Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Afternoon Schedule...

I figured out right when school started that we needed a PLAN when the kids got home from school.  Snack was hurriedly were running in and out of my house...there was no homework even thought about...

So, Week 2 went a lot differently than Week 1.  On Monday I sat the kids down and told them of the new plan.  It is going well.  Here it is...

-Go pick up Betsy.

-Get home with about 10 minutes to spare before the bus comes.  We run in for her to go potty and us both to grab a Pop-Ice and we head out and wait for the bus.

-We grab mail and head inside.

-I make the kids a snack (They get one "healthy treat" and one "sweet treat"...Examples: an apple and a Reese's cup, applesauce and a cookie, watermelon and a Pop-Ice.)

-While they eat their snack I go through the mail (new folder system will be in place soon!), fold clothes that I had moved to the dryer at lunch, and empty the dishwasher (if I had started it that morning).  For some reason I have found that if I am sitting at the table grilling them about their day they give me blank stares...but if I mull around the kitchen working on these chores then they will talk and talk, so that's what I do!

-After snack we head upstairs (if it is Monday, we do Manners Mondays now), then they each sit at their desk and do their homework or a "lesson".  I use the Summer Bridge workbooks (Thanks Sarah!) and the Kumon workbooks.  I also have several dry-erase books that I have gotten at consignment sales that I like to use for handwriting practice.

This takes about 30 minutes and it identifies areas we need to work on.  Below is an example.  After Jay did this math lesson I could see that Jay needs practice with his 5.  With a large class, this may not be picked up at school...but one on one we worked through it.  We practiced writing "5" on a writing board" throughout the week to reinforce the correct way the 5 goes.

We also work on things that the teacher mentions in the Wednesday newsletter that comes home.  For example last week she mentioned that some kids were writing their names in all caps and she was teaching the name to be in Cap and Lowercase.  I knew Jay was writing his name in all caps, so that day we worked on how he should write his name going forward.  We also work on the teacher's "words of the week" and talk about their meanings.

(I had school year lessons...and summer lessons...growing up.  I hated them and despised how my friends got to run out immediately and play while I couldn't play 'till I was finished.  Even though I hated them then, I appreciate them now!...Right now my kids really like them.  I bet that will change in a few years, but I'm hoping that once this "lesson time" is set...they will be used to it when "real" homework rolls in.) 

-After the "lesson" we read books together or listen to a Joy School song/story.  (Also about 30 minutes.)

-At 4:00 it is FUN TIME!  I've decided that at their current age every day can't be play-outside-with-friends-day, so on Monday/Wednesday/Friday they head out with friends.  On Tuesday/Thursday they play at home (TV show, free play with babies/Legos/dress-up clothes/doll-house, walk, backyard porch time with paints, etc.) or (after I gauge tired levels) we may go on an outing to the library, pool, park or zoo.

-At 5:30 it's time to be back inside before Daddy gets home.  They have 15 minutes of timed (sound familiar?) room clean up.

-They wind down before supper with a TV show, currently Flipper is always picked, while JB and I talk/cook dinner together.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Schedules (part 2)...

Thank you for your comments on the last post.  I've decided to leave the morning bed making to the kids...the kids do a decent job and will get better with practice...I may straighten up a little after the fact, but y'all have inspired me to not give up on them.

I love the idea to take the mail vertical.  I'm on the lookout this week for folder holders and cute folders!  I already have a HUGE bulletin board in the laundry room as "command central" for school schedules and calendars...beside of it will be the perfect place for the "mail station"!

15 minutes downstairs (mornings)

Okay, so after my 15 minutes upstairs  I head downstairs for 15 more minutes (cue timer!).
-Start the washer with the clothes I brought down.
-Open the blinds.
-Straighten pillows and make sure coffee tables are clear and wiped off.
-Shake out tablecloths or change them (if needed).
-Windex windows (if needed) and sliding glass door (ALWAYS needed).
-Start/Unload dishwasher (except silverware-Bet's chore)
-Wipe down counters and appliances with a soapy cloth.
-Wipe down powder room sink (if needed).
-Change powder room towel (if needed).
-Clean powder room toilet (if needed).
-Water porch plants.
-Take inventory of paper towels, toilet paper, Glade Plug-ins, dog treats, detergents, soaps, etc.

