Sunday, March 17, 2013

With a Little Help from My Kids...

Several years ago, a very wise woman was having a picnic for the parents and children of her art class. At the end of the meal, the parents stood up and began clearing the dishes. "Wait! Let the children do that!" she exclaimed. Then she went on to explain that if children have the ability to do a task, they should do it. It isn't cruel; it teaches them to be responsible adults. At the time, I only had two children ages 4 and 2. Her advice to the parents struck home and that very day my children started taking responsibility (and pride) in cleaning up after themselves. 

Flash forward 5 years later - March 2012. My husband and I were taking a weekly F!nancial Peace Univer$ity class (you know, Dave Ramsey). Dave also has a FPU Junior course for children. Intrigued, I bought the kit and walked through it with my children. Now, we had been trying various reward systems for a few years by this point - they earned everything from marbles (redeemable for items), quarters, candy, and other rewards for completing their chores. However, I always fell behind in keeping up with everything. FPU Junior somewhat simplified things for me - but I simplified it further...

My children have daily and weekly tasks to perform. Each day they make up their beds, clean up their rooms, clear their dishes, etc. They also have age-appropriate jobs. Monday through Friday, they can earn a dollar a day - except for Chaucer - he earns quarters when he does an individual task (little kids like the clink of coins; they haven't yet learned to appreciate a piece of paper with a dead President on it). I also give an incentive dollar - if they have earned all 5 dollars for the week, I'll give them an extra dollar. They can also earn extra dollars for doing extra work; I never tell them they can earn the extra dollar and they know they should not ask for the extra dollar. Pay day is Saturday at breakfast. I give them their earnings for the week then they sort their money into three envelopes: SAVE, GIVE, and SPEND. This past Saturday was a "Give" week - so they have to put $1 in their Give envelope (regardless if they earned one dollar for the week or six). Anything left can go in either Save or Spend. Next week will be a "Save" week - so, again, $2 (regardless of the money earned) goes in their Save envelope. So, every two weeks, they are giving 10% (to our church) and 20% to their savings accounts. They usually keep those monies in the envelopes for a couple of months at which point we bring the envelopes to our church and to the bank. As for spend, they can spend their money on whatever they want to. I, personally, love the Spend envelopes! When we go to a fair, museum, or store, they aren't begging me for toys. They know to bring their money! This system has saved me and my husband a small fortune, I'm sure! Yesterday, while we were out and about, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. Casey, wanting a milkshake and knowing not to ask me, whipped out a couple of dollars of her own money and bought one for herself. She was positively beaming about that milkshake! 

One other thing I've implemented in our home is KID OF THE WEEK (KOTW). What a life saver this has been!! My children used to argue over who would go first - or, rather, last - when seeing their music teacher. KOTW has changed that! They used to break their necks to run out and get the mail. No more of that nonsense since we have a KOTW! Kid of the Week has advantages and disadvantages. Kid of the Week gets to check the mail, has a stronger vote in the choice of flicks for Family Movie Night, and gets their choice of where to sit during that movie. Kid of the Week also has to practice piano and voice first, has to clear extra dishes from the dining room table, has piano and voice lessons first, waters the plants, feeds the dog, and helps me sort and bag recycling. I'm sure there are more KOTW tasks, but I can't remember them right now. Recently, given that we will have a newborn in the house soon, I've given the kids a few new tasks to do and have taught them how to clean showers and Casey has learned how to set the washing machine to do laundry. Because of the simple advice I was given years ago, my children take pride in their home, earn money they can give and save and spend, and I have an amazingly clean home (usually) considering 6 people (7 before too long) live here!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Playing with an Unborn Baby

I woke up from a nap (the blessed repose I seek most afternoons) to find Baby Cinco's foot busily working my right side.  So, I decided to play with that little foot.  It was an enjoyable few minutes - probably the most fun I've had with this last part of my pregnancy, thus far - complete with me talking to my baby.  Of course, there is a person in there, but I really feel as though I was bonding with this person.  I mean, there is a PERSON inside of me - and we were PLAYING!!!

I thought I would blog about some ways a mommy (and daddy and siblings) can play with the baby before baby is even born.

