If a picture is worth 1,000 words–then role playing is worth a million!

With every child born into our family, I become a better mother.  Not just a better mother to my children, but to other kids too.  I am SUCH a more compassionate, sympathetic, caring, and understanding Mommy–that I definitely was not before.  I simply could not understand other children’s behavior, actions, etc.  AND, some of the things their parents did and more importantly did not do left me scratching my head all the time.  But, as our family has grown–I’ve grown.  Thank heavens.  Because you know what?  Some kids take a lot longer to be potty trained than others–no matter what you do.  Some kids are just more aggressive than other kids and it takes a LOT more effort to teach them self control than other children.  Some kids will do the opposite of what you ask of them every. time.  While others jump to obey.  And with each of these differences, we as parents have to adjust our parenting style.  Lucky you if all your kids are the same and what you do for one works for all of them!  But chances are, if you have more than 3 kids, your armor has softened, your heart is a bit more tender and you are a little more sympathetic…at least I am.

Character is a BIG deal for our family.  So much more important than being a reading wiz or math genius–we want our kids to love Jesus and love people.  And for us that starts with their character.  But, besides telling them what they should/shouldn’t do, or expecting them to just know what to do, we’ve begun modeling it through acting and story telling.  And, so far this has been the most effective tool for our family.

It was a Wednesday afternoon, and we were running late (SHOCKER!!) for Hannah’s ballet class.  I let Hannah out first, telling her to run to class (not wise), as I shuffled the other kids out.  And as we entered the building, I saw Hannah tearing down the hall to get to class on time.  And after she turned the corner, I heard it.  THUMP!  Waaahhh!!  Oh dear…

I rushed to see what had happened.  A little tyke was toddling around the church hallway and Hannah flattened him.  5 year old vs. 1 year old never ends well.  The Mom was super gracious, telling me “it’s ok–he’s got lots of older siblings and is used to it,” but I felt TERRIBLE!  I ran over to Hannah and told her she had to apologize to the little guy.  She flat out refused.  Oh, if there is one thing that gets this Mommy flat out angry–it is an ill mannered child–especially MY CHILD!  Oh, if you could picture it…me death gripping her arm, speaking slowly and lowly into her ear with that deep down, through gritted teeth talk “you’d better go over there and tell him you are sorry Hannah Elizabeth Benjamin, or we are going to have SERIOUS words when we get home” kind of voice.  Didn’t matter.  She refused.  And apart from me hog tying her and moving her mouth and lips for her, there was no way an apology was going to happen.  So, I profusely apologized for my child flattening her sweet boy (ugh), and went home hot with frustration at her behavior.

What in the world?  What is so hard about apologizing?  I know she didn’t mean to run him over…just say SORRY!!!  Then, in honor of Despicable Me 2, a “light bulb” moment occurred.  She was embarrassed.  Completely mortified to the point of hardly being able to stop crying and hiding in my legs.  And after I realized that, I wondered if maybe, just maybe, if I show her what to do, it won’t feel so foreign.  So when the time comes again, she will know exactly what to do and why she must do it.

So, after ballet that day, we talked about what had happened.  Sure enough, she felt terrible and couldn’t face the boy or the Mommy to apologize because she was so embarrassed.  But, I explained to her that even when we hurt someone on accident, an apology is necessary to show you care.  No need to ask for forgiveness–that is for intentional hurt.  But, saying sorry–yes.  So, we re-enacted the whole scene again at home.  Everyone played a role: we had Hannah–the running maniac child, little dude–the sweet boy who was flattened, and Mommy to little dude.  And, can I tell you–they had SO much fun!  And, I could see in all their little faces that they “got it.”  Now understanding that no one is mad at you in such an instance, but that an apology is showing care, concern and love to whomever was hurt accidentally.  Hence the birth of the Benjamin acting school.  Now, we act out everything we can.  The sky is the limit!  We do Bible stories to bring them to life and every kind of social situation I can think of.  We act out what a bully looks like and what to do if you see it happening– if a child “looks different,” and other kids are making fun or being rude.  We tell them “exactly” what to do and say.  I am talking VERBATIM.

This may sound crazy, but again I will go back to coaching–I cannot help it; it is what I know.  As a player, my coach could tell me over and over how to adjust my arm swing or correct my platform for passing, and I understood a little.  But, if he actually showed me or had someone else show me–ah-hah!!  Yes!  I can copy that.  We are visual; kids are visual.  Give them something tangible to copy.  And as you can imagine, I didn’t get it right the first time I tried to adjust my arm swing.  But after practicing it over and over and over and over the RIGHT way, it was second nature.  I no longer had to think about it.  It was what I did.

