Saturday, February 13, 2016

Talk About It Box

Families are a tricky thing. There is a perfect balance to attain and there are only certain moments when that really happens. I am always looking for new ways to make my family function in the various stages and trials of life. Our family is going through the trial of divorce and it is really hard for everyone. It is important to give the children an opportunity to talk about what they are feeling and to get answers to their questions in a safe environment. I found that when I would talk to them and try to get them to say their feelings they would say that they were okay but then they would be acting out in anger and sadness in other ways. So, I made a “Talk About it Box.” I put a pad of paper and a pen next to the decorated shoe box and encouraged the kids to write their feelings on the paper and put it in the box and then at the end of the day before bed when we sat down to read books we would talk about the notes in the box. Here are some ideas of what to have them write down:

  1. Ask a question?
  2. Write down a feeling they are having?
  3. Write down an incident that they want to talk about?
  4. Vent about something.
  5. Write a concern they are having?
If there is something specific that you would like the kids to share their feelings about try giving them some words of expression they could use to help them write down their thoughts and feelings. When I went to judge a debate tournament the staff gave me a sheet of words that I could use to help me describe what I was watching. This is a similar situation. Our kids my know what they are feeling but struggle with the right words to express it. What I did for my kids with the divorce is I read some literature to them on some questions that they may be having. You can find it here. There are also other life trials that may cause you to be concerned about your child such as a death of a close family or friend, someone they know has a serious injury or illness, divorce, being bullied, or even when there is not a major change happening it is a good idea to check in with your kids to make sure they do not need to discuss something with you.

The first night we did this we talked about their feelings and they tore up the papers as a release and then we went out and punched the punching bag to help too. It was a very therapeutic time. The  girls continued to use it for a couple days and now they tell me when they put something in there. It could become a part of the routine in the evening so that they can have a time to share those feelings that come up everyday. Do not forget to be patient and to not overreact to something you learn about. If you validate their feelings and help them navigate through them they will be more likely to tell you more things in the future. One of my daughters did not want to put something in the box the first night saying that she had already told me all of her feelings so I let her. Then the next night she asked if we were going to do it again because she put something in the box. Letting them express their feelings in their own time can help them feel less pressure to share and can actually cause them to open up faster than if you force them into opening up.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Stay Late Over: The No Sleep Sleep Over

I am one of those that hate the sleep over. I know it’s fun, the kids love it, it’s a right of passage, and what kid doesn’t love the endless giggling and talking all night, I’m not suggesting that boys enjoy the giggling but hey my husband giggles. You’ve got to admit that the sleep over is associated with a lot of negatives as well. Kids are most likely to be exposed to something unwelcome at a sleepover. Kids staying up late and getting into trouble looking at porn, watching bad movies, playing violent video games, or being exposed to language or something else that you wouldn’t be okay with. Not to mention the most obvious consequence in my mind is that a sleepover is one of the most likely times that sexual assault happens. Now I know that you wouldn’t let your kids go spend the night at someones house that you did not trust of course not just anyones’ house is sleep over worthy. But I’ve decided to have a NO SLEEP OVER rule...
Are you saying...

"I Only let my kids stay the night with families I trust!”  - Sexual assault is most likely to happen with someone you know not someone you do not know, whether you trust them or not. Yes, I am going to be the one to say it, we do not want to admit it because we think that would mean that we do not trust someone we care about. I’m not suggesting that you go around not trusting people, I’m only suggesting that the sleepover has a high chance of sexual abuse and trusting someone does not take that away. There is just no way to protect your kids from sexual abuse completely but we can take out any risk we can. So take out the high chance item of sleep overs.

“My kids love sleep overs and they are a blast!” - Kids get uncomfortable sleeping over at a friends house. Yes there is fun and games but the truth is that once the giggling and fun is over it is uncomfortable to stay the night at a friends house. I remember begging my mother to allow me to stay the night over at a friends house. Even though I asked and I wanted to a part of my was nervous about “sleeping” over. It is much better for mom or dad to say no so that your kids do not have to. It is really hard to sleep at a friends, I remember calling my mom in the middle of the night on several occasions to pick me up at 1:00 in the morning.

