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Pinocchio Told Lies and So Do We

Pinocchio Told Lies and So Do We

When he fell from his chair, blood poured. Apparently, his nose had met the table as he fell.

It was just a bloody nose, but shocking still. Rest and paper towels stopped it, but a couple days later it bled again. And again. And again. It bled because my son is young and sometimes his finger finds its way in the nostril. It bled again because my son is playful and can’t keep himself from bouncing. It bled again because weapons, no matter how fake, can still do damage.

The week after his first bleeding, he came to me from behind and said, “Mom, my nose is bleeding.” But when I looked, there was no blood. My son laughed. “It was a trick, mom,” he said.

This was not my son’s first trick played. He thinks they are funny, and I know he’s not alone. Lots of people love tricks. Maybe you do, even. I’m just not one of those people who loves tricks. It just always seems that when a trick is played, it’s played at the expense of someone else. When my son plays tricks, I know he’s not trying to be malicious. Yet there is a hint of malice. I want my son to know the affect of tricks, so I told him the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” I told him that when he tells untruths, he is telling me that he can’t be trusted. What if he kept playing that trick, then one day his nose actually bled again but I didn’t come to his aid because I thought he was playing a trick?

Like so many parenting situations, I don’t know if this was the right solution. I also don’t actually know what my son’s intention was. He said he thought it would be funny to play this trick, but I’m not sure if dishonesty should mix with humor. In our house, we tell jokes all the time. We laugh (most days anyway). We play games and celebrate fun. But we don’t celebrate dishonesty.

Well, the originating thought of all this was a memory of Pinocchio. At this point, it may be a loose connection to the truth of my son’s nosebleed trick, but I would like to take a shot. Will you join me?

When I was 5 or 6, my cousin recorded herself reading the entirety of Pinocchio and sent me the tapes as a gift. I listened to them, and perhaps that is where the magic of the story begins for me. I watched videos of Pinocchio: the Disney version and a live-action version I liked to check out from the library. I am no Pinocchio expert, and today I recall only the basic story line, but another memory is this: as a teenager vacationing in Italy, I wanted the book. (While in Florence, read Pinocchio? Exactly.) When my grandmother found out that I wanted and purchased the book, she scowled. Apparently she never liked Pinocchio. “He’s a liar,” she said.

Oh, my sweet, sweet grandmother who so rarely showed her opinion. She said that Pinocchio was a liar and she didn’t like him.

A liar. One who doesn’t tell the truth. A liar cannot be trusted. And what is the motive for lying? Is it fear? Shame? A distrust of self? I have told lies. Is it safe to say that every person has? For Pinocchio, dishonesty was always revealed. It never benefited him. In fact, lying always brought more shame than the act that prompted the lie, and yet he still told lies. Even though our human lies don’t always bring such social humiliation, doesn’t shame always follow? It’s a voice that says, Why would you lie? You are a liar. And, like Pinocchio, we continue.

After some research, I have discovered that in the original version of Pinocchio, author Carlo Collodi killed off the marionette (source: slate.com). He apparently wanted to hone in on the consequence of doing bad things instead of the always possibility of rebirth.

Grace. Always grace. That’s why Disney’s version is so lovable. Because, though Pinocchio has told lies in every one of his versions, Disney offers him the chance to separate the “Pinocchio, the Liar” from “Pinocchio, Who Struggles with Lying but Desires Life and Will Have a Chance to Live”.

Pinocchio begins as a piece of wood, a special block with lots of potential. Our kids are so much more than a block of wood, but I admit that at times it seems I cannot see the difference. I’m sure I often come across the same way.

Pinocchio was a liar and Collodi killed him for it (note: before the publishers told him to bring Pinocchio back to life). Disney gave him a dream and fulfilled it.

Disney makes Pinocchio sing: “I’ve got no strings to hold me down, to make me fret or make me frown. I had strings but now I’m free. There are no strings on me.”

So if my son plays tricks but in my eyes they look like lies, do I let him continue to play his games, hoping that he will grow out of it? Or do I point out the dishonesty in tricks and offer the hope of rebirth now? Or am I thinking about this too much and should just let a boy be a boy and have his fun?

