Thursday, March 31, 2011

"I Can Do Anything Better Than You Can..."

   I've been pretty busy lately, what with the in-laws here, and a spring break that doesn't involve spring, which translates to three cooped-up boys in the house.  Actually, it's this last circumstance which has led me to my musing for the week: competition.

   An example that happened yesterday went something like this:  I was cleaning and it was raining, and the boys were starting to aggravate each other, which is what happens if they get bored for long periods of time.  So Mommy remembered a game that her mommy taught her on a rainy day.  It involved hiding something in a room and then letting another person find it.  So I gave the two older boys bean-bag kitties (beanie babies are a favorite toy at our house; they're generally what the boys pick out at the thrift store!) and sent them to different rooms, and told them to hide the cat somewhere.  Then they switched rooms, and each tried to find the cat that the other had hidden.  Simple, right?  Well they did this twice, and then decided to "improve" upon the game.  I guess it wasn't exciting enough, because they began adding "traps", alligators, guns, and other various obstacles to overcome.  I distinctly remember as a girl that the excitement of finding the hidden object was exciting enough for us!   Not so with boys...if there is not mortal peril, then the game isn't worth playing! 

    The more time I am spending as a mom of boys, the more I realize that competitiveness is a big part of their make-up.  I read a study recently that monitored young kids on a trampoline.  It showed that when a group of girls were on the trampoline, they had a tendency to organize their jumping so one would jump at a time, taking turns with each other.  When the boys took over the trampoline, they turned it into a rough and tumble, "king-of-the-mountain" scenario, in which a complex system of points was involved.  As I read this, I realized that the spirit of competitiveness was something that was a significant part of a boy's inner life.  I have also noticed that collectively, society has done away with some of the healthy competition/awards motivation, which leaves me wondering if that doesn't have something to do with the reason so many boys now are kind of "girly".  Is competition such a part of their make-up that if it is weeded out, it changes their personalities completely? Hmmm...makes you wonder.  Boys are punished, especially in the school systems, for being, well, boys.  Boys tend to be the ones medicated, sent to other classes, and labeled "trouble-makers" for exhibiting fairly normal boy-like behavior.  Drawing battle scenes, pushing, shoving, wrestling, yelling, and many other "boy" things are red flags in the classroom now, with many kids ending up labeled unfairly.

   Now, it's not that I think boys can't be trained to sit still, listen, and be respectful when it's appropriate.  I work with my guys all the time concerning this matter of "appropriate."  There is a time and a place for certain behaviors.  Early on, I tried to teach "hands-to-yourself", but I am realizing that this may be too much for boys to grasp.  So, with the help of Our Fearless Leader, our rules involve no hitting in the face, or when someone's back is turned, and no bullying smaller people.  And you never put your hands on a girl...ever.  So far it seems to be working.  There are times when they are all three rolling on the floor like a pack of hyena pups!  As long as they maintain fair play and are not actively trying to injure out of meanness, we let it ride.  

   Competition is something God instilled in boys from early on.  I'm sure He knew that it would stand them in good stead as they grew up, raised families, and "conquered" their domains.  Now the only thing left to do is to use it to our advantage to train boys who want to do right above all else.  I am trying to teach that each day we want to be better than we were the day before.  Although, this is a lesson that we each can put into effect in our lives!  But don't ask me what to do about the're on your own on that one!  :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Family Fun

   This weekend was a fun, family-filled weekend!  March is the month of birthdays in this father, grandfather, brother, nephew, two sisters, hubby, twin cousins and brother-in-law birthdays are all in March!  So, we usually get together here and celebrate some of them (the ones that live here anyway!) sometime in March.  That meant that Saturday was party day!

   Actually, not the whole day was for partying; I mean, after all, we still have to be grown-ups and handle our responsibilities, right?  Friday night the boys went to spend the night with Mimi and Pa (my parents) to help Pa plant his garden Saturday morning.  They do not really spend the night very often; in fact, I think the last time was last year's planting time, so they were really excited!  Stitch had a rough night, though, because he's used to his big brothers being in the same room as he is for sleeping time!  He didn't realize they were gone until we put him down, and then he said "Brothers? Boys?"  He couldn't figure out where they had gone!  After some difficulty, he finally fell asleep, but came to sleep with mommy and daddy at around 4!  

