Monday, June 16, 2014

Setting Summer Goals with Your Kids

I've been inspired by Saren over at Power of Moms to help my kids set some summer goals. Since mine are still very young, I wanted to find a way to keep it simple. Here's what came to mind:

 Paper chains! 
They are easy to make and I think they help teach goal-setting very effectively.
(Aren't Charlotte's poses impressive? Don't worry, there's more coming.)

 I recently read the book The Power of Habit, where it talks about how habits are formed. It mentions two factors in forming a habit: 1) a prompt and 2) a reward. I've been thinking of this as I look over my own goals for the year and I've tried to incorporate a prompt, or reminder, for my goal as well as a reward for myself when I take action toward reaching that goal (always involves food).
 I think this same formula is effective with kids and that's why I'm testing out these paper chain goals to see if it actually works.
1) The prompt (or reminder): a bright and colorful paper chain hanging where they see it every day.
2) Reward: The satisfaction of tearing off a link in the chain as they work toward their goal. We are also rewarding them with ice cream when they reach their goal.

I think that's our reward for everything. 'Cause mom needs a reward just as much as they do.

 So tonight for our Family Home Evening, we talked about the importance of goals, using this awesome lesson plan as a guide. Then we gathered some markers, paper, scissors, and glue and went to work on our paper chains. (We also had our cute neighbor next door join us for the evening:)
 I had them write their end goal down on the first strip of paper. (We wrote on them before we made them into chain links). This one was Charlotte's goal: to learn to swim by herself, without floaties.
 On each subsequent link, I helped them think of specific steps they would take to reach their goal. That's another reason why I like these paper chains because it helps them to think of a goal as a sequence of smaller steps that lead them to their final desired outcome.

Some of Charlotte's specific steps to reach her goal to swim without help are:
1. Go to swim lessons! We added a link for the last four days of her lessons this week so she can tear one off when she gets home.
2. Practice with Dad in the pool.
3. Practice going under water in the bathtub (supervised by mom).
4. Practice "bobbing" underwater in the pool.
5. Practice jumping into the pool and swimming to mom or dad.

She thought of most of these herself, with a little encouragement from mom, and she wrote them all down herself, with LOTS of help from mom. I wanted her to have as much ownership as possible in this goal.
 And then we ate popsicles.
Hazel's goal is to get better at telling time and understanding the calendar. She thought of that one on her own, but needed a lot of help thinking of her specific steps to reach that goal.
And then Hazel was grumpy. But I took a picture anyway.

I'm excited to see how these work! Happy summer. So glad it's finally here.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Quick and Easy Father's Day Surprise

This year I really wanted to think of something original and new for Father's Day, but I kept coming back to tracing my kids' hands, because who doesn't love the chance to freeze those tiny fingers in time? 

 I also wanted something low key and quick since we've been busy jumping into summer with camping trips, swim lessons, and a family reunion coming up.
 We traced and cut out their hands and I asked the older kids to write down what they love about their dad onto their hands.
I interviewed the younger ones and wrote down some things they said about their dad (and improvised where needed). I literally stapled these onto a bright yellow string and had my oldest cut out the letters D-A-D for the middle. Voila!

Hope you all have a great Sunday, celebrating these awesome men in our lives.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day Poppy Craft

Yesterday we read a few books we found at the library on veterans (we are learning about the Letter V this week, so timing was perfect) and I told the kids about Memorial Day. I found this great book that helped explain this holiday in a simple way:
 
 In the book we read about veterans, it explained how poppies became the flower we use to remember those that died in a war. I wanted the kids to be able to bring something home-made to the cemetery this weekend, so we decided to make poppies.
 Since this activity was planned the morning of, I used what I had around the house! I gave everyone a paper plate and a squirt of black paint. I told them to use their fingers to paint the entire middle of the plate black.
 Even little Ed (2) did well with this one.
(Charlotte keeps cutting her hair herself. I'm learning to let it go.)
 Once they colored in the middle, we put them aside to dry and started cutting out our flower petals.
 I had a lot of red tissue paper left over from Christmas, so I kept it folded and drew the outline of petals so the kids could help me cut them out. Tissue paper is tough to keep together for little hands, but they just did their best.
 