After all this, rebirth stands out the most. When Walt Disney Studios allowed Pinocchio to become a real boy, they did not take away the lies. But they did take away the shame. They didn’t say he was perfect, but they allowed him to be flesh and have understanding. Though Pinocchio never had strings, he did have something holding him back but still lived a life of hope.

 

 

 

WHAT DO WE ACTUALLY WANT OUR KIDS TO LEARN IN HOME SCHOOL?

WHAT DO WE ACTUALLY WANT OUR KIDS TO LEARN IN HOME SCHOOL?

Lately, the reality of home school has set in for me.

And before we go any further, let me remind you that my oldest child is only just now in kindergarten.

We are using Saxon Math along with Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool (Getting Ready and Math 1). We are taking a relaxed approach because we have two younger children in the mix and, while my kindergartner could probably do math and reading all day long, I can’t keep the younger two engaged for it. We do what we can, and we take every opportunity. Like, “We have 10 gummies and 3 children. How many gummies does each child get?” Then we divide them up equally. “How many are leftover?” Then we might have a little lesson on fractions. Handwriting is often enforced when we make birthday cards. Vocabulary is learned every day. We might not have formal lessons on it, but we talk about words and what they mean as we use them. For us, this just works better.

I feel the pull toward more formal teaching, but our life just does not work that way right now.

But I also have these aches: Can’t we just sit close in pajamas, arms linked, bellies still hungry, still fasting from the night. Empty, but waiting expectantly for something delicious. Something hot. Can’t we just read books without fights about who gets to turn the page? Can’t we just listen?

I can teach addition and vocabulary, but we didn’t decide to home school because we wanted to be in charge of math lessons.

And this brings me to the crux of this post: What do we (my husband and I) actually want our kids to learn in “school”?

Here’s a list I came up with, and I’m sure we’ll add to it through the years:

  • to find joy
  • to live thankful
  • to marvel at God’s creation
  • to listen to opposition while remaining steady (not erupting) in truth
  • to say no to fear
  • to cast out thieves
  • to hear the voice of God
  • to love all people
  • to stand up for the weak
  • to respect authority
  • to make sound decisions
  • to value family
  • to build

These things are much harder to teach, and much harder to test. It takes time. It takes training. The answers to the questions tied up in these teachings are not so straightforward. There is no teacher’s manual, and while we teach these lessons, we are also learning them.

But we continue. And every once in a while we see that our children are learning.

Like when that song “Break every chain” comes on the radio and my kids stop everything to participate. “There is power in the name of Jesus,” they sing, “to BREAK every chain. BREAK every chain. BREAK every chain.”

Of course my destructive children love the word break more than any other here.

It’s the verb. The action. The thing that moves the sentence and gives force. (That’s a grammar lesson, guys!)

My children LOVE this song. And I know they’re not the only kids who do. Kids everywhere seem to cling to it.

To be honest, I don’t like when my kids break things. Be it glasses or toys or remotes, or the button on a pillow my diseased grandma made. But the power to break has a place. There are many things in our city, in our world, that need not remain. I know my kids are looking for these things because the library we live near is a historic school and at one flight of stairs, a chain hangs. I have no idea what it’s for, but it is probably a piece of the historic charm. My 3 year-old grabbed it one day and pulled. “BREAK every chain,” he said.

Luckily, the actual chain didn’t break, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that library came across some extra freedom that day.

Sometimes we have to start where it’s easy, where it’s natural or literal, before we can get down deep into uncovering the actual lesson.

ON TRAINS AND TRAINING AND THE “I WANT!” MONSTER

ON TRAINS AND TRAINING AND THE “I WANT!” MONSTER

I had a friend in college who used to say that she wanted to be an elementary school teacher because she loved kids. Then she would clarify that she actually only loved kids who sat and listened. She loved nice kids, the kinds of kids who practiced the art of the inside voice, kids who only used their hands for hugging and giving. Kids who would never hit or pinch or pull hair and didn’t tap your shoulder every five minutes asking for lunch. Kids that never said mean things like “Shut up you stupid head.” Kids who would never talk about butts or junks at the dinner table, not even on a triple dog dare.

In other words, she wanted the yoga body without doing the downward dog. She wanted a garden of roses without getting down in the dirt. All the benefits of well-behaved children without the work of training them.

My friend knew this was unlikely, albeit impossible. But I suppose one can dream.

The reality is, children rarely act how my friend dreamed. Children have to be taught (and they will be taught something no matter what!) Children have to be trained to be functioning adults.