   Daddy got up Saturday morning and spent the morning tinkering with lawn mowers with Grandpa, who is in for a visit.  They got the lawnmowers up and running, and even managed to cut a little grass!  Then we headed off to Mimi and Pa's for the birthday celebration!  

   For the first time in a long while, all my siblings and sibling-in-laws were able to get off work and be there!  I'm noticing that as we get older, the it gets harder to plan an event that everyone can attend, especially since some of them work on Saturdays!  It was good to get everyone together finally!  I am very thankful that we all get along, and genuinely enjoy spending time together as adults!  We ate lots of good food (Pa's BBQ...which is the best around!) and enjoyed present opening!  We spent some more time visiting, and before we knew it, it was 5 o'clock!  So we headed home for baths and supper...the boys were worn out!  

   It's Spring Break for the First-Born this week, so we are looking forward to getting to spend more time with Grandpa and Grandma!  Daddy is taking a day off work, and we are going to plan a fun adventure for that day!  I am so thankful that I live near family, and can spend time with them, and they can get to know my kiddos.  Family is a blessing from God, and as time goes on, the structure is constantly changing.  People are added, and sometimes taken away, so it's important to enjoy the time you have in all seasons of your family's growth.  The hubby and I are enjoying tending our young "seedlings", and it's a blessing to see some of my other family members maturing in their growth.  I hope you take the time to enjoy your family whenever you are able!  :) 

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Right Consistency

   Something I've been thinking a lot about this week is consistency.  Consistency has become very important in our lives, especially since we had kids!  Someone came to me this week and asked for some parenting advice.  This was very humbling because I do not consider myself a parenting expert!  I mean, my kids are only 6, 4, and 2...they're not even finished yet!  But I tried to pass on a few things that I have tried to implement with our kiddos, and one of them is consistency.

   There are a couple of areas where consistency is important, at least in this house!  One of them is "The Schedule."  I find that the more we keep to a set schedule, the more smoothly the household runs.  Kids seem to need the security of knowing that the same things are going to happen in the same way on a daily basis.  Secure kids tend to be better behaved kids!  I have a weekly schedule that doesn't really fluctuate, and a daily schedule that is a little more flexible, but still gets things accomplished.  For example, my boys know that after lunch is nap, and after nap is TV time, and after that it's playtime until supper, and so on.  I know some parents who are more spontaneous, and that seems to work for them, but we try to emphasize flexibility when there has to be a change made rather than live from one minute to the next.  (I'm sure this has it's roots in my OCD...I have always enjoyed doing the same things at the same time on a daily basis.  This helps when life is going crazy around you!)  

   Another area (and this one is a little more difficult!) that I try to be consistent in is the area of discipline.  This was what the person approached me about earlier this week.  I'm pretty sure we've all heard the principle that kids need boundaries.  But, more importantly, they need to know that when they cross those boundaries, you will be there waiting for them with the consequence!  This is an easy area to neglect...I've done it myself, more often than I care to admit, especially with the 2 year old.  (He was a slow talker, so this lulled us into thinking he understood less.  We weren't as tough on him as early as we were with the other two.  This is beginning to change though...slowly but surely!)  The hard part for me is getting so caught up in work I'm doing that I let things slip past that I should have jumped on right away.  I usually do this by correcting verbally something I should correct umm, lets say...physically. :)  This is especially true when we are running errands, or doing some thing out of the home.  And the things about kids is this: when they sense a weakness, they will invariably exploit it!  This has led to us keeping a "discipline instrument" in our van!  It has come in handy on several occasions...just yesterday, in fact!  (I bet you can't guess who...we have officially moved into the "Terrible Twos!)  

