Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Mom, We’re out of…!

{insert household necessity here.}

In a house with six people, trips to the grocery store are frequent.  The four-to-five-days-per-week variety of frequent!  How can it be?  I’m a planner, and when I shop, I hit the stores with an Excel-based spreadsheet made up of dozens of staples that we couldn’t possibly use in the next year or two.  Before embarking on my skillful hunter-gatherer mission, I even update my spreadsheet to include items that my loving family so obediently adds to the handy dandy grocery list attached to the side of the refrigerator.  Oh, wait!  That last part was a daydream.  Sorry about that.

Back to reality.  Here’s an example of what really happens…

Last week when I passed through my kitchen on the way to a chore of some kind I’m sure, I noticed a kid squinting their eyes to double- and triple-check whether or not something was written on the list.  I took the bait and inquired about what exactly said child was hoping to see on the list.  The response was, “Trash bags”.  I don’t know why, but I asked, “Are we out of them?”  Did I really want to know the answer to that question?  No, but the question had been asked.  So, I held my breath and awaited the inevitable, “Yes”. Ugh! 

Why, why, why does no one write things on the grocery list until we are completely, utterly, entirely, totally out of something, thus setting into motion an emergency trip to procure something of immediate need?  This is what causes so many unplanned shopping trips. 

What other emergency items have the potential to send me running and screaming in the direction of my local market? Soap, bathroom tissue, deodorant, and toothpaste.  Pretty much personal hygiene products.  We can’t have body odor emergencies! 

To lessen the frequency of emergency shopping trips, I keep some of these items “in stock” away from the grubby hands of my children who refuse to alert me to an outage until the need is dire.  So, when I hear, “Mom, I’m out of deodorant!“, I’ve got it covered.  One stick of deodorant from my personal stash in exchange for an addition to the grocery list coming right up…!  My secret hygiene bank includes handsoap and toothpaste as well.

Bathroom tissue takes up lots of storage space, so I don’t stockpile much.  When either the girls or boys runs out of it, I ask them write it on the shopping list and tell them to borrow some from their sibings’ bathroom. 

Soap is small and doesn’t take up much space, but I use the bathroom-tissue method: send the offender(s) to borrow a new bar from a siblings’ stockpile and replace it when I buy more. 

I’m still trying to figure out the trash bag dilemma as it is one that can’t go unresolved.  I don’t take out the trash, so I rely on the children to update the shopping list, because each day of the week, one of them is assigned to trash duty in rotation.  That leaves seven opportunities each week to add the item to the list as the box goes from empty, to emptier, and dare I say – nothing but a cardboard box.  How could it be that a box of 90 trash bags disappears and no one noticed the emptiness until emergency status was reached?  

Never fear, this organizer had a plan!  I would buy two 90-count boxes and all would be well in the world!  Not!  The kids went through all 180 bags then cried out for more.  My next attempt at maintaining an adequate supply of trash bags will involve hiding away one of the boxes and magically producing it in case of “emergency”.

What items do I no longer consider worthy of an unplanned trip?

Milk.  Yes, milk!  I will no longer watch my children drink milk at every opportunity to fill their cups then react by racing to the store to stock up on more milk.  If two gallons of milk disappear in two days, so be it.  I refuse to buy more before my original plan calls for me to do so, because two gallons would turn into three gallons, which would turn into four gallons, which would turn into a problem that can’t be solved. 

Snacks are also on the “Do not rush” list.  Being out of Goldfish does not constitute a state of emergency.  Pick another snack – or not.  Either way, we have plenty from which to choose, so no one would starve.

Bread is also now considered a non-emergency item due to its hit or miss status around here.  Some weeks it sits around and becomes somewhat of a science project and other weeks it vanishes without a trace. 

Finally, cleaning supplies aren’t an immediate need either.  The borrow-from-another-bathroom plan applies here, but the list must still be updated.  Chores will be conquered!  No excuses!  Well, no good ones anyway.

In this circus that I call home, I have learned that no amount of planning will stop me from hearing, “Mom, we’re out of {insert household item here!}“.  Oddly, sometimes those words are music to my ears, because it reminds me of one of the greatest gifts in life!  Children!  :-)

Happy shopping!

CC

P.S.