“We will just have sleep overs at our house or with people we trust!” -  Making the choice before hand leaves out disappointment and hurt feelings. Kids can be convincing and if you’ve met the family and they seem legit it is easy to allow your kids to stay the night over somewhere that you do not know the family well enough. Also, if you say no and especially if it has to be repeatedly then the family might be offended. If you only have people stay over at your house then others will be offended when you do not want your kids to stay at their house especially if it is a close friend. Then your back to making the choice one sleep over at a time. If you have a blanket rule then no one takes it personally.

“My kids miss out.” - What are they missing out on. Having fun with their friends, movies, popcorn, late night giggling, and talking into the late night.

Here is what to do: Have a STAY LATE OVER

We invite friends over to have a pajama party and stay late watching a movie, eat popcorn, and then I take the kids home late but before bed. The kids still get the fun and they get to enjoy their friends and do nails etc. Make it fun for the kids you could make some fun snacks and have some fun board games. Get creative and do something your kids like and make it fun and worth missing the sleeping part.  Then you don’t have to deal with the awkward middle of the night phone calls or if the kid gets sick or dealing with having to tell them to “go to bed” all night.

If my kids get invited to a sleep over or a friends to stay the night or a birthday party sleep over then they just say I’d love to but I can not stay the night but I can stay until 10 o’clock (or whatever you decide) and then I let them of have fun at a friends and then I just plan on going to pick them up.

Another thing you can do is have a Pajama breakfast party at your house. Invite friends over for breakfast one Saturday morning and do a breakfast of Waffles and Ice cream. That is what I remember eating at one of my friends house. It was a great food memory. It’s not something that kids get to eat for breakfast so getting to have friends over to have some Ice cream on your waffle is a great way to make a memory!

Best of all you can rest assured that your kids have less chance of being abused, you do not have to worry about them all night, you do not have to wake up in the middle of the night and go pick them up, your kids can still get the benefits of a sleep over by planning other events or picking them up before bedtime at a friends. Start the trend in your community and maybe it will catch on. It is easier if the group of friends your kids hang out with all have similar types of parties. Be the start of change!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Traveling with Kids: Tips and Reward System

Travel season is coming up and it is time to come up with a travel plan.  Young kids have short attention spans, they are stuck in a car seat the whole trip, and everyone is in close quarters for a long period of time.  So you need some tricks up your sleeve,  some fun in your bag, some jig in your wig, okay now I’m just making up sayings.  I had three kids under the age of 4 and we took a 26 hour drive to Canada and my kids did awesome!  I had to go prepared.  Here are some tricks to travel with:

Itinerary:  A long trip with young kids requires a lot of planning.  Do not forget the itinerary and do not plan on just driving right through unless you want a lot of unhappy campers.  Plan stops alone the way.  Know when you are going to get somewhere and plan ample amount of time for stops.  I planned for half hour bathroom stops every three hours and at least two one hour stops a day.  The first time we went on a long trip I just thought we would find places on the GPS and just stop when we were ready to get out but this was not a good idea because we spent way too much time trying to find something and then we ended up in weird spots or the things that looked interesting to do were closed.  So plan your stops and do plan to stop.  Plan how much money you will need for gas and stops along the way.  Use cash or a recorder to make sure you do not go over budget.  It will also help make sure that the kids do not talk you into unnecessary purchases at the gas station or to splurge on the toy with the “happy meal."

Road Map: Print each child their own road map or map of the U.S. for the kids to color.  I marked where we were traveling and then we kept track of where we were and how far they’ve gone.  It was also neat for them to be able to see what states they traveled in.  Do not forget to mark your stops on their map to give them something to look forward to on the drive.  The other thing we used our road maps for was to play the license plate game.  Long summer road trips are perfect for trying to see how many states license plates you can find.  Have the kids color the states of the license plates they found or if your kids are a bit older you could even turn it into a game and have the kids see who can find and color the most states.