Train: To guide the growth of. To guide the mental, moral, etc. development of; bring up; rear. To instruct so as to make proficient or qualified. To prepare or make fit.

ttt

 

Perhaps my friend was somewhat justified. It is not necessarily the teacher’s job to guide a child’s life. At least not solely. Teachers are mostly supposed to teach. Though I believe with all my heart that teachers can be highly influential people, really, kids need parents.

Wait just a minute…

I’m a parent.

So you’re telling me that I have to train my kids? That they’re not going to sit quietly and only use their hands for nice things unless I train them to do so? You’re telling me that I have to train my kids? What does that mean? I didn’t sign up for this. I just wanted to go to story time, to snuggle and play dolls.

Yeah. I know. And I don’t have the answers for how to do this. I am figuring all that out for myself. But I do know it’s important. I know that a parent who does not discipline is a parent who does a disservice to their children and to society. I know that, even if I told you how to discipline your kids, it probably wouldn’t make a difference unless you spent time with your kids, observing who they are and what their specific issues are, figuring out exactly what kind of training works for them.

One thing that we are dealing with at my household is the “I WANT” monster. He comes out almost every time we do anything. For example, yesterday when my kids got up from their naps, I offered a slice of apple dipped in caramel sauce and crushed up nilla wafers. I said, “Come over here! I want to show you what I made while you were napping.” And I took a slice of apple and dipped it in sugary goodness and handed one to my 3 year-old, who ate it with gladness. Then I did the same for my 5 year-old, who immediately screamed and cried “I wanted to do it myself!” Which spurred lots of nasty reactions and eventually brought me to explain to him that when someone gives you a gift, you say thank you and you take it. You don’t cry because of how the gift was given. You simply, and graciously, say thank you.

Hold on. My kids are each a gift, so does this little lesson apply to me to?

Maybe. Just maybe it does.

Though my children (and yours) were given wrapped in nausea and discomfort, then with sharp pains, with goo and crying and squirming about, they were a gift. Though they were, and are, much more needy than generous, they are a gift. So I shouldn’t whine about the requirement of training them. Maybe the training is even a gift.

Do you think so?

Can we choose to call our children blessings, even when they are screaming at the good things given them? Even though every single day they hurt us and their siblings and they break everything their hands touch?

The same friend I mentioned in the beginning of this post would initiate a game called “I want.” It went like this: while driving, or while lounging around in our dorm rooms, she would say, “You know what I want? A doughnut from Dunkin’ Donuts,” and we’d sit around just like that for a few minutes coming up with increasingly improbable wishes.

I should probably tell you that, at that time, the closest Dunkin’ Donuts was 30 minutes from campus. It was not an impossible desire, but it was not easy to meet.

Truly, the “I WANT!” monster is a monster of destruction. A monster who is never satisfied, never thankful. This monster breeds the opposite of joy. That’s mysery, discouragement.

Lately, when the “I WANT!” monster grabs my 5 year-old by the teeth, I try to stop and look at his face. I try to remember to think about what is happening in his heart (though, truthfully, at least once a day I just erupt and send him to his room because I get tired of training kids). I try to ask, “Do we always do what you want, or do we operate by what is good for the family?” This usually gives him a chance to think about what he’s asking. Sometimes, even if his request is reasonable, it’s just not doable because there are five people in our family and we have to think about the good of the whole, not just what the individuals want.

I guess the conclusion of all this is that we are to train our children, not to throw them off the train, no matter how slow the one-locomotive, two-locomotive, three-locomotives are moving.

And I know from personal experience that these trains can be painfully slow. But they’re never stopped. Not completely. And I’m one of them, too.

7 WAYS TO HELP YOUR KIDS LOVE BOOKS

7 WAYS TO HELP YOUR KIDS LOVE BOOKS

First of all, a while ago I wrote this post called Why You Will Not Find Tutorials Here, and I stand by it. Yet I also think I have some insight on helping kids love books. It’s so easy today to let kids do anything but read books, but I hope you will shower your children with books so that they will learn to love reading!

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I thought about doing a bunch of research so I could give you statistics about kids who read a lot, but I don’t think that’s necessary. (Read these Benefits of Reading if you want to know more about that.) You know it’s important to read. And “a lot” is such a generic term. Who cares if someone else reads more than your kid? Lots of people read lots more than I do because I’m a pretty slow reader. But I love books, and I want my kids to grow up loving books too. So far, they do.

