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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

I’m usually not one for reviewing, much less promoting apps, but when I find one that actually does make life easier (instead of just helping me to waste more time), I’d like to let others know about it. In this case, the app I’m about to review hasn’t just made life easier, but helped me to parent more effectively. It has helped my kids learn healthy habits and be accountable. All that for a mere $2.99? Larry and I normally never buy any apps, but I think this one was a $3 well spent.

For awhile I’ve tried to get my kids, especially my older son, to regularly do their chores. We’ve tried all kinds of ways – physical chore charts with stickers, rewards, penny jars. Those things would work for a week or so, but eventually the novelty would wear off, and I have to confess I wasn’t that good at consistently adhering to whatever system I had started. So in the end the system would go out the window and I would go back to nagging them everyday and they would go back to ignoring me.

Well, a few months ago, Larry, believing that there’s an app for everything, did some research and downloaded some chore chart apps. There are so many out there, but the one he eventually decided on was Chore Pad. It’s relatively easy to use and you can customize chores for each child. There’s a simple reward system of checks and stars and you can decide what rewards they get. My kids love it. We’ve been using it for a few months and the novelty still hasn’t worn off. They have been consistently making their beds, folding their pajamas, cleaning their room, etc. with much less nagging from me. And I don’t have to worry about printing out anything or getting any stickers or pennies, all I have to do is whip out my ipad and have them check off their chores themselves. It has become part of our nightly ritual and both boys will often remind me if I forget to do their chore chart before going to bed.

I’ll walk you through it real quick –

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Each child gets his own page that he can customize. My boys decided to go with the snowflake theme for the winter.

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Then you assign chores for each child and how often they must be done. This is CC’s and…

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…this is Turner’s.

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You can also decide how many stars each chore is worth. The kids use their stars for payouts. So far the reward that has worked to motivate them are minutes for playing video games. CC also has the option of converting his stars to money, which Larry keeps track of in a different piggy bank app.

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As they accumulate checks, they also earn trophies for their virtual trophy shelf. There’s also the option to give them a bonus on each check, if they did a really exceptional job, or a minus, if they did their chore but not such a good job.

We also included a box for daily behavior which we check off at the end of the day if they behaved well. Many times if they’re misbehaving, all we have to do is threaten not give them their behavior check and they’ll change their tune right away.

Anyways, this app has worked well for us so far. It’s so easy even 3-year olds and non-tech savvy mamas like me can figure it out.

What apps have you found useful for parenting? Please share!

 

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This is what I wish happens at our house every morning:

I wake up promptly at 6am, well before the kids, refreshed after a good night’s sleep. I spend an hour with the Lord while sipping my freshly brewed coffee. After being energized physically and spiritually, I walk (while humming) to the boys’ room and gently wake them up saying, “Good morning darlings, it’s time to get up and get ready.” They rub their sleepy eyes and respond, “Good morning, mother,” and immediately start getting themselves dressed without me having to tell them. I go into the kitchen and make us all a balanced breakfast. We sit down to breakfast as a family, Daddy kisses us all goodbye and leaves for work, and I walk both kids leisurely to the bus stop.

This is more like what happens at our house every morning:

The boys break into our room around 7am, screaming and laughing. They jump into our bed and I dream that I’m being ambushed by the enemy. I finally kind of wake up only to see a 24lb toddler straddling my stomach and jumping up and down trying to ride me like a horsey. With every jump he screams, “Mama, I want ‘nack!” (Translation: Mama, I want snack!) I manage to roll off the bed unhurt, leaving Larry to deal with the two jumping monkeys. I go into the kitchen to tend to the first order of business, boiling water for my morning coffee. The kids come into the kitchen and I try to make them eat breakfast, but they’re too busy arguing about who gets to press down the plunger on my French press. I kick myself for teaching them the verse, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” because now they quote it to each other and to me when they argue. I soon tire of refereeing the shouting match and send them to their room to get dressed even though they’re only half done with breakfast. Larry tries to kiss me goodbye, but I’m too irritated to kiss him back. I sit in the kitchen and savor my coffee in my one minute of peace. As I’m sipping, I look over at the clock and….oh no, only 15 minutes until the bus comes! I go in to check on the kids and they’re lounging around naked in their room. I get Turner dressed and make repeated threats to CC to get some clothes on. After the 10th time, he finally complies. I throw some lunch into his lunch box, some clothes on myself, and leave the house teeth unbrushed, hair uncombed. CC races down the sidewalk on his scooter with me following with Turner in the stroller at breakneck speed until we get to the bus stop. Thankfully, the bus isn’t always on time and the kids have time to play a few rounds of hide and seek with the other boy waiting there before the yellow school bus pulls up. Turner and I wave goodbye to CC and walk leisurely home where I have a second chance to begin the day again in the right way.