Travel Tickets:  Another tool that I used to help the kids understand how long we were going to be in the car were travel tickets.  For each day I would give them the same number of tickets as number of hours we had to drive that day.  I used the GPS to measure the hours in driving time not actual time.  This worked really well because even if we stopped for an hour we still had the same amount of driving time left and it was really easy to keep track of how many tickets they had.  Each hour they would give me one of their tickets.  So let’s say we had to drive 10 hours the first day each hour they gave me one of their tickets and they could see how many more hours were left to drive, so after the first hour they gave me a ticket and could see that they have 9 hours left.  P.S.  Do not wake sleeping children just wait until they wake and take multiple tickets then. ;)  This also helped with the “Are we there yet?” questions, they were not allowed to ask it.   If they did the answer is, “How many tickets do you have?”  Instead they could ask,”Where are we?”  Then they could check their map and see how much longer.  It makes the drive a lot more bearable if the kids know how long they are going to be there even if it is a long time.

Reward Clips: I made every member of our family, including mom and dad, clothes pin clips with their names on them.  The clips have a paper cut out on them with the names of the family or you could just write their names directly on the clothes pins.  You clip the clothes pins on the sun visor so they are visible to everyone.  If the person is behaving well and not screaming or fighting and the kids are not whining or asking, “Are we there yet?”  Then their clothes pin stays on the visor.  If they are not doing well then their clothes pin comes down.  The motivation to be good and keep your clothes pin up is an hourly reward.  If their clothes pin was up on the hour they would give me their hourly travel ticket and I would give them their reward.  I packed a reward bag and instead of giving them all of their things to do in the car at the beginning of the trip I would give them those as one of their hourly rewards.  I used snacks as hourly rewards,  I would let them even pick out something at the gas station if their clothes pin is up when we stop.  I bought a couple goodies at the dollar store to entertain them too that I used as rewards (This also gives you an excuse to say no to expensive Happy Meal treats.)  I had new coloring books, stickers, a new DVD, and things that I was planning on getting for the trip anyway but it was a privilege instead of a given.  It also spread out the things to do throughout the trip instead of all of the new things wearing out their newness by the end of the trip.  So they would give me one of their hourly travel tickets and then they would get their reward.  Do not forget a clip for mom and dad.  It was fun for the kids to ask us to put our clip down if we snapped at them.  If made for a fun and low stress way to stop the grouchy parents and for a no yell way to stop the kids from getting out of control.

Make sure that you put a list of these ideas in a travel binder so that you do not forget.  When you are angry or stressed or just plain done traveling you will not have the brain cells left to remember all of your wonderful ideas.

Game Ideas:  Try to find the alphabet on road signs, See who can get the most animals on their side of the car,  I Spy, and Travel Bingo or Scavenger Hunt all make fun games to play in the car.  Make Bingo Cards and then they see if they can color in a bingo by finding things on the bingo card, like stop signs, trees, and birds.
Find more detailed travel games on these websites: jumpstart,  mini time, MomsMinivan,, and kidsactivityblog.

Entertainment Ideas:  Do not forget the electronics.  While I am not one to use television and gaming as a baby sitter these close quarter conditions call for a little extra screen time...DVD’s, game boys, books on tape (Don’t forget to check out the library), their favorite music (our babe falls asleep to the Frozen Soundtrack every time), your favorite calming music, and tablets.  You can use electronics to keep down on the amount of extra stuff you need to bring as well.

Food Ideas:  Bring Ziplock bags...You will not regret it!  I made snack baggies with a variety of different treats similar to trail mix.  Make sure everyone has their own water bottle.  If you have to stop for lunch and go to the drive through you won’t have to buy drinks with those flimsy cups and lids.  I stored bottled water for refills in our under storage.  I also brought individual drink mix pouches for a little something different and they could just pour the individual drink mix into their water.  (This is a good idea for one of their reward hours too.)  Pack sandwiches for your first meal on the road to save time and money.  Keep a small cooler in between the front seats for easy access to food.

