Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Girls day out

I always assumed I would have a son.  I was wrong.  After three girls, my original ideas for family have been tossed out and new ideas have been formed.  I'm not eliminating the idea of a son altogether.  He just won't come from my genes. :) I actually have a number of friends that have three girls also! God is so good to give me these friends so we can walk the journey as "moms of 3 girls" together.  My friend Beana in particular has been a part of my life since we were about 9.  Most days I wish we lived a lot closer, but she is never far from my heart.  My girls are about a year ahead of hers (which has worked out well for exchanging baby items and clothing!).

Recently we had a girls day out at SeaWorld.  I grew up going there frequently so I love to take my girls often too! My favorite time to go is during the winter when attendance is low.  Reagan had an extra week off of school so we made plans to go during that week (since most kids would be back in school).  After a trip to the doctor in the morning for Skylar's ear infection, we were off! It was a gorgeous day.

I even let them get churros and frozen lemonade (can you tell Skylar was not feeling up to par yet?)

Most of the day I got pictures of their behinds while they looked at animals

I did manage to get a couple shots of their sweet faces.  Then we waited for our friends to arrive after they got out of school. I decided to try and get a picture of all three girls.  It's just not easy!

One looking at me (the other two doing their own thing)...typical.

All three running away from me!!

As good as it's going to get....

Then our friends arrived!! We love hanging out and our girls ADORE each other!!
This is one of my favorites.  They're in height order (although not age order as Beana's Miss Rose is VERY tall for her age!)

The trainer in the Shamu area even commented that they looked like a commercial for "more bars in more places" hehe!

A rare shot of the mamas with all the girls!

It was a fantastic day out with our girls! I can't wait until we move on to movies, spa days, and maybe even weekend getaways! Oh the fun you can have with girls!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Comfort Food

There's nothing like stormy weather to bring out the home cook in me! I know I'm not alone in this because two of my friends have been tweeting about the same thing this week.  It's been a rainy few days so you can imagine how that has played out in our house.  We've enjoyed tacos, homemade pasta sauce with fettucine, chicken noodle soup in the crockpot, and these....

They're chocolate chip cookies.

And they....



Tonight is Chili night, and I think some more cookies might be in order....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The family jewels

A few weeks ago I blogged about this (establishing some solid rules for our home) and started the search for appropriate rewards/consequences for the different ages of our girls.

The researcher in me went into high gear and finally found an awesome system.  I'm so excited to share it!!

Some have referred to it as a "marble jar" system but since we didn't have marbles, we used Princess jewels from Disneyland.

(This works with pennies, marbles, those little clear rocks you put in the bottom of a vase, etc.  Anything that makes a 'plink' sound when it goes into a jar).

Our goal (and duty) as parents is to raise well-adjusted, kind-hearted, rule-abiding, God-fearing, children.  Not necessarily in that order.   There are a number of different ways to achieve those goals, and I believe our jewel system is a great tool.  Let me explain how it works:

Each child gets a jar (or a glass bowl as it is in our house) with his/her name on it.

Each Sunday (or whichever day you decide), he/she begins the week with ten jewels.  When he/she makes a poor choice or disobeys (or doesn't listen the first time asked, etc), you ask him/her to go get a jewel out of their jar and bring it to you.  Likewise, when you see your child doing something you really like or appreciate, he/she is given a jewel and told to go put it in his/her jar.  (There's something about the plinking sound that makes them SO delighted too!).  On Saturday (or the day before they "start over"), you count up their jewels.

If they have 5 or less, they lose a privilege for an entire day (tv, computer, playtime, dessert, etc...whatever you choose and it may be different for each child).  If they have 7 or more, they get to choose from the "treat list" that you create or a "treat box" that you fill with appropriate items.  Our list has the following "treats" on it:

1. Playtime at the park
2. A trip to the dollar store
3. Time alone with one parent
4. Frozen yogurt at a self-serve
5. Movie rental

Notice that two of these don't actually cost anything, and the ones that do cost money, cost very little.  You create the rewards so you have control over what their "reward" is.  It's not meant to be a "thank you for doing what you are supposed to do so let's go to toys r us and buy you an expensive toy" kind of thing.  :D

We love this system for a variety of reasons.

