr. Jodi Mindell, who shared with us tips for getting your infant to sleep. I kept thinking to myself how wonderful it would have been to have had this lecture when our Emily was born. This lady knew her stuff, but she was not preachy or condemning parents for not doing things the right way. She was matter-of-fact about it, and had excellent tips to offer us.

She stated that the three most important steps to getting your baby to sleep were:

1. Good sleep schedule
2. Bedtime routine- Which includes three to four quiet activities, bath/washing, a little baby massage, stories, and cuddle time.
3. Falling asleep independently- Nursing/feeding your little one early in bedtime and putting them to bed drowsy, but still awake.

For getting our older children to sleep (and stay in bed) she shared these ideas:

1. Making a bedtime chart or a sticker chart for going to bed nicely (We use the tickets for this one too!)
2. Employing a sleep fairy in your house- This was an idea that I believe that worked for one of her patients. They would tell the child that if they slept in their bed, that the sleep fairy would come and visit them. The sleep fairy would leave a penny under the pillow to let the child know that they had visited them, and would help encourage the child to stay in bed all night.
3. Using a good morning light- Setting a light on a timer in your child's room that would come on when it would be an acceptable hour for them to get up. She said using a clock is too difficult for younger children, but a light is a great option to wake them at an appropriate time.

For separating children (twins) into separate beds/rooms:

1. Have a new bedroom party for the children with balloons and streamers! Celebrate that they are "so big" and ready for their new rooms.
2. Put a picture of their sibling in their room that they can look at.
3. Transitional objects like blankets or a special stuffed animal can help ease the absence.

One parent expressed the difficulties she was having with getting rid of the binky, and the doctor suggested letting the child keep it. The target age for transitioning your child off of a pacifier is by four. If your child is resisting this before they are four, just let them keep it. It is more worrisome if your child sucks their thumb because this damages their teeth.

Dr. Mindell is working with Johnson & Johnson to provide tools for parents to help them with sleep difficulties. You can go to their site and create a customized sleep profile with tips tailored to your child's sleep issues (scroll to the bottom and this option is on the left in a purple cloud).

Dr. Mindell has also written a book called, "Sleep Deprived No More" that she gave to each of the bloggers. This is an autographed copy of her book sharing tips for getting pregnant mommies to sleep better and tips for early motherhood.

If you would like to win a copy of this autographed book, please leave me a comment by Friday (04/11) and I will include you in the giveaway. If you have a sleep tip you would like to include that has worked for you, please let us know!

More information from the numerous speakers to come...

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Who Is the Old Lady Now?

I have been having so much fun teaching Ethan some cool card games. Growing up, we had a deck of Old Maid cards that we played Old Maid with so I had no idea that you could play Old Maid with a regular old deck of cards.

This game is great for kids between 5-10, because it is easy to learn and to play. This game is more fun if you have 3-6 players, but you can play with two players (which is easier for smaller children and putting together matches).

Before you can begin, remove all of the Queens in the deck except for one. Shuffle and distribute the cards, one at a time and face down.

Each player looks at their hands and pulls out any two cards that match in rank. Each player lays his match face down in a pile beside him. If a player has three cards of the same number, one stays in his hand.

After matches are all sorted, fan out your cards for the other player to grab from. Keep taking turns and making matches. Since there is only one Queen, the Old Maid, no match can be made for her. At the end of the hand, the player left holding the Old Maid loses the game.

You could also pretend to cry, like Ethan demonstrates for our photo!

Want to switch the game up? How about making the Old Maid an Old Boy and using the Jack as your odd man out!

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Family Night: Earth Hour

I had been looking forward to Earth Hour all week and sharing this experience with my family. We talked to Ethan about why we were celebrating Earth Hour and how much fun we were going to have. Since Earth Hour was between 8-9 PM, it was a special treat for the kids to stay up late and spend the hour with us.


The kids took a bath by candlelight, which they thought was a super fun treat! We filled the tub with lots of bubbles and threw in a couple of whisks and spoons from the kitchen. They whisked up bubbles to their hearts delight and sang fun songs by candlelight.

Ethan thought he looked pretty cool in front of the candles so he took some time out of his busy schedule to pose!

After our baths, we enjoyed a yummy snack while Ryan & I made shadow puppets on the wall for the kids. They thought these were hilarious and super cool!


Ethan had so much fun, he asked if we could celebrate Earth Hour every day! This gave me an opportunity to share with him easy ways he could celebrate AND save the earth. We talked about doing our recycling, turning the lights off when we aren't in a room, and not being wasteful. Since this family night was such a hit, I hope we can do it with the kids again. Not only did the kids have a blast, but it was super frugal, while being extremely memorable for all of us!

Sound Off: Did you celebrate Earth Hour? How did you celebrate it?

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Earth Hour: A Family Night to Remember

On March 29, 2008 at 8 p.m., join millions of people around the world in making a statement about climate change by turning off your lights for Earth Hour, an event created by the World Wildlife Fund.

Earth Hour was created by WWF in Sydney, Australia in 2007, and in one year has grown from an event in one city to a global movement. In 2008, millions of people, businesses, governments and civic organizations in nearly 200 cities around the globe will turn out for Earth Hour. More than 100 cities across North America will participate, including the US flagships–Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix and San Francisco and Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

We invite everyone throughout North America and around the world to turn off the lights for an hour starting at 8 p.m. (your own local time)–whether at home or at work, with friends and family or solo, in a big city or a small town. You can sign up today!

What will you do when the lights are off? Visit Crunchy Domestic Goddess for some great ideas for a family night or even a date night with your spouse!

We are planning to participate this year and I hope you will join me!

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A Cool Tool for Chores

To go along with our discussion on rewards programs and chores, my husband happened upon Handipoints, an online program that you can utilize to get your kids to accomplish their chores.

It is set up with a virtual world where they earn points to get things for their very own character!

From TechCrunch:

"Founder Viva Chu started Handipoints in January 2007 with the notion that chore charts would be both more fun and more effective if they were moved online. So he created a site with two main parts: one that helped parents track how their kids helped out around the house, and another that consisted of a virtual world on par with the other pseudo-3D services kids have come to enjoy.

These two parts work closely with one another to create sufficient incentives for kids to do their work. When kids successfully complete activities (such as cleaning their room, taking out the trash, or even brushing their teeth and eating an apple), they gain either of two types of points: so-called “handipoints” that can be redeemed for real-world items such as Nerf guns and toys; and “bonus points” that can be used to buy virtual goods in the online world. Parents determine which type of point, and how many of them, is rewarded for good behavior.

Setting up a system for kids to redeem points for physical goods (or money) was easy enough; all they had to do was hook up Amazon’s APIs and create a custom storefront. But a significant effort has gone into creating an entirely new and appealing virtual world, one that’s replete with different settings, activities, items, and other users.

Like Webkinz, kids can walk around the virtual world and talk to each other using canned chat (where you pick statements from a list instead of typing them). This prevents inappropriate behavior. The graphics are impressive and the functionality is rather sophisticated. In addition to buying items and socializing, users can play in-world games and watch movies (these require points, too).

Most of the service’s virtual goods are free, but the company plans on making money through selling premium goods to parents who want to make them available for their kids."