Give the kids one small bag for their things and then once that is full they do not get to take anything else on the trip.  This will give a place for all of their stuff so it doesn’t end up all over the floor.
Keep a folder or travel binder with all your travel tools.  Do not over pack you will not be comfortable! My sister is now coming to visit us this year from Canada.  I hope these tips help ya sis!!! Good Luck, because after you’ve done all you can do that’s all you need is some good luck!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Laundry Chaos!!!

One of the hardest chores to get done around the house is the....Laundry.  Why on earth do I have to wash clothes that aren’t dirty over and over again.  Or at least they weren’t dirty until someone took them out of their drawer, thought about wearing it, and then decided not to wear it but thought it should go on the floor instead of back into the drawer.  Furthermore, laundry is a never ending job.  Much like all of the other chores that we have but laundry is unique in the fact that it can not be ignored.  We need clothes and they need to be clean and they usually need to be clean NOW.  Not to mention the fact that if all necessary laundry steps do not get done the laundry just stares at me and either takes over my bed or the couch until it is done.  The worst is having to dig through a stack of clothes when I’m in a hurry and need the one thing that I can not find.

Try these steps to tame the laundry beast from taking over:

1.) Get rid of the clothes!  My kids got to pick out ten outfits.  Ten tops and ten bottoms and the rest went away to bless someone else. They still got to keep a couple dresses for church, some paint clothes, and a small number of activity clothing. This also lessons the amount of underwear and socks needed because I am doing laundry more often.  So I sorted through those items as well.  And now because the kids only have ten oufits the laundry needs to be done once a week which also keeps the chaos away because there is a lot less to wash fold and put away at one time.  It also cuts down on having to wash clean clothes that were just thrown on the floor because they will pick them back up and wear them because they do not have tons of options for the week.  Still not convinced...a person only has about 10 favorite outfits at one time anyway the rest are the clothes that are sitting there waiting for you to think, "Well, I haven't worn that in a while so I guess I'll wear it," or you really don't want to wear it but you don't have anything else to wear.  Kids do not need that many clothes they want to wear their favorites over and over again too.  The final point I am going to make about this is from the cannot organize clutter you can only get rid of it.  So stop trying to organize the clutter and extra's in your life just get rid of them.  I am telling you it's been the best step for taming the laundry chaos, my kids have plenty of clothes to wear!

2.) A load a day keeps the Chaos away!  Doing the Laundry is four steps: wash, dry, fold, and put away.  Not one and then another one and then oh yah it’s time to do the laundry again and they didn’t even make the drawer.  Try putting a load of laundry in in the morning switching it at lunch or after work and then folding it before bed!  Keeping up on this in small steps is the way to go.  Waiting for the last minute on laundry just causes chaos.  Doing a load a day makes sure that there are not huge piles of clothes everywhere.

3.) Pay your kids a buck if they get their laundry washed, dried, folded, and put away by Sunday night!  Something else I've done is have it washed and ready for them to fold while they watch their TV show and then they have to put them away before bed.  Now remember you have less clothes so it really doesn't take longer then one TV show and it's not like you have to extend their bedtime very long either because it's only a couple stacks of clothes to bring to their drawers.

4.) Get yourself the right equipment.  Laundry hampers, the ones that have three spots to sort and wheels are great too.  Organize your laundry room or laundry space.  Make it a place you love not dread, add some decorations or some fresh flowers, and maybe even it’s own radio or blue tooth speakers for audiobooks or music.

If it’s bugging you there is always something you can do about it.  How do you manage your laundry chaos?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Hubby’s Home Work Hours

I slave labor over the stove cooking, cleaning up, helping kids with homework and trying to fold laundry all the while my darling husband sits on the couch and watches TV or plays on his phone.  I am inclined to look over and glare for awhile and then I start saying things like, “The garbage could be taken out.”  And then I say, “Could you please take out the garbage?”  He says, “Ya sure I’ll do that.”  And then continues to watch TV.  “When?” I say.  Oh maybe when I leave for work in the morning.  Okay, then I just want to loose it.  And this is fair how?  Yah yah, I know life is not fair but sometimes I just do not think my husband understands.  When I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get everything done why does he think watching TV is on the agenda.  Am I the only one with this problem?