First, it eliminates the constant asking.  If they do not obey the first time, our girls are told to go get a jewel out of their jar and then they are pretty quick to comply.  I don't usually have to raise my voice.  I just say "please go get a jewel out of your jar and bring it to me and then do as you were asked please."  Much more pleasant than the alternative. It also separates them from a situation if there is bickering.  If the girls are fighting, I tell them to each go get a jewel and bring it to me and then go do something different.  It just diffuses the situation immediately.

Next, it's adjustable.  You can add a time out at any point.  "Please go get a jewel and then you need to sit in time out for four minutes."  Or, if it's a large offense, you can ask your child to bring you 2 or 3 jewels to really make a point.  I have a friend that just implemented the marble jar as well and she takes three automatically for biting, kicking, or hitting.

It's also "individual."  Skylar was getting out of her bed at night and going into Reagan's room to sleep.  Reagan wanted her to stop, so we told Skylar that she would lose a jewel if she did not stay in her bed.  She has not been out of bed since we said that.  I have been rewarding her in the morning with a jewel if she does stay in her bed.  Obviously it wouldn't make sense to reward Reagan for the same thing because she has no trouble staying in her bed at night. :)

Also, it teaches what is important to us as parents, like sharing, and loving your siblings.  Just this week I said "Reagan, I noticed you shared your treat with your sister.  I love when you share without being asked so you may go put a jewel in your jar."  On the flipside of that, they understand that obedience is important to us also.  "You chose not to obey the first time I asked, so you need to go remove a jewel from your jar."

It also teaches delayed gratification. Yes, there is gratification in the "plink" of receiving a jewel, but ultimately their prize only comes once a week.  It keeps them guessing too.  We don't reward EVERY time my girls obey so they have to keep being good and wait for us to reward their behavior.

It's also helpful while you are out.  Just this past week, I asked Skylar to stop climbing on a planter at Reagan's school.  When she disobeyed and kept climbing on it, I said, "when we get home, you need to remove a jewel from your jar.  If you would like to not lose any more, I suggest you get down now."

It puts pressure where it should be: on the parents.  We have to make our expectations known and when they don't meet them, it's up to US as parents to provide the consequence, consistently.  It's also up to US as parents to show them what we DO want.  If I want my children to speak kindly, I need to speak kindly to others.  Being aware of their behavior should make us aware of our own.

For obvious reasons we do not have a marble jar for Bailey yet.  I suggest that kids be at a minimum age of 3 for this to work cognitively (and for the choking hazard).  I can't wait for Bailey to hit 3!

I know this has been long, but I hope it was worth the read.  I just love when something works!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Take a hike!

A couple weekends back, we took advantage of the gorgeous January weather (and the plateau behind our house) to take the kids for a short hike.  The views were stunning (I love the snow covered mountains in the distance), and the kids had a great time.

I was on "alert" the whole time because at the entrance to the trail there's a sign that says, "Mountain Lion sighted.  Be cautious with children and pets!"  Um, ok.  Anyone know what you're supposed to do if you see a mountain lion??

Thankfully we did NOT see any mountain lions (phew!). About halfway through, I stepped in some old muddy tire tracks and twisted my ankle and knee.  It wasn't bad, but it made the hills a bit more challenging.  Reagan, Bailey and I went as far as we could, and Brian took Skylar a little farther up.

We loved getting out and enjoying the day (and the kids slept great that night!).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bombarded (and confused)

I took a Critical Thinking course in college.  I know advertisers try to "sell" you on their products.  I'm not easily swayed by fancy packaging (it usually costs more anyway).  There is information all over the web that is contradictory.  I am a big fan of snopes when it comes to email forwards.  My husband and I have even talked about "research studies" and how organizations pay to get the results they want.