Up next...Afternoon schedules with the kids (including Manners Mondays).

Friday, August 26, 2011


Since we all had brand-new schedules in May, when I went to part-time days, we used the summer to get used to our new days.  I did not have a firm schedule for every day...I treated it like "summer" and we were very spontaneous.
Summer Fun!  (Photo taken last summer.)
Now that school has started I've been working on our weekly schedule.  One for ME and one for the KIDS.  My next few posts will be about this...Areas that I KNOW I need HELP with are Groceries and Mail!  If you have an awesome SIMPLE system to share with me that works for you PLEASE do!!!

Inspired by Fly Lady (Reality Check-I do NOT use her entire cleaning schedule.  She is AMAZING!  I just grab bits of it that work for me.), one thing that has been SO helpful to my "choose to love your house" time is the TIMER!  I've been using the timer for a while with "time-outs", but have just this summer started using it for cleaning/organizing and am pretty much addicted!  (JB even commented the other day that he feels like he is on the set of "60 Minutes".)

I have a tendency to "putter" A LOT and the timer keeps me focused. 
putter-verb To be active, but not excessively busy, at a task or a series of tasks

Every morning I time myself for 15 minutes upstairs and 15 minutes downstairs.  Within those 30 minutes I get an AMAZING amount of things done!  I really don't even believe it myself!  Since I'm timing myself I don't "putter" or get distracted.  I am efficient and a bit of adrenaline even kicks in!  The BEST part is that when I am through with this 30 minutes each morning I know that I have accomplished SO MUCH and my day has just started!!!  I can be more focused on my work when I'm not thinking of the million things that aren't done around me.  AND I also know that I won't be discouraged (or embarrassed!) to invite someone inside who may pop by for a visit.  I am satisfied and proud of my home when it is clean!

15 minutes upstairs (mornings):

-I open curtains and make ALL the beds.  (I was having the kids make theirs, but they weren't making them like I like and I had to look at their unmade bed until they got home (when they do their 15 minutes of timed clean up)...which bugged me.
-Put the most "full" clothes basket at the top of the stairs. (I have three bins in our closet we all use labeled Darks. Colors. Whites.)  If none of the three bins are full I grab towels or sheets, but something is going down for the washer.
-Put things back in their places in my room and bathrooms.
-Check showers and bathrooms (and supply drawers) and see if anything (shampoo, conditioner, soap, toilet paper, etc.) needs to come up from the laundry room or go on the store list.

I have seen this trick on several blogs:  I keep a bin upstairs (under the guest sink) and a bin downstairs with large trash bags, Windex, paper towels, a "Chore Boy" scrubber, toilet cleaning wands/scrubbers, foam soap refill bottle, Magic Eraser and Chlorox wipes to make the next steps QUICK.

-Empty wastebaskets. (if needed)
-Wipe down bathroom counters with Chlorox wipes.  Use "Chore Boy" to scrub toothpaste off sink. (if needed)
-Clean toilets. (if needed)
-Windex windows and mirrors that need it.  (There is ALWAYS a window that needs it!...One day I will miss wiping away those grubby little hand and face prints!-Sigh.)
-"Magic-erase" any scuffs I see.
-Fill soap dispensers. (if needed)

15 minutes downstairs (mornings) coming up next!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What is the one thing that gets you through the week?

This was asked recently at a retreat.  A year ago I probably would have said..."Diet Coke?"

However, last year when I started attending Wednesday night Bible Study this answer came extremely easy to me.  "Weekly Bible Study.  Hands down."

My Wednesday night group started back last night...after a summer of being off...and I have so much to say about how sometimes we forget about our best parenting resource.  If we just READ...everything becomes so CLEAR.  We joke that we wish our baby came with an instruction manual.  We WERE sent home with an "instruction manual" when we left the hospital...The New Testament.

This post to be continued...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Follow Up to Friday Treats...

Give and you shall receive.

