Tag Archives: motivating kids

Welcome to the jungle…it’s school vacation week!

21 Feb

“You drive us wild, you drive me crazy.”

Peanuts 550 piece puzzle

The Gang's All Here! It's February Vacation Week! Jigsaw puzzles like this one might be one thing you can use to keep older kids busy during school vacation week.

Welcome to school vacation week!!

As I type this those words are echoing in the background because the kids and their dad are playing Guitar Hero on Wii. It just so happens that those exact words are playing at this very moment.

Coincidence, totally.

Additionally, Alex has found another guitar downstairs and is playing a completely different tune on that one while Guns N Roses plays on the TV for the others.

School vacation week has the potential to make any parent crazy. The kids are home full days for a full week and depending where you are in the country, you may be confined to the indoors due to the weather. Knock on wood, it’s been a beautiful winter here. I can’t remember a February this warm in a long time. We have been outside without jackets several times this week and each time, I’m amazed that it’s February and we’re getting to play outside, and not in the snow!

I don’t plan a ton for February vacation and my friends laugh at the reason, but it’s true: we have never had a February vacation where no one has thrown up. The stomach bug usually hits our house this week every year so we end up having to cancel whatever plans we’ve made. Each year, including this one, I’m cautiously optimistic, but even so, I bought two bottles of Gatorade last week just in case. It’s a regular full time work week for Don, which also surprises everyone, since schools are closed, but yes, he has to work and yes he’s got a ton to do.

Overall, I look forward to school vacation week. It gives us a break from all the running and scheduling that we have to do during a regular week when you’ve got two people working and three kids with three different schedules. It’s a lot to manage and I love the break. I love having everyone here. However, if we’re not careful, it can get ugly pretty quickly. We’re not in any way immune to the bickering and arguing that can erupt if they’re left to their own devices for very long.

The secret to a successful school vacation week is having 1) plenty of snacks on hand to prevent low blood sugar meltdowns and 2) plenty of things to do (free or almost free) even if you don’t end up doing them all. Activities can range from crafts and activities to outings or a good combination of both.

Two of my kids have birthday parties this week and I’m hoping to schedule them all for a playdate one day also. I have to work a day, and we’ll have a cousin sleeping over here a night as well. Other than that, there’s lots of free “stuff” to do locally because everyone knows the kids are out of school. For example, if you live in Rhode Island and have younger kids, check out the Learn All About It website to see what kinds of activities they have going on this week. If you see one you’d like, be sure to sign up by calling the store.

I’ve got more projects around the house planned in my head than we’ll ever do, but at least I’ve got plenty of options. My goal is not to have everyone sitting around bored all week or sitting in front of the TV all week either. There’s plenty of other things we can do instead. The week will end up flying by, I’m sure.

Below is a recipe I’ve shared in the past, but never on my own blog. I’m sharing it because I’m sure it’ll make an appearance on my table this week for a snack.

Sour cream dip for fruit.

This is a great snack for kids and adults alike!

YUMMY FRUIT DIP

The girls found this recipe in one of their kids’ cookbooks: “Silly Snacks: Family Fun in the Kitchen.” It was so fast and it’s SO good!

Mix together:

8 Ounces Sour Cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. Vanilla extract

Fruit of your choice.  In the past we have used red grapes, nectarines, plums, apples, strawberries, peaches and bananas. We also have skewers, which makes it even more fun to eat.

Mix and dip!

Seeing the forest through the trees

23 Jan

Sometimes clarity is hard to find when you're in the middle of a situation.

Two weeks ago I had an absolute meltdown while on Facebook. It was a weekday morning and I had one kid home sick (I know, shocker)  and I’d spent the entire morning rushing the others through their morning routines. No one seemed to have themselves together that morning and there were missing hats, gloves, water bottles, and despite all of the hunting and gathering, still a homework folder was left on the table as the bus pulled away, again. My normally low blood pressure was probably through the roof as I sat down on the couch and updated my status as to the fact that I was about to lose my mind. Again.