Do you want to help your kids love books too? Here, I’ll share some things that could help you. Of course, every child is different, but perhaps some of these will be helpful, or at least interesting.

Don’t Go for a Marathon

While I’m pretty sure my 5-year old could listen to me read an entire book in one day, my 3-year old and my 1-year old would not allow it. Believe me, it’s tempting sometimes to lock my other children in the bedroom while my 5-year old and I cruise through stacks of books.

But that’s not necessary. Small spurts of reading are very empowering.

Teaching Quiet Time

We all know that most kids are loud. And if they’re not loud, they probably love to make some kind of noise and move around. But it’s okay to have 15 minutes of focused reading time. I’m still working on this with my kids, but I believe it will one day be an easy reality! I think so much of parenting is just continuing. I haven’t yet seen the results that I want, but I think that’s because I have an 18 month-old, and a very active, very kinesthetic 3 year-old. But I will keep going because this is important to me and I believe it will benefit my children too.

Read About What Interests Them

I know you probably want to read those beautiful old books from your childhood. “Little Women” or “Nancy Drew” or whatever. But letting your child go to the library with you and choose a book (probably based completely on the cover) can be great fun for them. I have one son who will always fill our bag with Clifford or Berenstain Bears. While there aren’t many books that I oppose, I would always choose the original Curious George over Clifford and Berenstain Bears. I still let my son bring these home because these are books that he will sit with at home and look through, even if he doesn’t read every word. Which brings me to another point…

Let Them Look

It is absolutely, perfectly fine and acceptable for children to look through books before they can read. This will build their interest and make teaching them to read easier. My boys love to check out the “Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary” and they will sit together and look at it for hours. (Sometimes I have to break up a fight, when one boy takes more than half the book for his lap, but they’re usually pretty civil due to their mutual intrigue.)

Give them Access

I think that part of the reason my kids love books is because they have always had access to books. In our old house, we had a half-wall of built-in bookshelves and they were mostly filled with actual books. Not knickknacks or empty vases, not even very many photos. Just books. Books of all ages and styles, all sizes and genres.

From the moment my children could touch things, they were touching books. When my firstborn was as young as 1-year-old, he would sit on the floor quietly and page through a book, looking at the pictures and feeling the paper. My younger two children are total book-destroyers. They have even torn up several of our cardboard books, so I have to watch them a little closer. But all of my children love books and I think that’s because they have always had access to books. Books have always been considered toys to them. Whenever they handed me a book, I would open it and read, even if my child walked away after a few words.

Read What Interests You

I know that a few points ago, I said to read what interests your kids, and I stand by that. But it’s also important for your children to see the books that you love to read. Of course, discretion needs to be made here. If you’re reading racy or inappropriate books, it’s probably best not to share them with your kids.

Earlier this year, I read “Ghana Must Go”. This is in no way a book that my children should be reading. But one day, I was reading it during nap time and my 3 year-old woke up. He came and sat on my lap and asked  me to read it to him. And I did read a few pages, censoring anything that he didn’t need to hear. Luckily, those pages were pretty serene so I didn’t have to sensor much.

Challenge Them

This year I have been inspired by Ellen from Cutting Tiny Bites to read chapter books to my children. So far this year, we have read “The Mouse and the Motorcycle”, “Peter Pan” (adapted), “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (adapted), “Stewart Little”, “Gulliver’s Travels” (adapted), and “Space Taxi”. While my 3-year old still wanders around while I read long books like these, that’s okay with me. Often I’ll read while my children finish their breakfast, while they color, while they build blocks. They don’t have to be sitting still, cuddled next to you, in order for you to read. (Though it’s awfully lovely when they do.)

When I’m reading, I find it helpful for my 3 year-old to have something to color. He thinks it’s especially funny if the picture he’s coloring goes with our book. For instance, a pig or a spider when reading “Charlotte’s Web”.

If your child is still at a very sensory-explorer age, that’s okay. You can still read to them and encourage them to read, too!

Do your children love books too? What tips would you give?

Tips for Playing Scrabble with Preschoolers

Tips for Playing Scrabble with Preschoolers

When it comes to teaching small children, I think the key is finding something you love, something that they love, something that is fun and also full of learning opportunities.