I thought this was such a cool concept that I had to share! This might be a fun way to reward chores for kids in the tween category!


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You Discuss: Are Reward Systems Bad Ideas?

We are having a fun discussion on a rewards program that I have decided to start with my son. You can read our story here and our great day yesterday.

I did get some comments that I thought would be fun to discuss. Trust me, that if you do not agree with implementing a rewards system in your home that I completely respect that. After all, this is our first attempt trying something like this. What I had been doing was not working so that is why we are making these efforts.

Here were some of the questions that people had:

Question:
I had a question that maybe other commenters can help with. Does there come a time where the tangible rewards no longer matter so much and you phase out the charts, etc.? I'm thinking it may take a certain maturity level which would vary widely, I'm sure, but I just wasn't sure if once you start this system you'll be following it for years? Thanks!

Question:
This sounds wonderful and a lot of fun even. But I'm hesitant to try it for 3 reasons so I would LOVE to see more people post how this works out for them.

1) What do you do when tickets aren't enough incentive? Those days compliance just isn't happening? I'd still have to build a whole lot of "just in case" time into our routine?

2) Would this undo the things my son does just because he knows its right to do and make him start thinking there should be a reward for every little thing? When I was having a back problem it was really painful to buckle ds into his booster seat so I bribed him with a toy he'd been wanting (a pokemon ball) - "if you buckle yourself into the car every trip for a week you can have it." A plan born of desperation when I realized I couldn't lean over and pull the buckle across him when I needed to be somewhere and my back was spazzing and I knew he could but was being difficult. When it came time to go pick it out he wanted two. I told him no but he could figure out a way to earn the other one and all of a sudden he wanted to earn it simply by doing things he's been doing "right" all along. So I set another challenge - tying his shoes. For this I pick behaviors/skills I'm pretty sure he is totally capable of but being stubborn about. So when the week of belt-buckling was over and he tried to regress it was "Nu-uh, no way mister, I KNOW you can do it."

3) Is there burn-out with this? My son had a chore chart to earn some things he was pestering me for. It lasted about a week and then he didn't want the things anymore. And when we were taking away toys because he wouldn't pick them up he could earn them back by having a no-timeout day at school but then he wised up, quit losing the toys by cleaning up always but school is still if-y. He even can earn $ for helpful things (beyond things he should be doing for himself anyway) but he just doesn't care about some of that stuff so I find myself having to constantly reinvent praises, consequences, etc. so I've gotten to the point I seem severe because I just don't want to deal with it anymore. I think maybe thats why I like this plan - easy to update and adapt and keep "interesting"?

I don't like where we are though so I'm willing to give anything a try. So I'll be watching this one!

Question:
So what happens when he gets older and is simply doing what he is supposed to, and doesn't get a reward? Should doing those things that are basic daily living activities come with any reward other than that which the activity itself gives? Life deals positive and negative reinforcements, whether we like it or not. Shouldn't the discipline of our children be similar? The idea of making the good and bad consequences known for a task seems to make much more sense for me. Where there is no risk, there is no reward.

My Answer:
I just want to begin by stating that this program and techniques were backed after years and years of research and come straight from the 2008 president of the American Psychological Association and head of the Yale Parenting Center.

This system is focusing on a defiant child who does not want to cooperate in the home. It is meant to reinforce positive behavior in your child.

Our children will all one day have to go out in the real world and get a job. When my son goes to his job, he will be paid for his hard work. If he doesn't go to work, he will lose money and not be able to buy the things he wants. This is the same with this ticket program and will teach him that he will be rewarded for the good things he does, not only with the tickets which will earn him the right to gain a privilege in the home, but also that he will be praised and recognized for the good stuff he is doing. It is a form of positive parenting and I think there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a positive mommy. What I was doing was not working for me.

If the idea of "you do what you are supposed to" works for people, I am all for that! We are talking about parenting a five year old child who isn't doing anything he is supposed to and can become volatile at times when he is forced to do things. I don't intend to give him tickets when he is a teenager, but I think a ticket or reward system is ideal for giving our children the building blocks they need to learn how to behave. My hope is that through a program like this (again with years of research backed on it) that my child will grow up into a successful young man who was raised in a positive environment. Who can fault a family for that?

And what seem daily living activities to us (for example, going to school) are difficult for my son and I am teaching him a positive reward for doing the things he doesn't like or does not want to do. We are teaching him how rewarding it can be to do what we are supposed to!

I would definitely recommend checking out the book, if you are truly interested, because it explains it a lot better than I ever could!

I also want to add that the book does have chapters devoted towards negative behavior and how to deal that. For our age range, it is a time-out where they get no attention at all. Another negative consequence is not getting any tickets or attention for doing bad things.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ticket to Slide

I was banking on my son being just like me when I had added Wii & Leapster Games as a smoking deal for 200 tickets. I was the child who couldn't hold a dollar in my pocket for longer than five minutes and, lucky for me, my son is the same exact way. He can't wait to burn through those tickets. We have already cashed in for two bonus bedtime books last night and a rocking game of Chutes & Ladders with mommy this afternoon.

Thursdays are my hard day with Ethan and our mornings on this day are always challenging. Part of the reason has been that they do treasure chest at school with a similar system in place of gold cards (for good behavior) and red cards (for bad behavior) and I think that it bothers him when he doesn't get to go to the treasure chest, as just the star student gets to go. The other reason this morning has been difficult is because it is the last day of school in his week and I think he just tired. I have a hard time myself on Thursdays so I think he would just rather be home.

This morning I tiptoed in and told him it was time to get ready for school. It was the typical no response and pulling the covers over his head. I headed downstairs and made his breakfast and then peeked in again. This time I said, "Ethan, I know this is a hard day for you and I want to reward you for doing your best today. If you get up and get ready, I am going to give you four tickets." His eyes flew open and he rolled over to throw on his clothes. Would you believe that my boy, MY CHILD, was waiting in the car for us before I even had myself or his sister in the car? My child? My child sitting sweetly with his seat belt on, backpack packed, shoes and coat on all by himself. You know what else he said? He said he loved school? My son? My child?

Our other source of difficulty has been leaving places that he enjoys being at. We have had some very embarrassing tantrums at playgroups and family member's homes. We have a playdate planned with my sister tomorrow so I thought I would talk to him about it. In the same rah-rah cheerleader voice, I told him that we were going to go to his cousin's house and I know it is hard to leave there so I want to give him tickets for leaving nicely. He would get four tickets for leaving when I asked. Would you believe that he asked if we could practice it? All the way to school, I pretended like we were leaving and he practiced being sweet.

I know we have only been doing this a few days, but my husband looked at me last night and said, "This is not the same kid." He was running downstairs to feed our cat, scraping his dishes off and resting them by the sink, and picking up his toys without a fight.

Best of all, the tickets he has been redeeming give me time with just him. I feel honored that he wants to spend ten tickets on playing a game with me, not on buying something. I told him how much it meant to me too because it really does.

I want to be a good mom and I try to be a good mom. It is hard for me to share when I feel like I am not being a good mom. I am human though and I struggle. When these moments come along where I feel like we are doing something right...well, it just feels good!