    Something that I have come up with that has helped myself and the boys is a "Consequence Chart."  I made a chart of negative behaviors and the amount of "correction" to be received.  Also, I found a verse of Scripture that outlines the Biblical principle we are trying to instill and wrote it next to the offense on the chart.  That way I can just say, "You have done this, go check the chart and see what your consequence is."  We mete out the punishment, and then I go over the verse that corresponds.  This way they are learning that their behavior offends not only us, but God, and they must ask forgiveness accordingly.  This takes it from "You're just mad at me" to "I have done wrong according to the Bible."  The boys pretty much already know what they have done and what it will earn them.  The "big ones" like lying and disobedience receive more than some of the other, smaller infractions.  This has also really helped in the area of disciplining in love and not in anger.  (It gives everyone a minute to calm down, and makes sure the child knows exactly what they have done wrong.)

   In our house, consistency is important for keeping an "even keel."  And with three rambunctious boys, anything that helps cut down the crazy-ness is a very valuable commodity!  :)  

Monday, March 21, 2011

Adventures in Scouting!

   Well, this past weekend was an adventurous one for our family!  We went on our first-ever Cub Scout Adventure camping weekend!  Now, camping is not new to our family.  We try to go at least once a year, if not twice, and I have been camping with my family since I was pretty young.  We have always had a great time doing this, and after the initial investment of your equipment (which can be as plain or fancy as you want), it's a pretty inexpensive way to get out with your family and have fun in God's Creation.

   So, being fairly 'seasoned' campers, the boys were really looking forward to this weekend.  We left Friday after lunch, and caravaned with our Scout leader and another family to get there.  It was about 2 hours north of here, so the boys got a good nap on the way.  Which was good because we were in for a late night!  

   After arrival and check-in, we got to our assigned campsite.  The accommodations were either two-man canvas tents with wooden floors and bunks built in them, or four-man "Adirondacks" which were wooden sheds with four bunks built into them.  We commandeered one of these, and unloaded our things.  This was followed by supper (corn-dogs, which the boys were excited about), and then all the Scouts met together for "campfire time."  This name was a little misleading, since they never actually lit a campfire, but it was entertaining,  with songs and skits put on by older Scout troops.  

   By this time it was 9:30, and we were getting ready for bed.  But then they announced that there would be a hike to "Moon Rock" which was about a mile there and a mile back.  Our adventurous Scout decided he wanted to go on this hike, so off we headed into the dark woods.  (There were so many people that I told hubby that we weren't on a hike, we were in a herd!)  Upon our arrival at Moon Rock, everyone immediately turned around and headed back!  We weren't having any of that, though, so we hung around a while and enjoyed the full moon, and I pointed out constellations to the boys, and our older Scout guide. (I found this kind of're a Scout and you don't know any constellations? Oh well, he does now!)  

    After crashing at around 11:30pm, we were awakened several times in the night for "potty-breaks".  All the red Kool-Aid consumed at supper traveled pretty quickly through the campers!  We awakened fairly early, and thus began the day of activities.

   Starting right after breakfast, the campsite were on a rotating schedule of activities all day.  Our campsite began with crafting, in which they colored a boomerang and strung a kangaroo necklace. (The weekend had an Australian theme.)  After a scary few minutes in which we lost the cute-but-absent-minded Middle Biscuit (who only hears part of what is going on around him at any given time), we  were off to fish, which we love to do!  We had brought our own gear, so we had a little extra advantage for this activity.  No fish were caught by us, but a few tiny ones were pulled up by a couple of our group.  Then we headed to Cooking (this seemed a little gross to Mommy right after fishing, but I just hit everyone up with a baby-wipe and moved on!  Scouts are tough, right?)  The First-Born made 'Biscuit on a Stick' (not as good as it sounds! :), and then he headed to the firing range.  As he has a BB gun at home, he was very excited about this!  He did well, and got two shots into the center of the target!  Then it was time for lunch.