Enter, Scrabble!

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It’s not easy, but Scrabble offers so much for children:

  • word building
  • counting
  • adding
  • the concept of double and triple
  • the respect for rules and taking turns
  • the ability to wait
  • celebrating each other’s victories
  • the art of observation (you have to pay attention to double/triple word/letter)

Tips for Playing Scrabble with Preschoolers

  • Don’t get caught up in high scores.
    • I always want to find the longest word that will give me the highest score, but when playing Scrabble with preschoolers, I have found that a quick word they know is better. My kids won’t sit around for 3 minutes while I fumble with letters.
  • Small words are best
    • Three and four letter words, and words that they know, will help to reinforce spelling and make them feel good about the things they already know. When my 3 year-old spelled the word “ice” he was so excited because he loves ice and he could see how those three letters fit together to make a word. It’s okay, and encouraged, to find and introduce new words (this builds vocabulary!) but that should not be the goal.
  • Use all the pieces
    • What I mean by this is, let them draw on the score sheet. Let them run their fingers through the bag of tiles (really good sensory play!) Let them turn their trays on their sides and try to build towers. This is a game after all, and should be fun for everyone!
  • Think simply and don’t be afraid to bend the rules
    • Scrabble can be really simple or really complicated. Don’t get caught up in the Scrabble dictionary or proper names at this point. Just do what fits your kids, but make sure you spell real words. Making fake words won’t help much because then you could just throw anything down.
  • Use my grandmother’s rule
    • 50 extra points when you learn a new word! This gets kid really excited about building their vocabularies!
  • Let them count the points
    • Even a very small child can count to 10, or 20, especially with your help. Since you’re building small words, they can probably help you count most of the points. They can look at the tiles and identify numbers. If they can’t do it, then you add the points up for them, but count out loud so they can start to understand the concept. I love teaching my 5 year-old to count double digits by lining them up, and he’s really into it and it makes him feel important and smart to add such big numbers. 
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      Today, my 3 year-old quit playing and my 5 year-old won by almost 30 points!
  • Grab a non-messy snack
    • Something like trail mix or dry cheerios, something yummy to keep your kids busy when they have to wait for other people’s turns

Have you ever played Scrabble with your kids? What tips would you give to parents?

Things Kids Can do in the Kitchen

Things Kids Can do in the Kitchen

It’s hard to cook dinner. The kids are running, I’m frazzled from being the only adult with 3 kids, and my morning coffee mug needs a refresher.

Over here, 3:30 is generally when it starts. This is a difficult time for me. It’s after nap time. I want to spend time with my kids, and they are anxious to spend time with me, but I can’t usually watch them dropkick the soccer ball or help them sort out their puzzle pieces or even hold a real conversation while I cook.

Part of it, I think, is that I am not a cook by nature. I just don’t love it, so when I cook, I’m full-on working. I’m thinking hard. I can’t just ease into creating a meal. When I try to do that, I usually end up forgetting to cook the potatoes or not setting a timer, and the pizza burns or the pork chops have turned to leather.

If I don’t have a plan for our meal, it’s an even harder. And since I’m just not the planning type, I usually don’t have one.

I must say that my husband is super helpful and usually willing to cook if I need him to. He actually loves to cook and is really good at it, almost always creating something memorable and mouth-watering. But he isn’t home until 4:30, and by then we usually need to have started dinner. So I try to cook most nights.

But I’m not a chef and I don’t really care what our dinner tastes like. I love to bake, and my husband has come home more than once to a counter filled with muffins, breads, and homemade soft pretzels, but no dinner. Maybe even homemade ketchup and a bag of frozen french fries heated on a cookie sheet. Maybe two entire batches of sourdough pancakes, lined on a pan ready to be stuck in the freezer, or steel cut oats soaking, for the week’s breakfasts. But no dinner. He has also more than once come home to a counter filled with cheese and crackers and a fruits and veggie platter. Luckily, we can usually snack on that stuff until my husband has some time to create a masterpiece in front of our very eyes.

I do love to get my kids helping in the kitchen, though. Once 3:30 rolls around, and I need to start cooking, I usually try to occupy them somehow. I’m not opposed to enlisting the help of the television, and I often do, but when I can include my children in kitchen prep, I try to, if even just for a few minutes before I send them on a scavenger hunt for the remotes.

