Friday, April 30, 2010

The Kitchen is Closed.

There is a point in a baby's life when the Three Squares come at reasonable times, and there also comes a time when the kids can deal with eating dinner at 7pm, when Daddy is home and hungry. Alas, we are living in the days when
Lunch for the kindergartner is just shy of 11am (gotta catch that bus!)
Lunch for the toddler is at 10am (to get that belly full before nap) and
Dinner for the toddler is at 3pm (in preparation for his 5:30(!) bedtime).
Dinner for the three big kids is at 4:30 (before baseball practice!)
Dinner for the husband is significantly later
Throw in a morning and afternoon snack and what have you got? A mother that does nothing but prepare for and clean up after meals. No wonder I'm not losing those last 6 pounds.

I am largely over the seizure I suffered when discovering the allergy list I needed to learn to cook around. But pair that with the (temporary) everybody-eats-at-a-different-time business and I gotta' admit: I am a little tired of thinking about food. But my children do not seem to be tired of asking to eat every time my hands near the countertop. Which is why I have instated "The Kitchen is Closed" policy.

So, My Little Grazers, don't even ask.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Living in the Real World

I got a dose of real encouragement in my email inbox this morning. I must share!

Parent with the Real World in Mind

By:Whitney Hopler Contributing Writer
Crosswalk Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Mark Matlock's new book, Real World Parents: Christian Parenting for Parents Living in the Real World (Zondervan, 2010).

There's no magic formula you can use to make sure that your kids fare well in this fallen world. So you don't need to feel guilty if you don't keep up with certain behaviors, such as regular family devotions. And you don't need to feel shame if your parenting sometimes falls short of what of what it should be, and you find yourself saying or doing something wrong with your kids.

What matters most is for your kids to see you living for Jesus in a real way - simply doing your best to live faithfully. If you do that, your kids will learn what real faith in action looks like in the midst of the world's sinful realities. They'll witness the ultimate reality that faith can overcome anything the world throws at them.

Jenne's note: here are my two favorite tips the author offers in the article... all the tips are well taken and I encourage you to jump over to the article (link at the end of this post):

Consider what story you're telling. Every day, you're telling your kids a story by the way you live your life, even when you don't speak a word. What story are you telling your kids about the world, and especially about the way you live with and for God over time? It's crucial that you're communicating God's worldview to your kids, instead of telling them to believe what the Bible says but then living according to the world's values rather than what God values.

Ask God to give you His perspective on every part of your life so you can recognize how the world is influencing you in unhealthy ways. Confess and repent of each way that you've been living the wrong story, and pray for the power you need to live the story God wants you to live. Love God with all of your heart and invite Him to change you from the inside out. Then your life will communicate the right story to your kids.

Let go of broken strategies for competing with the world's story. Trying to isolate your kids from the real world won't ultimately protect them, because they're destined to grow up and experience it for themselves someday - and need to be prepared to make wise decisions for themselves when encountering harsh realities. So whenever your kids are exposed to something you wish they weren't, use that opportunity to help them discover how God views the situation. Attempting to regulate the world's influence on your kids in certain areas - by telling them what they can't do - can create a mindset in your kids where they just follow rules without understanding the big picture of God's story and how it relates to each situation. Your goal shouldn't be protecting your kids for the sake of keeping them innocent; it should be teaching them how to think about the world's values so they'll be able to turn away from wrong values on their own. Trying to compartmentalize your family's life - going to church and doing other Christian activities, while allowing your kids to live just the same way as non-Christian kids - will also fail. Rather than conforming to the world, God calls you and everyone in your family to be transformed by inviting the Holy Spirit to renew your minds regularly.
Here is the full article, found on

Thursday, April 8, 2010

This Means War

Here are the tools. A laundry basket turned upside down, a hanger with a rubber band extended across, and a handfull of Zoobs (a tinker toy of sorts).
What could four little boys possibly do with this strange set of equipment?
Open a dry cleaning business?

Oh no. This is WAR!

Here are the barracades - one for each boy.
The hanger and rubber band is transformed into bow.
Zoobs? Arrows of course!

And here are the soldiers.

Fight strong. Fight well. Protect your land and defeat the bad guys!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Organization Ideas

I received an email from a dear friend about a year ago. I read it and then "organized it" into my email inbox. Clearly I need to actually heed some of the advice in this email because the helpful advice was lost all this time. For lack of a better place to put it, it lands here. Hope you find these tips (that I did not come up with, mind you) helpful. I can't wait to implement some of them!