Isn't that SO true!  I can get so wrapped up in my SELF that I sometimes forget that...but when you GIVE to friends, neighbors, family, strangers, etc. it always comes back in some way whether it be warm fuzzies, fond memories, or a ROCK?!

Jay came home from school Monday and as we were sitting at the kitchen table eating a snack he got a BIG smile on his face and his little expression that says "I just remembered something!".  He reached into his little pocket and pulled out a ROCK.  He said, "Mommy, I found this rock on the sidewalk today at recess.  I hid it in my pocket, took it to the bathroom with me.  I washed it off with soap and dried it off and put it back in my pocket for you!"

Don't even get me started how happy this made me that my sweet boy was thinking of me.  That simple rock placed on my desk makes me smile all throughout my day. 

We've both been brave throughout this first week of school, but I think somehow he knew I needed my own little treat that said, "I'm thinking of you."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Friday Treats...

When I was growing up there were some days when I would get home from school and there was a treat on my bed.  Recently I asked my mom about those treats.  She said she would put a treat on my bed on Fridays.  "Only if I had a good week?," I asked.  "No...good or bad, just a treat for making it through the week," was her response.

Bat bag for Jay.
I loved the treats I used to get and I loved her response.  Sometimes kids (and adults!) need a little treat "just because"...a treat that says..."You are special.  When I wasn't with you this week, I saw this and thought of you."

"Tangled" shirt for Betsy.
 We made it through our first week of school...and believe me, there were many times I thought of them.  Hopefully they thought of me some too!  :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Cemetary Visit..with children.

My brother and Grandpa share the same birthday.  It has been a tradition in our family to always celebrate their birthdays together.  Their birthday, and Christmas, were the two times each year when my mom's whole family would be together and there were really great times with really great memories.

I love how traditions evolve and one year Grandpa started buying them matching shirts and each year they would wear the same shirt at the party.

The thing about traditions is that they are AMAZING when you have them, but when something changes and you don't have them then it feels like a little piece of you is missing.  Bart and Grandpa were extremely close...for Bart every birthday will be bittersweet.  I think that is why it is so important as our life evolves that we create new traditions to fill some of that void within us.

{Sidenote:  If you happen to be a couple that every year fusses about which family you will spend time with because of this tradition of hers or that tradition of his.  After the heated debate make sure that you reflect on how blessed you both are to come from families that had established traditions that affected each of you so much that you were willing to debate them!}

That all being said, Monday was their birthday and my Aunt Nancy called me to see if I would like to go with her to the cemetary after I picked the kids up...she would bring some they could feed the fish and turtles (there is a pond there).  I agreed and without much thought of conversations that might come up with a 3 and 5 year old in a cemetary we got out of the car.  All they had heard was, "We are visiting Grandpa."

Jay:  "Where's Grandpa?"
Me:  "Honey, he's not here.  You know where Grandpa is."
Jay:  "He's in heaven with God."
Betsy:  "So is this heaven?"
Me (finally clueing in):  "No, this isn't heaven."
Betsy:  "But there is Jesus." (points to statue of Jesus)
Me:  "Yes, that is only statue of Jesus...Jesus is in heaven.  Heaven is not here on Earth.  When you die your spirit, soul, personality, everything that makes up YOU goes to heaven to be with God and your body stays here.  Your body is just a shell for you to use while you are on Earth.  After you die and everything else is gone your body is buried here in the ground to remember you by."
Jay:  "So Grandpa is in the ground?"
Me:  "Yes, right here by Grammie, his wife."
Jay (shrugging his little shoulders):  "Well, let's just dig him up!"
Me (Not sure whethere to laugh or cry...chose to laugh):  "No...I wish it was that easy...Let's go feed the fish!"

I was in no way prepared for this impromptu conversation about death, heaven, burials...but somehow it turned out informative and not too creepy.  (Considering where we were, I like to think that maybe there were a few spirits helping!)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Mom's Prayer on the First Day of School.