No typical hunny do list will do.  We’ve got to kick this into overdrive.  We decided to implement...Hubby’s Home Work Hours.

Here’s how it work:

For every number of kids we have my husband works the same number of hours each week on anything I want.  We have four kids so for four hours on Sat. or whenever we can schedule it that week he does whatever I want.  The trade off is that he gets to do whatever he wants the rest of the day without glares or judgement.  If he wants to sit and watch TV and I want to fold laundry while we watch he can and I can.  We can both enjoy it then.  He can enjoy it because I do not get to glare or judge or make comments about all the things that need to be done around the house and I enjoy it because I’m doing what I want and he has already helped out.  

My Hunny do list is getting smaller since we have been doing this and I am actually about to add some things to it.  I feel more relaxed about the time he wants and I do not feel like I have to bother him because I feel like I get what I want too.  I had heard this idea a couple times from some books.  I’m glad that we decided to implement it.  One other way that we tried to  implement this idea is on a daily basis.  If I needed something done I would ask and then I would bribe him by leaving him alone the rest of the day if he did that one thing for me.  Which worked too but we just found it harder to keep up with and we tend to be busier on weeknight.

My husband is pretty awesome if I do say so myself.  He works hard and does a lot for our family.  I’m really grateful for him.  Sometimes husbands just do not have the same thoughts on getting things done as their wife’s.  Did I say sometimes I meant most all the time.  This gives me and him more of a timeline on getting projects done so there is not a miscommunication there.  These things are usually more important to me then to him and he just thinks differently then me.  I have found that the most beneficial thing to do after this is to just do the other things that need to be done myself because I want them done.  The most important thing here is just not to be resentful when you are doing the jobs just do them because they need to be done and you want them down now.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Proper Goodnight

I am a super busy body and usually can't stop all the stuff I have going on at bedtime and I want to stay up and usually write all the amazing things going on in my head down on paper or computer.  My husband on the other hand gets tired and starts falling asleep usually while I'm trying to tell him all of these amazing things.  I hope you know I'm exaggerating here however my sister can attest to falling asleep during my nighttime rantings when we shared a room as little kids.  The problem is that I want to go to bed with my husband and give him hugs and all the loving kindness he deserves!  But if I try to go to bed I'm just left with thoughts running and running and I can't sleep.  Which we all know is a small form of torture.  So I came up with....

"The Proper Goodnight" 

...and we actually call it that...I ask him, "Are you ready for your proper goodnight!"

So here's how it works...

Husband goes to bed because he's tired or vice versa you may be the one that has to stick toothpicks in your eyes to try to stay awake so you can go to bed with your go to bed with him...not to sleep just to snuggle get some back rubs and the low down on how each other's day was and then snap I'm back up out of bed to finish all the crap that won't get out of my head!  (PS sometimes the snuggling helps and I'm ready and needing to sleep too)

Why this is important and how it's blessed our far?

*This gives us the chance to show each other we love each other in our own personal love language.  I'm not just talking about sex here but sex is a plus!

*It renews our bonds daily and keeps them strong so they don't fade.

*It gives us a chance to talk about any concerns or anything that's hurt our feelings.  ***general warning for this not talk about stuff that you know is going to get one or the other of you ticked off because you know neither of you will be sleeping after that***

*I feel more Loved and Fulfilled.

This has been something much easier for my husband and I to do with a more "normal" schedule but this is not always something that we can physically do due to work schedules.  My husbands police officer hours did not help the matter in the least.  Looking back I wish we would have made the effort even if it wasn't at night.  Instead of a proper goodnight try a proper good morning, or nighttime phone call, or get the point.  Plan it some other time if you aren't able to do it at bedtime.