(Ginger, maybe you could forward me the link to your friend's blog that gave you this help. I would like to give credit where credit is due.)

Here are a few tips that help keep the Rexine six-pack organized and working as a team.

* In the kitchen I keep five stacked paper trays each labeled with a name. Mom on top, Riley next and so on. When the kids get home from school, they unload papers for me into my bin and things like spelling words or weekend homework into their bins. We also store things like Valentine lists, school project information, and library books in their bins. My bin usually contains information on fieldtrips, school parties, school and sports pictures/schedules and other things that I need to remember FOR my kiddos. Brady's bin has a few coloring books and scratch paper so he can reach and do a "project" all on his own. He has learned to put everything away in his bin when he is finished and used paper goes into the recycling bin. He takes a lot of pride in doing this. I know you are a year or so away from all the homework, etc...but it may be helpful to get this system in place early. No searching for the missing library book or the dog ate my homework excuses.

* Four colored laundry baskets (labeled) on a cheap shelf in the garage. Kierstyn and Riley's on top, Julia and Brady on bottom. These contain all of their shoes. No more searching. They go in as soon as they come off.

* Four large printer paper boxes (labeled) to hold those special art projects/stories. When I have to put things in a box ( I am going to try to have only 1 per child for their entire school career) I am very choosey about what I save. I have 4 files in the file cabinet in which all questionable artwork goes into, and every 3 months or so I deposit the most precious into the printer paper boxes. The rest is discretely recycled.

* Large cork board hung vertically in the hallway. (I actually found an old picture at Goodwill, cut the picture out of the frame, hung the frame and filled the center with cork tiles.) Everyone can reach to put up those special drawings. When the board is full, some pictures have to come down in order to put others up. The kids chose one of their own to replace with a new one. They then put the old piece in my bin mentioned above. When I go through it, I put the special ones in their file, which will later go through the selection process with hopes of making the big box. See the process in action :)

* Book Basket Basics.....My children all LOVE books. We have a basket of book downstairs, 3 upstairs and even one in their bathroom. This helps keep a mess from being dragged from room to room. They also actually look at all the books, not just the same ones on the top.

* Laundry room....tubs for a garage sale. I keep masking tape and a sharpie in the laundry room. When items are too small and can no longer be passed down, I launder, mark and store them. I hate wasting time on handling items more then once. Every spring I have a garage sale and then use the money for the next seasons clothes. I don't feel overwhelmed, because everything has already been gone through and marked. All I have to do is pull it out and viola!

* Start those memories now.....Every year school year I save a pair of jeans from each child. I mark their name and grade (starting with preschool) and store in a tub. They will each get a quilt made out of their jean squares for graduation. A great way to use jeans that look worn or have holey knees. Some of the squares will contain pockets, others zipper and the girls have some pink jean in their collection.

*BINS BINS BINS..... I just love them. After Christmas, you can get them cheep. They may be red and green, but who cares. Plus they are easy to spot :) In our pantry I have one with games, one with easy bake oven ingredients, one with play - doh and one with puzzles/flash cards. It makes it very easy to find what we need and still organized. (I also stock up on Dollar store shower curtains. They make awesome mats for play-doh, cooking with the kids, shaving cream art, carving pumpkins. If I can clean them up great, if I don't have to...even better :)

* Next year Anessa will have to bring her own snack. On the weekend we make 5 labeled zip lock baggies for each kid for the week. Some sit in the pantry and others in the fridge (like carrots). It sure makes packing a snack much easier and what's good for one works for all. They can chose which one they want on which day.

*Plastic drinking glass drawer.....low cupboard right by the fridge. The kids can get their own glass of water. It's amazing how much time we spend getting drinks when in reality, with the right tools, most of them can do it themselves. If you don't have a water dispenser on the fridge, small sports bottles kept with water in the fridge work awesome.

*Chores...all of our kids have chores ( keep in mind...ours are older :))) They all make their own beds and pick up before they move onto the next activity. They all have daily chores, like making their beds, putting away their clothes, picking up toys. Riley helps clear the table, takes out the garbage and cleans the litter box. The girls empty the dishwasher, and fold laundry, and help set the table and Brady feeds the fish, and helps clear the table. I know family's that give allowances and it works well for them, but we really don't want out kids looking for a return being part of a family. They do, however, know that because they help out, it gives us much more "fun" time with them. A pedicure with pretty polish for the girls or tossing the ball with the boys is really what makes our kids the happiest. As your kids get older, the advantages of a large family really start to show themselves. We have grown into a wonderful team.

