Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April Showers

Nothing like a rainy day to hang out in the fort and play board games!

Some moments are just adorable.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Conversation Vacation

Scene: Victor and I are sitting at the table. Zak walks into the kitchen shortly after being assigned a joint chore with Grace.
Zak: Mama?! I made a joke to Grace, and  then she looked at me all mad. Then I told her I was just kidding and she said, "Before you said that, in my mind, I said, 'I'm telling!' "
Well, glad we got that all cleared up.
Scene: Victor just finished reading my Fix-it Friday post.
Vic: I really like these Fix-it Fridays.
Me: Thanks...It's because of all the stuff I'm getting done isn't it?
Vic: (Laughs) Yeah, it's pretty awesome. Maybe you should add a Tune-up Tuesday and a Mop-it Monday.
Me: Hmmmm...How about a Daily Dish-Pan Man? :)

Scene: Victor is typing a text as I enter the room.
Victor: Hey, how do spell "barrage"?
Me: Uhhh...I'm not sure. Maybe like "garage", but with a "b".
A few seconds pass.
Victor: Sooooo, how do you spell "garage"?
Thank goodness for spell check!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fix-it Fridays (Always Published on the Weekend, of course)

Well, I plead illness.  I felt terrible last weekend. Then, Kit was sick for several days. So a lot of things got put off this week.
On Monday though, my sweet Mom came down and once again saved me from being drowned by the laundry. She also did several lessons for school with Grace which freed me up to tackle a pile that has been sitting (and growing) on one corner of our bench for weeks.
I didn't get any pics of that one though, sorry. But it consisted mainly of boxes that contained items set aside for giving away, misplaced toys, several user guides to miscellaneous appliances, and a lot of items waiting to be hung up (I detest hanging things up, I have no idea why, but it is seriously my second least favorite chore, my least favorite being ironing. Oh the irony!!)
Well, that was the first, and last productive day of the week. Kit came down with what I am now 99% sure was Roseola. But her fever broke, and stayed gone in time for us to still be able to make it to our Mommy Meet-Up on Friday!! Yay! We mommies got to visit and catch up and the kids played, and played, and played.
I would have worked more Friday evening, but Kit apparently was feeling a little run down after such a busy day, and having just been sick, so she was ultra-clingy. Therefore not much got done.
Saturday afternoon/evening I had one determination. Get the kids room CLEAN!
And so we worked! We trashed, sorted, reorganized, changed out containers, and donated! There were groans, sighs, (occasional shouting), and some pouting, and that was just me!
Actually, everyone had an overall very helpful and cooperative attitude. And I'm very proud of the big kids for all their hard work!
It felt really good to tuck them in for the night in their beautiful, tidy room. And to be able to navigate it without risking injury or death!
Since their room had basically turned into one giant pile, then we officially accomplished our goal for the week. Even if we were late.
So, here, in part, is what we accomplished!
After! (98% done entirely by Zak!)
We repurposed a hanging clothes organizer for Grace's stuffed animals in her bed. Now they have bunk beds too!
 Grace is very into "forts". Her bunk is the only place that she doesn't have to take it down. After changing the sheets and reorganizing her bed, we hung back up her walls so she can enjoy her tidy and fresh fortress.
Grace was in charge of pulling EVERYTHING out from under the bed. We found a lot of missing pens, books, and socks in among the toys, trash and dust bunnies. It freed up the space under there for us to store the mini-trampoline we got a few weeks ago. (Zak needed something for his bouncing needs. He was about to pop the exercise ball. This one was surprisingly inexpensive, only $32ish dollars on Walmart.com, and they ship to the store for free!) 
Now the kids can tuck it away (it fits all the way under), when it is not being used, and that leaves the floor space free!
Well, that's done! Onward to the next task!
This one is really hard to choose. I have about five! I think I'm going to be really ambitious and try and tackle two: The Laundry Room/Pantry, and My Bedroom (getting it rearranged and moving back in! I think Kit can handle it, she's been doing really well in her toddler bed!)
See you on Saturday/Sunday, NO I mean Friday! I will get it done by FRIDAY! 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mission Impossible (maybe not!)

Look who fell asleep on her own!

In her own bed

As most of you know we have been working on getting Kit to sleep in her own bed. To catch up if you missed, you can do it here.
It only took lots and lots of reading/snuggling/wrestling with Daddy. And several twisty nursing sessions where she was sideways, or nearly upside down, and her leg constantly flipping back and forth!
I finally couldn't take it any more. I put her on her bed and told her she could go ni-night there or with Daddy. She settled into her bed. Pulled her pillow up over her, and fell asleep reading her book.
Hip. Hip. Hooray!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Chore is Not a Dirty Word!