Our relationship is number one and I sometimes loose the focus of that amidst kids, house, work, and other responsibilities.  I notice that when I do not spend time with my spouse it shows.  Continued undivided attention is necessary to a successful relationship.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Chore Headaches Solved

Dividing the household responsibilities can always be a bit tricky.  Who does what, when, how often...Etc.  Someone is always feeling like they are getting the short end of the stick.  Is that the saying? Anyway, How to divide the work.  I love letting my kids be responsible for themselves.  I cannot believe the progress we have made with this, this year.  My kids are starting to get a little older and they really do get themselves ready and dressed without much pushing and fighting in the morning.  Well fighting with me anyway, fighting with their siblings is a different story.  In fact, I am going to admit that on a handful of mornings I even stayed in bed because I’d been up with the baby and they got ready completely on their own and out to the school bus all on their own AND not to mention that their chores where done too.  When our kids are responsible to help out and to make sure their part gets done they will strive to do it, and we are all a lot happier.  Here are some tools we have been using to help:

The Chore Wheel:  You cannot laugh at my shottie work, it was not designed for aesthetic appeal, however you crafty moms out there could come up with something a lot cuter I’m sure.  Please post a picture if you do!!!  I love the wheel we change it around (towards the sink) every sunday night.  So the kids have the same job for a week.  I have found that a week is just the right amount of time.  It is long enough that I do not feel like I am forgetting to change the wheel and it is not too long where someone really feels the agony of doing the dishes last forever.  Pick chores to put on the wheel that are age appropriate and that are daily chores such as feed the animals or clear the table.

The Checklist:  There are tons of things that the kids need to do in the morning that are not really considered chores but are necessary to personal health and hygiene and also to their environmental health.  I may have made that last thing up but it’s true.  I bought each of my kiddos their own checklist and I started them out small.  I hate those pre-made checklists with things already on them because first of all we are so excited when we first get them that we do it for maybe a week tops and then the novelty wears off and we are back to square one of yelling or forgetting etc.  So I made our own.  I wrote on the dry erase boards with sharpie so they could check them off as they went and not keep erasing the checklist.  At first I didn’t want to ruin their boards or not be able to change something on the list later on but believe me it is well worth putting it on in sharpie, you can always adapt still.  The major component to getting this one right is to start small put things on the checklist that the kids already do very well.  My kids brushed their teeth really well so that went on there, then I picked one or two new things that we needed to work on.  Such as picking out your clothes every night before bed.  We worked on the new items for about a month and then added items onto the checklist (such as reading 10 min. every night) as we began to master the new tasks.  If they finished their morning checklist they get to watch one TV show, if they finish their nighttime checklist then they get to have a night time treat.  It works wonders.  The treat isn’t extravagant but something small and they just finish then they get one they don’t or they take to long then they miss out.  They soon learn the tasks and they become habits for their lives.  I know I am still mastering routines so I need to remember to take it easy on them and give them the skills to master the routines instead of getting angry and saying, “I thought I told you to...” all the time.  In addition, I added a box for the kids to check if they checked everything for the whole day and I award them a dollar each week it’s done.  I love being able to teach the kids about money management.  We are creating wonderful routines with this system as well as acceptability and responsibility in the kids.

Home Blessing Hour:  This is one of the tips I took from the Fly Lady at  She suggests doing Home Blessing Hour on Mondays but since I am a busy mom and mondays are way too busy for it most weeks.  We do ours Saturday morning and this way everyone can pitch in and help too.  If you have a floppy schedule like my husbands job did choose a day that he has off so he can help too, but make sure to schedule it and discuss it at family meeting or it won’t happen.  Or if you like to do the work yourself schedule it when nobody else is around or when everyone else can be busy.  But it could be a good day to plan something fun with the family, you can tell everyone that if they all work hard for an hour cleaning the house then we will get to do something fun.  This is the quick cleaning day of the week.  The Fly Lady has other 15 min. deep cleaning tasks that she does daily instead of a day of cleaning.  So it’s a quick vacuum, sweep/mop, dust/polish, throw out old magazines/take out garbage, and change sheets.  Take about 10 min. each give or take.  I set the timer and go.  I made these flower pots for a pick me jar for church but they would also work great for chores.  Just put the names of the chores on the bottom of the popsicle stick and let everyone pick their jobs. Can you think of more ways to use these?