Really, my kids LOVE to help in the kitchen. And it’s so good for them! We value real, homemade food and though we are not perfect eaters and we don’t always eat organically, we try to cook our own meals.

I’ve created a list of things that I’ve realized my kids can do in the kitchen. They always surprise me, you know? It’s like they’re growing every day or something, gaining new understandings every moment.

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This is my kids at a Mud Cafe… the things they’re making are not edible (well I guess you could eat mud in a pinch), but this is totally training them to love the kitchen!

Of course, depending on your kids’ ages, they may need varying levels of supervision while doing some of these things. My 5 year old can do most of these unsupervised, but my 3 year old needs a lot of supervision while doing them. They still both LOVE to help in the kitchen, though.

A 5-year-old grates cheese.
A 5-year-old grates cheese.
A 1-year old spreads hummus on the table.
A 1-year old spreads hummus on the table.

I know it can be frustrating, but I dare say that, especially if you have a picky eater, their horizons will broaden each time they are allowed the freedom to help in the kitchen.

Kids who help in the kitchen have a better relationship with food. I made that up, but it’s probably true. Most of my kids get so excited when they experience new foods.

I am especially surprised when my 3-year old (my super kinesthetic boy) wants to taste things as we cook. He ALWAYS sticks his fingers where they don’t belong. Sometimes, like when we’re making scrambled eggs, or when we have pork chops in our shopping cart, this is not good. (Who wraps pork chops in such an easily punctured material as saran wrap? I want to see pork chops sealed in welded sheets of steel.)

Other times, his curiosity serves him well. Like when we’re pulling kale leaves off their stalks and he decides to just chomp down on the chewy raw powerhouse veggie like its a Snickers bar, proclaiming, “I LIKE KALE!” or when he dips his finger into a bag of flax meal, and proceeds to sing, “I love flax MEAL!” I count these moments as victories won after a years-long battle where the kid is all up in my business.

Okay. Here’s my list. Kids can:

  • Grate cheese
  • Peel carrots
  • Sweep (Get one of these types of things. But get yours from Dollar Tree. My kids think it’s so funny to be able to sweep up messes with their “set” and I’m not sure why they call it that, but it doesn’t really mater to me as long as they are sweeping.)
  • Fill our Britta water box
  • Push the button to grind coffee beans
  • Start the coffee pot brewing
  • Clear the table (they can at least clear their own plates and silverware)
  • Load the silverware into the dishwasher
  • Pour detergent into the dishwasher
  • Start the dishwasher
  • Put the silverware away
  • Stir, whisk, tap, pinch the flour, salt, baking soda, etc.
  • Pour 1/3 cup of pancake batter into a hot pan, supervised of course!
  • Flip pancakes
  • Put the toppings on a pizza dough
  • Rinse soapy dishes
  • Crack eggs open (My kids don’t usually help with this because it freaks me out, but they have cracked a few eggs for me, and I should probably just let them do it more often. My kinesthetic 3-year old really loves cracking eggs and today when his siblings were sleeping and I was making pancakes, he did a great job! And I even postponed my freak-out “WASH YOUR HANDS!” moment until after he had gotten a good 30 seconds rubbing his fingers in the slime and picking out the shells.)
  • Make taco seasoning
  • Make their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Cut the tops off strawberries (using a butter knife)
  • Open canned foods
  • Stir almost anything!

Do your kids help you in the kitchen? Are they curious kitchen-dwellers? How do they help? Do you think helping has made them good eaters? (I know that some kids are just picky. My oldest is our pickiest kid. He always tells me he doesn’t like what we’re having, but I think as we keep going on with our life, he’ll realize we’re actually not kidding when we tell him there is no other option to the food on the table.)

When the Schedule Looks More Like Skdlee…..

When the Schedule Looks More Like Skdlee…..

Does anyone else just stink at schedules? Rachel from A Mother Far From Home is a genius at them. I think they’re a great idea. I even think they would help my children and me. But when I think about schedules my heart starts to hurt. I get all nervous and my brain stops functioning. I really really hate them. I really am not the manager type. Time just isn’t something I think about a lot, unless I’m trying to figure out how long until bedtime.