So yes, we parents need to be examples to our kids in our own behavior.  But, I believe we need to do more than that.  We need to act scenarios out, make up stories and have our child be the hero in it–oh how my kids LOVE those stories.  And not the typical hero saving the damsel in distress…no, simple, everyday heroes–like talking to the new student who is sitting all alone, asking the teacher if they can help clean her classroom,  or be kind to the girl who just spoke ugly to you, tell someone to STOP if they are talking ugly about another child, offer to go last instead of pushing your way to be first (unless of course we are playing a sport), you get the idea.

Are my kids perfect?  Heavens NO!!  But, goodness they are sweet and they are making improvements daily.  And, at the end of the year awards for Hannah’s class a week ago, she was not the top reader or the math or science wiz, but she did receive something far greater in our economy–the “Hero Award.”  Her teacher went on and on about this “special friend” in her class, who had great integrity, honesty, kindness, perseverance, etc.–I was tearing up for whoever this child was–and then she said it was Hannah Benjamin.  Proud Mommy moment?  You bet!  Now, I am fully aware that my girl is VERY capable of behaving totally opposite to all her teacher was saying.  But, the fact that she’s working on it at home and doing a pretty good job of it at school…I will take that.  Yes, I will most definitely take that–and celebrate it!!  And, if you are in the middle of training your children like I am and your child has a moment like my Hannah did (plowing over a kid and refusing to apologize).  Don’t fret.  Just politely tell the other Mother/Father : “Sorry, we are currently working on that character trait.”  And leave it at that.  Then work on it at home.  They will improve and most assuredly do better the next time.  I am wholly committed to train this next generation of kids on how to LOVE in both words and actions.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

Receiving the “Hero Award” from her teacher.

Blessings Sweet Mamas,

xo Lori

For more on saying “sorry” vs. “asking for forgiveness” check this out :

https://onesurrenderedmommy.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/the-lost-art-of-forgiveness-lets-bring-it-back-because-it-is-beautiful/

 

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Three rules to get your baby sleep trained and sleeping through the night by 12 weeks old.

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Here’s our newest member of the Benjamin Family, Sarah Noelle, happily sleeping through the night…

Today, I’m tackling sleep.  Before I start, I just want to say that whether you decide to sleep train your baby or not is (obviously) up to you.  I know for me, I would be miserable if I didn’t get good sleep.  But, that’s ME.  I have friends whose kids are not sleep trained, and sure they laugh/complain about it, but they get through it.  Everyone will get through it.  But, as for me and my house, we heart sleep.   I am not saying I am the authority on this, but I now have FIVE children sleeping through the night.  Sarah Noelle, our almost 12 week old just completed her first solid week of glorious sleep!  Ahhhhh!  So, what does sleeping through the night mean?  For me, if I get 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep—that counts.  Some babies are more awesome than others.  Sarah is sleeping now from about 10:30 pm to 6:00/6:30 am.  Dreamy.  Last Saturday it was 7:45 am.  Wow the week I’ve had!  I am a new woman!!

I can’t believe how many books are written about sleep.  It really isn’t that hard.  So, here are the top three things to get your sweet baby sleeping through the night:

1.  This one is numero uno for a REASON!  Be sure to feed your baby every 2 and a half to three hours during the dayIf they are sleeping, wake them up!  Do whatever you need to do.   I kept my angel babe awake by unbuttoning their outfit and tickling their feet.  I know they say “never wake a sleeping baby,” and it is so tempting to let them sleep because you are SO tired.  Don’t.  I’d rather sleep at night—like good sleep.  So, at night let them go as long as they want.  They will wake up when they are hungry and let you know it!  This simple thing helps baby learn the difference between daytime (awake time) and night-time (sleep time).

Now, talking about newborns specifically, they sleep ALL the time!  You will feel like they are hardly awake.  Totally normal.  So their “wake time” might only be 15 minutes or so and then they most likely will just fall asleep on their own.  Don’t get duped into thinking your baby is a super genius and you don’t need to sleep train them.  You do.  Stick with the plan, I am telling you it works.

Back or belly?  Honestly, I’ve done both.  My pediatrician in Tallahassee was not happy with me when I told her I was sleeping my then newborn Lucy on her belly.  So, which one?  I am going to say on their back for many reasons.  It should be reason enough that it is what our Doctors recommend because of SIDS.  But, may I also add that my three children who were belly sleepers were HORRIBLE travel babies!!  And my “back to sleep” babies are much better travelers.  Coincidence?  You be the judge.  But, I am convinced that it was just so hard for my belly sleepers to get comfy in their car seat being on their backs.  *Side note* I do think it takes back sleepers a week or two longer to sleep through the night as compared to a belly sleeper, but it is worth it to me.