   Since the little brothers were doing all these activities too, they were getting pretty tired by now.  So mommy made an executive decision that they would skip Archery (which really, can a 4 and 2 year old even DO that?), and lay down for naps.  This was also an excuse for mommy to have a break!  Then it was off for Canoe-ing, which the boys were a little apprehensive about, since none of them can really swim.  But we were only in about waist deep water, so we reassured them that they were fine.   We survived with only one instance of tears, which we count as a victory.  We were then supposed to go for a hike, but since we had hiked the night before, and hiked from activity to activity all day, we decided to skip, and let the boys have a little down time.  Our last activity was Bouldering, in which the Scouts had to climb along a rock wall from one end to another.  (We thought this was a little ironic, since every spare moment at our campsite was spent in climbing all over the two giant rocks that were there!) This was First-Born's most challenging activity, and he wanted to quit several times, but Daddy encouraged him to keep going, and he finally made it to the end.  

   It was supper time now, and we had to pack up our stuff since we were leaving that night after supper.  The camp went until Sunday, but we were leaving early so we wouldn't miss church.  We ate, and then hopped in the van for the ride home.  Everyone was tired, and fell asleep shortly into the trip.  

   Upon our arrival at a very late hour at home, we dumped the kids into bed and crashed as soon as we could!  Baths could wait until Sunday morning for once!  Sunday was spent at church, and un-packing, which was a big job!  

   This was a great time for our family to spend time together and learn new things.  The boys all did really well and we learned more about each other as a family.  These are the things that they will remember, because they are the things I remember from when I was a kid.  It doesn't have to cost much, or be just want to have fun, and they enjoy spending time with you.  This is a lot of the reason we chose to participate in Scouting...time as a family.  I have a feeling that we will have many more adventures, since we have two more prospective Scouts coming along!  

   Even though this was a long post, I hope you enjoyed reading about our Scouting Adventure!  Remember to take time to have an enjoy the every-day adventures of your own family!  :)  

    *Oh, and if you're my Facebook friend, look for the picture album soon! :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Positive Reinforcement

   So, as a parent, I often find myself not doing as well as I would like in the area of positive reinforcements.  I don't know about you, but I tend to be aware of the behaviors and attitudes I DON'T want my kids to have, and I focus on correcting those.  I don't spend nearly enough time praising them for the behaviors I DO want to see in them.  It seems like it's a lot more easy to correct and discipline than it is to praise.  I'm not sure why that is...maybe it's just that there's more to correct at the ages that we're in!  It also means that the 'squeaky wheels' (getting-in-trouble-prone!) boys get more of Mommy's attention (even though it's negative) than the one who doesn't require as much correction. 

   I was watching an episode of "19 Kids and Counting" in which Michelle Duggar (side note: that lady amazes me!  How she maintains her 'calm and quiet' voice running after that many toddlers all at once is no less than a miracle!  She really exemplifies Philippians 4:13 to me!) said that one word of praise is worth 10 of correction.  They make it a point to sit down at the end of the night, and during their family Bible time, mention at least one thing good that each child did during that day.  She also said the more people you have in the 'audience' of the person being praised just multiplies the positive effect it has on the recipient.   

   So in trying to come up with some ways to help me focus on positive praise with the boys, I decided to incorporate something they've been studying in their Patch Club devotions.  This month's theme is 'reaping and sowing', and they recently read Galatians 5:22-23, which is the fruit of the Spirit.  So here's what I came up with:  each boy has a 'basket' with his name on it.  I cut out different fruit shapes and wrote a fruit of the Spirit on it.  If they notice someone showing one of these traits, or if Mommy sees them showing one, the person showing the trait can put that fruit into his basket.  Here's what it looks like: (no making fun of my non-artistic crafting skills!)  

   It was great to watch them trying super-hard to do things that they thought would earn some fruit!  There was a blossoming of helpfulness and patience almost right away!  I told them that at the end of the week, if they had fruit in their baskets they would earn something special.  It seems to be working well for now, and I find myself more aware of good behavior, which was my whole aim in doing this.  Hopefully, by the time they get tired of it, I will have come up with something else!  Anyway, this is what's working for us for about you?  What things have you heard of or used yourself to motivate in a positive way?  Post in the comments and maybe I can use your idea next time!  :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Weekend Report

   So, this happy family had a great weekend!  No really, I'm serious!  We worked together, played together, worshiped together, and enjoyed each other.  Any weekend those things happen is a great weekend! 