I am so full of hope right now!

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Just Call Me Ticketmaster

I have been having parenting difficulties with my 5 year-old. He is an extremely sweet boy, but he is extremely strong-willed and he does not like going to school. This has been going on all year, but it has taken an extremely bad turn and he is becoming more physical (and more physically impossible) to battle with to make him go to school. Tuesday morning was the straw that broke the camel's back, because our morning was the worst we had ever had together. I have even found myself having scary Mommy Dearest moments where I am yelling my head off at him and he is hitting me, screaming, and refusing to get in the car. I won't go into all of the trauma, but I dreaded school mornings. He simply did not want to go to school and I did not know what to do. After a tearful talk with his teacher that day, I realized that something needed to change in our house.

Keep in mind that I tried everything that I could- getting him up earlier, eliminating distractions, and giving him warnings that it is nearing time to go, talking to him about what might be bothering him about school, frequent discussions with his teacher about behavior and what could be going on. You know, all the good stuff that the "experts" encourage. No matter what I did though, we were starting our mornings with tears and battles.

I came home on Tuesday feeling defeated. Was it something I did that caused this? Why was I letting my temper get the best of me? Did I fail in disciplining him?

I picked up a book that I got from the library about parenting strong-willed children entitled, "The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child." I sat down and poured a cup of coffee and read, and read, and read. I got excited in that hour about all that I could do as a parent. I realized that I didn't have to be a negative mom, I could be a positive parent. The book was filled with tips on positive parenting and how to create positive solutions for your children. The main focus was on creating a point system for good behavior and focusing on positive praise to get positive results.

Dr. Kazdin suggests implementing a chart in the home to award points to your child for the things you want them to do (in our case, go to school without a fight). His system reminded me of another system that our reader, Jodi, had shared about using raffle tickets and points for completing chores in our awesome chore discussion. Go back to that post and take a peek- her advice was right on par with the good doctor's recommendations.

I piled the kids in the car and forked over a few bucks for raffle tickets and pumped up the program to my son. It was recommended, in the book that I read, to throw in some theater or use your cheerleader voice (depending on what kind of person you were in high school, I guess)

Me: Ethan, We are going to try something NEW!

Ethan: (suspiciously) What kind of new thing?

Me: We are going to get TICKETS for doing GREAT stuff and you can EARN AWESOME THINGS for going to school and doing your chores.

Ethan: (still suspicious) What kind of things?

Me: Oh, whatever kinds of things you like...games, movies, ice cream...

Ethan: I like Wii games

Me: Well, that might be something you could work towards, but um, those are a lot of money...But we can TRY! Rah Rah Sis Boom Bah! Gooooo Team!

That is all it took to get him on board. We sat down and put together a list of activities that I wanted him to do around the house and a list of his rewards. We used a recycled coffee container for official ticket storage and worked all day the next day on putting together a fabulous chart of activities that he could do.

Ethan's chart is a picture chart, since he is not reading just yet. I pulled all of the images from Microsoft's clip art collection. Ethan picked each of the pictures and we cut them out, mounted them on cardboard and wrote number values in the corners of each picture. I have to say, we were both pretty proud with the finished product.

Ethan has one page of things he has to do to earn tickets and two pages of awesome rewards. We have them hanging on the refrigerator and he has been checking it and counting tickets like nuts for the past two days.

Earn Tickets:

Going to School Nicely- 3 tickets
Make My Bed- 1 ticket
Put breakfast dishes in the sink- 1 ticket
Pick up toys before bed- 3 tickets
Go to Bed Nicely- 1 ticket
Feed the cat- 1 ticket
Help Mommy With Laundry- 3 tickets

Rewards:

Get to Read an Extra Book- 5 tickets
Go to the Library- 10 tickets
Pick What to Eat for Dinner- 10 tickets
Get a Movie- 10 tickets
Play a Game With Mom or Dad- 10 tickets
Rent a Video Game- 20 tickets
1 Hour of Computer Time- 25 tickets
Pick and Make a Snack With Mommy- 25 tickets
Go to the Dollar Movie- 30 tickets
Stay up 1 Hour Late- 35 tickets
Get Ice Cream- 35 tickets
Go Bowling- 100 tickets
Wii or Leapster Game- 200 tickets
Go to the Dinosaur Museum- 200 tickets

In the book, they encourage you to not take away points, but tell your child that it is fine if they don't want to do A, B, or C, but they will not get the points they need to get rewards. The book also reviews other forms of punishment, like time-outs and how to make them effective when disciplining your child. There is also an entire system of practicing what you need your child to do (basically acting out the parts of what you want to occur), praising your child for the pretend scenarios, then having them really do, and then rewarding them with points and praise that involve a hug, a high-five, or a pat on the back.

If you are struggling with your child as I have been, you might want to check out the book! The Appendix of the book has a chart divided between age groups for activities that you could add to your charts and fun rewards that your child can earn.

What I truly mean to say though is thank you for all of your invaluable comments. I try to help be a source of encouragement over here, but your systems and thoughtful discussions are such a great encouragement to me as well! Big thanks to Jodi for her thoughtful solution- I hope this will help someone else out there. From one Mommy Dearest to another!

Sound Off: Do you use charts in your house? How do you implement positive parenting in your house?

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

We Need to Work On Our Letters

Ethan hands me this piece of paper (shown above)

Ethan:
Well?

Me: What?

Ethan: Read the letter.

Me: Um, what does it say?

Ethan: (big sigh) It says, "Get me some cheese crackers."

Me: I think it needs to say, "Please."

Ethan: I can't spell that word yet.

Me: Well, we will need to work on our letters then.

We are at a fun stage, developmentally speaking, with Ethan. He is taking an interest in writing and putting together words. I can see the beginning stages of reading in our future although the spelling of words can get pretty tedious as we have to write everything out together.

He really enjoys copying words off of boxes and in the books that he reads. The writing backwards thing is still working itself out, but he is doing so much better than he was. I think part of this still has to do with him being left-handed. Just a mommy theory though!

To help Ethan with his letters, we made a trip to the library and found a movie produced by the hooligans who take all my money (also known as the LeapFrog company). The movie is called, "The Letter Factory" and is all about teaching children their letters and their letter sounds.

I popped the movie in and watched the wonders of letters come to life with them. It was smartly written and reminded me of Richard Scarry and his tactics for teaching children their letters. It was so good that I made my husband sit down and watch it with us. We both were in amazement at how well it was written and the smart ways that they helped kids learn their letter sounds. The letter E for example was an old man who made the "Ehhhh" sound. The letter L licked a lollipop and made the "Llll" sound as he licked. In short, it was all the images and learning techniques that made the process of learning their letter sounds fun again.

Emily, at two, has been chanting all of her letter sounds to anyone who will listen. I went to Ethan's parent teacher conference and had the teacher told me that out of all the children in the class, Ethan was the only one who knew all of his letter sounds. He learned all of those from that movie- I can't even take credit for it.

The kids loved it and watched it for three weeks, until it had to be returned to the library. I applied a gift card and Easter money towards the entire five collection set from the company and am eagerly awaiting their arrival as much as my kids.