2.  Get your baby on a schedule.  Meaning feed your baby, play with your baby (awake time) then it is nap time for baby. Here’s an example of my day with my baby Sarah Noelle, now that she’s sleeping through the night:

6:30 am – 7:00 am feed

7:00 am – 8:00/8:30 am awake time/play time (play time is longer or shorter depending on her; if she starts to fuss, it is her telling me it is nap time)

8:00/8:30 am – 9:30 am nap time

9:30 am – 10:00 am feed

10:00 am – 11:00/11:30 am awake time/play time

11:00/11:30 am – 12:30 pm nap time

12:30 pm – 1:00 pm feed

1:00 pm – 2:00/2:30 pm awake time/play time

2:00/2:30 pm – 3:30 pm nap time

3:30 pm – 4:00 pm feed

4:00 pm – 5:00/5:30 pm awake time/play time

5:00/5:30 pm – 6:30 pm nap time

6:30 pm – 7:00 pm feed

7:00 pm – 8:00/8:30 pm awake time/play time

8:00/8:30 pm – 9:30 nap time

9:30 pm – 10:00 pm feed and to bed for the night

6:00/6:30 am she’s sucking her thumb waiting for Mommy, ready to eat.

*When she was not sleeping through the night there was a 2:00ish am feeding as well.  And these times are approximate, give or take 5-10 minutes.

3.  It is OK for your baby to cry.  Here is the hard part, the training part.  Anyone out there ever trained for anything?  Be it sports, music, anything?  It is NOT EASY.  But, totally worth it and doable.  I can see all the on-demand Moms rolling their eyes and wanting to scream at me.  Save it.  If you are good with what you’ve got going—yay for you!!  Seriously, if that works for you, I am thrilled for you.  But, I prefer NOT having a baby on my boob whenever they whimper.  I want to know that if I feed my baby at 9:30 am, I know that I have a good little while to venture out before they are hungry again.  I have plenty of friends that are on-demand feeding Mommas, and they are awesome at it!  They can nurse babies doing just about anything—grocery shopping included!  That is just not me.

So, now what?  When do you start letting them cry it out?  I am so glad you asked.  Here you go:  Your first month, just love on that sweet angel babe as much as you can.  It will look something like this:  feed them, burp them, hold them, let them nap on you, etc.  Those will be the best and most precious moments in your LIFE!  But, come week 5 and on, start letting them cry it out for nap time.  I give a nap “allowance,” and what I mean by that is I give them an extra 30-40 minutes to settle into their nap before it is “officially” nap time.  So, when (not if, when) they cry, they have enough time to cry and soothe themselves and still have a good hour of sleep time.

I know that hearing your baby crying is hard, so hard.  Turn off the sound on your monitor if you need to.  Watch the video monitor if you need to, but most likely, they are ok.  If you are worried, go check on them.  But, let them cry.  The longest mine has cried was 45 minutes.  Torture.  BUT, that is only for a few days, a few nap times and then they get it, and boom—your baby knows how to nap.  Praise The LORD!  They might cry for 5 or ten minutes here and there, but that is rare.  But, trust me, they will be asleep in minutes.  It.  Is.  Awesome.

The hard part, for new Moms especially, is the “nursing expert” that will visit you at the hospital.  She will tell you to be an on-demand feeding Momma.  Basically meaning, feed your baby whenever they cry.  This kills me.  I am always respectful and sweet to these well-meaning women.  But I basically disregard everything they tell me.  Again, please hear me—no judgment here if you are an on-demand feeding Momma.  This article isn’t meant for you.   I am still going to get backlash from this post I know it…but it’s ok with me.  If this helps just one Momma get precious sleep, it is worth it to me.  I wish I could hug and kiss the woman who helped me!

Here’s my story with sleep training my first child, Hannah.  I was super excited about nursing—could not wait to experience it.  But, after about 5 minutes, that good feeling was gone and I wanted NOTHING to do with it.  I thought she was going to suck my nipple clear off my boob she was sucking so hard.  I remember crying to Petersen in the hospital, telling him ‘If this is what nursing is about, I can’t do this!”  It was awful.  We had to give her some formula in the hospital because she wasn’t getting enough from me.  But, I kept trying and eventually we had success!!