In case of an impending snowstorm, all bets are off regarding the emergency vs. non-emergency list.  No one wants to be snowed in without bread, milk, or great snacks! :)

Back into the Swing

Ah, the lazy days of summer…  The warm glow of the sun peaking through my window serves as nature’s alarm clock.  No electronic screeching.  Just the sound of chirping birds enjoying an early-morning feast.  The sound of Grieg’s Morning sets the mood.

Scratch that!  Fast forward to today!

The tranquility of lazy days has given in to craziness.  School is back in session.  Most days are filled with an extracurricular activity of some kind that is supposed to make my children better people, better musicians, better dancers, or whatever their current ambitions drive them to do. 

Scouts, band, dance, Bible study and other activities all occupy time on our busy calendars.  Some of these activities have a sneaky way of throwing monkey wrenches into the best-made plans.  Those like mandatory, afterschool peformances that always seem to happen on Wednesday evening.  In my house, Wednesdays are for worship service, so whenever the children’s schools decide they want to meet me on this evening, they’re putting me in a bind.  On other days of the week when I find that my ferrying service has been double-booked (eek!), I have to use the on-call chauffer – my husband.  Thank goodness for backups!

With so much going on this time of year, organization is a necessity, so calendars are posted on walls, online, and on our telephones.  One of these days, I may just find that I’ll need to write appointments on our foreheads or some other body parts.

Dinners are cooked and eaten on the fly!  With all of my might, I try to stick to the monthly meal plan that’s posted in our kitchen, but life happens, and so does fast food.

Would I change any of part of this hectic pace in exchange for an opportunity to sit around the house – or better yet, do chores?  No way!  The lessons in which our children partake and the groups to which they belong are molding them to be well-rounded people.  Most weekends in autumn are laid back in our house, so I try to remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel every week.  This former Type A mom is trying her best to leave weekend days open for simply bumming around the house or spending time with the family taking in some kind of event or scenery, or just seated around the table playing a board game.  Of course, Sundays are always set aside for morning worship and Bible study.  The rest of the day is treated like a staycation.

Life is back into full swing, but downtime has been scheduled as a priority in this palace that I call home.

How hectic is your life?  Share any tips that would help other readers find peace in the crazy, raging storm.

CC

I Want to Be Weird!

I love listening to music and I love to sing.  In fact, I sing out loud quite often in the comfort of my own home or car just because it feels like the right thing to do at the moment.  My family thinks that I’m weird for shamelessly belting out off-key tunes.  Sometimes the off-key tunes are intentional and sometimes they’re not, but it doesn’t matter, because I’m having fun singing and my family is having fun heckling me.  All is well!

I love reading just as much as I love singing and while I have a handful of long-term favorite authors, my new favorite is Craig Groeschel.  His books tend to have catchy titles, but beyond the propaganda, you’ll find some excellent advice on how to live a life that is pleasing to God.

The prevalent piece of advice in his book titled Weird is to, “Do what few do in order to get what few have”, rather than the more popular, “Do what most do to get what most have”.  I want to do what few do and have what few have, so that I can spend eternity where few go.  I want to be weird!

The Bible tells us in Matthew 7:13-14 to “enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

So how does that translate into daily actions?  In my case, it means:

  • Not doing what other parents do if it means sacrificing my Biblically-based parenting beliefs in exchange for “normal” children. 
  • Not keeping silent my love for God.  Sure, many of my Facebook friends aren’t Christians, but that doesn’t keep me from openly praising Him.  I will not deny Him before others.
  • Sharing my testimony with others – even the uncomfortable parts that some tend to keep tucked away in their subconscience and wouldn’t dare tell anyone.
  •  Tuning out what’s popular and instead, tuning in to Him more.
  •  

I’ve never had a problem being weird, but this particular brand of weird is pleasing to God and I want it like I want nothing else!  Each day brings a new opportunity to be even more weird than I was the previous day.  How many people do you know would be brave enough to admit that they want an increased portion of weird?

Are you weird?  Share your comments.

CC

Striving to be God weird!

Etiquette for Children and Teens, Part 2

Part two of a two-part series on etiquette for teens and children.

The second part of this series focuses on appropriate telephone etiquette, theater behavior, and table manners.