  My weekend actually started a little earlier when the hubby and I went on an impromptu date Thursday night.  We left the boys with their aunt, and sneaked off to the dollar movies.  I really enjoy going to the movies, and we used to do it fairly often, if there was anything decent out.  But recently (since the arrival of children) we haven't done it as much lately.  It's not cheap to go to the regular movies, and when you factor in the hassle of finding a sitter, it was just easier not to go.  But now that the boys are getting older and more self-sufficient, we've gotten to go more often.  The dollar movies are great, since I'm not all that concerned with seeing something bad enough to pay eight bucks for it.  So, off we went to see the first half of Harry Potter 7.  I've read all the books, and have seen all the movies a couple of times.  They have a great plot, even though they are geared for younger audiences, and are just fun to read.  They've done a great job with the movie versions too, although they have "grown up" with the characters, so the later ones are more intense than the early ones.  It was a great way to start the weekend!  Thanks, honey!

   Friday the little boys and I just hung out at the house all day.  Some Wii bowling and boxing (it's entertainment in itself to watch a 4 year old box!), and having fun.  Then Daddy wanted to take the family out for supper, so we headed off to Cracker Barrel.  The boys love going there!  Besides the fact that they get to play with toys while we are waiting, they know they can have pancakes for supper!  They also like to play "I Spy" with all the things hanging on the walls.  Then it was off to Lowes to buy the supplies for the projects we had to tackle on Saturday.  

   Saturday started off slow, with some French toast for daddy and the boys. (Mommy is not a fan of French toast, so she had cereal with strawberries!)  Then we sat around and built Legos for probably longer than we should have!  But the boys had fun, and Daddy built them a neat lawn mower.  Mommy put together some of the sets from the instructions.  Then it was time to get busy.  So, while the boys played outside and enjoyed the great weather (yay for spring!), Mommy and Daddy put in an electrical and water hook-up for when the grandparents come to stay.  Hubby's parents have retired and gotten an RV, so they are visiting more often, and this will enable them to stay for longer time periods.  We are excited to see them soon!  

   Sunday was a little tough, with time change and all, but we had a great Sunday learning and growing in the Lord!  Our pastor preached a great message about all the things going on in the world, and how we shouldn't be discouraged because it means the Lord is getting ready to return!  So thankful for our church family!  

   I hope you enjoyed reading about our fun weekend, and that you enjoyed your weekend too!  Remember to look for the little things that make life great!  :)  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Random Observations...

   Random Observation #1:  While listening to our Fearless Leader try to explain the reasons we have time-change to our eldest, something occurred to me.  The government is continually trying to pass new laws and regulations, and most of them weigh more than my last child.  I think these complex laws that most adults can't even read (including the ones who are trying to pass them) would be shortened and simplified if we made it a mandate that before you tried to get a bill passed, you had to be shut in a room full of six-year olds, and you must explain to them the law, and why we needed it.  You then had to listen to them try to explain it back to you, and be open to any suggestions they may have for the improvement of your bill.  Sounds good, huh?  I'd bet we'd have a lot more parks, and a shorter school year at the very least... :)

  Random Observation #2: Sometimes you don't realize what you need until you have been given it.  I didn't know I needed a chat-fest with my BFF until she called yesterday.  We don't see each other often, because we don't live in the same state, but we have been friends since we were 15.  We try to talk when we can, but it usually is several weeks, if not months between calls.  We had a long talk yesterday, and I felt better when we were done. I didn't know I needed to feel better!  :)  

    Random Observation #3:  I am thinking about changing THE SCHEDULE.  This is a big thing for me, you know, with my OCD and all.  I usually have my week planned out in the same basic way for every week.  Laundry Monday, laundry at mom's on Tuesday, grocery shopping Wednesday, clean house on Thursday, fun day on Friday (when we can).  But this week I had to adjust the schedule due to the weather.  (What, you mean you don't want to take two little boys grocery shopping in pouring down rain and thunderstorms?  Where's your sense of adventure?!)  So I cleaned house on Wednesday (gasp), and I have plans to grocery shop on Thursday.  Well, I realized that I kind of like staying home on Wednesday; it frees me up from the pressure of rushing to get home from the grocery store in time for naps, which are vital because of church that night.  Plus, it kind of keeps all my work towards the beginning of the week, when I seem to have more energy.  It was definitely nice to wake up Thursday morning and have a clean house.  The only drawback I can see so far is that the house might be messier than I usually like for the weekend.  I'll keep you posted...