After I ranted and raved a bit, I felt much better. My heart stopped racing. I sipped my coffee.

And then…the responses started to come in. Other mothers, friends of mine, commenting that it’s the same for them, that they knew how I felt, they could feel my pain. I instantly felt even better.

Through all of those responses though, several stood out. One friend stated that she now avoided those types of morning problems by doing all of the hunting and gathering the night before and laying it all out, ready to go. Another friend stated that she’d had a laminated check list for her oldest daughter a few years back, and that had worked well. My sister in law in Virginia agreed, stating that she’d used a similar one in the past, hooked to her daughter’s back pack where she could see it.

I was stunned. Why hadn’t I thought of these things?? I am a former teacher! I am an organized person! I have a check list for setting the table, one for cleaning up the basement, in the past we’ve even had one for the steps to take for calming oneself down (I could’ve used that one.) You would think doing these things the night before and setting up a check list would have hit me on my own, that I wouldn’t have needed to be told to try these things. I was incredibly thankful for the suggestions and yet feeling somewhat sheepish that I was so behind the eight ball, so down on my game.

But then it hit me. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of a situation, something that should be clear to you, just isn’t. And sometimes you need to be told something so basic, just because you can’t see it on your own. And sometimes it’s okay to ask for help. I didn’t even realize I was asking for help, I was just ranting, raving, venting. And I didn’t even realize I needed a solution, a different plan. But as soon as I heard it, it was as if a light went off over my head. Well of course….a check list….doing it all the night before. Of course.

So that afternoon I made up two check lists on two pretty pieces of card stock and put out star stickers so they could mark them off as they went along each NIGHT, packing up their things. When they got home I explained to them how things would hopefully work out the next morning. They were excited (and maybe even relieved that I wouldn’t be yelling so much in the morning).

When I signed onto Facebook again that night, I was so touched. There were words of encouragement from my friends, wishing me a better morning the next day. That morning (which went off pretty much without a hitch) I had yet more words of encouragement from my friends, telling me to update them and let them know how it went. Again, I was so touched. Any disappointment that I’d had in myself was now gone, replaced by a huge sense of thankfulness and relief to have such an amazing network of friends and family around me.

We all support each other. With the internet the way it is today, as far apart as we are, we’re all right there for each other when we need support. I can’t thank each and every one of you enough, if not for that day’s support, then for another day’s words of support, encouragement or celebration. It really does make a difference. Here’s to a good week for us all.

"Night before" check lists

After two weeks I replaced my hand-written check lists with a typed one that I can just print out every two weeks.

When can I……

17 Nov

“When can I have a cell phone?”

“Can I get my ears pierced?”

“Can I get them double pierced?”

“When do I get to sleep on the top bunk?”

“How come I have to put my own laundry away and they don’t?”

Sound familiar? As soon as our kids are old enough to ask for something, it starts….and it never ends. We realized very early on that we needed to set up House Rules for the kids who lived in our house and stick by them no matter what “everyone else” was doing and no matter what the rules in their houses were.

The rules were basically set by our experiences with our oldest, since she is the one who approached every benchmark in life first, whether it was sleeping on the top bunk, or having a cell phone, or whatever the case may be. However, by setting the rules for her, and making them known to the next two girls, it’s stopped a lot of the questioning. The rules are set, they know what they are, and there’s no question. We’ve only had to make an exception on one rule, one time, which I’ll explain later.

Having set rules not only helps us stay consistent in our parenting from kid to kid in our house, but it helps us have a ready answer when confronted with a question from another parent, and gives our kids a ready answer as well, when they’re asked if they can do something, by one of their peers. They may not like the answer, and their friends may not either, but at least they can blame us and say, “That’s the rule in our house,” if they want to.

Obviously we know that nothing can be written in stone and exceptions may have to be made along the way, and things may come up that we have no rules for and need to make a split decision on, but we have our baseline set of rules and we do our best to stick by them. We also know that our rules may be different than other families’ rules.