*Meals...I usually plan 2 large meat dishes and 3 leftover dishes. I.e. Ham dinner.....then scalloped potatoes and ham, and Hot ham and cheese melts or ham and bean soup. Chicken dinner....chicken pot pie, and chicken with penne pesto pasta. I do the big meals on Mon and Wed. and fill in with the leftovers. It really makes my meal planning a snap, not to mention I save a lot of $$$$. With our busy schedule, I usually put everything in the crock pot right after lunch and then when the 2:30 rush of children, snack and homework begin, I am prepared. I can relax into the afternoon routine still knowing that a great meal is on it's way.

* Laundry...1 light load and 1 dark load a day. I have 2 separate baskets, so everyone separates their own laundry when they drop it off. A colored basket for colors and a white basket for lights/whites. I wash during the day and then the girls and I sit and visit as we fold.....and our meal is cooking itself :)

* Breakfast....set the table for breakfast right before you go to bed. The kids love to come down to a ready to go table.....and SO DO I!!!

* Shoe Boxes.....The girls each have a shoe box of treasures under their bed. They got to decorate it with stickers and markers. This is where they put all of those things that really don't have a place and yet they don't want to get rid of. Birthday cards from Grandma, rock collection, glittery chap stick, beaver bravos etc. They are happy and I don't have to get anything caught in the vacuum cleaner.

*Stair basket or bag....Hangs on the banister or sits on the bottom step. This bag/basket (I love the reusable Fred Meyers box shaped bag) and gets filled with the collection of upstairs items that seems to walk downstairs throughout the day. I bring the bag up before bedtime and everyone is responsible for putting the items that belong to them away. If I need to ask them more than once, the bag is put away until the next day and they will not be allowed to play with the items within the bag. They will have another chance the following evening. Julia once had to go to dance without her ballet slippers and explain to teacher Tammy what happened. Needless to has never happen again. They have all learned the consequences and comply with a smile. I just love smiling :) :) :)

* And my final tip is cleaning aprons.....The girls and Brady love this....Riley is a little too cool at this point:) I found in-expensive aprons with pockets and stuffed them for cleaning day. A dust rag, a few paper towels, small water spray bottles with Windex, ponytail holder for the girls, and a plastic Freddie's bag which I loop through the tied belt for garbage. Turn on a little music and we are off on a mad yet fun cleaning spree. Brady is quite the baseboard duster.

additional tip from Ginger:
Another thing I've heard from a Megan, who runs a businss called Disorder 2 Order. She said, Horizontal is Hidden...Vertical is Visual. I had these ominous stacks on my desk of papers and 'stuff', and there would always be some bill that would inevitably get sucked in and lost at the bottom and we'd get a late fee on it. argh!! So she said sort things into one of three piles. To DO(bills,forms to be signed, etc), To READ(magazines, articles, research), and To FILE. So I got some cute pee-chees? sp? and a magazine holder thing and everything goes into one of those three folders. I have an extra folder for Anessa's artwork that keeps showing up everywhere. It's nice because it sets a limit: When the File, or Read folder gets full, I have to take care of it, it can't get any fatter. So I take it upstairs to the office and file away, or sit down and read and toss. It's nice because papers aren't being carried up one-by-one to get lost before they reach the office.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Forcing a Smile

Lately my kids have done a copious amount of bickering. What's all the fuss? Oh, monument things, I would say: little brother is not facing his plate; big brother does not have all four chair legs on the floor. Big brother is not singing the right words; little brother is looking at me. Little brother won't share; big brother won't either. Big brother won the race; little brother pushed me.

Not surprising to any mother, I can't stand the sound of my children fighting with, purposely annoying, or lording over one another. The quibbles (which are more than usual right now) have been a good "opportunity" for me to think through and practice how to tread the quarrelling waters. And since I have short term memory issues (comes with the motherhood territory), I thought it best to write some things down.

I have a few good one-liners in my pocket that I pull out when a scrape ensues ("Let me be the mom, and you can be the encouraging older brother" and "If you continue arguing you will lose the privilege of playing together.")