I thought I would share this experience because I always appreciate when other parents point out to me products that really work, especially when it comes to educating my children. We are just in the beginning stages though and I am sure others have some great recommendations.

Sound Off: As we venture into this new world of reading and spelling, I am interested in finding out what tools you used to help your children. Are there any sites that you frequent for printables? Do you have any book or movie recommendations? How do you foster a love for reading in your kids?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tooth Fairy Economics

I got a great email today that I wanted to share and discuss!

Amy,

I just wondered your thoughts on this article and what you do in your house. I read one time about someone who gave their child foreign currency instead so there was no 'value' to compare with the other kids. It also allowed the parent to teach some world geography and expose the child to new cultures.

Thanks for all you do. I love the blogs.

New mommy to be (May 08),
Katie

The tooth fairy hasn't visited our home yet, although my son is quickly approaching that age! I am excited to learn from all of you and share on this topic!! Much thanks to Katie for this idea, as I think it is so great to talk about.

What are the tooth fairy economics in your house?

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Old School Momma Declares War

When I was a little girl, we had the best babysitter in the entire world, who took care of us when my mom worked. She was an elderly woman named Mrs. Davis and I worshiped the ground she walked on. She always brought with her a bag of goodies to keep us entertained. In her bag of tricks were Little Golden Books to read to us (from her own personal collection), a small bag of candy for each child, and a deck of cards to play games with us. Her deck was secured with a trusty rubber band that I loved to snap, snap, snap while she dealt the cards out. My memories of her and being with her make me a little misty eyed. Mrs. Davis passed away several years ago, but the memory of her and her bag of tricks lives in my heart.

When I visited Goodwill, I picked up a deck of cards for $.50 and have decided to begin teaching my son some of the games that were so fun for me when I was a kid. I thought I would share some of the games we tried and the rules for how to play them.

This game is guaranteed to last for centuries and was a great quiet game to keep him entertained while Emily napped. I used my popcorn popper and made us a batch of popcorn to be snacked on while we played.

We started with the game of, "War." This is an excellent game to start with because it teaches young children card ranking. A good age for this game is between 4-12 and the only equipment you need is a deck of cards...and a little stamina.

Rules for War:

Shuffle the cards well. Deal the entire deck, keeping all of the cards down and no peeking. To begin, both players turn their top cards simultaneously and place them side by side, face up, in the center. The one who plays the higher ranking card gets to keep both the cards (Aces are high in this game). These cards are added to the bottom of the winner's stack.

When both players turn over cards of the same rank (you have an Ace, they have an Ace), "war" is declared. Smaller children really get into this and we started to shout, "War!" out together. Each player then places the top three cards from his stack face down on the original card. Then each places a fourth card face up on top of the three face-down cards. The higher face-up card will win all of the ten cards. If these match you can declare a, "DOUBLE WAR!" (be sure to shout it for added enjoyment) and then the battle continues.

Whomever ends up with the entire deck of cards is the winner. A player can also win if their opponent runs out of cards in the middle of the war.

There are variations on War that I am looking forward to exploring, but I wanted to start with an easy game for a 5 year old.

You can also add in your own rules. Ethan decided that, "The loser gets lots of popcorn," but only when he lost. The winner also, "got more lemonade," but only when he won. When I lost though, I "just lost." Yes, those can be the challenges when playing with a 5 year old kid!

I tell you though... the game still hasn't lost its novelty to me and I thought fondly of Mrs. Davis and my special time with her!

Sound Off: What was your favorite game growing up?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Sad Life for the Clark Kids- Lots of Chores!

Chores are an important task in the Clark household and one of the benefits about our children getting older is that they can pitch in more. Since most chores seem to fall in the lap of mommy, I am thrilled that chores haven't lost their novelty yet and that my son loves to help mommy get things done around here.

Do I know that the novelty will wear off soon? Of course! I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Here are some reasons why chores are important in my house:

- I am grooming my child to someday be a self-sufficient adult. I don't want my kid going to college and not knowing how to make himself/herself a sandwich, do a load of laundry, or have to be dependent on the people around them.

- I want my kids to know that we are a family unit and in a family unit, it is important for everyone to pitch in. Occasionally, I will hear my son say that he is "bored" with chores or "too tired" to help me out. That is tough luck in this house because everyone has to put forth an effort so that we can ALL enjoy having a clean and organized home.

- Chores are a great teaching opportunity. Sorting clothing by colors teaches your child to group colors together, folding clothing helps them build fine-motor skills, working at a fast pace (setting a timer for completing certain tasks) can be a fun way to exercise.

- I want my son to be a catch someday. Yeah, I am looking waaaaayyyy down the road, but that is sometimes in the back of my mind. What girl would not want to marry someone who knew how to wash his own laundry, could whip up a lovely dinner for her, or who picked up after himself? Those are attributes that would have been on my list when choosing a mate and I want my son to have those kind of attributes too...not only for himself, but for whoever he might end up with someday.

Here are what chores we do in our house:

- My son ( 5 yr old) has to get himself dressed in the morning, put his pajamas in his hamper, and make his bed before coming downstairs.

- He helps me prepare the evening meal and helps set the table for our dinner.

- Emily (2 yr old) & Ethan both have to help pick up their toys before they go to bed in the evening. We put on fast and crazy dance music, set the timer for ten minutes, and the whole family pitches in to pick up the playroom.

- On house cleaning day, Ethan is responsible for picking up his room for me to vacuum and dust it and he has to make sure the playroom is in order. We typically clean while my daughter lays down for her nap so this is a solo operation. I have moved my cleaning day to coincide with our Friday night family night. Basically, it is total bribery and we have to get the playroom picked up so that they can have a pizza and a movie with mommy and daddy. It works out really well.

- Ethan sorts our laundry. I line the hampers up and the baskets and he sorts the laundry for me. He also helps fold the laundry when I wash it.

Here is what I had to overcome in order for this to work in our house:

- Teaching chores is a tedious process, but it is worth the time and effort spent. It took him awhile to get the hang of sorting the loads so we would start with a "question" pile which saved us all time. If he didn't know where something went, he would put that in a separate pile and we would talk about each item as we threw it in the correct basket.

- Things will not be done perfectly and I needed to get over that. When my son helps fold the laundry, it is not going to look like I folded the laundry, or like when I set the table, or have all the toys exactly where I would have put them. This is when you take your "mommy dearest" issues down a notch and enjoy being a mom and having someone to help you.

- I try to use our chore opportunities, not as a time to direct, but to talk with my kids. As we work on putting dinner together and setting the table, we talk about our day at school. It isn't always this way, but I try to reserve this special time with them.

Sound Off: What chores do your children do and what are their ages?

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

When Do You Have the Talk?

Wow, I have been reading a sea of blog entries on teenage pregnancy since the whole thing with the Spears family has come out. Ironically, the feel-good movie of the year is, "Juno" which also deals with the issue of teenage pregnancy.

As a parent of children under five, I have not had the big talk yet. I am really curious who out there has had the talk and at what age you discussed this? Was it you and your husband together? Did the conversation stem from a particular circumstance or was it just something you decided to talk about with your child? Did you talk from the heart or did you tackle the discussion with some learning materials?