So, we took this sweet baby home and for a week or two, getting up multiple times in the night was ok—I was just so excited to finally have her in my arms!  But, pretty soon the adrenaline wore off and she wanted to party at night—we are talking WIDE awake.  We started taking turns at night…who would feed her, rock her,  and try to get her into her crib to sleep.  I can still picture myself nursing her to sleep and moving like I had a pitcher of water on my head to get up and walk into her room; to then oh so carefully put her into her crib…and, ugh, FAIL.   She knew I wasn’t holding her any longer, and would wake up.  So, back to the rocking chair I went, trying to get her back to sleep.  Oh I did it all—nursed her in bed, let her fall asleep in the swing, etc.

At about month 2 and a half I was MISERABLE.  Miserable.  I was so tired and I felt irritable all the time.  I thought I was going to DIE.  No longer did the idea of a big family sound appealing to me.  I needed help; I needed to get out.  I signed up for Bible study at my church and I am convinced God sent an honest to goodness real life angel to help me.  I shared my sleep misery with the girls at my table and the next week, this veteran Mom did the best thing EVER.  She smiled and handed me a book.  She didn’t tell me what to do; just gave me the book.  I read that thing from cover to cover in a day.  Implemented everything it said to do the next day.  And, you know what?  I had a napping 3 times a day baby and a sleeping through the night baby in one week.  ONE WEEK.  And I’ve never looked back.  So, Hannah took 3 months to get on a schedule—only because I didn’t know what I was doing and the whole on-demand thing was NOT working for me.  But, Samuel, Bethany, Lucy and now Sarah were all sleep trained starting at about 4-6 weeks old and they all fell right into the schedule great and started sleeping through the night between 7-11 weeks old.  And THAT my friend is the gospel truth.

Now, let me say that sleep training a 4-6 week old is MUCH easier than a 3 month old.  My best friend April still remembers me calling her bawling that week I was sleep training Hannah.  I could hear Hannah crying—so hard, for sooooo long…we are talking 45 minutes, for every nap time, for a good 4-5 days.  Longest days ever.  I would call her and cry to her, hearing my precious baby crying.  And she would keep telling me that Hannah is ok, be tough, hang in there.  I did.  And, after probably day 5, training was over; she found out how to soothe herself to sleep.  How wonderful to put my baby down wherever at nap time, wide awake and walk out, knowing she will settle into sleep on her own.

I know there is so much out there about how this will cause havoc with your child’s inner being and blah, blah, blah.  I am sorry.  I don’t buy it.  My kids are awesome, happy, normal kids.  They are fresh, rested and full of energy.  They love nap time.  And so does Mommy.  You can do it!!

Any questions about sleep training?  Comment and I will give you my humble opinion.  Want to tell me about how awful I am to let my babies cry it out?  Umm, can I sweetly say, don’t waste your time.  You do what works for you.  And, we will have to just agree to disagree on this one.  This has worked for all five of my babies—all different personalities and temperaments, same results.  I just want my sweet pregnant Momma’s and Momma’s of newborns to know they can do this and feel gloriously rested.

*For more detailed information read: Babywise.  This is my short cut version of that book, with minor tweaking.   It was my sleep training go-to.  I am sure there are other great ones; this is just the one I read and love.

In other One Surrendered Mommy News!  I am hoping for big additions to my blog next week; adding a resource section, my favorite go-to recipe section and more!!  And can I say it again how much I love hearing from you?  I do!!  Please comment and share!!  Thanks!!  Blessings friends!!

Crack the Whip! Because it is so much more than chores.

“Your kids do that many chores everyday?”  I get this response quite a bit when I answer questions about chores.  Besides responding with my usual “Yep, we are a  family and everyone helps.”  I often ask, “Yours don’t?”  This really, like really truly amazes me.  When kids are little they want to help.  Awww, isn’t that cute, little Johnny wants to help vacuum.  Yes, adorable.  But, pretty soon they learn that real chores aren’t fun.  But, they are necessary.  I actually wish I could do it all–for everyone.  But with 5 children, I simply cannot.  Sure, I do a ton, so does my husband, but our children do quite a bit too.  And why shouldn’t they?  They are a part of this family too.  And you know what is really neat?  Once they get over the initial shock of being forced to pitch in, they realize how important they are to our family.  And I love to remind them of that.  Family is such a safe place for our children.  And when they understand that each member of the family is oh so important they hold their heads a little higher and have this self-assurance of where they belong; where they are loved unconditionally and where they are needed.  And, I don’t think they would understand that as well without being a real helper around here.