While telephone etiquette is always a matter of great importance, this topic would be rather lengthly if I included all scenarios.  Therefore, this article will focus on appropriate behavior when calling someone.  If I had a dime for every time a child called my home and asked, “Who is this?”, I’d be able to fill the tank of my van – even at today’s prices.  Whenever I am the victim of such bad manners, I have no problem taking the opportunity to teach the child something they may or may not have learned at home.  When calling a phone number that is shared by two or more people, the polite thing to do is to introduce oneself and ask for the person with whom you wish to speak.  For example, “Hello, this is Sarah.  Is Cindy available?  If so, may I speak with her?”  This approach works best for someone with whom the child is not familiar.  However, if the child knows the person who answered the telephone, an appropriate greeting would be, “Hello, Mr. Smith.  This is Jackie.  How are you?”, or some other pleasant chit-chat.  When the time is right, it is OK to then ask to speak with the primary person with whom you wish to speak.  Don’t forget to offer “please” and “thank you” for the time that the other person took to respond to your request.

The next topic of etiquette can result in flared tempers, because it requires having to approach someone publicly.  Movie theaters should be treated like libraries (quiet) and not living rooms, phone booths, raceways, or trash cans.  Before your next trip to the theater, go over these simple rules with your child or teen:

  • Do not kick the back of the chair in front of you.
  • Silence your cell phones, so as to not disturb others.  If your phone vibrates and you must take a call, take it outside of the theater.
  • Do not treat the aisles like runways by running up and down them, because you are bored.
  • Place your trash into receptacles generally located at various places near the exit.

Following these few simple rules will allow your fellow movie-goers to enjoy the film that they paid good money to see.  It’ll also likely keep you from being tossed from the theater.

Finally, teach your children that proper table manners are important.  Believe me, this is a constant battle in my home, so I know it’s not an easy one to win.  This advice will focus on dining etiquette when eating outside of the home, but there’s no place like home to practice.  As a former restaurant hostess, I’ve seen it all.  Parents who let their children empty condiment containers onto tables, treat restaurant workers disrespectfully, throw trash on the floor around and under the table, have loud conversations, and disrupt the peace of other diners by tugging on their hair or clothing from the other side of the booth were constant concerns.  Helping your children exhibit good dining behavior is quite simple.  When you see any of the above behaviors (or gasp) or something worse, address the immediately.  Don’t wait until the manager or an angry guest has to approach you.

Think about how you’d want to be treated when having a conversation, watching a movie, or dining outside of the home.  If you see your child behaving unpleasantly, do something.  Don’t sit back pretending not to see an issue and force others to do your parenting for you.

Have any stories of unbelievable bad behavior?  What did you do to address it?

Let’s chat!

CC

Other Resources

Rude Busters

Family Education: Manners for Kids (and Parents)

Etiquette for Children and Teens, Part 1

Part one of a two-part series on helping our children to overcome poor displays of etiquette.

We’ve all seen or witnessed it: unruly and out of control children at formal functions, kids who butt into conversations, or children who have a sense of entitlement for things often undeserved.  

So how can you help your underage rule-breakers? According to Cindy Post Senning, a descendent of etiquette expert, Emily Post, use of the Golden Rule of Parenting goes a long way in helping our children to model desired behaviors.  Senning says, “Always be the kind of person you want your kids to be”.  That’s right, the “Do as I say and not as I do” rule goes out the window!  If you want properly behaved children, you must exhibit proper behavior.  Don’t worry – if bad habits have already been formed, there’s hope.

Let’s break down three common etiquette offenses and explore ways to help our young ones to learn the art of good manners.

Conversation Butting – Unless the building is on fire or someone has been injured, it’s a good idea to teach your children at a very young age to have patience, because world does not revolve around them.  The urge for children to blurt out something and demand your attention while already engaged in conversation with someone else is a bad habit to break once already formed, but consistent training will get you (and your child) to your goal.  The next time, little Mary tugs at your arm while you’re having a conversation that does not involve her or continues to call out, “Mom, mommy, momma” or some other term like, “now!”, politely say, “Dear, I would be happy to speak with you as soon as I finish my discussion with Mrs. X”.  Repeat this each time Mary decides that she wants your immediate attention; she’ll get the message eventually.