 Once the paint was dry, we grabbed some Elmer's glue and went to work!

 I helped them put a line of glue on the plate and then they pressed the petal onto the glue. We made sure to overlap the petals to help them stay up.
It was easy enough for my three year old to do mostly by herself. She just needed help squeezing the glue. You can always put some glue onto a plate and give them a Q-tip to do it themselves.



 
Poor Edison had a tantrum after paint was put away, so I finished his petals for him:)
 Ta-Da! I think these will be nice to put on the graves we visit. Bright, beautiful, and home-made.



We also put our star-cutter to good use to make one of these stars, posted way back in the day here.

For more ideas on Memorial Day crafts, visit this post.


Also, this Memorial Day we are remembering our dear neighbors, the Hughes, who just lost their sweet baby boy, Miloh, to SIDS. If you are local, please take time to attend their fund-raiser car wash this Saturday at 10:30 am at the Ogden Animal Hospital (2nd and Washington).
We hope to show them our love and support as their grieve the loss of their little boy. 

Happy Memorial Day.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Confession

I feel guilty. A few days ago I wrote about how I want to connect with other women out there who graciously read my blog. With that said, I posted a big whammy of a post about family economy and dumped my most awesome photos of our kids smiling next to their chore charts and our little family "banck." I'm not saying that good ideas should not be shared, but there wasn't a lot of connecting going on in that post.

And if any of you had a day yesterday like I had today--you know, where I tried to play with my kids in the back yard until they were fighting over the favorite bike and who got to throw the ball and yelling my name over and over so I finally ran inside, locked the back door and watched them through the window while I watched Parenthood on Netflix and drank the closest thing I can have right now to sugar (a smoothie with lots of cocoa powder, probably NOT Whole30 approved, but I'm not looking it up)--THAT kind of day--well, then I don't blame you if you threw up on your computer screen after reading about our cute little micro economy.

Motherhood involves the best of times and the worst of times. But I often post the pretty stuff because it's there often and it feels good to share it. We need to be able to share with others the awesome stuff we do every day as moms. We deserve to have an outlet for that and feed each other uplifting comments. At the same time, I feel the need to be REAL and share the not so pretty stuff with you too.
Like how sometimes I want more. I get bored. I feel stuck, trapped, lonely, and under-stimulated. I got so excited this morning about an activity for the letter "U" that I left the kids with my husband, who was working, and went to the Idaho Map Supply store. I bought everything I could find for the state of Utah. I came home with a huge BOX full of new paint, bee stickers, a state flag, a U.S. flag, a road map of Utah, a state coloring book, and even a Utah state puzzle. I chatted excitedly with my husband about my plan to frame this gigantic map of Utah in our front room and have a picture of our van that moves to all the places we'll go see in Utah this summer. He smiled, eyed the puzzle, and said, "Sounds great. I hope this stuff was cheap."

It was like I was on drugs. I had provided Idaho Map Supply with their biggest sale of the day and I hadn't even put a bra on yet.  I cut out some brown construction paper in the shape of Utah and we decorated them with bees and seagulls and sego lilies. I set out some honey for them to taste and found a plastic bee on our stairs (kismet) that I named Buzz and he asked them questions about what we'd learned about Utah history from our library book. I took pictures. I felt smart. (Did you know that our state animal is the Rocky Mountain Elk? Did you know the pioneers ate Sego Lily bulbs when food was scarce? I know these things now).

As I pinned our states to the wall, I felt good. I taught my children something new. I was present. We had giggled a little bit. It wasn't anything big by the world's standard--or really anyone's standard--but I felt in that moment that I was magnifying my role as a mom because I was putting forth effort.