The other part that is beautiful about chores is that there’s always a ministry opportunity.  Just last week Hannah had a play date planned with a neighborhood friend for Thursday.  And our rule is that you need to have the homework for that day done BEFORE the day of the play date.  This way, they can enjoy their time, without having homework hanging over their heads.  Well, it just so happens Hannah had a bad dream the night before and didn’t sleep well.  And, of all our kids, little sleep really makes this girl, um, shall we say, a bit grumpy?  That’s being very nice :/  So, homework that should have taken her forty-five minutes, took her two HOURS!  It was one of those times where I wanted to run out the door and never look back.  Just kidding…no, not kidding.  Not kidding at all actually.  Seeing that Hannah was not going to be helping with too many chores that day, the rest of us had to pick up the slack for her.  But, can I tell you the really beautiful part of this story?  It was the look on her face when we told her that we had done all of her chores for her (despite her being grumpy to all of us while laboring through her homework).  I wish I would’ve captured it on camera.  Her frustration melted away, she cried a little, hugged me tight and whispered “Thank you Mommy and I’m sorry.”  We all learned a little about grace that day, especially my Hannah.

When we had our first child, I had time, glorious time, to read.  I read every parenting book I could get my hands on.  This was before Pinterest, blogs, etc.  If you are like me, you have seen countless ideas for chores; chore charts is the most common I see. I love the idea of it, and if a chore chart works for you and your family—AWESOME!  Seriously, awesome.  But, it wasn’t working for me. I didn’t have time to make the thing and then keep up with it.  I needed something quick and easy that WORKED, everyday.  Also, I wanted something that the kids were in charge of, not me.  Oh, and did I say this needs to be easy?  Then, I found it.  I read it somewhere; it sounded brilliant, tried it and ahhhhhhhh (harmonious angels singing) it is STILL what we use.

Now keep in mind that my children are still fairly young, age 7 and under, so most morning “chores” are no-duh type chores.  They are the kind that little people need to do, but don’t know it yet.  Here are the kids’ morning chores:

  1. Go potty/wash hands
  2. Get dressed
  3. Make bed
  4. Brush teeth
  5. Brush hair
  6. Lunch/snack/water packed in backpack (lunch is made night before)
  7. Backpack by the door
  8. Shoes BY THE DOOR.

Much more about morning chores in my previous post “Conquer the Morning Rush.”  But, here’s a quick run down…

I wake the kids up at 6 am (because we need to leave our house at 7:20 the latest to catch the bus), so adding any other chores to the morning rush is not a priority for me, yet.  They help with family chores in the afternoon.

Since these were the first chores I tried, I went all out (for me, that is), pulled out my scrapbook stuff, used stickers and made fancy chore cards.

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Hannah’s Morning Chore Cards

I use different colors for each child, lay them on the kitchen island each morning, and as they complete each chore they TURN THEM OVER.  There is something magical about that turning over moment that just WORKS.  And, can I say how lovely it is NOT to have to ask each child over and over “Hannah, did you brush your hair?  Bethany, did you go potty yet this morning?  Samuel, dressed yet?”  Or, have to answer the repeated questions of “Mommy, what do I have to do next, what else do I have to do?”  It is awesome.  Best advice I can give about this; do it and be consistent.  Give them 2 weeks, and they will start laying out their chore cards before you.  Now, do my children pop up out of bed and sing zippity do-dah as they start their morning chores? Um, no.  Not at all.  We usually start with a little groaning and telling me they do not want to go to school.  I’ll try to cheer them up with a song or two…but if that doesn’t work.  Mom gets serious:  “Hannah, Samuel, Bethany and Lucy:  Get up and get busy, now.”  I work VERY hard not to yell, but firm voice, you bet.  I have got that one down.  Just ask any former student or player of mine.  But, if they are 3 jewels away from filling up their treasure chest, they have their chores done in record time.  Those days are always my favorite.  I never have to say a single word.

To keep them into it, I reward them with “special jewels” if they complete their chores with happy hearts and in a timely manner.   I also throw in once in a while a surprise candy treat day.  After they do their chores beautifully, I will give them a piece of candy on the way out the door to enjoy at lunch (or right then).

Once I saw how lovely this made our mornings, I decided to add this to our afternoon routine as well.  These chore cards are not as fancy (like, at all!), but they work the same, and I keep telling myself that I am going to make them prettier and laminate them.  Sure, I’ll let you know when that happens.

Our afternoon chores are more about being a helpful part of the family.  Yes, I like that.  Here’s our afternoon chores:

1.  Make lunch/pack snack – The kids started making their own lunches when they entered their last year of pre-school.  They are typically doing this while I am starting on dinner, so if they need help with washing fruit or making a sandwich, I help.  But, they get the stuff out, bag it, put it in their lunch box, put everything away, and their lunch box goes in the fridge.  In the morning, they just add their ice pack and they are ready to go!