Image Source: Redbubble
Their backpacks are loaded and their faces are scrubbed and their lunch cards are full.
And I know you'll walk with them, Lord. You always do. But a mom still has to ask:
Will You walk with them? 
Will You whisper to them what they need to hear, when I'm not there to whisper it?
Will You please, oh please, cover their school with the protection only You can give, and
will You keep harm far away?
Will You make their minds strong and ready to learn? 
Will You help them understand that hard work honors the One who created them?
Will You guide their teachers, giving them patience and wisdom and creativity and more patience? 
Will You bless them for their efforts?
Will You love all those children there, the ones whose lunch accounts aren't full, the ones who feel alone? 
Will You teach my children to be kind and unselfish and to love those who are different from them?
Will You point them back toward home just as soon as you can?
Lord, I give them to You today, and everyday, trusting them to Your care.
In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Source:  Six Happy Hearts

A prayer is the best way to find peace...and I know I'll need this prayer MULTIPLE times tomorrow!!!  The best of luck to all of my friends with little K students headed to school tomorrow!  I will be thinking of {and praying for} each of you!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Family Night...

At the Power of Moms Retreat I went to earlier this year we talked about many great ideas about solidifying your family.  What it kind of reminded me of was instead of just viewing your family as "any group" view them as "THE group". 
  • A metaphor would be a student at a school verses a student that went "Greek".  No matter what view you have of Greek organizations you can definitely appreciate the BOND they have with each other. 
  • Another example would be an employee of just any company versus an employee of a company that really makes you feel a part of much so that you are PROUD to associate yourself with it.
This really made sense to me...and it made sense that if estabished early with small children that it would create family-centered teens (hopefully that will be true!).

To enhance this bond, mottos, awards, expectations of behavior, financial discussions, rules, special occasions, service ideas, etc. all are discussed and really molded to work for your family "group" (Just like you would for a Greek group or a corporation).  The theme being:  This is what we believe, how we act and what we care about in OUR family.

So...for a start, we have worked on a Family Motto and established a Family Night.

"Family Walk Night" at a local park
On family night you can DO just have a presence of mind that you are all doing it together.  Almost all of ours don't cost a dime.  Anything you make a big deal about and call it by a special name kids will gravitate towards it.  Examples of our "family night" activities:

"Family Game Night"
"Family Walk Night"
"Family-Play together outside-Night"
"Family-Dance on the porch-Night"
"Family Movie Night"
"Family Swim Night"

I always try and work in some type of confidence booster.  For example, if we were playing games, we may each say something we think is special about the person that wins the game.  Or if we are throwing the ball outside together I'll work in the first "round" that whoever catches the ball has to say something they think is special about the person that threw it to them.

***Reality check.  Sometimes "family night" games can turn sour.  By no means are they perfect.  Whining and bickering WILL happen some (from both children and hubby).  Example:  A recent seemingly fun game of Connect 4 turned into a FREE FOR ALL.  You WILL ask yourself...Why am I planning things for these two little brats?!  But...I'm hoping if I stick with it, the results will show.  As with building takes time, effort and PATIENCE (Which is a virtue I struggle with and pray for daily!)!***

You can also use this night to compliment when you notice your child use good manners, tell the truth, stand up for a friend, etc.  For example, this week at the library the kids were standing right by me quietly as I took some books back.  In this split second of good behavior (because the trip definitely included some bad behavior that they received punishment for when we got home...and they have been on a LONG restriction from the library from the last HORRIBLE trip we had there), they even received a compliment from the librarian (She probably remembered us from last time and was shocked...they MAY even have a picture of us in the back as "out of control library children to watch"!)!  I'm making little manners ribbons for them to hang on their door.  I'm also making a little responsibility award for Bet for her shoe closet actions.  (Since I am on their case SO MUCH about bad behavior and correction of behavior I think this is especially important for them to see that I do appreciate and recognize the times of GOOD that are speckled in!)

I read this post that I really liked today.  Since our Family Night falls on Tuesdays, I think it is a great idea to incorporate "Back to School" into Family Night this week.  Knowing my love of school supplies.  New Crayolas WILL be involved! :)

What are some of the things you like to do on Family Night?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just be you.