My goodness! The kids sure think so. You parents out there know exactly what I'm talking about. Some days you ask a kid to make a bed, or pick up a spray bottle and the looks vary from outrage to broken hearted, tears and all.
Nevertheless, we are a community, and we all need to be good citizens and do our part. So like it or not, at some point we all must pay taxes! Right?
Well that certainly doesn't help improve the reputation of chores does it?
Well, let's think about it for a minute. There are some pretty valuable benefits that taxes provide and the same can be said of chores. Let's take a closer look.
1.) Efficiency 
The most obvious benefit, of course, is that chores make a home more efficient. As in, more time to spend doing fun stuff because there is plenty of clear space to do it. Plus, no one is wandering around searching for that one critical component that always seems to get misplaced, i.e. the  remote.
Children's understanding of this concept is very relative to the fun factor of the activity in question. Normal daily functioning, for example, is simply not fun enough to motivate my children to eagerly engage in their chores. It might be enough for me. (Sometimes) But they don't have that level of appreciation yet.
So we must troubleshoot.
I have long been a fan of the idea that one must find a child's currency, and once that is ascertained, it's easy to motivate them by either the incentive of a reward or the deterrent of a loss of that currency.
In theory.
Sometimes in real life, with real kids, and real messes, this method can produce some pretty blah results. Other times it works wonderfully.
The problem that I have found is that children's currency changes rather frequently, and without warning. Sigh.
Right now we are in quite a lull in this regard. We can't seem to hit a homerun on the currency of either of the kids.  :/
It's been this way for a while, and I attributed their lack luster attitudes to all of the changes that were happening around here. That may have been true, but now it has either become a habit, or their currency has shifted again. Maybe both.
So while we still search for the right motivation, we are also trying some rearranging. This leads me to...
2.) Appropriation
Sometimes taxes must be reallocated in order for the community to gain the most benefit. This is what I spent a large part of Wednesday doing while I sat for hours rocking my feverish tot. That is, after catching up on quite a bit of reading.
One post in particular, really hit home, and set off several light bulbs for me. The author, a mother of six (!), concisely shared the tricks and strategies that help keep their home running smoothly. Mostly.
After reading, and mulling, and analyzing, I finally formed a rough draft of a new chore schedule that hopefully both lightens the load, yet also spurs an increase in responsibility.
I presented it to the family at dinner, and while there is still some ironing out to do, everyone was remarkably quick to jump on board! Maybe that has been a big part of the problem, things have just gotten stale, and they were ready for a shake up!
I plan on posting a more detailed rundown of our system as soon as it's finished, but here are two great guidelines we are incorporating.
· Give the job to the smallest person capable of doing it. This was a huge eye opener for me. As a result, Grace is now assigned to the trash, and Kitty Kat is in charge of feeding the dog. (With help, of course.) This resulted in really alleviating Zak of a very heavy load. Now his schedule consists of fewer, but larger, more time consuming jobs. Grace now has more chores than before, but they are smaller, quicker jobs. Both are challenged, but completely capable of handling their tasks.

· Put everyone on a laundry schedule. This was a totally new thought to me, but I immediately saw it's potential in our family. So, starting on Tuesday, Zak and Grace are now responsible for washing, drying, folding, and putting away their combined laundry. I have put a hamper in their room. On Tuesday, Grace is to collect any stray laundry from their room and closet and take the hamper to the laundry room, start the washer, measure the detergent, and load the machine. When the washer is done, Zak is to transfer the clothes to the dryer, and remove them when they are done. Together, they both will fold the clothes, and then put away their respective items. This should alleviate my laundry burden by about a third, which is a lot.

I really hope these work!
All of this hard work deserves a reward, and that leads me to...
3.) Compensation 
Everybody loves a refund! Yes, with all the time and energy we put into our home, we should definitely get something back. So, we are going to continue to use the reward system that we currently have in place, but hopefully with better success this time.
Each Monday, we make a simple chart with the days of the week for each kid. Every time they complete a chore they get a sticker. If they do the chore without being asked, they get two stickers. If they have to be reminded more than once, they get no sticker. They can earn extra stickers by doing extra jobs, and for acts of kindness.
At weeks end, we add up the stickers for the week, and they get paid 5¢ per sticker. So far the most we have ever paid out in one week is $6 or $7 total. (Zak's big chore bundle is separate, though he can still earn stickers for those, Victor pays him an arranged amount each month if he completes them all on time.) They must hit their daily minimum in order to earn movie privileges, and video games are only allowed when all school work is finished, on the days when they are allowed electronics, typically Thurs - Mon.

Note: This was a big concession for me as I have always felt very strongly against paying for chores to be done. I seemed to be in the overwhelming minority, though, and so decided that getting the work done was more important. I feel like we should all contribute to the maintenance of the home that we all live in (and mess up), and that living in a peaceful, decently clean home is our reward. Well, that, and chocolate.