2.  Fill water bottle/in fridge – Most teachers ask for the kids to have this and it is great.  As my kids are always thirsty!!

3.  Set table – Each child helps with getting plates out, cups out, silverware on the table, napkins at each place, and glasses with water for Mommy and Daddy.  We dish up our food buffet style, so we keep the plates on the island so they are ready for food.  I love the idea of eating family style” someday and having a beautifully set table before each meal.  But, we are not there yet.  We also keep the cups on the island until dinner time, as they do these chores well before we eat, and warm milk is gross.  This may sound extremely detailed.  But, with each child, I’ve had to become more and more detail oriented.  Every little thing adds up when you have a large family.  And I’m always looking to improve my efficiency.  Why?  Because I want more time.  I want more time to play, read and laugh with my kids.  But, there are things that just HAVE to get done.  So, the more efficient I can do those things, the more time I have to BE with my kids.  And THAT is the good stuff.  That is my goal.

4.  Clean up everywhere (playroom, bedrooms, and family room) – By this time, they’ve had their after school snack and down time.  So, now it is time to clean up, everywhere.

5.  Take a shower/get pj’s on – Yep, my kids are in pajamas before dinner; unless it is a night where we are at church or sports practice.  If you still have little ones, take heart!!  They will be able to clean themselves one day!  Now, if you have one or two children, giving baths is still a sweet time that you may never want to end.  I get that.  I still love bathing my newborn, two and four-year old.  BUT, on the days where my four-year old Bethany wants to take a shower and get dressed with big sister Hannah, it is awesome.  But, regardless if she does or not, my oldest two Hannah (2nd grade) and Samuel (Kindergarten) take their own showers on school nights.  Also, we are trying to train/raise independent little people; so to help them, we have towel hooks that they can reach so it is easy for them.  No excuses for wet towels left on the floor!  Make it easy for them to have success.

6.  And my personal favorite—Mommy’s choice!!  There are lots of chores that little people CAN do, but it changes daily for us.  Some days it is empty the dishwasher, empty/collect trash, put laundry away, vacuum the kitchen, clean the kitchen table chairs, etc.  So, depending on the day, I choose whichever chore I need done that day to help our family.  And, if there happens to be a day where all those needs are already met, I have them grab a disinfectant wipe and clean baseboards, doors, etc.  “Just get it dirty I tell them!”  It is music to my ears when I hear them ask each afternoon, “Mommy, what’s your choice?”  Ahhhh, lovely.

And, just in case you are wondering when/what ages children can do what.  Everyone can help with the dishwasher.  Sure, my 2-year-old Lucy does the least amount of work—I actually would rather just have her out of the kitchen entirely!  But, she wants to be like the big kids.  They are all doing chores, so she wants to do “shores” too.  For her, that means handing fragile stuff to an older sibling or putting kids’ dishes away.  We keep all our “kid” plates, cups, etc. in a bottom cabinet, so they can get them out easily and put them away easily.  “Mommy, can I have some water?”  “Sure Honey, get a glass and go get some.”  Yes.  Please don’t get me wrong, I love to serve my children.  But, I need them to do some things themselves when they are old enough to do it.  I flat-out cannot do it all.  I wish I could; but I can’t.  And, I am glad.  I love seeing these kids already doing so much for themselves.

If you do not have a cordless vacuum, GET ONE!  Like yesterday.  If I didn’t have my Swivel Sweep, I might just go bananas!  I have to vacuum my floor after EVERY meal!  I swear we teach them how to eat over the table, etc.  It doesn’t matter.  My floor gets covered with crumbs after. every. meal.  But!  On the bright side–the Swivel Sweep is light, cordless and just stinkin’ AWESOME.  They are about $40.  And I go though one just about every year.  But it is well with my soul.  We get our moneys worth out of that thing every week!  And even my four-year old Bethany can use that thing like a champ!

Putting clothes away is another one of my “Mommy’s Choice” options.  Now, Hannah and Samuel can do this with zero help.  I did have to let go a little…as they do not put clothes away exactly like I do.  But, as long as their drawers are not stuffed, they do a pretty good job.  Bethany (4) is getting better at it, but often times Hannah wants to earn extra jewels, so she will help her.  Beautiful.  And I still put the little girls clothes away…or I leave it in the basket and work out of that until I finally get to it…whatever; she has clean clothes.

I reward the same way for our afternoon chores, with “special jewels” for a job well done.  My husband is rarely home before 6 pm, and we try our hardest to eat together.  For a while, we would do baths after dinner, but this lead to later bed times and less quality time with Daddy.  And, just adjusting bath time to BEFORE dinner has made our evenings together much better.  Sometimes I can’t get to it, and he baths them after dinner while I clean up the kitchen (I have the better end of the deal on this one…as I am all ALONE in the kitchen…ahhhh).  But, I prefer pre-dinner baths if I can muster the energy for it.