Who can you trust?

My latest dilemma is diet. I just want to make healthy meals for my family.  I cook dinner at home almost every night.  I'm a big fan of fresh organic produce and include it almost every meal I make  (Of course there are studies that show that the word "organic" does not mean the same thing on every label, but that's a whole other post).  I've tried to prepare fresher, less processed foods.

A lot of our meals include a carb though.  Not just any carbs....pasta, breads, and grains.  All of which include gluten.  The information on whether or not this is healthy is SO varied.  They are low fat/low calorie foods, but they are also known to convert to sugars and adversely affect blood sugar levels (as well as disrupt the digestive process).  Other folks will tell you that it's not a "balanced" diet without carbs/gluten.

I don't have a child with autism or ADHD (both of which recommend a gluten-free diet), but Brian has high cholesterol.  Part of cholesterol is the triglyceride level (sugar level) that is affected by carbs.  I would love for him to be off of his statin but his favorite foods all include carbs (most Italian foods).

Anyone have carb alternatives that your family actually enjoys?
Have you ever tried to eliminate gluten from your diet and see the benefits?

Monday, January 11, 2010

I heart this face

This weeks photo challenge at Iheartfaces is to post your favorite "face" photo from December or January. This one is Bailey on Christmas morning.  She was so wide-eyed when she saw all the gifts!

Go to iheartfaces and check out the "favorite faces" of other folks!

The ground rules

I think we have pretty good kids.  Most days they are sweet to one another, use their manners, and obey when asked to do something.  But they're kids, and they're not perfect.  We've noticed as Reagan gets older she is starting to assert herself more.  She "bargains" when asked to do something; she corrects anyone that she thinks is wrong; she can get very bossy with her sisters.   We were talking yesterday about how to help correct this behavior now before it gets out of hand.  As the parents, we know this responsibility falls squarely on our shoulders.  I don't want to make the mistake of assuming she will grow out of it either.  It's easier to deal with a six year old's defiance than it is a ten year old that has been getting away with it for years.

I read a great blog from miss Amy about a family binder.  I have my own system of chores, budget, organizing list, but since we only have one child able to read we will probably wait on putting the rules in it a little longer ( I think it's a FANTASTIC idea!).  But it got me thinking.  We need to establish a few ground rules for the house.  If the girls know the rules, they know when they are breaking them.  In like fashion, we also need to establish consequences if the rules are broken.  We are not going to go overboard with rules (it's hard for a 3 year old to remember 15 rules!).  So far I've come up with three.  We will start with those.  The one I'm most excited about is the rule to obey the first time you are asked to do something.  Lately I've been having to ask the girls (well mostly the older two) to do something repeatedly.  I ask nicely the first time.  The second time I get a little frustrated. The third time I am downright irritated! But it's after that third time that they finally comply because they know I mean business.  Now, there will be a consequence after the first request is ignored.

We just need to come up with age-appropriate consequences now.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Coming out of the "fridge"

I admit it.  I'm addicted.  Hopelessly addicted.  To what?


I've tried to go without but it's just not the same.  I end up not drinking as much coffee so I get a headache and drag through the afternoon.  It's a terrible ripple effect.  I know, I know...I should probably cut out coffee altogether, but that ain't gonna happen anytime soon. Last year I was able to find it after Christmas and just "stocked up."  I bought enough to get me through March and then went through withdrawals until October when stores started carrying it again.  Why does it have to be so seasonal? (on a related note, why is Peppermint ice cream a seasonal thing too!?)

I looked in eight different stores for this creamer before I finally contacted the company (sad, I know).  They informed me that it is no longer just a seasonal item!!! Can you believe it? You can get this year-round now! The lovely customer service rep I spoke with said, "You just need to find a store that will order it for you."  THREE stores later, I found a lovely manager at Albertsons that said "Sure, I'll order a case for you."  WOOHOO!

I am a very happy girl.  And now an Albertsons shopper for life.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Am I Crazy?