I guess what I am asking is, what can we as parents do to help prevent our children from being a statistic?

I don't say this to stir up controversy, but only to understand how other parents have dealt with topics such as these!

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Friday, November 09, 2007

MomAdvice Friday: Potty Training Woes

I received this question today- can any of you please help this mom?

Amy,

I need help. My daughter Gracee is 3 and in preschool 2 half days a week. The problem is she will not go potty at school. She goes potty at home just fine, but not a school, she will hold it all day as soon as she is in the car she goes. She does she where a pull up for night time and nap time usually nap time is dry, but not at night yet. What can I do? She is afraid to even go in public anywhere.

Sincerely,
Melissa

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Friday, October 19, 2007

MomAdvice Friday: Dyslexia?

My Freebie Friday is not very interactive so I thought it might be fun to do a MomAdvice Friday where you all can share your advice on different issues. People can send questions to me (send to amy@momadvice.com) and I can post them each Friday for our community to answer.

I thought I would get the ball rolling with a question about our son. Ethan has been doing really well recognizing his letters and numbers. I have noticed though that all of his papers have his name written completely backwards. Not just the letters written the wrong way, but written in such a way that if you held it up to a mirror, it would be perfect.

He is five years old and I know that with time, this will hopefully straighten itself out, but I was wondering when does his become dyslexia and what can we do to work towards resolving this problem?

If you have had a child that has done this when did this become diagnosed as a disability or when did this correct itself?

I know nothing about this subject, but I am hoping someone else does.

Help!!!! Please!!!

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Enjoying the Last Days of Summer

We are coming to the end of the summer and it is that weird time in the season where I find myself preparing for the seasons ahead while sitting in my bathing suit in hot & humid weather.

Yesterday we enjoyed a day outside. The kids played in the sprinklers while I worked on our laundry and flipped through recipe books for the Christmas season.

I have been working on planning my Christmas treat boxes and have been hitting the thrift store often for pretty tins to put my cookies in. We had so much fun delivering to the firefighters and other people in our family, that I find myself really looking forward to our next delivery. It was a lot of work, but so neat to surprise everyone with treats from our kitchen.

Today I washed all of our fall linens for the beds and they are hanging out in the sunshine. I have a fall quilt in burgundy & navy flapping in the hot sun. My space heater, flannel sheets, and electric blanket will have to wait until it gets nice and cool.

I bought my mums to plant and a pot to put some of them on our step. Next I will be working on my fall decorating around the house. I don't have a ton of decorations, but just a few pieces to add to the fall spirit around here.

Finding acorns lying next to my beach chair reminded me how close we are to being able to enjoy some crisp fall weather. Until then, we will be soaking up the sunshine and enjoying as much time outdoors as we can.

Have you been doing any fall preparations in your house? Are you enjoying these last dog days of summer?

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Check It Out: Playful Reading by Carolyn Munson-Benson


I just got back from the library this evening and I have been searching for great books that would foster a love for reading in my son. I am addicted to reading and I attribute that to my trips to the library with my father. He always was reading and it made me want to read too. As far as I can remember, I have had a true love of reading and that is why it is such a priority in our house.

I found an excellent book called, "Playful Reading: Positive, Fun Ways to Build the Bond Between Preschoolers, Books & You" by Carolyn Munson-Benson, that was exactly what I had been looking for.

In this book, the author shares great books for preschoolers (including a short synopsis about what they are about) and then she shares activities and recipes you can use to go along with the book that you are reading.

My son's favorite book in the world is, "How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?" by Jane Yolen. In fact, he loved that book so much that we created art for his room out of the book jackets. I decided to look up this book and see what the author had suggested. Here were some of her ideas for this book:

- Return to the illustrations and together find letters that spell out the name of each featured dinosaur. You will see the letters on items such as a wall pennant, a line of alphabet blocks and a bed's headboard.

- For fun, act out the meaning of verbs such as mope, moan, sulk, or demonstrate for the child how readers can find the exact meaning of a word by looking it up in a dictionary.

- Talk about your favorite dinosaurs and their reactions in the book.

- Turn inexpensive plastic dinosaurs into props that stimulate use and growth of language. Print their names on index cards and make a museum. You can also make a landscape backdrop for the dinosaurs out of boxes, crayons and construction paper.

- Have the child arrange the dinosaurs by size, type, and number. Then have them group them by similar characteristics (e.g. meat eater) or in groups of their own kind.

- Let your child tell stories about the dinosaurs, but don't be shocked by gory or gross stories because this is developmentally normal.

- Visit a museum and learn more about the dinosaurs.

This is just one example of the great activities and books that have been chosen for this book. I am writing down a lot of notes for this book, which might mean that it would be a nice addition to our own family library.

I plan to do the dinosaur story with our son this week and incorporate some of the activities. I also thought Michelle, from Scribbit, had a great idea for chiseling artifacts that might be a fun assignment to go along with our story.

Sound Off: What is your child's favorite book? Do you have any books that you could recommend for helping your child learn to read or developing a love of reading in them?

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

WSBT-TV: How to Pack a Great School Lunch

Here is a link to this morning's segment on packing frugal lunches for your child. I am hoping to sit down and write more ideas down in the next week and I will be sure to let you guys know when this article goes up.

In the meantime, print out a little love note to your sweet children and make their day!

Sound Off: What are some ways that you save money on your child's lunch?

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Homeschooling on a Budget

Jenn, over at Frugal Upstate, has an excellent post today on how to homeschool on a budget. Guest blogger, Alexandra, from Happy Hearts at Home, gives the scoop on homeschooling. She lists tons of free resources and curriculum that you can use for your children.

This has been something that has been on my heart recently. I am really torn about what I should do with my son. Next year he will begin school and we have a few options in our area. I am not completely sold on any of the options though. Elementary schools seem fine, but middle schools and the high schools are scaring me. Private schools are not in our budget, but am I organized enough to take on an endeavor like homeschooling my child? Am I even smart enough to do something like that? Are there other people in the community who are attempting it?

What advice can you homeschooling moms give to someone who is just starting out? Why do you do it? What have you gained from it? What is the downside? Any books you can recommend?

Please share!

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

WSBT-TV: Streamlining Your Mornings

Here is this week's segment on how to streamline your morning routine with your children.

Sound Off: What are your tips for creating a smooth morning with your kids?

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Monday, August 13, 2007

An Ideal Morning: First Day Back to School

Today was my son's first day back to school and I tried to think of everything that we would need to prepare for a smooth morning together.

Last night I preset the coffeemaker (that MUST be done first!) so that I could have my cup of coffee. Together we picked out what he wanted to wear to school the next day and we set it in a basket beside his bed. I put everything there, even his shoes and socks, and he was instructed to dress himself and put his clothes in the hamper when he woke up.

In the kitchen, I poured his bowl of cereal, laid out a banana and put a glass of water out for him. I also had a card tucked away that our Children's Ministry Director, from our church, had given to me for his first day back. I wrote a special note to him about how proud we were of him. Hanging on his chair was his new "Cars" backpack, a special treat to start his year.

We had the best morning together and had plenty of time to spare before climbing in the car to take him to school. I was worried that we would be rushing, since we were used to the afternoon time session versus the morning, but we did well.