The kids have the opportunity to earn up to 6 jewels a day; 3 for morning chores and 3 for afternoon chores.  IF they want to earn more jewels, I’ll create more opportunities to help.  Mommy is never short on chores. Here’s a picture of their treasure chests and the jewel stickers we use.  I buy them at a teacher supply store.

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Our Treasure Box

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The kids’ treasure chests.

What do we do once they fill up their treasure chest?  This is ever-changing with so many kids at different ages.  Here are the things I’ve done.  Love them all; circumstances have changed them over time.

When we had only one or two kids, once they filled up their treasure chest, I’d take them to the dollar store and let them pick out ANYTHING in the store that their little heart desired!  Oh how they thought this was amazing.  Anything?  Yes darling, Mommy will buy you anything; you’ve earned it.  Hehe.

Well, this was great for a while.  But as our numbers grew, it was getting harder and harder to get to the dollar store.  To load everyone up, and keep everyone happy while one child searches the entire store for their one item to purchase was no longer fun for Mommy.  Plan B.

So, we moved to having a treasure chest.  In my perfect world, I would have this really cool chest; we’re talking hand painted, sanded to look old, etc.  Buuuuuut, I found a great one at Hobby Lobby instead.  So, I head to the dollar store or the dollar spot at Target and buy a bunch of goodies to fill the chest.  So when they fill it up, they can go straight to the chest to cash in.

Time goes by.  And this is still great for my littler kiddos.  But, my bigger kids are no longer thrilled with dollar store items.  Bummer.  Plan C.  OK, now what we do in addition to still having a treasure chest for the littles is: we buy something they really want.  Like a Lego set, a new dolly, etc.  Ranging somewhere between $5-$20.  So, depending on how expensive or not the item is they have to fill up multiple treasure chests.  Here’s my Samuel with his Lego kit.  It took him over a month to earn this.  Boy was this kid excited to fill that last treasure chest.  And, it had taken him so long, I was just as thrilled for him!

Samuel finally earned his Legos from the treasure box.

And, just in case this isn’t enough, we have an audible.  If there’s something else they want or nothing suits their fancy in the treasure chest, they always have the option to get cold hard cash.  $1!  I am sure this will have to be adjusted over time.  But, for now, this still is working great for us!

Whew!  So, THAT is how I survive the afternoon and we get through the daily grind.

Does this make sense or help you at all?  Leave a comment!  I LOVE hearing from you!!

Conquer the Morning Rush!

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The Morning Rush—Conquer it!

There are plenty of things that can cause this Mommy to stress out and become not so graceful, and the one I’ve recently tackled and held down for a pin (mostly, please let’s be real here), is the morning rush.  Being a former collegiate athlete helps sometimes I think—see the adversary: 5 little people, the challenge: all 5 dressed, fed, teeth brushed, hair brushed, beds made, lunch/snack in backpack, socks on, shoes at the door (I mean actually VISIBLE at the door—BOTH of them), homework IN tow, morning devotions done and Scripture verses read over them AND on time to make the bus stop!  I’m sorry, did I just say on time?  Worst two words for me…I have to be there on time?!?!  Do you have any idea what that means??  Serious  pressure.

But, I was all done with the chaotic mornings, frustrating rants of little people—and sadly, Mommy too.  Nothing like having everyone ready and then we cannot find a shoe….talk about unraveling in a hurry.  And, what’s that?  You have to poop?  Right now, really?  Can’t you hold it?  Right, you are pressing your hand on your bottom with “the look”, no, Mom it CANNOT wait.  Awesome.

Then, try and regroup my attitude to read God’s precious Word over them?  Yeah, that goes real well…

I cannot tell you how many times I have had to apologize to all of them for getting so frustrated, when really, they are all under the age of 8, and they need a leader who is organized.  So get real Mom, make a plan and do it.  Really do it.  So I did, we did, and I am happy to say that our mornings are now beautiful, truly.  Here’s what we implemented in our home:

1.  Pre-Planning Outfits. The Sunday before the week starts get with your kids and get their outfits ready for the week.  We bought those closet hanger things from Target or Wal-Mart and put an outfit for each day in there, including socks.  Look at your weather and plan accordingly.  This may sound obvious, but this lady neglected that a few times and had to adjust outfits due to a cold snap that I was unaware of.  Thank you Weather Channel app.