What do mornings look like at your house?

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Fixing the stop sign

Fixing the stop sign

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Happy December everyone! I can’t believe there is only one more month left to 2014. Crazy how the years fly by the older the kids get. When they were babies it seemed like those long days of nursing and cradling would never end and I would faithfully track their progress month by month. Now in the midst of packing school lunches, swim classes, and our busy family and church life, there never seems to be enough hours in the day. The months go by too fast for me to remember how many months Turner is, so I’ll just keep telling people he’s 2 years old until he turns 3.

Parenting in some sense has become significantly easier now that I’m not so sleep deprived. But the older the kids get, the more I feel like I’m entering uncharted territory. It has gone beyond simply caring for their physical well being and growth to caring for the people they are becoming. Now I feel like there’s so much more to worry about. When they’re little, the dangers are more obvious, like making sure they don’t put dirty things in their mouths or play with sharp objects. But now that CC is older and going to school, I worry that the dangers are more subtle. I worry that I might not be able to see or protect him from all the germs that are getting into his mind just by growing up in this corrupt world we live in.

A friend of mine once told me her reasons for homeschooling her young children – she knew she couldn’t shield her children from all the immoral germs of the world, but she wanted them to spend their formative years with her so that she could at least make sure they build up a healthy immune system. While we don’t feel to homeschool CC at this time (although that could change), I wholeheartedly agree with her about the need to help our children build up a strong and healthy spiritual immune system. I recently attended a parenting workshop and I was so helped to be reminded again that raising our children is a stewardship entrusted to us by God. It’s not just about clothing them and feeding them, but even more about caring for their spiritual welfare. As parents we will all be accountable to the Lord for how we handled our stewardship. On the one hand, how they turn out is up to the Lord’s mercy, but on the other hand, we have the responsibility to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6).

The practical point I took away from the workshop was simply that I need to spend more quality time with my children. More time talking to them, more time listening to them, more time praying with them, and more time modeling to them what it means to love God and fear God. I had the stark realization last week that CC must hear and take in so much at school, but I don’t spend the adequate time with him to help him process and even filter out everything that’s getting into him. Besides the perfunctory, “How was school today?” to which the reply is usually, “Good,” I don’t really know what happened in his day. Now I’ve been trying to practice sitting down and having more meaningful conversations with my son, REALLY listening to him, and I’ve been surprised by how much I don’t know about him. I’ve learned that sometimes his classmates make fun of him for being little and that makes him sad, and I’ve learned that his favorite activity in choice time is computers (that didn’t really surprise me). I’ve also restarted the practice of praying with him before bed, and that sweet time has also been a window into his little heart. One night he wanted to pray that his friend would like his birthday presents, and another night he wanted to pray that the new substitute teacher would know the right songs to sing. I want him to always feel free to tell not just me, but God also, all these things on his heart, no matter how trivial they may seem to others.

So instead of wasting time worrying, I’m going to use that time to pray and to get to know my children. The influence of the world might be strong, but the God who lives in me and hopefully will one day live in them is stronger. As long as we lead our children to know this one, I think they’ll turn out just fine.

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Yesterday my sweet little boy turned 5. We celebrated the day with a pancake breakfast, a trip to Little Farm, and his requested birthday dinner of baked spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread (originally he had only requested salad, but I convinced him we needed some carbs and protein), and of course special birthday cupcakes for dessert which he insisted on decorating with sprinkles himself. He went to bed happy, full of carbs and sugar. I went to bed and scrolled through all the old pictures and videos on my phone of him when he was just learning to walk and talk and part of me longed to have that little baby boy back. Even though I’m so anxious to see him grow, especially seeing how he’s still the smallest one in his class, part of me wishes there was a pause button I could push to stop time from going so darn fast.