    Well, these are some random things that I've been musing on this week.  A small glimpse into the random place that is my brain... :) 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dentists and Clowns

   So, odd title, right?  You may be wondering what dentists and clowns have in common, and why I would blog about them.  Well, the thing they have in common is the fact that I don't like them.  Now, I don't have anything against clowns or dentists as people, but their jobs creep me out.  Clowns just freak me out, and dentists run a close second.  Now, thankfully, I don't run into clowns on a daily basis. (Although, that's the thing with clowns: you're just going along, minding your own business, and BAM, there's a clown in your way!  What's that about?!  How do clowns make people want to come into your store?!)  Dentists have recently become a more stable fixture in my life, now that the boys are old enough to start going for check-ups.  And since I want to be a good example, I have recently found a dentist and started going for check-ups myself.  (Since it has been a while, obviously I have a little work that needs to be done.)  To illustrate how the dentist affects me, I once told my hubby that I would rather go through labor 12 times than go to the dentist! 

   Seemingly, I have not passed on this irrationality to my boys.  I tried really hard to maintain positive attitudes and cheerfulness about the impending dental visits.  Our last visit was actually greeted with excitement!  (Mine is tomorrow; I am not excited.  Enough said.)   It is difficult for me to go to their dentist.  I guess it's not only a dentist problem, but a tooth problem. I don't like teeth...especially wiggly ones.  I don't like things touching my teeth, unless I am doing it.  And don't even get me started on floss... 

   We have a dentist appointment today.  (I bet you couldn't guess that...)  The boys have small cavities they need filled.  Plus, on Friday, during our trip to the science museum for his "Fun Day", our First-Born fell on his face, and severely loosened his two top front teeth.  I was very proud of myself, I did not freak out at the sight of the crooked, bleeding mess that was his mouth.  We went calmly to the bathroom and proceeded to stop the bleeding.  I was very thankful that they were baby teeth!  So far they have stayed in, and I knew we would be seeing the dentist today, so we didn't make an emergency visit.  He seems none the worse for wear, and I have recovered.

   Do you think God is amused at our foibles and fears, in the same way that the little things our kids go through amuse us?  I imagine Him smiling down and saying, "Don't worry, it'll be over soon, and I'm right here,"  just like I would say it to the boys.   I am thankful for the verse in Psalm 56:3 that says "What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee."  It doesn't specify what qualifies as something to be afraid of, for which I am grateful.  That means even the little things count!  Like my tooth cleaning tomorrow...where there will be floss... *shudder*  :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Brotherly Love

   Recently I've been noticing that my boys are more willing to help each other out.  This isn't something we've really been stressing, other than the typical "Be kind, share, no hitting" and so forth of the day to day life with boys.  But just this morning, the First-Born took time to read the little boys their favorite book before he left for school. And a few minutes ago, I glanced up to see Middle Biscuit combing Stitch's hair!  These little moments are spots of sunshine in my day!

   As my boys get older, I pray they grow closer together.  Because it's good to know that you have someone there for you no matter what.  Families should be this way for each other, even though sometimes you have to do the hard things.  Especially when someone's doing something you know is wrong, or just unwise.  Part of being a brother is saying the hard stuff when it needs to be said, or making the choice that is unpopular.  But it's not fun.  We'd all prefer to have a great time with our family over dealing with an issue that may be a problem.  Parties are always more fun than interventions!  But there is a call to do right no matter what...even through the hard times.  I pray that we can raise Godly young men who know how to stand for what is right, even among their own family.

   But for now, I am enjoying the little moments of brotherly love I am seeing evidenced.  They are few, but growing, and I'm thankful!  :)