Formal Function Meltdown – Events such as weddings, funerals, and awards banquets are the most formal events that many of us will ever attend during our lifetimes – unless you’re the recipient of an invitation to a dinner at the governor’s mansion or the White House.  If you plan to take very young children to such events, be sure to pack quiet and age-appropriate activities to help them pass the time – unless you want to be the victim of a formal function meltdown.

Most parents have found that coloring books work wonders with children ages 3-7.  For slightly older children, a chapter book, crossword puzzle, or word search can provide enough entertainment ’til the end of the stuffed-shirt event.  If video games are a must, don’t forget to pack the headphones as the other guests likely won’t want to hear your child’s favorite game.  Of course, these comfort items should be saved until the attention span of your young one is nearing an end.

You know your child better than anyone else, so if rewards work for good behavior, offer one ahead of time, so that they know how high the stakes are.  Don’t hand over the award until after the desired behavior has been achieved.  Otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself up to provide a reward, while still getting poor behavior.  Not to mention, the behavior is likely to continue if a reward is given for without having to work for it.  This brings us to the next topic of poor etiquette…

Sense of Entitlement – As parents, it’s often difficult to not shower our children with love and material things, but if we’re not careful, we end up raising children who sincerely believe that they are entitled to pretty much anything they want.  Helping them to preface requests with “please” and respond with “thank you” will help them to understand that a certain level of respect is necessary (and honorable), whether or not they ultimately they get what they want.

During this time of year, graduates enjoy gifts the flow in from friends and family near and far.  Remind them to write Thank-You cards.  The lost are of writing thank-you notes can be resurrected amongst our children if we simply teach them that a gift is just that – a gift – and not an entitlement and a simple acknowledgement exhibits proper gift-receiving behavior.

One more note on entitlement, birthday party gifts should never be expected from invited guests.  Parties are not a tit for tat and your guests owe you (and your children) nothing other than an RSVP – even that’s debatable.

Look for part 2 of this 2-part series!

Thank-you note examples for young children (printable)

More thank-you note examples for children

Let’s chat!  Have you been offended by children behaving badly or are your children the offenders?  How have you handled situations of poor behavior?  Post questions, comments, or advice.

Summer Days Are Made for This!

I love summertime!  Memories are made every season of the year, but there’s something about what happens in the summer that makes me want to relive each and every day.  Maybe it’s the nostalgia that overcomes me while watching my children learn and do things that I did when I was their age: playing outdoor games, jumping rope, riding bicycles, or taking a bite from varieties of fresh fruit that can only be had this time of year.

This past weekend was full of memory-making moments spent in our backyard oasis. 

On Saturday, we ventured into the city to visit a fabulous farmers’ market for the first time.  The sites and sounds of shoppers and vendors buying and selling fresh goods were near sensory overload, but a great time was had. The children squirmed as I pointed out fresh portions of chicken feet behind one glass enclosure.  They delighted in the smell of fresh-baked goods and we all enjoyed touching and smelling fruits and veggies from farms all over the country.  We hiked back to the car with lemons, strawberries, broccoli, peas, and twenty pounds of fresh ribs.  While we unintentionally chose what was apparently the busiest time of day during the busiest day of the week, we all talked about how we looked forward to visiting again soon.  We drove to the nearby river for a quick trip, but made our way back to the highway after realizing that some kind of major event closed the parking lots until further notice.  The rest of Saturday was spent relaxing and having a backyard BBQ.

Sunday brought about a new set of adventures and memories.  After church, we built a washer toss game from scratch.  We cut 2-foot segments to create a square and then spray-painted them in green to blend in with the backyard landscape.  Then we spray-painted (I love doing this!) 30 quarter-sized, metal washers in 6 different colors, so that each of us (we’re a family of 6) would have our own color.  We made up consequences like doing jumping jacks or push-ups and running laps if we didn’t meet given goals. Ex: must land at least two washers in the tin.  The punishment push-ups were a sight to see and we laughed ’til our bellies hurt!  We had loads of fun using a game that we made for a total of $10.03 including tax!

Also on Sunday, we put assembled our newest (and surely better quality) badminton set. That provided loads of fun for all and everyone got a great workout without even thinking about it.