I think we need a stronger incentive though, as a loss, if they don't complete their chores, have to be reminded too much, or have a bad attitude about it.  
Maybe we need to try a penalty jar. They could be charged 10¢ for each offense, including hurtful acts toward each other. I could also be penalized a dollar each time I yell. Then, at the end of each week, the money collected can go towards our trip to New York that we are trying to save for. 
We've never tried a penalty jar before, so maybe the novelty well help it succeed. We could always up the penalty amount of it seems not motivational enough. Definitely something to think about and discuss.
Part of their weekly reward could be a special outing also if they hit a certain goal for the week. Everyone likes a refund, after all.
So that is my social studies shpeal for today.
Have you found a system that works for your family? Please feel free to share it in the comments! 

Thursday, April 25, 2013


We have imperfect children. Our children, have very imperfect parents. And aside from our vertically challenged genes, our kiddos have inherited (or learned) a few other things from us as well.
The eye roll. The shoulder shrug. The growl. Each one is signature Kit. But you know what? They are signature me as well. Uh-oh.

It's not just her either. Zak's sigh. The way he snaps suddenly. And the way both he and Grace set their jaw in the "I'm listening, but I'm not going to like it" mode. Grace's hands on her hips. Yeah, regrettably, all me to a T.
Not that they don't also take after their dad. It's just that my flaws tend to be a little bit more...um...

If I'm lightning, then Victor must be coals. Steady, but still capable of shaping steel. Our kids have a little (and sometimes a lot) of both of us in them.

It's true, our munchkins are strong willed, stubborn, persistent, and crafty little boogers. But those qualities are not inherently negative.

These can be the recipe for very successful adults when tempered with strong faith, kindness, empathy, and self control. And that is certainly our hope and aim. Galatians 5:22,23

So, not everything they mimic is negative. They are funny, and clever, and like Salt and Vinager chips! (That one is definately from me!)
They are wonderfully affectionate. Even Zak, ten and a half, and up to my chin, doesn't think twice about holding my hand and leaning on my shoulder as we peruse the isles of the grocery store, or kissing his daddy good night. I definitely attribute this to his father's unabashed affection he pours out on his cherished ones.
No matter how much noise, chaos, or craziness, there is always one underlying current.
We mess up. We forget things. We yell at each other. We lose our cool. But then we apologize. We hug. We pray. And then we all pile onto the recliner and we read together. (Well, as close as we can get since we don't all fit :)
They fight. Over getting their own way. And about life's great unfairness. Or over whose turn it is to sit next to whom for movies or meal times. But they always make up. Forgive.
And they pray. Little voices revealing great big hearts. There is no more humbling experience than to hear those genuine praises and petitions, except seeing them answered.
They laugh. A lot. We all do. One of the biggest lessons we are all still learning is how to laugh at ourselves.
And how to cry. Both of the big kids are tender hearted, and each one has certain movies or stories they either won't watch or read because it's "too sad", or watch and read a lot because it is so triumphant!

Zak couldn't sleep the other night because he was upset that "someday Koda (our dog) is going to die". I cherish that innocence.
Yes, my children overwhelm me. What a gift, to still be privy to their hearts.
We have been granted the incomparable privilege of being entrusted with the care of some of the best people I have ever met. All of the credit for these remarkable creatures truly goes to He who gifted us, loaned us, this precious "inheritance", Jehovah God. Psalms 127:3
They are truly precious. And I am in awe of them nearly every day. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

WORDY WEDNESDAY: Creative Writing

Welcome to Wordy Wednesday!
Today's subject:
Well, sort of.
Between being sick myself over the weekend, and Kit having a fever almost all day and night yesterday, and trying to keep things from completely falling apart, I did not have the time or energy to prepare or research any of the subjects I was hoping to get to work on.  So, I took a couple of sick days.
But, always full of surprises, Zak decided to engage in a "writing" project instead  of doing math yesterday. And photographed his story to share with all of you. He has happily adopted his pseudonym and enjoys signing it to his masterpieces he thinks might make interesting blog material. What a little ham!
So here for your literary pleasure is an original multi-media work of fiction by - ZAK.
(This has not been edited. I am presenting it exactly as I found it in my photo gallery. So the spelling is, well, creative. As I've mentioned before, that is not his strong suit. But that's all part of what makes it so stinkin' cute!)
The fine print reads: Toothbrushes are not all myn 
Well, at least it proves that he CAN find these items when he really wants to! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Going (Spring) Green