2.  Lunches/Snacks/Water bottles being ready the day before.  As part of the kids’ afternoon chores, one of them is to make their own lunch.  So, have this done the day before, so in the morning all they have to do is grab their lunch, add an ice pack and put it in their backpacks.  Beautiful.  More on afternoon chores later.  (I heart chores).

3.  Get up first.  I get up before anyone else, (well, not before my husband, but before the little people) and have a huge, no, GIGANTIC cup of coffee, read my devotional, my Bible and journal/pray.  More on that later.

4.  Get yourself ready, and while you’re doing that, wake the little people.  If your kids are like mine, they are not what you’d call speedy, so in order to get everything done without a frantic Mommy constantly asking them how they are doing,  wake them an hour+ before you need to leave.  So for us, that’s 6 am.  If you have extra time, adjust as needed, but we rarely do.

5.  Morning Chores.  We have actual chore cards that they turn over when completed.  There is something magical about getting to turn the card over that works for them.  Kind of like how I adore lists, and I will write down a chore/task already completed JUST so I can cross it off.  We have 8 morning chores.  1. Go potty/wash hands 2. Get dressed 3. Make bed 4. Brush hair 5. Lunch/snack/water in backpack 6.  Backpack by the door 7. Shoes by the door and 8. Brush teeth. They have to do 1-4 before breakfast and coming downstairs.  Something about wanting to eat helps motivate.  And, I have a “candy treat” card that I put out once in a while, just to keep them into it.  We are a low sugar family, so I have no issue rewarding them with a little sweet treat here and there.

6.  Create a breakfast schedule.  We are implementing this brilliant idea (my husband’s idea, actually) this year.  Why I didn’t think of it, I don’t know.  After all, we have a dinner schedule…duh!?!  No matter, he is the brilliant one around here, let it go woman.  Fixing cereal for Hannah, eggs and toast for Bethany, scrambled eggs and a bagel for Samuel and pancakes for Lucy was really not too bad until that wasn’t enough, and they wanted seconds!! And what they wanted changed daily…are you kidding me?  Seriously, these kids can eat!  And this is why I coupon!

So, every morning we are all having the same thing.  Be it oatmeal, pancakes, eggs and toast/bagel, bagel sandwiches, waffles, cereal, whatever!  But I make a LOT of ONE thing.  Yes!  This I can do.  Then, they clear their plates and cups and put them in the dishwasher!  This is a recent step for us, so I am still quite excited about it.  Yes, Hannah has to help reach to turn on the water for the more vertically challenged ones, but she rinses, they load.  *Side note* We strongly encourage chivalry in our house, and clearing dishes for the ladies is something Samuel has to do.  However, being that he has 4 sisters and a Mommy to clear for–and that I am quite certain that my girls would love nothing more than to have Samuel be their little man slave, he is only required to do this at dinner time.  And during breakfast, I read our morning devotion, write down prayer requests, and pray together.  Unless of course it is one of *those* mornings.  In which case I am usually wearing my slippers to the bus stop, reciting our daily verses as we drive and doing our devotion in the car while waiting for the bus.

7.  Finish chores.  They are to finish their remaining chores either while I’m finishing up breakfast, or once they are done eating and clearing their dishes.

8.  Reward time/read Scripture verses and off we go!  IF they do all their chores in a timely manner, limited goofing off—(there will be some, they are kids for crying out loud!), and with a happy heart, they earn 3 special jewels for their treasure chests.  This is our reward system.

I read the same Scripture verses over them every morning.  I fell in love with this idea as soon as I heard it!  One of my favorite Bible teachers is Priscilla Shirer and a few summers ago, my church hosted a simulcast teaching of hers.  In it she shared with us the verses she reads over her boys every morning.  So I ripped it out of my booklet, laminated it and used Velcro to attach it to my back door.  So it stares at us and I love it.  Sure, it is the same verses being read every morning, but you know what?  We all know them now.  I’m reminded of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”  And, if I am even tempted to skip it in the morning, the kids quickly grab it and hand it to me to read.

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9.  Out the door in peace and ON TIME!  Check!  And, pat yourself on the back.  Well done Mom.

*Note:  The picture at the top are Hannah’s chore cards.  And let me also add that before I made them look like that, I ripped notebook paper into little squares and wrote their chores on those.  No sense spending the time on something that I am not sure will work!  Well, then I saw how GREAT it worked, so we have afternoon chore cards too.  Those do not have pretty stickers.  They are hand written, but on different colored cards.  Each color for a different child.

*Below is my favorite devotional for this age that I’ve seen.  And, I like writing their prayer requests down, so we can go back (when we remember) and write when God answered.  We might go to a prayer journal with our devotional because our book pages are running out of room!!

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