I tried to think of everything and we had the ideal morning I had hoped for. Best of all, I am getting a little extra time with my daughter, who sometimes gets the short end of the stick since she is the second child in the house. We took a walk and played outside. It was nice to get to be just with her. Last year, she was napping during this time so this is the first time that we have had some quality time together for just the two of us.

The only thing that ended up being forgotten was the backpack, which was tucked under my son's seat in the car. In his mad rush into school, he had forgotten the special backpack that he was so proud of.

He had a great day with his class and I am so happy that he is enjoying school so much! I know that this will change so we will enjoy his enthusiasm while it lasts.

Related Readings:

Back to School
Back to School Lunch Ideas
Weeding Through Your Child's Artwork Creatively

Sound Off: What are your tricks for making your mornings run smoothly when school starts?

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Creating Family Traditions

It has always been important to me that we create traditions for our family that our children will always remember. That is why I really appreciated the efforts of a local author, Pamela Ogren, who has published her book, "Creating Happy Memories: 100+ Ways to Start & Strengthen Family Traditions."

The author was a single mother, who felt that it was important to her to create family traditions of her own, particularly since it was only herself and her daughter. She wanted to be able to give her daughter traditions and then wanted to inspire other families to create traditions in their own homes. She pooled together traditions from national celebrities and local residents, who had special traditions that she felt families could benefit from.

Her own favorite tradition that she did for her daughter was something she began to doing when her daughter was only an infant. "I wrote letters to her beginning shortly after she was born. I did it throughout the years. When she graduated from college, I put each of the letters in a new linen envelope and tied them with a ribbon and gave them to her for her graduation."

Since I began our own family, I have always tried to create new traditions for our children. I am hoping that these will be memories that they will share with their own family someday or that they will actually implement them in their own house.

Some of the things that I am trying to do for our children are:

1. On the first day of December, I set a basket out with small slips of paper and pens. Each person in the family is supposed to write something about someone else in the family that they appreciate about them and stick them in their stocking. On Christmas morning, we have something fun to look forward to opening, that centers around family rather than gifts.

2. We began doing a Christmas Jar this last year, that was a roaring hit for the kids. I didn't get around to it this summer, but I was thinking of doing jars for the summer too. For the summer, I am going to tie blue and yellow ribbons around each jar. One will be a jar of "Rainy Day" activities and then the other jar will include "Sunny Day" activities. I fill the jars with free or inexpensive activities that the children can do. My son looked forward to drawing from the jars each day and it gave us a great sense of family when doing these things together.

3. I have started a Christmas journal for the children. In the front of the journal is a pocket for pictures and letters. I have started putting our family Christmas card in the front and the letters to Santa in there. Inside I am including things like what the children asked for from Santa, what their favorite holiday recipes were, what their favorite gifts were, and am highlighting any special activities we have done together. I will give this to them when they are grown.

4. I have started a new journal of the funny things that they have said to me. I always think that I will remember this stuff, but it usually slips my mind. I wanted to start keeping a journal of those funny statements so that they can laugh about it someday. My son, who is five now, is at that stage where he says the cutest things. I would just hate to lose those memories.

5. Every Friday night we try to do a family night together. If something falls on Friday that prevents us from having our night together, we rearrange our schedule to make it another night. I make a homemade pizza or a fun dish and we rent a movie from the library or just spend the evening outside with the kids. Dinner is usually followed by a special treat like a slushie or milkshake. The kids love this time and we try to make them the center of attention for the entire evening.

Sound Off: What are some family traditions that you have implemented in your house?

Related Readings:

Creating Holiday Traditions

Bring Back Family Night
Fun Family Game Nights
The Christmas Jar
Making Real Christmas Memories
Christmas Morning with the Clark's
Eve of Christmas Morning Recap


Note: Creating Happy Memories can be purchased through the above link, at the Hammes Bookstore on the Notre Dame campus, or you can send a check to: Corby Books, P.O. Box 93, Notre Dame, IN 46556 for $11.95.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Teaching My Kid to Say Thank You

I decided to do some different types of thank you cards this year. I ran across a cute Martha Stewart stamp set with numbers on it, from the Michael's Craft Store. The set included two sets of ten numbers (0-9) in two different styles for $14.99 for all of the stamps total. I figured I could use these in the future for each of the kid's thank you notes and could also use them as invitations for our parties.

The blank note cards were on sale for $1.50 and included twenty cards. Each of the cards were stamped with the number "5" on it and we wrote out a note of thankfulness for the great birthday gifts he received.

It is important to me to teach my children to be thankful for what they receive. I believe it is the key to getting a lot of what you want in life. People take notice when you are grateful and will want to do more for you because they know how much you appreciate things. For me to just write a thank you note on his behalf, however, doesn't involve him in learning gratitude. I want him to participate in helping with these, even if he can't write yet.

Next to each of my notes, he drew a picture to help with the card. Of course, what he says the pictures are often become more funny than the picture itself. I ask him to explain what each picture is and write a subtitle. For this set of cards, here were some of his subtitled responses:

Picture of a Door: "You Can Always Come to Our House" (This sounded like he could write for Hallmark, don't you think?)

Picture ?: Ethan begins laughing, "We don't know what this is. It is a very strange thing."

Picture of a Mommy with a giant dress:
Ethan: "This is mommy when you have a baby inside you."
Me: (About to PASS OUT!) "But I don't have a baby inside me."
Ethan: "Yes, you do!"
Me: (Getting agitated) "No, I DON'T"
Ethan: "Yes, when you had EMILY inside of you. That is what I am talking about."

Isn't it fun what our children can come up with?

Sound Off: How do you teach your children gratitude?

Related Readings:

Why Being Thankful is So Important
Raising Creative Kids
Raising Financially Responsible Teens
I Heart You!
What is This Secret?

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What's In Your Emergency Kit?

One of the entries on Lifehacker this week, featured this Momergency Kit that is full of items a mom might need in an emergency situation. We all know that emergencies come up when we least expect them, so it is definitely a great idea and something that every mom can use. Check out their list for some ideas of things you could be carrying around.

We have a lot of emergencies that happen throughout our week. Some of my “emergencies” include an extra long wait time at the doctor’s office, a dinner out where the waitress has decided to take her break while we are waiting to order, the time where I was stuck with my kid’s at that family member’s house who doesn’t like kids and has nothing childproof in their home…those are the types of emergencies that seem to come with regularity in my day.

I have a little bag of tricks that I like to keep in my car so that we have something to do when these emergencies arise. Some of the things in my emergency kit include:

Flash cards
Coloring Books & Crayons
Snacks- Cheerios, granola bars, fruit snacks
Small toys for the baby
Empty Sippy Cup (because we are always somewhere where we need one and there are none to be found)

Do you have anything that you like to have in your bag for these little emergencies? Please help the moms out there looking for new ideas for their own bag of tricks!

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Repurposed: The Sandbox

I might be among the minority here, but I detest sandboxes. I love for my kids to get to play with them at other people's houses, but cleaning up the mess afterwards is no fun at all.
When our son was little though, our son's therapist had recommended using one of these because our son had a true aversion to anything that felt funny to him. He would really freak out about sand, grass, or anything that would stick to him. The sandbox provided great therapy to help him get over these issues and now he is as dirty and sticky as any other child on earth.