We bought our house almost a year and a half ago. Right away we threw ourselves into making the necessary repairs and upgrades to make our home cozy and fully functional (AKA air conditioned). We gave ourselves a deadline - the end of 2012, to finish all our projects. Why? Because that was the only way to ensure that everything got done.
Well we came really close to meeting that deadline. The only real project left to do is hang all the trim that is stacked in, guess where, our bedroom. Of course! Isn't that where everybody keeps their yet to be hung trim? Neatly wrapped in a bed sheet so that it doesn't migrate across the floor like a giant wooden sea urchin?
I digress. The point is we accomplished a lot last year, and around this time last year we were in a race. A race against heat and humidity.
Inside the house our A/C guys were racing to install a central unit before they spontaneously combusted in our attic as the temperature steadily rose with each passing day.
Outside, Victor and I were racing to finish building our play set. Well, not really finish. The goal was really to get the main construction of it done to a point that the kids could play on it before the death heat of summer hit. We almost made it.  
Where we left off last spring.
The only major things that we didn't get done was the rock wall and the cargo net. There has been much discussion about a zip line also, but I don't know what the final decision on that is yet.
Since a major part of our winter has been dedicated to getting Grandpa situated, the fort, as we call it has been left unfinished longer than anticipated. But two weekends ago, we caught Spring Fever again. And so spent most of that Sunday afternoon and evening to tackling Project: Finish Fort Freckle Farm! (Actually, I'm kind of the sun Nazi, the kids aren't even allowed to play outside during the peak sun times of the day, especially since all the stuff I've been reading about sun screen seems like it may be more harmful than helpful. Yet again, I digress.) We worked until we ran out of nuts to put on the bolts. But we managed to get all but two tiny climbing holds put up on the rock wall. And we got all the handles put up. Yay! 
Did you notice Kit up in the fort?
Yeah, that girl was determined to sneak up there every chance she got.
Yes, her fearlessness TERRIFIES me!
So, besides just holding the nuts and bolts to hand to Victor, my primary duty outside is Kit monitor. I'm just going to be honest. This child is going to climb whether I want her to or not. So I have two choices. Either nail her feet to the floor, or just follow her everywhere and stay close as she scales every structure in sight. We have chosen the latter (no pun intended, well not originally anyway).

I am standing right there, I promise, I just stepped away as soon as was safe so Vic could snap the pic.

In addition to climbing she loves to engage in lots of other thrills. Like trying to slide down the slide head first, feeding her strawberries through the fence to the (very sweet) dog next door, and getting mad at Grandpa for pushing her too gently on the swing. Not kidding, she was pushing his hands away and yelling, pointing at Daddy. This girl likes to fly! 

It's better than head first!
Grandpa hasn't seen her climb the fort yet. So if you hear about a nuclear explosion near the Gulf, it probably emanated from our back yard! Yeah, it's going to make the Sock Wars seem like a cherry bomb. He means well, and I understand his concern, but speaking of cherries, there is no explaining SPD to the man who thinks that the plastic fruit pieces in our Hi Ho! Cherry-O game have been sent to the U.S. by terrorists. 


Ummmm, yeah.
Let's just not let them outside together.
This weekend I was in major bummer mood, so I went outside with everyone for a while which really helped. Plus I couldn't miss all the action! Having popped several allergy pills, I arrived in time for the main event! The first lawn mow of the season!
Okay, first of all we don't have a "lawn". That evokes images of golf courses, ladies in white, and fancy hotels. No. We have a yard. I'm not even entirely sure we have real grass. I mean the intentionally planted with a fancy name kind of grass. But we do have lots of clover blossoms! And the girls scurried to collect as many as they could before the "cut".
Grace chose the Center Stance to get the job done. HIKE!
Second, no, I'm not usually this excited about the first time we haul out the mower, clean it up, make at least one trip for parts or oil, figure out that the spark plug isn't all the way in and that's why it keeps dying, finally get it running marathon. (And by we, I mean Victor. I sit on the step and tell him what a great job he's doing! When I'm not wrangling Kit.) But this year is special. It marks the grand tradition of teaching one's offspring to start earning their keep!
Yes, Victor taught Zak how to cut the grass on this lovely April afternoon. This breezy, perfect temperature, hardly break a sweat spring tease of a day.

He's happily adding up in his head how much he plans to make from his chore bundle by the end of the summer. (We made a deal that if he cleans both vehicles, cuts the grass, and picks up the poop in the yard each week, that we will pay him $30 each month.) I don't think money will be quite as appealing as air conditioning come June!
He did a great job though, and we are very proud of him! Plus it's fantastic for his heavy work cravings.
When he was all done. We marveled at our transformed yard, and made plans to finally finish a few other to-dos. The girls just enjoyed running around. 
And laying around.
And Kit though she would jump start next weeks mowing by watering the grass. We clearly must move that bench.
And nothing like a ladybug hunt to finish the day! 

Why wasn't the beetle allowed in the boy's bathroom?
Because it was a LADY-BUG!
 Happy Monday everyone!