I have always tried to follow a very loose schedule: Wake up around 7:00, eat breakfast, play/watch show/do something together, or alone. Eat lunch around 11:30 or whenever we’re hungry. Nap time. Play/watch a show/computer games/cook dinner. Eat dinner. Do something with the family. Or maybe my husband and I sit on the couch while our kids find something to do by themselves. Bedtime at 7:00 or 7:30. That’s not really a good schedule, though.

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I made this with a small cookie sheet (Dollar Tree), hung with Velcro command strips. To make the calendar squares, I printed and cut up a bunch of clip art from the internet, wrote labels on some scrapbook paper, glued them to a cut up cereal box, cut them all back out, taped them with packing tape for a makeshift lamination, and pressed magnets to the back (I bought a roll of magnetic tape and cut it to size. The magnetic tape doesn’t stick well to packing tape, so I had to leave a little open space for that on the back. It did try to curl up, but I just laid a heavy book on them overnight and they’ve been functioning ever since!) I need to replace our “breakfast” magnet, and make some other ones so this can be an actual, complete calendar. But this has been a great starting place for us!

I have this magnetic schedule board so my kids can at least see what is going on in my mind, and if we need to move things around a bit, we do that easily with the magnetic release.

There are a lot of things that I want to make sure we do each day, and in order to make those things happen, I think we need to find a stricter schedule around here.

This is what I’m thinking:

7:00 Wake up
Breakfast
Read the Bible
Read some other books
Work out (kids are welcome to be near, but they must be quiet and not crawling all over me, for safety reasons)
The baby wakes up and eats breakfast while the boys do something at the table (color, play doh, practice reading, have a second breakfast)
Sibling time while I shower and dress
Outside time (our sidewalk is all shaded in the morning, so this is a really good time for us to get some fresh air in the summer!)

*sometimes the above gets all messed up because we go to the playground or the Children’s Museum or the library, or we have to do errands (blah!) I try to tell my children what to expect when they wake up, but sometimes I just decide in the moment that we need to get out or that we need to stay home. It’s fun having a creative mind! It would be more fun it all my kids did too.

11:30 Lunch
Baby takes a nap
Boys do home school stuff with me
Boys in their room for 1 hour of quiet play time, or nap time depending on their tiredness levels
Boys can watch some TV or play computer games
We/I prepare dinner

4:30 My husband gets home!!! Excitement!!!
Dinner
Family time

A couple nights a week, I leave at 6:00 to do some serious writing. Sometimes we do church stuff. Friday is Family Movie Night, where we all get to snuggle up and remember how much we love to be near each other. Saturdays and Sundays bring a sort of “Que Sera Sera” with them.

Okay. I’ve written it all out. Now I need to try to stick to it. That’s the really hard part for me.

What kind of schedule do you follow? Do you divide the day with meals like we do? Do you have a hard time scheduling your day, too? Do you want to figure out a schedule that works for you? Or are you lucky enough to be able to sing “Que Sera Sera” all the days long?

Why I Make My Kids Share

Why I Make My Kids Share

Here’s how it starts: you have one child who is lovely and amazing and he plays well on his own and he gives you hugs and kisess all the time and he sleeps until 9:00 every morning. Then you decide to have a second child. The second one never sleeps and mostly just cries and when he finally gets over crying all the time, he starts to take things from his brother. That’s your firstborn. You love both of these children and you want them to get along. So what do you do?

Okay, so here’s a little confession: those are my two boys, the oldest of my children. We were lucky enough to get a firstborn who was really an amazing baby, pretty even-keel, emotionally speaking and nice and would let anyone hold him. Our second is pretty great, too, but very different. He is either very happy or very sad. When he was 2 years old he loved The Hulk (not Captain America or Iron Man, like other kids… The Hulk.) He would walk around holding this little Hulk figure and he would say, “Hulk SMASH! Hulk SMASH!” in a loud low kind of voice. I would tell people that he probably identifies with The Hulk. He goes from zero to monster in no time. When he’s angry, he’s the  “Hulk SMASH!” kind of angry.

When “Hulk SMASH!” wanted something, no one wanted to say no. So, there we were, going head first into a big river of sharing. And the current was strong. And the rocks were bruising.