Now that he had grown out of this issue, I was not looking forward to cleaning up sand around our house. We also had not bought any sand yet this year and I was trying to think of a new purpose for the sandbox. That is when I got the brilliant (probably not as brilliant as I think, but it was brilliant to me!) idea to repurpose this into a small baby wading pool.


Our daughter is seventeen months old and still not walking. She wants to be part of the sprinkler fun, but this requires me running through them with her and some days I just want to park myself in a chair while they play. Creating a space for her to play in water would be great, but I did not want to deal with those kiddy pools again this year (1. they are a pain in the rear 2. they get nasty quickly 3. they are a pain in the rear). I thought our sandbox would be a great substitute because it is not too deep, but deep enough for a toddler to enjoy a little splashing. It is also not deep enough that it requires a family of four to use all of their strength to tip the thing over and cause permanent grass damage from resting on our lawn.

Lucky for us, it is also deep enough for mommy & daddy to pop their toes in when the kids are in bed and enjoy a drink & chat.

What is something that you have repurposed in your home that has been a roaring success?

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New Article: Online Safety Chat

I got the opportunity to interview Brandon Watson, CEO of IMSafer and board member of the Family Online Safety Institute on online safety for children. He was kind enough to answer all of my questions from when is it appropriate to have a computer in your child's room, how to respect your child's privacy but keep them safe, & basic things that we should teach our children about being safe online. Don't miss this article!

For parents of older children, I am curious if you have had this talk yet with your child? What did you teach them? Do you have parental blockers on your computer? Do you monitor their chatting or just trust that they are doing the right thing?

For those of us who love a freebie, IMSafer offers a free membership or you can take advantage of a premium membership for only $30 a year.

Many thanks to Brandon for giving us the opportunity to get answers to these important questions!

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Making a Safe Haven for Baby

My daughter is in that lovely stage where she is in everything, and I do mean everything. I recently had posted about creating a kid-friendly office, and now I am just sharing some easy ways that we are making things a little safer around our home for Emily.

One of Emily's favorite hobbies is yanking down all of the items on our bookshelves. She rips out the papers and has a blast shredding our magazines. To make it safe for her (and to save our precious mementos!) I cleared the bottom shelves and filled them with things just for her. Pictured on this shelf is a basket full of toys that she can play with and several of her board books for her to read. This makes her feel like a big girl, and gives her some things to do while I am working.

One of Emily's other favorite things to do was to tear apart the DVD cases and the inserts that came with them. I found our movies were getting banged up and things were getting mixed up. My husband's games for his Playstation and the memory cards were also fair game in the mixing-up-discs game.

I headed over to Target and got this CD case for $9.99. In the first half of the case, I filled it with the children's movies so that they would be easily accessible for us and anyone who happened to be helping us with the kids. The second half of the case was filled with my husband's games and his memory cards, so they wouldn't get destroyed or lost.

This was a great solution for baby-proofing, but it was also a great way to cut down on some clutter in our entertainment unit. I went ahead and tossed all of the cardboard covers to our videos and stacked them on a high shelf away from little hands. On each side of the VCR is a stack of movies. On one side are the older kids movies (for my son) & on the opposite side are all of the baby movies (for our daughter). It has made things easier to find and also reduced the amount of clutter around our television.

Emily also loves to help out in the kitchen while I am getting our dinner prepared. I leave access to some of the fun cupboards for her to play in. These just contain the kid's plates and cups or our bins of plastic containers. I also have a container filled with her little Leapfrog alphabet sets for her to play with while I get everything ready.

What are some creative ways you make your home safe for your children? Any helpful tips for mothers in the trenches right now? I am all ears!

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Raising Healthy Children Book Giveway Results


I have five copies of the “Good Kids Bad Habits”, by Jennifer Trachtenberg, book to offer up to those of you who entered our book giveaway contest.

If your tips were chosen for the entry and I have not received your mailing address, I will be emailing you today to get that from you. I am planning to ship these out this week to each of you.

Thank you to everyone who entered and much thanks to HarperCollins for shipping us enough copies that I can now keep my own!

I was asked myself how we teach our own children to be healthy individuals. Part of it is my background in studying nutrition in school, part of it is wanting to incorporate a healthy lifestyle in our children, and part of it is just pure luck.

My children love their veggies and I have never had any problems getting them to eat anything green. It has become a running joke among some of my girlfriends that I have taken my son to McDonald’s and brought him a peanut butter & jelly with carrot sticks in lieu of a Happy Meal. People were asking me how I do that and the fact was that my son just preferred that over the Happy Meal and asked me to make his lunch. Who can argue with that?

We always try to offer fruits and vegetables at every meal. Carrot sticks, apple slices, dried fruits & nut trail mixes, broccoli hearts, green peas, bananas- these are just a few of our children’s favorite treats.

For those who need to be more inventive, be sure to visit my Picky Eater article and Picky Eater recipes for tips on getting your little one in the fresh fruits & veggies mode.

Many thanks again to all of our participants. You all are a wealth of knowledge and I look forward to offering more giveaways in the future!

Winning Entry #1:
I believe that raising healthy children starts with quality time. I choose to be home with my children.

I can limit television time and encourage active playtime using their imagination.

I can teach them about healthy eating habits by teaching them to choose healthy foods. These might include fresh fruit and veggies, yogurt, etc.

I can encourage them to be healthy and fit by doing so myself. Remember the old saying,

"Teach what you preach"? If they see Mom and Dad as healthy individuals they will want to choose that as well. Exercise, run, walk and play with them outside. Go to the playground and park.

I think the #1 key to a healthy child is encourage and being a role model yourself.
Marva

Winning Entry #2:
Instead of having your kids in front of the TV or video game machine, take them to the library and let them have their own library card. Also, let them pick a subject to research, such as a certain bug or animal. You could even let them research cultures or habitats. Help them learn how to look for the books. Then when it comes time to check out their books, help them do the self check out. Have them also be responsible for returning books. Have a weekly library day scheduled. Spend 30 minutes a night reading these books with your child. If they are old enough, they can spend time drawing pictures etc. of the things they like in the books they are reading.

Also, a lot of communities have organic fruits and veggies delivered to a central location for a weekly fee. The boxes contain a variety of new and different products. The boxes in our community give us all different recipes to try with the variety of fruits and veggies. The cost is only 28.00 every other week. The kids like to see what is new in the box. This also supports local agriculture. The recipe ideas help the children try new things.
Candie


Winning Entry #3
I have seven children, ranging from age 9 to 28. We are all very healthy, although I can’t totally take credit for it. Obviously, our genes play a part. I have made it a priority to incorporate healthful habits into our way of life, and am happy to share what works for us. Some of my "tips" may be unexpected, but I believe the following all contribute to some extent:

1) Mental and moral health affects our physical bodies. Our immune system gets weakened when we carry bitterness or guilt. A clear conscience is a tremendous asset.

2) Good oral hygiene prevents germs from spreading though our circulatory system. Regular flossing and brushing should be incorporated into our schedule.