Please forgive the blog appearance.  I'm in the process of renovating.
Now, on to my post:

It's all over facebook:
"kids go back to school tomorrow-hurray!"
"I'm so excited that we go back to our routine tomorrow!"
"The last two weeks went fast but I'm so glad I can send the kids off tomorrow and stop coming up with things for them to do!"

Our district is different.  The kids start the second week of August so they can have three weeks off at Christmas.  That means while everyone else goes back to school tomorrow, we have one more week.


Am I crazy? Why is everyone so excited for their kids to go back to school? I love having Reagan home.  I've made sure she has been doing her reading and practicing writing stories, but we've just been enjoying family time.  The week before Christmas is always a whirlwind.  Then last week my mom had her stroke, so it feels like it flew by as well.  This week we are going to have lots of fun (and sleeping in!).  I have a few things in mind, but mostly we're going to just hang out.

I've often wondered if I would enjoy home-schooling because I genuinely love having my kids at home, but what I've realized is that I love having them home without obligations.  I like the separation of school and home.  Plus, Reagan really likes school.  I'm open to the option later, but for now, she is thriving on the social part and really learning more than I ever imagined! (You may remember me expressing concern over the lack of challenge she was receiving.  Rest assured that has been remedied and she is thriving with the challenges!)

This week it's just us girls! I'm so excited!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

For many, 2009 was a year they are ready to forget (especially if their facebook statuses are any indication).  I'm indifferent.

We had our fair share of trials, but we were blessed beyond our measure.  A lot of folks are still reeling from the drop in the housing market.  But that drop is what allowed us to become homeowners again.  There are more and more folks looking for jobs, and fewer jobs to be had.  So we are grateful for Brian's job and the security it brings (especially since we are a single income family!).  Our girls helped us make amazing memories last year.  That doesn't mean I want to do the last year over again by any means.  I've had my fill of medical drama, moving, and political disgust.  I am just praying that 2010 is a bit more boring.  :)  Of course 2009 went out with a bang.  We had a wonderful Christmas with the girls and my family.  Brian gave me an amazing new camera and I'm thrilled!! I can't wait to take more pictures!!

Reagan opening the ONE thing she REALLY wanted (My Little Pony Gumball House)

Bailey trying on my new boots (she got a pair of her own but mine were far more exciting!)

The obligatory "kids in front of the tree" shot.  Bailey did have red jammies but I don't remember why she wasn't wearing them.

Three days after Christmas, my mom and I were talking on the phone and her words started to slur.  She said "I think I'm having a stroke" and then something about calling her later.  My dad rushed her to the ER and thankfully the stroke was mild.  She spent a few days in the hospital so my dad and I juggled time between my grandmother (who requires constant care) and time with my mom.  My amazing husband stayed home with our three blessings.  She is home now and recovering.  We thank the Lord that she made such huge progress in the short time she was in the hospital and that she was home before the new year.  She still has some progress to make but I am confident that she will make a complete and total recovery.  I think we're all ready to start this new year with a clean slate.

I'm not usually one to have a new year's resolution, but this year I am giving it a whirl.  Here goes:
1) We will continue to eat healthy and add more organic, healthy foods to our diet.
2) I want to be more organized.  I plan to go through every room in our house over the course of the year and purge items we do not need and organize the ones we do.
2) I want to have a huge yard sale to sell our purged items.
3) I want to exercise more frequently.
4) I want to enjoy the "now" more.  I get caught up in the "five years from now" and forget to enjoy today while my girls are small (and still think we're cool).
5) I want to read through the Bible in its entirety.

If nothing else, 2009 has taught me that this life is precious and fleeting.  We have to take advantage of each day we are given.  Hug more.  Smile more.  Use gentle words.  Most importantly, share my story of the grace I am given every day by Christ alone.  If it were not for that, this precious fleeting life would mean nothing.  

I pray that each of you begin this new year filled with hope! I'm looking forward to what's in store for our family this year!!


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