At Montessori school children ages 3 to 6 are put together in one room.  Since they are, the little kids really look up to the big kids.  Over the last two years Jay has been especially enthralled with the "big kids" and I could see his little mind working as he wanted to wear certain shorts and shoes because they were like the "big kids" wear.  Each time he would do this I would tell him, "You don't always have to be looking to others for what to wear or do...Just be you.  Wear it because YOU want to, not because they wear it."  Of course all I would get back was a blank stare with, "This IS what I want to wear."

This morning he decided that he wanted to wear a pair of Betsy's socks to school.  They were teal with big yellow polka dots...and this time it was me worrying about him "fitting in".  I said, "Are you sure you want to wear those socks?  Do you think your friends will say they are GIRL socks?"  He confidently shrugged his shoulders in a 'no big deal' kind of way and said, "No. It doesn't matter what they say."  I guess he's the "big kid" now.

This all made me think.  We want our children to march to the beat of their own drum, but when it comes right down to it, we are also a little afraid of what might transpire if they are TOO different.  So much so that we want to protect them from getting their feelings hurt. 

I have been cultivating this confidence of "just be you"...but it took everything in me not to send him with a change of socks for "just in case".

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chores with small children...

When I've been talking about chores with the kids I have been categorizing it as something you choose to do because you love your house, love your family and love helping others (See Family Motto).  It's a simple explanation and I think they get it.  They have had chores in their rooms for a while...keep floor clear of toys and clothes, keep closet organized, put away clean clothes into drawers, etc. 

I've been making a big deal about the PRIDE that comes from a clean space with signs and praise.  I have found that what works best for us is to set the timer for 15 min every day when we get home (Fly Lady) and we all three clean up our the end I go on and on about how proud I am of my clean room and they do the same and then I say "Now that we have our rooms clean and our chores done we can have some FUN!"

Lately, I've been enlisting their help in other areas of the house. 

As I mentioned here, most of the time when you expect more of your children, they will exceed your expectations...and I'm finding chores fall into this.

When Justin was in Omaha I asked Jay to start feeding the dog.  I showed him very specifically how to do it the first night...each and every step nice and slow.  The second night he fed the dog as I watched.  Since then he's been feeding the dog each night and he REALLY loves that he's helping and doing a chore that DADDY did.

Well, although Bet has some chores of her own too...she really had a fit..."What AM I going to DO EVERY night when Jay feeds Stonie?!"  Hurriedly, I said, "How about you organize the shoe closet? (We don't wear our shoes upstairs and there is a small closet downstairs where we keep our shoes.)  It is a WRECK!  Every night you can straighten shoes up."  She wasn't really satisfied that this chore was as fun, but she said "Okay." and got to straightening.

So she's been doing that each night.

Last night we got home late from the beach and we all threw our shoes in the shoe closet and apparently there was some sand on the shoes.  This morning, Bet goes to put her shoes on for school and next thing I know she has pulled out most of the shoes in a pile and instructed Jay to get the small dustpan and brush that I keep under the sink.  I peeped in to see what they were up to and she was dusting up the sand and muttering about "what a sandy MESS" the closet was!  She sent Jay to throw the sand away as she put all of the shoes neatly back!

Inside I was CHEERING!  It wasn't time for her to be tending to the closet and I hadn't mentioned a THING about it...

Moral:  Kids LOVE to help.  If you teach them how they can help, they can be a big help!  When you expect more of children, they will EXCEED your expectations.

The Color of Light {book}....

We just got back from one last four-day beach hurrah before school starts.  I got sucked into this book and stayed up Tuesday night till 4:30 to finish it.  I haven't done that in a while and it felt good. 

Chapter 2 began with some commentary on loggerhead turtle mothers that reminded me of this quote, "Every mother is like Moses.  She does not enter the promised land.  She prepares a world she will not see." -Pope Paul VI

A few quotes from the book:

"Sometimes mothers can only do their best.  It's all God ever asks of us. And all he can expect with what we're given...sometimes we survive, anyway...and sometimes we rely on the kindness of others to put us back in our nests."

"Motherhood is a mixed bag.  You make of it what you can.  And nobody expects you to be perfect---most of the time all you have to do is just show up."