3) Good sleep gives our bodies the opportunity to rest and recover from the demands of the day. People who chronically burn the candle at both ends compromise the body's ability to repair itself.

4) Obviously, good nutrition helps. This means different things to different people. I have a friend who never gives her children sweets, while I allow mine to eat some. On the other hand, I eschew fast food, both because I can't control what's in it, and because it's more expensive than homemade. Our kids get soda, for example, about once a month. That way, they don't feel deprived, and I'm not worried the empty calories will affect them too much, since they also eat good food. My daughter takes the time to make yogurt for her family, which is very nutritious. I have always made our own bread, using whole wheat flour, because I believe it's worth the time and effort. I have tried to use beans at least once a week and tuna likewise, for their health benefits. Minestrone is one of the cheapest, most nutritious and easy entrees to make. I just soak my beans overnight, start crocking in the morning, then add lentils, barley, carrots, onions, garlic, meat, and tomato sauce in the middle. I rarely use convenience foods, preferring to make our own pizza, macaroni and cheese, chili, chicken vegetable soup, etc., from scratch. My kids can help make these!

5) Although I realize there are circumstances when mothers cannot breastfeed their babies, it is the best first food. Formulas try to duplicate it, but there's nothing like the real thing for the right balance of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, mother's milk does contain specific antibodies for extra protection.

6) Hydration is important to help the body digest food properly and get rid of waste materials. I make a point of drinking plenty of water during the day, and encourage my children to do likewise. Although I do drink coffee and milk, I limit our sodas and even fruit juices. Whole fruit is better.

7) Exercise plays a vital role in maintaining health. I have always walked at least an hour a day, and often exhort my children to go play outside. We watch maybe five hours of television a year, and a video every month or so, to minimize the couch potato tendencies so prevalent today. Any activity, whether walking, bicycling, swimming, or jumping on the trampoline, helps the immune system.

8) Maintain a good weight. I weigh a little less than when I got married, and work hard to keep it that way. None of my kids is obese, and they've never had to diet.

9) Make sure your kids realize smoking and drugs are bad habits to start. I homeschool my children, so they aren't exposed to a lot of the pressure many other kids experience, but I feel a good parent-child relationship will make children less likely to be tempted to go with the flow of their peers.

It does take time and effort to do the above, but I'd rather have an ounce of prevention than a pound of cure. Aside from the few emergency room visits we've had to make for broken bones, we rarely have to go to the doctor. We do have the usual annual checkups, but that's about it.
Olga

Winning Entry #4
We've been going to the YMCA for a while now and in the past I've just put all of my kids in childcare and gone to the cardio room to do machines by myself. Lately, though, I've been taking at least the older ones (and by older I'm talking 8 and 6 - the 5 year old has also asked to go) to the gym and running on the track with them. They think it's a lot of fun and they see me exercise (which is not something I love, but something I'm working on)- so we're learning to fit this into our family together.


Another thing I recently did was to buy (gasp) a bag of shredded carrots (there was a good reason I bought them that way - I was in a hurry to take a nutritious meal to a family at the hospital that night - in the future I will just shred them myself). They are the perfect munching size and my kids really liked them, liked their texture because they were matchstick size. This is going to be a good snack for them as opposed to the basket of chocolate Easter eggs that I'm usually tempted to let them dip into for a snack... We're trying to make changes as a family, so when I let them have input into that process (choose your favorite fruit for me to put on the grocery list, etc), they are more likely to participate in the eating of said healthier things. Megan

Winning Entry #5
Here is my list of suggestions, or we could call them lessons learned because I became a mother at 18, a child myself. One of my goals is to encourage mothers, most especially young, single mothers and share with them that their life isn’t over, and there is hope to give their child a good life. It takes prayer and a lot of hard work and determination!

I think the most important part of motherhood is love and caring. Being there in a way that makes a child feel secure and loved - hugs, kisses and ILUs go a long way towards raising a child that doesn't need to look elsewhere for comfort (drugs, sex, food, etc). Trust your child and believe they are capable of the best. Expect them to do the smart thing, the right thing and don't always assume because they are kids, they won't get it right. I asked my twelve year old daughter not long ago why and she said that I'm a great Mom, and she said "because you trust us and treat us like we're not stupid kids" I talk to my kids and tell them the truth. Sometimes that's hard, but I don't hide things unless it's something they really can't handle as a child. Children know when we're hiding things from them and it's scary. The explanation doesn't have to be detailed, but just an acknowledgement and reassurance makes all the difference.

Other than that, here's a short list I'd swear by:

1. Children need a lot of sleep. 8 hours is a minimum, more is better. Set a bed time and stick to it. Allowing your kids to stay up until 11 or 12 because they are difficult to get to bed leads to children who can't concentrate in school.


2. Don't do everything for your kids. It handicaps them and makes them feel worthless. Give them chores, allow them to think and work through problems. Don't fix all of their problems. Comfort them when they're sad, but allow them to be sad. They'll know how to deal with their emotions when they're grown if you allow them to work through it in a safe environment when they're young.

3. Find out what your kids are interested in and help them develop that. Steer them toward an interest of yours, but don't be disappointed if they don't want to be a sports nut, a ballerina, etc. It's THEIR life. Allow them to find themselves and make their own mistakes. My S20 hates sports. DH loves them. Our son tried to be good at baseball to please his Dad. He wasn't good at it and was always falling short. He walked off the field at 10 years old and refused to play again. His Dad was disappointed. It took awhile, but Dad finally realized that his son is interested in diving and robotics. He's pretty proud now... not of those few baseball trophys, but of the son that will be a college honor grad with a degree in engineering next year.. and, he earned scholarships that entirely paid his way through school. Allowing our children to devote their energy to their dreams and not ours create adults who know how and what to be passionate about.

4. Don't try to treat your kids equally and make everything the same. Acknowledge that they are individuals with individual needs as they're growing. Kids that think things have to always be equal and fair will likely turn into jealous people. Sometimes one of my children will get more attention and love than another. If they do, it's because right then, they need that. If I see one of their siblings feeling left out, I talk to them about it and explain what's going on so they'll understand. I also explain the when they need their parents, we'll be there in the same way for them. I can honestly say that we've never had a case of sibling rivalry and jealousy between our four kids.

5. Have weekly family meetings where everyone gets a chance to talk and resolve problems. Share the good things and bad things about the week. Celebrate when someone changes an annoying habit, or progress is made on problems. This give the whole family a chance to vent, be supportive and understand what each other is thinking. Make it fun, but serious.

6. Don't fight with your kids teachers. Support them unless they are doing things that harm your child. Kids need to know that their teachers have their parents respect and support. It's just a bad idea to create conflict with the person who has so much of your child's time every day. If there is a disagreement with a teacher, don't say bad things about the teacher in front of the child. Meet with the principle and work it out like adults.

7. Be consistent. Have rules and enforce them. Don't threaten a punishment you're not willing to follow through on. Be firm, kind and forgiving.

Thanks for giving me a chance to share Amy! Our kids aren't perfect, but I think they're turning out pretty good :) Our family motto is: Live Simply, Love generously, Care deeply, Speak kindly, Laugh freely and Leave the rest to God.
Sheila

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