Clearly, we’ve only gotten up to the rules for twelve years old and sixth grade since our oldest is only that far along, but it makes me curious:  what the rules are in other people’s houses? Do you have rules set up beforehand and stick by them or do you make them up as you go? Do you have rules that you’ve found helpful beyond the ones we have here?

Comment back and let me know.

Here’s a look at our House Rules

Age 5 allowed to have their first friend birthday party, at home, five friends

Age 6 allowed to have their first friend birthday party out of the house

Age 6 first time sleeping in the top bunk  (*This is a safety rule told to us by the furniture store where we bought the beds, so there was no question here.)

Age 8 ears pierced

Age 9 last big friend party out of the house

Age 10 the almost sleepover birthday party (Three friends can be invited. Kids arrive with pjs, pillows, sleeping bags and stay late but not sleep over night.)

Age 10 Bedtime is moved to 9pm

Age 10 Responsible for putting away all of their own laundry

Age 10 first time sleeping at someone else’s house other than family (This is the one we had to make an exception for. Our second daughter got a birthday party sleepover invite from a family we’re very close to and we allowed it so she didn’t miss the party or have to leave the party. However, it was just an exception for the one night.)

Age 11 allowed to have an email address

Age 11 able to stay home alone for very short periods of time on an as-needed basis only

Age 12 sixth grade we allowed a laptop (our oldest “worked” all summer before her 12th birthday as a Mother’s Helper to save her own money in order to purchase a 10″ notebook laptop)

Age 12 or end of sixth grade can get a second earring hole if they want one (Sixth grade for us is the last year of elementary school.)

Age 13 or entering seventh grade can have an emergency-only cell phone

“No is not an option.”

10 Nov

I put the title of my post today in quotes because it’s something that was said to me, a phrase I heard years and years ago when I was a new teacher, but I think of it often, and I actually use it often as a parent, as well. Let me explain what I mean.

When I was a new teacher we lived out of state. There was a principal in our district who was known for his unique leadership style, and although not everyone agreed with everything he said or did, he was still known for his philosophies.

One of the first things he said during a meeting was when dealing with the students, “No is not an option.” As in, they were not allowed to say no to you. “That’s crazy,” I thought. “That could never work. Of course they’re going to say no. Who are we to tell them they can’t say no to us?” I was a new teacher, not yet a parent, and wouldn’t be for nearly four years, so my experience with kids was still limited at that time.

About two years later, I was at a family party in the summertime and my cousin’s little girl, who was about two years old, was out in the sandbox in the back yard. My cousin asked me to go out and get her and bring her in. I went out to see her, told her it was time to go in, and she told me that she didn’t want to go in. So, I went back and relayed the message to my cousin, to which she basically said to me, “No is not an option, go back and tell her she doesn’t have that choice and that it is time to get out of the sandbox and come in.” Hmmmm….there it was again. Out I went and relayed my cousin’s message to her daughter and up she came, out of the sandbox and into the house. It had worked and I had witnessed it with my own eyes.

Approximately two or three years later, we had our own daughter and then two more daughters in the years to follow. I cannot tell you how many times we have used that mantra in our house (and outside of our house, wherever we are) and how well it works, especially once our kids knew that we meant what we said and we would not back down. No was just never an option. They’re not allowed to say it in response to a directive from us, and if they do (and they have tried,) consequences for not listening do follow, whether it’s leaving somewhere immediately or taking away a privilege later on, depending on what we deem necessary at the time.

This came to me recently as I was shopping in a store, and heard an interaction behind me between a parent and a child where the child outright said no to their parent and was allowed to do so with no reprimand or reaction other than the proverbial throwing of the hands into the air by the parent and shaking of the head. I wanted to turn around (but I promise, I didn’t,) and say to the child, “You can’t say no to her. No is not an option.”  And then, I wanted to turn around to the parent and whisper my secret to her as well, “You know, they can’t say no to you, it’s not allowed.”

So instead, I’m telling my secret to you. So often, people ask us why our kids are so well-behaved, and that, my friends, is one of the reasons, learned way back in 1996: No is just not an option.