It was only a few hours later that I was hiding inside instead of joining my kids in the yard and jumping into a hot bath during the fifteen minutes my husband was home. I burst into tears after he left and I was faced with a poopy two year old with a dirt-stained apple in his hands, a fussy baby, an inquisitive and repetitive three year old, and two other kids in the mix there. I might have cried while I changed Ed's diaper. I might have cried again when I tried to nurse my baby and my milk didn't come in again, as it does with all my babies at about this time, although I'm denying it.

I share all this because I know at some level you can relate with me. And we shouldn't feel alone on days like these because we've all been there. If all we show are the rainbows in our lives, they don't mean as much as they would if we'd sat through the rain together.

And I did get a little rainbow at the end of my evening. I pulled that inquisitive and repetitive three year old out of her bed to join us in the big girls' room and we read a book together. As I was reading with Ellie in my lap and my two older girls on either side of me, Charlotte started scratching my back, just like I often do to her. Then they got to tickle me for raising my voice at bedtime and I got to squeeze Ellie's legs and arms and say "squish."

I don't have a side business that is popular and I don't get invited to speak at cool conventions or share my talents with people abroad. I don't have a lot of followers on my blog and I don't make any money for posting my ideas.  The age of my daily audience does not exceed the age of seven, but I believe that I am the perfect match for my kids, as you are for yours. I can be a little crazy and feel the need to break OUT of my house sometimes, but I am so glad I chose to be a stay-at-home mom. No matter my talents, my popularity, or my income--my kids want ME. And I want to give my best version of me to them.

That's why I write on this blog. Keeps me centered and sane. I'm human and imperfect and I'll never try to convince you otherwise. Social media has it's masks, but I also think it's a wonderful way to share those not-so-pretty drenched in the rain moments that lead to our most memorable rainbows.

(That metaphor is cheesy, but I kind of love it.)
 (Eloise flipped her state over:)


Monday, May 12, 2014

The Entitlement Trap Book Review: Family Economy

So almost exactly ONE YEAR ago, I started writing a book review for one of my top three parenting books: The Entitlement Trap. I wrote about one of the three main family systems addressed in the book, family culture. Then I had a baby and got wrapped up in all that good stuff, but now I'm ready to post about the family system that the book is mainly focused on: family economy: how to teach your kids about earning, owning, and saving money. This is great stuff and it's helped us establish some great habits with our kids while they're young.


Here goes.
"Teaching kids how to work depends on teaching them why to work, and the best "why" is ownership!" p. 67
The idea behind this economy system in your home is that you will be taking what you're already spending on your kids and provide a way for your kids to earn that money for themselves. Then they not only learn the value of work and good habits, but they now have their own money to buy their own things.
"The basic thesis is that if kids are given a legitimate and fair way to earn money, they will develop initiative and motivation because they perceive ownership. If they have a chance to budget and buy more of their own things, they will learn discernment and discipline. If they save and invest their money, they will understand delayed gratification. And in the process, both their gratitude and their generosity will have a climate in which to grow."
Of course there are LOTS of different ways to set up a micro-economy in your home. The Power of Moms, an organization for deliberate mothers that was founded by the Eyre's oldest daughter Saren, suggests that you begin with a list of WHAT you want your kids to learn about money. Then establish a system that supports those values. The Eyre's suggest establishing your money system with your kids at the age of eight. We decided to implement a simplified version of that system for our younger kids now, so that we can establish those good habits early. Here's what we've done in the Phipps house:

 We set up a night with our girls to introduce our new family economy. I asked them to help me list all the things we have to do to keep the house in order and functioning. We made a long list with things like buying groceries, laundry, meals, dishes, bathrooms, cleaning floors, etc. We circled all of the tasks that they are in charge of, emphasizing that it was mom and dad who did the rest! On the other side of the board, I showed two fake dollar bills, one of which was cut into four pieces. Under the pieces I put four quarters (they don't quite understand money yet).
 I told them that they could earn a WHOLE DOLLAR every day during the week, if they do their jobs without complaining or needing lots of reminding. Then I showed them their chore charts, which they had already seen and helped with, so it was familiar. 
 