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I’m thankful to the Lord for bringing our CC and us through another year. It has been a year of learning for all of us. He has mastered the art of riding a scooter and can now move on to learning to ride his new bike (birthday present from the grandparents). After over 2 years of being in swim class on and off, he’s finally ready to move on to Rays (level 3). He’s learned how to fold his pajamas and make his bed every day before leaving for the school bus. He’s learned how to play chess (I think) and the names for all the ninja turtles. My mother’s heart is bursting with pride.

Now for what I’ve learned. I’ve learned that this little boy can bring a temper out of me like no one else, and that he can match it with an equally hot temper of his own. This year has been a year of learning what kinds of discipline work with him and what kinds don’t. Sometimes I feel like I’m negotiating with a terrorist who refuses to back down or trying to defuse a bomb that can detonate any second. No one told me parenting was such dangerous work. There have been a lot of failures on my part, and sometimes there have been collateral damage. But there have also been days when I’ve been successful in averting WWIII, and I’ve come to appreciate and learn from those small victories. They’ve taught me that the best way to defuse a ticking bomb is not with a sledgehammer, but with a gentle cutting of the right wires. Hopefully I’ll get better at knowing which wires to cut. There really should be a Nobel Peace Prize awarded for parenting.

So here’s to another year of learning! Since there’s no pause, or rewind, or fast forward in life, we might as well turn up the volume and enjoy the music of our children growing up! Happy birthday, CC!

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Dear fellow mom at the park this afternoon,

I really wanted to tell you that you’re doing a great job with your twin babies, but I thought it would come off a little awkward. I saw you pushing that double stroller tiredly, weighed down by the double bags under your eyes, knowing it has probably been forever since you’ve had a good night’s sleep. I wanted to say bravo to you for getting out of the house, knowing it probably took you forever and a day to get those two little ones ready.

I wanted to tell you that I saw you, as you struggled to put one baby into the swing while the other clung to your leg. I saw you when you heaved a sigh of resignation when neither baby wanted to be in the swings and watched in admiration as you lifted them out and tucked one under each arm. I wanted so much to offer you help, but for some reason I hesitated. Maybe because I didn’t want you to think that I thought you were incompetent, or maybe I didn’t know how you would feel about a stranger wanting to hold your child. Sorry all I offered you was a sympathetic smile, when what I really wanted to do was to invite you over for tea and take those two precious weights off your weary hands while you cradle a nice hot cup of tea (or better yet, of latte) instead.

I wanted to tell you that I saw you as you sat with those babies on the playground floor, so needy, barely crawling, demanding constant amusement from you. I felt kind of guilty sitting there on the step by myself, watching my own two boys playing happily by themselves, independent of me. I wanted to offer you encouraging words, that eventually those two little ones will also be running and sliding on their own, but I didn’t want to come off as patronizing or condescending.

I watched you as you reluctantly loaded those babies back into their stroller when their fussiness indicated that they’ve had enough of the park, even though it had barely been half an hour. I saw you look back longingly as you headed out the gate, at all the moms chattering and laughing, while their kids played happily, probably mentally counting how many hours you still had left in the day being alone taking care of those babies. My heart went out to you. I wanted to run after you and say, “It’ll be okay, really. It’s super hard, but it will get better,” but instead I offered up a silent prayer for you, that you would find the grace needed to get through the rest of today.

So dear mama, if we do meet at the park again, I’ll try to overcome my shyness and awkwardness and stop worrying about how I come off. I won’t hesitate to offer you help because that’s what fellow moms do for each other. Maybe I’ll even work up the courage to strike up a conversation and invite you over for tea. And while you’re cradling that cup, maybe I’ll get a chance to tell you what I wanted to tell you today – that you’re doing a wonderful job.

 

 

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Sorry y’all…I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. It’s been a long and busy yet lazy summer and I’ve had two boys to entertain and amuse everyday. But that’s all about to change soon because school starts on Wednesday! (Cue in Hallelujah chorus). CC will begin his first year of kindergarten (well, technically Transitional Kindergarten because his birthday’s in October). Whatever they want to call it, the fact is that he’ll be in a school with big kids, I’ll need to pack him a lunch, and he might possibly even be riding the school bus home. I honestly don’t know who’s more excited about it, him or me.