I’ve heard the opinion that explains why we shouldn’t teach our children to share. I understand that as adults, we are not expected to share our cell phones and cars or homes or groceries. As adults, our possessions are ours and we don’t have to share them. And if someone asks to share them we shouldn’t feel obligated.

I understand that sometimes what is ours is ours and no one else can have it. Like my glasses and my purse.

Then there’s the principle of generosity.

I have this really old, beautiful, smelly dictionary that I love to use. Someone actually gave it to me…someone who was being generous and thoughtful. Here’s what it says about the word “generous”:

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It attributes generosity to nobility. It says generous people are magnanimous. Willing to give or share. Unselfish. Bountiful. Rich in yield, fertile (said of land, but I think it applies to people too.) Rich, full-flavored and strong (said of wine, but I think it applies to people too.)

I want my children to know that things are just things. Anything that they own and find precious, I know is simply not worth arguing over. Anything they own and love can be easily replaced or remade. I know that kids are sticklers for keeping their stuff in their own hands, but I don’t believe that’s healthy.

My children get the generosity lesson a lot with Lego creations. I tell them that “Legos are meant to be taken apart and rebuilt.” My children are allowed to put a Lego creation on a dresser, out of reach, for a little while, but the next day (and sometimes sooner) they have to take it apart or give it away and start over. And they can’t hoard the Lego blocks.

This is a lesson I face every day too. I do need my glasses and my purse, but if my daughter (not included in the sharing saga because she’s a happy 1.5 years old) wants to pick it up and carry it around for a little while, I let her. She’s not allowed to dig into my purse and scatter its contents around like breadcrumbs, but carrying it around isn’t going to hurt a thing.

My children don’t go to school anywhere, so we mostly deal with this sharing thing in our own home or at playgrounds. There, especially with strangers, I want them to learn generosity. I think that’s a true test of character. It’s easy to be generous with those we love because we get to reap the benefits of friendship. But if they can learn to be generous toward people they don’t know, well, they could change the world.

If I teach my children that they don’t have to share, I am teaching them that their possessions mean more than people do. That’s not what I want them to learn. I want them to find joy in the joy of sharing. I want them to learn to love people. I want them to be noble, unselfish, rich, full-flavored people, not stingy, selfish, lonely people. They are not allowed to expect that others share; that would create another kind of monster. I just want them to learn generosity.

 

Why I’ve Been Rubbing my Son’s Earlobes

Why I’ve Been Rubbing my Son’s Earlobes

Does that sound weird to you?

It was strange to me, too, when I witnessed two little girls rubbing each other’s earlobes at the playground. Their mom said that she does the same thing. She’s apparently always been obsessed with earlobes. She rubs them all the time without thinking, and now her children do too. She also told me that rubbing earlobes releases oxytocin.

That same night, I was sitting at church with my family. Now, you have to know something about my 3-year old. He is touchy. I know that all kids are touchy, but he is extreme. Anything, anywhere, the slimier, the sandier, the more unhygienic, the better. He LOVES grabbing the insides of pumpkins and rubbing oil on potatoes. He LOVED making oobleck (I have still not read Bartholomew and the Oobleck because our library didn’t have it when we did our “Intro to Science” week. But I discovered oobleck from Raising Little Superheros and, even without Dr. Seuss, it was a big hit). My 3-year old continues to LOVE LOVE LOVE sandboxes, water tables, and play dough, and he once opened a package of pork chops while I was in line at the grocery store, just to see what they felt like. Yuck! Right? Yeah. That’s my life.

So, I was sitting in church with my family. Knowing that my 3-year old does not sit well unless he is also doing something kinesthetic, I thought, maybe I’ll rub his earlobes. I thought that maybe he would pay attention to the man with the microphone if I rubbed his ears. Maybe it would help him to pay more attention to what his ears can do. Well, I’m not sure what happened, but he immediately sat completely still and stayed that way until we stood up. It was almost 20 minutes.

Today, I tried it again because I was reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory out loud and wanted him to sit still with his brother and me while I read. And again, he was still, concentrated, focused.

He said to me, “Mom, rub my ears gently,” and my heart melted. Maybe from the extra oxytocin that was circulating around or maybe because that is just a sweet thing to say. Either way, I want to take that sentence and form a poem with it because I think it’s the most beautiful thing the world.

Do you have a high-energy kinesthetic leaner? Have you ever tried rubbing his or her earlobes to get them to focus?