Generally speaking, I don't permit arguing between the brothers. If I cannot trust them to treat each other well then they cannot play together unsupervised. (More on that notion here.) That does not mean that we are spat-free around here. Quite the contrary! But I grew up with a sibling and we just did not dispute. Part of it was personality, but I think part of it was that our parents taught us how to get along and they did it in a way that worked. My experience tells me that it is possible for siblings to learn to treat each other well. So that is the expectation in our house. I hope it will better prepare them for life, work, and marriage someday!

Here are some of the way that I am teaching my kids how to get along with each other.

1. I know in my heart that my facial expressions and tone of voice DIRECTLY IMPACT how my kids relate to each other. If I am sternly reprimanding their bickering, I have set the example of sternness and impatience. If I respond to their tiff with a soft voice and a smile (even if it IS forced), they have seen an example of how to respond even when they are irritated. (LORD KNOWS how irritated I get!)

I did an experiment in the car today, amid a battle over who was right about the words of a particular song. I put a smile on my face and empathized with the child who was actually right (we both knew he was right) and told him: Since you are the older brother you DO know more things than your little brother, huh? But part of knowing more things is being patient with those who don't know as much. So, if he is wrong and he does not believe you are right, be wise! Know in your head that you are right and just say "Oh well" and move on. That child did not much care for my thoughts on the subject and the scowl on his face remained throughout the miniature lecture - and beyond. My permi-grin remained as well, and I joined in singing the song and acting like I was having a good ol' time, even though one child was glowering and little brother still did not sing the right words. I winked at the scowly face in my rear-view mirror a couple of times but did not let on that he was irking me. It was not long before his countenance changed and he was singing again. As I had hoped, my countenance impacted his and he was finding himself enjoying himself despite the fact that he did not get his little brother to admit he was wrong about something.

2. When I suddenly find my kids have gotten into a cycle of scraps I take note! I spend time thinking about their arguing and try to name what I am hearing. If I can't yet name it, or don't know how best to handle it I default to my standby and send the kids to different rooms or regions to sit quietly and look at books or something. That at least buys me some time until the next quarrel. (And yes, there will be a "next time.") So anyway, rather than react and respond in foolishness I think and pray for wisdom. After some thinking and praying, I have discovered that the types of arguments we are having lately involve 1.) mostly one boy lording authority over another boy and 2) I hear a fair amount of "right fighting" which basically means that a brother cares more about being right than anything (that's the definition of an idol!). Of course the other typical source of quarrels stem from selfishness in one child and impatience from the other. In nearly all bickering, both kids are in the wrong: Right-fighting and lording over from one child usually creates a stubborn heart in the other.

3. If I have spent time thinking about the bottom line of the arguments then when the bickering starts I pretty quickly can identify what's "really" going on, which gives me the opportunity to use my prepared response. Yes, I brush up on my acting skills and prepare what I will say next time.

4. I spend time teaching (a bit in the moment and a bit more, later, when they are more prepared to learn!). Rather than focus on what to stop doing or acting like, I try to focus on teaching them how they should act: how to react; what words to use; what tone of voice to adopt. I might say to one child, "Rather than yell at at your brother to quit, please say, 'will you please stop..." When I give them a better phrase I try my best to force a smile and keep my tone pleasant. When it it really hard for me to maintain control over my tone and words, it is actually a good reminder to me that what I am asking of them (to control their anger or frustration) is a very difficult thing!

I also try to help them see the situation from the younger one's perspective. For instance I might say, "Honey, I know he is bothering you and that you would rather he leave. But do you know that he just loves playing with you so much? He just wants to do what you are doing because you are so fun to be around." Pointing out that fact usually stops the older one in their tracks and gives them a dramatically different level of patience with a younger brother.

5. I also try to take note of how I have been speaking to the kids and my husband in other situations. Has my tongue been quick? Have I exercised great patience and self-control? Am I giving them the benefit of the doubt? Have I smiled at my kids? Have I respected my husband? Am I nit-picking? Am I being inconsistent in my discipline? Am I asking the kids to do things that I, a grown woman, am not modeling? I am surprised at what I usually discover. Ugh.

Probably the most agonizing thing about controlling the caterwaul is owning up to how I have contributed to the problem.  I think I will forever need to be humbled in how I use my tongue and tone. But when it is all said and done I am pointed to my Savior, who is the only one who can help. I love the reminder in Ephesians: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph 4:29-32)

This verse is a good reminder for me and my kids!

(For other sibling-related posts click here.)