I was able to get a bit of gardening in as well after my husband built a custom planter out of scrap wood.  I planted garden peas and am looking forward to being able to harvest them in late summer.

We had dinner outside again and played more backyard games.  The weekend finale was sitting around the firepit telling spooky stories and eating s’mores until almost midnight.  It was difficult to let go of the fun we were having, but we’re looking forward to next weekend’s opportunities.  Next weekend is Father’s Day, so whatever we do will be centered around dad.

Overall, we had an absolute blast that was largely technology-free; ver, howewe did use our cameras and cell phones once or twice.  The only thing missing was a pool!  Ahh!!!

Happy Summer!

How do you like to spend your summer days?  What’s your favorite recent or childhood memory?

Le’ts chat!

CC

Activity Burnout

Our family of six is busy like most modern families.  Work, school, dance, scouts, church, friends, etc. all compete for the very limited resource of time.  We do most of our activities, because they are fun and bring us joy, but others things like work and school are simply necessary.

I don’t know if it’s just my family, or if others out there are going through the same thing, but we’re in desperate need of a break!  The cold, snowy (and lately) rainy winter doesn’t do much to help adjust our attitudes.

Thank goodness spring break is just around the corner.  Otherwise, we just might go stir crazy.  We’re looking forward to being unplugged from the usual rat race.  No office or home phones ringing.  Cell phones will be off or on silent.  Computer usage will be limited to getting ideas on where to go and what to do at our vacation destination.  Facebook is forbidden.  We plan to just relax and enjoy each other’s company.  Old school entertainment like board games will become the new norm for our vacation this year.  The low-tech board games, not the new ones. :-)

Togetherville: A Social Networking Site for Kids

Facebook is the social networking giant amongst teens and adults, but a new social network is brewing for the underaged crowd.  Togetherville.com is a hot new site that allows parents to sign up their 6-12 year-olds for accounts that are verified using their parents’ Facebook account.  While Togetherville is not affiliated with Facebook, it uses the networking giant’s login information to verify that users who sign up for “parent” accounts actually meet the age requirement for adulthood.  That’s not the only verification step to that grownups have to take before opening an account for children. Check out their page to read about other methods that they use to verify users.

Content

While the site allows your children to post status updates, it  also boasts games for the younger crowd.  Parking Mania, Snowboard Challenge, and Lil Dress-up Time are just some of the pre-screened titles that have been tested and deemed suitable content for your little ones.  However, it’s not all fun and games, because Togetherville also has educational applications to enhance your child’s learning experience.

Three Ways for Your Children to Connect Safely with Their Friends

Parent Network: Only those people within a parent’s social network who also have the Togetherville application – and their child(ren) – can request to connect to a child.

School Network: When parents link their child’s account to their school, kids can discover their classmates and request their parents to connect.

Friending Codes: Each kid in gets a unique secret friending code to share with others they want to connect with in Togetherville.

Privacy

Togetherville does not share information with Google or other search engines, so your child’s profile is not searchable or discoverable on the internet.  Also, since you would select only trusted Facebook friends and their children to have access to your child’s safe and secure online neighborhood, there is no possibility of anonymous users having access to your child’s profile.

For more information about Togetherville, please visit their frequently asked questions.

Are you a user of Togetherville or some other kid-friendly social networking site?  Does your child use Facebook or MySpace?

Let’s chat!

Love to alL!

CC

Valentine’s Day Craft Ideas

Looking for a way to tame cabin fever, have fun with the kids, and celebrate Valentine’s Day all at once?  Try these easy craft ideas that require little to no materials.

Bead Bracelets

These gifts are simple and inexpensive.  You’ll need:

  • Clear beading string (stretchy)
  • Red, white, and clear beads
  • Scissors

Simply cut clear beading string into 8″ lengths and add beads in whatever pattern your heart desires.  Once bracelet is at desired length, tie ends into triple knots and snip excess string.

Keepsake Box

Making your own  jewelry or keepsake box is a great way to pass the time when cabin fever has taken hold.  These inexpensive items can be purchased at your local crafts store.

  • Small wooden box (unfinished)
  • Wood paint (or spray paint for shorter drying time)
  • Stickers

Lightly sand the box to remove rough edges then add coat of paint.  Let paint dry completely before adding second coat.  Finally, decorate with stickers and/or paint festive designs onto box.  Viola!  A simple, personalized keepsake or jewelry box.