"You'll find with your son that you share a special bond.  Not that the one you share with your daughter is any less special---it's just different and completely unexpected."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Thank God.

My parents were in an accident Tuesday night at 8pm.  It was still light outside and they were just driving along (at about 60 mph).  A drunk driver rammed into them from behind.  Luckily, they both walked away without a scratch.  It makes me think of this:

Dear God, Thank you for my parents.  Amen.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The faith of a child.

Betsy has had an ear infection that is lingering.  We are on our second round of antibiotics.  The ear has been oozy and stinky (gross!).  This convo went down the other night...

JB:  "If it doesn't clear up, we may just have to cut this ear off."

Bet: "That's okay.  I have another one."

JB:  "What if we had to cut the other one off too?"

Bet:  "Jesus would grow my ears back.  He can do anything we ask him to."

Don't you just love it when children sneak in little reminders of faith?!  Bet sneaks in sweet little reminders all the time. "God shook his head the day he built her...oh, but I bet he smiled."-Lee Brice  What a blessing she is in our lives!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You Tube {aka free entertainment}...

Our current favorite You Tube videos:

The month before Jay turned 5 we really embraced this video.  It was our send-off to age four.  It is still a favorite though.  I'm pretty sure Jay wants to marry Feist.  He could watch this video (or any of her others) 100 times!  To be completely honest...I could to...her voice is AMAZING.

This one was on Today's of my favorite daily blog reads.  My kids love most of the videos they post because they can see all of the instruments up close.  This one is especially special because it has a xylophone!  When we watch this Bet goes for her xylophone and Jay goes for his guitar...I sing and we jam!

Sometimes-getting to the beach-is no day at the beach...

Picture this...
Swimsuits are clean and ready for wear (me).
Towels have been washed and packed into bags (me).
Lunches are made (me).
Snacks are packed (me and JB).
Coolers are packed with drinks for all (JB).
Sunscreen is put on every inch of everyone (JB).
We load the golf cart (JB).
We ride to the beach.
We unload the golf cart (me and JB).
I'm saddled down with the beach bag and two chairs.
Justin has the cooler, three umbrellas and more chairs.
We have about 100 steps to reach our spot.
It is HOT.
The sand is HOT.
We know it will be a FUN day when we get to our spot...but getting there seems HARD.

We have told the kids that they will carry their beach toys.  Jay has his two boogie boards in tow and here is Bet.

She stops mid-way.  Refuses to go any further.  The days before we had made a game of how many steps it would take to get there, but nope...that wasn't working today...she knew how many steps and she didn't want to take them.

...To any beach patrons who may have thought I was "Mommy Dearest" for telling this cute little thing pretty much ALL of the ABOVE to encourage {guilt} her to carry her toys down the beach...get over it!

Having her carry her toys is reasonable.  They are not heavy and it shows her that she is part of this family. 

Lessons can be taught-even on vacation!  As a family, we must all work together BEFORE we can have FUN.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Good advice.

Don't Tell Me
-Shel Silverstein

Please don't tell me I should hug,
Don't tell me I should care.
Don't tell me just how grand I'd feel
If I just learned to share.
Don't say, "It's all right to cry,"
"Be kind," "Be fair," "Be true."
Just let me see YOU do it,
Then I just might do it too.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Best Part of Your Day...

Prior to my new schedule when I would pick my kids up and ask them what the best part of their day was so far and they would almost always say, "You coming to pick us up!".  Brushing it off I would smile and answer..."Well, you know what, that's the best part of my day so far too!"

Reflecting back on those words I realize now how much that one little phrase stung.  It wasn't that the kids didn't like their school and it wasn't that they weren't doing a million fun things that day, but by 5:30 {like me} they were just plain tired and {like me} they were just focusing on one thing...getting home!---I also hate to admit that there were some days when sweet Jay would be asleep by the time we got 1 mile down the road! 

Whew, what a difference three hours makes!  Now when I pick them up they babble on and on the whole way home about their day. 

Remembering clearly our prior pick-ups...I'm not numb to their babbling...I treasure each ride home and hang on to every word.