Sending a child, especially my firstborn, off to school is a big deal. There are so many different conflicting emotions involved. I’m excited and proud to see him growing up and moving on to this stage in life, yet scared and nervous because it brings back all my own memories of being in school. What if he gets teased by the other kids like I was for being so small? What if he doesn’t make any friends, or has no one to sit with at lunch? Worse yet, what if he makes the wrong friends and learns the wrong things?

Every time these kinds of fears assail me, I’m reminded of the story of Hannah in the Old Testament. She wanted a child so badly that she bargained with God that if He granted her a son, she would lend him to Jehovah all his days. Little did she know that her prayer for a son was an echo of God’s own need to have a Nazarite who could turn the age. In that time the priesthood under Eli was corrupt and devoid of God’s speaking. But in Samuel, God found someone who would obey His speaking and cooperate with Him to bring the whole nation of Israel out of degradation. If it wasn’t for Hannah’s prayer, that never would have or could have happened.

What reassures me about this story though is that Hannah trusted God enough to allow her son to grow up in the temple with Eli, who, judging by how his own sons turned out, was probably not the best parent or teacher. His sons profaned the priesthood, yet they were probably the patterns Samuel saw growing up. What must have been in Hannah’s motherly heart, to send her young just-weaned son, to be raised in an environment like that? Surely she knew, as all Israel did, the condition of the priests at that time. Yet she also knew that she had made a vow to Jehovah and that Samuel did not belong to her. I can’t imagine how she felt those first few years of Samuel’s life, knowing that she would soon have to send him away. She must have taken every opportunity, even while he was a babe, to instill in him a fear and love for God and to remind him that he was a Nazarite. And she probably prayed for Samuel her whole life. I believe she laid a foundation in him, so that even when he was surrounded by negative patterns, they didn’t affect him, but rather became warnings to him of what not to be. This was probably the same with Moses. He grew up and was educated in the palace of Pharaoh, but he knew he was not Egyptian.

There would be no Samuel or Moses, if not for their moms. I aspire to be like Hannah, to take every opportunity to infuse the knowledge of God into my boys. To trust more in prayer and God’s mercy than my own mothering skills. To not be so afraid of their friends’ influence on them but to make them kids that would have a positive influence on their friends. To make sure they know who they are, even if they have to be educated in an environment that is corrupt and Egyptian.

So as we enter into this new school year, let’s not miss those little opportunities. To use the time while we’re making lunches to pray for our children, to have those little conversations in the minivan before dropping them off at school, to say that little prayer before tucking them in at night. In the end, those little things can really make all the difference.

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The prompt for this week is…

Choose

GO

He’s in the throes of his first tantrum and it’s barely 7:30am. We sit on his Ikea bed and I wrap my arms around him while he flails and screams. He doesn’t like it when I use the human strait jacket on him so it makes him kick and scream even more. As calmly as I can, I tell him he has a choice. He can choose to start his day with a tantrum or he can choose to calm down and try to start over. Eventually he starts to tire and I loosen my hold on him. I watch him as he sobs on the bed, chest heaving, and I keep telling him to breathe. I repeat it like a mantra over him until he calms down and the sobs turn into a silent whimper. When reason again returns to him, I ask him to explain to me what’s wrong. Somehow we manage to reach a compromise and we both walk out back to the kitchen to finish breakfast.

I’ve noticed that both my husband and I do that a lot with CC. We present him with choices (sometimes too many) and we try to make him understand that by choosing an action he also chooses the consequences of that action. Everything we do is a choice. Even our not choosing is to choose the default. Maybe that’s too much to expect a 4-year-old to understand, but being an indecisive person myself, I’m determined to have my son not take after me. So I like to present him with options whenever I can – the dinosaur shirt or the Thomas shirt, mac and cheese for lunch or PB&J, etc. – and in situations where I make the choices for him, I try to explain to him why. This is all in hopes that he’ll grow up knowing how to make wise choices and that when it comes to big things, like choosing to follow the Lord, he’ll stand firm in his decision and not allow others to choose for him. I’m starting to realize more and more what a sacred responsibility has been entrusted to us as parents. We have the power to shape little souls, little vessels that can either be unto honor or unto dishonor, vessels that one day can be useful to the Master (2 Timothy 2:21). So as my little boy does the choosing, you can be sure that this mommy will be doing a lot of praying.

STOP

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