Paper Wreath

Materials needed:

  • Construction paper or card stock in traditional valentine colors
  • Glue or yarn

Draw heart template onto construction paper or card stock.  The firmer the template, the easier it is to trace.

Trace approximately 15 impressions of the heart template and cut from paper.

Decorate each heart with drawings or messages.

Line up the heart cutouts to form a circle and adhere with glue, or punch small holes (one on each side of heart) and string together with yarn. 

Hang finished wreath for everyone to see!

Word Search

Make a list of words that remind you of Valentine’s Day, then enter them into a free online word search puzzle maker, such as the one found at Discovery Education.  Print and search!

For an added seasonal touch, print word search on translucent paper (found in craft stores), then glue to red construction paper being sure to have a border for decorating purposes.

Eight Tips to Protect Your Children Online

Connecting with friends and family, playing online games, and sharing photos are some of the things that make the internet so attractive.  But this medium that many of us use for entertainment purposes is ripe for criminals who have something sinister in mind for our children.  Before letting your child enter the wild, wild west world wide web, here are a few tips to help keep them safe.

Talk to your children about internet safety and your expectations regarding what information they’re allowed to share and access.  Tell them that many things and people online are not what or who they seem to be.  Arming them with this information will help them to make good choices and surf safely.

Set rules and consequences.  This is the step that will be hardest for most families; however, it is the most important.  Once you communicate your internet usage expectations to your child, inform them that internet access will be restricted if they participate in unsafe activities online.

Become their online friend.  If your child has a social networking profile, become their friend – not for purposes of stalking them, but to provide an added level of protection. Special note about Facebook profiles: Facebook offers special profile protection for subscribers who are under age 18.  Make sure your child is honest in submitting their age during the account set-up process.  Birth date, month, and year can be kept private, but are necessary for Facebook to set up age-appropriate settings.

Use parental controls software.  Windows Vista and Windows 7 have built-in parental controls that allow you to select content appropriate for your child to view.  You may choose to deny access to certain game ratings, downloads, or entire websites altogether (Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, or any other site of your choice).  Another great option is the ability to set time limits by the day and hour. E.g., blocking log-in access during overnight hours.

Log onto NetSmartz.org.  Their mission: “NetSmartz Workshop is an interactive, educational program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC) that provides age-appropriate resources to help teach children how to be safer on- and offline.  The program is designed for children ages 5-17, parents and guardians, educators, and law enforcement.  With resources such as videos, games, activity cards, and presentations, NetSmartz entertains while it educates”.  The goals of NetSmartz are to “Educate children on how to recognize potential Internet risks; Engage children and adults in a two-way conversation about on- and offline risks; and Empower children to help prevent themselves from being exploited and to report victimization to a trusted adult“.

Set up Zoobuh email accounts for young children.  I opened an account for my now-11-year-old who wanted to communicate with far away friends and family via email.  Parental controls are the best I’ve seen for most kid-safe software on the market.  Zoobuh allows parents to create “safe sender” lists, add contacts and allow your children to send only to those people, reject email links and attachments, and restrict times and places.  You may also choose how to handle messages that are rejected from your child’s email account: send them directly to the parents trash folder or inbox for review.  Fee: $12/year per account.

Install adequate anti-virus software.  There are many to choose from, but AVG is a trusted anti-virus software that we use at home and work (my husband owns an IT company and installs this product for home and business clients).  Try the free version.  With safe surfing habits (not clicking on links or opening attachments from unknown sources and visiting risky sites), you may find that you won’t need to upgrade to the paid version.  AVG is great in that it blocks many pop-ups and unsafe sites from loading as well as prevents harmful programs from auto-installing and stealing your personal information or targeting your child’s computer to upload inappropriate content.

Keep the computer in a common area of the house.  This alone will deter many children from visiting unsafe sites.  Your presence and influence go a`long way keeping your children safe.

Other Resources

ConnectSafely.org

National Crime Prevention Councilwww.McGruff.org

Safekids.com

Safeteens.com

Post now and share your tips for keeping children safe online.

Love to all!

CC