1)  Talking.  The baby always hears its mommy's voice, but it's a good think to talk directly to the baby.  I'm guilty of not talking to this baby as much as I did with my other children, especially my first.  When I want quiet time these days, I'd like it to be, well... quiet.  But I try, when I think of it, to speak directly to Baby Cinco.  Tell the baby you are excited to be meeting him, you love her, what you imagine he looks like.  I also encourage my husband and my children to talk to the baby.  Casey is quite fond of talking to her unborn sibling - it's very sweet.

2)  Singing.  I enjoy singing; my children and I are constantly singing.  Sometimes, we even sing to Baby Cinco.  Even if you're not the greatest singer, I think music has a profound impact on people - even unborn babies.

3)  Music.  Of course, with singing comes music.  I usually wake up to the same song every morning:  Loreena McKennit's "The Old Ways."  I love it, and I've noticed Baby Cinco loves it, too.  When I was in my 6th month of pregnancy, I noticed one morning that she started stirring as soon as Loreena began to sing (there is a long instrumental intro to the piece before the singing begins).  After a few weeks of playing this song every day and noticing that Baby Cinco woke up during the tune, I decided to play it one afternoon when baby was still.  Sure enough, she woke up when the singing began.  I can't wait to play the song for Baby Cinco in person (not in utero)!  I'm interested to see if she'll perk up or calm down.

4)  Massage.  I think most expectant mothers rub their bellies - consciously or otherwise.  Rubbing your belly can also act as baby massage, depending on how firm the rubbing is.  It feels good for mommy and baby, too!

5)  Light.  I've always played the flashlight game with my unborn babies.  You know, taking a flashlight and seeing if baby reacts. 

6)  Reading.  Similar to my music experiment, reading the same book over and over to your unborn baby may have an effect on the baby once the baby has made his/her appearance.  With Casey, I read Guess How Much I Love You.  Unfortunately, I didn't read it on a daily basis until she was born, but it was still fun to interact with her prenatally.

7)  Tickling.  This was my inspiration for writing this blog post.  I found my baby's little foot began my quest to tickle it.  It was fun to see that foot trying to escape my tickles.

So... there you have it!  Play with your baby now - you don't have to wait until your baby is born to play with - and bond with - your little one.

Monday, March 4, 2013

NEWS FLASH! Cookies!!!

I love cookies.  LOVE.  This time of year used to be my dream season (except the years I gave up sweets for Lent; then it became torture season)...  Girl Sc0ut cookie season.

However, given my feelings about my girls' past experiences with Girl Sc0uts, my husband's boycotting the Girl Sc0ut cookie sales for socio-political reasons (which I support), and the fact they charge WAY TOO MUCH for a box of cookies (they're good, but not THAT good), we aren't buying Girl Sc0ut cookies this year.

Fortunately, I have found something better than a substitute for Samoas.  These things ARE Samoas - with slightly different packaging, a much lower price ($1.40 a box), and year-round availability.

Check this out:

Yup!  I'm convinced these cookies are manufactured at the same place making Samoas.  These cookies look, smell, and taste like Samoas.  The interior packaging is the same.  The exterior packaging is frighteningly similar (the purple box).  So!  There you are!

Oh!  I got these at Big Lot$.  I'm beside myself excited!

If you know of any good Girl Sc0ut cookie knock offs or something very similar, let me know.  Just be warned:  I haven't yet baked a cookie myself that is "just like" a thin mint, so I'm not very keen on recipe substitutes.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Counting Down to Baby Cinco

We are 39 days out from Baby Cinco's due date (that's what we are calling the baby, for lack of a better cutesy in utero baby name, since this will be our fifth baby).  When we were expecting Chaucer, I had the idea of making a paper chain to help the kids visualize the number of days left and as a fun way to mark the days until the newest addition to our family.  The five days remaining on Chaucer's chain have been lovingly pasted into his baby book.

I thought it would be fun to do again.  I printed the dates (only for the last 40 days, and the chain is still ridiculously long) and my girls colored each link.  Every day one of the children can tear off a date and we can watch the chain dwindle as we inch (second by second it seems at this point) closer to meeting our baby.

In addition to making the chain, I've organized my home birth supplies into baskets.  Have I mentioned I'm having a home birth?  Chaucer was born at home and so will Baby Cinco.  It's the right decision for our family and that's all I'm going to say about it for today.  My midwife may (and probably will and that's okay) rearrange my stash, but for now, here's my collection of stuff for my birth.  Well...almost all of it.  My birth tub isn't in the picture.  [Note to me:  Inflate that thing to make sure it still holds air before going into labor!]