We followed the Eyre's suggestions to have four "jobs" each day. For our kids, they are as follows (pictured from bottom to top): 1. Morning Order: make your bed, get dressed, brush your teeth, put your jammies away. 2. Violin practice 3. Daily zone: We call this 5 o'clock clean up where we pick up our front room and vacuum the rug. 4. Bed time routine.
On Saturdays, all four tasks are replaced by a personal "zone," still worth $1. Hazel who was five when we started this, had bathrooms as her zone. (Isn't that an impressive toilet she drew??)


Charlotte, four, cleans the stairs for her zone.
Hazel drew the pictures for each ice cream scoop, giving her some ownership in this chore chart. As they finish a job, they add that particular scoop to the cone. Her pictures are my favorite part of the whole thing. 
 
There are magnets inside the felt so they stick to our door which I painted with magnetic paint. I had the whole chart made by a seller on Etsy for me. Contact me for more info if you want one!

 

I explained that if they earned all four scoops, they got to put a cherry on top which is worth another 25 cents. I emphasized that in order to earn their scoops, they have to do their jobs well, without whining or nagging from mom and dad.  
If your kids are old enough, you can teach them about the word initiative. (*Remember, you're not paying them to do their jobs, you're paying for them to do it willingly and well--you're "funding good habits!"--Entitlement Trap). I explained that if they whine and complain or drag their feet, they will still have to do their job, but they will not earn the ice cream scoop
  
I had eight scoops made for each of my two oldest daughters, so that there were more scoops they could earn for doing "extra" jobs. We labeled one of the extra scoops with a "13" and decided they could earn this scoop whenever they memorized an Article of Faith from our church.  
 You could use any tracking system that would be easy and functional for you.


As soon as they do one of the four tasks, they place that ice cream scoop on their cone. 


At the end of the day, after our bedtime routine, they come downstairs to the family bank. We had already spent a day or two working on this important part of the system, again giving the girls ownership in how it looks.

 I had a photo box that I spray painted gold and then let them decorate it to their hearts' delight.
 
 
It's simple: write your name on a slip of paper along with the number of scoops you earned that day. Mom or Dad initials it and they put it in the bank. On Saturday, PAY DAY, Dad opens the bank and makes a big deal about counting their slips.  He does the math ($.25 per scoop!) and then counts out their money in REAL DOLLARS.
 Here we are on our first pay day (my husband was laying sod, thus the Carhartts:). Our girls get so excited when they are handed those one dollar bills. That money goes straight into their piggy banks, and you can encourage them to save/spend however you feel is best. We have piggy banks that are divided into tithing, savings, and spending. We have them put 10% into tithing and save the rest until they have something special they want to spend it on. (Sometimes that something special is candy, but I let them do it for now so they can learn how it all works).




I highly recommend reading the book and choosing a system that works for you. Power of Moms has made some awesome video tutorials and worksheets for all three family systems that they sell HERE.

There it is folks. I'm kind of glad I waited to write this entry because we have been following this system for a YEAR now and I'm happy to say that it is still working. My girls don't use the scoops as much as they used to because they are old enough to remember what they did, but I still like using them as a tracking system for myself. Sometimes they go a while without turning in any scoops and then they have no money! I love being able to say to my kids when we're at the store and they want something, "You can buy anything you want--did you bring your money?"

I hope this post doesn't seem overwhelming to you. It took weeks for us to get this into place, but once we got started, it really has worked. This can be done with pencil and paper folks; it doesn't have to be fancy. And maybe, just maybe, we can all fight this wave of entitlement one kid at a time.
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